Earlier this month Cindy and I had the privilege to stay a week in Assisi, Italy (yes, that Assisi, where St. Francis came from) and besides getting out of the Seattle rain and enjoying the warmth of the Umbrian Spring we had time to reflect upon the life of this remarkable man who lived some 800 years ago.
What is the value of looking at a person’s life who has been dead and gone for so long? I think it is important to look at his life and see what we can imitate from his faith that applies today. St. Francis was born into a wealthy merchant’s family and was caught up in and attracted to the glory of battling the Perugians across the valley for material gain and city honor.
He came back after one military campaign, having been captured imprisoned for months, a broken man. Out of his “death” sprang forth a kind of resurrection, rebirth in his life. He encountered the true Christ in his convalescence--not the one who had been so poorly portrayed to him through all of the religiosity of his parents and townspeople. He then stripped himself naked, gave all of his clothes back to his father and walked out of Assisi to follow Christ in a way that he was feeling led to do.
He descended down the hilly side of the mountain that Assisi was built on and went to a broken-down, forgotten church building called San Diamano. There were a few lepers and outcasts living there. That is where Francis heard the Lord say to him, “See how my church is in ruins. Build my church.” At first thinking this to be only literal, he set himself to the task of rebuilding, stone by stone, the broken-down structure, a skill he had learned in his youth as the walls of Assisi were being built at that time.
The lesson I learn from his life is to listen to what God is saying to me personally and then simply to do it, one step at a time. I have to admit as I was in Assisi, I recoiled a bit from all of the adulation and reverence that was being given to this man. A whole tourist industry is built around him! Especially coming from the Protestant tradition my guard was up against “saint worship.” But to consider the lives of those who have gone before is a very biblical and healthy thing to do.
The writer of Hebrews says it this way: “Remember your leaders and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8) I used to see that verse about Jesus being “the same yesterday, and today and forever” just hanging in the air by itself but it is in the context of honoring those who have gone before. It is so tempting to say, “that was then and now is now” and dismiss the lessons of their lives as irrelevant to today. But the writer of Hebrews is saying, that same Christ who was so real for those who have gone before (St. Francis for instance) desires the same quality of relationship with us today. It may look different but it is the same Christ.
As I consider the legacy of this one man, he still speaks to people today, Christian and non-Christian alike. It is really good to remember him and consider how I can adopt more of his simple, childlike faith, loving those who are forgotten and discarded (lepers in his world) loving God’s creation, and desiring to build bridges among people rather than walls that divide.
Thank you, Lord for this little man with such a big faith. In his last words he said, “I have done what was mine to do, now you do what is yours to do.” May I take those words to heart and seriously consider today “what is mine to do.”
Remembering a Leader Worthy to Emulate,
Note: Do you have any stories of God’s Glory showing up in the ordinary? I would love to hear them and share them with a larger audience if you would like! Just email me at (JNBohnett@aol.com)
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