You have my word I will explain the meaning of that Latin phrase in the title, but first, I have to tell you the story of how Os Guinness came to preach at my church on Palm Sunday in 2012, and managed to knock over the first domino in a series of events that would alter the course of my life!
Os is a noted author and social critic with a doctorate in Philosophy. His book, A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom And The American Future is next on my list of books to read. Despite his sheer brilliance and scholarship, the adorable Irish accent, his humility, and the ability to effectively communicate and translate the world of scholarship to ordinary life all combine to make Os really easy to listen to, and not have his words fly over your head like a supersonic jet.
Ostensibly, (see what I did there?), the subject of his sermon on that fateful Palm Sunday was the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, but somewhere in the middle of his talk he quickly quoted a verse from the Bible and suddenly, in my head, there was the sound of screeching tires and squealing brakes! Wait! Whaaaaaa……t did he just say? Os moved on with his talk and it took everything in me not to jump out of my seat, waving my arms wildly to get his attention. “Hold on there! Did you just read that out of the Bible? Because I’ve read the book of Acts umpteen times and I do not remember seeing that in there!”
“For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.” Acts 13:36 New International Version
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, …” Acts 13:36 New Revised Standard Version
“For David, after he had served God’s will and purpose and counsel in his own generation…” Acts 13:36 Amplified Bible
Tell me one thing, …any thing at all, that you could achieve, accomplish, or acquire in the entire span of your life on this planet that could possibly be worth more, be more significant, more important, or matter at all more than this accolade which David received at the end of his earthly life, and the beginning of his eternal life in the presence of God!
To this day I have no idea what the rest of the sermon was about. I have loved God and wanted to do His will since I was a little girl, aware of what our ‘Christianese’ language describes as His ‘general will’. I was living a good life; working, going to and serving at church, reading the Bible, praying volunteering, spending time with friends…all the things that I knew were right to do, and are right to do. However, until that fateful Sunday, I could not remember ever having consciously framed my every choice or decision in the context of ‘serving the purpose of God in my generation’.
Of course, this is not about stopping to pray and ask God if I should go to the bathroom now, or put the garbage out tomorrow. Instead, it is about living each day deeply aware that,
“Our life occurrences are not disjecta membra – scattered, disconnected and accidental fragments. In God’s book all these events were written beforehand, when as yet there was nothing in existence but the plan in God’s mind – to be fashioned in continuance in actual history…” from George Muëller of Bristol And His Witness To A Prayer-hearing God by Arthur T. Pierson
“…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
Ann Marie……..32,850 days
I am willing to bet good money, that is not how ‘the days ordained for me’ are written in His book! (Lord knows I am praying that number is wrong too because I long for Jesus to return waaaaay before I have seen that many days!) David continues:
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand…” Psalm 139:17-18
I believe God wrote down all the details of my life, and yours …every single one, …all of it, … the good, the bad, and the ugly, ‘before one of them came to be’.
Consider the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), …except… Mary lived in Nazareth (Luke 1:26), but ‘somehow’ she ends up engaged to a man who was from the lineage of David (Luke 1:27). So when Caesar Augustus, who did not know God, the prophecy, Joseph, or Mary from Adam, ‘decides’ to impose yet another tax, Joseph is required to report to the city of David (Luke 2:1-6). Mary is about nine months pregnant, is now forced to travel away from home, and gives birth to her baby where? In Bethlehem! Not disjecta membra!
And, consider one of those shepherds out in the field that night Jesus was born, commiserating and complaining about what a failure he had become in life. He was at the very bottom of every socio-economic ladder and going nowhere. If only… Then suddenly, the light, …and the angel, …and the other angels, …and the singing, …and he goes with the others and sees the baby, …the Messiah, …and he was one of the first people to know He had come!
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:17-18
Not disjecta membra! In the middle of a life society would label a complete failure; an ‘insignificant’ shepherd, turned eye-witness preacher could ‘serve the purpose of God in his generation’.
And finally, consider the man forced to go fetch the water from the well for the evening meal, when everyone knows that is supposed to be women’s work. Listen to him swearing under his breath, completely irritated, especially because, of course, he would be the only man at the well that evening, among all those women fetching water. He could not have known that not long before he set out with the jar Jesus had told Peter and John,
“…As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.” Luke 22:10-12
A man, carrying a jar of water… serving the purpose of God in his generation. Not disjecta membra!
So here’s the thing, nothing that occurs in my life or yours is disjecta membra: scattered, disconnected or an accidental fragment. It was written down in God’s book before time began. We get to choose how to respond to that truth. We can pretend the plan does not exist at all: just go with the flow, roll with the punches, believe in karma, and never know the satisfaction or fulfillment of a deep sincere relationship with the living God. Or, we can go about our own business every day: making independent choices and decisions, only consulting Him about the ‘big’ things…as if anything is ‘big’ for Him! We can live as if we already know the overall purpose of God for our life, so we are just going to get on with fulfilling it as best we see fit.
Or, like David, Joseph and Mary, Jim Elliot, George Muëller of Bristol, Mother Teresa, and hundreds of thousands of others who have gone before us, whose names may be known only by God Himself, we can choose to live always conscious, and deeply aware that the Creator and ,Maker of the plan and purpose desires such an intimate relationship with us that, like people who have been married to each other forever, we will know what He wants us to do, every minute, of every day, as easily and effortlessly as we breath in and out.
As for me, Os Guinness, who doesn’t know me from Adam, showed up to preach at our church and with one verse out of an entire sermon, was used by God to change the trajectory of my life, to follow the leading of the Lord to… I have no idea where or what. My only remaining resolve, ambition, and life-long goal is ‘to serve the purpose of God’ in my generation. Not disjecta membra … just living the thing!