I’m not going to do what I said I would
Two weeks ago I wrote on this blog that we would begin to explore the phrase, “Ignite H.O.P.E.” But I can’t. Because there’s something else that demands center stage this week. I can’t NOT write about it.
It’s about a life well-lived, and a man we’ll never forget who is gone too soon. Yes, I’m referring to Mario Ortiz. His body was laid to rest earlier this week, but his memories are everywhere, and his influence is deeper and wider than almost anyone realized.
I’ve listened to and read many stories in the last week and a half. Stories of how one man touched so many lives. It was my privilege to know Mario, and to serve alongside him at Seneca Creek for many years. And like so many others, I’m tempted to think, “there will never be anyone who can replace him.” But then I started to ask myself, “Why is that?”
What I’ve come to believe is that Mario had the impact on people (and churches) that he did for one simple reason: He lived the life that Jesus calls his followers to live.
- He loved God, as evident in his time spent in prayer, Bible study, and worship.
- And he loved people, as evident in his generous, gracious, humble service to everyone he met. (You can’t love someone without serving them.) And as evident by his desire to introduce them to Jesus so they could experience the same life that he had found in Christ.
It wasn’t any more complicated than that. Which makes me stop and ask, “Why aren’t there more people just like Mario?” We can’t replace him, but why can’t we “join him” in living that kind of life? And the answer is, because too often we choose not to live the life that Jesus called us to live. Our love for God, and our love for people gets squeezed out and crowded out. It happens to all of us. Including me.
So here’s my challenge to all of us. Let’s learn a powerful lesson together. And as the sobering reality of a church without Mario sinks in, let’s choose to step up. Not to imitate Mario, but to imitate Christ. Because that’s what we saw in him. That’s what we miss in him. And that’s what we can all become if we will do the simple things that Mario did. Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And love others as we love ourselves.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)