A god that needs to be defended by a man is not a god worthy of being served by men.
Religion must protect itself for it has no Defender.
Religion must speak for itself for it has no Spokesman.
Religion must coerce for it has nothing Attractive in it.
Religion must act for it has no Confidence upon which to rest.
Religion is offense waiting to happen.
Religion cheapens it’s own god by placing bounties on the heads of it’s enemies.
Religion must rule for it has no Ruler.
Religion is not related to the Gospel…it is from an altogether different family and father.
“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (Luke 8:44)
Immediately. Jesus did not choose to heal this woman. He did not even know who she was, yet power went out from him. There must be a way to touch God which elicits an outpouring of His power not because of the one who touches, but because of the nature of God. (e.g. if you touch me with the sharp edge of a razor blood flows because of my nature) Many people touched Jesus as he walked. It was a throng – it was like a Beijing subway (or Shanghai -that’s for you my Nicole) – but only one drew blood. Only one held the razor.
Why did the woman tremble when she couldn’t remain anonymous? Picture the whole scene: A raucous crowd pressing and moving along with the Prophet. It is noisy. There is laughter and loud speculation about what this man will do next. He himself is silent. He walks in his way; eyes neither aloof nor downcast. Some in the crowd feel touched by those eyes others wonder what he sees. All is motion and sound and anticipation. Then he stops. A quiet descends. What is going on? He speaks, “Who touched my clothes?” A deeper silence. Many who have been near him are thinking ‘is it me? I was so close…did I touch him?’ No one wants to admit it. They shrug their shoulders and murmur one to another. The quiet grows pregnant. It is getting awkward. Peter senses it. He steps forward and says what others are thinking, “There is quite a crowd around you…How can you say one touched you?” You can almost see Peter whispering this to Jesus. He’s saying – you are embarrassing yourself here. Let’s keep moving. Jesus doesn’t seem to hear Peter at all. He raises his voice, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
And he stands in the quiet crowd looking at their faces. Now the woman is stuck. No one is moving. She can’t retreat without drawing attention to herself. He will see her. No way to go now but forward. She tried to steal Jesus’ power. She wanted healing, not a face to face meeting with the Prophet. And she knows the truth. She knows there really was and is power in this man. Touching him has done something she can’t account for. It took all she had just to get close enough to touch him – all her courage. He has called her out. What will he do? Will he take back his power? Will he humiliate her? In a voice barely above a whisper she tells her story. She speaks to the ground. Tears of fear and joy join as one streak down her face and into the dirt. She cannot look up. Her words end. No one moves. They collectively hold their breath. An unclean person; a woman, has touched a Rabbi. Jesus sees her. He sees the tears. He sees everything. No one has seen her like he sees. “Take heart daughter,” he says, and she does. She breaths for everyone. He continues, “your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The Prophet moves away to his appointment with the elder’s daughter. The woman sits while the crowd regains it’s momentum. She has touched God. She has stolen power from God like Prometheus stole fire from the gods – and instead of punishment she has been rewarded with healing and a benediction of peace. She trembles again. What kind of God is this?
What does God require of us? What is it that we supply to the One who creates all things, and who says to us “If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains.”? There is one thing we can do and one thing only. We can show up. The church is nothing more than a group of people who show up before God freely while acknowledging it is the only thing they can do. How we have been made free and what it means to show up before God is the area we need to explore together.
Most church meetings I’ve attended appear to be a group of believers attempting to maintain their belief and convince someone else to adopt that belief, rather than a gathering of followers mapping out their course and trying to convince someone else to come along for the ride as they go where only Jesus can go.
The first kind of meeting is not only boring it is intellectually offensive; the second is the only kind of meeting Jesus ever conducted.
There is a battle for the heart of any church. The church exists for the mission. It is born within an apostolic context; born on it’s feet moving out into the world with the message of Christ.
It isn’t a place to find security for your children.
It isn’t here to lend legitimacy to your social status.
It doesn’t exist to bless your marriage or to mourn over your death.
It is not here to educate you into a deeper spirituality.
It isn’t designed to be your support group.
It isn’t your holy hideout.
The church does not exist to enrich the lives of Christians, the church exists to enrich the life of the world.
Evidently police don’t like being video taped while doing their jobs. This story out of Lancaster, PA is just one of many I’ve seen in the past few years. I get it. I don’t particularly like the idea of being video taped while I’m doing my job. How hard would it be to account for every moment? Every act? I know some Christians think it is somehow useful to think of themselves as being watched by God at all times so they will behave or not misbehave or whatever. I’m not sure I want to live that way. I’d rather think about God watching my like I watch my children playing. After all the gospel is the end of the law for those who believe. I’m not trying to draw within the lines so that God keeps smiling am I? I want to play like a guy that God showed his full love towards on the cross. He is pleased with me. Go ahead and video me. Its all good.
Everyone I see for premarital counseling is marrying a “good girl” (or “good boy”). I’ve asked most of them if they want to pre-register for divorce counseling at a discounted rate. No one ever takes me up on the offer. If all of us are getting married to good people why do half of us end up divorced? Is it just poor judgment? We thought they were good people and they fooled us?? That is like saying half the people you know exercise horrible judgment when it comes to one of the top two or three decisions they make in life – are half of us really that dumb? The truth is actually much more complex. The people we marry are not as good as we think they are. We are not either. Marriage doesn’t create our problems, it exposes our problems. If we let it, marriage can help us see that we aren’t good people. It can show us exactly where we are selfish or unkind or prideful. And once we are truly exposed, we can come to see the need we have for a grace bigger than the grace of a good girl or a good boy. We need the grace of a good God.
When a person receives an organ transplant, they must also go onto a regimen of drugs to keep their body from rejecting the new organ. The exact thing they need in order to have new and full life is attacked by their body. It is viewed as an invader. It is seen as a destroyer. We need the gospel but we see it this way. This is the tin soldier CS Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity:
Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it. What you have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this: The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself… And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, “killed,” He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn – poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the police, and execution by torture. And then, after being thus killed – killed every day in a sense – the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point, for the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier – real tin, just like the rest – had come fully and splendidly alive.
The Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible. The Psalms are poetry, full of images intended to stand out of the text and in our minds like structures in pop-up books. Towers and birds and trees and rivers. Grasp these images and let your mind hold them all day long. Meditate over them. Meditation is a word best described as what a lion does over its prey. It is a deep growling, chewing, grasping.
There is a story in the New Testament about some men with a paralyzed friend. They couldn’t find a way to get through the crowd around Jesus, who was teaching in a house. Climbing up on the roof and hoisting their paralyzed friend up after them, they dug a hole and lowered him down to the Healer. Jesus saw their faith and called the paralytic into health of body and soul. I never thought of this before, but I’m pretty sure when Jesus and the rest of the throng left, nobody stayed around to patch the roof. It probably didn’t take long for the owner of the house to see that his roof was ruined. Maybe his wife pointed out the problem for him. Regardless its no good to have a hole in your roof. Miracle man and paralyzed boy are gone and all that’s left is a mess that must be fixed. I wonder if the man with the messed up roof was the type of man who swept his floor and patched his roof with a light heart; a heart full of wonder at what happened there, or if he lost sight of the miracle in light of the mess it left. I know this: everyone wants to be part of a miracle, but not many want the mess that goes along with them. Its hard to see miracles even after they are done because they all leave a mess behind. Maybe this is why it is so hard for us to keep our eyes on the greatest miracle of all – the gospel is good news, but it is messy.