Thinking Smaller, Not Bigger

Other Agent J is one of my favorite street-homeless prophets.  But there is this unique trait he has that endears him to me.  He can’t stop talking to save his life.  He rambles more than me… It’s really nonstop!  People around him grow weary of him quickly and chafe at the sound of his approach.

I hate to publish that depiction of him for fear he will read it and feel hurt by it.  But it is a risk I am willing to take.  Plus I note that in private moments I shared with him when it was just the two of us, he has confessed his shame of this to me.  He just can’t seem to help himself.  And, in fact, I personally believe it is an affliction – a manifestation of mental (and/or social) illness over which he has no control.

Other Agent J craves love and attention yet has such a self-sacrificial heart. You might be running away when he gives you the shirt off his back, but he would do that for you if you asked.  And somehow, I love the guy.  I just really love his tender heart.  And so, he is very much a role model for me.  Ironically, his humility is prophetic, and I try to be like that too.

But there is one more thing about him that dominates his personality.  Other Agent J is always dreaming and scheming up big plans.  He has two or three get-rich-quick schemes in the hopper at any given moment.  And usually, he already has one started.  He is always finding goods, foods, and services to sell and raise money for the homeless.  He is always planning to go back to school – usually Bible school – and prepare for grand ministries.  Move over Joel Osteen, Other Agent J is coming!

Despite his plans, though, he has yet to actually get rich or do anything recognizably big.

What blows my mind is that I have exactly the opposite notion of ministry.  And while I hear Other Agent J dream and scheme, I notice that most churches and 501c3 ministries are doing that too.  (And God bless ’em!)  There is always a new dream.  Always a new take on an old effort.  And definitely the fund raising to be done!  And some of these ministers are quite good at it.  Look at the websites and see the amounts they boast!  Other Agent J is actually in good company!  But I think I would probably not even know Other Agent J if that is how I approached ministry.

I once told Other Agent J that while he is always dreaming big, I am always getting small.  I look at the great God of the universe, the Creator we know from Genesis, and I see a great big God, alright, but he keeps expressing himself in smaller and smaller, humbler and humbler, more and more vulnerable ways.  His creation spins off into sin and death and so he starts over with a cosmic flood saving only Noah and his family.  But when the people get big ideas to build a tower and make a name for themselves, God scatters them and calls Abraham – a great and rich man – and turns him into a wanderer/nomad/sojourner.  And though he makes huge promises to Abe, those same promises must squeeze through Egyptian slavery, parted seas, and desert wanderings, before they arrive at a Promised Land.  And even then, the people rock along as a humble tribal confederation for generations on end only to turn to Samuel and ask for “a king like the nations.”  And this, we find out, rejects God as their king (I Sam. 8:5-7).

God gives them “greatness” briefly – just a taste of it – under David, and especially King Solomon, but they quickly become vassals for bigger empires, and that rocks along for a thousand years before Jesus!  Meanwhile, this humble nation of God’s chosen people chug along as the great Creator’s repository of HOPE for the rest of creation – AND ironically – dreams of greatness!  Yet despite them, God has other plans for his children.  And so the HOPE of God flowers in smallness, humility, and vulnerability.

And then God comes back to Israel to be crowned King of the Jews!  And you would think the people would be happy about this, but what God counts as a coronation, his own people count as an execution of a criminal!  But within this event God unleashes his most magnificent glory, power, and grace – all dressed up as just one more dead Jew!  Even those dreamers of greatness who were in and of themselves the hope of the world, miss God’s movement among them for all it’s paradoxical smallness.

But listen how St. Paul describes it as he preaches to one of his assemblies how to emulate exactly the same attitude:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

(Phil. 2:5-11)

God’s dynamite comes in small packages – like a young shepherd taking on a giant!  Any who know that story would not bet on the giant, nor on the armies of God arrayed against him.  No.  But you know in your bones that God guides that shepherd boy’s slung stone right at the target only God could aim for.  And therein we know that YHWH our God is Lord!

I can’t help but think that the church at large in today’s world is less and less relevant to the world’s problems.  I mean, with presidential candidates quoting from “Two Corinthians” as a way of getting your vote, the underlying message is that presidential candidate not only does not care enough to learn of the Jesus therein, but he doesn’t even respect your way of life as he feigns pandering to you.  By the next election cycle, what respect do you think the church will have?

No.  We are getting smaller and smaller.  We are the new outsiders.  We just don’t want to admit it.

And here at Fat Beggars School of Prophets, we dare to think that the great God of creation would use a handful of simple beggars to invite God’s people to the Lord’s Table – AND – maybe, just maybe, turn the whole economy on its head all in one fell swoop!  (II Kings 6:24 – 7:20… anyone???)

Other Agent J is out there breaking the bread and inviting you to join him at the King’s Table.

 

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