In a recent post, I made the following remarks:
…if you go look at those gospel accounts, I mean really look and watch this Jesus you so admire and orient your life toward, you will find crowds of hurting, needy people pressing in on him everywhere he goes!
Does that sound like your church???
Does that sound like you???
I didn’t get much response to it, but it seems like a fair question to me. Your “church” claims, by virtue of calling itself a church, to be the very Body of Christ. Since we know from the Scriptures what he behaves like, and the response that elicits, this discrepancy between the two should be alarming. Yet no one I know even raises an eyebrow at the sight of a lock on the church-house door with an accompanying ADT sign in the flower bed. Shoot, post a “No Trespassing/No Loitering” sign while you’re at it, and none of the “Christians” will see even the slightest inconsistency!
But really, it’s not just a matter of our actions; our preaching is off too. Who preaches like Jesus (or St. Paul or St. Peter, for that matter)? St. Mark (and the other Gospel writers) tells us Jesus speaks with AUTHORITY, and not like the Scribes. Paul’s preaching sparks riots in Ephesus and gets him thrown in jail over and over again! Peter preaches in miraculous tongues! Oh, and he goes to jail too.
Who does your preacher preach like?
Jesus brings a new world order – which makes his actions and his words REVOLUTIONARY. This can be a bit confusing since he is not, in the ultimate sense, a rebel. No, on the contrary, he is the KING, and not a rebel at all. But that is in the final analysis, for certainly his actions and words buck the system set up by those who appear to be in charge.
Because of this, I prefer to call Jesus a REVOLUTIONARY revolutionary. This in contrast to a revolutionary’s revolutionary. (I hope you see the difference.)
So, you see, the Scribes, whatever else we might rightly say about them, support the status quo. Jesus, and friends, most certainly do NOT. But these days, by far, most of our pastors, preachers, and religious leaders support the system that is screwing up God’s good creation and screwing little people in the process.
Remember the sermon Gunnery Sergeant Hartman delivers to his Marines upon completing basic training in the movie Full Metal Jacket? It’s the kind of speech meant to inspire young men to lay down their lives in the fight ahead of them. Check it out:
Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means YOU live forever.
Or, perhaps you recall Lt. Col. Hal Moore’s sermon in the movie We Were Soldiers. Again, words meant to inspire young men to lay down their lives in the fight they faced in Vietnam. Check it out:
Lest you think I am suggesting Jesus endorses these sermons, let me be clear; I am NOT. But I do expect you to notice the difference between the preaching you hear at “church” Sunday in and Sunday out and these fine examples of speeches that rally the troops for battle. The urgency to challenge the status quo is only one aspect of my point, but it is both an important aspect and an obvious one.
Jesus is not arming his troops with swords or M-16s. This should be overly obvious, but he is still arming them, equipping them (as St. Paul would say) for a battle nonetheless. Jesus speaks with AUTHORITY, but also speaks in parables that are hard to understand. And even when his own disciples ask him for the meaning of these coded messages, Jesus declares that some will understand and others will not. Some are in; others are out! He does not make a sales pitch; he does not offer good customer service; he does not give namby-pamby psycho-babble, seeker-friendly advice, or gimmicks like coffee and lattes in the lobby! On the contrary, he insists that unless you take up your cross and follow, you are not his disciple!
Does your preacher preach like that?
Or does he support your status quo and try to make you feel good about yourself as you are?
I see a lot of support for the status quo out there, and I hear it in our sermons, read it in the coffee-table Christianity, find it in the websites, and treasure it in the handsome, leather-bound purpose driven journal that seems to accompany all this crap while my street friends freeze another night in the cold of this “Christian” town.
Think about it.