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Monday, February 20, 2012

Truth


(Found this while i was checking old material for anything publishable. This is a framework i did for a scripture reading at church one day. i dressed pretty scruffy, not quite homeless, but close. In other words, the way i would normally dress if i weren't in church. i didn't stand up front, i came from the back and started talking before they knew i was there. i stayed among the congregation the whole time so i spoke loud. i also was channelling Samuel L. Jackson the whole time performed. Don't know if i sounded like him but i since i heard it in his voice the whole time, i figured you should too. Don't remember now why i thought i could get away with all this but it started a whole season of my life writing skits and performing monologues for worship. So without any more useless preamble... the way it all began.)

Truth.

Not many people know what that is anymore. Not that many ever did.

Fewer still with the brass to whisper any of it aloud.

Elijah. Lotta folks have quoted God. Not many know his shoe size from lying face down before his kicks. Elijah came, swished the Truth around, poked a few hardcases with it and caught a flight for home. But he didn’t stay gone. When the Truth squeezed into the world in blood and amniotic fluid, Elijah was there again saying, “Surprise! Dad’s coming! Your room had better be spotless!” Little while later and he was untying the Truth’s Chuck Taylors so the only guy in the whole history of this vile, filthy cesspool of a rock who didn’t need a bath could take one. Elijah knew the Truth!

You would think that would make him popular. You think Ellen would ask him, “So, what’s the Truth like? Does he have a girlfriend? Why is the Truth a He?” No. Barbara Walters doesn’t want to interview Elijah. The ten most interesting people are factories of fiction not The Truth. Folks who know the Truth don’t get invited to parties. While the world watches Lettermen interview Oprah, the friend of the Truth gets taken away, quietly locked up and buried in two separate graves.

You think I’m kidding? You think I’m exaggerating? Would you know the Truth if you heard it? What if you run into me in the atrium of the mall and I’m saying,

1 Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! 2As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! 3When you came down long ago, you did awesome things beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! 4For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him.

Would you praise God? Or call Security?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Who you calling crazy?


i often hear that it is rational to have doubt. That it is not only logical to approach faith with skepticism but it is functionally the only way to faith. "Faith is believing in something you know ain't so," according to Mr. Twain.

But is this true? No offense, but i approach that line of thinking with more than just skepticism, i downright call it cuckoo in the cabeza. And here's why...

If God is talking directly to you and telling you exactly what He's going to do, like, i dunno, destroy a couple of cities with fiery hail and you even see Him do it and you go and try to make his promises happen another way cause you think He needs you to help Him out... that's nuts.

If God totally tells you how He's going to systematically decimate a country, bring you out of it, through the Red Sea and destroy your enemies in it and you see Him do it and then you whine about Him not giving you water when you want it... that's ludicrous.


If God sends fire from heaven and destroys a sacrifice and altar right in front of you to prove He's God and you continue to ignore Him and worship rocks, sticks and metal, that's stupid.


If God shows up in the form of a man, teaches the most amazing things you've ever heard, calms storms with a word, heals every disease known to man, drives out demons and you don't believe He can feed a few thousand people when He says to, that's willful blindness.


If God thought you up, gave you life, gave you sunshine, seasons, rain, food, breath, family, friends and all kinds of other things you don't ever think about coming from anywhere; and He did not think just being God was good enough cuz you were lost but He gave up His Godhood, became a man and died in your place just so you could rise from the dead and be with Him forever and you doubt His goodness or His love and devotion to you because you're not sure where the money's coming from or you've gotten sick or some folk treat you mean...that's just goofy.

It is not doubt that helps us get out of the boat and walk on water, it's not doubt that let's us trust when all earthly evidence fails, it's not doubt that saves or teaches us about love, it's not doubt that enables us to follow a fiery pillar or go into battle with a thousand to one odds.Can you be a son or daughter and doubt, sadly, yes. You can profess with your lips what you don't actually believe with your heart. But why would you want to?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

St. Frederico de Arkansas' question


When does the reminder become the rite? When does response become religion? Or put another way, when does a good thing become a bad thing? A desire become a distraction?

i could probably just give you a quick quip of an answer but what fun would that be? Instead, let's talk about John.

By most accounts and systems of measurement, John the Baptist was a pretty righteous dude. He was prophesied about four hundred years before his birth (Is 40); he's announced by an angel (Luke 1); the Holy Spirit comes upon him in the womb (Luke 1); his father was a priest and his mother prophesied over him so you know he knew who he was growing up and followed the law to the letter, even raised as a Nazirite meaning he was under a vow to God. As signs of this vow, he never cut his hair or touched alcohol or even helped bury his parents! (Luke 1, Num 6) He separated himself even from people and lived in the desert on locusts and wild honey (Matt 3, Mark 1), not even coming too near to the cities when he began his ministry (Matt 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 3), which, oh yeah, just in case we had any lingering doubts, he began that ministry when he heard from God! (Luke 3) So chances are, he was what we might term a guy on the inside with God.

And yet in Luke 7 and Matt 11 we see John's faith falter. John is thrown in prison for speaking out against the King about his sins. That's what prophets and preachers do. They expound truth. They reveal what folk would rather keep hidden... their hearts. So this man, who from birth has known his mission, heard the will of God from God's own lips and performed beautifully, so much so that Jesus calls him the greatest prophet who ever lived, is thrown in jail for Obeying God! And that's when it happens...

i truly hope i'm not taking liberties with the text here but i think what happened is this, John was a prophet, yes, but prophets are men. Moses, Elijah, Jonah, these men hit their crisis of faith and they usually came right on the heels of their greatest triumphs, after they'd seen some of God's greatest miracles! God follows a distinctive pattern throughout the Bible. Miraculous, life-changing deliverance followed by signifying altar or rite of remembrance, followed by a people hardening their hearts and going astray and forgetting everything God has done. God sends the Death Angel to Egypt and spares those with the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, He gives them the Passover meal to remind them each year, they get to the Red Sea and start crying, woe is us. So Moses leads the Israelites through the Red Sea, they write songs of praise to God, a couple of days later they are whining about water. God gives them water (miraculously purified by a tree) and God calls them to a vow, so they whine about food. God gives them bread from heaven, every day for forty years, they put some in the Ark of the Covenant to remind themselves and they whine about the size of the giants in the land God promised to them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So we were talkin' about John weren't we. Sorry John, we kinda left you in jail there didn't we? But so did Jesus! John sends disciples from prison to Jesus and says, "hey cuz, remember me? Um, kinda in jamb here. Was i right to place my trust in you?" Jesus' answer is cool. He's been healing folk all day and did so apparently in the sight of John's messengers. You can almost see him letting the disciples bounce on their tiptoes for a while before he turns to them and paraphrases verses in Isaiah about the blind seeing, the lame walking, the poor having good news preached to them but he leaves out anything about the captive being set free. Instead he says, "Blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

John had seen great things, hundreds if not thousands coming to be washed before the coming of the King. He had seen the King, heard a voice from heaven and seen the Holy Spirit in bodily form descend upon Jesus! If he had died at that moment, he may have died happy. Instead, Jesus knows his heart and he has one last gift for John. A period of repentance. John realizes that his faith is based on God giving him what he thought he was OWED. As soon as something went awry in John's plan his faith faltered. Jesus might be saying, you don't want me for me, you want me for what i can do for you! Jesus suddenly might not be the Son of God because he was in prison, because something horrible happened to my baby, because i lost my job, because i got cancer, because my spouse left me, because no one likes me, no one listens to me, thinks i'm special, because i haven't beaten this addiction yet! Maybe that's why Jesus says that "he that is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he."

God. Is. Always. God.

God doesn't forget this. We do. God doesn't want rites and rituals, He doesn't need them. We need the reminders. We need baptism to remind us of Jesus' death and resurrection. We need to do it ourselves to remind us that as far as God is concerned, we are completely in Christ. We are something entirely new! We forget who God is and we forget who we are! "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!"

So when does the reminder become the rite? When we can no longer remember why we're doing it. When does the response become religion? When we're doing it because we think we have to and not because we want to. When does the good thing become the bad thing? When the good thing becomes The Thing. When is the desire a distraction?

When the desire is no longer Jesus.