Monday, January 16, 2006

Soapbox Warrior

A lonely figure wanders to a busy street corner and throws a wooden crate down with a crash. His features are striking, with long-ish gray hair and piercing dark eyes. There is nothing noteworthy of his attire, except to say that it is clean, pressed and simple. With his box in place, he steps upon it and slowly draws a small black book from the back pocket of his jeans. Most people walking by seem determined not to notice the unusual actions of this man who is making it clear that he will soon be attempting to gain a great deal of attention.

The pages of the small black book are worn, even ragged and his eager search through the book makes it clear why it is in such an abused condition. Suddenly, he sees in the tattered pages what he longed to see, and with a long drawn breath he sharply exhales the words, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!" A few people walking by are startled by the break in the voiceless silence, still others are visibly upset at the intrusive effort made by this stranger. However, two and three, now five and six people inquisitively stop to listen, sensing in the Voice a mysterious distant call from somewhere strangely familiar yet sadly undefined.

A large vein swells on the side of this man's neck with every passionate word he speaks. It would appear that this vein would burst from the weight of the Words it is pushing into the air of this busy street corner. Still, most passersby want nothing to do with this odd demonstration; they have no interest in the rantings of this Voice. But to the half dozen who have stopped, there is a greater urgency in the content of these Words than there was just moments ago in their harried and hurried footsteps. Like the swollen vein in his neck, their hearts are beginning to swell from the passion of the Words.

The echoes off nearby building walls naturally amplify the Voice above the sound of cars and trucks as he cries out, "We live in a world gone mad with self-promotion, indulgence and ego. Men find pleasure from their power over a girl. Women seek revenge on males through harsh manners and crude gestures. Babies are torn from the last safe haven on earth by forcepts and suction and children, confused by the insanity, mistakenly act out their rage by brutalizing their peers. Laws and government are powerless to heal. Self-important religious bigotry only parades itself as masters of the obvious. There is only one answer! A new heart! And only the God Who lovingly fashioned you in the secret place of His almightiness can give you that new heart. Today, let Him slip His invisible Hand into your chest. Let Him crush your heart of stone into the powder from which He will then with gentle genius recreate a heart of soft infant like quality. From that new heart will beat a new rythmn of Life. Birds will sing symphonies without beginning or end. The rain will wash your face, the sun will dry your tears, the moon will dance through the night sky and draw from your eyes a wonder and awe for which you long. Your sins, which stain you like a warrior of hate, will be displaced and removed so that the only thing from this day forward that you will wish to fight will be the old self you once treasured and despised. Come this day to Jesus, for He is your God."

Now, the six who were stopped by a mysterious Power, are bowing on a sidewalk, concrete altar. Their shoulders quiver from the release of long held emotions. A wide section of this street corner has been allowed to this tiny cathedral gathering as pedestrians pretend to ignore what is all too obvious. The man from the crate steps down and touches each bowed figure with kindness that seems foriegn to the volume of his just finished speech. One by one, those who have been bowed stand tall and look at each other as though they have just each one arrived home from a far away place. They are inexplicably changed. So too will the world around them be changed as they go home and find small planks of wood, nails and a hammer with which to create their own wooden crate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Extreme Makeover; The Church Edition

I'm a sucker for the ABC television broadcast, "Extreme Makeover; The Home Edition". It's a quasi-reality show where they pick a deserving family whose house is in some kind of disrepair, rot, mold infestation or just plain ugly condition of some kind. They plow the shack to the ground and build a palace in its place.

The families are usually made up of adoptive/foster parents, single moms or dads with huge herds of kids and a wide variety of physically challenged adults and or kids. They're sent away for a free vacation during the house transformation and the show ends with the family wisked back for the surprise unveiling. ABC intentionally aims at weeping saps like me who are given to watch these shows, cry and bask in the glow of all the warm sue me.

My point in bringing this up is that it has given me a great idea for another reality show; "Extreme Makeover; The Church Edition". Like the Home Edition, a group of design experts could descend on an unsuspecting ministry and wake them up with a guy on a bullhorn in the front yard bringing the wonderful surprise to light. Free vacation! Brand new ministry!

I can see it now; "Hey! Pat Robertson! Wake up! It's the Extreme Makeover team! We are here to take you to the West Bank, Israel, where you will spend the next 90 days living with Palestinian Christians with a roll of duct tape around your mouth. Having your mouth sealed might save your life, and if it does, it will also give you a rare opportunity to listen to people whose point of view is radically different from yours. Once you are done there, you will be helicoptered to Jerusalem to minister to Ariel Sharon and his family....the duct tape will remain on."

Or, "JJJJJerrrrryyyy Falwell! Come on out....we have an jetliner fueled and ready to fly you to Calcutta, India where you will take Mother Teresa's place. For 90 days you will walk the mean streets of Calcutta without a single TV camera to record your actions or any body guards or PR handlers to protect you. You will live her vow of poverty and be forced to love the most unlovable people on the planet. When you are done there, we will fly you back to the the place you once said was ripe for the judgement of God and deserved a killer hurricane...... New Orleans! Once there, we will assign you to an inner city church where you will spend an additional 90 days pastoring a massively wounded flock. No cameras, no handlers. Just you and God looking into the eyes of people hungry for answers and help."

Oh no....I feel a lump in my throat....I have to stop now.....I'm such a sap.....

Monday, January 02, 2006

God -- The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is God. God is the Holy Spirit.

Do we believe that? Do we wrap our faith around that? Are we walking this earth with that reality beating in our chest? Something in me says that if we did, we Christians would be massively different than we are and the truest character of God would be far more accurately advertised. Something else in me shouts that the church of 2006 needs an extreme makeover, the likes of which is only possible if God, the Holy Spirit does the making over.

Not clever church growth "experts" who have not paid a bloody price for laying down their lives for a people in the inner city or the "outer city" middle of no where. Not the touchy feely sensitive to the seeker terrified of the truth hired hand pastors secretly proud of the number of sheep they've stolen by scratching where those sheep itch instead of healing the actual brokenness of their spirits. Not "pop-theology" end times magicians playing with Bible verses like David Copperfield pretending to saw a pretty lady in half. Where, by the way, the only thing sawn to pieces is the precious Word of God.

Not a smoke and mirrors change; but a real make over by the power of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit raging through today's Temple the way Jesus did in the Temple of His day. With a whip lashing the backs of temple "professionals" and throwing the tables of their ill-gotten cash around like some kind of internal tornado was roaring through the house. Today's Temple is boldly declared to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ, the Church, the people of God.

Come Holy Spirit! Be God Almighty in me, and the church that I pastor. Come ruthlessly to heal every layer of the wreckage of humanity that intrudes in what should be the beauty of the Bride of Christ. Come Holy Spirit and fearlessly rebuke Satan in every one of us the way Jesus did when Peter was too dumb to know the difference between the things of God and his own "stuff". Come Holy Spirit and tell us that we don't know what spirit we are of when we, like Jesus' own 12 disciples, with judgemental religious thinking were eagar to call fire down on "bad people".

Come Holy Spirit! We repent for making You God Jr. We repent for making you the author of parlor tricks that entertain only our perverse curiousity. We repent for boxing You in, pouring water on Your Fire, telling You how to pray instead of letting You pray the ragged, raw and real passions of Your needs. Come Holy Spirit, in nothing less than the full majesty of God in us, to make Jesus Christ more Lord in and through us than You have ever been allowed.