60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?” (John 6:60-61)
There are a couple of things I know in our current political and cultural climate:
- We can’t predict anything. I’m done with that. I have a sense of what the Spirit was speaking to me this morning in prayer as I read this passage, but that’s it. I have no “thus saith the Lord.” All the “thus saith the Lord” proclamations to this point concerning the election are just not much in the way of accuracy. We’re guessing. And there is a reason.
- We’re doing too many things based on fear. As Americans. As Christians in America We’re reacting out of fear. For believers, that is not only not good… it’s not necessary.
Several years ago I was listening to a church leader who had been pastoring a significant Pentecostal church in the days of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart and their downfalls. He was seeing some wonderful things happen in his church and was growing somewhat influential in the Charismatic Movement so some media outlets asked him his opinion about the downfall of two very prominent TV preachers. He refused comment.
He said, “Jesus was going through his garden pruning with a chainsaw, and I felt like I was some little twig holding on for dear life! What did I have to say against someone else?”
It wasn’t that he didn’t have an opinion, or that he felt Bakker or Swaggart were somehow being maligned. He just didn’t feel the need to pile on. He knew what was happening. Jesus was cleaning house.
Again, I have no “thus saith the Lord” on this, but the question ringing in my mind this morning with this text is this: “What if Jesus is cleaning house?”
Jesus in the Temple that day isn’t going after Rome. He’s going after Israel. He’s going after their lame attempts to hold onto power while they allowed oppression of the marginalized all around them. The Jewish leadership was pressing down on people and using the Temple for strong-arming the margins when it should have been a house of prayer. Their priorities were all messed up.
He then demonstrates it further in the cursing of the fig tree. There was the tree looking all good, but no fruit. It was symbolic of Israel. “You all LOOK fine with the Temple looking better than ever… but you have NOTHING to give out in life!”
What if Jesus is cleaning house? No matter what happens this election cycle, what if he is trying to say to American Christianity: “Quit grasping at political power!”
What if we quit trying to justify “backing” one candidate or another, which is only thinly veiled as our attempt to remain in a place where we have some political influence? What if Jesus is cleaning house by whittling away religious freedoms we’ve enjoyed… NOT to “destroy America” but to wake up the Church?
What if the Church got back to prayer… NOT for “America to wake up” but for the American Church to wake up? What if we got back to the basics of prayer… just simply seeking God without any agenda as to how we feel our “rights” are being stripped away, but just being in his presence and looking to glorify his great name again?
What if the Church got back to paying attention to what Jesus demonstrated in his life? When Jesus overturned the tables and called people back to prayer, the margins flocked to him. They came to him in the Temple area, where the Jewish leaders had been trying to control who came in and who stayed outside. What if the Church in America turned its attention back to the margins… away from Washington?
What if we began to see the marginalized again… to reach out to the poor, the oppressed, the beat down… What if we didn’t give standard political answers (from the right OR the left) and shut our mouths and just worked?
What if Jesus is cleaning house? Not Washington… his house. His church. His people.
What if we would listen?
What … if…
The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious experience, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being “left behind”), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises a hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun. — N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
Mar 8:11 — Mar 8:13 (ESV)
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
Always asking for proof but never really caring for the truth. Jesus is fed up with the game.
Quit treating God like a magic genie, asking him what he can do for you today!
Just. Follow. Him.
Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the demoniac in the Gerasene region. What strikes me each time I read this story is the toleration the villagers had for the bondage this man was under and when he was actually made whole, they wanted Jesus out of the region.
They had “the devil they knew” and could “manage” the bondage at that point. At least, that was the lie they were working with day after day. Then, when real deliverance showed up, they had a power they didn’t know.
Too often we tolerate the bondage of the enemy because it’s somehow “known” to us. It’s “manageable.”
But when Jesus walks into the room… we can’t manage him. He sets people free, but HE is in control. We prefer the illusion of our own “management” skills.
This is a story that haunts me. Do I tolerate the activity of the enemy in my life or around me too much?
“Why should anyone be shattered by the thought of hell? It is not compulsory for anyone to go there. Those who do, do so by their own choice, and against the will of God, and they can only get into hell by defying and resisting all the work of Providence and grace.” — Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
There is a spiritual thirst. There is a spiritual hunger. I long for my life, and the life of my church, to reflect the position of spiritual travelers who have simply found fresh water and good bread. We journey together. Let this be place of refreshing. A place to settle in and ask questions. A place to explore. A chance for a weary soul to realize what real water can taste like. Lord, let us be this place!
Let the thirsty come. For the thirsty, please don’t delay. Hear the great invitation.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near. (Isa. 55:1-6)