Monday, August 25, 2008

Faint

A lady fainted during our church service yesterday. After an overnight stay at the hospital and several tests, no certain reason has been listed as a cause. By mere observation, I've found my preaching has a soporific effect; not until yesterday did I consider my exposition swooning.

The irony is I had just finished reading a passage out of Stephen King's Carrie (not quite on par with the TNIV). I was making a parallel between Carrie White and Jesus Christ, and before I got a chance to explain, I noticed a quiet group huddled around an unconscious member of our church. My face had been fixed on the book for a minute before I noticed the silent upheaval.

There I was, caught in an untidy allusion that, taken wrong, could border on blasphemy. There she was, eyes clenched, mouth agape, and a dear friend holding a towel below her chin.

"Can we do something?" I asked.

Her friend nodded and lipped the words, 'Just pray.'

So we did. Corporately. Individually. In small groups. A few songs from the earlier worship set erupted as a soothing aroma. It is well...with my soul...

The EMT arrived before the third verse. They carefully moved the woman to a stretcher and led to her the ambulance idling in the parking lot. Within minutes she was conscious, and by the end of the hour, three couples from the church had visited her in the hospital. She was spirited, recovering well.

Had the woman not fainted, I can forecast the rest of our morning worship:
four men would've fallen asleep;
three girls would've passed notes;
five adults would've thought of their dying lawns;
eight people would've looked confused;
seven ladies would've smiled and nodded;
six geese would've laid eggs;
one pastor would've wondered if he was connecting;
and everyone would've stood to sing a closing song.

One of the most common complaints about the church service is its monotony. And perhaps too many gatherings open and close with the predictability of a Friday night sitcom. Nonetheless, the church service is one corporate venue for God to manifest Himself and call His people out. We should expect Him more.

And if we don't, we are bound to grow faint of heart.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Barabbas

Barabbas is the poster-child for the ageless revolution. He is a Father’s Son, a Rabbi’s Child. He stands before governors, priests, and common people and gains their affection, because he is not so different from them.


Barabbas doesn’t claim a throne in heaven; he doesn’t boast a royal crown. He works in the soil and city, with sweat and blood beneath the burning sun. And if you mock him, he might kill you.


He is not so different from us. Making our own rules. Promoting our own causes. Fighting our own fights. Thinking our own thoughts. And if you mock us, we might boycott you.


Barabbas could as soon be Pastor Tim, Farmer Bob, President Regan, Senator Obama, Officer Krumsky, the Joker, your mom, or the reflection in your mirror.


His name is inconsequential. Even his crime is of little concern. It is the fact that he stands beside Jesus in a popularity contest, a moral dilemma, a church election, a beauty pageant. The rule-breaker against the ruler. The insurrectionist against God incarnate.


Barabbas and Jesus are the last two standing in dodge ball, and you have to decide if you route for the thrash talker who punishes the other team, or the man in the corner who refuses to flinch. We opt for the player with the strong arm.


By nature, we are better at breaking rules, windows, and friendships than following the lead of the King of Jews. People will more quickly choose rebellion than repentance, insurrection than submission. People will more quickly shout, “Crucify Him” than “I surrender.” People are more likely to bind Jesus and release Barabbas if it means they can join the ageless revolution: the fight for self-rule.


Fortunately, Jesus will put an end to this revolution. Now and later, globally and internally, if we release Him.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vocabulary

Whenever my oldest daughter says Jesus I get really excited. For her the name is not much more than that. A name from a song lyric. A name from a picture Bible. A name tied to church (which is 'Where daddy works') and prayer (which is what we say before dinner). The name Jesus is just another piece in her ever-increasing vocabulary, but one that delights her parents.

Words are transferable, but changing. They cross generations and pick up accents, inflections, and connotations as they move from father to son, mother to daughter, elder to infant, pedagogue to apprentice. We don't always know what we're saying/hearing, even if we agree on the terms. Conflict originated with one person redefining the meaning of 'Don't Eat!'

And though we're bound to be misunderstood, one of the essentials of leadership--at home, church, school, or Little League--is building a common vocabulary with people. While this requires talking, the first requirement is listening. What words do people utter as values? What notions are implied in their terms?

Once a leader finds the group's vocabulary range, he is able to communicate in the lingua franca. Then he can expand certain terms. To rush this process is to stall progress. When I speak, do I use familiar terms? Where do I come across as unclear, compromising, or mean? Where can I redirect?

Thus, the task of the leader is to break down deficient meanings of a word and rebuild the definition together. Jesus listened and avoided the term 'Son of God.' Moreover, He only agreed to the title Messiah after it was stuttered by Peter. Moments later, he rebuilt the deficient meaning of Messiah-as-Conquerer to Messiah-as-Suffering Servant.

Leaders break down so they can rebuild. They greet death, so they can experience life. They smile while their children sing about Jesus, but they make sure the Name is not simply a high note.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fleas

My home has been overrun with fleas. It's gross and embarrassing. My cat carried them in on her fur coat: little black felis, laying eggs and sucking blood. They jump and gnaw on warm flesh. They dodge my fingertips and hide in my bed.

I've gotten to the point where I don't want to stay inside, and if I do I can't sit on the floor or couch or chair--I'll be attacked. I can't go in the basement--I'll be devoured. I've been hiding out in the bathtub for days--fleas can't swim.

My legs are covered with bite marks. My ankles are red with rash. My feet itch. I might have rabies.

The flea plague is consuming me. When I sleep I feel them in my hair. Their little legs bound up and down my spine. I see them hiding in my freckles. I hear them whispering in my ear.

And everywhere I go, they follow. Yesterday I took some to work. Today I brought some to the hospital. I dropped a few off in Florida, and sent some in the mail to Canada.

This is life in a plague. Suffering, in whatever form, seizes your body and restricts your imagination, so that every thought is essentially one: Fleas.