Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Bible Is Broken

If you've worshiped at Decatur First a few times, you may have noticed that our services tend to be thematically unified.  What I mean by that is we pick the hymns, anthems, texts, prayers, and even other service music to go along with the message of the sermon.  Not just the preaching text, mind you, but the actual idea that we think the sermon will convey.  It can be something of an inexact science because we have to pick out anthems and such about eight weeks before a given service, but the preacher won't typically start putting details on the sermon until the week prior.  Still, most of the time we can get close.  Sometimes we totally nail it.  I felt like this past weekend was a good example of getting the hymns just right.

Nearly all of the time the sermon at all three of our worship services is the same, which means most of the time the hymns and other music works as well.  Every now and then, though, the preacher will be different from one service to the next, as happened this past weekend.  I didn't notice when I was picking out the music, but I noticed something funny on Sunday morning.

Image result for something funny
To die.  Alone.  In the rain.  Poor, sad chicken.
Not that kind of funny.
Image result for hmmmm
Hmmm.
Yes.  That kind of funny.

The sermon title for the 8:45 service was "Just Be."  It was a fantastic exegesis of John 15 in which we are told to abide in Christ and his love for us.  More or less, the idea is that we can't earn our way into the good place, regardless of what the sitcom would have you believe.  It's not about the things we do as much as it is our relationship with Christ.  Just be, man.  Just be.  So we sang "The King of Love My Shepherd Is," a paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm that reminds us how Jesus provides for our needs and safekeeping.  We sang "Seek ye first he Kingdom of God...and all these things shall be added unto you."  We finished with "Children of the Heavenly Father."  What says abiding more than taking refuge in the arms of God?  We were straight up abiding at 8:45.

Image result for dude abide
(Just as accurate as most of the pictures
of Jesus hanging in our church right now)
Then we started getting ready for 11:00, which was about the "hallowed ground of care-giving."  There were echoes of the Great Commission and Jesus' commandment to care for others (in this particular case the aging).  I was particularly proud of a line from "Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service."  "Called from worship to your service, forth in your great name we go to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show."  BAM!  Care-giving indeed!

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Hammertime?
Wait a minute.  I'm confused.  Are we supposed to abide and just be and not worry about trying to earn our way into heaven, or are we supposed to gird up our loins with kindness and hope and care for an ailing world?

I mentioned this as the Chancel Choir was warming up (mostly just sharing why I was having a bit of theological whip-lash) when one of my singers said, "John, isn't there a whole anthem about this?"  He was referring to "Christus Paradox," which is a whole text based on all the ways Jesus plays havoc with rules of common logic.  It's worth including here:

Christus Paradox
Sylvia Dunstan (1955-1993)

You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd.
You, Lord, are both prince and slave.
You, peacemaker and swordbringer
Of the way you took and gave.
You the everlasting instant;
You, whom we both scorn and crave.

Clothed in light upon the mountain,
Stripped of might upon the cross,
Shining in eternal glory,
Beggar’d by a soldier’s toss,
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are both gift and cost.

You, who walk each day beside us,
Sit in power at God’s side.
You, who preach a way that’s narrow,
Have a love that reaches wide.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our pilgrim guide.

Worthy is our earthly Jesus!
Worthy is our cosmic Christ!
Worthy your defeat and vict’ry.
Worthy still your peace and strife.
You, the everlasting instant;
You, who are our death and life.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.
You, who are our death and our life.

Each of those claims can be validated in Scripture.  So what gives?

Image result for firefly bible is broken
Amen.
I don't think the Bible is broken...at least not based on these apparent contradictions.

Jesus' great promise to us is that he will be with us always.  Sometimes we need a peacemaker at our side...and other times we need a swordbringer.  There are times when we need to slow our roll a little.  We need to pause.  We need to quit worrying and, well...just be.  And there are times when we need a swift kick in the pants.  A robust faith demands a delicate balance stillness and motion.  The voice of Jesus comes to us as we have need, calling us to be mindful of the balance.  Mature faith recognizes the ways in which the world around us messes with the balance in our lives and helps us re-balance the load.

If we find ourselves in a busy season, zigging and zagging all over creation--even if it is for perfectly good cause--then the "dude" Jesus calls us to abide.  If we find ourselves too comfortable napping in the green pastures while the world around us aches, butt-kicker Jesus grabs us up by the sideburns.

In the end, faith is rarely about dichotomies.  It's about balance.  It's about taking refuge in God's hands one day...and being God's hands the next.