It’s Paul’s approach that I find interesting here as well. He basically tells his listeners that he didn’t come with big, fancy words, but with the basic concept of a crucified Lord. It was the story of a God who humbled himself, and was humiliated by the powers of this world. It was the story of a God who died for those he loved. It was the story of a Christ who presented his weaknesses to the world to show them the strength of his desire to redeem them. And Paul did all of this while he, himself, was afraid, trembling in the fear of his own weaknesses. But that’s what Paul wanted. His approach was to let others see the power of God in his actions, and not in his fancy and persuasive words.
The paralyzed man stood up, picked up his bed, and walked away. And all those present were filled with awe and amazement, and they said, “We have seen strange things today.” After having been told that the people were filled with amazement and awe, and were glorifying God, these people then said what amounts to, “Yup. That was weird.”
This question by these money changers and livestock peddlers is essentially the same as those who complain about Cancel Culture. Rather than take the public outrage as a correction, and a chance to learn, they push back, attempting to prove their innocence. It’s not my fault; I did nothing wrong; why would someone do this to me; don’t they recognize that they are infringing on my right to live and make money?; I’m the victim here.
What motivates us to enter into these self-congratulatory states of inflated valuations of our own self-worth? We may indeed be better than some – by our own standards – but by our own standards we are also worse than others (Matt 7:1-2). Yet we still try and congratulate ourselves on our own righteousness, when standing before the God who reconciled us to Himself, no less.
Sometimes, asking people to jump into an existing ministry works, but more often it doesn’t. People may be excited about their faith, but that excitement fades when they are told to embrace the constraints and guidelines of an existing ministry merely because “we’ve always done it this way at this church.” That vetted ministry may have been dying for a reason, and throwing a new and excited individual at it will probably not bring it back to life, because their creativity and passion will have been saddled with a vision that is not their own.
Some people attend charismatic or pentecostal churches because they need to see the miraculous to understand a God that provides healing, or understands them deeply, beyond what they share of themselves with the world. Some people attend churches that focus on social justice because they need to see a God that serves up justice and cares for the oppressed. Some attend legalistic churches because they need to experience order and clear cut rules amidst an otherwise chaotic life. And each of these churches provides an aspect of God to the world.
Daily Office Readings Psalm: 126In convertendo1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, * then were we like those who dream.2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, * and our tongue withRead More…
When I was a pastor for a small church up in the pacific northwest, I received a phone call one day. The call came from another pastor in our diocese, who wanted to let me know that he had a “word of knowledge” for me.
For those of you not particularly versed in the charismatic / pentecostal nomenclature, a “word of knowledge” is a personal prophecy, or discernment, regarding what God is doing in the life of another person. These can at times be very powerful, when truly directed by God. When not directed by God, they tend to take on the likeness of a battering ram.
Years ago, on a diocesan retreat, two men were arguing about a particular prophecy concerning where the new diocesan cathedral would stand. We were all sharing a cabin bunkhouse, and I was trying to get some sleep. The two could not, or would not, agree on any of the supposed signs that they had interpreted to indicate the location of the new building, and after a while, I got grumpy enough that I just flat out asked them why they were arguing.
As I sat there with a book next to the coals from the morning fire, a wind began to blow. And it continued to blow, and it got stronger and stronger, blowing sand into my pages, and blowing the pages over so that I had to keep my hand firmly on the book to be able to read at all. I finally got so frustrated I shouted at the wind, at God, at the universe, “Really?!?! I’m finally in the right mindset to read, and now this? Stop with the sand blowing already.”