Sunday, May 6, 2012
We read one of the famous "showdown" passages, where Jesus lays the smack down on some religious thugs, and calls them on their hypocritical lives. Everyone loves these stories because it's an all too familiar story, isn't it?
Toss a stone in any direction in America, and you could probably hit an Evangelical...'cept in Berkley perhaps, or Madison. The striking thing is, that the issues don't differ at all from Jesus' day. There's one group who believe that they alone hold the keys to the kingdom, and lord it over others, and then there's everyone else.
But, the passage wasn't simply a caution to religious leaders, but to anyone with faith. Myself included. Faith can become simple religion to anyone who allows it to do so. What I mean by that is that faith, an encounter with the Living God, that can't necessarily be tested, measured, or proven in a lab, can shift from radical life change to a system of actions that don't have any deeper significance. Empty religion.
Today, during the communion segment of church, there were small cups that had dirt stains inside. Jason invited members of the church, if they chose, to come up, and wash out the inside of the cup. The symbolism being an acknowledgement that, as Christians, we don't need to play the "polished exterior" game. We all have junk inside. We all need Christ to clean the inside, so that it matches the outside.
I thought this was a fabulous idea, only...when I got up to the table with the cups, I couldn't wash it out. Not fully, anyway.
Maybe it's the anti-conformity vein running through my body, or maybe it's the realist's fingerprint smudged upon my soul, but whatever it was, I couldn't do it.
Now, I believe that Jesus died for the sins of humanity.
I believe that I'm forgiven for all the junk I've done, and have been extended grace I don't deserve, for sure.
But, if this cup symbolizes anything to me, it's a reminder that the choice of Jesus remains in our hands. I don't always choose Jesus. There's a lot of dark stuff inside this cup that is my life.
That's what makes Jesus all the more real to me.
He isn't just a fix. He isn't a one time, "seal the deal" fail safe.
Our relationship is a daily thing. One step at a time, and I often disappoint him, but he still loves me, and cleans up my heart when I invite him back in. I really can't do life alone. I've tried, it doesn't work.
Could this be the problem people have when it comes to relating to God, and seeing him every day? Is it that we've bought the lie that everything will be just fine after we cross off the religious checklist?
Church member? Check.
Small group member? Check.
Said you'd pray for someone? Check.
Brought your Bible to Starbucks? Double Check.
Is that not unlike the group of people that Jesus was calling hypocritical? The very people we write off as losers who completely missed the point?
Are we so enlightened?
I know I'm not. Just when I think I have a handle on things, there's something new challenging what I thought I knew. I guess that's just how life is though...
I do think that forgiveness is available for all, who ask and choose it. I do think it's possible to be new, and free, and clean. But the cup gets used after the initial cleaning, too. Jesus isn't done with you once you pray "the prayer."
Life gets messy, our spirits need to be cleansed again, and renewed.
The Savior isn't a one time deal, he's a lifelong companion, who doesn't let go. He's the best friend you'll ever have. He's the most patient teacher you'll ever know. He's the most graceful authority you'll ever submit to.
No matter how dirty, or how frequently our souls blacken, there is always living water available to cleanse us. If only we'd just ask.