Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stop Talking About Jesus


My friend Kenny and I often observe that if you gave the Bible to someone who had never read it, never been to church, never heard of Jesus, and was in a completely “secular” society and asked them- upon completing their reading- to list for you 50 rules that should be in a faith community attempting to live by these writings that person would never get close to the rules found in North American Christianity today. They would have really odd things on there such as, “Don’t drink blood or eat meat offered to pagan gods” (directions to early Gentile believers) but they would never dream to offer instructions on what kind of music was okay to listen to or to have in church. If they were a very astute reader they may gather that monogamy was God’s marital design… but movie watching probably wouldn’t come into that list. The reader would understand that we should treat the poor kindly.


Alcohol would never, ever, make that list.


And if we asked them, why not, they would probably point to the very person that our entire faith community and system is based around: Jesus.


These next weeks I will be looking at the teachings, acts, and sayings of Jesus that seem a little… well, odd. Since we are going in semi-chronological order we see the wedding in Cana where Jesus begins his ministry in the strangest of ways: by providing a party with more alcohol.


This story gets read right over, gets made “holy” fast without those of us who have read it dozens of times thinking it through from the eyes of someone who was there. Imagine someone in your church/synagogue/faith community who is about 30 years old and has been a part of your group for awhile. One day, you are all at an open bar wedding reception and they tell you it is closing time for the bar. In come some more servers who inform you that (insert name person you are imagining here) has just drove up with about 60 gallons of very good wine to keep the party going… you may find it strange.

Stranger still you think if this person came into church the next day and started smacking people around and telling them they better stop desecrating the House of God.


Stop. If you think this is hyperbole then you are not reading the same text I am. Jesus did not go into a church, he went into the church of the day. THE temple. And started violently correctly people’s behavior that was unacceptable to God. This is how that story looks to someone who was there.

The characters don’t know he is the Son of God, they don’t know all the church history- none of it has happened. This story cannot lose its shock and awe.


From the beginning Jesus seems way more concerned with people being invited in a party, into discussion, into living bizarrely different lives than he does in religious traditions. This really struck me this week as I heard Bill speak in the Summit at Heartland. He told about how much drama can be caused in churches by people sitting in the wrong row/pew/chairs and (as he puts it) hearing, “Well, that’s brother so-and-so’s seat. Who do they think they are?” In other words, they are far more concerned with their religious traditions- whether it be music, seats, events, ministries, and (gasp) rules- than they are with any type of authentic relationship.


If you are looking for a book to read check out Crazy Love by Francis Chan. In the book Chan suggests that for the next 25 years the church should not utter the name of Jesus- they have said too much about him and done too little. They should spend the next two-and-a-half decades attempting to love each other as Christ loved. The point of this challenge is not to take anything at all away from the person and work of Christ but instead as a type of “detox” period. You see, according to Chan, when the number one reason unbelievers will not accept Christ of even visit a church is the viscous backstabbing, gossip, and hypocritical ways of most believers we have a problem. We. You AND me. We are the problem.


Maybe we need a little more party and feast and a little less temple tradition.


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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you mean to tell me that the Bible did not predict that there would be such a thing as television and that on said television there would be offensive and untruthful shows (Ie. Fox News) that one should not watch? Wow.... maybe the Bible is not inspired at all... or maybe I can just watch whatever I want. Time for me to order Skinomax.

Matthew S said...

Hmm... I would suspect that they might mention alcohol. Though the Bible does not speak against drinking alcohol in genral, it does give some fairly strong warnings about drunkenness. Just a few quotes from the NIV:

- Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

- Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.

- Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy

- nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God

- Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit

- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry

...and dozens of other references to drunkeness as a metaphor or simile in a negative sense.

Apparently God doesn't look too fondly on drunkeness, although I can't say that he wouldn't down a beer while watching the game with the guys.

ScarredWarrior said...

Exactly Matt. Just as that list would probably not include "Don't ever eat"... though it may include some warnings about gluttony (since it is mentioned way more than alcohol).

Mr. Anonymous: alcohol was around and spoken to, TV was not. Principles are absolutely transferable- treat your body as the temple would be a great argument against meth use... check out some of my other posts, please.

So, no, don't order "Skinomax" (I think the slang spelling would be Skinemax since it is a play on Cinemax)- lust is spoken to... that would be a principle.

Judy said...

where is the party at?