(Friday Night) We thought He was the Messiah, The true and only one. We thought He would restore us. We thought He was God's son. But now He's dead and in the tomb. We don't know what to do. He said "I will not leave you." But we're scared, through and through. (Saturday) Years ago we left families And followed, just like He said. But then they nailed Him to the cross. Our hopes and dreams are dead. Should we run or should we hide? What is left for us here? A week ago it was different. I can still hear the crowd's cheers. (Early Sunday Morning) Hey! He's not in the tomb! Mary just brought us the word. She says He's back from the dead. It's the best news I've ever heard. Can't wait to see Him for myself. It's almost too good to be true. Maybe he'll heal the sick and teach Just like He used to do. (Later Sunday) Jesus just came into the room There's no doubt about it. Everyone needs to know. Let's all go out and shout it. He is alive! He is alive! You better believe it, friend. He is all that He promised. I'll never doubt again.
Recently a copy of the Ten Commandments was hung in each fifth grade classroom in the Middleville Elementary School. Marian, whose parents are Orthodox Jews, asked "Mrs. Johnson, do you go to church on the Sabbath or on Sunday?" "I go on Sunday," her teacher replied. "My daddy says the Sabbath is the right day to worship. The new poster on the wall says we should worship on the Sabbath. Who is wrong, you or my daddy?"
Jimmy's daddy pastors a Pentecostal Full Bible Independent Baptist Church. He asked "Mrs. Johnson, what is a 'graven image' anyway? "Well Jimmy, a graven image is a picture or statue of something that people think looks like God and they worship it instead of God." "Well, my daddy says the Catholics like Susie and Johnny worship the statue of Jesus that is in the front of their church. Do you think my daddy's right, Mrs. Johnson?"
About that time, Robert raised his hand and asked "Mrs. Johnson, what does 'keep it holy' mean on number four?" "It means we are not supposed to work on that day." "Well, golly, my daddy owns the Dairy Queen down on Locust Street. He says Sunday is his best day. Is my Daddy wrong for working on Sunday, Mrs. Johnson?" Just then Mrs Johnson noticed that Saboni, the little dark-skinned girl whose grandparents came to the U.S. from India, was about to cry. "What's wrong, Saboni?" she asked. "I don't know which god you are talking about. My mother and grandmother say there are many gods. You are taking about only one god. Are my mother and grandmother wrong, Mrs. Johnson?" Mulladi, whose father always wore a turban to P.T.A. meetings, spoke up next. "Mrs Johnson, why do you worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath?" "Well, Christians moved the day of worship to Sunday from the Sabbath in order to celebrate when Jesus rose from the dead." "My daddy says that story is a lie. He says Jesus was a good man, but the story of him coming out of the grave is a story made up by his followers. Is my daddy wrong, Mrs Johnson?" Each of the families paid their school taxes. That tax money was being used to promote religious ideas that undermined what they were taught at home. Is this the way Christianity should promote "Honor thy father and mother?"
On the evening of the first Easter the disciples huddled in a closed room and bolted the door to keep out the world. They were so frightened of the people outside they had to use doors and walls to separate themselves from outsiders.
Today our churches still seem afraid of the world. We hide behind our stained-glass windows, choir robes and Sunday School literature and preach about the evils of homosexuality, drugs and pornography.
The message of such behavior is “We are scared of Satan and his world of evil.” We meet to share time with other frightened Christians and have a few hours each week of “holy huddle,” fervently hoping the world will not physically or emotionally intrude.
We say “Our church doors are open. All are invited to worship with us.” We even send out visitation teams to persuade people to come to our church next Sunday. But are our hearts as open as our doors? Are we careful to invite only the “right kind” of people from “correct neighborhoods” to join us in our sanctimonious ceremonies?
If new-comers do not dress correctly or wash frequently do we secretly hope they will search for God somewhere else? The world that many people face every day is dirty, mean and dangerous. Many of the people that live in that world tend to be unkempt and rough, with an unpleasant odor. Do we as long-time members really want them to be a part of our worship.
The addicted and abused, the frightened and confused are not urged to attend the 11:00 Sunday morning, suit and tie, heels and hats, upper room gathering of the faithful. They frighten us. We do not want them to disrupt our services, offend our sensibilities and upset our routine. My goodness, one of them might actually sit in my pew.
Even worse, some of these down-and-outers might require some of our own personal time and assistance. They might become a bodily, practical expression of God’s message “unto the least of one of these.” After all, if we don’t intend to individually go “into all the world” we for sure don’t want the world coming to us!
As God’s children we give Him many things. We give him our intellect as we study his Word and memorize passages of it. We read theological literature and get exposed to the thoughts of religious leaders of the past. We allow Him to shape our minds.
We give Him our money. We tithe, donate to mission offerings, support building programs and contribute to programs that support the homeless and unfortunate of our society. He has access to our money.
We gladly allow Him a reasonable amount of our time. We attend Sunday School and worship services each Sunday. We go to choir practice and prayer breakfasts and home Bible-study groups. God is allowed to guide us during large chunks of our time.
We make our physical strength and abilities available to Him. We spend two Saturdays a year helping out at “Repair and cleanup” day at our church. We help neighbors with yard work and other chores when necessary. We help rebuild homes and churches in hard-hit areas after weather disasters. God can use our hands and feet.
But a part of us that we tend to withhold from Him is our attitude. We balk at allowing Him to control, and maybe change, our feelings and reactions toward church staff, family members, people of other races, those in certain economic levels and members of various political parties or religious groups.
In Mark 2:22 Jesus taught the futility of putting new wine in old wineskins. It may be that our attitudes are the old skins of our day and the new wine is further revelations of Himself that the Holy Spirit cannot show us because of our mental rigidity.
Inflexible attitudes cause us to whine when God expects us to shine. Which of our attitudes are we refusing to yield to Him?
USED TO BE
Things I step over are higher than they used to be.
Things I duck under are lower than they used to be.
Stuff I wade through is deeper than it used to be.
Things I walk across are wider than they used to be.
Objects I carry are heaver than they used to be.
Errands I run are longer than they used to be.
Material I read is smaller than it used to be.
Reading lights I use are dimmer than they used to be.
Chairs I use are lower and harder to get out of than they used to be.
Stairs I climb are steeper than they used to be.
Floors I drop stuff onto are further down than they used to be.
But the God who made me and all that other stuff is the same as He has always been. And for this eighty-year old that is GOOD NEWS!
Confession?. . . . .”I did it”
Repentance?. . . . . “I’m sorry”
Obedience? . . . . . “I will”
Service? . . . . . “Let me help”
Worship? . . . . . “You’re wonderful”
Devotion?. . . . . “I love you”
Gratitude?. . . . .”Thank you”
Humility?. . . . . “Help”