Until recently, much of what I’ve written and recorded on here has been generously peppered with Christian vernacular and religious terms. I’m guessing partly because I was trying to confirm that what I believe and what the Holy Spirit teaches and guides me through has been tested and proven. I could use religious terminology and concepts with my pastor and ministry friends to help nail down the topics that we were discussing, contemplating, encouraging, and holding each other accountable.
Dropping quotes and scripture references and religious terms in the midst of my sentences can help make it clear to my Christian brothers and sisters that “I’m one of them” and serve as a common ground to communicate more complex (admittedly sometimes “high minded”) Christian concepts and ideas quickly — in rapid fire sermons, teachings, monologs, etc. And we can quickly go down the rabbit hole into deeper theological discussions by pointing to these terms and concepts while leading scholars and theologians of various levels down familiar and agreed upon roads of ages upon logic and reasoning.
But I’ve found that using these types of “foreign language” can create walls and be a hindrance when my audience is not “good Sunday pew setters” and “Bible thumpers” (yes, those derogatory terms are used for sarcastic effect). And I see the example of Jesus/Yeshua’s “preaching with authority” in His sermon on the mount that starts in Matthew 5. And I see the examples of His parables.
Jesus/Yeshua didn’t follow the same “rabbinical reading of the scriptures” and “explaining what the scriptures meant” to the people that they were used to. That familiarity of the people with a certain type of teaching/preaching seems to parallel what I find many of the expositional preaching and hermeneutics books that I’ve read and been recommended over the years by basis religious teachers and friends. While using the scripture as a source of authority works if I’m dealing with people who have already accepted the Bible as the Word of God — repeating “the Bible says” and using only a stream of religious terms that a non-religious audience wouldn’t understand doesn’t seem to me to be the example that He gives me. As much as I love the high minded theological debates and flowing streams of big religious terminology and references that inflate my teachings into what I might feel are “more worthy” and eloquent masterpieces and beautiful patchwork quilts in the style of Spurgeon, etc. The example that He gives me seems quite different than my self-taught Bible College courses might have impressed upon me more. Maybe this is my own fault and what I was drawn to, not a systemic issue for the trade of prophets and teachers. The use of “ply their trade” in the rebuke of false prophets and false priests in Jeremiah 14:18 in the ESV leaps off of the page in a way of describing the more common “walking/roving around in a land that they don’t understand” — does seem to be a great warning about the dangers of speaking about God versus speaking from the call of God and by the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit.
So in a way, my study, my writing, my worship is returning to my first love. I am returning to a focus on the precepts. I am cleaning my house and my vocabulary from focusing on the terms and references that clearly signal my virtue as a “well studied religious teacher” so that I might sit myself down as a student — to learn,and speak, and think, and live as His example leads me.
I am repenting from seeking the affirmation and attention of long pickled jars instead of harvesting cucumbers. I am repenting from being lukewarm and comfortable in the audience and on the stage one day a week with “all the good Christian people” — instead of uncomfortably challenged every day in the dark places bringing light and hope where the doctor is needed (by not just THEM, but desperately by ME even more).
I wonder how much it would trouble the embedded religious order of the day greatly if the congregants took the love of Jesus into the gay bars, into the strip clubs, into the places of pornography, into the drag shows, into to drug dealers, addicts and whores in the trap houses, into the jails, into the prisons, into the house of the rich and the poor man, into the pro-choice and the pro-abortionist, into the Democrat and the Republican, into the Christian Nationalist and the immigrant/refugee, into the flag waving “the South shall rise again” redneck and the Antifa flag waving “defund the police” militant, into those whose home dinner tables are just as segregated today as they would have been under Jim Crow laws then and to those woke enough to hate all white men and blame them for everything wrong as a victim rather than take ownership and move forward as a champion, etc. and brought all of them into the storehouse together?
Maybe the same struggles between cultures and weaknesses and imperfections and immaturity that we see in the churches in Paul’s letters that people wag their fingers and tongue at today (from one side or the other) are exactly the kind of thorn we need in our own side, for us to be humbled, and “our own ministry” to be of any use to God as truly “His ministry”?
Lord, I can’t say that I know exactly where we are going with this. But I know that you are calling for change, for a return to the heart of worship, for a casting side of everything that hinders. I need you desperately in order to not make a complete mess of this. You are my strength. Keep me close to you and in your will, so that I won’t distract, hinder or stumble any who might taste and know that you are good. Amen.
One thought on “Doing Our Work”
Even in my grandstanding about what I could be doing, how I could be reaching out, how I want to serve God with a sense of urgency and not let my flame grow dim — a friend reminded me that sometimes when I have set my eyes on the “big things” and “far flung things” that there is something right beside me that I’ve wrongly counted as “too small for my attention” that really is where my focus should be.