“You don’t know her, do you?” Sitting there with ignorance on my face (I do this a lot; it’s a gift really.), I just said no. I sat with a couple from the church while one of their kids underwent surgery. A nurse walked up and I knew they knew her. But I sat there clueless. The wife just smiled, really savoring the punch line. “This is Cheryl” (not her name). My mouth doesn’t just drop open very often. Even in complete befuddlement, I manage to keep it closed. But not here. I hadn’t crossed paths with Cheryl in a while and didn’t recognize her. We first met through a street ministry in town where I would preach occasionally. Saying she was a train wreck would be an upgrade for train wrecks everywhere. She lived on the street with all its perils and pitfalls. But now she stood in front of me, a nurse coming off shift, thoroughly enjoying my surprise as well. She was off the street, gotten her health together, been to school, gotten this job. She was making it. Sure, I was glad but that isn’t what dropped my jaw. She glowed from the inside out. She showed music in her eyes and her laugh sparkled (Mixed metaphor, I know.) She had fizz. It’s a good thing my eyes asked, “What happened to you?” It sure wasn’t coming out of my mouth. She simply said, “Jesus.” She was thinking, “Jesus, duh!”
We throw the word “grace” around like confetti at a Stanley Cup victory parade. But for those for whom “grace” becomes medicine in the deep self-inflicted wound of their own sinfulness, it’s more. They find that in spite of their brokenness, coming to the Cross of Jesus Christ breathes steel into the spine of their souls. “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalms 3:3) Lifting the head shows more than the removal of shame; it describes the infusing of new dignity. Let’s look at a select group of people meeting Jesus.
Zaccheus, a tax collector shucking and jiving for Rome and lining his pockets with his countrymen’s money, was probably destined to be pincushioned with the long daggers of the Zealots. His people thought him scum and money never washes away the inside filth he carried – especially dirty money. (Luke 19:1-10) Leprosy doesn’t have that ugly ring to it when we call it Hansen’s disease. But ugly it can be. Parents tell their children not to look at us. Our own loved ones seem repulsed and ashamed. And forget any semblance of being touched, hugged or held. (Mark 1:40-43) A woman caught in the act of adultery dragged through the streets, gawked at, maybe wrapped in little more than a sheet. The stones crushing her would only cap the humiliation and shame, the guilt (Shame and guilt are not the same.) the hypocrisy and the betrayal ripping her apart. Would others be too embarrassed to even claim her body? (John 8:1-11) We have angels all wrong. Forget the Precious Moment cuties. While biblically they can take any form needed, in their element they are quite powerful, even terrifying. They don’t say “Fear not!” for nothing. But when all that power gets channeled into music, it’s better than Duke Ellington with Cat Anderson on lead trumpet. At the announcement of Jesus’ birth, angels beyond number cut loose with an explosion of music and praise unsurpassed by anything else laid down in space and time. And just who had the prime seats for this gig? Shepherds. The lowest of the working class, held in contempt as being dumb or ignorant. When we announce births, who gets on the short list? The most important people. When God announces His Son becoming human, who gets the first ring (And what a ring up it was!)? (Luke 2:8-20)
After World War II, General Bernard Montgomery wrote a book of biographical sketches of great political and military leaders in Great Britain’s history. He penned one about his former boss, Winston Churchill. When asked what made Churchill so great, so much the man for the hour during the war, Montgomery said, “There was something about Winston Churchill that could turn the lead of the common man to gold.” If Churchill made men gold, then Jesus Christ makes them platinum.
All these mentioned above and more grew a clean inch at the touch of Jesus Christ, not just because of the forgiveness, cleansing and healing He brings. He moves in, indwelling us through the Holy Spirit. He sees us as someone worth loving. He clearly envisions us becoming people we never would imagine and our lives spent alongside His to staunch the bleeding of a wounded world. The old clichés, “God don’t make no junk”, is true. We do that ourselves with help from others. But those just mentioned who saw themselves as nothing but garbage with feet always got swallowed up in the gaze of New Eyes rewriting the name on their story. Their own dignities, cover-ups and denials had to die. But something new remained tha would or could never drop their eyes in shame or guilt again. I listened to a new Christian talking on the radio about her faith. She said with unmistakable, yet gentle, force, “Understand that this isn’t something I ‘believe‘. It’s something I know.” You could hear the platinum in her voice.
If you think anything here might encourage a college student or those who love them, then please share, subscribe and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe then you might want to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for all things geezeronthequad. Geezer 1 is a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, musicians, writers, composers, theologians, pastors, booksellers, broadcasters, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group; you will only make us better. Take a look to see what you think. These guys (I speak inclusively.) always make me look good. Maybe it will work for you.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Every fall the Harvard Crimson publishes a feature entitled “The Hottest Freshmen of the Class of ?” A dozen or two of the incoming freshmen get classy photo shoots, sit down as a group at a fine restaurant and answer some questions. I feel bad for them on a number of counts. First, these students are just newly escaped from high school and are freshmen even though it’s Harvard. I don’t care what comprises “hotness” at Harvard (GPA’s?), they all now wear a label and labels never fully explain who we are. Second, all the questions fired at them sound more like beauty pageant fodder. Where will you be in fifteen years? One answer – “Happy and problem free.” Wouldn’t we all like to be there, only in fifteen minutes or so?
What would it take to be happy and problem free? The usual suspects include money or wealth, fame, power and sex. They come wrapped many different ways. But do they deliver…really? A sad parable popped up in newspapers around the world telling the tale of actor Jack Nicholson. Nominated for more Oscars than anyone, a star with power, a glamour boy with younger women and enjoying luxury beyond imagination, he now sits alone in his Hollywood mansion. He lives almost as a recluse, seeing few friends and foregoing former pleasures like watching his beloved L.A. Lakers. Nicholson especially grieves that his womanizing over the years leaves him without a lasting love relationship and he fears dying alone with no one to take care of him. Sounds like Solomon in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl 1:2)
Happiness acts like the Roadrunner leaving Wile E Coyote in the dust. No matter how hard we get after it, happiness as a goal evaporates through our fingers. Nothing satisfies. While her head was attached and she was still thinking clearly, Marie Antoinette said, “Nothing tastes.” Jesus ran into someone who thought they knew what would make them happy and she was hard after it, desperately so. In John 4, the boys had gone to town to buy food leaving Jesus by a pool or a well. A woman came to draw water and Jesus completely disarmed her by asking for a drink. Since she was a Samaritan, that Jesus even spoke to her civilly shocked her since Jews and Samaritans hated each other (Religion fueled hatred is the worst.) Toward the end of their exchange, we learn she’s been through five marriages and now lives with someone. Widowed five times? Not likely. And divorces could be had more quickly than the blink of an eye. While today is different, cohabiting in Jesus’ day just wasn’t done. The Jewish and Roman cultures both embraced marriage, and while Romans looked the other way on adultery, Jews (culturally including Samaritans) regarded living together as a scandal and a disgrace.
Sure in her heart that the love of a man would make her happy, she moved through various kinds and degrees of rejection, disappointment and disillusionment until she became so desperate she would risk public shame and disgrace for what smelled like love even though it came with no commitment. That’s why she came to draw water now. Everyone else came earlier in the day to draw all they would need. By coming later, the woman stood a better chance of being there alone and of avoiding the looks and cutting remarks. Then it seemed like Jesus solved her problem. “Every one who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13)
“Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” No more hassles hauling water. No more taunts and shame. We too often reduce Jesus Christ to what we think He can do for us. We do to Him what we do to potato chips. We consume. We consume sermons, books, praise music and all the rest as if we walked into Wal-Mart. We get what we want for us and leave, often speaking to no one.
But think of it. Something that would satisfy our thirsts and hungers, the deep ones disappointed so many times. Jesus offers Himself as their satisfier. He blots out shallow hopes, makes our self-centered goals seems shabby and a waste of time. Our attempts to bend Him to our way melt like an ice-cube in the sunshine. Eugene Petersen (who compiled The Message ) said that our plans often wind up being trivial or small. God’s plans for us are always grand. She went home saying, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. (That can’t have been good news for everyone in that town.) Could this be the Messiah?”
Finding heartache and rejection in a series of warm bodies, this woman now meets another who knows everything she ever did. Most would have rejected her right there or made noises of love merely to be the next to use her. But He spoke to a woman inside her she couldn’t imagine. He spoke to the deepest places which were carved and fitted for Him. And once she found that, she would never trifle with the weeds of small hopes and empty dreams that would choke her again.
Did you know that college students all over the country churn out some pretty decent theological journals and magazines? Check out The Augustine Collective where you can visit them all individually and maybe think about doing one for your own campus.
If you already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, maybe you should think about being part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for the blog. It’s mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, pastors, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group and you will only make us better. If anything there helps keep your edge sharp, the fire God lit in you hot, your spirit from going soft and your mind from going to mush, we will all be glad.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
When I first went on Facebook, I didn’t have any friends for six months. Then one day the message popped up. “Wandena Swartz wants to be friends on Facebook.” After six months of careful thought, prayer and fasting, my wife decided to “friend” me. Understandable since Facebook friending can be risky business and (unlike much on Facebook) she really knows me. All this to point out how unnecessary to the world’s concerns a guy with no Facebook friends can be. Nobody important to the survival of the West, the war on terrorism, pandemic outbreaks, poverty, sex slavery, balancing the federal budget or anything else ever calls me. Not Zogby, the Washington Post or NY Times, Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News or editors of Slate. I’m not trying to milk anybody’s sympathy. Actually I’m pointing out what good company I do keep.
Think of anybody mentioned in the Bible who was on God’s team in some way in either testament. If God in the Old Testament or Jesus in the New hadn’t touched their life, made Himself known and captured them for His purposes, who would they have been? Utter nobodies swallowed up in the yawning anonymity of masses of people and centuries of time – not even a dust speck. But taking their place in God’s economy and plan, nobodies become timeless and their stories live through all time into eternity. Want a piece of this? Jesus Christ wants it for us.
Jesus entices people with the unimaginable. Note that I didn’t say the impossible. I can envision myself becoming a pro wrestler or a goalie for the Montreal Canadians but at sixty-four, those are insane as well as impossible. Unimaginable goes beyond impossible but can include it. Peter was a hard-working guy carrying some good things. Boldness which could morph into courage on occasion. Loyal – when he gave himself to anything or anyone, Peter was in all the way. He was also a sack of broken cookies – a hothead with a temper always boiling under the surface. Impulsive – launching into action without much forethought. He could fold like a house of cards under pressure. This was a man who had probably already logged some big mistakes before he met Jesus. Some days it couldn’t have been much fun to be in the boat with him.
Then came Jesus Christ Who one day said, “Now I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18) Jesus basically said, “I will breathe all my life (It’s truth, love, beauty, holiness and power) into your brittle clay and every good thing that sputters inside you now will become strong and every sin and failure wiped to a cleanness that will remain.” We don’t get offers like that every day. Not only did Jesus make an offer that high-priced motivational speakers say we can currently scrape up from inside our gall bladder or somewhere. He said, “I have plans for this new wholeness and heartiness. I will do something with it…I will build my church.” Jesus also did this with Peter and the other fishermen in Matthew 4:19,20. They would start fishing for men. They dropped everything and followed Him even though they knew nothing about where this was going. Peter might have been entitled to a few questions. What did You say? How are You going to do that? Plans for me? Anything You’d like to share? What’s a church? Instead of asking, he followed. And things got interesting.
Jesus came at Nathaniel another way. Philip (another disciple) talked up Jesus to his friend Nathaniel (John 1:43-51). Nathaniel knew that Jesus came from a loser town that produced nothing but no-goods. But he came to check it out. Seeing him coming, Jesus said, “Here’s a guy with no time for dumb fluff. His ‘baloney’ detector is always set on ‘high’.” This, by the way, was a complement. How badly we need some “baloney” detectors (read spiritual discernment) today. “How do you know me?” “I saw you standing under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathaniel immediately said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus knows how to punch through the lines of a skeptic. We don’t know what was happening under that fig tree but Nathaniel knew that if Jesus saw that, He could see anything. And Nathaniel was promised he’d see more than he could imagine.
In heaven, I want to meet up with someone I remember (not sure) as Molly. In college, all of us in the Jesus Movement talked about Jesus to everyone we met including those we chased down and tackled. We went to country churches in groups on Sundays all over western Pennsylvania. This was rarely pretty. We weren’t sharp, mature or sophisticated. We just had fallen in love with Jesus Christ and blabbed and blathered about Him everywhere. One Sunday night, I (among four or so) talked about what Jesus was doing in my life. Afterwards a girl of early high school age came up and asked me to pray for her. She (Molly) said she wasn’t sure her sins were forgiven and carried a lot of guilty feelings. We talked about taking Christ’s death on the cross as more sure than our feelings. I prayed. She said “Thank you” and walked away. The pastor’s wife came over and said that Molly came forward every Sunday for prayer about this. I said I would continue to pray and we soon left. A few weeks later the pastor’s wife got back in touch with a couple of things. First, after praying with “that one guy”, Molly never came forward for prayer at another service. Instead, she radiated a soul-deep peace you could see on her face. Second, it seems that a time bomb ticked inside Molly; she suffered from health issues I didn’t know about and had died just before the pastor’s wife called.
Jesus Christ, the Lord of the cosmos and counter of sparrows, loved a sickness riddled young girl who dragged her prickly ball of emotion to the front of a country church every Sunday. One Sunday night, He simply said, “Enough.” His loves waxes so hot at time like this, He isn’t too picky about who He scrapes up to be the instrument. A strong hand with velvet touch slipped inside the shallow prayer of an immature spiritual punk and the surgery was done. Jesus implanted His peace to carry a sickly girl in His love through her last few days. Drawing off alone, I said something like, “I know this was You…but can I do more of this?” I wasn’t under the fig tree but He had me.
What fig tree might we be standing under that Jesus sees?
Next time at geezeronthequad. com; Jesus enticing us through richer satisfactions.
If you think this might encourage a student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If you already get the blog, then you might be interested in Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, students ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, business people, pastors, cultural entrepreneurs and thinkers as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. They’re a sharp group and you will only make us better. Check it out and send us a request to join.
Please return your seat to the upright position and your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Not so long ago in a galaxy just prior to the holidays, I began to look here at the ways Jesus Christ plays to the heart and mind of those He pursues. We’ve just come through Christmas which says that God came in human form because our need was so desperate; nothing has changed about that. He came because He loved us so fiercely He couldn’t hold Himself back…and nothing has changed about that. Romans 1:20 describes how God’s craftsmanship so infuses the creation that no one will have any real claim to ignorance. Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if, when he died, he discovered that God existed after all. He replied he would simply inform God that God had no business judging him because of insufficient evidence. Won’t happen that way – not for anybody. Every human being we can lay our eyes on simply teems with the fingerprints of Jesus Christ.
In John 6:44-66, Jesus freaked the people out. He did this often and still can when He thinks it’s needed. He said to some people who had never tasted ham or bit into a sweet pickle, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…” (v.54) They came more than a bit unglued – both some newbies as well as some who’d begun to seriously buy into Jesus’ message. Jesus just put it out there without explaining it. There was no “Come on, you guys!!! It’s spiritual!! What could you be thinking!?”. He could have turned away shaking His head thinking, “What a bunch of wooden headed doofuses!” He didn’t. Wooden headed doofuses are the only kind of people who get to hear Jesus. The more we become aware of our “doofusness” (our sense of sin and rebellion), the clearer the voice of Jesus gets.
Jesus swiveled the big guns and leveled them at the twelve. “What about you? Are you leaving too? Are you in or out? Don’t get back to Me in a memo or ask for time to pray about it. In or out?” Jesus didn’t explain any more to them than He did to the others walking away. In heaven, look Peter up and ask him if he remembers this moment…bet he will. Talk about being on the spot. Caught in the crosshairs of a strong question from Jesus, Peter helplessly blurts out the truth in his heart as his mind didn’t know how to answer. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Only you have the words of eternal life…” Only you…Only Jesus. We don’t get it but where else can we find somebody like You?
A university professor had put her soul into the metaphysical blender and hit the puree button. She suffered, not from MPD, but from MSD (multiple spirituality disorder). Depressed, chopped, sliced, diced, bruised and beaten, she took a hard look at Jesus in the gospels. Laying down years of rebellion, she simply said, “If You’re real, come and get me.” Skeptics still drag out the tired old horse that the early Christians just made the gospels up to make Jesus look good. Not possible. Neither they nor we could have imagined the Jesus of the gospels. When people make up gods, the gods always look like their creators. What in blazes could Jesus be a copy or replica of in space and time? Not only could we not imagine a god like Jesus, we wouldn’t want a god like Him even if we could make Him up. We create gods we can control, gods we approve of who never stick their nose into our business. We make up gods who fit inside our heads. If our god fits inside our head, that’s only place he exists. (Jesus does get inside our heads but at His initiative and not ours.) Intuitively we know that the Jesus of the gospels says to all, “Give Me the keys and slide over. I won’t be needing any directions from you.”
In Charles Dickens “The Christmas Carol”, the Ghost of Christmas Present says to Scrooge, “You’ve never seen the likes of me before!” Scrooge replies, “Never.” Jesus Christ simply plants Himself in front of our spirit radiating more than we can imagine of love, truth, holiness, beauty and power and asks, “Where else are you going to find this?” Where indeed? Jesus simply captures those He chases down by Who He is. Jesus Christ stands as the answer to every big question worth asking, the key to every lock worth opening.
Against much of the Christian tide, Mark Altrogge writes that worldview studies won’t save our children. I get it. Cramming our kids’ head with philosophical/apologetic studies doesn’t ensure they will walk in the faith of their fathers. In the Jesus Movement of the sixties, we encountered Frances Schaeffer at the dawn of his great work. We ate his stuff up much to our benefit. But we fell in love with Jesus first. Once we love someone, what’s important to them becomes important to us. We met Jesus; He dazzled us and we wanted to bring all our lives into line with whatever would please Him. The rest followed.
Jesus has many lures of the human heart which we’ll continue to look at next time. Meanwhile if you think this might encourage a student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, post, Twitter and all that other social media stuff. If we already subscribe here, then we might want to look at Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, pastors, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs and a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a great place. It’s a sharp group and you will only make us better. Take a look and ask to join. If the Facebook dog eats your homework (and he some times does), we will ask you to resubmit.
Please return your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
Two things popped up on the geezeronthequad radar during the past year. One is that during this year, I made the 100th post on this blog. For those of you who slogged through all that, or most or some of it, I’m honored – and I hope the therapy is helping. For all who unsubscribed because they either disagreed with or couldn’t stand what I wrote, I get it. Some days I can’t stand what I write either. One day I flew off the handle in a tirade against what I was reading and hovered over the cancel icon until I remembered I was about to unsubscribe to my own stuff. But like it, hate it, not understand it or unsubscribed, you’ve paid a writer the highest compliment possible. You gifted me with your time spent in reading what I wrote.
Pop up number two came when I learned that geezeronthequad.com got into sixty-three countries in 2014! For all of you who didn’t want to get caught in the States reading this, that you would relocate overseas, assume new identities, learn new languages, battle new currencies and learn to eat bugs (if that’s what they eat wherever you are now) just to stay with me, humbles me more than you could know.
Today’s campus stands as one of the world’s most strategic and fertile fields of the Kingdom of God. One of my commenters said it well and simply – “The university rules the world.” They do. And many segments of the church have surrendered the field, retreating in the face of secular, humanistic, politically correct saber-rattling. Parts of the church simply sees campus ministry as pew fillers or people who can be enlisted to do church ministry that the church already ought to be doing itself. Think of those Sunday night services where the pastor needs or wants a break so they invite a student ministry leader to share what it’s all about. Think of the fixed smile afterwards that says, “Why don’t we see more of your students in this church?” Think about how you shook your head all the way back to the apartment and had to go to a chiropractor the next day.
I go to strange places to spiritually recharge. When I need to go somewhere I know I can find Jesus’ face and want to see the Holy Spirit ripple across the grass like a bulldozer driven by a Teamster on amphetamines, I go to university towns and campuses. Cambridge, Mass. East Lansing, Mich. Ithaca, NY. This fall it was Athens, GA. Walking the streets of both town and campus, cruising used bookstores (If they could put that smell in aerosol spray, I’d buy ten cases and stock in the company.) and jazz record shops. Driving three hours in the rain to Bowling Green, Ohio, to speak to ten students for free and fueled by twelve inch turkey subs from Subway – priceless.
Who are the people privileged to live under Christ’s hand in these places? First of all, students. There is simply no better place for them to live four or five of the most strategic years of our lives than on a secular campus in the company of other Christians. One draws fire in spirit and mind setting a trajectory for living the rest of one’s life for Christ that falls nowhere else. I John 4:4 says,”…greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” Jesus is Lord over secularism, militant atheism, postmodernism, political correctness, hostile and misunderstanding student senates and anything else that lifts up its head against Him. He is also the Lord over the half million students touched by Christian campus ministry in this country alone every year. And He cries over and pursues hotly the multitudes more who don’t know Him and who find many ways to rush deeper into darkness on the quad.
Second and equally important are the student ministry workers, working full throttle and underfunded. A lot of you simply have no brakes – and that’s why Jesus has you where He does. Only your spirit can hold your heart; it’s too big for your body. I’m seeing the year-end newsletter from you and your families. “God has done great things..what a joy..here are their stories..thank you for your prayers and keep them coming…we’re forty percent in shortfall so if the Lord leads…”. So know of my prayers Cru, IVCF, CCO, Navs, Christian Union, CRC, Christian Challenge, Crossworks, BSU, Chi Alpha and all the locals and independents. As you drive around town where your school is and you see an older guy standing by the off ramp holding a cardboard sign that reads, “Will speak for Doritos”, be sure to wave. And keep reading even if it means leaving the country. I will try to write so as to make the move worth it. That way, next year I can color in Sri Lanka on my year-end map.
The American question is always “What can we do?” We’re a put-your-hands-on-it-to-make-it-better kind of people. Christianity is different; it says God doesn’t show up to help until we’re helpless and can do nothing to help ourselves. But there does come a time to show our faith by our works. What kind of works should these be? Violent protests that disrupt public order (freeways and Amtrak) and destroy private property should be scratched off the list first. Nothings discredits legitimate protest more quickly than violence and destruction. That was one of the huge lessons of the civil rights movement and general protests of the sixties. Millions of all colors who want racial justice and reconciliation will not support violence of any kind to people or property. Students like the ones at Cal Berkeley who may have been co-opted by outsiders should give more thought to looking before they leap.
Two posts ago, I talked about making it count, being builders. The building of racial reconciliation must start at home, on the doorsteps of our own hearts and with a little history. Anyone can yell slogans and wave signs. How do we do righteousness in the streets? Here’s the reading I promised last time. Start with “Being White”. It’s a good start to help whites get the feel of race which many of us don’t have. Then three on the war against slavery. “Amazing Grace” focusing on William Wilberforce. “Bury the Chains” casts a wider net involving more than Wilberforce. The author, a 60’s Berkeley liberal and a major drive wheel of 60’s counterculture, told me in a radio interview that every protest of the sixties (civil rights, anti Vietnam, etc.) owed everything to the Christians in these two books. Third, “Bound for Canaan” shows that evangelical Christians did the heavy lifting against American slavery. A final book, “God’s Long Summer” gets us into the grit of what fighting for civil rights in Mississippi in the 60’s really was like. It was messy and complicated. Still is. All these are page turners so we won’t be bored.
Now we bring into play two words popular right now but not always in regard to racial justice. In being a builder instead of a trasher in things radical, we must become “local” and be “sustainable“. Here’s where to start. A number of campus ministries already are racially mixed. When that happens, the minorities in the group pay us a huge compliment. They stay because they sense love; never miss that or take it for granted. When it happens, the Spirit of God is cooking something special in our midst. If there is either a Black Christian group, Black students association or Black Studies Department, throw some pizzas out on the table, have them sit down with our gang and tell us about racism on our own campus – especially that might be invisible to most whites. Just listen. Next visit an ethnic church in town (black, asian or hispanic) and I don’t mean for one sunday – I’m talking four to six Sundays. Let the pastor know we’re coming and over that time period, approach several seniors asking if we might visit them in their homes to hear their stories. Be sure to take a small food gift or flowers – and Kleenex.
Now we go local. NOW protest…but do it smartly. Throw a punch; make it felt. Protesting racial justice directly can trivialize the racial issue as a whole. How? Because after many whites have done their public thing they just go home thinking they’ve done their thing for racial justice. (Here’s an interesting take on white, Western, and sometimes Christian blindness). Students can be a very insulated, self-centered group; they crawl back into their bubble.There are already serious things on campus that need some loud voices – like this. Get the black Christian groups together with others and say something about the culture of sexual violence on campuses. Standing up together in public as concerned people makes a subliminal, yet very powerful statement because we are demonstrating racial equality emanating for human concern woven into the daily life of our campus.
Finally, do something special with spring break. I know many college Christian ministries are not multi-racial. I know that this is often an outreach strategy church growth gurus used to call the “homogenous” group idea – people being most open to the Gospel in groups like themselves. Sometime it’s not strategized; it just is. Plan spring break with other ethnic Christian groups on campus to go out together and work with the poor – either urban or rural, it doesn’t matter. Salvation in Jesus into the Kingdom of God never was intended to be solitary or something to be stuffed into our own navels. Getting what Jesus did for us dirty alongside others in the lives of people broken in every way not only dissolves a host of subliminal sinful attitudes, it bonds at the deepest levels.
And while we’re not looking, the Spirit of God will do something marvellous. He will work into the fabric of our spiritual DNA an organic feel for justice issues that permeates every area of our lives. It will ripple in our spiritual musculature with a smooth and easy feel the way anything does inlaid by the Holy Spirit when we give Him lots of time, space and opportunity. And we will be builders who might need to get out on the streets once in a while but who know under God’s hand how to live to leave a mark that counts. Sustainable? This will carry us through the rest of our lives.
Christmas roars down upon us. We’ve been so busy getting “A’s” on finals that, except for twenty-eight festive beef sticks we smuggled home in our dirty laundry (Relax. They’re wrapped in plastic.), no Christmas shopping got done. That’s why geezeronthequad.com throws open the doors of its Christmas store. Some cool and unusual things for those on your list or for yourself if you just want to throw them a beef stick and get something edifying for yourself.
If you think that this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe, why not consider being part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for people who are on our wave length but whom the authorities haven’t found yet. It’s a mix of students, students ministry leaders, professors, administrators, writers, artists, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, pastors, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. Take a look. You’ll run across all kinds of cool things that don’t show up in the blog.
Please return you seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.
One of the dangers to this conversation on race we all say needs to happen lies in underestimating how long that conversation is going to take. Somebody suggested an equivalent of South Africa’s Truth Commission. I can see a number of universities hosting seminars and forums – all well and good. The talking (and most inportant) the listening must start and it doesn’t matter where. As a child of the sixties and a Christian understanding a little about spiritual warfare, I would suggest this. If we’re going to throw a punch, make a public stand or take a step for the Kingdom of God, don’t beat the air. Make it count.
The Christian students on our campus make up one of the most strategic groups to address racial issues for four reasons. One, students have been some of the most involved people on this subject. Students were all over the civil rights struggles in the South in the Sixties. Two of the three civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi were students. The second reason rests in the power of the university to not only touch but rule the world. Ideas and trends of all kinds either birthed or nourished on campus will leaven every level of society in every corner of the world. I don’t just mean Harvard and Yale. I mean Tiffin, Gannon and Clarion. A third reason is hidden in plain sight; our campus has a racial problem and I don’t care where our campus is, how big or small, how progressive the administration thinks they might be. I don’t care if everybody on our campus is all the same color, like purple or paisley. Racism comes in all colors -white, black, hispanic, asian, orange, magenta and chartreuse. The hidden attitudes and spoken thoughts live and breathe.
A fourth reason cuts to the core of the problem. Racism reeks of sin. Until we deal with the heart, any and all surface solutions, no matter how good they may be in the short run, will disintegrate under the gravitational pull of human sinfulness – both systemic and individual. Christianity has repeatedly demonstrated the power to dissolve boundaries of hate separating people. Paul said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Also in Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all in all.”
The early Christians slugged this out over the Gentile question. Jews and Gentiles hated each other going back at least four hundred years. The Jews had an ethnic slur for them – the dogs. (Jesus used it in Matthew 15:26) The only way Gentiles could embrace Christianity was to cross over, get circumcised first and become Jewish. We don’t have a problem; they have to become like us. Then they’ll be normal and proper. They yelled at each other a little (Acts 15:2) and convened a big meeting (Acts 15) to hash it out where some good listening must have happened. God laid a vision and a miraculous conversion on the pile to speed things along (Acts 10, Acts 15:7-12). They learned to be sensitive to each other, suffered lapses and to forgive one another. I pastor a multi-racial (predominantly white) church. We didn’t set out to be that; it just sort of happened. We have a rule. You walk in the door. We love you. We’re sort of a MASH unit and we could never have orchestrated or predicted some of the people who take us up on the deal. We don’t do this well but the people we’re trying to love (be they white, black, purple or paisley) are very patient and forgiving with us while we stumble around at it.
As Apartheid crumbled in South Africa, Nelson Mandela knew that residual hatred and anger could still destroy the country. Too much suffering and evil had gone down to be erased by elections and demonstrations. He came to Bishop Desmond Tutu saying that the Christians had to take the lead in showing blacks and whites in South Africa how to forgive. Why? Because the Christians were the ones who knew how to do this. There’s quite a compliment wrapped up in there somewhere. Why should we be so good at this? Because we have been forgiven of sin, judgment and hell. Because this has been a pure gift, industrial strength mercy, completely unearnable and undeserved. Because Jesus Christ literally indwells our being through the Holy Spirit providing power to change, power to forgive, power to love the unlovely, power that nothing else in the world can match. I did a radio interview with an Ivy League prof who claimed that Evangelical Christians were the drive wheels of any and all social change in this country during the late eighteenth and nineteenth century – a debate he would take anywhere, anytime.
How do we start and make it local? That will come in my next post. I know exams now threaten to reduce our brains to figgy pudding. But I will suggest some things to start both inside us and on our campus. Some involve homework (reading). But relax; it doesn’t have to be now. Finish exams, leave campus on break and go eat out of someone’s refrigerator.
Related to nothing here, take a look at the interesting video done by Kentucky Christian University on the 10 Commandments of Proper College Cafeteria Etiquette. “Wanda” is my mother-in-law and, after you’ve watched, please know that we respect and love her deeply.
Are we running out of Christmas gift ideas? Maybe we’d like a few to pass around to others who might be shopping for us to head off the obligatory liver pudding fudge squares or the Christmas stocking of guacamole. Take a look at the geezeronthequad Christmas store. A lot of us who see this blog do some pretty cool things with the Lord’s help, things that would stoke the fire under someone’s walk with Jesus Christ.
If you think this will encourage either a college student or someone who loves them, please share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social medias stuff. If you already subscribe, maybe you need to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com that has juicy things that don’t make the blog. Geezer 1 is a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, broadcasters, booksellers, business people, pastors, theologians, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks the university is a special place. Take a look and shoot us a request to join.
Please return your seats to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.