When we embrace truth but only walk in the shallows of it, we vaccinate ourselves from catching the life truth gives. When believing becomes “what we’re supposed to do” but no more, we wrap our soul in a full body cast. We wonder where the joy and meaning went if we ever had it. And we sometimes get nasty with anyone who has what we long for. Everything Jesus said in Luke 15 up till now (lost sheep, lost coin, lost son) was His response to people who didn’t like Jesus’ dinner companions (Luke 15:1). Jesus laid out in spades how eagerly God sought after the hopelessly lost and utterly rejected, how much He loved and cherished them and how greatly He and all of heaven exploded in joy over even one found and turned around. This really frosted the Pharisees’ donuts ; Jesus knew it would. That was the plan and that’s why the story isn’t over. We still have one son on the front lawn. Jesus now drags His audience into story; the Pharisees and teachers of the law are the good son.
And they were good – not a felon among them. The key is verse 29. “…Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” I’ve done the God thing right, by Your rules all the way! Where are the “goodies” for me? Saul of Tarsus was a guy who did the God thing “right” and he did it hard, allowing neither himself nor others any slack. “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Phil 3:4b-6) He had the network, the blood lines, the credentials, quite a platform. That’s why the Christians drove him mad. Their transformation and joy ate through his barren soul like acid. He hated their guts – “breathing out threats and slaughter”, Acts 9:1 says. These Christians, Jewish traitors and heretics all, enjoyed everything he longed and hungered for – for free, without hard work of any kind.
Why should these “losers” have Jesus attention and favor like that? We’re the ones who work hard to please God. Actually, Jesus did eat with them too on occasion but it always ended with them getting hot and huffy because they never earned Jesus’ approval. Anytime we think anyone has to be like us in some way to come to Jesus, to be used by or be pleasing to Jesus, the Pharisee gene percolates in our spiritual DNA. Anytime someone has to like our music, dress like us, believe secondary doctrines like we do (Jonathan Edwards would be clueless as to what the “rapture” was.), use only our version of the Bible (or dares to use THAT OTHER Bible), agree with the infallibility of our favorite author or preacher or be part of our campus group to be right with God, we haven’t been enjoying tea and scones with Jesus.
The good son stands outside listening to the party warm up. Not only can he walk inside anytime he wants, the father tells him this was always there for him. He could have had the party whenever he wanted; all he had to do was tear himself away from the work that he thought insured his father’s love and approval. Jesus pays the Pharisees respect here. The Pharisees have become a buzzword for dead faith. But at one time, they were the heroes of the faith. Before we write off other Christians as being dead, maybe we should remember there’s more under the hood in any soul than we see. Many Christians, churches or groups that we’re tempted to write off (a chronic sin of self-righteousness for some under the age of forty) as dead have past chapters of fire, joy and glory. It’s as if Jesus says, “Look! You stood strong for God’s truth when it cost and you risked everything. All your rules have a good root; you want to keep the Law of God and help others to keep it too. You keep the feasts faithfully. You tithe even your spices and never miss a synagogue service on the sabbath. But you’ve lost track of what pleases the Father. You’ve been seduced quietly over a couple hundred years into the sins of respectability – pride, wealth, power and the approval of men. And you’ve reshaped the Father into your own image. You think He approves of you but can’t be sure so you can’t get off the performance and pretense trip. You need to stop hating these human scabs I eat with and join them. All the joys, love and satisfactions of knowing and loving God have been there for you all these many years, there whenever you wanted them. You’ve spent so much time fussing over wrappers that will be thrown away that you can’t recognize the gift. There’s still room between a tax collector and a prostitute. SO WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO?”
A lot of students I’ve spoken to over the last thirty years came to campus from church youth groups. That’s not bad but if the campus group remains a youth group surrogate, these students will move into larger adult life in a full body cast of churchiness, seduced by the sins of religious respectability (Including self righteousness against other people and groups that don’t smell like them.) The great thing about campus ministry is that it gives us the time to shed the old wrappers and props that may have given real support and brought us to where we are in Jesus Christ. Much of what brought us to”now” will not take us to “later” – types of worship services, old theological beliefs, former leaders no matter how much we loved them, old cliques of Christian friends. Now Jesus offers us a seat with new people who aren’t like us, who agitate and aggravate us, who we once wondered if they could even be Christian. And these love Him more than we do, show more of the fruit of the Spirit than the daily rot we bring to our days and have boldness that both embarrasses us and provokes our criticisms. SO WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?
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Jesus is one shrewd cookie. Sometimes He fools us all and hides the sticking point in plain sight. Like here. Many would call the last post the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But verse 11 plainly says, “A man had two sons.” So the story isn’t over with the barbecue. Second, Jesus doesn’t paint a Kinkaide-esque finale for the “Chicken Soup for a First Century Pharisee Soul.” A father starts out separated from a rebellious son only to wind up alienated from “the good kid” at the end with the loose ends left loose. What’s up?
First, we need to show some respect for the invisible pain of the good kid. When he heard the DJ testing the sound system and asked what was going on, he lost it. He’s just come in from sweating his tail off in Dad’s fields; he was probably the foreman who ran the whole show and had done it for weeks, months, maybe years. When I left a pastorate in another place, a man came and bestowed on me a deep honor when he said, “If I’d had a son, I would have wanted him to be like you.” (The incident with the chain saw at the Dairy Queen didn’t happen until years later. I can explain that but I digress.) The second son was the son all the Pharisee and scribes listening to Jesus would have wanted. They all would’ve been proud. He’s never been a problem. And that was the problem.
“Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him.” (Luke 15:29, 30) Yes, some of us always got good grades, excelled in sports, helped with the chores or worked a part-time job, graduated with honors and modest financial aid. We worked our way through college and finished in four years without debt. But who noticed?
Our goodness made us invisible because of the “Prodigal” (more than one?) who ate up Mom and Dad’s attention and energy to where there wasn’t much love left (or at least it felt that way). The Prodigal was always getting yelled at for laziness and getting suspended in school. Other parents kept calling about the fights with their kids. Mom and Dad kept searching his or her room but never ours. That’s how they found the cigarettes, the pornography, the condoms or pills, the weed, etc. The “Prodigal” came home in police cars, appeared in court and psychiatrist’s offices as well as ER’s and rehab centers. They spent time in various lock ups. When we couldn’t manage to keep them out of trouble, we were in trouble. “And when all this happened, where were YOU!”
A couple had four children. Their two sons made their life “colorful and interesting” for almost twenty years. For most of that time, everyone’s bedroom had special alarms in case one of the sons entered in their sleep attempting to kill them. The Mom came to me to discuss the youngest daughter’s wedding. She said, “You know us. You know Jane’s life has been crap. Can you help us make this really special?” Sometimes a whole childhood can evaporate out of the life of The Good Kid. Sometimes the parents can’t stop it and have to play catch up. Jane’s wedding was special; the glow in her eyes throughout the ceremony is bookmarked in my mental scrapbook.The good son had a point but not enough to seal his case. The stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin and here a lost son all were arrows in Jesus’ quiver. Each one found its mark and stuck deep. Next post we’ll see who got stuck.
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She nodded too quickly. Anyone jumping in too quickly when I speak to students could become part of the show. Here, at what used to be called the University of Western Ontario (now Western University), she caught my eye. Speaking out of this Scripture, I said, “Nobody should understand the Prodigal Son like college students. You know… the old man’s driving you crazy; you just have to get out of the house.” They laughed. She nodded – vigorously. Pointing at her, I asked, “Where are you from?” Wolfville, Nova Scotia, came the reply. “So,” I went on, “you could be sleeping in your own bed tonight and commuting to Acadia University. Or you could commute the 55 miles to Dalhousie University in Halifax if you were hardcore about drinking Mom and Dad’s orange juice. But here you are in London, Ontario, halfway across Canada(1258 miles, 2025 kilometers, eh?) from free room and board. Worth it?” Her affirmative head pumping would severely dislocate a neck vertebrae in most people.
Sin makes us dumb. Our wants become our needs. Our belly, our glands and our emotions slide into the driver’s seat. We only recognize the voice of God when our mouth is open and our brain disengaged. We infallibly know what life is about and what will make us happy. And we must have it now no matter who else gets hurt. This guy had stars and big city lights in his eyes. And if he was ever going to get out of this nowhere town, it had to be now or he might be stuck here the rest of his life. A mom shook her head telling me about her daughter, a high school friend of my children, who moved in with a boyfriend. “She said she had to go and make her own mistakes.” Nobody makes their own mistakes; there’s no creativity in human fallenness. We go and do the same dumb things as thousands (millions?) before us and imagine we’ll escape the consequences.
Hitting up the old man for an early payoff on the inheritance would be outrageous today but it knocked the top off the charts back in Jesus’ time. A son like this could be stoned to death according to the law of Moses. The old man handing it over without a fuss would earn the contempt of any Pharisee listening. We almost never value what costs us nothing. So the kid took the money and ran. Harry Ironside, an old pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, said, “Where there’s light, there’s flies.” Money draws flies too and I’m sure the son had no trouble finding help in quickly spending every dime on partying.
He came to Himself. Now he had to work hard at work he used to think beneath his dignity. Now he slopped hogs, the most unclean and nasty of animals in Jewish eyes. I’ll say this once; all manure is not created equal. Pig manure is the worst; trust me on this. Jesus reaches for our gagging reflex when He says the young man even ate their food. He came to himself. Sin always makes us pay whether we believe in it or not. Stripped of the fantasy of the party life, his lunches rubbed his face in the lies he lived.
He came to himself. Our culture drowns in the syrupy sweet goo of positive affirmation. Sometimes the occasion calls for something more bracing than merely the need to feel good about ourselves. Sometimes, in a moment of Holy Spirit induced clarity, we are led to say with broken conviction, “I…am… a…jackass”. Maybe we’ve already been there. Truth be told, maybe a few times. Some of us reading this have earned a merit badge in selfish screw ups. Sometime out in the future, it’ll be a lock.
He had to face Dad, admit his wrong, ask for forgiveness for the hurt caused and take whatever consequences would come – in broken humility with no complaint. It’s the same for everybody; the Bible calls this repentance. What we find when we come to ourselves is that we murdered God. Our sin put Jesus on the cross. When two wolves fight over which will be the new leader of the pack, the loser lies on the ground and bares his throat to the winner. He lies exposed and vulnerable to either death or mercy. We come to ourselves in a Holy Spirit moment and bare our throats to the Father Whose Son we’ve murdered on the cross. “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” This sounds tough and it is. But it’s the ticket, not only to the rest of the story but to all the “goodies” of the Christian life – heaven, all the fruits and work of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness and cleansing, healing of body mind and spirit, the indwelling of Jesus. We covet the “goodies” and even feel entitled to them. But we turn our head, avert our eyes, at the cost of the ticket. We must face the Father about the cross.
Only those who own real guilt taste how sweet mercy can be. The rest of us just want off the hook. Mercy ambushes us. It cuts insistently across the grain of everything we know we have coming and doesn’t wait for us to frame the right formulas. The God Who has been chasing us down like a hound now comes running to meet us, knocks us flat in the middle of our confessions with hugs and kisses, calls the caterers and cues the wardrobe people. The son’s partying loser friends only added to the waste of his life. Bad friends do that. But they really know how to party in heaven. Beyond space and time, the old house rocks with depth and force, shock waves of mercy that earth can’t withstand.
Why? The Father pops the cork every time one jackass comes to Himself. Just one. In a world awash in large numbers that often leaves us too numbed to understand, God the Father rejoices over the infinite value of one. A PhD in micro numbers explained to me, “For us, the number one is Mt. Everest.” It’s huge for God too. I wrote a note to a child today that I will probably never see again. He embraced Jesus Christ as His saviour at Vacation Bible School last week. I said, “There will never be anything you can do that will shock God to where He stops loving you and turns away in disgust. You may get places where you can’t find Him. But you will never be in a place where He can’t find you. No matter what. Believe these things because they are true.”
This summer, God know right where you are. Feel alone? One is a big number to God, especially when the one is someone he loves as much as you. Revelation (Rev 1:10-20) opens with a killer vision of Jesus. Look who saw it. Exiled to a penal colony where they worked you to death, John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Only one person was in church that Sunday. But Jesus showed up…did He ever! For one…like you. Or me. Discouraged at the hardness of hearts around us? The hounds of heaven are all around us, the calf is on the spit and angel tailors stitch robes more beautiful than designer clothes straight from the runway. Maybe this will be the summer where we come to ourselves and in the middle of our broken confession to God, He knocks us flat with mercy, a hug and a kiss. It will be sweet. Take it from an old sinner who still has to shake loose of a few hogs and has many bruises of grace to show for the hard hugs of the Father.
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It was lunchtime at a feeding center; hunger was your ticket to get in. But first they had to listen to someone say something from the Bible before they ate. On this day, that was me. I used this passage and pointed out that I was glad to share this with them because I knew we all had one thing in common; we pick up lost change. Sometimes I get burned. I glanced down at the sidewalk one day to see a bunch of silver, maybe a dollar and a half, laying there with no one in sight who might have dropped it. I couldn’t pick it up; it was glued to the sidewalk. Seems I knelt down in front of a “Gags and Gifts” store on April 1st and the staff inside had a good laugh on me.
Having told the sheep story to a bunch of Pharisees bent out of shape by the kind of people Jesus hung out with (Luke 15:1-7), He wiggled the needle in a little deeper with this story of a woman tearing up her place for a lost coin. Women came in a few notches higher than shepherds on the Pharisees “Scale of Contempt”. The Roman world as a whole felt the same way. Women held no credibility in courts of law. Men could divorce their wives on the shallowest unjust pretense by just handing them written notice. And that’s why the woman in Jesus’ story hunted so desperately for one coin; it might have been part of her dowry. That dowry, money she brought into the marriage, would be all the assets she would have if she were thrown out of her home in a divorce of convenience. Maybe it was a good chunk of her food budget. But we aren’t talking about change glued to the sidewalk; this was no joke. And she was hard after it, frantically raking the dirt or stone floor of her house with her broom in the dim light of an olive oil lamp staining to hear the rattle of the lost coin.
I’ve already blown my cover. “Gags and Gifts” didn’t break me from picking up loose coins. But some people won’t. Why not? You can’t pick it up if you don’t know you dropped it. Especially in winter juggling gloves and coffee at the 7-11, we drop change just fumbling with our gear and walk away. Either somebody tells us or someone finds it later. They might need it more than we did anyway. Some people know they dropped a penny or two but it’s just a penny. No big deal. It’s down there in slush and gook we don’t want to dig around in so we leave it and keep moving. Finally, some people won’t stoop no matter how much they drop. It’s not about the money; it’s about the stooping. The cool, the competent, the self-sufficient, the elite in their own mind don’t stoop for anything or anybody – not for lost coins or the desperate women hunting for them. The Pharisees wore this like a ski mask on a bank robber and Jesus knew it.
This ends the same way as the shepherd story. Big Happy Dance, part II (One more story after this one. Start polishing your dancing shoes now and go buy a confetti cannon.) Rejoicing in heaven over one person drawn to light, truth and forgiveness in Jesus. Even one sheep or one coin that a Pharisee couldn’t be bothered to look or stoop for. People can get to where they not only trash themselves but everybody else who should or might have loved them trashes them too. Or just quits because it hurts too much to keep trying. God is after these people with His broom. And Jesus will have lunch with them. Will we? A gang of people came to our church to help with some ministry and work projects. At week’s end, we went sight-seeing into Detroit and hit the riverfront in general and Hart Plaza where there’s a great fountain that kids and anybody can splash around in. As the kids ran to jump into the fountain, they missed the mostly naked homeless man already bathing there. Ah, a teachable moment!
The only reason the church is still in the world is so we can have lunch with and sit next to the ones that nobody else will. God could just vaporize us out of space and time when we embrace Jesus Christ. I’ll bet our summer has some lost coins rattling around somewhere. Ask the Holy Spirit to help us hear since the rattle of its lostness can be so faint that otherwise nobody notices.
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Jesus might get asked to do a graduation commencement address if He was around today – but only once. A number of high-profile speakers this spring either withdrew their their acceptance or were cancelled. Why? Because a vocal (often small) group of students protested or threatened to protest graduation ceremonies if the speaker appeared. The rationale ran like this: “If you’ve done anything remotely close to something I even merely disagree with (whether I know what I’m talking about or not), I’m going to wave ugly signs and scream at the ceremony. Graduates pretty much want a short, if not cool, address and a quick diploma handoff. Parents of same don’t want a lifetime moment ruined by loud “Sixties” wannabe posers. Yesterday marked the thirty-sixth anniversary (June 8, 1978) of Alexander Solzhenitsyn‘s speech at Harvard. They wanted this hip, cool speaker to prove how hip, cool, relevant and with it they were. And he toasted their frogs.
Jesus tells this sheep story and the two after it to cause as much offense as He can. And when a Guy who can walk on water and feed five thousand people with a few crumbs puts His spiritual muscle to ticking someone off, He can fire a pumpkin up their nose (to go along with the two or three already there) from ten miles away. Jesus drew flies (disgusting folks like the traitorous tax collectors and prostitutes, sin wasted people). People nobody would touch drew near and that says something about the One doing the drawing. These folk clumped together because nobody would have them – talk to them, touch them, treat them with human regard or respect. So they hung together to avoid loneliness and rejection mutually feeding all the things killing them. But He drew them. “They were all gathering around to hear him” (v.1) Some people didn’t like it, said He was with the wrong kind of people. So He told them the sheep story.
Suppose one of them had a hundred sheep and lost one. Some of these Pharisees may have owned two or three hundred sheep but wouldn’t know if they lost fifty because they hired shepherds to run the show. One sheep gone? Collateral damage, a tax write off, the price of doing business. Sheep were dumb anyway and shepherds who watched them were almost as dumb, one step above beggars. The way the Bible repeatedly describes both the God of Israel and Jesus as shepherds really frosted the Pharisees’ donuts; shepherds lived in almost a constant state of ritual uncleanness – fluids, manure and stuff. So one is gone, the shepherd finds it and comes back wanting everyone to join him in the Big Happy Dance. Jesus says that heaven does the Big Happy Dance when one of the “flies”, a smelly dumb sheep gets dragged and carried to safety of the love of God. Much more so than over ninety-nine so tight that they get up in the morning and screw their pants legs on one at a time thinking they’re okay with God so there’s no need to repent.
A question: Can a Christian ever be with the wrong crowd? Yes. We can deceive ourselves as to how much Christian influence we’re actually having over others around us when we expose ourselves in risky situations. “Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” (I Cor 15:33) We’re to flee temptation – not wallow in, flirt with or be callous to it. If we keep kissing cobras, nothing good can come of that. That said, it comes down to love. When we really love someone, what matters most to them becomes pretty important to us. Jesus Christ is drop-dead, die-on-the-cross, go-through-hell, rise-from-the-dead, eat-Ramen-noodles-with-“flies”-and-other-icky-people-nobody-will-eat-with in love with sin broken people. People in love with Jesus love who He loves. Jesus seems to be thoroughly enjoying Himself every time we see Him with the party crowd. More in the near future on that. This summer may find us around people who push us to the wall. Abrasive obnoxious types (But enough about me!). Disrespecting and/or insulting our faith. People of musty spiritual dryness. Maybe those who exhale evil. Jesus sees beneath all that garbage to something magnificent and want to share His eyes and heart for them with you. When that happens, He honors us in that not many care about the deepest things of His heart.
And maybe we have Christians around us this summer, a few or maybe more. One campus ministry near me runs full-bore through the summer. How can we be with the wrong crowd being knit together in prayer and Scripture slugging our way through the summer? God bless Facebook but get all the face time with believers we can.
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I’ve never known anyone by that name; you’re the first. While it may not be your birth name, you’ve chosen it and I honor that here. Names ending in “lle” have a ring of dignity, even class, to them that might say more about the deep places in you than you know. I’m late learning your story. I haven’t seen any of your work but I still know of it thanks to the invasiveness of social media. It brought back memories. When I was nineteen and in college, I met someone who made similar decisions as you. Playboy Magazine’s “Playmate of the Year” made a personal appearance at the local mall at a tuxedo shop run by a college friend. The line to the store’s door ran all the way through the mall. A guy in front of me stood in line with his Mom to get her autograph. To this day, there are still many things so wrong with that! Almost everyone in line had her foldout from the magazine to sign. Being an insecure nineteen year old, I didn’t have the guts to ask a woman to sign a naked picture of herself.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Was she beautiful? Certainly. But the wasteland in her eyes hit me like a slap in the face. It was like I could look into her eyes and see down through to the inside of her feet. The soul had been sucked out of her. Older than you and making more money, she was on tour autographing her body parts on request for thousands of men (and one Mom). She consented and signed the contracts and waivers. So did you; you may have been pressed by circumstances but not forced. But, Belle think about this. We can consent to or choose any road we want but we can’t choose where that road goes. You’re a lot farther down the road than signing airbrushed foldouts in a tux rental place. Another girl, Alyssa Funke, made similar decisions as you but it ended differently. It will be easy to dismiss her saying she “had issues”.
And you have tragically been shamefully treated. The men who jeer you have probably also gawked at your work. The women who glare might be a long way from sexual angels themselves. But you have put yourself out there as meat to be abused even if, and especially if, that’s not who you really are. And when we do that, we attract meat eaters. We don’t know each other but I know you are not meat. You’re smart, smarter than me. I couldn’t have gotten into Duke. Did you want to go to Duke all along? I’ve seen tons of incoming freshmen like you in summer orientations, all wearing the brand new school gear, walking around gaping at everything amazed that you’re really here. Duke became your place – new people, new ideas, all of it heady stuff. I don’t know why you ran out of money – whether you saw it coming or got ambushed. Was there no one to help or were you too desperate and afraid to ask? Sometimes college students feel entitled to something just because they want it. Could transferring to a cheaper school have kept you from the brink of this or did you want to stay at Duke no matter what?
You said that you had no problem with your decision. In fact, it was the most empowering thing you’d done. Empowerment is big today, the hot term, the latest word we drain of all meaning by beating it to death. Empowerment means an infusion of dignity, self-worth, independence and self-sufficiency. The things doing this for us normally show up well in the spotlight and encourage others. We don’t dread them being “outed”. I’m sort of a combat medic for people’s souls, not an expert or anything, but in the trenches with them while they hold their spiritual intestines in their hands. Sometimes a black thorn festers and oozes down in our deepest places and takes us places we can’t handle or deal with. Maybe something else breathes underneath your feelings of empowerment.
She came out to get water when the sun was high and hot. Better that way since no one would be there. She’d be spared the looks and the spitting. Living with someone outside of marriage in a small town made you a target. Today she got a surprise. He sat there quietly; she never noticed Him until He spoke. He must not be from around here or He would know. And all He did was ask for a drink. He was almost kind about it which shocked her even more because He was Jewish. His respect grew her half an inch. As they talked, He asked to see her husband and her stomach froze into a knot of ice when He said, “…the one you have now is not your husband.” He did know! She saw everything that failed marriages had taken from her in His eyes. Jerking to hide behind religious talk, she babbled on about the Messiah or something. He might have even had a little grin as He said, “I am He.” She was the only one He ever told quite like that. (John 4:1-34)
Did they even let her dress or did they just wrap her in a sheet before they dragged her through the streets? Whatever drove her into another man’s arms beside her husband didn’t justify this humiliation in front of her family, friends and the town. She may have been set up. And then they threw her in the dirt in front of Him saying she should die; they already clutched the stones. She clutched whatever cover she could and covered her head so anything He said was muffled. But she did hear one thud after another as stones hit the ground and the crown evaporated away. She finally looked up. “Who condemns you?” They were gone. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” How could He talk about sin and melt guilt away at the same time? (John 8: 1-11)
She was on her knees at His feet in front of others who would want her in the dark but scorn her in the light. How could He be a holy man letting a women like this touch Him? The hard hands of men and deep evil beyond hideousness broke her down to a walking death going nowhere. Until Him; He’d brought wildflowers to bloom from the rags and filth of her life. And now she would proudly wash His feet with grateful tears and wipe them with her hair. What others thought just didn’t matter anymore. (Luke 7:36-50)
A little history I’m sure you already know. Winston Churchill was England’s prime minister during World War II. An interviewer asked one of his generals what Churchill’s secret was in holding the British people together. He said, “There was something about Winston Churchill that transformed the lead of common men to gold.” There is something about Jesus Christ that transforms the brokenness of women to platinum. He has people at Duke who love like Him; all you might have to do is read a bulletin board or follow the sidewalk chalk to find them. Belle, you may never get to see this but I know there may be others considering the path you chose for many reasons that seem good and even empowering. So I hope they see this as well as you. You are not meat. A hidden dignity, beauty and life lies dormant inside you far beyond what you can imagine or make happen just waiting for His touch, His voice. And let me say as one old enough to be your grandfather that I would be proud to take you on my arm and walk you back and forth across the Duke campus or anywhere else we could wipe the smirks off the faces of slut shamers.
Regards, respect and prayers,
I know I promised Bible studies for the summer but I had to get this out of my system!! If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who cares about them, then share, tweet, subscribe and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe to geezeronthequad.com, then you might consider Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for geezeronthequad.com that’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, musicians, writers, composers, broadcasters, booksellers, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that universities are special places. Your coming on board would only make us better. Take a look and sent a Facebook request to join to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the Facebook dog eats your homework (and he sometimes does), we will ask you to resubmit.
Please return your seat to the upright position and return your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next time on geezeronthquad.com.
What do we need to survive tough times? Some answers come from those “desert island” surveys. A Swiss army knife with enough attachments to build a beach condo and sharp enough to slice through thick trees or perform unexpected surgeries. Enough games on my smart phone to keep me too preoccupied to remember I’m on a desert island. The best answer might be Ramen noodles. Why? First of all basic nourishment. Most desert islands don’t have trees loaded with mangoes and herds of wild boar who will lay down in front of us and die ready for the barbecue. If most desert islands were that great, wouldn’t somebody already be there and have built a five-star beachfront hotel? If we’re the first, it’s a grim ride. And we could hurt ourselves with homemade weapons. A second reason, escape. A raft made from Ramen noodles will never let you down; it will only get bigger. In “The Castaway”, Tom Hanks didn’t have Ramen noodles and by the time he figured out how to escape, he was screaming at a volleyball he’d named “Wilson” and riding on a matchstick over a reef that almost took his leg off. Ramen noodles – don’t leave home without them.
Many of you on Geezer 1 will be on a desert island shortly. Some will be home for the summer; summers get tough for a lot of Christian students. Many are new or young in the faith and do not have anything that takes the place of the campus group. They may not have many or any Christian friends at home. Maybe no church or one that doesn’t have much bang for the buck biblically speaking. Some Christian students maybe taking summer classes amidst the ghost town campuses can be during the summer with the rest of their campus gang doing cool things like evangelizing those big stone heads on Easter Island. Maybe we’re the faculty who teach those classes. We’re now just regaining intelligent speech and coordinated body movement from a full teaching load and had hoped to do a little writing. Now we’re teaching “The History of Pudding; How Butterscotch Has Shaped the Modern World” to flip-flop and cut off wearing, techno addicted Slurpee zombies. Campus ministry staff? After saying those teary good-byes to people who leave campus taking pieces of our heart with them, we head out to see family and do some fund-raising. We’ve lived on an eight month caffeine high stoked in hundreds of coffee shop appointments and conversations that didn’t even begin until almost midnight. There’s about as much mentally left of us as an Oreo cookie sucked into a black hole. Desert islands – different things to different people but deserts just the same.
Ramen noodles won’t help here. Let geezeronthequad.com help get you through the desert island this summer. It’s not like the scintillating ideas and biting wit found here will do that. The next post will begin the summer Bible posts; the Scripture itself is the well we need for many reasons through the dry days ahead. First, God will be speaking. The theologians’ big boy word for this is “revelation”. What does He reveal? Primarily Himself. He tells us things about Himself we never could have known if He hadn’t.
Imagine Einstein explaining the rules of lacrosse to the ants on the sidewalk. Do the ants care? Are they interested at all? Not likely. But the bigger question would seem to be ‘Why is this so important to Einstein?’ Whether we’re interested or even awake, God will be speaking into our desert. God listens deeply and speaks strategically. This is especially true with Scripture that seems to lay there saying absolutely nothing (Think the Levitical sacrifices, the instructions on how to build the tabernacle, those long strings of “begats”, etc.). When we read verses that seem completely divorced from anything in our lives, we should be quick with a question. “Why did the Holy Spirit want this in here?” Maybe this is something important to God (even though it means nothing to us) and He wants to share it with us!
Because God speaks, we can trust the Scriptures to be stable, solid and unchanging. They will anchor us through the summer. Drifting away from them, we will drift away from Him. I’ve been around long enough to see people used by God go soft in their living of and taste for the Scriptures. They just sort of evaporated from Kingdom concerns and effectiveness, some of their lives ending up in bad places. The Bible will anchor us throughout the summer because it’s a God centered book. (Duh) Seriously. When most people, including Christians, think about God, they often start with themselves (their thoughts and opinions even when talking about Scripture) and end up rummaging around in what the Bible calls vain imaginings. Starting with ourselves just dredges up murky spiritual glop properly known as “dreck”. (Think about all the stuff you might pull out of a sink strainer or grease trap. Now pour that in your brain.)
Third, we will draw life and refreshment from the Scriptures that will not only carry us through but may actually make us enjoy this desert we’re in! God actually enjoys deserts. Notice how often individuals or groups find themselves in deserts and wilderness. God knows that He will have their undivided attention and can do some of his deepest work in places like we might be this summer. Alexsandr Sozhenitsyn, who told the world about the horrors of Stalin’s camps, looked back over his time in those terrible places. “Bless you, prison,” he said because this is where He met Jesus Christ. This time we thought we would have to endure until next fall might be when hidden keys turn and hinges swing open that shape the rest of our lives. And we could come away with richer intimacy with Jesus and deeper fire than might have come from the Christian friends and groups we miss.
I’ll do my part if you’ll stay tuned. If any of you do end up screaming at a volleyball by the end of summer, “Geezer” or “Dave” might be good name choices. Just saying.
If you think this might encourage a student or someone who loves students, then share, subscribe, twitter and all that social media stuff. If you get geezeronthequad.com, then you might want to check out Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse that’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, musicians, artists, writers, composers, broadcasters, booksellers, cultural entrepreneurs and thinkers as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. You coming on board would only make us better. Take a look and send a Facebook request to join or go directly to email@example.com and ask to be let in. If the Facebook dog eats your homework (and he sometimes does), we will ask you to resubmit.
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.