Category Archives: 2013-03

Pastor’s Pen for March, 2013

Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.  (Matthew 15:30-31 When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine, he had a profound impact on those he met – especially those whose lives were a disaster of one kind or another.  If a person was sick, mentally ill, or a despised social outcast, meeting Jesus made a dramatic difference.  The person’s life was changed!  He or she was never quite the same again.  In the midst of desperate circumstances, Jesus made people’s lives healthy and whole. The news of these encounters spread quickly, and people came from miles around to seek his help.  No problem seemed too difficult for him.  Rather than charging for his services, his help was free and unsolicited.  And people spontaneously praised God for what was happening. Today, things are different.  We have hospitals, doctors, therapists and social workers to turn to when our bodies are broken and our lives are in chaos.  A wealth of information and advice are available at our fingertips via the internet.  We are infinitely better equipped to manage or personal crises than the people of biblical times.  It’s no wonder that so many people nowadays are asking themselves: “Who needs Jesus (or his church) anymore?”  It’s a good question, and one those of us in the church need to answer. In order to understand Jesus’ significance today, we first need to understand that the miraculous events of his ministry were not the focus of his work, but the byproduct of it.  His message was that God’s reign was at hand, even now being revealed among us.  God, he insisted, was already at work restoring and renewing the world -- within us and around us - to reveal God’s original design for Creation.  The brokenness and injustice of our world was giving way to the loving and compassionate ways of God’s New Creation –  a new world order that governments, armies, or even death itself could prevent from being victorious.  This was the “main event” that Jesus’ life and ministry were all about.  His miraculous healings were simply ripples that radiate outward from the tidal wave of God’s love washing over this world as we know it. Consequently, Jesus is much more than a primitive faith healer who has been surpassed by medical science.  Medical science, for all its majestic accomplishments, is ultimately a matter of technique and skill.  It is about managing and manipulating our bodies and minds to bring about certain predetermined outcomes.  But while it can significantly limit the ravages of disease and promote healing, it cannot provide us with scientific evidence that we are loved or loveable.  It cannot give our lives meaning or purpose.  It cannot inspire us to lay down our lives for a noble cause.  It cannot convince us that we are now forgiven and free from the wounds and mistakes of our past.  It cannot surround us with the loving arms of a caring community of imperfect people who have been transformed and made new by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. For that reason, Jesus and his church, will continue to have a place in the world.  He can do what no other person, group, or organization can do: demonstrate to us how deeply and unconditionally we are loved – despite our less-than-admirable track record.  He is the only one who will always be able to look at us with a smile, embrace us, and assure us that he has a special place for us in his community.  It’s one thing to know certain things about Jesus, but it’s another thing entirely to know Jesus and experience God’s love personally through him. That is the experience that Jesus keeps alive at the heart of the church’s life.  Despite our human fallibilities and the encrusted nature of our traditions, that is the wondrous mystery that not only keeps us going, but which makes us long to share it . . . especially with those for whom it seems impossible and much too good to be true.  If that describes you, then I invite you to come to Jesus, like those so long ago, who came to discover for themselves what nothing less than their own experience could teach them: the power of the love that God has for you . . .  now and always. – Duane