When They’re Saving Your Life

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A few years ago, my friend was in a serious automobile accident. EMS arrived on the scene and they had to call for the Jaws of Life to cut her out of the car. My friend’s wounds were relatively minor in comparison to the wreckage. The seatbelt had cut into her skin, though, and there was blood everywhere. Since EMS couldn’t tell where the blood was coming from, they put a neck brace on her, strapped her to a backboard, and whisked her away in an ambulance.

Once they were at the hospital, the medical staff cut her pants off to find the blood. My friend then said to me, “Jo, there is no dignity when they’re trying to save your life”.

On Good Friday, we are reminded that there is no dignity when Jesus is saving our lives. Darkness covers the land and Jesus cries out in a loud voice. He has been beaten, stripped, and mocked for all to see.

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And when Jesus cried out again on the cross, He gave up His spirit.

We can think of it as Jesus sending His spirit out or casting it out from Him. Often, the Church uses this passage to imply that Jesus was separated from the rest of the Godhead. I confess I have even taught this perspective. However, Jesus was not separated from the rest of the Godhead. It’s not theologically or ontologically possible. He is one eternal, indivisible God. He cannot abandon Himself.

The same is true for us. God cannot and will not abandon us. It’s not in His nature. His nature is to love and love means He is sticking it out with us to the end.

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It might help us, in our humanness, if we think of Jesus stretching forth His spirit. A few weeks ago, we talked about the parting of the Red Sea. There, Moses records how the sea was rent or torn open. It was divided. It was divided and they passed through the waters.

The gospel writer wants us to make the connection between the parting of the Red Sea and the parting of the Temple curtain. Moses stretched out his hand [staff] and the sea was divided. We identified Moses’ staff as symbolic of the Spirit’s power. In other words, Moses stretched for the Spirit and the sea separated. Likewise, Jesus casts out His spirit as if stretching forth a proverbial hand. And the Temple curtain is separated; torn in two from top to bottom.

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At that moment, when Jesus stretches out his proverbial hand, three things happened. First, the curtain was torn. It was torn in two so we could pass through. We can pass through and enter the holy of holies. We can be in the presence of God. The curtain was not torn to allow God into our presence. It was torn to allow us into His presence.

At that moment, when Jesus stretched out His spirit, the earth shook and the rocks split. First, it was Jesus who was crying out. Now, Creation was crying out in response to her Creator. She was singing His praise. Just as Jesus predicted in Luke 19:40

If they keep quiet, then the rocks will cry out!

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At that moment, when Jesus stretched out His spirit, a third thing happened. The tombs broke open. They broke open in preparation for what was coming; the resurrection. It’s worded strangely here. But it appears that after Jesus was resurrected, these saints were also resurrected. It was a resurrection, though. It is different from what we see when Lazarus is raised from the dead. Lazarus will die again. But these saints experience the same resurrection as Jesus.

At that moment, Jesus stretched out his hand. And, at this moment, Jesus continues to stretch forth His hand through the power of the Holy Spirit. The tombs are broken open and we live as people who are resurrected (with God’s power).

And we help usher in the Kingdom of God as we wait for the final resurrection of the dead.

 

I Heart the Church, part II

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I have a confession. I love the Church!

So many people are talking about her with so much disdain. And it makes my heart break. She may be broken, but she is beautiful! And I love her!

I think the biggest problem is that we see her through our individualistic worldview. We see one person or a few people who do not reflect Christ and we turn and criticize the Body of Christ. Is that how we also treat ourselves?

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What do you see when you look in the mirror?

When you look in the mirror, do you see all of your flaws? Do you have anxiety over your weight? Your hair? Your skin color? Do you tell yourself that you are fat, skinny, ugly, bald, hairy, or flabby?

What about those who love you? Do they notice those things? I think they see your beauty. They see your generosity. Your tenderness. Your kindness. They see your strength. Your persistence. Your fierce love. They see who you are to the depths of your spirit.

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This is what I see when I look at the Church. I see her generosity. I see her tenderness. I see her kindness and her fierce love. I see her persistence in the midst of brutal rejection. I see her determination to love anyway.

I see when she gives up grocery money to help someone in need. I see her love the children that no one else will love. I see her welcome the one who has used up all their “free passes” with their biological family. I see her bind the wounds of those broken by a cold, bitter world.

I see her bleed and weep for those who have been cast aside. I have even seen her weep for me!

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The Church is broken, but She is beautiful! She radiates the love of God to a broken world. She has been the tangible expression of the hand of God in my life. And in the lives of so many I know.

If you have been hurt by the Church, I hope you will take a chance on her once again. I hope you will see past the gray hair, the wrinkles, warts, and the broken places. I hope you will see into the depths of her soul. I hope you will see Christ shining through. I hope you will stick around long enough to experience her fierce love that changes everything it touches.

Come. See the beauty of the Bride of Christ. She is the only true witness to the glory of God.

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I Heart the Church!

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The Church is the people of God. The Church is called out to bear visible witness to the free gift of grace we have received through Jesus Christ (Beth Jones).

Our individualistic and gnostic society has convinced the [Western] Church that we are an invisible force. But we are not invisible. We are a witness; living witness that others can see. We live and move and have our being in this world…just like Jesus. He told His disciples that He would not take them out of this world. Instead, He would give them power to live in the world and bear witness.

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The power we have been given is to bear witness to the free gift of grace.

Free. Gift. Grace.

We are not called to be witnesses of all that is bad, evil, critical, and negative. There is plenty of hopelessness in the world already. Instead, we are called to bring attention to hope, grace, and love. Jesus broke the rules of His day when He extended grace to everyone. We are witnesses of the same grace and hope.

In the same way that we are witnesses, we cannot be witnesses alone. The Church is One. It means the Church is not singular. It is plural. The word “Church” in the New Testament is a plural word, not singular. It more literally means “assembly”. And you cannot assemble by yourself.

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So we are one, holy catholic [universal] and apostolic Church. Jesus prayed that the Church would be one as He and the Father are one. Our power and identity are rooted in our oneness; our unity. The New Testament uses this example: the hand cannot say to the rest of the body, “I don’t need you”. No, apart from the rest of the body, there is no power. Even worse, no life.

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The same is true for us. Apart from the rest of the Church, we have no power and no life. No transformed life. You can know God and you can pray. You can even sense His presence. But it is only when we are united with the rest of the body (the Church) that we experience lasting power and transformation of our soul. We need to irritate one another and bump up against each other to round out our rough edges. We need to see ourselves reflected in the eyes of the rest of the Church to see where we need more grace. We simply need one another.

broken doll

It’s true that we, the Church, are broken. There is no such thing as a flawless Church. There never has been. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But even in our brokenness, the world needs us. It needs us to show that there is another way.

It needs us to show there is a perfect, heavenly Father that loves them. It needs us to display an alternative to the ugliness of the world by displaying beauty. It needs us to offer an alternative to racism by including all people. It needs us to counter loneliness by inviting them to the table. And it needs to negate the lies of the world with the truth of God’s sustaining grace.

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This Easter, I hope you will embrace the reality of the Resurrection by embracing the reality of the Church. Find a group of Believers to do life with. You can meet in a house. You can meet in a coffee shop. You can meet in a building with a cross hanging on it. But please, gather with the people of God and be the Church. Be a visible witness of all that is good and holy for the glory of God!

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!