Over the past several years, because of the nature of my ministry, I talk to a lot of people who are not interested in the Gospel. This always intrigues me so I ask questions. I’ve been hearing some viewpoints on God that I find a bit surprising, especially in the area of understanding the Gospel. It seems that most folks outside of the church, (not the ones who are angry with the church for various reasons) have a different understanding of the Gospel than I do. They honestly feel like the church is either teaching politics, you know, that Jesus is a Republican, or that religion, even Christianity, is a matter of rules either dourly enforced or taught out of pure hypocrisy, (do as I say, not as I do.) Sometimes they believe, based on these thoughts, that we our teachings are austere, sharp-edged, and ant-fun. That we teach that emotions (outside of regret) are evil and that change is the very Devil himself. It shocked me!
Okay, it shocked me for a few seconds. Until I shut up and thought about it. Then I started thinking through my own church experience and, wouldn’t you know? That does seem to be the message of the Church, and I even understand where it comes from. In my last post I wrote about The Transfiguration. Did you notice in Luke 9:33 that Peter wants to build three shrines on the mountaintop to commemorate the experience? I think that Christians dwell on past spiritual events and teachings that changed their lives. They build shrines to them in their hearts and they turn their experiences into a religion. I think normal people, those folks who haven’t decided to follow Christ do the same thing in different ways. This is a great danger to keeping a proper perspective.
First of all change is life and life is change. Nothing stays the same and even our most profound experiences are destined to fade away or grow old and useless in our present lives. We can’t build on past experiences to the point that we ignore the wave on the horizon. This is true for all of us, Christian or not. I can’t base my next relationship on my last one. I can’t base what my new job experience will be upon my last occupation. There are too many variables. I must leave room for people to grow and be different, even myself. I must remember, for better or worse, today is not yesterday, and tomorrow is an illusion. The constant? Change. The river keeps flowing. The road goes ever on and on.
For the Disciple of Jesus, it’s even more apparent. We spend a great deal of time trying to hold on to old ways because of the beautiful experiences we had with God. Like Peter, we are constantly trying to build shrines on our mountain tops. We desperately try to control our environment, our reactions, and our emotional states. Granted, to abandon emotional restraint entirely would lead us into a dreadful mess of life, sinner and saint both, but to take it to an extreme place that keeps us from realizing our tears and anger and joy; that blocks us from the grieving and celebration of life. That is a special kind of darkness. It makes me wonder if we understand God at all.
It seems to me that the God who created this planet with all its myriad species of plant and animal life is a God who love variety and individuality. The God who uses a running river to cut gorgeous canyons out of solid stone is a God who believes in change.
Our God, who “does not change like shifting shadows” and who is our “Rock and Redeemer” spoke to His children through Patriarchs, Judges, Prophets, Priests, Kings, Scribes, Politicians, Queens, foreigners, shores, lepers, fire, clouds, thunder, lightning, near silent whispers, a wrestler and a donkey. He spoke to us as Jesus Christ, Himself in the flesh. He speaks to us now as the Holy Spirit and through His living word, the Bible. God is God and in His essence never changes, but apparently He loves to change what he is doing and how He is doing it. He says, “See, I am doing a new thing.” And at the end of Revelation He is still, continually, “making everything new.”
The God of peace also created the roaring of Niagara Falls. This God creates huge fields of Texas Bluebonnets and never makes two flowers exactly the same. He created color, rain, laughter, and tears. He is the God of the living, not the dead, and the living always change. He is a God of peaceful creeks and valleys. he is also a God of geysers, volcanoes and loudly barking dogs. He is the Lamb and the Lion.
God is always moving on, mixing new colors, writing new songs. The world will never understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ until His followers learn to live as we were created to live: In joy and laughter and sorrow and tears. We must dance our lives to the ever-changing music of God’s will.
Make an effort this week to let God paint your heart. Let Him color you as He colors our world, morning by morning, in manifold witness of His glory.