"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Idols

Sometimes, in reflecting on the modern church, I feel like I hear Christ saying "do you love me more than these?"

Yes, my mind takes the passage from its context, lifts the words in ways that I would never tolerate in a sermon, and asks, do we love him more than these?

Do we love him more than these buildings, trinkets, prayerbooks, preferences? Do we pray the prayers for our own ears or for his? Do we sing to him or make a beautiful noise unto ourselves? Are the things we use in worship ours, or given by him for his us? If all things come from him, we can, if forced to give those things up, do so to his glory. But if all things are our own, what praise can we offer?

Do we love him more than culture, neighbors, saving face, reputation? Do we march to his drum, our own, or our cultures? Do we value independence or declare dependence on our Lord? Do we walk in his light or search blindly for a match? Do we love him enough to lose?

Do we love him more than life? Do we love him enough to die?

The Scripture leaves it ambiguous what "these" are in Jesus' words to Peter. Do you love me more than some unseen thing? Of course, Lord, can the stones praise you? If altars could sing, why would churches need voices? Can an organ play itself or a prayerbook offer its prayers?

Or maybe "these" are men. Playing on Peter's sense of competition, however friendly, do you love me more than your brothers do? Is your zeal so great that you might neglect the command to love both God and man? If you love more than the one next to you, then you have a duty to feed the sheep along side you, bring him along, encourage his zeal. Don't just graze in the shepherd's pastures in holy aloneness.

Jesus' words, we know, are playing on Peter's betrayal. Peter in his zeal fell into arrogance, thinking himself forever loyal, and then into denial and betrayal. And perhaps "these" are to some degree these thoughts, desires, ideas in our heads. Do we love him enough to face our own betrayals, allow him to pick us up, and begin again to follow and feed. To return to the fold, not only as a broken sheep but as a feeder of sheep. To be forgiven. Gone are the days of self-righteous, now we are made righteous by him. Again, he has given. If our righteousness comes of ourselves, who can we praise?

I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that we don't shape our own road. Good gifts do not come from our own labors. But that all things come from him who did not grasp at what was due him, but emptied himself to be born in the likeness of men.

Hands which grasp and cling, to our rights, our loves, and our lives, cannot be open to receive. Only man and monkey have hands which can grasp. Of the two the one that has the mind and spirit to know when to let go is only man.

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