His hair was all wrong. Never well-combed. There was usually dirt, or a few hairs sticking the wrong way. Never smelly. At least not offensively. Just a natural, lived outside smell. Like sun warmed grass, or rain on hot sand. He didn’t have any twitches, or language difficulties. He communicated clearly, and excitedly. Maybe that was the part that irked most of us. He didn’t hold around him a coat of disgusted, disappointment like some of us did.
We would quietly murmur to each other as we walked away each day, none of us even thinking to invite him home.
“What was different between us, and this strange man on the banks of the river washing those who would let him, clean.”
From the edge of the crowd i would always try to catch his eye. See what those eyes could tell me from a distance. But even they seemed to dance a different step to all else. Unbounded by social convention, he didn’t wear the current ‘in-style’ arm band. Or this new, kinda illogical brown tinted material forced on the adherents by fear of rejection.
This man was free. Not all that strange, he was just free. It was almost an injustice to think that someone could get away with freedom of that sort. But here he was, offering our own piece of freedom to us, through waters of renewal, and what seemed to almost be a new way of seeing everything – with new eyes, Like his, with that dance.
He spoke of someone else that would come. He spoke of a cleansing, a life change. He kept talking about turning around, changing, and having lives of unimaginable worth. To really live. It echoed of the old stories my father’s father used to speak of, but, it wasn’t being spoken about it felt tangible, it felt like he was performing the words as he spoke them.
As i decided to walk towards whatever this man was offering, to really figure it out – another man, with similar eyes, a similar bearing, but nicer hair walked down towards the water. I held back, as everyone was watching the kid holding his hand. The kid was dancing. The joy on his face was oddly bright and almost glowing. The boy was singing a little song I didn’t recognize, it sounded very nice, and easy to learn, as others around him absentmindedly started humming it as well.
A fresh breeze flew through the crowd, and everyone took an almost military trained-like step away from the boy and the man. The boy ran off giggling, and the man in the lake baptising dropped they that he was dunking and started giggling too.
Make way!!! He began yelling. MAKE WAY!!!
I baptised you into a new way of life, a new perspective, and pure marking. But this man. This man will overwhelm you. He will defeat all that keeps you back from who you are. He will infect you with POWER.
As he yelled “POWER!”, the multitude took a step back. I felt something push me backwards. and a warmness seemed to fly up my back. I grinned. This was what i wanted. Tangible. Kinesthetic. I wanted a purpose, a real one. Not stories that i heard around the fire, not history. I wanted NOW. the present. This man was going to be it.
The next few hours were a blur. Something ran through some of us in the crowd and made us crazy. I got in the water at some stage and laughed a lot. I saw a dove, and at one point I heard this booming voice. As i listened to it’s simple statement, I quickly looked around to see if anyone else heard it. Some people looked angry, like they had heard something they hated. Others looked like I felt. I didn’t understand what was said, all i understood was the peace that overtook my entire body.
‘This is my son’ – I heard the clear voice say. In hindsight I didn’t even look around to see who said it, I knew it was referring to this man in the water with the nicer hair. And it made total sense. Everyone has a Dad.
Everyone has a Dad.
After what seemed like five minutes, but the sun was going down, I walked towards home with some of the guys from my village. Words started being thrown around – ‘messiah?’ ‘new king’. Others slapped those suggestions away calling lunatic on any who spoke of the voice or of the dove.
And above the rabble someone said ‘If he has come to destroy the oppression over us, let him. If he has come as heretic, we will destroy him’. And that was that. We fell silent. Because we knew of the others. the other ‘messiahs’.
The book of first Peter basically opens with
God is merciful. You are reborn fresh in an inheritance that cannot be taken away.
Even if sometimes life is crappy.
But keep the faith (Bon Jovi Reference… classic) because salvation is yours.
Discipline yourselves, be holy, live in reverence, shrug off all your hereditary cursing and unhelpful training etc.
AND THEN verse 22
“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine love,
LOVE ONE ANOTHER DEEPLY FROM THE HEART!”
Our purification, our reverence, our rebirth isn’t so we can be elite. It isn’t so we can make our own little Christian communes, it isn’t so we can slap fives about reading the bible many times. Jesus died so we would be free to love each other more. Love each other BETTER.
Jesus is great. He has adopted us into his great family of lovers, and expects us to play for the love team, liberally.
Our community is currently looking through Ephesians chapter one through the lens of the trinity and our community in worship. The following stood out to me.
UNITE ALL THINGS IN HIM – denominations, sects, cults, ideologies usually have one thing in common. Their ability to rally around something which is not Jesus. The catholics rally around the pope, the baptists rally around full immersion, the orthodox rally around that which is tangible, the pentecostals rally around the miraculous etc etc But Jesus wants us to rally around and unite together as one around HIM.
INHERITANCE – We do nothing but we receive everything. If my father was a international business mogul, I would inherit a lot of money for doing no work. He did all that work, and inheritance is a gift of familiarity for the posterity of family line. Jesus gives us salvation, an inheritance, a family line because we…. are his. He made us his and therefore we stand to receive an inheritance of eternal life.
SEALED WITH THE SPIRIT – in old school letter you would seal it with your logo, your seal. The receiver would know who it was from, any importance that the seal carries, and the authenticity of the contained information. A seal is also like a badge of honour, or an invitation that gets you to into a party. Like an id card at a security door. The spirit also seals us with his power. So as we are sealed, we are given the authority of the spirit.
IMMEASURABLE GREATNESS – name a song written in the last few years that isn’t cheesy and isn’t about “me”. Old school hymns are filled with beautiful words about Gods greatness. But ask a crowd to sing in their own words – poetic descriptions of the father…. it doesn’t go so long. But Gods greatness is immeasurable. So we should be able to write many songs about him.
JESUS NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES – If thats the truth, why do we fear anything?
With the truth of the triune community coursing through our veins, how do we then treat each other?
If we are adopted fully into the family of God, how do we see our brothers and sisters in Christ on a practical day to day level? And how excited are we to invite out other friends to join the family?
A story was shared today about a Dad wrestling with his Son and one of his sons friends that he had never met. and how God spoke to him about how Jesus is the son, and we are the sons friends who are comfortable wrestling the father with abandon because our friend Jesus is there with us playing.
What does it look like to play with God?
Does it look like working 7 days a week to force a vision?
Does it ever look like burn out? Or crankiness? Or insular favouritism?
Does it look like ‘going by the book’? Or not changing anything and expecting the same results?
Does it look like keeping a dying ministry going?
Or is playing with God a little cheeky?
A little creative? A little spare of the moment? A little hilarious?
What does the doctrine of the trinity look like in your life?
Sometimes it is way too lofty.
The trinity is like a pine tree. The father is the tree. He is a solid foundation, he smells nice and shelters everyone. The spirit is like the pine needles. He travels like the wind, and finds his way into every nook and cranny. He feels funny, and looks a little funny, but he is incredibly malleable and multi talented. Jesus is the pine cones. He dropped to earth to join us in making Gods forest way bigger.
The trinity is like water – liquid, ice, fog.
The trinity is like our bodies, different systems, different roles. But they work together and are beautiful.
The trinity is like an egg. The trinity is like a family. The trinity is like the trinity…….
The trinity is the blueprint of our entire existence. Love made tangible.
I come from a very ‘goals/productivity’ mindset. I like making things. I like looking back at a week and being like ‘We completed things. YAAAAAY success” but it has been funny this week, I was once again reminded of a God who wants us to be loved.
Too often I will NOT do something wrong and instantly feel like ‘YAAAY LOOK I didn’t do wrong’ or even more, while I was playing table tennis this week, instead of celebrating my victories I would vocally condemn my failures. Setting my body up to almost look forward to those surges of passion when I hit the ball wrong. We are good at this. I have been good at fending off compliments for most of my life. Or turning them around to other people. Or being very quick to admit to faults but feeling weird about telling people I am good at something.
The age old ‘Are you good at guitar’ and passionately lying about how I wasn’t good, even tho most of the time I’m in the top ten per cent in any group I’m in.
We are ‘called’. By God himself. and not to a place, a people, a ministry. But first and foremost, we are called to BE LOVED.
When pastors are found to be sleeping with a member of the youth group, does it occur to you that he or she was God at being loved, tangibly loved by God? Or was that pastor good at faking being loved?
When our best friends growing up in church end up being addicted to crack, do it seem possible, that he or she struggled with being loved by a God described as being love itself?
What does it look like to let yourself be loved?
I don’t like being sick. And I don’t like letting people down, so i used to get sick and then keep working. And I wasn’t good at letting people take care of me, so I would just go foetal by myself in between working. If we have people that love us, letting them take care of us when we are sick is totally right.
When we feel insecure, letting God speak love and encouragement to us is totally right. He wants to, we need it. But most of the time, I find, when I am feeling less than spiritual, that is when I enjoy running away from God as fast as possible. Which is super dumb. Its like running away from the doctor when we are sick, or running away from the teacher when we need to learn something, or running away from the food shop when we need food.
Our calling is to be good and being loved.
I just got to facetime a friend who finished outreach recently and he spoke of how a lot of the last few weeks has been found in just worshipping God and making it easy for his presence to be tangible, and people would just be healed or comforted before their very eyes. There was not much preaching needing to be done, because the Holy Spirit was doing it all because the team was good at being loved and available. Like a cup you over fill soaks into everything around it. God wants us to be LOVED and imitate him as CHILDREN. Children that giggle unafraid. Who run around with capes unashamed because they know who they are, but they know whose they are even more.
They are loved.
We are loved.
Let it happen.
I was in a swedish church. I don’t speak swedish, and although most swedes speak better english than me, they are strangely shy at first to use it. So i was mainly watching people. and as I stood there I watched a Dad with a baby. It was a small baby. A cute baby, and it just stared at its Dad. Like not every so often. It was locked on to its fathers face. Fascinated. In love, with it’s Dad.
I want to be like that. I want to be so obsessed with Gods face, that I am just happily content with staring at him.
Earlier, i had sat in the front seat as a band played a song they had written to share with the church. As the lead singer sang the first verse her daughter ran in, holding a picture she had drawn. Ignoring what the mother was doing, she excitedly ran on stage showing her mum as if to say “LOOK WHAT I MADE!!”
I want to be like that. I want to show God what I make. Cause he, like the mother singing for the church, is stoked, is excited about what we are showing Him.
Earlier that week, I had sat at a Christmas party and one of my friends was talking to his wife and she said ‘Ok tonights rule is, you can’t leave me with both of them’. They have two amazingly bold and friendly daughters, who can easily get lost in crowds.
I want to be like that again. As a child I was that kid, but I have lost some of my boldness. I want to run around so much that God is almost like “Hey holy spirit, you go make sure Jeremy doesn’t eat any glue again, and I’ll take care of the rest of humanity”
This week has been very much about letting God love us. How does that even work? How do we let someone love us more?
I want to find out.