Sunday, August 31, 2008

Something That Isn't Jesus

I have come from a church history of preachers that like to dissect Bible passages and then order their notes neatly with alliterating headings! They make four or five points that are perhaps memorable because the headings start with the same letter.

This way of bringing a word appeals to the “control freak” nature in me. I like things to fit into neat patterns and structure. I don’t really do “messy”.

However, having said that, in the Monday evening contemplation of the first chapter of Genesis, we were encouraged to think about just one thing that struck us as we read through. Under normal circumstances my mind would be making leapfrog connections between the words and alliterated headings for each section! But I kept it to the one thing!

I am bringing the word this week in church and decided to focus on the one thing again. The story is following on from the account of the Transfiguration. A man with a demon possessed child brings his son to Jesus and finds his disciples instead. Despite their experience – they have cast out demons before – they are unable to help.

The one thing that struck me was the whole concept of people coming to us, the Church, or us, as individual Christians, looking for Jesus, and finding something that isn’t Him at all.

Personally, as I was praying as I prepared my word, I am aware, that just like the disciples, I have done it before. I am on the rota for bringing the word. I have a bookcase-ful of commentaries and studies. I have a list of favourite website addresses and a history of successfully (?) bringing a message. I have done it before! But when my brothers and sisters come, and visitors come, to a meeting, looking for Jesus, do they get Jesus or do they get Mel? There are times when there is no difference. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing – just being the messenger, and faithfully delivering a God given message. However, there are also times when, I am not sure about the message. I am not sure that I have heard from God, but I am sure that with my mental gymnastics I can come up with the alliterated headings that apply. What I might end up with is good stuff that can inspire anyone. It’s stuff that they can build with – but it might not be God stuff which is what truly transforms.

This morning I went to mass at St. Mary’s. There seemed to be a little bit more incense waving and more bell-ringing than normal. I thought of the people that come looking for Jesus. Do they find Him? Undoubtedly there are people who find Jesus in the ritual and the ceremony, but for some people, all of that becomes interference and intrudes on their search of Christ. Perhaps there are others that never find Jesus but never realise they haven’t found him. The ritual and the ceremony becomes a substitute fro the real thing.

All churches have their ritual. Substitute a worship band for incense waving, for example, or clapping hands for bell ringing. Any of the things that we do can end up being a substitute for the real encounter.

The man with the demon possessed child knew when he had encountered Jesus. In the presence of Jesus he couldn’t pretend a faith level he didn’t possess. He realised the poverty of his spirit, acknowledging just how much help he needed. His son was released from his demonic jailer. Without Jesus none of those things are possible.

I don’t want people to come to me looking for Jesus, and finding something that isn’t Him.

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