Monday, March 17, 2008

Who is the Kingdom For?

He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
-- Luke 14:12-14

Last night during the music at Element, I began to picture Christ on the cross while singing "My God is mighty to save," and I was overcome with conviction of my own arrogance. How dare I believe -- and allegedly treasure -- that eternal life for me meant Jesus' death and then go on living as if daily life requires anything less than crucifixion.

I was teaching out of the banquet parables last night, and this week as I pondered the excuses the invitees give the servants in those stories as to why they "can't" attend the banquet -- "I just got married," "My business is taking off," etc. -- I began to think of the myriad excuses I make for not investing in the kingdom life, especially knowing that my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are actually risking their lives to gather to worship. For us, the bare minimum of church attendance is a take-or-leave, when-I-have-time, when-I-feel-like-it, if-it-fits-in-my-schedule selection at the buffet of weekly activities. If we can't even bother to treat gathering to worship as vital to Christian life, what must we think of daily dying to self and having all things in common with our brothers and sisters, losing our self-interest in service to the community for the good of the Body?

How arrogant we are to treat community as optional when those less rich, less successful, less fortunate, less safe are dying and willing to risk dying because they know it's not optional.

Jesus is for losers.
That's how I read it, anyway. The vast silence between the closing of the prophecies of the old covenant and John the Baptist's assuming the mantle of the prophetic voice once again was filled with the go-getters, the powerful, the elite. The religious types, the political types, the business types . . . they coopted the kingdom promise and, as always happens, the lame, the meek, the mute, the crippled, the diseased, the poor, the racially marginalized, and the assorted other dregs of society were shoved aside.
When Jesus enters the scene, the "beatitudes" of the culture could be summarized like this:

Blessed are the Type-A personalities,
for theirs is the corner office.
Blessed are those who remain unfazed,
for they will be self-confident.
Blessed are the powerful,
for they will inherit the promotion.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for success,
for they will be rewarded.
Blessed are the religious,
for they will be the envy of many.
Blessed are the pushy,
for they will have much to be proud of.
Blessed are the cool,
for they will be called gurus.
Blessed are those who are recognized because of their achievements,
for theirs is the renown among men.

Can we say that those beatitudes aren't the prevailing wisdom today?

This is from a pastor's blog:

It’s the elite, the excellers, the achievers, the succeeders, and those who raise their game to a level of must who end up with the money, power, and satisfaction. It will cause you tension, aggravation, and sleepless nights. It will wear you out and push you down the road. But that’s what you were made for.

For what? Money, power, and satisfaction?

This is why the real beatitudes are today the powerful scandal they were in Jesus' day. Because the kingdom is for the hurt, the grieving, the mourning, the poor and poor in spirit, the meek, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the discarded, the weary, the torn, the broken . . .

And why? Why is that?
I believe it is because those people have a keener sense of their own need. When you are on the drug of money or power or success (or any kind of drug), you can be numb to your basic, fundamental deficiency. Why do we keep trying to fill the God-shaped hole with any god but God? Because the other gods are just ways to believe we have no needs, that we have the power inside of us. Any worship directed to anyone or anything other than God is essentially self-worship.
And those who keenly feel and know their own brokenness know self-worship is stupid.

When we will look upon the cross of Christ and see in it not just our security for salvation but the mandate for working out our salvation, we are much closer to beholding the gospel's power to save than if we see the cross as the metaphorical key to some self-improvement project.

This is why the crippled (generally speaking) got it, and the Pharisees (generally speaking) didn't.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
-- Luke 14:11

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
-- Matthew 16:25

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

-- Matthew 5:3-11

Jesus is for Losers


jagis said...

I am so sick of my own skin. i know what I want to be and I know who and what God wants me to be but I keep putting it off until tomorrow. "not the night that the big game is on or that great tv program. I will deny myself tomorrow." mean while people (who are stronger christians than me) are dying of hunger and abuse because they will not give up their faith in Christ. how many posts will I have to read or verses until i lay it down?

all or nothing. I have made lukewarm seem just right.

this kind of stuff have been on my wife's and my heart lately so hopefully change is comming...

Bill said...

This post is absolutely crushing in its truthfulness.

Pastor Glenn said...

So powerfully said; such a timely reminder. I stand convicted. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

the pastor of the church my wife grew up at made a comment once in a staff meeting, "I'm tired of all the losers joining here, I want some winners..." or something of the sort, of course he was referring to the low-income majority of that side of the county as opposed to the rich retirees on the other side of the county...

that kinda thing pisses me off...