Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, February 6, 2012

Multiplying Jesus! Ah, the audacity!

John 14 is an intriguing passage, a challenging passage because there is more stuff in here than I know what to do with.  But I have to tell you, the verse that really gets to me, actually the verse that bugs me, because I can’t get my head around it, is verse 12. “ Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Now let’s put this verse in the context of the moment in which Jesus spoke it.  This Passover dinner has been a ridiculously powerful time.  The big news?  Jesus has told the disciples that he is going to die.  I am sure, after the amazing display of Christ power they had just experienced, the raising of Lazarus, this is not what the disciples expected.   Here they were, ready for some strategic planning.  Ready to hear how Jesus is going to “take out” the Romans, or transform the religious system of Israel.  But instead Jesus says to them, in terms of my earthly life, this is the end.  I am going to be put to death.

They are understandably upset.  And Jesus tells them, “Don’t be upset. Yes, I am going away, but if I go away, I am going to come back,  I will come back to be IN YOU.  I want to point out the phrase “IN YOU”.  Notice he did not say WITH you.   Jesus is with us always.  We know that from the scriptures.  God in Jesus is always with us, in love, forgiveness, and acceptance.   This in fact is where that “footsteps on the beach” thing comes from.  People often imagine Jesus walking with them through life.  But the idea of Jesus being with us is meager and anemic next to the reality of what Jesus says.  “I will be IN you”.

This is something much bigger, more powerful.  When we accept God’s acceptance.  When we realize that God is not only for us and with us, but in us, and turn inside, when we take the journey inward to the find the Christ in us, something gets  loose at our core, something wild, and powerful and amazing….
That something is the Spirit… with a capital S.  Not the human spirit, but the Spirit, the reality of the risen Christ.  That is an amazing gift!

Once a University student, engaged in a study, went around asking little children what they thought about Jesus.  One little boy had a cool answer.  “If I asked Jesus if he loved me,” he said, “probably wouldn’t answer me.  He would Jesus send me another kid to play with, he does things like that.”  When Jesus left he sent another…  Let’s not get all wrapped up worrying about the Trinity, or the whether we define the Spirit as Christ in us.  We just know that this is how Jesus put it.  “I am going away, but I will send another, the Spirit.”

And then he explains the impact this way, and this is what really gets my brain spinning.  I am going away, but I will send another.  And when this other comes and is in you, then you will be amazing, and wonderful people, because……The work I do, the Spirit will do

That is something I have trouble grasping.  I mean do I really believe that ?  That with the Spirit in us we will out do Christ when it comes to his work?

I guess the first thing we have to think about is that is “the work”.  I think a lot of times when we think of Christ and his ministry, all we think about the miracles.  But clearly, if this promise is true, that is not what Jesus is talking about!  Do you know anyone who has out Jesus’d Jesus when it comes to miracles?  I can’t think of one.

So what does it mean, “You shall do greater work”
I believe that the miracles were not the most important thing when it came to Christ’s ministry.  Think about the miracles.  None of them had any lasting impact really, except the last great miracle, Christ’s own resurrection.  He raised Lazarus again.  That was cool.  But ultimately what did that resurrection accomplish?  Gave Lazarus a few more years of taxes, and then, ultimately, he died.  Think about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  Amazing!!!  Cool.  Took a few fish and few loaves of bread and fed thousands.  But what happened the next day.  They were all hungry again.

What do miracles do?  Really?  What they did in Jesus time and do now is this… they express God’s love.  That is it.  In and through the miracles, God’s love is expressed.  And that is the work of Christ.  Love.  Jesus miracles were not as much about demonstrating power, as they were demonstrating love.

If you don’t believe me, think about the cross.  There Jesus was, on the cross.  The religious folks, the Pharisees stood below.  “Do a miracle!  Get yourself off that cross and we will believe in you!!!”  Jesus didn’t do it!  Just as he didn’t do miracles at the beginning of his ministry in order to establish himself as the Messiah.  Instead he died.  Instead he stayed on that cross, and took all the sin of the world on himself.  Instead he stayed on the cross to illustrate his extravagant love

Greater work… what Jesus was saying is that as people of the Spirit
We can out do Jesus in the work of love….

Now that kind of makes sense if you think about it.  As a physical being Christ could only love one person at a time.  During his ministry Jesus was only one person, only had one body….But now Christ is present in us.  In all of his people.  And together we are the Body of Christ now.  The same Spirit that was in Jesus, that same Spirit is now in us.  And now we, you and I, all of us together, are the Body of Christ.

And as the Body of Christ we have so much ability.  This is one way to think about it.  Christ was just one.  Let’s say there are 30 or 40 of us In my little church.  If the Spirit in in all of us… is 30 greater than 1?  If the Spirit, the power of God is flowing through 30 of us, do we have a chance to do amazing works of love in this world?  Yes.  That is what Jesus was saying.  I am going to be back.  I am going to be in you.  And through you I am going to love people…

You are going to multiply me, in terms of the ministry of love.

This world needs Christ’s love, and it is our job, not to do miracles, necessarily, but to do what we can.  Which may be nothing more than seeing others, seeing their pain, their wounds, and caring, having compassion, reaching out a helping hand.

I mention seeing because that is always the first step… its also something very hard to do.  Tony Campolo tells of a time he was in Haiti.  He was sitting down for a meal in a nice restaurant with some church friends.  They were seated by a window, and just as they got their food Tony looked over and saw three very dirty, tattered, and obviously starving, Haitian boys, faces pressed against the window, looking at their food.  The waiter saw the situation right away.  He came over, pulled down the blinds, and said… ‘don’t them the bother you, enjoy your meal”

We have to see, and we have to let what we see bother us.  We can’t pull down the shade.  How many of you can tell me 1 John 3: 16?  16 Most Christians know John 3:16… but not this one.  It goes this way “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Does that inform our lives?  It should.  That is how the body of Christ does ministry.  It loves.  It does what it can.  We are not just talking money here.  That can be part of it, but it is way more….We are talking seeing, and responding.  We are talking loving in practical ways.  A load of wood.  A casserole.  Spending time.  Listening to someone in pain.

This is not just good works.  Because we are not doing it on our own.  Remember.  It takes the Spirit. It is as if Jesus, in the Spirit is loving through us.... BUT

If we are full of the Spirit
If we are connected with the god within
If we find ourselves in the context of the love God’s presence brings… find our true selves,
Then we can be the body of Christ now
We can love for Christ.  We can do the work of Christ. 

And that loving has a lasting impact.  Why?  Because when we love people for God.  When we share God’s love, ultimately we are (this is the way I think about it), loving people into a relationship with God.  And thus loving them into the kingdom, and thus giving them a place nestled in God’s love,  forever.

"I can guarantee this truth: Those who believe in me will do the things that I am doing. They will do even greater things”

Friends, we need to learn to trust, going back to the beginning of the chapter, the God who lives within.  We have to go inside, and find that God, and in the context of our God’s love find ourselves, and then we go out… and we do the work of Christ.  We love people to God.

 I am back to “Wow!”  How about you? 

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