Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grape Juice and Crackers

Over the past few weeks, while attending Solid Rock, I have really become overwhelmed by the act of taking Communion. For those of you who do not follow Jesus, this is probably an awkward topic that overwhelms you as well, but that is exactly where I am headed with this. Over and over now, I have stood in the dark lighting of a worship set staring down at the deep purple of grape juice- while in my mind, my chin is extended upwards, and I can almost see the dripping feet of Jesus the king. He is above me, mounted to a cross, dripping, dying, against the background of a massive sky, and saying nothing while saying all that will ever need to be said for all of time. I stand with that vision, and I can't help but want to eject it from my mind and put down the bread and the cup- who am I? Considering all that you are Christ, and knowing all that I am, how could you have done this for me?

Today, I thought of something new- Christ died for all of us- not just those of us who take communion in remembrance of Him. Christ died for all of us, and some don't even know who He is. Some don't even know that the bullet was headed for them, but that Jesus, who is more worthy to life than any of us, stepped in the way. Some don't know Him- but He knows exactly who all of us are, and He died knowing. I want to know Him more.

While there is a part of me that cannot bear the image of Jesus on the cross, there is also a part of me that wants to bow and lower myself in that place and just stay there. My body, despite the efforts of my mind at times, knows its creator, knows the Father, and cannot escape His presence. But my mind agitates itself, and I become like Peter whose lips promise allegiance to God, but reject Him in the face of men. Peter, who stood at the foot of the cross, and saw these images that dance in my mind with His own eyes. Peter, who denied Him. Denied Jesus.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

I'm not going around saying I don't know Jesus, but then again, no one is asking. At least not anyone who would be displeased with the answer. I honestly believe that they would rather not know- but the more difficult thing to wrestle with is that I would rather not be asked. What would they think if they knew that I attend church every Sunday and eat a cracker and drink some grape juice, calling it the body and the blood of Jesus, in order to remember Him? Surely they would question my sanity in response to the rituality of it, but Christ is the author of metaphors, and as I take communion I am encouraged that He lives in me, He nourishes my body, and He sustains me.

Some would gasp at the arrogance of it all, claiming that they didn't need Christ to step in, and that we have invented a savior in response to a fear-driven belief in the after-life, but they haven't heard His voice. For eighteen years, I watched from the outside as Christians ate His body, drank His blood, and obsessed over His brutal death, and I was appalled by the nonsense. But once I heard his voice, and once He began to show me His nature, it became so easy to see through the oddness of it all and into the beauty.

I look around at all of creation and I see God's beauty etched into every last detail, even in the pain I can find the traces of His mercy and His redemption. I can imagine Eve biting into the apple, falling asleep and dreaming all of this, until she awakes in God's presence again wondering how much could have happened in such a little amount of time. This will be over soon, He tells her. I'll be with you, and I will bring all things together. You will awake in my presence, and all of the fall will feel like a brush stroke compared to the eternity that I will draw you into. These reassurances He gives me persist throughout all of my days, since the day I finally decided to follow His voice, and yet I am often at a crossroads wondering what others would think if they could see the scenes of my worshiping mind.

I used to wonder, with upmost sincerity, how it was possible for Peter to deny Jesus if he truly loved Him as he claimed- now I wonder at my own battle, and press on for the day when I may stand before the masses unafraid.

"They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand." Acts 3:2-4

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And so it begins

I wrote in my journal this morning that I wanted to preach the good news to the people in my life of "Christ crucified," and then I realized that I was liar. Because I don't want to. I don't even want to write this. What I really want is to want to. (Pardon my semantics). And so here I am- starting a blog, as I have considered doing for years now. Or at least I am drafting blog #1. If you are reading this, I suppose I have followed through.

Here's a little rewind:

A few months ago, while I was at work, one of the student workers began asking me questions about God and about church. The truth is- I froze. I felt like a fraud with no answers. I felt mentally lazy. Though I had checked out and allowed myself to become numb to my own thoughts and prayers and even the voice of God in my life, I refused to let anyone in on this little secret. I just maintained my cold shoulder towards Him and acted like nothing was going on- I thought I was bored, but it would probably be more appropriate to explain that God was getting bored with me and my empty cries to Him for an opportunity to be alive, involved, serving, and inspiring.

When he responded to my cries- I was empty handed, and the reality hit me quickly. She asked me, "What is the point of worship? What are you doing? Why does everyone raise their hands?"

Like a reel, my brain started skimming, flipping, and swirling through Psalms and jargon- glorify, exalt, praise, honor, respect, hallelujah, Emmanuel, washing over us, The Heart of Worship, bow, face down, on your knees, reaching towards Him. I felt scared as these thoughts passed. Scared that what my answer would be might expose me as the fraud I was, and might even reveal that worship had no purpose except as a routine obedience that did nothing more than make us think we were being sensitive, sweet, yielding, and beautiful- a part of his divine creative nature.

"God, help me here."

And immediately I saw David dancing in the streets like a delinquent. Well, perhaps he looked a bit more like Thom Yorke in my mind, frantically hopping on two feet and flailing his fingers from contorted wrists and bent arms, while his head swayed wherever gravity would pull it- no routine, no structure, no beauty as in ballet, or sweetness as in the curves of a lyrical piece or the curves of our arms as we gently raise them in our charismatic churches and sway from the left to the right foot.

When Michal saw David celebrating before the Lord, she "despised [David] in her heart" and approached him to expose him as a "vulgar fellow." To this, David replied:

"I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." 2 Samuel 6:22

For me, all of those years of worship resulted in this explanation- that to lead worship was to lead God's people into a state of abandonment and celebration so free that our bodies, our hearts, and our voices would rejoice without limits- without shame- without fear- without insecurity. I wish I were more like David, and that is why I worship, and that is why I am writing this blog. I don't think that is a hard concept to grasp; whether you believe in God or not, all of us seem to recite the same mantras. We all seem to be battling over the truth of who we are inside and what the world will think of us if we expose ourselves- if we become undignified.

I need to write this for me- I'll be honest. But my hope, at the same time, is that whoever reads this would allow me to write it for "you" as well. Whether you are a Christian- or even if you "hate" Christians- please be welcome here. Please be unashamed. Ask a question, and I will ask it too, and we will see where we end up.