I was not preaching today, so we visited a church just to see how the other half lives. We were real live, bona-fide visitors. Wondering where the bathrooms are, parking in the wrong spot, coming in late...
Met some lovely people and learned a lot about walking into a place of worship cold. Recommend it to everyone.
One of the drawbacks of being a preacher though is how hard it is to listen to someone else. You start taking the text in the direction you want to go, and I can be talked out of it if the preacher is good, but if not, I get annoyed and that is my problem, my sin of pride. I'm working on it.
The preacher I heard this morning did a wonderful job reading the Gospel, about Jesus sending out the 70, giving them wads of authority to shove around demons, and evil spirits in the name of Jesus! Wow, who wouldn't want that?! Where the hell was I when they were giving that power away? I didn't get anything like that in ordination, I'll tell you. Oh I got the poverty part of the instruction in spades... The church is very good at helping us pastors out with that. But as for the rest of it, I'm still waiting.
But then, the way the preacher read it, I realized that so much of the instruction was about when the townspeople reject those whom Jesus sends out, with all this atomic spiritual POWER.
If the townspeople reject you, Jesus says, shake off the dust from your shoes as testimony against them. Having just recently shaken the dust off my shoes, I can tell you the experience is nothing to write home about. Sort of anti-climatic really. An obscure little gesture that leaves people scratching their heads if they even bothered to stick around to see it.
"Why is he taking his shoes off in the street?"
"I don't know, I never knew what the hell he was doing when he was here, I don't expect I'll start now. That's why he had to go..."
What kind of power is this? Sure, you can kick Satan's ass, but don't mess with the little old lady who runs the altar guild. Sure, cast out demons in the name of GEEEZZZUSS, but don't piss off the old fart who never learned to deal with his life and don't want to see no Spanish in HIS church.
Because if you do, you'll be standing there in the middle of the street like an idiot holding your Crocs in your hand.
Here's what I wanted the preacher to say this morning...we are given all sorts of power, more than we will ever realize, except the power we most crave...the power to defend ourselves from being hurt. This power Jesus withholds. For when we exercise it, we become less than human, unworthy to be the bearers of grace and good news.
We love the "Mighty Fortress" God. But we don't fulfill our mission as bearers of Christ's love until we're standing in the middle of the street with our shoes in our hands...