We had a guest speaker at church on Sunday, a missionary from somewhere in that vast region those in the know call ‘Central Asia’ (which could mean any one of several countries/regions). Its always nice to have a fresh voice on a Sunday; it is so easy for any congregation to get too used to a particular style or approach, and basically switch off. I don’t raise the art of preaching quite as high as some Christians, but it is a useful tool, and its always good to have someone come in who opens up the bible to us in a refreshing way…
Our guest (we shall call him ‘Euan’, for such was his name), was unpacking [another bit of Christian jargon there Kat 😉 ] Revelation 4 & 5. As he said at the beginning of his talk, a ‘nice easy to understand passage with no hint of conflicting interpretation’(!). The first chapter is an awesome description of the throne of God, rich in metaphoric imagery. It then goes on to this weird bit with a scroll and an alive-dead lamb…
Euan described this as the scroll being the purposes of God, poised to act, but with no-one being worthy to enact them, to bring them into being. Then there is the ‘lion of the tribe of Judah’ who appears as ‘a lamb slain’ (which is pretty weird imagery), who then does have the authority, because of his sacrifice.
Euan’s comment is that this is the way that God works: not out of strength, but out of weakness. The ‘lion of the tribe of Judah’ is a prophesied image from the Old Testament, a metaphor for the expected Messiah, who the Jews assumed would be a conquering king. Well, He was, but not as expected; He conquered by sacrificing Himself.
Similarly, God works through us by using our weakness and our brokenness. We are not called to be warriors or revolutionary fighters, but slaves and servants. We are called, primarily, to reach out and minister to the poor, not the ruler. Christians throughout the ages have been killed for their beliefs, not exalted for them: in fact, Jesus told us to expect it this way.
All this reminded me of a Seinfeld quote Barney used in a preach a couple of months ago:
“All men kind of think of themselves as low level superheroes in their own world… When men are growing up and they’re reading about Batman, Spiderman, Superman — these aren’t fantasies. These are options.”
This is so true, but it doesn’t sit well with Christian life.
We all have this drive for significance. Men especially have this inbuilt need to be recognised as able, as a protector, as a saviour. Too often our real motivation is to be noticed as the one who ‘saved the day’ (or the moment at least). There is a whole raft of Christian books now (led by people like John Eldredge) that feed into that desire. But it isn’t what we are called to, and its not really in line with the image Jesus paints for us: the Suffering Servant, the Slain Lamb.
For me, as I have thought about the future and my life direction, this has been the biggest challenge. I have a strong desire to be involved in ‘leading’ church, in serving in that context. But as I have analysed and reflected on that desire, too often it has seemed to me to be motivated in a need to wear my underpants on the outside of my trousers and to rush into action. And there is no point in trying to lead in the church unless you can lead like Jesus…
Lord, help us to cast off the capes
And be brave enough
To get on our knees
And lead like a servant