I can remember being a kid, watching the MGM's Wizard of Oz. I was transfixed by the characters and their concern for Dorothy. As an adult I have a new fondness for the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. Today I am a theologian and my passions tend to follow biblical aspirations. I can look at the Baum classic with new eyes and see how this trio of friends can also be used to understand how we should delve into scripture.
Scarecrow: It would be foolish, being a graduate from a well respected seminary, to suggest we shouldn't think about what we are reading in the bible. As congregants, sometimes we put too much trust in our pastor. The scripture is so rich and complex. We should be discovering it every day in new ways. Ask questions, and use your brain. What did the well look like that the woman and Jesus was standing at? What does it mean that Jesus forgave the criminal on the cross without a baptism? Ask. Seek. Find.
Tin Man: Why is it, that churches across the nation, go to read the bible on a Sunday morning and all of them speak in that reverent monotone voice? If the bible is part historical document, there are real emotions and feelings behind the text. Motivations are not just made with the head but also with the heart. We should understand the feelings behind the 5,000+ people at the feeding. We should feel the terror of a woman going to touch the robe of Jesus, or the passion behind Mary washing Jesus' feet with her hair.
Lion: Usually we are hindered by our emotional and mental journey though the bible because we don't have the courage to find the truth. We are afraid our belief system might be undone if we delve too deep into the word of God. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to face that fear in order to do what is right. Remember, when God had a courageous task for someone he had a line for them, "Do not be afraid." I say, I understand why real biblical exploration can be scary, there is nothing to be afraid of. No matter what journey we take, God is there by our side.
I remember one line from a sermon I heard so long ago I don't even remember which minister I heard it from. He said this, "If you don't feel the pressure from the negative and hostile side you should really question which side you are actually on." This is not a statement for those who cling to the prosperity gospel. (The Prosperity Gospel is a theology of ask and get. God will give abundance to those who follow the right path. One only has to read the outcome of the Apostles of Christ to debunk that theology. Many followed Jesus willingly and most died terrible deaths because they did.)
When I think of what this minister said I think of Psalm 1:1. Now CEB, my translation of choice reads The truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advice,doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful. In this case I am going to put CEB aside and focus on the NRSV which reads: Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers. I like the image of a scoffer better than just using the term disrespectful.
To me, this verse explains why there is push back when a disciple is headed in the right way. Psalm 1 hits perfectly in line with the hope of Fig Tree Christian, those who are doing God's will receive growth to continue God's work. For those who are not doing God's will they will see their oasis dry up. This truth can make one jealous. It can cause those who do not have God's fruit to scoff those who do. One of the first signs someone is on the right path can actually be a negative reaction. If you don't feel the pressure from the negative and hostile side, you should really question which side you are actually on.
For those of you struggling in your faith, don't lose hope. Turn to the stories of others who also struggled, the bible. I will end by quoting one of my favorite singers, Ginny Owens: But You never said it would be easy, You only said I'd never go alone.
The followers of Jesus were not only students, they were the future leaders for a new movement. Losing your life to gain it is a popular theme throughout the gospels. Nowhere does this come together clearer than through baptism. Yet, death and rebirth through baptism is not the only way we must lose our self to gain it.
Good power is given; not taken. People want to know their needs are considered when they choose the people to lead them. A good leader realizes their needs are secondary to the needs of the people. When I hear the scripture, 'the last shall be first and the first shall be last' I think of leadership. The more power that is given to you the less freedom you have, the more accountable you are, the higher standard you must put upon yourself.
Jesus was warning the Disciples. If they were going to follow the Christ they would eventually have to lead. Yes, like anyone who follows Jesus, they would have to spiritually die and be reborn in Christ, but they would also have to lead by focusing on the needs of others. In the end, this was to the point of death for many of those who were closest to Jesus. They had to lose it all.
If you gain the world, or ultimate power, but cannot see the need of those who gave you that power you will destroy yourself and truly have nothing. In that way, yo
Mark 7:31-37- http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%207:31-37&version=CEV
It used to puzzle me: Jesus taught the truth of God for the people of God, but at the same time wanted to keep a low profile. To those who were healed he asked they don't talk about him. To Peter, he also tells him to keep his knowledge private. It just doesn't make sense- out of context.
When Hurricane Katrina hit I can remember going to the gas station and waiting in lines to fill up my tank. Eventually the gas stations dried up and there was no gas to be had for anyone. It didn't matter if you needed gas or not. A large reason this happened was fear. People were afraid there wouldn't be gas when gas was needed. Yes, in Atlanta there was a distribution issue; a distribution issue that would have played a role in gas quantity a few days after the run on the pumps.
Banks, gas stations, grocery stores, as well as other services do not have enough product for everyone to go buy it at once. The local grocery store keeps enough toilet paper stocked for the people who have an immediate need but not enough for everyone. The gas station keeps enough gas for those who need gas but not for everyone to top off their tank. The bank keeps enough cash on hand for those who need to pull out cash but not enough for everyone to pull all their funds.
Some of you might be reading this bored out of your mind because it seems so obvious, but have you considered it in relation to Jesus? As long as Jesus was able to keep a low profile, he was able to help those who needed to be helped. The more people who spread the word about what Jesus could do the more people who were asking for Jesus' help whether they needed it or not. Jesus didn't want a 'run on his time.' (You know, like a run on gas?)
It doesn't puzzle me anymore. Instead I see being a Christian a little differently. I have be aware when it is time to accept Jesus' time and compassion, and I have to be aware when I need to step back and allow someone else to get that time. I don't want to be the person who hinders the spirit because I constantly want the spiritual attention in church when others need it.