When Angels Stand Amazed

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“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~Barbara Bloom

Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters.  I believe God loves you (not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you.  Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally ill).  Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.

Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness.  Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)

Some have physical disabilities. They have come to worship from their wheelchairs. Some are deaf, others are blind. But they come still.

I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimers who understands little of what is happening to her,  but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before the dementia she was a spiritual marvel.  Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met. Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe.  I just realized this, the angels understand worship, they really do. BUT, they do not understand worship out of weakness and brokenness.

Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness.  In John 12, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain.  But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.

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Bethesda, 31 A.D.

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“Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him,“Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,

John 5:1-9, NLT

We were following Jesus and He led us to the pool of Bethesda. A crowd gathered quickly, but I jostled myself right up front. We stood waiting, we pretty much knew something big was going to happen. And it did. I can never be the same, after what I saw. This is my simple story.

So much was happening, and as I watched I realized that so much escapes me. I can’t take it all in. But when I decide to watch Jesus, I quickly become aware of what is important, what is real. It starts to make sense. The chaos of the moment becomes calm. At least it does when He takes charge.

There were hundreds of sick people camped out. They are laying under the roofs, with their thin mats. The smell alone was really bad, all were unwashed and some with putrid and festering sores. Dirty bandages are used over and over, and shared with all. And I suppose all of them are hungry, but they are at least able to drink from the pool. (What more did they really need?)

Finally, all are watching Jesus, they become quiet wondering what He will say. We’re all pretty curious. We see Jesus as He walks directly into this ugly field of suffering people. He doesn’t hesitate or flinch. He seems almost like He is at home.

Oh my! Just to have a religious teacher visit Bethesda is rare. They never come. And today is the Sabbath (and a special feast day at that) and that alone makes it impossible. And yet Jesus is here, and that somehow is wonderful.

Jesus stops to talk with a man who is an ‘old-timer’ here. Someone behind me mentioned that he had been sitting here for almost 40 years, and that is a long, long time. Jesus speaks. Everyone listens. “Do you want to get well?” And of course, some groan and mutter– “of course he does!” But Jesus waits quietly.

“Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” The man explains. He has an excuse that seems like a reason. Nothing has ever gone right– ‘I always miss out, and I can’t find anyone to help me.’ And I suppose that this is the world of the blind, the crippled, the paralyzed in Israel. They are confined to Bethesda, with the weak hope of finally being healed. I don’t think that this is how it was meant to work.

This man was horribly discouraged.  It was then Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” And this very crippled man was healed on the spot. No ‘hocus-pocus’, no incantations, no magic dust or rubbing of sacred bones. Nothing. He was healed by a few spoken words.

I cannot emphasize my own astonishment enough. It shook all of us to the core. We were all stunned, and undone. The crowds, and all the sick and the paralyzed just stopped and stared. There are so few moments in life, just like this. We just looked at each other sort of stunned.

The ramifications of what we all had witnessed were staggering. Shocked, we turned to each other, and a great fear fell on us like a heavy blanket. The crowd did not disperse, we were completely shocked, and pretty much speechless.

For years that sense of awe has never left me. I don’t really listen to the scorners anymore– they simply have no idea. I heard that some of His disciples wrote about what we saw that day. It completely changed my life. I was never the same after that.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:10, NLT

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us.)
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Doctor’s Orders

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And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

I am convinced that as strugglers who just happen to be believers, there is a deep truth we need to know.  Simply that we are the ‘audio-visual’ (AV) department of the Church.

We display for all who can see with seeing eyes, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can be mixed up, and very confused at times. But in contrast, He is everything, our all in All. As the AV people, we show and declare (out of our very lives) the profound kindnesses of God.

We are meant to be see and heard, because that is what the AV department does best. But that is really not our natural tendency or inclination. Jesus spoke of a “candle on a lampstand,” that gives light into the house. Frightening as this must seem, this is our certain place.

We stand (only because He makes us) and proclaim the solid mercy and kindness of God, for awful sinners. Maybe in this short life– that is all we can really do. Fair enough. But still we hear that compelling call to become visible for Him– His fantastic glory.

We may become quite intimidated. It seems we know far more about sin than we do about holiness. Quite a few of us are expert sinners. Some of us have our  Ph.D in evil. We have taken training in sin, and are quite proficient in it.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.”

1 Timothy 1:15, NLT

When it comes to holiness or purity, we discover that we are totally out of our league. We will often try to “fake” it, but we are surprised when the Holy Spirit resists us. He will not let us deceive ourselves in this way. We have no claim to self-righteousness.

Our sins and weaknesses, depressions and sicknesses become even more evident in time. We are the ones who walk with a definite limp. We will falter, and we will stumble. But we continue to turn to Jesus. And in this action, others will see mercy that is poured out on rascals such as us.

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’”

Luke 18:13

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“The Church Collects Sinners”

This following excerpt is from the devotional book, “Living the Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson.  This pastor-professor is probably the person I want to grow up to be like; he has a gentleness and eloquence that is seldom seen–and highly respected.

Author of many books, his translation of the Bible, titled “The Message” is a masterpiece of the English language.  Additionally, he has focused on the pastor, and on the many issues a pastor might face.  He understands being a servant of the Gospel and the Church.  I encourage you to read his stuff.  Email me if you want to start.  I will try to link up with your particular tastes.

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“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude there is nothing to this religious business, except perhaps, business…and a distant one at that.  Insiders see it much differently.”

“Just as a hospital gathers the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the Church collects sinners.  Many of the people outside are just as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It is similar with sinners outside the church.”

 Some other quotes by Eugene Peterson:

  • “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
  • “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. “
  • “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
  • “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”
 
Some Good Solid Websites:
 
 
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