Are you tired yet? These are some words that if I hear one more time, or read, I want to block my ears and cover my eyes: conspiracy, Covid, Trump, Democrat, Republican, fake news, Christian….. and you add to the list. In other parts of the world I’m sure you can compile your own list – this issue is universal. The world has been a mudpath of mudslinging, speculation, gossip, and confusion. It’s like watching two kids mudwrestling on, and on, and on. They just won’t stop as the crowd around their childish and self absorbed antics egg them on – taking vicarious pleasure in celebrating which little kid threw the best last punch.
What’s even worse is that the spiritual spectators from every tribe lay claim to their infant being the anointed of God , the kairos kid, the scrappy Cyrus, the prophetic one for the day. Our eyes are focused, fixated; day after day the mud churns, pollutes, defiles, discourages, and destroys.
I believe it may be time for a whistle to be blown. “Time out”! Clean the infants under a fire hose. Reboot and reset our thinking. Delete most of the crap that’s spammed in our inbox, and turn our eyes elsewhere.
What on earth have we been doing, thinking, expecting and believing? Why would we drink from a puddle when we live beside a fountain?
Lifting our eyes from the mud to the heavens isn’t denying what’s on the ground, it’s merely recognizing that the solution is invariably not uncovered in the same location as the infection.
Jesus came to earth and entered the mud bowl, from heaven.
He brought with him light to see, truth with revelation, and great audacious hairy monster hope rooted in his father’s love. He manifest power for transformation not generated by human striving, thinking, plotting or planning. “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.”(John 14:6) “Apart from me you can do nothing”. (John 15:5)”Who the Son sets free is free indeed!” (John 8:36) “Come to me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Splat! A kid in the mudbath slings a fistful of dirt that hits Jesus hard on the side of the face. “The words you speak are useless in our day and age. You’re naïve. Take your religion somewhere else. The one who holds the power, the money, and the political advertising space wins.”
Jesus responds with tough love, poise, and strong sad words: “How I longed that you would come to me, but you wouldn’t. Blind guides, children in the market place deriding all who come, you who stone the prophets….” (Matthew 23:37, 16)
Where did Jesus focus his sternest rebukes? To the political and religious leaders of his day. The times were every bit as tumultuous as our own. There was insurrection, false prophesying, power deals between church and state, injustice and expediency was the norm. The spiritual leaders strutted their stuff in the streets alongside the prostitutes – no better, no worse – self absorbed and self interested. Jesus spoke truth nevertheless, even though his ‘political base’ would be offended as he broke ranks. Eventually he’d be crucified. Totally different from our cowardly leaders he refused to bow the knee to Caesar, the head rabbi, the false messianic expectation, the crowd, or any other agenda arising from the mud.
Staring directly at the kids in the mudpath grappling for headlocks: “Woe to you….. you clean the outside and inside you’re caked and filthy with greed and wickedness…. be generous to the poor and everything will be clean. You give God a pittance of your income, nickle and diming at every turn….. you neglect justice, and any love for God. You crave the most important positions, status, ratings, and public applause. You demand of others what you don’t do yourselves, you won’t lift a finger for another. You quote the words of dead people but reject the wisdom of those living in your midst. You experts in the law have distorted knowledge and prevented others from finding it.” (Matthew 11)
Most of those words spoken in the marketplace over two thousand years ago sadly fit like a glove over our 21st century angry fists. The thing is, history repeats itself like a metronome on steroids. Seems that as long as we’re a generation away from the ‘event in question’ we refuse to learn by example – so down the road we go again.
Don’t be discouraged. The most liberating news is when a doctor confirms that your pain is real and even better, there is a remedy. And yes, there are many ‘quacks’ out there right now….. much noise, ruffled feathers, and honking to persuade trying alternate remedies and to distract. But when our eyes lift, our ears listen, and our hearts open to where Jesus is present, there is hope and refreshment from the fountain, despite the mud slinging. The one thing he never does. Important. Jesus never hands you some mud and instructs you to sling it at someone else ‘in his name’.
Today I lift my eyes to Psalm 145 . It describes the nature of God and the character of Jesus. He is greater than our context and worthy of praise. No one can fathom him – meaning we don’t have his number, nor can we shrink him down to our level of perceiving and being. Every generation speaks of his mighty acts, his majesty, and they meditate on these things. Why? Because where our eyes and ears linger for long, that’s what touches our hearts and motivates our hands.
It’s not pie in the sky… I hate that as well – because it’s abstraction and idealism. It is pie in the dish – that we all can taste and see. Whatever God gives us to meditate upon through our eyes and our ears has to be translated into the world in which we live – the same as when Jesus walked the earth. We’re not talking about escapism. It’s the difference between slaking our thirst at the fountain or lapping from a polluted puddle. The one source makes us strong, the other brings infection and sickness.
Reading on – we discover that the Lord is gracious and compassionate – lucky for us – slow to anger and rich in love. How about receiving some of that and paying it forward! He has compassion on all he makes – that means those we disagree with. The Lord is trustworthy and faithful, he upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to him and he satisfies their hunger. He is near to all who call on him in truth – important to note – that means being honest, humble, no bullshit, face to face with him personally – before asking him to fix someone else.
The psalm ends: My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. let every creature praise his holy name. for ever and ever!
Let’s be salt and light. Perhaps take stock and stop being mesmerized by mud. Let’s lift our eyes and let him refresh our hearts and souls so that we may better serve, better converse, better listen, and better be in this world but not of it – at a time such as this. They will know by our love (John 13:5)
Many years ago now I wrote a lament about the state of the church….. and, sadly, it needs to be sung as a cry and a prayer, as well as a declaration of praise for all that Jesus continues to offer.