Be Transfigured

This is a sort of continuation of the Double Edged Sword posts.  Follow the links to Part I and Part II.

Yesterday, by, through, and in unity with the power of modern technology, I listened to an eclectic mix of sermon podcasts. A preacher with a southern dialectical swagger spoke more of football than he did of Jesus. He summarized the Gospel as if it were some kind of post-game victory dance. A Jesus jitterbug. He said Jesus came to free us from the drudgery of life, the pain of failure.

He was not alone. Sermon after sermon, preacher after preacher, the messages continued. “Are you living in blessing?” they asked. Some were more covert–“are you walking in obedience to Christ; have you ever walked in His favor?” For the most part, the preachers failed to define either obedience or favor. Instead, they resorted to emotional, tautological double-speak.

As if Christ the transfigured can be summed up without proper effort.

Even with proper effort, I reckon the summing up of Christ will have to wait until I see the fire in his heart. Or maybe just the nail-scars in his hands.

*****

I snuck from the office with a good friend. He’s a linear fella, a logical man who knows when to speak and when to hold his tongue. He’s had a spiritual awakening of sorts and it’s come at the perfect time. He’s on the uptick and dragging me with him.

We talked about modern preaching and the fundamental shifts in the expressions of the church. “Did you hear about the church meeting in the bar that straddles the Florida/Alabama state line?” he asked. I told him I hadn’t. “The bar tender says that some congregants order bloody Marys as soon as they walk into the sanctua… er… bar. Oddly, they serve grape juice for communion.”

“Of course they do,” I said. “I reckon we over-contextualize everything.”

We sat for a few minutes and he read to me from his journal. “I’m not a writer,” he said, “so don’t hold the style against me.” He then proceeded to read one of the most thoughtful and well-written pieces about prayer and suffering. “What if God’s best for me is not the ‘best’ as I see it,” he read, “will I still give God glory and see him as good?”

When he finished, I put words to the practicalities of that kind of theology. “The way I see it, there are two God-options. Either God is completely and all-together good–whether in loss or victory–or He is heedless and improvident.”

I thought about that statement on the drive home last night. I’ll choose to believe in God’s goodness, even when my life doesn’t seem victorious. I’d rather serve a God of purpose than one of occasional and perfunctory niceties.

*****

The boys greeted me at the door with their usual “Daddy” war-cry. I fought my way through hugs and clamorous day-long narrations and found Amber on the far side of the kitchen. She hugged me. I patted her rear.

On my way to the closet, my phone alerted me of a waiting email. I changed clothes and checked the message. It was from Jordan and Keri Clark, friends of ours from college. Emails from them are holy experiences, moments that require a pause and a deep breath.

Jordan and Keri have lost two children to a rare genetic disease. We’ve followed news of their losses over the years, watched as they’ve patiently and faithfully served the God who could have healed, but didn’t. The substance of the email is personal, but I will tell you this–Jordan and Keri see God as abiding in love, kind, and merciful.

Some might lament their lot, say it’s tragic. I see their lot, the way they’ve used it to become more conformed into the recognizable image of Christ, and I say they are beautiful.

If only I had the courage to ask for that kind of conformity.

*****

Modern preacher, don’t talk to me about victorious living. I’m done with that pipe-dream.  Speak of contentment in plenty and want, pain and suffering. Preach Christ-esteem, conformity, sanctification. Show me mercy, grace in action. Bring me a cup of cold water. Share your journal with me. Send me an encouraging email.

Be transfigured.

Then, I’ll listen.

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28 Responses to Be Transfigured

  1. Holly says:

    In light of all that you and your family has been through lately you need for Christ to be more than the leader of a victory lap…you need a Christ who hides in the shadows of your doubt, a Jesus that sits in the silence of your heart, a Lord that leans into the ugly. We ALL need a Christ like that. Preach that, modern preacher.

  2. raew28 says:

    This reminds me of wedding vows…we pledge ourselves to our spouse for richer or poorer, sickness and health. Why is it we are prepared to weather storms in a marriage, but as Christ’s bride we think there is something wrong when it’s not a walk in the park? Thanks again for sharing your journey with us. Peace.

  3. bhirschy says:

    What a great disservice we do to ourselves when we squeeze an infinitely good, loving, and perfect God into a footnote in our life.

    I like where you are at on your thoughts about ‘victorious living’.

    Less BS; more truth. More signal; less noise

  4. Jessica Y says:

    This made me holler out loud. Thank you for writing this.

  5. Jessica Y says:

    Listen. GOD is my victory.

    “All of my life
    In every season
    You are still God
    I have a reason to sing
    I have a reason to worship.”

  6. prudychick says:

    Oh yes. I just want to slap (in a holy, godly way of course) these people who teach that we’re meant to live blessed lives and that blessing comes in the form of health, wealth, a sexy spouse, & children so behaved they give Jesus a run for His money.

    Our lives are blessed because we have Jesus in them. At times my life sucks, it doesn’t go according to the plan and at the rate I’d like. But He is still God. He reminded me of this last night as I was finishing a post I’d started a month ago and watched it come full circle.

  7. hopefulleigh says:

    The courage to ask for that kind of conformity. Oh, my. In the last year or so, my prayer has turned to “use even this.” But still, I find it hard to ask for Him to do what it takes for me to look more like Him. Sometimes I miss the naive faith of my youth with its notions of blessing. And yet, I wouldn’t be me if not for those hard circumstances. I guess I’m in a place where I’m OK with not having all the answers and knowing God can handle my tears, my anger, my fears and He’ll use it somehow for my good. Whether it’s evident to me or not.

    • sethhaines says:

      And even more than that… Knowing that he’s sufficient whether or not it ever turns to “good” as we see it.

      Leigh, I’m glad you dropped in here. You have important things to add to this conversation.

  8. Pastor EmJ says:

    Thanks for the reminder of what people need to hear. Also to define all my terms. I forget that sometimes when I get on a roll–or when I don’t know the answer myself.

  9. Pingback: Be Transfigured | Seth Haines - Sermon Ideas, Notes, and more - Sermon Impact

  10. Pam O says:

    Hi Seth,

    I just stumbled upon you and your blog via fellow Twitter followers. I’m captivated by your perspective and your writing. I’ve visited Amber’s blog a time or two and am happy now to have also found yours. I’m going to go get lost here for a while and think you’ll be seeing more of me.
    Thanks for writing.

  11. pastordt says:

    Oh, thank heaven. Yes, I thank heaven for this, for these good words. Even a very cursory read through the beatitudes could serve as a strong anti-venom for the kind of preaching/thinking you describe in the first section. Sorta turns the whole ‘blessing’ idea completely upside down – which Jesus was very, very good at doing. And your friends – the one with the recent awakening and the ones who’ve lost two children – they see this beatitude truth, they live it. And so do you, my friend. So do you. Oh, for the courage to pray these words would describe my life. Thanks for this, Seth. Thank you.

    Poor. Mournful. Meek. Hungry for righteousness. Merciful. Pure in heart. Peacemaker. Persecuted for the sake of the right.

    Reads a lot like transfiguration to me.

  12. Pingback: heart whispers from the week of august 13 | elora nicole

  13. Jessica Y says:

    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9

  14. Jessica Y says:

    This post won’t leave me alone.

    http://m.godtube.com/watch/?v=FMBFJCNU

  15. I used to fear this transfiguring, as any sane person would. Then I went through a fire, and the Jesus that walked with me there was so real, so near, so beautiful, that I no longer fear the transfiguring to the same degree. I know that God is good in all things because I have tasted it. That is the blessing I’m after. To know Christ, no matter the outward circumstances.

  16. Pingback: God is not good because… | Seth Haines

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