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You’ve heard of the lifting up of holy hands, or lifting up a brother (or sister) before the Lord? The former is demonstration of worship and/or praise; the latter, a metaphor for intercessory prayer.

You’ve maybe heard of these, but have you heard of praying someone in the back? Or perhaps the prayer ambush?

No?

Well, it’s kinda like this:

Imagine you’re out somewhere, and run into your friend. You exchange greetings, and your friend introduces you to their friend–a real prayer wolf. They ask if they can pray for you. Thinking that it’s going to be quick prayer lifted reverently to the Lord (you are, after all, in a public place), you acquiesce. 

That isn’t what happens.

They flank you like guards walking a condemned prisoner down the green mile to the execution chamber. And then they start ululating in a language which can only be described as early tribal. Right there, in public, in loud voices (because God, apparently, is deaf) they begin to declaim your deliverance from:

Demons

Health problems 

Marital woes

Halitosis 

Indigestion

Slow motility

Depression (you’re not down yet, but after this you will be)

Like the violet, you want nothing more than to shrink away out of view. People are beginning to look. You’re saying, “Stop! Stop!”

“In Jesus Name!! Stop!!” you yell at the top of your lungs.

“Amen, amen!” is what you hear in reply. “That’s right! You tell that bad old devil to stop.” Your eyes roll so hard into the back of your head you’re afraid they’ll stick there. You throw your hands up in utter disgust and frustration…

“Yes!!! Lift up those holy hands to the Lord!” Your hands clench involuntarily into fists, and before you know what you’re doing you lay hands on those dedicated prayer wolves with a couple of choice roundhouses and upper cuts.

“Now how do y’all feel about being slain in the spirit?” Like Ananias and Sapphira they ain’t getting up.

You walk off, perhaps feeling lighter than you have in quite some time.

Prayer, apparently, is good for the soul. Especially when you pray like Stands With A Fist.

Fear from Flickr via Wylio

© 2010 Vic, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Hi!

How are you?

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

I know, I know… You think I’ve forgotten about you.

That’s really not true. Like the Willie Nelson song says, “You were always on my mind.”

It’s not that; it’s just that there have been other things on my mind.

Like exercise. You’re right–it’s been three years now since I started exercising regularly. (I still have a “dad bod”). That takes time–and energy.

Then there are other things–more important things. Like my wife’s health. She’s probably going to need two serious surgeries. And my own sleep apnea all but kicking my butt. My son growing up, spreading his wings, about to fly the coop.

And there are job stresses. We’ve reorganized, transitioned to a Shared Services model of IT support, and reorganized again. I’m left, for all intents and purposes, right where I was before. Things were said, promises made, but it all fizzled out. Yes, I’m pretty good at what I do. It’s not that. It’s that by being good at what I do I’ve painted myself into a corner.

But mostly, I’ve been afraid. Afraid I didn’t have anything to say, afraid to say what was on my mind, afraid of change, afraid of not changing, afraid of the uncertainty around my wife’s health. When the fears ramp up, all my latent insecurities bubble up to the surface. Leading me to irrational places. It’s true what they say about fear; that by-and-large it’s False Evidence Appearing Real. Like when a friend didn’t return a text, did I assume this person was just busy and/or presently unavailable. No, sadly I went to so-and-so-just-must-be-blocking-me-in-iMessage.

I was just so sure of it.

You might judge me, or consider me pathetic. Lord knows I do much of the time. I’m particularly good at beating myself up.

Everything is up in the air, in transition, but at the same time other things feel as if they’ll never change. And I don’t know to make them change–or how to change me.

I feel stuck. Running to stand still, never catching up.

Stuck, and afraid.

There is scene in The Lord of the Rings which Professor Tolkien felt was the pivitol moment of the book; in it, Gollum nearly repents, having been won over by Frodo’s kindness. But the well-meaning Sam interferes. Chastened by Sam’s meanness, Gollum sulks off. Following are Tolkien’s thoughts:

“For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum’s tone and aspect….His (Gollum’s) repentance is blighted and all Frodo’s pity is (in a sense) wasted. Shelob’s lair becomes inevitable” (Letter #246).”

One wonders how often this happens, e.g., when a sinner is close to repentance, but one of God’s well-meaning children interferes? More often than we’d care to admit. There will be much one day which we will have to answer for. Many surprises are in store.

Along these same lines are the all-too-often instances of when a brother, or sister (or both), are hurting, and reach out for help. Let’s say that they’re getting help, finding some measure of mentorship, of folks coming alongside them. Things are happening, God is moving.

Then the church steps in.

The church leadership. If the church is a hospital, they are its doctors facilitating a connection to the Great Physician. Not this time. Not on their rounds.

The church says “No, you can’t do it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting helped, making connections. You’re not doing it under our auspices. You have to stop.”

There again, Gollum is shut down, shut out, feeling cast aside… Wondering “What did I do wrong? I thought the church was supposed to help me? Isn’t this a spiritual hospital? God was moving, my struggles were getting better. Why did you shut me down?”

Brothers and sisters this ought not to be. But it happens over and over again. 

Have you been there? You think you’re doing the right thing, reaching out, in evangelicalese getting “plugged in,” but it blows up in your face, and then crumbles into dust… Leaving you wondering why you ever did this in the first place. You’re left feeling like you’d find more camaraderie, more acceptance, down at the corner bar. At least there they won’t judge you for being a sinner seeking solace, relief, healing.

What do you do when the church fails? Where do you go?

Who has the words which bring you life? Can life be found? Is it worth trying again?

Jesus, where are You in this?

Jesus

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, right? That’s the theology of most bands, isn’t it? Live fast, party hard, have fun, and damn the consequences. Insofar as I know, Metallica has never been quite that band; lyrically, at least. This isn’t the glam rock of Motley Crüe, or RATT, but the thrash of angst, anger, and injustice.
I’m not here saying I’m a fan, or that one should listen to Metallica. What I am saying is that, at least in their most recently released single, Hardwired, there’s a theology present. What do I mean?

C.S. Lewis famously wrote of theology of dirty jokes, his thesis being that off-color (especially sexual or scatological) humor makes us uncomfortable precisely because, on some instinctual level, we recognize that we are more than these flesh suits we wear. That we were in fact made for more, for glory. So that our own creatureliness offends us. Granted, one can’t make an entire theology of dirty jokes, but there is one there.

Likewise, with Hardwired, Metallica while delivering a fast-paced, frenetic tune, have hit upon a certain theological truth. Let me put in this way:

If the central tenet of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is “the wages of sin is death,” then Hardwired is a song (whether through composer intent or not) about the most basic fact of human nature:

We’re lost, born in sin.

Please understand that the theology contained herein, as in dirty jokes, is crudely expressed. With that in mind, consider the lyrics below:

In the name of desperation [our condition]

In the name of wretched pain [pain is universal]

In the name of all creation [the creation groans]

Gone insane [who can dispute this?]
We’re so f*cked [our natural state without Christ]

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
On the way to paranoia

On the crooked borderline

On the way to great destroyer [the god of this world]

Doom design
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
Once upon a planet burning

Once upon a flame

Once upon a fear returning

All in vain
Do you feel that hope is fading?

Do you comprehend?

Do you feel it terminating?

In the end
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct

Hardwired to self-destruct
Self-destruct

Self-destruct

Self-destruct

As the Scriptures say, we’re “born in sin and shapen in iniquity,” doomed to die apart from our Creator. By our very nature we are indeed “hardwired to self destruct.”

But…

But, God, knowing our nature, made a way. And that way is Jesus. Only in him can our very nature be rewired.

Be redeemed.

So, as in Macbeth, there is a theology in Hardwired, but it’s only half the story. Yes, indeed the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Which path are you on? The Hardwired one, the broad way? Or the narrow one leading to life?

 

PS You might say I’m reading too  much into a rock song. That’s as may be. C.S Lewis also said,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Lazarus, Come Forth

randomlychad  —  September 21, 2016 — Leave a comment
deesisPanel2_lazarus from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Tim, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.

“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.

Yet he didn’t.

Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.

Yet Jesus let him die.

What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).

And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:

Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.

Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.

All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.

Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.

Believest thou this?