Tuesday, March 15, 2011

They Could Kill Somebody Like That...

So, I’ve been thinking about the masks I wear.

There are a LOT of them. Three of them would be: Capable, Cool, Christian. In fact, most of the time, I try to wear these three masks together to become "Sister Capable Cool Christian".

Don't get me wrong--Christianity is not JUST a mask for me. Through no worth or capability of my own, the saving blood of Jesus has miraculously forgiven the sin that separated me from God, transforming me from an enemy to a much-loved child. (What a Savior!)

But I too often find myself thinking about Christianity in the same way that I imagine members of country clubs think about their clubhouses and memberships and inter-club relationships.

Here's the question that reveals this "Christian-masked-me" to myself: How comfortable would I be if all the gang members and drug addicts and homeless people in Knoxville came and asked me to start telling them about Jesus in my church?  Or, better yet, in my home?

If I'm honest, I'm much more comfortable around "cleaned-up" Christians, and not even all of THEM.

But then, the closer I look at this saving Jesus, the more I realize He didn't hang out with cleaned-up church folks very much. Even his closest disciples were a bunch of losers by society's standards--several were fishermen, one was even a despised tax collector. None of them had been considered "good" enough to get an invitation to "rabbi school."

He was even accused by religious folks of being a drunken party-goer: "The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, 'He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners'!"

I don't know what, exactly, I'm supposed to do about this Christian-masked-me. I'm praying about it. But, I know something needs to change. But, the questions become, "Am I willing to surrender to this change? Or, do I still care more about what others think than about what God longs for?"

So, these were some of the questions in me me when I read the following words from "Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter":
"Whatever the Gospel means, we tell ourselves, it could not mean death. The first week of Lent begins with old John the Baptist. His sermons could not be titled, 'Be Good to Yourself.'...
John is not the Christ. (But) John is the one who gets us ready. So, how does one prepare? Repent, change your ways, get washed. John lets us take no comfort in our rites, tradition or ancestry. Everybody must submit to being made over....especially the religiously secure and morally sophisticated.
How shocked was the church to see its Lord appear on the banks of the Jordan asking John to wash him too (Matt.3:14-15). How can it be that the Holy One of God should be rubbing shoulders with naked sinners on their way into the waters?
When Jesus was baptized, his baptism was not only the inauguration of his mission, but also a revelation of the shockingly unexpected nature of his mission…On two occasions, Jesus uses ‘baptism’ to refer to his impending death. He asks his halfhearted disciples, ‘Can you…be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized?’ (Mark 10:38)
Jesus’ ‘baptism,’ begun in the Jordan and completed on Golgotha, is repentance, self-denial, metanoia to the fullest. (Metanoia: a radical revision and transformation of our whole mental process; a new mind).
John presents his baptism as a washing from sin, a turning from self to God. But Jesus seeks an even more radical metanoia. Jesus’ message is not the simple one of the Baptist, ‘Be clean.’ Jesus’ word is more painful--‘Be killed.’
Discipleship is more than turning over a new leaf. It is more fitful and disorderly than gradual moral formation. Nothing less than daily, often painful, lifelong death will do. So Paul seems to know not whether to call what happened to him on the Damascus Road ‘birth’ or ‘death’--it felt like both at the same time.
We may come singing 'Just As I Am,' but we will not stay by being our same old selves. The needs of the world are too great, the suffering and the pain too extensive, the lures of the world too seductive for us to begin to change the world unless we are changed....The status quo is too alluring. It is the air we breathe, the food we eat, the 6:30 news....The only way we shall break its hold on us is to be transferred to another dominion, to be cut loose from our old certainties, to be thrust under the flood and then pulled forth fresh and newborn. Baptism takes us there.
On the bank of some dark river, as we are thrust backward, onlookers will remark, 'They could kill somebody like that.’ To which old John (the Baptist) might say, 'Good, you're finally catching on’.”
--"Repent" by William Willimon

"Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life
—even though invisible to spectators—
is with Christ in God. He is your life.
When Christ (your real life, remember)
shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too
—the real you, the glorious you.
Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ."
Colossians 3:3-4
  • What struggles do you face between your "old life" and your "new life"? Why do you think this is?
  • What metanoia-like change(s) do you feel is (are) needed in your life?
  • What is your reaction to this Savior who chose to hang out with drunks and sinners rather than church folk?
  • What's your reaction to Willimon's thoughts on discipleship?--"Discipleship is more than turning over a new leaf. It is more fitful and disorderly than gradual moral formation. Nothing less than daily, often painful, lifelong death will do."


  1. Another great lesson, Karen. I am reminded of a great "Brad" sermon, who said that if we are not desperate enough that God may pass us by. When we can truly drop our masks, be completely naked and desperate, then we become that vessel that can be filled. But the road to that place is not always easy to get to....sometimes life goes too smoothly, we are not willing to give God all of us, just the pieces we want to hand over to Him. We have not become truly humbled enough to make that transition. I hope that I can feebly find my way to letting go of all my "masks".

  2. Spoken like an unmasked one :)