The Key Is Actually… Jesus
This past Thursday night we finished off a week-long celebration of Lauren’s (my second born) high school graduation. It was the official ceremony for Lauren receiving her diploma. For lots of reasons, we were anxious to get this one in the books. Primary on our list was leaving for study break the following morning. Secretly, I had already gone into study break mode a few days earlier.
I always want to hear Jesus on my study break. That really is my ultimate goal. Of course I spend vital time with family to reconnect and re-create, but I long for the gentle prodding of the Shepherd’s voice This is what I begin to pray days before leaving. Hearing clearly and detecting Jesus whispers is why several elders gathered with me last Wednesday morning at 4 a.m. to pray about my time away.
It’s no surprise, then, that the whispering began at Lauren’s graduation ceremony before study break officially began. I noticed peculiar hot and cold water pipes tucked away in the ceiling of the Kennesaw State commencement hall where Lauren would eventually strut to the familiar tones of “Pomp & Circumstance.” Did anyone else notice the strangely labeled plumbing? One look at the pipes, and there was recall of a very succinct warning from John’s Bible letter called Revelation. The warning was to Christians in a city called Laodicea. This ancient melting pot pumped hot and cold water into the city from long distances. They say, from it’s source of origins, the hot water had healing properties, and the cold was extremely refreshing. However, once the water traveled a few miles to Laodicea, hot and cold both became lukewarm. The healing and refreshing properties were lost. Will this study break be both healing and refreshing? What would cause this privileged time away to lose those qualities? Jesus had begun a little whispering.
Suddenly, a poorly-done video asked the packed house of the commencement hall to NOT applaud when individual graduate names were called and given diplomas. I wondered if such an announcement would prove to be anemic. Sure enough, small pockets of rebellious family members yelled, clapped and screamed when their favorite name was called. A woman in front of me shook her white head every time a rebel cell erupted. I was intrigued. At one point, another announcement was made to stop such outbursts. With this verbal scolding, the rule followers clapped in protest of the rule breakers. That seemed extremely ironic, and the tension remained. Defiant groups of parents and heathens dared to continue with their evil interruptions throughout the remaining names. Perhaps they were merely excited to celebrate their child’s milestone and a free country.
I was reminded… whispered to… of the tension currently sifting through many churches and Christians concerning rules, performance-based religion, and freedom in Jesus. Sometimes that tension is palpable. The rule followers camp out on sanctification, and the rule breakers swim in being sent like Jesus. I recall how Jesus prayed for grace so that we could live out both. I think the key is actually… Jesus.
In one of the graduation speeches, someone suggested the 451 graduates “find their own identity.” I smiled as I wondered if the sea of Seniors, all forced to wear green robes, green hats, and black shoes, understood the parting shot of hypocrisy. I also pondered how many churches have struggled to find their own identities in the latest and trendiest labels like: missional, attractional, seeker, contemporary, traditional, emergent, and purpose-driven. It’s weird how so many churches chase the trends to set themselves apart, and then end up looking exactly alike. Conversely we are challenged to be creative, living, organic expressions of Jesus.
I think the key is actually… Jesus.
It’s what I believe this study break is all about. Jesus. Sound strange? Do you wonder if past study breaks have been bogus and wasted? In past years, I have taken time away to sort through seeker-targeted strategies, because God was waking the church up to evangelism. I have retreated on study breaks to gain vision of what corporate worship should look like, and believe God was driving His people into His presence. I have studied my way through missional waters, and can see how Jesus wanted to go beyond the walls of church buildings. Now there is an intentional focus on Jesus… the gospel… good news. Jesus, what are you whispering to me and to Your Church?