Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Faith Works 9-24

Faith Works 9-24-11

Jeff Gill


My Strong Deliverer



One of these days
We all will stand in judgment for
Every single word
That we have spoken
Mac Powell of the contemporary Christian group "Third Day" has become one of my favorite theologians. When he writes and sings lyrics, there are layers below the surface that reward continued prayerful reflection.
"Revelation" is another song whose lyrics just jolted me up out of my seat the first time I heard it, not that it's saying anything preachers haven't been saying for generations.
In the same way, "Trust in Jesus" has nothing really new in it. Call it "the old, old story," but the side of the story that has a cutting edge on it.

One of these days we all will stand before the Lord
Give a reason for everything we've done…
The idea of having to give a reason for everything I've done, even for all I did yesterday, is not appealing. OK, it's terrifying. If this makes no sense to you, feel free to move on to the car ads (but why do you want a new car?).
And no less bracing is the image of having to stand before one wiser and more knowledgeable than me and hear some of the stupid stuff I've thought and said, let alone try to remain upright before an ultimately wise, infinitely powerful One (and to those who don't think anything other than physical decay happens after death: why are you still reading, anyhow? Is it what W.C. Fields said when caught reading the Bible – "I'm looking for loopholes!").
Almost every human culture has some element of "judgment" in it, whether in the next life, or in a returning life as with reincarnation. The idea that the things you do just now have a lasting impact whose consequences are still, in some meaningful sense, yours. In environmental terms, the phrase is "we all live downstream." In a cosmic or spiritual sense, we can't just walk away from our actions.
When people start cracking on Christianity, of whatever denomination, for having "created" guilt, my inner anthropologist says "uh, no." The human condition in folktale, mythology, and legend always tells us that the ratty slippers we throw over the mudbrick wall will come back, that the old man at the crossroads we were so rude to will turn out to be a king, or that a weeping swan can become a glorious princess.
The particular Christian spin on this is called "the Last Trump," the "End of Days," or "Judgment Day." We say, with varying emphases, that our ultimate destiny has something to do with a final appearance before God's presence, "the Great White Throne" next to the crystal sea as Revelation has it.
Jack Chick says it's a movie, but he was a big fan of "This Is Your Life."
Unless you're of the "we're just a meat sack of chemical interactions" persuasion, it's hard to avoid some kind of mental picture like that, whether you're a Bible reader (or Jack Chick tract reader) or not. And the truth is, if I'm judged by any sort of reasonable standard, after one viewing, my story is fit only for the trash, kind of like after watching a DVD of "Ishtar."

And what I've done is
Trust in Jesus
My great Deliverer
My strong Defender
The Son of God
This is why we keep talking about this Jesus fellow. His story, in brief, is to come and stay long enough to make it clear a) he's speaking directly for the Eternal One, b) he will prove it by rising from a shameful, unambiguous death to equally startling, certain new life, and c) he promises to speak for us when we have nothing to say for ourselves.
Thank you, Mac, for reminding me how simple that story is.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your tale at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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