Poetic Imagination Week 4: Concrete Jesus

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Our world: It seems as though it has drastically changed in the past 30 years. How does the church respond? In times of calamity and turmoil, the prophets arose. Where is that prophetic voice today, and what would it look like? The answer may surprise you.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody, and also good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re finishing up our series this weekend called “Poetic Imagination,” and I try, at the very least, to make sure that I at least do a little bit of summary in case you’re a first-time visitor or maybe you’ve missed a couple of weeks. And anybody who’s a regular attender knows that I do this. I try to sort of just real quickly summarize what we’ve been doing.

We’ve been talking about the prophets, and we’ve been talking about prophetic literature — this literature that they’ve written. And, oftentimes, it’s sort of different to read and sort of different to understand. And we’ve all seen it sort of abused. We’ve met that one person that wants to tell us all how things sort of end and all that stuff. The book of Revelation, Daniel and all of that. And so, it makes it difficult sometimes for you and me to know, “How do we read this? How does this apply to me? How does this work in my life?”

And so, what we’ve been doing is working under a big idea. And the big idea over the last three weeks has been this: When we settle for “less than,” we get “less than.” What I’ve been trying to say when I say that is that if we just pick and choose the things that we like out of Scripture, or we pick and choose the books that we want to read, or pick and choose the passages, we’re going to miss a lot of what God has for you and me.

So, when we go to the prophets, one of the things we realize is that there’s a lot of material in Scripture, as we go through Scripture, where they prophets have written. And so, the first week of this series, what I tried to do to the best of my ability was to explain who the prophets were and why God sent them in the ways He sent them. The second week, I talked about some ideas on how to read the prophets. And last week I talked about one of the really large ideas that the prophets talk to us about, and that is that when God speaks, what He says will happen.

But this weekend I want to talk about something a little bit different. As you all know, this weekend is Palm Sunday. And Palm Sunday is an interesting week in the life of Jesus. And when I say, you may say, “Well, what’s so interesting about it?”

Well, it’s really interesting because at the beginning of the week, when Jesus comes into Jerusalem, everybody’s excited to see Him. It’s like, “It’s Jesus. He’s come into town. This is absolutely incredible.”

And they’ve got their palm fronds and they’re throwing it in front of Jesus as He’s riding on the mule into Jerusalem, and they’re singing, “Hosanna in the highest!” I mean, it is a really great moment at the beginning of the week. But, as the week goes on, what happens is is that all of the excitement and the jubilation of who Jesus is and what He might mean for Israel, everything changes by the end of the week. And by the end of the week, they’re exchanging Barabbas, a criminal, for Jesus, and wanting Jesus to be killed.

What happened? How did we go from there to here? How did that happen? Well, what I’d like to do is, before I answer that question, I’d like to talk to you about something that we don’t normally talk about in a church, but I think that when I explain what I’m explaining and we come back to this idea of Palm Sunday and we come back to this idea of what was going on between Jesus’ entry and to His crucifixion, I think it will make more sense.

When we look at history, history has one huge quarrel that is pervasive throughout the history of humanity. And that quarrel is the quarrel between poetry and philosophy. And why this quarrel is so important is because each one of these is trying to explain, “How do we understand truth? How do we understand life? How do we understand the things that are going on in our midst? How do we understand what could possibly be out there into eternity?”

And the poets had a very clear way in which they explained that. The poets said, “Listen, you can know some truth. You can know the things that are good and the things that are bad, even though sometimes things that you think are good are not going to be good, and sometimes you think things that are bad are not necessarily bad. But, as a general rule, we can understand the vices and the virtues. We can understand some ideas of what good and bad are. But, in terms of really understanding the fullness of life, of really understanding eternity, of understanding what might be out there, and especially in regard to a God, that’s just so far beyond us. And the only way to talk about that beautiful world is through poetry. We can’t express it in concrete terms. We can only express it through the ideas of the beautiful. We can only express it through concepts that lead us to understand, that really tap into our imagination.”

And so, the poets said, “Yeah, we can know truth, but we can’t fully apprehend it. We can’t manage it in every way. What we can know is we can know some things, but we can’t know all of it because, if there really is something out there in eternity, if there really is something out there that’s beautiful, there’s no way that we, as finite humans, could understand that.”

Well, the philosophers have nothing to do with that. They say, “Absolutely not. We’re not going to buy into that. We know that there’s truth and we’re going to figure out what truth is through empirical verification. If I can’t touch it, if I can’t feel it, if I can’t manage it, if I can’t understand it, then it’s not truth. It’s just some sort of belief. It might be a fairy tale, but it’s not true. If. Can’t put truth in a concrete construct, then it can’t be truth.”

And this quarrel has been going on since the dawn of humanity. It is a quarrel that we see in all kinds of literature. The quarrel between poetry and philosophy. And for many, many, many years, poetry was sort of the way everybody spoke. In fact, most of the Bible is very poetic. The prophets are incredibly poetic. As they try to tell us about that world and what’s to come and how grand God is, they use poetry. Philosophy is different. Philosophy is just, “I want to know what’s going on.”

Well, when you study literature and you understand what we call “the great conversation,” which is this conversation that starts around Hesiod and goes into Plato and goes all the way down to Nietzsche and into today, we understand there’s a pivotal moment in the history of the great conversation. And it’s a moment that most people don’t know about, and it’s a moment that wasn’t seismic when it happened, but when it was written and what happened after it was written changed forever the trajectory of our world. Because, for many, many, many thousands of years, poetry flourished. And people realized the beauty of poetry.

But what happened in the 15th century, and nobody realized it when it was penned, but as literature developed, we realized that this was a really important moment in the history of humanity. There was a gentleman. His name was Niccolo Machiavelli. And he wrote a book called The Prince. At the time, it would’ve been an understood book, but it would not have been as pervasive as it became throughout the literary canon, and what it did in the future of humanity is it moved poetry almost out of place and replaced everything with philosophy. Everything had to be empirically verified. Everything had to make sense. Everything, we had to understand.

So, what happens was is rather than reading the Bible through the lens of poetry and believing that God could do all the things that God said that He’s done and we read it as if this was really who God was because He’s beautiful and He’s awesome, what happened was is when we took that philosophical turn which lead to the enlightenment and rationalism and into the way that we see the world today, now all of a sudden we had to read everything through a certain lens. Everything had to make sense. Everything couldn’t contradict.

And what happened was is the Bible got tore up in that whole process, and we’re still sort of dealing with those things today. But I want you to listen to Machiavelli, because it is such a seductive voice. And it’s ultimately what happened between the beginning of what we call the Holy Week and Palm Sunday, and all the way down through the fact of when Jesus was crucified. Listen to what Niccolo Machiavelli says:

“Now, there remains to be examined what should be the methods and procedures of a prince in dealing with his subjects and friends.”

He’s writing a book called The Prince. He’s calling out to princes in the future. He’s saying, “This is the way you ought to live. This is the way you ought to be.”

He says, “And because I know that many have written about this, I’m afraid that by writing about it again, I shall be thought of as presumptuous since, in discussing this material, I depart radically from the procedures of others.”

He’s saying, “Hey, what’s come before me, I’m getting ready to depart radically from this.”

He says, “But since my intention is to write something useful,” — listen to that.

“I want to write something useful. Stuff that’s been written before, it’s out there. It’s the beautiful, but it’s not useful. We want something that’s useful.”

He says, “For anyone who understands it. It seemed more suitable to me to search after the effectual truth of the matter rather than an imagined one. And many writers have imagined for themselves republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist in reality.”

And then he goes on to say, “When you understand this truth, when you understand that philosophy is the way to live life, you understand that you no longer need to live the way you ought to live, as if there’s something out there, as if there’s an eternity out there. What you need to learn to do is to learn not to be good anymore, but to learn to be bad. Because, if you want to control, being good is not the way to do it. Don’t turn the other cheek. Don’t look for the eternal home. Don’t look for the eternal city. Don’t look for those imagined things. Look for right now, here and now, what you can see, what you can feel and what you can get.”

And that, my friends, changed the course of literary history, even though when it was written, no one saw what was going to eventually take root into the Western tradition. And we find ourselves there now. We find ourselves in a massive dual in our world between the poetry of Christianity and the philosophy of the age. And what happened on this week that we call Palm Sunday because it starts the week of the Holy Week? What happened between that triumphal entry and them wanting Jesus crucified?

Well, what happened was the religious leaders of the day had a concrete understanding of how God should be. They had a concrete understanding of who Yahweh was. And anything that didn’t fit that concrete understanding didn’t fit their story. And Jesus, unfortunately, did not fit their story.

What was their story? Well, their story was simple. Their story was, “Hey, all the way back in the book of Genesis in Genesis 12, there was a guy called Abraham. He was called to follow Yahweh. And Abraham was called to birth a mighty nation; the Nation of Israel. And all of Yahweh’s works and all that Yahweh was doing was about this nation, Israel.”

And Israel had failed. Israel had sinned. Israel had gone into captivity. But God loved and chose Israel, and because He had loved and chosen Israel, one day He was going to act. And when He acted, what would happen is that He would raise up a military leader, He would raise up another Moses that would confront the Pharaoh of their day, whoever that may be, whoever the oppressor was. And in Jesus’ day, it was Rome. And this person would lead Israel in a charge against all the political world and ideologies, and God would intervene, and He would allow Israel to cease being oppressed, and they would then become the nation that was above all the other nations. And when that happened, and only when that happened, then Israel would allow the rest of the world to understand who Yahweh was and they could then introduce the Law to the Gentiles.

And they found this understanding in the prophets. But what they did is they took the poetry of the prophets and they made it concrete. They took the gestures of the poetic and they formed it into their own system of thought as to the way God was working. And to give you an example of what one of those Scriptures might look like in the way that they saw it is in Isaiah 2.

Isaiah says, “It will come to pass in the latter days...” — and, once again, as we’ve talked about this, the latter days are not like the end of time or the end of space. The latter days were the days where God acted in history. In other words, when God came into history, when He moved into history to liberate Israel, that was their latter days.

He says, “It will come to pass in the later days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains.”

And this is poetry. It’s saying that this mountain, if you’ve ever been to Israel — and some of you have been with me and you’ve travelled there. You understand that the last thing Jerusalem is is a mountain. It’s a hill. But they used that figure of speech to say the mountains were kingdoms in the Old Testament. That the kingdom of God that’s found in Jerusalem is going to be raised above all the other mountains, because this is going to happen. God’s going to act, and this is what He’s going to do.

“It will be lifted up above all the hills, and all the nations will flow to it.”

Everybody will come when God acts in history.

“Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. That He may teach us his ways, and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion,” — Zion was the way that they referred to Jerusalem — “will go for the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and he shall decide disputes for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

And so, they envisioned that day. That day was going to come when Israel would be the nation, the mountain, the kingdom above every other one. And then, and only then, would the Law go forth out of Zion and out of Jerusalem into the Gentile world. And when that happened, all of a sudden, all of the wars and all of the struggles would become peace because Yahweh would be King.

And that concrete understanding is what eventually cost Jesus His life. See, you and me usually, when we talk about Jesus’ death and we talk about His resurrection, we talk about it in theological terms. And we’re not wrong when we say the reason Jesus came, the reason He died, and the reason He rose again from the dead was because He wanted to forgive me. He wanted to bring me back to the Father. He wanted to deal with sin once and for all. That’s true. There’s nothing untrue about that. But that’s not the reason why Jesus died from an earthly standpoint.

He died because He didn’t fit the story of what Israel thought the story was. Jesus didn’t fit the concrete understanding of the way Israel thought. And let me explain how He sort of busted through that concrete.

First of all, He reconstitutes Israel around Himself. One of the first things He does, and we see it early on in His ministry, and the Gospel writers want to make sure that we don’t misinterpret this, is that Jesus reconstitutes Israel around Himself. He’s not looking at Israel as the nation, He’s saying, “I am Israel. If you’re in me, you are the elect people of God. If you are in me, you are the chosen people of God.”

And we see this in Matthew predominantly. We see that first of all, when Jesus goes to Egypt, rather than in the Old Testament where God’s son has been called out of Egypt, and that’s Israel, all of a sudden Matthew sees Jesus as Israel because out of Egypt God has called His Son. He is reconstituting Israel around Himself. Not only that, Israel had 12 tribes. So, what does Jesus do? He picks 12 disciples. And we see this in Matthew 10:1 and following. He all of a sudden constitutes around Himself because He is now Israel. He picks 12 disciples to reconstitute those 12 tribes.

Not only that, but He goes through the waters of the Jordan, just like Israel went through the waters of the Red Sea. He goes through the wilderness, where He’s tempted of the devil, and then He goes up on the mountain and gives the law.

All of this is Matthew’s way of telling you and me that Jesus has become, and reconstituted around Himself, all that Israel is. And you can imagine that story didn’t go over very well. Jesus wasn’t saying the concrete story that the Jewish people had. He was redefining it. He was reimagining it. He was giving it a poetic spin. Not only did He reconstitute Israel around Himself, but He reimagined Himself as the temple. And this is radical because, to the Jewish people, the temple was where God lived. God lived in the temple. And because God lived in the temple, what you could get in the temple was forgiveness. You could take your offering to the temple. Only to the temple. You couldn’t do somewhere else. You couldn’t go see somebody else. You had to bring your sacrifice to the temple, and it had to be consumed because God’s presence was in the temple.

Not only that, in the temple is where the law should’ve been and would’ve been taught. Jesus totally reimagines Himself as embodying the temple. That’s why, when He goes around Galilee and He starts forgiving people, the concrete religious people who have their story of how this thing should go, said, “You cannot forgive people. Only God can forgive people. And we know where God is. He’s in the temple. You’re not God. God lives in the temple. And you walk around telling everybody it was said this, but now it’s said this? Something’s wrong here, because that’s where God lives is in the temple, and you’re walking around as if you’re this portable temple.”

And see, you see this whole pregnant thought explodes in the New Testament, because Paul starts talking to the Corinthians. He says, “Don’t you know that you’re the temple of God? Don’t you know that your body is the place that God resides?”

Peter talks about it in chapter 2. He says, “We’re all being built. We’re this chosen generation. We’re living stones.”

Paul talks about it in Ephesians 4. He says, “We’re being built into this really heavenly building, and all things are coming together.”

And we see it also in Pauline thought where he talks about the fact that we’re these stones where Jesus is the chief cornerstone and built upon the apostles and the prophets, God is building His temple. His temple is people. He’s redefined that. And, for them, that can’t work because where God lives is in the temple. Not only that, but Jesus contradicts their ideas of judgment. Everybody in the Jewish world that had these concrete ideas understood that when God came He was going to judge the oppressors and set Israel up as the mountain above all mountains; as the nation above all nations.

And Jesus comes into Jerusalem and He says, “Hey, you guys are looking at the temple here, right?”

They’re like, “Yeah. This place is beautiful.”

And you can read this in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13. They say, “This place is awesome.”

He says, “Well, guys, let me tell you something. There’s not one stone here in this whole place that’s not going to be torn down.”

Well, that doesn’t make any sense to the concrete religious ideas of Yahweh. It doesn’t make sense to the story of Israel. So, they can’t fully understand what He’s saying. So, they say, “Jesus, when is this going to happen? What are the signs when this will take place because this is crazy talk?”

And Jesus goes on to tell them that it’s going to happen in their generation. And He says this to them: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies — guys, this is going to happen. The story, the concrete story, is not the real story. There’s a greater story. There’s a grander story that we’ve pulled down below the line. We’ve done the Machiavellian thing and brought it here to where it can be controlled and understood and managed. There’s a greater story, guys, going on. Jerusalem’s going to be surrounded by armies, and then you’re going to know that its, the temple’s, desolation has come near. Jerusalem, guys, is going to be destroyed. I know your story says that the Romans or whoever the oppressors are, they’re the ones that are going to be destroyed, but, in fact, it’s Jerusalem and the temple that are going to be destroyed. And guys, let those who are in Judea flea to the mountains. When you see this, when the armies have surrounded Jerusalem, flee to the mountains. And let those that are inside the city depart. Guys, when you see this going on, get out of town. And let not those who are out in the country even come in. Because, folks, these are the days of vengeance to fulfill all that is written.”

Can you even imagine what this statement was like to a concrete religious Jewish person’s ideology? That the days of vengeance that are all talked about in the prophets, that all the fulfillments of the judgments of God are going to come on the temple and Jerusalem? It didn’t fit the story. And not only that, but He didn’t fit their understanding of the Messiah. Messiahs don’t die on crosses. Messiahs lead people into victory. They lead the children of Israel against the oppressors. They don’t turn the other cheek. They don’t walk the second mile. They don’t love enemies. They bring victory to Israel so that the ideas, the concrete ideas of what God will do, the ones that can be totally examined, totally understood by philosophy, totally understood by empirical verification, that can be shown, line by line, and everything can be checked off, you don’t fit that.

And because you don’t fit that, you have to go. See, the Palm Sunday week only makes sense when we understand that the religious people had a story that Jesus didn’t fit. And what that does for you and me is it really begs the question, “Is it possible,” — and no guilt here. Nobody’s trying to make anybody feel bad, but it’s a real diagnostic question.

Is it possible that we might have stories that don’t represent Jesus? So, with all that said, let’s do a couple of take-homes. If you’ve got a sheet of paper or if you’ve got an iPad or you’ve got a phone or a notepad or whatever, write these down. I think these are important. Okay? So, the first one is this one. The first one is — I forgot this was a video. Come on, now. Turn to your neighbor and go, “He’s right. I forgot this was a video.”

This is pretty good. You did. You forgot this was a video. And, secondly, here’s the big take-home: My pastor is cool because he can be on a cruise and still preach good. How about that, huh? So that you all know, I’m actually on a cruise right now, probably having a virgin pina colada, and yet I’m still preaching the Word of God and I’m preaching better than you all are letting on right now. Can I get an amen on that one?

So, anyway, total joke. Let’s talk about the take-homes here that we can really take home and write down and it make a difference in our lives. The first one is this one: The misunderstanding of the prophets and Jesus by Israel should sober all of us. There should really be a moment where we go, “You know, maybe I ought to think about this. Maybe there are things in my life that I have made concrete that might not be as concrete as I think they are. Maybe, just maybe, there are some areas in my life that I do need to go back and really address. Maybe I do sometimes want to take the poetry of Scripture and the massiveness of God and the largeness of God and the grandeur of God and I want to pull it down to my level so that I can understand it.”

Because, listen, this is a sobering verse for all of us, and it’s out of the Gospel of John here in John 1:11:

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

I don’t know about you — and maybe you’re not like me, but I suppose we’re probably a lot more alike than we would know. When I see that, I’m blown away that those that have taken their life to study Scripture and know it inside and out, that when the very Word of God that all of that spoke to walked in front of them, they missed it. They completely missed it. That their understandings of who God was led them to miss the very God that walked in front of them.

And I don’t know about you, but I can tell you this as your pastor: That’s a sobering moment for me. It’s a sobering moment to realize that in my life there are times that I’m throwing the palm fronds in front of Jesus and telling Him how awesome He is and how much I love Him, to where I can turn on a dime and not want Him in my life at all because He can be disturbing and He can be revolutionary and He can call me to places that are scary for me. And I see that. I see that I have to stop for a moment, especially around this time every year, especially on the weekend of Palm Sunday, and go, “Is it possible that I could turn on that dime because He doesn’t fit my story?”

Isn’t it more important for me to understand His story than my story or what I want? And I think it’s a sobering thing. The second point that I would say here to take home is this: We should take inventory on ways we might be creating a concrete Jesus in our own lives. And this is important because once we sober up a little bit and say, “You know, it’s possible. It is possible that I could have some ideas about Jesus that aren’t really who He is,” and then let me give you some examples. And this is not to get on anybody. This is just food for thought. We like to have take-homes around here that we can really walk out of here and chew on and talk to our spouses in the car and talk about in small groups.

Let me try to give you some examples here of how this works. Maybe some ideas of the concrete Jesus that we’ve formed in stone, and this is who He is to give us some ideas of how sometimes we have Him in those views and we want to sort of fit everything else into it.

How about the superhero? A lot of people see Jesus as the superhero. He sort of flies in from heaven and He does some healing in a church service or He runs in and does some liberation, and then He flies back to heaven. I mean, He’s this superhero that sort of runs in and runs out. And then, maybe one day as He’s whisking back to heaven, He’ll pull some of us up with Him, and off we go and all that great stuff. We have this idea of the superhero. And there’s truth to the fact that Jesus is a God that can heal and is a God that can do miracles, but when He only becomes the superhero, we’re missing the story. We’ve made a concrete Jesus that doesn’t really look like the Jesus of Scripture.

How about this one? How about the political revolutionary? A lot of people see Jesus as this guy that — and you see it in a lot of the works that are coming out today in the popular Christian world that’s not evangelical, that there’s this voice that says, “You know, Scripture is sort of a living book and it’s culturally constrained, and we sort of have to get out of that cultural. Because, you know, you see how in the Old Testament they were constantly bucking the political structures and the governments and the laws? So, what we need to do is rather than looking at the Bible as the Word of God and some of the things that it says about the way we should live our lives and the way that we should treat marriage or the way that we should treat life, what we need to do is we need to realize that Jesus was a political revolutionary. What He was doing is He’s teaching you and me that we ought to constantly be reevaluating everything through a lens of a book that is constantly evolving rather than being the Word of God.”

Or what about other people who see Jesus as a political ideologue that fit their political views? That Jesus is this way or Jesus is that way? That Jesus is left-wing or right-wing and everybody’s got their little boxes that they check? And when, and if, you ever challenge these ideas of the concrete Jesus, be ready for a fight and be ready for them to say to you, “You are not a Christian unless you see it the way I do.”

Or how about Jesus as the self-help guru? He’s here just for you. “He loves me like a hurricane because it’s all about me, isn’t it? Isn’t it all about His love towards me? Isn’t it all about what He does for me? Isn’t it all about my life? Isn’t it all about God making the best life for me? Isn’t it about God making my life a 10 so that I can enjoy everything?”

And you’ll see this all the time. People have this idea of Jesus as the self-help guru. So, what happens is these particular views, what they do is they become concrete Jesus, and the concrete Jesus keeps us from seeing the real Jesus because the real Jesus can’t be formed in concrete. We can’t put Him in concrete. He’s larger than that. He’s grander than that. He’s greater than that. He’s the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He’s all of those things that the Scripture says that He is, and He’s even more. He’s more than we could ever imagine. He is so far beyond whatever we could ask or think, and it’s so important to see that. Because when we get into the trenches and when we make Jesus concrete, what we do is we have to fight for it. We have to argue for it.

And isn’t that really, in an analogous way, when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, and all of the people come to arrest Him, and they’ve gathered there, and Simon Peter knows he’s got his concrete Jesus, Jesus is going to liberate Israel, and he’s been rebuked so many times by Jesus  when Jesus says, “Guy, I’m going to go die,” and Peter says, “No, you’re not. You’re going to be the liberator,” and James and John say, “We’re going to sit on Your right hand and Your left hand because You’re going to do this,” and he has that concrete Jesus? What does he do? Well, he wields a sword. He grabs the sword. And what does he do? He takes the ear off of Malchus.

See, when Jesus is concrete, what it does is it takes the ear off of other people where they can no longer hear who Jesus is. And what Jesus has to do is He has to put that ear back on so that He can understand who Jesus really is. Don’t allow Jesus to become so concrete that we miss the grandness of who our Savior is.

And the last point that I want to make is that maybe through reading the prophets again and again we can reimagine what it really means to be the people of God. Maybe we could have a complete reimagination of what that would look like in our day and age. What would it look like to be the people that really turn the other cheek? What would it look like to be the people that really loved the unlovable? What would it look like to be the people that forgave debts and didn’t ask for anything in return? What would it be like to be the people that really gave our shirt off of our back to someone in need? What would it look like if we reimagined what it would look like to be the people of God?

Rather than fighting for the concrete Jesus, what would it look like if we reimagined? Well, Jesus helps us out. Because I told you the Isaiah story earlier on in this message. I told you about Isaiah 2. And in the days of the latter days when God establishes His house and it’s above all the mountains and the law’s going to go out into the world and everything, Jesus knows those passages. He knows Isaiah’s poetry. So, in Matthew 28, Matthew tells us that He took them up on a mountain. He knew what He was doing. He knew why He was doing that.

He took them up on a mountain and He looked at them and He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth. And because of that, I want you to go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Go. Go from this mountain and go out into the world and fulfill the poetry of Isaiah. I’ve accomplished what the Father wanted. What I want you to do is to go into the world and be my people that teach people to not have war anymore, to beat those weapons of war into weapons of peace. And you don’t do it by being violent. And you don’t do it by arguing about a concrete Jesus. You do it by observing the things and teaching them to observe the things that I’ve commanded you to do. To love one another. To reach out. To touch the leper. To go and talk to the prostitute. To love the unlovable. In doing that, what you will do is you will reimagine what it looks like to be the people of God.”

And Grace, we have an opportunity in our midst right now, through the poetic imagination of the prophets, to reimagine what it looks like to be the people of God in 2018. We truly can be that church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so very much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You so very much for the fact that You write to us in ways that tap way deep into our soul. You tap way deep into our imagination. I’m asking in Jesus’ name, for Your glory and for Your honor, that here at Grace You would tap into our imagination through the prophet’s poetry. And Lord, help us to reimagine in today’s world what it would look like to truly be Your people for Your glory and for Your honor.

So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here, that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us, and that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, help us to continually focus on being that church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. See you soon. God bless everybody.

John Flowerree