Light shoots out of the darkest places.
by Rev. Mike Baughman
Epistle Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
For Sunday, February, 19th: Year B—Transfiguration Sunday
It’s pretty popular to beat up on the church.
The most recent YouTube anti-church meme is this guy doing spoken word, “why I hate religion, but love Jesus.” He quotes scripture to beat up on church (apparently missing the fact that he wouldn’t even have that scripture if it weren’t for religion).
That and several other logical gaps in his argument aside, I think the church needs to listen to what’s going on with all these spiritual but not religious folks. He might be right about some things and it might have a lot to do with 2 Corinthians.
I can be Kinda Braggy
It’s really easy for me to start boasting about me. In some ways, my livelihood depends on it because right now. I’m a free-lance consultant (translation: unemployed) who recently has been laid off by a church. So now I find myself boasting about me all the time as I try to land gigs, speaking events, writing assignments and whatever else I can find.
When I am at my least secure, I tend to be the most braggy. I wonder if the church is like that—in a time when the church is declining, when we’re less financially secure (or at least perceive ourselves to be), it may be far too easy to boast about ourselves and forget our duty to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.
Jesus > Church
But how do we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord when we’re in decline? If Jesus is Lord and we are in decline then…yikes. That’s not a message that, I’m guessing, many pastors want to preach. What if the critics are right? What if, in subtle and slow ways, we have failed to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord because some unconscious place in our brain doesn’t want to realize or accept that our decline might be a part of the Lordship of Christ?
In the Wesleyan Tradition we have this covenant prayer that my wife and pray regularly. It goes like this and it may be the kind of prayer that churches need to pray together:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, o glorious and gracious God, I am thine and thou art mine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Light out of Darkness
I remember, years ago, hearing a speaker at an event that I no longer remember. I wrote down the core of her sermon: “God made me a bitch. I will always be a bitch, but I’m a bitch for Jesus. Somehow, my Lord has found a way to use my bitchiness for the good of the kingdom and that shows how amazing God is.”
Sounds like light shining out of darkness to me.
What if we owned our decline and were still thrilled to serve the master? What if we accepted that sometimes the vintner prunes, sometimes the crops shift to a different field and sometimes the ground is left fallow for a time?
“The King’s Donkey”
Recently, my daughter’s cardiologist, Dr Benjamin Siu, died. The man was a part of a team of health care professionals at Cook Children’s Hospital who convinced me that miracles can happen and showed it to me when they healed my daughter.
He was more than a physician, though; he was a pastor to my family. He showed up at my daughter’s baptism. Whenever receiving praise, he always said, ‘it is not me, it is the Lord.’ He signed all of his e-mails, “the King’s donkey.” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, they weren’t cheering for the ass (though donkey sure might think so).
The Hardest Question
So what about us preachers—don’t we just carry Jesus into a situation? What if more of us were happy to be the King’s ass?
What if we owned our darkness so that God’s light would shine all the brighter?
The Rev. Mike Baughman is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the co-author of one book and has contributed to a long list of books, curricula, resources and research. He also trains and consults with churches non-profits and small businesses on social media and how it can be used to help their work and ministry. He lives in Dallas,Texas with his wife (also a pastor) and four kids. You can learn more about him at www.mikebaughman.com , follow him on twitter @ireverant and read his blog, ireverant.wordpress.com