CHRISTS EMPTY TOMB

THE EMPTY TOMB OF CHRIST

 

PLUG AND PLAY CHURCH

To look at something as if we have never seen it before requires great courage. – Matisse

Standing in the empty tomb in which Christ was buried and from which Christ arose put everything else about my faith in perspective.  It was no longer about “church” or growth or funds or programing or attracting people or even caring what people might think.  Suddenly it was about what was it was meant to be… about Jesus and life and meaning and caring about others and resurrection and a changed life a new life unhindered by the past and being freed to live for God in the present.

Just prior to His death and resurrection Jesus did something unusual even for Jesus:    He took His followers on a 26 mile detour into the Golan Heights to make one statement, Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  This city, which sits at the foot of Mount Hermon, butts up against a large cliff, referred to as the ‘Rock of the Gods.’ Shrines to many gods were carved out there.  In the center of the Rock of the Gods is a huge cave, from which a stream flows This cave was called the “Gates of Hades”, because it was believed that Baal (a god of the underworld) would enter and leave the underworld through places where water came out of it doing irreparable harm.

In spite of all the denominational preferences for interpreting “this rock” to mean Peter or his confession of Christ as Messiah, the most obvious interpretation was a direct reference to the Rock of the Gods and what it stood for…. Namely the most degenerate places and morally repugnant on the planet.  Why else would He walk them to the most sin filled place around within walking distance?

Gates of HadesIn that era, it would have been the equivalent of New Orleans during Mardi Gras in its most debauched places or Las Vegas in the not so glitzy parts of Sin City—but Ceasara Phillipi was much much worse.  As one writer points out: In the open-air Pan Shrine, next to the cave mouth, there was a large niche, in which a statue of Pan (a half-goat, half-human creature) stood, with a large erect phallus, worshipped for its fertility properties. Surrounding him in the wall were many smaller niches, in which were statues of his attending nymphs. On the shrine in front of these niches, worshippers of Pan would congregate and partake in bizarre sexual rites, including copulation with goats – worshipped for their relationship to Pan.

Jesus said it is right at the worst places on this planet that He would be about building His community of followers to offer hope and life in his name.  Somehow I do not think plug and play church of today was what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” 

Where are the gates of Hades or hell today?

Where ever sin runs rampant… children are neglected or abused … wherever immoral sexual activity outside or inside of marriage is seen as ok…normal…. greed is applauded and security is found in money rather than God… disease runs unchecked because money is valued over the lives and welfare of others…. sin gets excused, grumbling and judging others carry the day….It’s wherever emotionally destructive relationships are tolerated and empowered instead of leaders of the faith intervening and making a difference… sex trading of children… impoverished people suffering when money abounds in governments…. Where churches  are caught up in themselves and fortress mentalities going out on projects to reach people rather than being the church and living among the lost and hurting people.

What is Jesus saying?  It is in these places…. At the very core of depravity, hopelessness, and injustice that I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail…overpower…stand up against it…  In a world that is dying I will bring new life and real hope… by connecting them to God….  How different is that from the plug and play churches of today?

Standing in the empty tomb in which Christ was buried and from which Christ arose put everything else about my faith in perspective.  It was no longer about “church” or growth or funds or programming or attracting people or even caring what people might think.  Suddenly it was about what was it was meant to be… about Jesus and life and meaning and caring about others and resurrection and a changed life a new life unhindered by the past and being freed to live for God in the present. It was never about bells and whistles to attract people, or the now in modern garb of Christian systems, but about just praying, going and being in order to reach the broken and the hurting people.

May this season of Easter and celebration be a realization of what Jesus wants His church TO BE rather than what we have become. No more plug and play…

Comments are closed.