When I write I don’t use what you might call ‘churchese’. All those words like atonement, salvation, redemption, repentance. There is nothing wrong with those words, its just that they have lost their meaning. They have been so overused, we have turned a deaf ear to what they are pointing to. And if they are not pointing to living our lives in Christ, pointing to Jesus and his life, then they don’t mean anything to me any longer.
Even that word ‘sinner’ seems to be much to much in the vocabulary of preachers that, I don’t know about you, but it blocks out anything else anyone has to say. That’s not who I am. That is not to say that I haven’t made missteps in my life, I have and I am sure I will again. But I don’t focus on not being a sinner or even telling my ‘sins’ to anyone. That is between me and my Creator, the Creator who made me good. Like the psalm says ‘I am wonderful’. I trust you say that about yourself today.
But when we are seen as sinners, we aren’t seen at all. Perhaps that is why the churches are hemorrhaging people today. As a culture we have become more healthy. Psychologically, spiritually, socially and environmentally. My sense of it is the churches have not kept up in this regard. That’s why I always return to the scriptures to find my way through these things. To see what it was/is that being a believer, how to live a healthy faith-life is really about.
I find that Jesus did not see people as sinners. He never called anyone a ‘sinner’. (His saying your sins are forgiven is not the same thing.) He saw them as human persons. People needing his teaching, his help, his healing, his hand to stand, a heart to love them. He gave everyone a sense of their own worth; a worth that the world often denied them. And those were the people who followed him. It wasn’t the priests or the Jewish leaders or the Roman authorities who followed him. They were secure in their worth (i.e. their power, status and standing). Those who were devalued, he valued. Those who were down trodden, he lifted up with hope and with real substance, the real substance of his very self. That’s what feeding the multitude means. We have a multitude within us. Conflicting needs, pulled in different directions, many voices calling out to us, asking for our time, our resources, our attention to others needs and problems. Balancing work, home, family, schools, churches. The list goes on and on.
Jesus walked right out into the midst of all this. Through the crowded market places, into the synagogues brimming with those who wanted to hear what he had to saw, hoping he would touch them both with his words and hands, so his words and his hands would heal them, transform them, renew their lives, their well being, their health, their worth. And I believe that if we touch the Word that it still has that power to change our lives, bring us to health and spiritual maturity. For his Spirit, through the living Word, bears Christ to us yet. We can still follow him through the corn field, down to the turbulent sea shore, across still waters or up the steep hill side and even across the rocky landscapes of our lives and he will see us and touch us and let us know in one way or another that he is there.
And then we too can go off to that lonely place to pray.