Jesus? Yes! The Church? No! Acts 10:34-43; Matt.
There you were stopped last night at a Manhattan red light on the way back from a show. Peering through the cab’s window you were taking in the architecture. Look! There’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral! one of you exclaimed. Isn’t it majestic? But wait, what’s going on down front? I don’t know. You heard an angry chant and saw signs wa-ving as the faithful climbed the steps for the Holy Saturday Vigil. Can you read a sign? I can just make one out: Jesus? Yes! The Church No! Whoa! NS What do you think they’re mad about: clergy scandals? DaVinci Code stuff? I don’t know but that’s what I don’t like about organized religion. Yeah, I mean Jesus’ words like forgive your debtors, and his actions to heal, and even the power of his resurrection is wonderful. It’s the church that screws it up with the Crusades, the 100 Year War, or the 10-year war be-tween my Protestant mother and her Catholic son-in-law. Do you believe that last Easter dinner my mother actually asked Andy: So, do crucifix- wearing Catholics believe in the resurrection? Jesus could have appeared and we wouldn’t have noticed for the argument.
Is your story at all like that? All here fall somewhere on the organized religion continuum from Hi Respect to Low Respect for the church. Where are you? NS Reminds me of Will Roger’s line: I don’t believe in organized religion—I’m a Presbyterian.
Organized religion was up to its dirty tricks as soon as the tomb was empty per Matthew’s record… (28:11-14) Jesus? Yes! The Church? No! Say it with me…
So how can you plug into the power of Jesus’ resurrection without organized religion?
Jesus inspires Adam. Adam reads the story or sees the vignette of Jesus healing the paralytic and Adam is moved by Jesus’ power. Verses like Acts 10:38 resonate with Adam… But, like many of us, Adam is stuck in a less than optimum place in attitude, action and ailment. He longs for Jesus’ resurrecting power this Easter season. So Adam decides to spend daily time in prayer and Gospel reading to get more of Jesus.
How does it go? Good! For a bit. But praying and Bible reading without anyone to hold him accountable, well, Adam can’t keep up. Or if Adam is really disciplined he continues but eventually he becomes cynical because none of his friends forgive him when he hurts them, so why should he follow Jesus and forgive them? Or if Adam persists alone through cynicism then he stumbles on life change. Without any per-sonal support how can Adam become patient with his lover. He asks Jesus for patience, but he loses his temper when she nags! Alone, Adam can’t plug into Jesus’ power.
We have a culture full of Adams who say yes to Jesus, but no to the church. They’re like Ben Franklin who discovers the power of electricity, but has yet to discover how to harness that power to run vacuum cleaners, turn on lights, and move fans.
How can Adam and you channel Jesus’ power of the resurrection? Since Franklin we have learned that there are good conductors of electricity and not so good conductors. Wherever there is electricity around us there is a good conductor. In the same way, in the spiritual realm there are good conductors and poor conductors. What’s a good conductor?
Immediately following Acts 10:38 on Jesus’ power comes our hint to good conductivity. Peter speaks: Though it’s sometimes acted more like this, Jesus designed his body, the church to be this kind of good conductor of his power. In other words, you and Jesus alone are a poor conductor, you need a resurrected community!
For instance, a Sunday School teacher was teaching her 1st graders the Ten Commandments. After explaining Honor your father and your mother the teacher asked:
Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters? Oh yes! replied one little boy without missing a beat, Thou shall not kill. We learn from others.
Seriously, I want to invite you to plug into healthy organized religion to connect with the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Our church has published a book on the spiritual journeys of our people. Listen to two of them to let this resurrected community connect you to Jesus. Sue Betz, mother of two who grew up in this church, writes:
The moment the Holy Spirit filled me…was quite distinct… I was 8 years
old… and it happened right here at our dear NBRC. I wish I could say that it was when the NBRC choir sang a moving hymn, or when Pastor Van Soest gave a motivational sermon…but it was during none of those “glamorous” events… I was standing in the first floor hallway between the upstairs and the doors to the Fellowship hall…[and suddenly] a warmth enveloped me. An undeniable feeling of complete love.
Or listen to one of my favorite octogenarians, Hugh Talada:
Marie and I joined NBRC…and have participated in small groups [and I have] served as an elder… Wes Frueh’s commitment to God, the Bible, and teaching has been a positive influence on me… My association with like-minded Christians is important… My life’s passion is… leading a Christian life, and having fellowship with other Christians.
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s Jesus? Yes! The Church? Yes, if it’s healthy! For I know of no better conductor of Jesus’ power than these witnesses, Amen.