First, an apology for not posting anything here for quite some time. I’ve had a lot running around inside my mind and haven’t taken enough time to write out something for this blog.
Occasionally, things happen that create intense clarity – the proverbial lightning bolt in the dark, if you may. I had one of those moments last Sunday afternoon. Pastor Haller and I were teaching a confirmation class full of middle school students. Our topic is the sacraments [Baptism and Eucharist or, Holy Communion] and we were working to tie Baptism and Eucharist together [they do relate one to the other]. In particular we were talking about what happens at Baptism and finally rolled around to the idea of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. When I asked my students what they thought that means, I was met with a lot of blank stares. [Think about it… what would you say to that question?] So we flipped to the story of the day of Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit arrived on Jesus’s first apostles in Acts 2:1-4. It’s a remarkable story. The Holy Spirit comes down in a rush of mighty wind and appears like fire and rests on their heads. They had fire on their heads. You could say that those first apostles had their hair on fire. Clearly, our class did not have their hair on fire!
It was in that moment that I saw with more clarity that I probably wanted. The gift of the Holy Spirit lights our hair on fire. Yet, so much of what we call church and the Christian life seems to not even get close to something being on fire, much less our hair! It feels like so much we do is not designed to ignite our passions or make our hearts burn [another powerful Biblical image: Luke 24:32].
When we talk about our hair being on fire we need to know that this means a lot of different things, depending on who you’re talking to. In the broadest way, I think it means this; knowing Jesus, knowing God stirs our imagination, our creativity in a way nothing else can. Knowing God allows us to see the world – and the people in the world – with unimagined creativity and possibility. Knowing God is to broaden our perspective on everything.
We don’t talk or think this way in church very often, if at all. When you read the stories of Jesus’s interactions with people, nearly all of them were stories about how Jesus saw the person he was talking to in ways that person never thought were possible. Jesus knew that every person he was talking to was something more than they imagined themselves to be. Having Jesus help you imagine yourself as more than you thought you were or thought you could be is like having your hair catch on fire.
I think a failure on the part of the church is that we don’t introduce people to this Jesus very often, if at all. And we are paying a price for it. From boring to judgmental to out of touch, people are usually generous with their assessment of life in a church. And those of us who are in churches, people who really love the place, are usually generous with our ability to say that the problem isn’t us. But it must be us. No one in the Gospels ever found Jesus boring. Life-giving? Life-changing? Nerve-rattling? Challenging? Imaginative? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes. St Paul was whipped, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, adrift at sea, in danger from rivers, robbers and people, hungry and thirsty [2 Corinthians 23-29]. That’s a guy with his hair on fire! And his message about Jesus lit the hair of others on fire, too.
What if we told the story of Jesus in a way that allowed you to see that Jesus is the most exciting thing that can ever happen to you? What if church was a place where your hair got lit on fire? What do you think that sort of place would look like?