Brokenness – Isaiah 61:1-3 Jesus’ Mission Statement (and ours)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3
Earlier this week, I referenced, what I believed was, a Thy kingdom come – Thy will be done – scene from the movie Patton. It was so timely, so potent, it seemed prophetic to me. I will share it again …
Patton: (intensely introspective) “I’ve always felt that I was destined for some great achievement … what I don’t know.”
Aid: (authentically empathetic) “Yes, sir.”
Patton: (incredulous – ready to implode) “The last great opportunity of a lifetime – an entire world at war, and I’m left out of it?!” … (with passionate resolve) “God WILL NOT permit this to happen!” … (with VIOLENT resolve) “I WILL be allowed to fulfill my destiny!” … (as if he is closing in prayer … deeply reverent, since this is now, after all, a settled matter in heaven) “His will be done.”
Thank you George for your holy tirade.
Between 1991 and 2012 I attended church – religiously. Most of that time I was an elder, entrusted (I had assumed) with the spiritual health of my fellow attenders. In this mission I preached, taught, was on the worship team, led it occasionally, led adult Sunday school as well as a house group. Church was my life, yet, for reasons I could not fully explain, (although that never kept me from trying), I felt as though I was a benchwarmer in the grand scheme of things.
I tried sharing my angst with my co-elders but discovered with each additional word I was adding to a problem – I was driving these poor men (and at least one of their wives) crazy and they were returning the favor. This was super painful for everyone! What was happening? I love these people! I still do. I didn’t know it at the time but I was learning a new language with new and more complete definitions of its words – words we elders had thrown around glibly for twenty years.
Despising loneliness, desiring community, I sought out voices (in holy desperation) that might resonate with my heart. This compounded the problem – my family was changing. My heart was bonding with a larger community, which I have came to think of as the “big-C” Church. (Perhaps, if they ever form into a cohesive group, they can call themselves, for more than one reason, The Church Without A Ceiling.)
Oh how grateful I was to finally find faces to go with those voices! Not only did I enjoy harmonic frequency with my new (diverse and broadly dispersed) community, I loved these people for a very selfish reason … they assured me I was not going crazy. I will forever be grateful! Here is how one of these connections was established …
Out off the blue, I got a call from Jack Taylor, an internationally known speaker and author. With my international network, hampered as it was by my city limits, my response was, “WHO?!” He said a mutual friend had suggested we make contact. “WHAT?!” Putting it mildly, I was all ears. The conversation deepened quickly. I had found someone who was listening (very rare) and seemed to understand (rarer yet). My angst spilled out; “WHY?!” It was like an out of body experience. I heard myself just going on and on about my flirtation with insanity. As I blabbed I recall thinking, “Would somebody please shut this guy (being me) up!”
At the end of each of my cathartic bursts, Jack would respond, “Excellent!”, “Oh that’s superb!” or, “Oh yes, this is sweet.” His responses made me wonder if he wasn’t crazy! I finally interrupted this flow of affirmation, “Mr. Taylor, you don’t understand. I”m loosing my flipping marbles!” He assured me (or he tried to) that all was better with my soul than I perceived. He said we needed to get together face-to-face. At that time, I was not turning down offers to meet with those who might affirm my sanity and confirm my connection to the Body of Christ, especially if that hand was being extended by a legitimate spiritual father. My flights were booked within the hour.
I must fast forward to say that Jack Taylor turned out to be one of the saints, whose council and prayers assured me that God was in the midst of my circumstances. This season of blessed disorientation radically impacted my heart. I no longer drive any co-elders crazy, although I did unintentionally wound at least two of them. I afflicted these wounds while trying to keep my marbles in the basket – explaining, all the while, just how that tidy process was working. (Is there an emoticon for extreme sarcasm?) Today, as apostate as it may sound, I am no longer attending a local church. And … at the same time, I no longer feel like a benchwarmer in the grand kingdom-scheme of things. Go figure.
I have heard these words more than once, “Rob, I am concerned for you. Why are you not a part of a local church?” The short answer is that I have no reason to think I would not recreate the same unwelcome tensions I did in my church of twenty years. Until I find a group of people, speaking the same language, or a group that at least has an excellent interpreter, I am going to spare us all the pain. The much longer answer is In The Middle With Mystery, the blog site I created to answer this question and hopefully assuage the tensions that accompany mystery and transformation.
From my MwM island, I daily place my epistles-in-a-bottle into the current, praying they will be plucked out of the river and read by others hungering and thirsting for rightness. I pray that my fumbling, longing-filled attempts to articulate a new language might serve as a connection between the island and the mainland of christian thinking. I have dreamed of a unified body of Christ, whose collective voice would silence the enemy, whose lies have permeated the church. (Warning: wear Kevlar if you plan to say this in an elder’s meeting.)
I have imagined the longings of the saints, serving as fascia in Christ’s body, making us a collective, vibrant expression of Truth, capable of liberating a multitudes of captives. I am dreaming forward and praying this might happen now. In the west, we are currently loosing the battle in grand fashion. (I have noticed we do not have any church committee’s addressing this. 🙂
General Patton frustrated his superiors because he knew who he was – a man who was born for such a time as that. His exploits in defeating Nazi Germany are now legendary but he had to fight for the opportunity to make his contribution. Jesus frustrated the religious superiors in his time as well because, he too, knew who he was and what he has come to do …
….. to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
After processing some of my inner storms, I have ended up with a much improved, more settled understanding of who I am, as a beloved son of God, and astonishingly – his friend. I too found myself, militantly reclaiming my destiny, which at least for this time, is not fitting neatly into any classic definition of christian ministry. I am simply living my life as a saint, a brother and a friend, right here, in the here-and-now, where, I trust, God has strategically placed me.
Like George P., I believe both you and I have been created and destined for great kingdom achievements. We may not know our ultimate contribution to this last great battle but I do know this much; it is underway and you and I are on the front lines. Every day we get out of bed our mission is simply to learn to live out of our new lives in Christ. This mission may sound simple but if it is accomplished it will come by way of a revolution within Christianity. That is a topic for a future foray. Dreaming ahead …
If we can heed the Lord of Host’s commissioning Word, it will one day be said of us….
They too, bound up the brokenhearted. With their lives, they too demonstrated liberty and led captives out of both carnal and religious imprisonment. They too demonstrated that God remains favorable to heal, to save and to deliver. To those mourning for the kingdom of God, they supplied boldness and joy. They fueled a revolutionary awakening of God’s life on this earth which resulted in an abundance of gladness, joy and praise.
Father, before the day of vengeance, may we grasp just how favorable the moments you have given us are. Deliver us from every lie, however sacred we have deemed them. By your Spirit, commission us afresh, as your friends and family, with good news. May our legacy be akin to your own, as agents of deliverance, in a never ending kingdom governed by love. That you may be glorified. So be it.