Sunday, March 25, 2012

Endless Quest

Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

As disciples of Christ we should be on a quest; searching, seeking, asking – all part of the journey toward sanctification, spiritual perfection.  But what should we be looking for?  Or are we looking at all?  For anything?  If we are looking, do we sometimes wonder where our search may finally lead us?  Or are we afraid of what we might discover? 

But if we are not looking, not searching, not asking questions, then; can we be taken seriously as “disciples” not only by our Lord but by the general, non-believing public at large?  This makes me think of a scene from the movie “Forest Gump” in which ‘Lt. Dan’ asks ‘Forest’, “Have you found Jesus, Forest?”  And ‘Forest’ replies: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.”

The search for Truth can come in many forms even as there can only finally be One Truth.  I recently watched the 2008 so-called documentary, “Religulous”, that caused such a stir in its day.  I found myself more amused than offended although I was a little disturbed – not because of the content but because nearly all those Christians the host spoke with – or, I should say, those who made the final, editing cut - seemed virtually clueless as to what they believe – or – why they believe it even though they stated emphatically what they proposed to be true.  

Clearly, however, they had long ago reached a satisfactory point in their spiritual quest and had simply stopped looking; they had stopped asking questions.  Their search was apparently over. When they were pressed for answers from the host about what they believed and why, they could not biblically defend what they claimed as “truth”.  In fact when the host used the Bible against them, they came off looking somewhat foolish while grasping for straws.  I am equally sure, however, that this was most likely the host’s intent.
Make no mistake.  This particular host is, by trade, a comedian (or at least he thinks so).  He is not a journalist, not a historian, and he is certainly no theologian.  Whether he is (or was) on a genuine spiritual quest is not evident because of the nature of his questions, his condescending demeanor, and his rather skilled manipulation of those he was talking to.  Actually the greatest challenge he faced was from a rabbi who would not allow himself to be interrupted, so his answers could not be manipulated.  The Mormons in Salt Lake City would not allow themselves to be so exploited; in fact the host and his camera crew were told to leave the Temple’s property.      

For many life-long Christians, there seems to be a disturbing trend that no longer sees or feels a need to search for answers or to even ask questions – only to argue the answers.  For many – too many, actually - it was all settled at Calvary because the disciples (students) who followed Jesus and asked questions before the Passion became apostles (messengers) at Pentecost with a charge and a mission.  They no longer asked questions but rather became the source of answers, answers new followers would need in order to justify a decision to join the Church; that is, the movement, NOT the institution often “contained”, restricted to a building.

For many, asking questions has become synonymous with “doubt” or maybe even hunger.  If we are filled with the Spirit, we reason there should be no room for doubt; and if we are so spiritually “filled”, there should no longer be any hunger.  Yet in watching the consistently downward trend of the Church since the time when membership was “fashionable” or a social expectation, I would submit to you it is this lack of hunger, this lack of genuine need that is causing the Church to falter from within - not from external forces.  It is perhaps within this lack of hunger that the Church, then, has become so full of itself that it no longer finds within itself a need to be filled, let alone a have compelling need to fill others with anything other than with opinions lacking a biblical foundation.

We should not make the mistake of believing what we do is only for the sake and support of our local church.  What we are charged with has nothing to do with our personal desires for what we have come to think of as “our” church.  No, what we do – or rather what we are called to do – is revealed in Jesus’ words after He had entered into Jerusalem when He revealed that His “hour had come”; when it was time to completely empty Himself literally and figuratively so that He could be filled to face the Hour ahead.

Jesus entered into what would be His most challenging time during His earthly ministry; a time when His very human self would be directly conflicted with His divine nature – and when His divine nature would be “confronted” by His very human impulses.  It is the very same struggle you and I face almost constantly because we are so very human and yet called to something much greater and much more fulfilling – IF WE WILL ONLY ASK!  It is the struggle from within that acknowledges a genuine need for the spiritual fulfillment of our souls – but – clings to personal and physical desire; our instincts, our human impulses – those impulses that can cause confusion between profound desire and genuine need.

We can clearly see what Jesus did according to what He was compelled to do, but what does this indicate to us?  How does what we know about Jesus’ Final Hour help us in our quest?  Is it as simple as what the epistles seem to suggest, that we are only called to “believe” it?  Or is it more about what Jesus challenges us to and “emulate” it?  Not literally, of course, because such a Perfect Sacrifice cannot be duplicated or improved upon!  But if we are called to completely empty ourselves as Jesus did and “follow” Him all the way to the Cross – and beyond – then there is something more required of us - AND - something much more in store for us!   

“Doubt” should not be confused with “disbelief” because there is an element of humility in “doubt” whereas there is a level of arrogance associated with “disbelief”.  An arrogance that claims to have everything figured out … or at least “just enough” to keep one from asking for more, from seeking something more.  Yet it is from within a state of doubt when we will try to settle that which is within us, that which can often keep us off balance and uncertain of our next step.  

All the answers for us as a Church and as individuals who ARE the Church will not be found in Jesus’ Final Hour, but the clues that lead us to the next and the next are.  Even when Jesus Himself asked at Gethsemane to be relieved of what was before Him, it was when He completely emptied Himself, cast aside His human impulses, and approached the Father in “reverent submission”, when He asked, that He found His answer. 

What Jesus found was NOT at Calvary … it was Beyond – as it will be for us if we will continue to search, to seek, to ask … to pray.


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