Happy new year! I realize it's nearly the middle of January, but I haven't blogged since before Christmas. I haven't been too inspired to write anything substantial, so I haven't written. My deepest apologies.
I have taken it upon myself to read the New Testament through slowly and with purpose. I know that sounds strange coming from a minister, but I think you understand. The Scriptures are so familiar to all of us that we tend to skim over them just to get our reading in for the day. It is my desire to slow down and catch what I've never caught before...and it's working.
One of my favorite hymns we used to sing at College Church in Searcy was the song with these words:
At even, when the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord around Thee lay;
O in what divers pains they met!
O with what joy they went away!
Once more 'tis eventide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if Thy form we cannot see,
We know and feel that Thou art here.
Thy touch has still its ancient pow'r;
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.
What beautiful words! In my mind's eye I can see all of those who have an ailment, a sickness getting to Jesus however they can just to have Him touch them and heal them. I've read the story of Jesus clearing the temple many times, but I saw something in Matthew that I hadn't seen before. (See? This slowing down and being purposeful is working!) Jesus throws out those who are selling and making money and says to them, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you're turning it into a gathering place for thieves." What caught my eye was the next verse. It says, "Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them." Could it have been that there was no room for those who really needed Jesus? It was so full of those who were looking to satisfy self and make a profit that there was no place for the ones who truly were seeking God. And once Jesus made way for them, now there was a place for those who really wanted healing.
Is that what happens in our assemblies today? Do we gather to get our fix and occupy the place in the sanctuary only to crowd out those who really need to hear the gospel? When we complain, "I just didn't get anything out of that service!", are we hindering those who are doing everything they can to receive healing? Perhaps we've done the same thing as they did in Jesus' time. Are we "selling our souls" in our assemblies only to forget there is a whole world crying out to see the Lamb of God, but there's no room. Shame on us. Maybe our gatherings need to be more of revealing our weaknesses and faults, of seeing that we all struggle, rather than covering up our sins and acting holy. Our churches should be refuges, indeed sanctuaries, places of safety rather than arenas of self-inflicted battles. We should have halls of grace and mercy, not catecombs of correctness and attitude. Yes, they should be places of healing. What a difference we could make in this world if we could all just get this. Let's make room. Let's open our hearts to those (and it may be and probably is us) who need the wonderful healing power of our Lord. Have a great day! JW