As I walked about a few hours ago saying my prayers, the construction workers rebuilding the seawall greeted me. They were hastily trying to make up for lost time - three times since Ash Wednesday their job site has had to be silenced for a funeral. In light of what they've heard and seen, I wonder what they're thinking at this moment.
As we gathered for each funeral, the construction workers heard these words emanating from within the historic church: "I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he dies." Then they watched as we buried a believer's ashes on the bluff.
During this span of ten days those same workers have seen the church's hangings changed from purple to white to purple to white to purple to white and back to purple again; three times they've seen bare branches taken out and replaced with flowers and now the bare branches have been returned. Do they think we don't know what we're doing? Or maybe that we just can't make up our minds? My hope is that there's an intuitive soul out there who is willing to give us the benefit of the doubt and say that we're not crazy, we're just marching to the beat of a different drummer. But regardless, I suspect that none of those gentlemen would look upon such behavior as normal . . . and they would be right for Christian behavior today is no longer normal.
We now live in a fact-based world in which things are taken literally - it's a world in which seeing is believing, a world in which reality is defined by one's perceptions and normalcy has no frame of reference beyond one's experiences. It's a world that puts a premium on conformity. Whereas, almost by definition, to be a Christian is to be different - it's to see and hear and experience what eludes others and then to respond accordingly. We say "whoever lives and believes in me [Jesus] will never die" and then we bury a believer's ashes in a columbarium surrounded by the ashes of other believers . . . and, as far as the world can tell, none of them are living! Understandably, our words and actions are not even remotely intelligible unless we are, in fact, marching to the beat of a transcendent Drummer and in His name daring to defy this world's expectations, daring to be different, to hear what others do not hear, to see what others do not see, and to embrace a relationship that is increasingly becoming anathema to the world around us.
But to Christians, what has transpired beneath our heart pine beams these past ten days makes perfect sense because it all springs out of a relationship with the One who dared to be different for our sake, the One who died and rose from the dead and beckons us to follow. We're children of this world; but, praise God, we're also children of our Father in heaven . . . and to those who by faith can see and hear the message is clear: whoever believes in His Son will not be condemned, will not perish, but will instead have eternal life.
The seawall builders would readily acknowledge that they're going to die; but do they believe that their lives will be changed, not ended, in death? It occurs to me that, though they've been working on campus and we've been talking for two months, I can't answer that question. It also occurs to me that at the heart of the rationale for every service I've conducted in the past two weeks has been the fervent prayer that all would have that assurance - aren't those whom I see daily included in that "all"? How quickly the ashes have faded from my consciousness . . . good Lord, deliver me!
In His power and for His glory,