rendered absurd

As a pastor - one with a specific role of connecting my local church to the surrounding community - I’m constantly wrestling with the question of relevance (as this blog continues to reflect). How does what we do as a local church impact our community? Would our neighborhood change if our church wasn’t here? How do we make church appealing in Greater Vancouver suburbia?

But I’ll be honest, sometimes I think Christians try too hard. Frustration and failure result. Being culturally relevant is like “chasing the wind” (Eccl. 1:14).
I think the journey through Lent puts our striving in perspective. As we pattern our lives around Jesus’ suffering, we can recognize how Jesus modeled relevance. In his Lent reader, Walter Wangerin Jr. helps redirect our focus in his description of Jesus’ trial before the Temple leaders:

“Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’

‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’”
(Mk. 14:60-62 NIV).

Only now, finally, does Jesus publicly claim the office of Messiah...Now is the best time. Now is the Christ’s time, because this is the Christ: a prisoner and a failure.

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus charged those who experienced his power to say nothing about it....When he was at the height of his ministry (as the world assesses height, as the world assesses greatness) he demanded no one say he was the “Christ.” When he was dazzling crowds, confuting enemies, causing shepherds and lepers and kings to ask, “Who is this man?”; when masses were “astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak!’”...Jesus commanded them “to tell no one about him.” Apparently none of this was the real work of the “Christ.”

The world would have misunderstood the glory.

The world might have expected a warrior-king, someone triumphant in its own terms. A winner, you know. A number-one, against-all-odds, pride inspiring, tear-in-my-eye, flat-out, all-round, good-guy winner! A hero.

Only when that characterization is rendered absurd and impossible does Jesus finally accept the title “Christ.”

It is only in incontrovertible powerlessness that he finally links himself with power...This, then, is the Christ that Jesus would have us know and accept and reflect: One who came to die.

One who, in the assessment of this age, failed - an embarrassment, a folly, a stumbling block. An offense!

(Wangerin Jr., Reliving the Passion)

Kind of puts relevance into perspective, don’t you think?


Anonymous said...

Great Excerpt Dave. Thanks for sharing.

David Warkentin said...

Yeah, Wangerin's got some great reflections. I continue to find his stuff really helpful personally and in ministry.

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