The picture in this post is a reminder to me that as a minister, as well as a Christian father and husband, I am not only called to wrestle against evil—but enlist others in that same battle. While American Christianity has sounded various battle cries such as “Don’t Judge!” or “Preach God’s Love!” and “We Are All Sinners in Need of Grace!” I have witnessed over the past few decades that we not only decline in America, but are struggling just to present a positive image of Jesus’ church. Over that past few weeks I have been asked to do a sermon series addressing Miracles, Basic Christian Beliefs/Evidences, and Angels/Demons. I love having our people at Agape submit sermon ideas and issues for me to address at the beginning of each new year. This year I was not only excited to address some of the topics, but was challenged in what I learned and had to present.
One theme seemed pretty strong. Miracles have typically been considered “God’s intervention in the normal laws of nature to do something spectacular.” However, I have come to see that miracles are simply nature doing what it was created to do. In Genesis 1 nature obeys the voice and command of God. Order is created out of chaos. Structure is developed out of the deep dark void. Simply put—nature obeys God. Miracles are nature’s obedience to God. God speaks and water turns to wine, water holds Jesus as he walks, bread and fish multiply, demons flee, and angels proclaim.
It is interesting that humans are created with free will. We have a choice.
We have the choice to be like the created world and obey God. Whether God is love, we are imperfect, or others hold us to a high standard—humans have the opportunity to obey or disobey. Miracles happen when nature and humans obey God.
The picture of the two wrestlers is a reminder that the struggle and chaos in this world are not just the work of humans, but the work of evil. Evil brings chaos, anxiety, fear, and suffering—yet God offers something better, something peaceful, and something sacred. We know that nature will obey—because it always obeys.
Humans however, are a different story.
Ministry this past 9 years has been interesting. I have found myself stretched in so many ways. Some days I am studying and writing concerning deeper Biblical or theological issues. Other days I am teaching students or speaking at conferences on ministry and Biblical interpretation. Other days I am following up with people I meet at the plasma center and praying for or talking to about their faith or their life. Then there are my Wednesday studies downtown. Our study meets at Coffee Time. We have been working through my book on 1 Corinthians, The Better Way: The Church of Agape in Emerging Corinth, with a study of the Bible. We have people from the street, some Agape folks, and others who were homeless and work with those in our community. The study many times has to be put on hold to discuss demon possession, cancer treatments, poverty, politics, working with county agencies, abuse, or sickness. While I tend to lean more toward an organic explanation for demon possession and mental illness—the truth is that not everyone sees it the same way. Our group believes that we are there to check on our folks, be a community, and offer a voice. Sometimes one voice dominates the entire session. Other times the voice is hard to follow. Other times the voices are together and filled with laughter. Other times there is tension. Yet we are a group and we meet in a place that many times offers our guests free coffee, a muffin, or something to get them through the day.
We are always reminded that Paul wrote to the early Corinthian Christians that only a few were actually part of the educated elite (1 Cor. 1: 26). That’s me—I’m the few in the group. That’s not a positive stroke—Paul tells them that the rich folks are the ones causing the problems. I have to constantly ask myself what my role is to be as not only a minister, but a guy with a lot of years of education. In the end they don’t care about my book—they just care that I’m there on time.
My community is teaching me a lot, probably more than I am teaching them. I am learning to rethink theology as part of the struggle between evil powers—not people. I am learning that “WE” wrestle, not “I” and definitely not “THEY.” I am learning that community is something we do, not something we preach. I am also learning that sometimes the fact that a person finally opens up in the group is more a miracle that repeating back last week’s lesson. We rejoice when someone we thought went “off the grid” shows up and is alive. We are glad when someone ignores the voices and prays with us. We are happy when someone gets permanent quarters. We feel good when someone stays sober.
WE wrestle together. I didn’t learn that in school but I’m learning it now.