CSI Jerusalem: "Setting Our Faces, Taking Our Places"

Go to any city, anywhere. Wanna draw a crowd? Here's the fastest way. Yellow crime scene tape. Drape it all around. If you do it, they will come from all over, just to see what's happened. It's why people come to a fire scene, or rubberneck accidents. 'Know the most popular series on TV last year? All those CSI shows. CSI wherever. Now in case you're watching the food channel, CSI stands for crime scene investigation. It's not that we're just bloodthirsty. It's that we're drawn to life-or-death places. They let us see what it takes to live, and what has the power to take our lives. Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill were right. There's nothing more invigorating than being shot at and missed! All those CSI shows, fires, collisions and high speed chases draw on the same thing. The rush of a thumping heart reassures us we are "yet alive" as old-time Methodists loved to sing. Now, I know no life-or-death location more compelling than the cross! I know no mystery more moving than the walk to the cross, asking why. And how. Dare we follow? To what end? So this Lent we're gonna investigate! We're gonna put together what happened to Jesus and what happens with us, making the case for faith and witness in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

All along the way, we're going to use one of the crosspoints in our life together. Our Envision the Future, Building the Dream Campaign provides a deciding, defining, exhilarating, and-are-we-yet-alive moment between us. Here's a clear, compelling way to see how alive we are in faith, walking with Jesus toward the cross. Jesus as having set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. May the same be said of us. And to the same end. "…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Christ's vision was to empty himself. He set his eye and his feet on it. Are we going where he's looking? You know, our Bibles command, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant." The walk to the cross begins with a decision to give, forego, sacrifice. Christ sets aside the place he's had in heaven since before-the-world-began to set God's saving love afoot on earth. There's no counting the cost. No calculating what needs to be held in reserve. There's just the absolute abandon that comes from the kind of love that would give-anything for the sake of those God loves. Us. You and me, our parents and theirs, all the way back to those who first followed in the very footprints of Jesus.

We don't really know if the earthly Jesus could remember the heaven he came from or not. But it's pretty clear he could see the heaven toward which he was headed. (Hmmm… what about us?) And he could see us with him there, glorifying and praising God with nothing held back. And he could see this earth being like heaven: where God's will be done. He had this crystal clear vision of you and me living together with God, starting now and lasting forever. So on his last night with his own he laid it out. Directly. Clearly. After the Upper Room. On his way to the garden to pray. Maybe the torches were in plain view. 'Folks winding up the trail to snatch him from his friends and nail him to the cross. Why was he willing to surrender his life? For the vision! "This is eternal life, that you and I know God the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom God has sent." (Jn. 17: 3 alt.) That's it. The cross becomes that place where folks will gather across the ages, the "Life or Death meeting ground"where eternal life is won or lost. No yellow tape required. For that God would withhold nothing and Jesus would give anything.

Churches are crosspoints. All churches. This one. Oh, we're not usually yellow-taped. But we do mark those places in a community where the rush of a thumping heart reassures us we are "yet alive". Eternally. Knowing God and Jesus Christ. So we're entering some prayerful conversation about how to be a crosspoint in this community. It really all comes down to that. 'How to be and build so as many as we can reach can come to know God in Christ. One way we're exploring is providing a Family Life Center here where faith in Christ becomes the center of the family. Why, imagine a place elder folks can easily enter, share in studying the Word, exercise stiff muscles and tired bones, share a meal and make their way. Imagine Derek (I don't have to, I knew him). In the church for the rec. and the b.ball there. 'Would not come otherwise. One night after the game, he stays for the weekly Faith-and-Life series for teens. Sitting, dangling his feet off the stage afterward, he pours his heart out to the counselor about things at home, and how now, he can get by with Jesus' help. Imagine we put an ad in the paper. Come to here Dr. J., a Christian psychologist, share his faith and practice in "How to Talk Son Others Will Listen, Listen So Others Will Talk." You need space for 400 chairs… you've touched a nerve in the community. I've seen it. With the right place, we could make it happen here! Christ's vision was to empty himself. 'Set his eye and his feet on it. Are we going where he's looking? Will we be a community crosspoint? What would we give to see it?

With Jesus there's no "but first", there's only his "only".
How is it with us? It's Lent. Jesus is headed for Jerusalem. He is single-minded because he is single-hearted. He calls for disciples who want to be as much like him as they can possibly become. He can see the cross. But he can feel the boundary-breaking, death defying, God-amazing moment when the last stone rolls away for him first, and then for us. And he can't wait. Literally. He runs into four kinds of responses that would hold him up. Those who don't wanna go because it's the wrong direction. "The cross is too unseemly, too costly. It's religion unforeseen. New generation stuff. Give me the old way. Sacrifice a couple lambs at the temple and call it a day!" Others say yes in a flash. But they're a flash in the pan. They divert Jesus by seeking the easier way. "Let's renovate, not build anew, Jesus." But Christ knows pardon-from-sin and resurrection-to-eternal-life require soul-construction: a completely new "spiritual body" (Paul). One soul signs on, asking only a funeral first. Jesus says no. Not because he's hard-hearted but because he knows we have to set aside our sternest sorrows and burdens to accept the future he offers. Another says, "Family first, then all for you, Jesus. Let me get them secure, then I can risk for you." Jesus says, "Friend, there is no other security than in me. Nothing you give to me will diminish you, or fail to increase your family's blessing." To our every "but first", his answer is still the same, "Only follow me."

Beverly's and my conversation about giving has always been tempered by the "but firsts" in our life, just like yours. No different, this Campaign. 'Know what I hope for? For us? For you? I hope we'll get to be like the little kid of whom I read. 'Went to a Christ-Crusade alone. 'Heard preaching about Jesus emptying himself out. 'Offering his very self on the cross. 'Giving it all for us. Pastor ended up asking, "So what will you give for Jesus?" The ushers went about with these wicker offering baskets. The child had nothing in his pockets at all. But he got the message. When those offering baskets were set on the altar, one brawny usher hoisted the heaviest. Not a penny in it. Just a whole hearted little boy, willing to give himself… to Jesus. Wow! He placed himself on the altar, even as Jesus, in the bread and the cup on the table for us today. In this Envision the Future, Building the Dream Campaign I hope we get inspired like that at our house. At yours, too. Jesus just can't wait for anything else on the way to the cross.

For Jesus, a vision of giving was the center of his victory? Could such a center and such a victory be ours? I believe so. But not without some giving up. Jesus surrendered heaven, just to invite us to return there with him. I didn't say it. The Bible does. All we're ever asked to do is take a little walk with him. But with nothing less than our whole hearts and complete faith. We're invited to be the visible crosspoint in our community. The place where life-and-death are dealt with, and life and victory always set the final marker. For kids, youth, families, seniors. We're counseled, a walk with Jesus admits no deferring or delay.
'Just the moment to draw nearer to him and nearer to his heaven.

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