Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I do not have the time today to explain how encouraging and inspiring CHRISTeens was this weekend. One thing I did want to share with you though, is a passage from Jeremiah and a poem by David Bowden. David Bowden performed at CHRISTeens and I was impressed and moved by his insight.

 Jeremiah 7

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Stand in the gate of the LORD's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.' "For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. "Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim. "As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? declares the LORD. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched." Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.' But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. "So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. And you shall say to them, 'This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. "'Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.' "For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste. 

These are compelling and frightening words, but how compelled are we to change our lives when we read this? do we fool ourselves by stepping back and saying, God did not say this to me, He said it to those foolish Jews so long ago. It is true that God said these things to the people of that day, but how would this message sound if God was speaking to us?
Here is what David Bowden suggested in reply to that very question

Jeremiah 7
Hear the word of the Lord all you citizens of the sitting lineage.
Listen all you Christians of the fitting-in traditions.
For the Lord has spoken.
Open your ears my heathens!

Pay Attention
to the condition
of your religion
that has taken position
over your mission
as my children

Your buildings are rebuilding a nation of accepted sedation
sedimentary demonstrations of comfortable admiration
a civilization of neglected realizations
neglecting to realize that all your worship’s comprising
is the disgusting disguising of your commitment’s demising
I brought you out of sin with the blood on my son’s skin
Again and again you sought him to restore ya
But your likeness is like that of Sodom and Gomorrah 

I have had my fill of your songs
I long for your hearts
I find no thrill in belonging
to the screen art
backlighting your hymns
My ears rise to the brim with promises
But I want your body’s sacrifices
My eyes are blind with churches
all the same, no revolutionary versions
Your Sundays are a burden
You hide behind the curtain
of worship and feel certain
that your prayers, songs, and sermons
will be heard
that maybe I preferred
to be given your words instead of your person
but your blurred worship is persistent
My gates are bombarded with identical prayers
My courts are crowded with stares at a preacher
My temple is littered with millions of teachers
teaching that song leading, table serving, and pulpit speaking
are what I care about
But I want you when wanting me isn’t what everyone else cares about

Oh my Christians!
When did Christ become a figurehead instead of a commission
When did my son become flatbread instead of a mission
When did his blood become imbedded in dead prayers instead of spreading you into submission
When did his cross become something printed on thread instead of imprinted on your vision
Your missing the point if
attending, seating, listening, and repeating
is the joint efforts of your
effortless anointing
I don’t want to disappoint
all those who thought
getting baptized and being churched
would comprise the proper work to prove your worth
but I have searched the earth
and when you’re not hiding in your Sunday shirt
or your Wednesday skirt
you look the same as every unconverted
person who flirts with the comforts of selfishness and inverted shame
It does not matter if you claim my name
because the fact of the matter is that you all look the same
The pagans the Christians
The tainted the sinless
The saved and the sinners
The saints and imprisoned

You are in prison
my children
Your comfort is your bars
Your traditions your cells
Your boredom is your punishment
and your minds are your jails
Don’t you remember?
I freed you with nails
broke the bars, opened the cells
But you just sit in your chains
spend your days in an open grave
I raised you from death but you live the same way

Oh my unfaithful bride!
I have loved you before time began to wind
Behind your creation are lifetimes of preparation
I created you to be mine
From the Egyptians I saved you
I kept you in mind
From your hypocrisy I braved your
commitment’s decline
I traded the life of the divine
for the strife of a slave
I stayed by your side when you punctured mine
Sent me to the grave
I forgave you and your kind
Generation after generation generating the same replays
And today you
deny me still
Your lips lie with what they say
your tongue deceives with great skill
You fill pews to prove what your life fails to
Do something more than sit still
You kill me again
when you refuse to begin
living as I did
when I spent
my life with you

There will be no redemption for you
if you don’t do as I implore you

But don’t doubt that I adore you
Our reunion is overdue
I long to restore you
Create something more for you
Relate to your core
and not just your core values
For you are more valuable to me than doctrines, statements, or creeds
Your faith in me means more than
verses or beliefs
attendance or deeds
whether you fail or succeed
I will speed to your every need
Just please
Stop all the pretending
Stop using me for salvation and
and on it start depending
Stop lending me an hour a week
and hourlessly when your weak
start spending time on your knees
Take my power into the streets
Heal and nourish the least
Bless every enemy
and know
that as long as you are loving them and loving me
There is nothing else I could ever seek

Hear the word of the Lord all you citizens of the sitting lineage.
Listen all you Christians of the fitting-in traditions.
For the Lord has spoken.
Open your ears. For this message hasn’t been spoken for years.
And if you miss it when it’s this clear
And let it just disappear
What will be your hope when you’ve learned God’s word was sincere?


Take a little while to meditate on these thoughts, pray about what you learn. Make a change, make a difference today!

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