Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vanity Faire Redux

“…thus the degeneration of man – the distortion of the divine image through sin – is a direct attack on the glory of God. We must recognize that anything that is degrading and animalizing to humans is in line with Satan’s plan, be it an attitude, a habit, an addiction, a sexual practice, or a mental preoccupation.”
-R. Kent Hughes, Luke, Vol. 1, That You May Know the Truth, p. 306

“For the glory of God is a man fully alive; and the life of man consists in beholding God.”
-Irenaeus (2nd Century), Against Heresies, 4:20:7

“All human communities are fallen. So I do not have to be blind in order to hold on to such an idealistic view of my community or my church, or my friends. And yet a true Christian community can witness to the fact that while men are not perfect God is involved and will continue to be involved in substantial healing. By expressing love and compassion in concrete ways – feeding the hungry, accepting the lonely, helping the helpless – the Christian community can show that real answers come from God, not man.”
-Udo Middelmann, pro-exist-ence, p.116

“Silver scales flash bright and fade, in reeds along the shore. Like a pearl in sea of liquid jade, His ship comes shining. Like a crystal swan in a sky of suns, His ship comes shining."
-Bruce Cockburn (Canadian songwriter), All the Diamonds

Ecce Homo” ('Behold the Man' in Latin) from John 19:5

We didn’t really have it planned that way, but Monday was our second visit to the Oregon coast in a month. Some friends from our sister church in Canada were at Seaside for a week “on holiday” and we drove down to meet them yesterday morning and then we spent the day with them. It has been several years since I’ve been to Seaside. I remember my parents taking us there as kids. The cheesy aquarium is still there and so are the cool 50’s style bumper cars. But as we came out of one of the shops I wasn’t quite prepared for what I would see next. Lydia and Nathanael actually saw him first. He was a man in his 40’s dressed as a woman, full-beard, notwithstanding. He was dressed in a pink outfit with a matching hat, heeled shoes, tattoos, and some sort of accoutrement that made his physique look somewhat feminine. Throughout the day we saw him several times as he made his way through the crowds. He seemed unaffected by the stares, comments, and double-takes of those around him. In fact, I found myself watching the people that were watching him. The responses ran the gamut, from nonchalance to incredulity, to laughter, to disgust. As we made our way back home we drove through Astoria and by now it was dark. Shuffling along the dark street in Astoria was a disheveled man in a full-faced motorcycle helmet, an obvious street-person, staring down as he shuffled along, all alone. As we continued down the road Judy and the kids and I began to talk about those we’d encountered during the day. The man in the dress and the fellow in the helmet came up. As we talked I couldn’t help but remember the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene man among the tombs in Luke 8. Naked, once a city dweller, now alone and living in a graveyard, self-mutilating, possessed by many devils, driven mad, and living in fear he meets Jesus as soon as the boat comes ashore. Surely he was aware of the recent phenomena of storm being calmed. Maybe for the first time in a long he sensed there may be hope, even for him. Whatever the case, he and his tormentors immediately recognizes who Jesus is and he falls down cries out for mercy. Jesus casts out the devils and speaks to him as a man. Some people come to see him and now he is rational, restored to his right mind, and he is fully clothed and seated at Jesus’ feet. And now they become afraid. They want Jesus to go away. Who is this Man anyway? It was better for them that this man stayed possessed and lived among the tombs. Jesus then sends the man on a mission to tell everyone he meets about the Messiah. He rationally and immediately obeys and proclaims throughout the city what Jesus did for him.

There’s something about the obviousness of terrible sin and terrible need that serves as fertile ground for redemption. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Desperateness, in the recognition that our only hope is in the Savior, is often the prevenient grace that precedes salvation. As our family talked about the man in the dress we wondered if the gospel might be much closer to that man than the hundreds of other “normal” persons that passed by him on the sidewalk. His sin and need was much more blatant than the many that derided him or paid him no attention. Their lives were normal and under control. They, at least, had the appearance of sanity and of having it together. Struggles with sin, marital strife, broken relationships, death, business failure, wayward children, mental illness, fatigue, disease and the torment of devils bring us to the end of our self-sufficiency. It’s then we recognize our desperation. When I got home I sat and read Luke 8 and marveled again at the story. What a glorious Savior. I’m grateful that God meets us in our sin and insufficiency, and doesn’t wait until we’re all cleaned up before He comes to our aid. I found myself praying for the two men we had seen, and then praying for Christ Our Redeemer as well. We do well to remember the Gerasene man. It’s the sick that need a physician. May we never lose our sense of profound desperateness and need for a Savior.

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