Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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The Shake

I’ve never wanted to do anything else from my life than to be a Pastor.And yet, there’s one part of this gig I’ve NEVER learned to love.  As a Preacher, part of my job involves trying to talk people outta doing stuff they really don’t wanna do, then again, they really DO wanna do it.  BAD.

Are you with me? 

A big part of them doesn’t wanna act the way they act, but they act that way…anyway.  Right? 

I liken my job to that of a frazzled security guard at Cricket Pavilion trying to keep concert-goers from smoking weed during a Dave Matthews Band concert.upup  Now with a job like that— you tend not to get invited to very many parties and people don’t talk about certain topics when you’re in the room—upup to the point you kinda feel like a wet, shaggy Sheepdog shaking himself dry in the middle of an otherwise idyllic garden wedding. 

But I keep shaking out God’s truth anyway, and I keep telling people that God has anointed me to do that “shake!” Besides, I’m just trying to help them avoid some really significant heartache, but do they listen?

They don’t listen! 

Preachers are supposed to help keep people from sinning; something I’m afraid I’ve haven’t been very successful at.  Sometimes I feel I’m standing right at the edge of a sheer-faced cliff where people have decided that’s where they’re gonna take up break dancing. So I tell ‘em,

“Break dancing is kinda risky under the best of circumstance, but right next to this sheer-faced cliff?  I’m just saying, ‘it’s a long way down…and the landing?  It ain’ta gonna be pleasant.”

That’s when, nearly every time, people look at me, thank me for a wonderful message of concern.  And then…they jump. 

Now because I’ve seen what happens when people reach the bottom of that cliff, I keep doing “the shake.” 

“Hold on!” I say to the next group who approaches.  “Not long ago, I saw some other people break dancing right here at the edge of this cliff— ‘cept they fell off.  In fact, if you wanna lean over and take a peak, you’ll see the bloody mess they made.”

Just like the others, they seem grateful for my concern.  And even touched by my transparent compassion and obvious wisdom. 

And then…they jump, too.

Can I be honest?  Cliff-preaching is no fun.  Cuz you kinda get tired of being everybody’s built-in babysitter.  And you grow weary of trying to prevent the unpreventable.  You wonder, “What’s the use of trying to talk sense into someone who refuses to listen!?”

 So what keeps me standing by the cliff pointing out the obvious to the oblivious?  My own scars.  See, even though I’ve told other people not to jump, the truth is— I’ve jumped, too! 

Talk about stupid!  What’s up with a “Don’t Jump Preacher” who jumps?

I’ll tell you what’s up:  I’m human, too.  Just like you.  And all of us humans have an insatiable appetite when it comes to jumping off cliffs.  We’re drawn to cliffs.  We’re enamored by the thrill of leaping out into the unknown [at least for the first half of the ride].  And no matter who tries to keep us from taking the plunge— or how much pain our leap may cause— we are ALL irresistibly drawn to see just how close I can get without taking a tumble. 

Part of the problem is upupwe actually believe we can fly!  And that maybe I’ll be the first in a long line of other people to actually touch the sky.  So we think about it every night and day— till we convince ourselves that flying is my DNA!

That’s when…we take the leap.  And yet, even though we DO eventually fall and though we DO invariably get hurt?  Despite the fact that the canyon floor is now forever painted with my blood, too— if, in fact I survive the jump?  What do I do next?  I climb right back up that cliff again— and I jump again. 

 

Now I’m gonna mix my metaphors a tad, but anybody here remember the parable of Felix the Flying Frog? It seems that a man named Clarence had a pet frog named Felix.  Clarence, a man of modest means, had come up with a get-rich scheme:  He was gonna teach Felix how to fly! 

Felix, terrified at the very idea, said, “I can’t fly, you twit!  I’m a frog, not a canary!”

But Clarence was determined, so on the first day of “flying lessons,” he could barely control his excitement and Felix, petrified, could barely control his bladder.  The plan was for Felix to jump from the first floor of their apartment building, they would analyze his flying technique and then, the followed day, he’d jump from the second floor— and so on, till Felix had finally learned to fly. 

So on Day One, Clarence opened the window and threw Felix out. 

Felix landed with a thud.

They went home and made some adjustments; then on Day Two— much to Felix’s chagrin, Clarence opened the window and tossed him out again.

Felix landed with an even bigger thud this time. 

It’s not as though Felix wasn’t trying.  One day, he flapped his legs like a banshee. 

Still…he landed with a thud. 

Another day, he tied a small red cape around his neck and envisioned himself as Superman.

It didn’t matter.  Thud. 

By Day 10, Felix, resigned to his inevitable fate, stopped begging for mercy.  Instead, he glared at Clarence and said, “You know you’re killing me, right?”

Clarence pointed out that Felix just wasn’t getting the concept…and he just wasn’t trying as hard he should try.  Felix, knowing that this was the end, said, “Shut up and open the window,” and then he leaped out, hit with a thud and sure enough— Felix went to that great Lily-Pad in the sky.

Clarence was extremely upset cuz his grand scheme had flopped at every level. Not only had Felix failed to fly, he hadn’t even slowed his descent.  Not one thing Clarence told him to do— did Felix actually do! 

But then, it hit him!  Clarence said, “I think I know what went wrong!  Next time, I’m using a smarter frog!”

 

So that’s how it feels to be “me”:  Sometimes I feel like I’m pleading with break-dancers who wanna see just how close they can get to the edge without taking a tumble.  Other times I feel like I’m trying to teach frogs how to fly— when everybody knows, frogs CAN’T fly! 

Then there are other times when I realize that for all my supposed insight regarding spiritual lift and thrust plus a hundred other navigational insights— despite my thoughtful analysis of proper pitch, attitude and airspeed— the fact is, I can’t even fly myself without falling! 

So that’s why I spent our time last week talkin’ ‘bout GRACE.  Cuz I knew this Sunday was coming!  I also knew that if a believer is less interested in becoming more like Christ than he is in finding out how much dancing he can get away with or how close he to get to the edge without falling— then all my talking and all my shaking will be in vain.

However, IF, or as Paul puts it:  “Since…you have been raised with Christ….”[2] When you were cliff-jumping,  you were “dead” but now that you’ve been made “alive with Christ”— you’re not a mere frog anymore— you have been fundamentally and even radically changed.[3] 

If you’ve been “raised,” you’re not just a slime-ball.  You’ve got the amazing grace of God— like a strong wind at your back— pressing you into an adventure far greater than any flight plan you could come up with.

However!  If your flight plan ISN’T driven by grace, then you will fall.  And you’ll keep falling. Hard.  Real hard.  I’m talking face-plant right into solid concrete…hard. 

But “since you have been raised”…instead of seeing just how close to the edge you can get without falling— instead of dancing your way toward disaster— and instead of slamming hard against the concrete of failure after failure and one flop compounded by yet another embarrassing flop?

I mean, if you BELIEVE in Christ…

…and if you claim to BE in Christ…

…then you have the power to grow to BEHAVE like Christ.

You do.  I do!  We are no longer just frogs.  Which means, we need to talk.  But as we talk, I wanna talk as one former frog telling a bunch of other former frogs where to find wings.  Fair ‘nuff?

 



[2] Colossians 3:1a

[3] Ephesians 2:5

This is an exerpt from  Why God Sanctions Violence. For more, log onto thecrossroadsaz.com.

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