Last Sunday night was just like any other night at church. The worship was leading us into prayer, Mark Foreman was both funny and incredibly insightful, and things were great. Like the recliner that you have sat in so often it holds your shape, church was expected and comfortable. As usual, I loved the sermon. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and God will work in you the will to do so. After Mark finished he pleasantly walked off the stage to the beginning worship music, and we all smiled and sighed in delight.
Not too long after, a different pastor came out on the stage mid-song. It was pastor Bear (nickname), and, well, how can I describe him? He is a large Italian-looking guy in a shorter body. And his voice carries. Whenever Bear comes out to say anything my skin gets goosebumps. You never know what is going to happen. Seriously. So the worship leader quiets down a little, and he starts yelling. “God is telling me that there are a lot of people hurting here tonight. It is like the Hurt Locker! God is here to meet you.” Then he stepped back.
What happened next was the greatest expression of church I have seen in a very long time. People started walking up to the stage from all sides of the room. There was prayer happening one on one and in groups. Others raised their hands in the music and yelled “more, give us more!” Others were crying. All of a sudden Bear appeared with oil and began to anoint people. The music continued in an organic way. As in, it was irregular, long, beautiful. For my pre-programmed church-going mind, it was a jump in the deep end of the pool without any sort of boundaries. It was messy. And it was good.
How in the world did the body crack open like that, exposing needs and showing hunger, pain, joy, and desire? I have no idea. It wasn’t scripted. It wasn’t even an altar call. You know what I think? I think it was God.
Tonight I am honored to be able to talk to the young adult guys at church on the subject of intimacy. As I have studied John 10 in preparation, my heart has gone over and over it. Jesus is the gate. Jesus is the good shepherd. The sheep know his voice. It seems so stoic and church-like to say. We are sheep, right! But we are sophisticated and educated Americans, smart enough to know how to make everything better, including church! Sheep? Bah!
But Sunday night confirmed it for me. We are so dumb that we forget that we are dumb. But when Jesus calls, the flock answers, they surround him, bleating, hungering for more wanting to be closer, wanting to know and be known, to find that good pasture and rest in knowing the Good Shepherd laid down his life…and will do it again. So lets be free to want, church. Let’s be free to hear Jesus voice and just come, setting aside all we think we know and understand, and follow him. It’s going to get very close. And very messy.