Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1: 35-39)
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain and he showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” (Matthew 4: 10,11)
“You in your small corner, and I in mine” (Susan B. Warner ‘Jesus bids us shine’)
The fall from grace of those in ministry seems to have bubbled up in the media recently. Or, at least, I’ve been more aware of it because I spend much more time reading Twitter and Instagram with the Pandemic, so I have had more access to this kind of information. Regardless, we heard about Carl Lentz, one of the pastors of the Megachurch ‘Hillsong’ recently stepping down (or maybe falling off?) from his position due to a whole lot of allegations of impropriety. We have seen countless numbers of musicians who have had really illustrious careers in church music behave in a manner that’s abusive of their power and fame. Most recently I heard that the very popular Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, has joined the ranks of those who lead double lives; on one hand, the picture of devotion and faith, on the other hand, a private world of abuse and shame.
Here’s the article that I’m referencing. Before you pull it up, I trust want to issue you a warning; its not an easy read and may be difficult for some people to process. Its not necessary for you to read it to understand the point I’m trying to make with todays blog. However, here it is: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/ravi-zacharias-rzim-investigation-sexual-abuse-sexting-rape.html?fbclid=IwAR0gAcaDPVlQWJ7uCqR1mPeJKA3rmFUTQiBSOH3KeytiJ1wh5IdvVX16J4M
Why are we so enthralled by celebrity that we allow people to have decades of abusive behaviour go unchecked because they have a persona that is charismatic and exciting? In both the cases of Carl Lentz and Ravi Zacharias, there was such a culture of cover-up and tacit approval of their seamy double-lives that other people actively participated in covering up their abuse, AND participated in equally abusive behaviour themselves. Whole systems have become infected with this and the victims who have tried to speak up have been hushed with messages that they are responsible for the loss of ‘souls’ if they exposed their abusers, or that they can’t be credible in their recounting of their story.
And see, here’s the thing – I think that there is a part of us that want to be a celebrity too. I think there’s a part of each of us that would like to be seated at God’s right hand, or maybe even in God’s spot, and have the world bowing at our feet. We all want our moment in the sun, and when we get there we want to pitch our tents, like Peter in our Transfiguration story, and stay there for good. At least, I have that tendency. (That’s in Mark 9 in case you wanted to read it).
And yet, our faith stories repeatedly remind us that being a Christian is a quest, almost for anonymity rather than notoriety. Each time Jesus is met with the opportunity to become a Celebrity Pastor he goes in the opposite direction and instructs his disciples to be quiet about who he is. And then he just goes and does what he says is his responsibility – to heal the world, one person at a time.
That’s what we are called to be and do, eh? That’s the God that we serve – the one who just reminds us that our job does not come with accolades or fame. Our job may not even come with recognition or gratitude. Our job is just to be who we are, and go about shining this “in our small corner”. I know that, dear Bethel friends, is who you are and what you do. For this I’m incredibly grateful. I see you living out God’s Great Commission of ‘going and making disciples’ in whatever way you know how. You deliver meals and cards to people who are needing them. You bake cookies and treats for those that are hungry. You collect bottles for youth mental health services. You donate to M & S, the Food banks and the Guatemala stove project. You call each other in the middle of the pandemic to offer love and support. You send me flowers unexpectedly just to cheer me up from my pandemic-blues.
“You in your small corner, and I in mine”. God’s hands and feet in this world that works toward healing one person at a time.
It doesn’t come with celebrity and notoriety. But that’s looking like a really good thing. A very wise person once said to me (Rev. Myra Garvin); “It hurts when you fall off a pedestal. I would suggest that you don’t get up there in the first place”. So, join me my friends, using Jesus as our example, and help bring healing into the world. One person at a time. In our small corners.
Blessings today, and remember you are loved,