Johnny Depp stares at you from the cover of May’s “Esquire” magazine, framed on one side by “How to be a better man (17 new ways to live longer and stronger)” and on the other by “Dude, Where’s My Jesus?” I read the latter standing at the news-stand in the drug store. I’m always curious and rarely hopeful about what secular magazines do with Jesus. I ended up buying the magazine. It was impressive.
“Who is Jesus?” Writer Tom Junod answers, “Jesus is a man who called himself the Son of God and a god who called himself the Son of Man.” Pretty good. “Where is Jesus?” Junod writes, “Jesus is everywhere.” That’s how the article opens. This clearly is not another put-down of my Lord and a smirk at those of us who worship Him.
“The president is one of the millions of Americans who call themselves evangelical Christians. What does that mean, exactly?” Junod answers, “It means that he has accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. It means that he has a personal relationship with Jesus.” Well, okay, but what does that mean? Junod responds, “It means he acknowledges that he, like all the rest of us, falls short of the glory of God. He acknowledges what Gary Bauer…acknowledges: ‘As a sinner, I have no right to stand in front of God.’ Our sins are indeed repellent in the eyes of God, but he loves us so much that he sent his only begotten son to suffer the torment that is rightfully ours…We either accept the gift of his sacrifice and join him in heaven, no questions asked, or we refuse it and suffer the torment he suffered, but eternally. ‘He’s either your savior or your judge’ is how Anne Graham Lotz…puts it.”
Now, I know these things and we say them around the church all the time, but I can’t ever remember a magazine like Esquire proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to the world. Not that most of us will agree with everything in the article, although my own complaints are minor. The writer also drops in some profanity occasionally (hey, it’s Esquire and the writers have to appear cool to keep their audience). But considering the source, this is incredible.
My dream started in the middle of a story. It was like opening a book in the middle or walking in on a movie half over. I was striding down the corridor of a high school headed for the principal’s office to introduce myself as a new teacher. I remember thinking that it’s important to walk with confidence around all these young people and not look like a lost puppy. Inside the school office, clusters of people milled around, working, talking, waiting. I finally located the principal’s office and wound up interrupting the man himself who was talking with another man. “How can I help you?” he said, all business. I said, “I wanted to introduce myself. I’m a new teacher.” “Well,” he said, “we don’t mind this preaching silliness….” I was stunned. His remark caught me off guard. Apparently, in my dream I was a teacher during the week and pastored churches after hours and on weekend. That, incidentally, was precisely my plan back in 1961 when, as a college senior majoring in history, God called me into the ministry.
Obviously, the principal in my dream had no use for preachers and spiritual matters. I said to him, “Well, sir, right now, I’m doing this education silliness. You know, this silliness called teaching.” Even in my dreams, I have a smart mouth.
Two articles hit the web this week:
I Love Hospital Visitation
While cleaning out old files in preparation for vacating the pastor’s office and moving across town into my office, I came across this and thought you might appreciate it. The heading was “Let Me Explain Your Pastor to You.” The source was a file from 1994 and, from the notes in the margin, I was talking to the ministers and office support staff at our church. I share it now for someone struggling to get a fix on your minister. Maybe this will help.
I had delayed and stalled, but finally bit the bullet last Saturday. At the urging and invitation of some church members, I went with a group to see “The Passion of the Christ.” I had dreaded seeing it, knowing that the film depicted the sufferings of Jesus so graphically and interminably that it earned an “R” rating and criticism from a lot of thoughtful people. I joking told our congregation I might have to buy three tickets and see the movie in installments. After all, who would want to pay good money to see their loved one brutalized?
Sunday I gave our church members-the half who have not seen the film-an assignment: see the movie this week. The events surrounding Good Friday and Easter will never be the same.