Where's your booth?

September 01, 2016

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Social justice

by Dr. Matt Friedeman

My denomination has something at the district level called the “Board of Ministry.”  This is a group of ordained pastors who interview budding candidates for ordination in their quest to attain the positions of “deacon” or “elder.”

These candidates undergo a minimum of four interviews spanning four consecutive years, though the process may last longer dependent upon their ministry situation.

This year, my son Elijah was up for his first interview to earn the privilege of becoming a “district licensed minister.”  I asked if Elijah could go before the committee of which I was a part, so I could witness what I deemed to be a momentous start of a great journey for him.  It is not unusual for this to happen and, after first checking with Elijah, we both agreed that the questioning would only be stiffer (not easier) if I were in the room.  Further, before Elijah came in, I told my colleagues that he was gifted intellectually and that they needed to really challenge him with their inquiries.

As it turned out, I never got the chance to ask the question I was otherwise prepared to deliver.  Time was short, the other ministers were enjoying the exchange as much as I, and the group leader ended the meeting before I had opportunity.

But in his last remarks, the older pastor waxed eloquent with a bit of Greek.  He wanted to challenge Elijah to see if he knew his stuff.  He said,

“Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο”

It’s the first phrase out of John 1:14. The pastor paused to wait for translation.

Elijah looked up and said, “The Word became flesh.”  The pastor then said, “Yes, and it is happening right now.  The Word is becoming flesh all over again in you.  And for the rest of your life, it will become more and more so.  Keep allowing that to happen.  You will have a great life of service.”

Elijah nodded.

The room was electric with a sense of import.

We laid hands on my son, and he left.

But I couldn’t help but feel that something had been left out.  If it wouldn’t have been anti-climactic, I would have asked if Elijah could include the next phrase of John’s incredible prologue to that gospel.

It goes:

καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν

“And dwelt (or made a booth) amongst us.”

The Word became flesh and dwelt among the people.  And, if the gospel witness is to be believed, He dwelt substantially with the lost and lonely and despised and rejected people of His culture.

I believe that the major weakness of the evangelical church of America is that we all think that we are becoming more like Christ day-by-day (my denomination, places the highest value on being “entirely sanctified”). But few of us look outward from our church buildings to places where He wants us to pitch a booth and begin transforming the situation.

  • We need more “booths” in our places of vocation, of work.
  • We need more “booths” outside abortion clinics, where women in crisis feel out of options and where babies are destroyed by the millions.
  • We need more “booths” in the prisons, where human potential slowly seeps away.
  • We need more “booths” in challenged public schools, where children are progressing through the system yet can’t read.
  • We need more “booths” in nursing homes, where many elderly are isolated and forgotten by their families.
  • We need more “booths” at strip clubs where the performers need to be convinced of better options but, even so, they are loved in the midst of their predicaments.
  • We need more “booths.”  Out there with the hungry and the thirsty, the imprisoned and the sick–anywhere Jesus not-so-gently challenged us to be in the thundering account of the “sheep and goats” in Matthew 25:31-46.

To the point – more “booths” where Jesus currently is.

After all, He did say, “Follow Me.”

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