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Why Seek Ye the Living Among the Dead?

21 September 2007


Another fortnight, another intrachurch oppression by the Powers That Be at HCC…and qb is wondering when he will be able just to let it all go and move on.  This time, though, it has claimed (a) another one of qb’s closest friends and (b) a man and wife who were already struggling.  In my mind’s eye, I can almost see the carnage strewn across the valley floor.

Something struck me oddly this morning, though, that begs reflection.

It was over. 

The ladies hustled up the hill to the tomb, mainly out of duty and dignity.  Jesus was gone, dead, buried.  But they had loved him so…amid their grief (and embarrassment?) they wanted to ensure that his body was treated respectfully.  It was the least they could do.  After all, they had invested their lives in him for the past couple of years, taken his promises at face value.  And taking his words at face value had not always been a simple matter, nor easy.  The scribes and Pharisees had looked at them with ever-deepening suspicion, all the way to the end, and surely their names and addresses were well known to those shadowy figures who enforced conformity in the synagogue.

They cared too much.

There’s the gardener, seated on the rock, taking a break.  But why is the rock there?  And who left the door open?

Tell us, sir, if you please:  where have they taken him?  We’re here to anoint his body.

And the “gardener” replies:  why seek ye the living among the dead?

I keep looking for authentic Christian community in all of the predictable places.  As an evangelical (I think), I look in independent Christian churches, nominally Baptist churches, formerly Baptist churches, and all the rest.  And there are lots and lots of good people in those places, people who love Jesus as much or more than I do, people who are loyal to him and want to please him.  They toil and struggle, submit and kneel, pray and study, serve and bless.

But as they do, they seem to be toiling and blessing in service of something other than Jesus, a layer of something that I just can’t put my finger on.  They are building someone else’s house, all right, but it seems to be a different house than Jesus had in mind, and it seems to be a different owner.  They seem to be building someone else’s empire, building to the pastor’s glory.  After all, when the church does well – defined by tushies in the seats and clams in the tiller and excitement in the halls – who gets the pay raise, the kudos, the fresh increment of job security?  And when these dear friends see the need to break ranks a bit, to raise a point of procedure or principle or something else implicitly critical of the man in charge, who ends up out on the street with the cigarette butts and the soda bottles?

There’s something terribly lifeless and sterile about whatever this is that we call American Bible-Belt Christianity.  But I keep going back to it, thinking I’ll find Jesus’ body there, desperately trying to redeem the investment of a lifetime that I’ve made in it and him up to this point.

But the “gardener” has a point, doesn’t he?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ron Freels permalink
    26 March 2009 8:37 am

    I just read your musings on “why seek ye the living among the dead?” I come from much the same background. A church which has the “Truth” but yet it is evident that all our motivation is about maintaining the Empire that was built over the last 50 years. The harder we work the deader it gets. Looking for Life in all the wrong places. What happened to the Body of Christ that gathered to serve and praise and worship our Saviour. We have so many facilities and programs that it takes all of our energy and resources to maintain them and we have nothing left for Jesus. How sad it is and How do we change it? Do we downsize? do we change how we use our facilities? God forbid! that would be backing up, living without faith. We have always done it this way so it must be right. So where is Jesus? Left in the shadows, alone waiting for someone to come and bring Him to forefront for all to see. Lets get back to making church, Church, a place were God can have His way. If we would relax and focus on creating an environment where Christ can move and work freely then everything else will fall into place and Christ will be Glorified instead of a man or a ministry, which is so prevalent in today’s churches.

  2. 26 March 2009 12:28 pm

    Ron, thanks for stopping by. I suppose many would say that these so-called “ministry programs” are, at their essence, a way of creating space for Jesus Christ to work in us. I suspect, however, that we often feel compelled to manufacture the sense of Jesus Christ working among us in order to create the appearance of momentum, which causes others with an affinity for that kind of momentum to throw in with us. I ask – and I really mean ASK, and not rhetorically – who is kidding whom?


  3. Erin Roscoe permalink
    11 April 2009 6:30 pm

    Wow! I was just doing a search on this passage of scripture, and I accidentally ran up on your thoughts….I have to say that I could have easily written the same thing about my experience in my past church life. My family and I just left an independent Baptist church for all the reasons that you list and more. I agree that there are many people there who love Jesus and who are doing what they think He wants them to do. Yet there remains a subtle disconnect from the true worship of God. I really feel that all the programs keep us from functioning like a body should. WE are the church…not the building and not the programs. I truly believe that we have quenched the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is unpredictable. I mean how could you keep control of all the people and the programs if the Holy Spirit keeps stirring things up? I truly longed for authentic Christian community for years. Now that we have stepped out in faith, the Lord is beginning to build that community around us…I am so thankful for that, too. Thanks for all of your thoughts. I can definitely relate!

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