|photo by Bill Gracey / flickr|
Jesus was on that Cross.
After that they pounded nails into his hands.
After that, well, after that,
everyone wore hats."
--Anne Sexton, from "Protestant Easter"
Jeff Brumley of Baptist News writes an amazing story of this Ohio pastor who brought a large bull into his church and rode the critter. The Pastor was a former bull rider and hoped to get people's attention--and win souls for Jesus. Guess what? It worked. 300 souls were saved. I am not sure what they were saved from. Bull riding? Maybe saved for bull riding.
The Pastor, Lawrence Bishop created an Internet sensation and even appeared on Nightline. Wonder how many souls were saved by just listening to this story. Bishop's Mama was quoted as saying that she believed her son had gone crazy when he pitched the idea of building a rodeo ring inside the church and riding bulls in it. But, she said, it was an exciting place "because there is never a dull moment at Solid Rock Church".
Brother Bishop ought to read the Book. The crowds turned away when Jesus did not feed them. He asked his disciples, "Will you also go away?" The longer he preached the fewer there were that came. Early in his ministry the Lord was confronted by the devil with three temptations. Stones into bread...wow the crowd by throwing yourself from the temple's highest point...fall down and worship me, the devil said. The Bible called these temptations. I'll give it all to you--all you have to do is dazzle the crowd. Jesus simply shook his head.
In our desperation these days many churches are opting for the spectacular. A church down the road from me gave a motorcycle to one of the attenders on Father's Day. I don't know if they gave a lifetime supply of diapers to some mother on Mother's Day. Or maybe that church ought to try aprons, comet and brooms for the little ladies.
When the church becomes just like the rest of the entertainment world--it will eventually go down the tubes. Reckon all those whose lives were changed on Bull Riding Sunday will be around a year from now? Maybe so. Maybe not. But the church is not the theatre and not some place to tickle the nerve endings of very bored people.
Jesus did give something to those that came. He touched them. He healed them. He loved them. He forgave them. He pointed them in a whole new direction. He called them to leave it all behind and follow him. Most of those first disciples ended up as martyrs. He never gave them what they wanted--he gave them what they needed.
We don't need any more entertainment. We don't need the spectacular. We do need faith and hope and love. Buechner said that if Paul were writing today he would say of faith, hope, love-- the greatest of these is hope. Everywhere I go from grocery store, to the work out place, to Sunday School class or just talking to my neighbor over the back fence--we are all hungry not only for hope but faith to hang on to when everything is crazy--and a love that will never let us go--regardless of who we are and what we have done.
My Mama used to say: "You need something to stick to your innards." And so do we all. Wouldn't it be something to come to the end of the line and realize all that cotton candy we filled ourselves up on was really not enough. Once upon a time Gene Autry was quite a cowboy--and made whole lot of money when he sang, over and over, at the end of his movies, "I'm back in the saddle again." But I guarantee you if you stop people on the street and ask them about Gene Autry they will look at you strangely and say, "Who?"
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com