Last weekend I spent a few days meeting with youth pastors from around our conference: Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. One of the pastors was visually impaired and sitting faithfully by her side all weekend was her guide dog: a handsome eight- year-old black lab. If you’ve ever met a service dog, you know they are really something to behold; they are very well trained, very behaved, unflappable, un-excitable, they almost don’t care about what social things are going on around them. This dog was no different. There could have been a riot outside and it would have just patiently gone about its duty of sitting there, calmly. Of course if you know anything about dogs or especially about labs you know what a feat that is; labs are renowned for their high energy social demeanor. This dog was uber-domesticated, impressively so.
My youth pastor friend informed me that when the dog had its guiding harness on it was not to be treated like a family pet, not touched or talked to in that excited “hi puppy” kind of voice that people talk to dogs in: this dog was working. However, if the harness was off it could be treated as any other normal pet.
At one point she took the harness off, and the transition was immediate and astounding. In a split second the dog went from cool-collected, calm, un-excitable to “classic” lab … playful, bouncy, loving and loveable.
Then came our speaker at the retreat, our newly minted conference superintendent Greg Yee. He talked a little about being a dog owner/lover. He said that sometimes he treats the Gospel like a dog; he takes it to the dog park to let it off its leash. It runs around playfully within the safety of the fenced area. When he is tired of schmoozing and making small talk with the other off-leash Gospel owners he calls to the Gospel and it faithfully returns, gets back into its kennel, and goes on the car ride home. Safe. Domesticated.
How domesticated is the Gospel that you know about? How trained is it? Has the Gospel of Jesus Christ changed its entire demeanor because we have faithfully trained it to do the work that we wanted it to do? Of course it seemed like good work while we were doing the training, didn’t it? What happens if we take the Gospel off the leash and let it be what it was meant to be? What if we take it away from the safety of the fenced areas? What if we lose control of it? What if… The Bible isn’t super big on “what if” but it does do “what is” and “what will be.” Enter the prophet Isaiah, who Jesus quoted constantly, and John the writer of Revelation, and about a hundred bazillion other places in the Bible where we see the Gospel really “off leash” wild, unhindered, doing what it does… Turns out things start to happen, the world starts to change, there is freedom and healing and even, scandalously, the very presence of God himself out in the open among the people of the world. Is it just me, or does anyone else want in on that?
Isaiah 42:6-8 (NIV) “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV) The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Revelation 21 (NIV) Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Noah can be reached via email here.