finding life among the dead

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:5b-6a

The words the angels spoke to the women who discovered the empty tomb of Christ resonate with me every Easter.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

It’s a question that is just as viable today as it was 2,000 years ago.

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church buildings

Earlier this week, the Church saw itself disdained in the eyes of many.

St. Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, had installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways (read the news story). The church leaders claimed the system was installed to clean the feces and used needles out of the cathedral’s entrances, much as the businesses in the financial district had done.

Many were outraged, myself included, to see a local church, called to be the reflection of the living God on earth, treat the homeless in such a matter. Newspapers, media, even Facebook and Twitter, blew up with comments on the story.

Everyone was angry with the choice made by the leaders of St. Mary’s Cathedral. They couldn’t believe a church would do such a thing.

But after a few hours, and some serious reflection, a question crossed my mind.

What if the entrance to my church’s building was covered in human feces and used needles? What if every morning the leaders of your church had to clean up poop, needles, and trash left behind by those sleeping in the entrance way?

How would our churches respond?
How would you respond?

I fear it would be similar to the way St. Mary’s Cathedral responded.

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incubator faith

I’m on a journey this year to a greater, and deeper, level of faith.

I’m not talking about the faith to believe that God is real, or that Christ came to pay for our sins. That faith has been settled in my heart long ago.

The kind of faith I’m journeying to build this year is the faith we read about in Hebrews 11.

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hinders2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

In Hebrews 12:1, Paul mentions two things that keep us from running after God and the call He placed on our lives:

  • Everything that hinders
  • The sin that so easily entangles

We tend to lump these two things together – seeing everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles as two ways to say the same thing.

Sin does hinder us.
And we are hindered by sin.

Same concept. Different wording.

But Paul wasn’t just being flowery with his choice of words in this verse. He wasn’t just restating the same concept twice to gain attention.

Everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles referred to two different ideas.

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skillfullysurrounded

The past few months, I have been stuck in Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

It’s a challenging response to great stories of faith — to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, so we can run fully after God.

The longer I study this verse, the more I love Paul’s choice of words.

The word translated above as entangles, is a Greek word meaning skillfully surrounds, and prevent from running.

Skillfully surrounds.

It accurately describes what sin does to us.

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