For Revolutionaries and Visionaries Only

One of the gifts I’ve been given from the construction world is that I understand it takes time to create something beautiful. And that ‘time’ includes lots hard work, sweat, many mistakes, sometimes broken bones, blood, busted budgets, mental toughness to keep the vision in mind when all you see is a mess, and the willingness to keep at it, to do it the right when things get difficult, and not cut corners. I have many terrible stories of what cutting corners does in the construction world… just go out to a new housing suburb and ask a homeowner what issues they have with their “new” home. Good work, beautiful work, takes time and commitment to do things right.

With many jobs I work on, there is demolition that has to happen before we can start actually ‘building.’ Whether it’s digging the footer for a stem wall that is going to hold the bearing load of a building, jackhammering out old concrete and rebar to build something more functional or more aesthetically pleasing, or tearing out walls, ceiling or floors for a remodel. The homes or buildings where demo takes place becomes a dusty mess, full of hazards and is in need of strong labors to tear out and haul off all the junk that is no longer necessary.

It takes this…

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To get to this…

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Or this…

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To get this…

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In life, this struggle is the same. We all want the beauty without the work. We want the resurrected life without the death. We want healing but not the pain. We want the finished product, but not the long journey of demolition and clean up to get to the point where you can actually start building again. We want to live in peace, and run from disorder. We want to ignore what’s broken. We want to cut corners. This is a human desire. I don’t know anyone, who in their right mind, loves pain and waiting a long time for things to become whole. But not loving these things does not mean we can dodge them and expect the beauty we long for.

You see, this work is hard because if forces us to deal with that which we are afraid of: exposure of our shame, ignored trauma and loss, an invitation to grieve, asking others to help us haul off the junk that’s been demolished… This work is hard because it invites us into the truth of the way things really are, and to ‘willingly’ move into our shame and grief seems like a death wish at worst, and stupid at best.

But it is precisely the digging into the shame and moving into the grief that is what creates the beauty. It’s the asking for help and recruiting strong laborers to help with the heavy lifting. But remember, it’s the ashes covered over the forest floor that brings about a plush forest in years to come. It’s the work of sitting in your pain long enough to die to the old ways that have kept you numb isolated, and without passion and intimacy for years. Death must be at work within us for beauty to ever surface in the purest sense.

So here’s to the hard work of creating beauty when there is no clear vision of what it will look like once we get there. Here’s to sitting in our pain (not completely on our own though) long enough to die, and in the tomb of grief, in time, it will turn into a womb. And once again, you will be invited into the pain as you will labor to give birth to the hidden beauty waiting to be revealed.

This is an invitation for the revolutionary, the visionary, the one who is not happy with the way things have been, for those who are not willing to cut corners, and move past the comments that are meant to keep you from feeling and dealing with what’s really going on under the slab. May this encourage you today to stay the course, and as Mumford and Sons puts it, to not succumb when the world is wrapping round your neck. Find your broad-shouldered beasts and invite them in to your shame and grief to share to weight and pain of this journey towards beauty.

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Divine Dancers

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I don’t know about you, but in my family, when a good song comes on, we’ve got a team of dancers hitting the living room floor pulling out their best moves, not caring what anyone else is thinking… just going for it! Every now and then, we all look to one person and we join in on their dance, and start dancing like them; a similar dance, but not exactly, because we all have different movements.

This dance party can go on for over an hour sometimes, all of us laughing and enjoying the spirit of joining one another in their favorite dance style. Dancing causes movement. Dancing creates joy and life.

As I’ve been reflecting on this during advent this season, I’ve been stuck reading the passage in Mark 1:9-11, where Jesus is going down to the Jordan River to get baptized by Johnny B (John the Baptist). This is a beautiful intro to Mark’s account of Jesus, as the sinless savior is identifying with sinful man, and in this humble and gracious identification, God’s Spirit (the dove in this narrative) descends upon God’s Son (Jesus) as God the Father speaks words that thrust us into his heart for all humanity:

“This is my son, the beloved. He brings great joy to me.” There it is. A divine dance. God in all of his mysterious nature honors and brags on one another. Jesus being obedient to identify with sinners. The Spirit anointing Jesus as the One who Israel and all of humanity is groaning for. The Father showing love and affection for his child. Could this be a dance, or at least a beautiful song. If God’s love is song as Switchfoot gives imagery to, then a good song demands dancing!

God’s dance, a divine dance if you will, gives humanity a glimpse into the Father’s heart from the beginning. This takes me back to the unknown days before anything was, God was, and if you’d indulge with my imagination for a moment, I would like to retell the story of God briefly through the lens of a “dance party”.

How It All Began

God the Father, before all of creation, dancing to the jam of the Son. The Son, dancing to the jam of the Spirit… and so on. And then out of this beautiful, divine jam dance and jam session, angels were created to dance to the jams of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then all of a sudden, something shocking happened. The angels who reflected like a mirror, the beauty of this tri-dance jam session, were asked by this mysterious three person dance machine, to pick their favorite jam and this divine Trinity starting dancing with them to their favorite jam.

The joining in of joy and praise bust forth with mighty arrays of lights beaming and bouncing off of each creature, and in the midst of this creative jam session, the Trinity couldn’t contain their beauty and grace, and began sharing their mojo…

  • The universe was created and the dance party got better…
  • God spoke light into existence and the dance party got better…
  • God separated the heavens from the earth and the dance party got better…
  • God gathered all the waters of the earth together and gave them their boundaries and the dance party got better…
  • God brought texture to the land with plant and trees and all kinds of seeds and the dance party got better…
  • God made a sun to govern the day and a moon to govern the night and the dance party got better…
  • God filled the waters with life and wonder and the land with beautiful and crazy creatures and the dance party got better…

But the angles were wondering how crazy this party was gonna get?!

Then, the invitations went out and a whole new people group joined the dance… humans starting joining in, and their dance was goofy and funky, unlike any other dance the angels had ever seen, but they were cool with it! The dance party was a success; it was very good!

How It all Fell Apart

But something terrible happened. The humans started making the dance about themselves and taking credit for the dance moves that they learned from their divine company. The even started to control how others were dancing and were claiming authority over this type of dance and over that type of dance. This broke God the Father’s heart, as his purpose in this dance party was always to give everything he had to humanity… for their joy, not for coercive power.

Spiritual destruction took place, and the rest of God’s story is a glimpse into the the Father’s heart to redeem humanity and their dance. Everything in God’s story after this moment, points to spiritual transformation as the deepest and most profound human need. And as one follows the story of Scripture throughout the Old Testament approaching the New, you would understand why this transformation requires death.

Human effort after human effort; failed attempts after failed attempts, we begin to see that humanity is in desperate need of someone greater than themselves.

Broken promises, false gods, oppressing the poor, raping the earth, objectifying women, mocking the humble, making themselves kings, neglecting to love the immigrants in their land… This is the story of Israel in the Old Testament, and if we’re honest with ourselves, this is our story as well. Humanity needs something much greater then what we have to offer.

How It Is Being Put Back Together

Enter Jesus. Born from a Virgin teen mom and a refugee, coming from a land where nothing good has come from it; you can call it the wrong side of the tracks. He humbly learns as a child, becomes a construction worker, and end up teaching like no other teacher of his day. He stands opposed to the religious system, he casts out demons, he moves into the neighborhood of the marginalized, he touches the filthy ones, he feeds the poor, he heals the sick, and he welcomes the sinner and rejected.

Jesus is utterly different than us, but becomes like us for our sake;

– so our dance doesn’t suck anymore

– so we can begin dancing again with joy

– so our dancing can produce justice and goodness

– so our dances begin to include others who dance slightly differently than us, or even radically different.

– so our dance actually moves us and isn’t centered around us

Jesus redeems our off beat dancing. He realizes he must die in our place to give us his dance moves, because we have utterly lost our step. So he freely and lovingly offers his life for ours. He is tortured for the crimes we have committed. He is rejected for the very things we were too afraid to stand for. He dies a cursed death in the place we were supposed to die.

But there’s something utterly unique about this man. Jesus, the God of all creation, made himself flesh, moved into our neighborhood, took our death upon himself, because he knew that ‘death for him’ was ‘life for us’. Death would destroy us, but this Jesus can destroy death. He puts to death the power of death once and for all in his death for us fallen dancers, and restore our dancing abilities.

How Our Future Is Secure

His resurrection means life after death for his followers too. It also means that the life of his followers dance like his life. They are no longer dancing in their own power, but are now dancing in the power of His Spirit.

You see, this is a new kind of dance the world knows not of, until Jesus’ followers begin busting out in their divine dance and reveal that their dance is not about themselves, but about their King. All of Jesus’ people believe Jesus is who he says he is by faith, and at that moment, something magical happens in their lives. Death produces life.

For a seed to give birth to life, first it must die, then, and that point of death, a dance busts out of the tomb that had become a womb, and gives birth to something beautiful and life changing. All the dancers who become Jesus’ people are now remade in such a way that death no longer is the final blow. Instead, death is entrance into life the way it was always supposed to be, before it all fell apart.

The Mission of Worship

You see, this dance talk is what worship is. It’s very beautiful, but very dangerous as well. For if we begin to worship in the complete sense, the necessary outcome is a life transformed to do justice, offer mercy, and be humble, like Jesus.

Worship is dangerous. It means you may make a fool of yourself dancing, you may even die because of your dance, but you are no longer defined by anything except what Jesus thinks of your dance.

We see this danger in worship throughout the narrative of Scripture we just breezed over. Think about these words and phrases and what they meant to the characters in Scripture:

Build a boat

Leave your land

Sacrifice your wealth

Wilderness

Exodus

Stand before giants

Exile

Lions den

Fiery furnace

A throne high and lifted up

A helpless babe in a manger

Take no provisions with you

Lose your life to gain life

Persecution

Flogging

Crucifixion

Resurrection

Witness

Take up your cross

Martyr

Marginalized

Dispersion

Worship is utterly dangerous. It moves us. It will be what we are about for all eternity. For any of you who have a boring idea of what heaven may be like, let me burst your bubble. It will not be full of short, pudgy, half naked angels sitting on clouds playing harps (unless you really like that kind of thing… in that case, indulge!).

It will be party full of “American Idol” type singers and “So You Think You Can Dance” type dancers… and they will be you and I, cutting it up, always full of fresh new moves, joining in the dance of others, and never taking the glory from the one who makes the sun shine. The eternal dance party that continually creates beauty, joy, life, and laughter.

I’m convinced that life with Jesus, that following Jesus, allows us to experience glimpses and foretastes of some of that here and now! Jesus does not allow his people stand with him without being moved by him. And Jesus’s movements are dance moves that aren’t controlling or oppressive, but humble and giving. Jesus doesn’t take; He gives.

Jesus also give his people the freedom to join in with others who are dancing differently than them and not judge them or curse them, but dance with them, not to their tune, but to Jesus’ tune. Jesus’ people are free to break out of any dance circle to reveal to everyone that Jesus isn’t part of any dance circle. This dance was meant to be for all, to give life, not to hoard life or brag about having the “right” life, but to display the only way to life with joy and gladness, through humility and suffering, in friendship and community.

Jesus, move us. Change us. Make us legit dancers. Give us courage to act. Grant us grace to rest and listen. Offer your presence to us in fresh new ways. Shape our thoughts. Direct our passions. Create new life. And we will promise to give you all the glory and fame!