Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dirty, Disgusting Churches

If we want to honor Jesus in our churches, and not merely exalt Him, it's going to require that we get a little dirty. After all, anything that has ever been holy to God has been a little gross.

And ceremonially clean.

Take, for example, the Old Testament tabernacle, and then the Temple. God described the sacrifices going up from these places as "pleasing." He described the act of sacrifice as "pleasing." It was a sign of cleanliness, bringing your offering to the priest and giving it wholly to God.

But what did this sacrifice involve? It involved slaughter. It involved blood and guts and gore. It involved the smell of a pile of entrails and burning hair. And this was pleasing?

The ceremonially clean came to the Lord with this offering. By the time it was done, they were covered in blood. The priest was covered in blood. The altar was covered in blood. There was blood poured out over here, blood poured out over there, piles of remnants left on the floor, to be collected into buckets and toted to some unclean place outside the camp. In rituals of anointing and purification, some of the blood was intentionally smeared on the human being. In the case of the priests, it was on his right thumb, right toe, and right earlobe. After the slaughter, some of the meat was ceremonially lifted high into the air before being burned up; the blood dripped from this sacrifice as the priest waved it around before the presence of the Lord.

Being clean and presenting a holy sacrifice to God was dirty work.

In the New Testament, the same is true of the story of Jesus. We see Him reference His dirty feet a time or two, and the dirt on other people's feet. He was surrounded by ceremonial uncleanness. The Pharisees chided Him and His disciples for failing to wash properly, which means not only His feet, but also His hands were dirty. The inside and outside of His cups were dirty. He spent some of His time fishing and preparing fish. 

Let's face it - Jesus stunk.

And then there's the Cross. That's no pretty picture, either. There's nothing clean about Calvary. Yet all of this was required for God to be glorified. All of this disgusting stuff was somehow...holy.

So it is today.

Our churches ought to be some of the dirtiest places in all the world, while also being the most ceremonially clean. We ought to welcome sinners with open arms, walk the world so much that our feet get permanently dirty. We ought to have dirty hands and dirty cups and dirty dishes, all for the sake of inviting those into our presence that Jesus would have in His. We ought to tie towels around our waists and knell down into the muck to help someone else be a little cleaner. We ought to put our hands in the dirt and start doodling - not drawing lines, but dusting grace. 

We ought to live the way that Jesus lived, love the way that Jesus loved, and be an aroma and a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord. 

And that requires that we get a little dirty. 

But that's what makes us clean.

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