No longer are we healing each other the way that the disciples healed the broken they encountered. No longer are we walking into worship with the wounded, or the formerly wounded. No, like so many of those who were not disciples, we're walking right past them on our way into worship, and then we're doing the most unspeakable of all things -
We're talking about them.
We're talking about them with those who have come to worship with us, whether they come regularly or have come for the first time. Hey, did you see Joe this morning? Right outside the door, just like always. Begging for a handout.
Poor guy, we conclude. It must be terrible to have to live life like that. And then, inevitably, someone asks what we mean by that, and we end up telling Joe's whole life story in our temples, as though we have some right to it. We do it without fear because Joe? Joe's stuck outside, and we know that he's not coming in. He's never going to hear the way that we talk about him.
Then, just for good measure, we put Joe on the prayer list. Not because we particularly think that God is going to do anything spectacular for Joe, but because it gives us permission to talk about him more and to pry into his life. Hey, Joe, we're praying for you! we say, although that's not at all what we're doing. We're not praying for Joe; we're praying about Joe. Just so that we can talk about him.
And the more that we pray about Joe, the more we begin to pray like Pharisees. No longer even praying about Joe, but starting to pray about ourselves. O Lord, we thank You so much from the very depths of our beings that we are not like Joe. We thank You that we are free to come in and out of Your worship, that we do not need to depend upon others, that we do not spend our lives begging at Your door, but come full in and receive Your glory...
And on and on and on it goes. And the longer we let ourselves pray about Joe, then pray about ourselves, then determine that we are so far better off than Joe in so many ways, the more we realize that Joe is still there. At the door. Begging.
Poor guy, we conclude. His life just never changes.
His life never gets better. His circumstances never change. Every day of worship, there he is, right at the door, begging for a handout. It doesn't take long before all the gossip that we've spoken and heard about Joe starts to get to us and our self-righteous prayers echo deeper and deeper into our empty hearts, and we find one day that we kind of despise Joe. Okay, we really despise Joe. We snub our noses at him, this guy who has spent his entire life at our doorstep without ever coming in. His life never changes. Why? Does he not want it to change?
All of a sudden, we're asking why Joe doesn't just do something better for himself. Why he doesn't at least move doorways. He's been at this one for a long time, and what has it gotten him? Nothing. Nothing at all.
We never seem to realize that the reason that nothing in Joe's life has changed in the twenty years he's sat by our door is not Joe's fault; it's ours. We have walked right past him for twenty years, stepping over his outstretched legs and dancing around his outstretched hands on our way into worship, never once stopping to offer him what we have most abundantly - the healing power of God-made-flesh. Never once stopping to heal him. Never once stopping to speak the restoration of God into his broken life.
Some kind of disciples we are.