Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Hill Outside the Holy City

Yesterday, I wrote about some famous words that Jesus spoke. And as I was writing, I wrote about how He carried His Cross on His shoulders to a hill outside of the holy city to die a criminal's (disgraceful) death. 

And it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how much of our lives we invest in the "good" things, in the "holy" places, if you will. About how we love the bright, shiny, sacred things of worship and all the rich depth that goes along with a place like that.

Jerusalem was that place. The entire history of God's people centered on Jerusalem. It's where the Temple was. It's where the palace was. It's where they fought wars and lost battles and went into exile and returned home. So much of the significant parts of the story of God's people was tied to Jerusalem, and it was where they expected everything else to happen, too. 

In other words, it made perfect sense to them that Jesus would happen in Jerusalem. Which is why it was such a point of contention whether there was a place for Him there or not. (If they made a place for Him, they'd have to confess He was the Promise; if they could keep Him out of Jerusalem, they could deny it.) 

So, then, it's interesting that Jesus dies - the most holy, sacred act that has ever occurred on the face of the planet - just outside the city, not in it. Just outside, looking back over Jerusalem. Just outside, a little obscure place on a little obscure hill set aside for unholy things. 

Do you know that we, too, often do the most holy things in the most unholy places?

We don't think about it. We build our legacy in holy places, in clean churches and contemporary programs and small group gatherings with friends, and we let these things define us. We let them define not only us, but our geography. Our stories center around our holy things.

But I'm telling you, it's a farce. It's false. It's one of the ways that our culture has crept in and cleaned up our Christianity. It's one of the ways this world has convinced us that we ought to appraise our own lives. 

The truth is that our legacy is built in unholy places, in the gutters of life. Where the rabble roam. Where the criminals are crucified. Where faith is really put to the test. 

It's in the loss and the grief and the brokenness and the anger and the forgiveness and the hope and the despair and the doubt and the questions and the agony and the defeat. It's in the trials more than it is in the triumphs. It's on the little obscure hills looking over the great, grand places - the little hills where you can cry out at the top of your lungs and all of five persons are going to hear you; the rest of the world is just going to go about its business. 

And really, we know that's true. If you've lived this life at all, you know it. We want to pretend our lives are clean and pretty and pristine, but none of us actually live there. None of us live even the majority of our lives in the holy places; we live them in places we have to make holy by what we do there. 

Little hills outside the city where we die a criminal's (disgraceful) death. But with the hope - and the promise - of resurrection moving in the whispers, all eyes waiting to see.... 

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