Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Call of the Saturday Speakers

The weekend's events remembering the late Jason Ray went about as well as they could have gone. The Friday night visitation that purposed to last from 6-9pm ended up continuing on for six hours with some visitors waiting in line for three hours. The funeral the next day drew 1000 people; Jason's youth pastor joked that Jason would have loved to know that he "drew a crowd."

In particular, the speakers at Saturday's service performed admirably. They joked without triteness. They grieved without despair. They shared the Gospel without shame.

Though it has embraced Jason and his story, the world does not love this Gospel presentation that has so often emerged from his death and did again with the Saturday speakers. The newspapers will quote much, but they will not quote the pastor's proclamation that they best way for anyone to honor Jason in his death is to investigate who the person of Jesus Christ really is.

I must confess that I, too, became uncomfortable when I felt this Gospel presentation coming on. Possessing a strong past and an all too occassional present knack for people-pleasing, I find myself in tune with how people will respond to what I observe. "Why make people uncomfortable during a time when we all so desperately just want to feel good again?" my flesh quickly asked before the indwelling Holy Spirit politely told it to shut the hell up.

Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be the most important information anyone can know, that's why. Peter exhorts us to "[a]lways be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Always. Even at funerals. Especially at funerals.

In our melting pot, we have the opportunity to reject Jesus without ever actually feeling like we reject him. We live in a vast Sam's Club where we can have any purpose in life we want, at low cost and high volume. Sports. Politics. Career. Education. Oprah. Family. Partying. Capitalism. You want it? America's got it. Jesus simply sits on the shelf like everything else. We can choose to ignore him, to walk right past him, without ever actually looking to see what he offers. Without ever actually having to say "No" to him.

The speakers said that Jesus stands as our only hope in times like these, and do not be fooled, times like these await us all. Our coming calamity, as John Piper puts it. If you have lived long enough, you have experienced this. Many of us did for the first time this past week. 21-year olds die in freak accidents. Two Charlotte police officers in their mid-30's with families are shot on a routine weekend call. Elizabeth Edwards and Kay Yow encounter the devastation of cancer. Death comes to us all.

We must acknowledge these facts. No secret or positive thinking can circumvent them. The way we deal with them will, to a large extent, define our lives.

This is why what the speakers did at Jason's funeral was so vital. They told anyone who would listen that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. They told anyone who would listen that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, among whom we are the foremost. They told anyone who would listen that Jesus said the only way to the Father was through him. They told anyone who would listen that Jesus offers us a way to engage all of life, to find purpose in it, to find hope in it.

We in the audience could choose to continue shopping without encountering Jesus. But they sure made it harder for us to do so.

In the spirit of the Saturday speakers and in the spirit of the life that Jason Ray led, I encourage all of you out there to encounter Jesus. Take him off the shelf and look at the packaging. Maybe even open it up. Have an opinion or decide to go form one. At the very least, give Jesus the respect of telling him he's out of his mind.

My e-mail address is on my profile if you have questions. Most of my frequent commentors would love to chat too if you think me to be a prude, a moron, or a jackass (and do not worry, I have been called worse).

Ignoring Jesus is saying "No" to Jesus. Putting the decision off until tomorrow is saying "No" to Jesus today. Waiting until you do not have the pleasures of youth to enjoy before encountering Jesus is saying "No" to Jesus, even if you plan to check him out later.

I thank God today that JRay did not take any of these routes.


Anonymous said...

I am encouraged by your thoughts.

Oakley said...

One of your best blogs yet......and I'm going to have a talk with you about your overinsertion of Oprah into these things.

Esther said...

Amen. Good post, Ben.

Ben said...

Yeah, Oak, I'm not sure about that. I had noticed it too but never thought it odd - which I guess in retrospect is troubling. Must be the Borders influence. She's huge there and really everywhere in much of the adult realm. I guess even I can't escape her.

Sorry for no post this afternoon. Gotta go watch the little sis blaze the 800m at a track meet. Hopefully, I'll get on a post tonight though.

Jeff said...

well, she did bring "the secret" to the world. God bless Oprah!