Posts Tagged ‘the Robe’

marketingI know it feels like marketing sometimes, this “evangelism” or spreading of the gospel, the good news. Back in the day, it was a little different since communication was a personal craft. People who could speak well or or turn a phrase, or read, were the ones who led the way. People who had miraculous experiences were quick to tell (for a season) and eyewitnesses retold what they saw and/or heard again and again. But, have we been playing “chinese telephone?”

The Lord has commanded us to do this. Remember His words:I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel, so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth.” [Isa 49:6] These words created two strong reactions. The outsiders were thrilled and praised God’s message, and all those who had been appointed for eternal life became believers. Through them the Lord’s message spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders united the aristocratic religious women and the city’s leading men in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and soon they were persecuted and driven out of the region. They [Paul and Barnabas] simply shook the dust off their feet in protest and moved on . . . [Acts 13:47-51a]

Oral traditions are powerful. The personal telling of a story or episode is always more compelling than a newspaper article or textbook telling of the same event. We have all read about the execution of 6 million Jews in the second world war, but meeting and speaking with even one survivor of the Holocaust will sear the mind forever.  Just last week, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, we were appalled and even fascinated, watching hour after hour for the smallest bit of news. And yet, the reality of that story was much more immediate when I spoke to Mary whose daughter was in the race. She was there.

Over the Easter season, I watched the old movie, The Robe, again. The phrase that keeps ringing through my mind was, “Were you there?” And this was the point: being “there,” being at the crucifixion was the turning point for Marcellus Gallio [Richard Burton]. And, in the end, when he finally embraces his first hand experience, he is changed.

It is our own first hand experiences that change us as well. Some of those sagas are dramatic and others are not. We cannot all have a “road to Damascus” [Acts 9] story. And yet, there is something personal that moved us from one place to another, from one belief to another, from one understanding to another. Each moment is different and even unique. When did you come to believe?

But I urge us all to take care. We are not longer living in an oral society. We are living in the Twitterverse where Google and Facebook have become verbs, where the image now trumps words, and “reach” means how many “eyeballs” we can accumulate and entice to land on a web page or a flat screen.

The gospel is not a show. It’s not some event that we are “marketing.” The gospel is only as dynamic as your story is for you.

The rest is hype. And just as you get sick of seeing the same commercial over and over again, so people grow tired of hearing and seeing the canned gospel.

If it really means something to  you . . . to me, then that is story I have to tell. And if it resonates, that’s great. If not, then I simply knock the dust from my shoes and keep on keeping on. Because I know my story is true. I cannot convince anyone to believe it. It just is what it is for me.

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I can’t imagine having so much of the spirit of Christ within me to have an overflow. Like Jesus and the woman with the “issue of blood,” when she touched him, he didn’t feel the touch, he felt the power go out him.

Acts 19:11-12
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

And here is Paul, with such an overflow that handkerchiefs and aprons which had come into contact with him curing people. I know there have been charlatans throughout the ages who have sold pieces of garments or cloths saying that they were blessed and prayed over and as a result had healing power. This is not like that. This is the overflow. Paul didn’t touch the clothing and then say, “take this and put it on her wounds to heal her.” It was just overflow.

One of my favorite Christian movies is The Robe with Richard Burton. This idea that Jesus’s garments had power is traditional. To my knowledge, there is no reference in scripture that his robe went on to do powerful healings on its own. But if small items like handkerchiefs that Paul touched were powerful, wouldn’t it make sense that Jesus’s garments would have some of that same overflow power?

Another piece of fabric that has always intrigued me is the cloth that was laid over Jesus’s face when he was interred and then, after his resurrection, it was neatly folded off to the side. [John 20:7] Who folded it? I’m thinking Mary, his mother was there, but of course, that is mere speculation. I certainly don’t think Jesus rose from the dead and then straightened things up before leaving the tomb and folded his face cloth. And I wonder, was there overflow power in that small thing as well? Of course.

How does cloth carry power? I think it’s like aroma. It permeates natural fibers. How often have we heard that people can still smell a loved one’s scent on their clothing. Overflow power works the same way.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15, it says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

He’s overflowing into us…. into me. My presence in the midst of others should be a pleasing aroma by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s so simple… just be a handkerchief and touch those in need.

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Mark 38-39
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the [or a] Son of God!”

An epiphany is “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” For the centurions with execution detail, this was a commonplace experience. They had killed hundreds and hundreds of men. They had nailed them and stripped them and mocked them and thrown dice over their belongings. It was tedious work.

But at least one centurion began to see this man in a new light. He listened to his words. He watched him suffer and he watched him die and then he understood. They had just crucified a holy man, a son of God, a man, and yet not a man. Nor was this a quiet time; it was frightening. Darkness had descended upon the place followed by a great earthquake at Jesus’ death. People must have been running and screaming as anyone would during a cataclysm.

And what was next for this centurion? What did he think or do? Did he believe it was too late? Did he bow down before his new Lord right then? Did he weep like Peter or despair like Judas? Did he change?

My mind keeps going to that wonderful old book (by Lloyd C. Douglas, 1942) and the 1953 movie by the same name, The Robe (with Richard Burton and Victor Mature). Here Centurion Marcellus (Burton) does not transform immediately but over time, having won Jesus’ robe, he is affected by the proximity of the robe and haunted by his experiences on Golgotha. Eventually, he becomes a believer, joins the other Christians and ultimately he is martyred as many were under Caligula.

What does any of this mean for us… for me? I know what it means to have an epiphany… a true insight from God, but I confess I have archived most of them in distant reaches of my brain. Abba, forgive me. Give me mindfulness that I might build on the truths you reveal to me.

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