Written by Scott Taylor
Once upon a time, a famous conductor stepped out onto the stage of a famous classical music venue and performed a famous composition with a famous orchestra. When the piece was over, the crowd went wild with applause. Silencing the audience, the famous conductor took his large and imposing book, which contained all the notes of the symphony, and approached a microphone. He declared into the microphone while holding the book high in the air, “This is music!” The crowd went wild again.
Eighteen months ago, my wife and I brought our daughter down the aisle of the sanctuary and stood in front of the congregation. Together, we renounced evil and affirmed our faith and became a church-family. At the center of the ceremony was a pitcher of water with a seashell emblem on the side. The pastor took the water and slowly poured it into a metal bowl. He said some words and declared the water to be “holy.” Some from the crowd came back to our house for a party!
Two-thousand years ago, a physician named Luke sat down to record the life and death and resurrection of his friend, Jesus. He recorded stories about Pharisees and Publicans and Prodigals. One story was about a righteous man. This was what we would call a good person. He knew the difference between right and wrong and he lived that way. He even knew the two great commandments: to love God with your whole self, and to love your neighbor as yourself. What he didn’t seem to know was who his neighbor really was. So, Luke’s friend told him a story about a man who was traveling a dangerous road – the man was robbed of his money and left to die in the ditch. A pastor came upon the poor soul and passed him by. Another man did the same. Finally, an unclean outsider (another way of saying Samaritan) came down the dangerous road. This man stopped and took care of the other as if they were blood relatives. The righteous man saw that the only one who was a neighbor was the unclean Samaritan. Jesus declared, “Go do likewise!” The crowd crucified him.
In the end, it’s all just ink on a page and water in a bucket without us.
Notes on a page make no sound on their own. They must have life breathed into them by musicians who have taken time and care to learn how to take the book of notes and translate it into a symphony. That is not an easy thing to do and musicians must spend their whole lives in pursuit of that call.
Water in a bucket is not holy on its own. It must be washed over the whole church transforming it into one body wherein even this infant is essential. Only then does that water begin to be holy and filled with unlimited power. That is not an easy thing to do and the church must give its life in pursuit of that call.
Ink on a page is not faith, even when that ink is in the Bible. Knowing the story of “The Good Samaritan” and living Christ’s command to “Go and do likewise” are two very different things. The words of this story mean nothing if they don’t take on flesh.
God forgive me! Time and time again you have put me in places where your word-made-flesh is needed. Time and again, I have walked away and made righteous excuses while my neighbor lay in the ditch.
Hear the good news! God’s ink may yet be made flesh – maybe even through Christians like you and me. That is not an easy thing to do. Indeed, we must give our lives in pursuit of that call.