[This Morning Jesus is Super Excited about all of your efforts to climb out of the pit you have dug for yourself.]
I wasn’t going to say any more about it (the gospel of Self-Help), because you’re all going to get pretty irritated. But then someone, purporting to be my friend, sent me the most ghastly meme, throwing me, as it were, back into the fray, and so I’ll just have one more brief word. Here is the meme:
It’s just like when Jesus, who was on the way to that helpless Synagogue Ruler’s house, was stopped by that poor woman who had suffered at the hands of so many doctors, looked down at her and said, ‘Girl’–which was a super awkward thing to call her because of her being rather a long way away from her girlhood–‘Girl, stop your bleeding,’ and so she totes just did because it had never occurred to her to just get well. Then, triumphant, he carried on to the room of a person who was, in actual fact, a little girl—which is why lots of Christians, charmed by the words he uses, “Little Girl, Arise,” name their chubby baby girls Talitha—seeing her lying there, dead, says, ‘Girl, we’re almost there.’ And because she’s dead she just lies there, being dead, while he wanders away to the next super needy person who can’t see and can’t hear and can’t walk and who is, how shall I put it, Literally Dying, and just encourages them to keep on keeping on.
To Blind Bartimaeus, he probably said, ‘Dude, pry open your eyelids and just start seeing. You can do it!’
To Lazarus, he said, ‘You’re kind of smelly there in that tomb. Why don’t you take a bath?’
To Zacchaeus, he said, ‘I am so impressed with how much money you have amassed! That is So Awesome! You’re only like a year away from your vacation house in Rome.’
To those lepers, he probably said, ‘Stop Being Sick! Wash off all that foul skin disease and go run a marathon!’
To Peter when he was sinking below the waves I’m sure he said, ‘Swim Harder! Don’t give up! The shore is only like a mile and a half away. This isn’t even a “sea.” It’s actually a lake and the waves are only in your imagination.’
Later he said to Peter, ‘Have you thought about just not denying me? That would be great, thanks.’To the Rich Young Ruler, he said, ‘Oh Yeah, you have kept all the commandments and I love your robe. Let’s get coffee.’
To the Centurion he said, ‘You are so worthy. Don’t put yourself down like that!’
To all those hungry people on that nice green grass, he said, ‘Share and Share-Alike.’
Oh, Wait! He didn’t say any of those things. All those people were completely helpless. They didn’t even have a towel with which to wipe their own faces. Some of them were already dead and all the rest would die sometime later. But that’s ok! We’re almost there! You and I, me and God, jogging along together toward Awesome.
No Thank You.
You know what one of the nicest things about baptism is? You’re not supposed to do it to yourself. It can’t be Self-Administered. There is no Self-Baptism. Another person has to be there to pour the water and explain, slowly and clearly, that the water is a picture of the grave. When you lie down into it you’re admitting that you are going to die. Indeed, spiritually, you have always been dead and unable to stand up and live forever. Anyone might pause as the water is being poured into the bowl, or the pastor and heretofore spiritually dead person wade out into the stream or pool or ocean, and wonder about death. It is such a helpless and wretched thing to have happen. There’s no coming back from it, there’s no way to escape it. And Jesus, knowing our helpless estate, knowing that we had brought it upon ourselves by our own striving, seeing us starving, sinking below the waves, blind, falling into the pit, himself stepped into that murky river, laid down in the water, and later, then, the grave, and as he came up, he pulled us–you, if you believe–along with him. The dead can’t rise up on account of being dead. They need to be given life once again by someone who has the power of life inherent in himself. And so someone else has to baptize you, to show you how helpless you are, to incorporate you, to bring you into a life that you couldn’t achieve on your own. There’s no you helping yourself after God has helped you a little. There’s no cleaning yourself up.
The only good part about this meme is the first line, “I finally threw in the towel.” The next line should be, ‘And cried out for help to God who is the only one who could save me, and he did because he is abounding in steadfast love.’
#TuesdayThoughts: Don’t rely on yourself on account of the fact that you’re mortal and that’s just insane. Depend on Jesus who, being God, can actually do something about your biggest problem, but also all of the little ones, if only you will humble yourself and ask him for help. First, though, repent of propagating bad memes.