Before I start my story today, I want you to know two things. First, I am going to ask you to do something you may already be doing, but if two or three are gathered together doing it, Jesus promises to be in our midst. Second, the sermon story I am about to tie into it was not the inspiration, but the answer to a prayer for something to hang the whole idea upon. And with those two big first offs, you know this is going to be a two-headed story.
First story: San Bernardino. You have all by now heard this one. A lifelong citizen, radicalized by perhaps the internet, perhaps a radicalized wife. We can't know what went on in their minds now. But there is a certain assumption we can make.
In responding to a FB friend who had a certain personal interest in the event, I made the case that these things aren't a result of the "wonderful message" of Islam, nor are they a result of "terrible gun laws and the NRA". It starts because man was created complete in Eden, and after The fall, he was no longer complete. Every one of us now at birth has a hole in our lives, in our souls. A God-shaped hole. And many of us try to fill that hole with something other than our Creator. Some of us use sex, or drugs, or alcohol, something to DISTRACT us from the hole. Atheists often use "logical arguments" and "scientific theory" to build a patch over the hole.
And a lot of these "home grown terrorists" fill the hole with radicalism. The idea that a) you should act on your faith, which is true enough; b) the best way to know how to act is to let them TELL you what you must do, without considering the consequences or the pain caused by the action, or any other outside consideration, which is ruinously false. By giving their mindset to these ideologues, they forfeit every connection with the rest of humanity, retreating within themselves to live out the idea of bringing death implanted in the hole.
It is all based on that hole, that need to be part of something more than oneself. What can be done to stop this?
This morning Dr. Jeremiah preached on the story of the four men that lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof so that Jesus could heal him. Two things here have a connection to what has gone before. One: The about-to-be-radicalized person is like the paralyzed man- unable to move, unable to save himself, UNABLE TO CONTROL WHERE HIS "FRIENDS" TAKE HIM. And all he can do is hope that his friends will take him to a good place. Any of you, like me, see yourselves at that position in some point in your lives?
Two: The friends acted on their faith that Jesus could cure them. Dr. Jeremiah made his case on these verses:
Mark 2:4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
You see, it was the faith of his FRIENDS that brought Jesus to action. And in acting, he didn't first heal him physically- He healed him spiritually. He filled the man's hole.
And that is what I am proposing. Every day, I have started praying for ONE person that day- one person looking for a way to fill that hole, trembling on the verge of ceding control of his mind to radicalism. Doesn't have to be Islamic radicalism- there are hateful spirits and hateful humans of every stripe out there, offering a neatly wrapped package of nothing to these poor souls. Every day, I pray that the ONE person that day, standing over that abyss, might be filled by God's Holy Spirit instead. Will you join me? I realize that there are some in the media who are criticizing Conservative lawmakers who announced they were praying over the situation that happened in California. That while they are wasting time praying, "gun laws and the NRA" are allowing these things to happen.
My hope is that you can look past the politics. Past the guns and bombs and knives, and whatever else (remember, Cain only needed a rock). LOOK TO THE TRUE PROBLEM. And join me. Call it Project IS if you will. Every day, let's pray for that one person trembling on the brink. Together we can make a difference. Maybe we won't wipe these idiots off the face of the earth. Maybe we can't shut down their web sites, their bomb factories. But if we can turn ONE SOUL A DAY towards filling the God-shaped hole WITH GOD, we can make a difference.
Who's with me?