Slay the dragon and then dance.
JUNE 6, 2023
Slay the dragon and then dance. Let’s talk about it, on this edition of Key Life.
That was author and seminary Professor Steve Brown, and this is Key Life. We’re all about radical grace because of what Jesus has done, God’s not mad at you. Keep listening, and that message will set you free to live a life of joy and surprising faithfulness.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, I gave you a wonderful quote from Anne Lamott about dread and how dread had become her closest friend when she was growing up. Kind of like God with indigestion and it haunted her all her life until she met Jesus. And I then went on a kind of trip praising dread and what it’s done for me. It really has played a part in my life in so many ways. Maybe I’m nicer because of it. Maybe I don’t say exactly what I think because of it. Maybe, maybe I got this job because of it. I don’t know? But dread will haunt you until you die, but I’m doing everything I can to end the friendship. And believe it or not, Jesus has been helping me because he likes me a lot and he knows that dread had eaten me alive. That’s the theme of these broadcasts and the book that I wrote on laughter and lament, they’ve caused me to smile a sham smile, hide my tears and sadness, and stifle my laughter. Maybe, maybe you’ve been there or even are there right now. Maybe you are acquainted with those sisters of dread and fear and shame and guilt. If so, you’re going to rise up and call me blessed for what I plan on telling you this week. In fact, even as I do this broadcast, I’ve been working on another book and the working title is Slaying Dragons 101: Fear, Dread, Shame, and Guilt. And I’m going to write a whole book on it cause I’m going to keep doing this until I get it right. But what I’m going to teach you this week is important. I’ll show you what Jesus is teaching me about the redeeming power of lament and the joy and radical freedom that is a part of it. And it starts with a relationship with God, not the one from whom we often run, but the real God. This morning, I got an e-mail from a friend who has been reading a daily Lenten devotional from a Christian university’s website. The devotionals include a Scripture reading some art and music, and sometimes a poem. My friend said that this morning’s devotional poem was about a father removing a splinter from his young son’s hand. My friend wrote, the splinter is only important because it occasioned an opportunity for nearness between the son and his father. When the father is presented with his son’s wound, he responded, the only way a loving father can respond to the pain of his child. Did you ever think that God is looking for opportunities to be near you? In fact, that might be one of the reasons for the pain of lament. You remember Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1 through 10. He was a rich tax collector, a dishonest and greedy bully, and a pain in the neck. On top of that, he was little and ugly. Being little and hearing the commotion, as Jesus was walking by his house, he climbed up in a tree so he could see. Jesus noticed him and called Zacchaeus down from the tree, and after you’ll remember his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus changed radically. He promised to give half of his goods to the poor. And to those he had cheated, he promised to repay them four times what he had taken from them. That’s amazing. Jesus sometimes causes people like Zacchaeus to change from a pain to a penitent, but that’s not the most amazing part of the story. The amazing thing was what Jesus said to Zacchaeus when he told him to come down from the tree. He said, Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house for dinner. What? Not Zacchaeus. Jesus, he’s a liar. He’s a thief and a scoundrel. He has robbed from the people who were poor in order to line his pockets. He probably even has a mistress in that house where you’re going to have dinner. Given who he is, the only relationships he can master are those he has to pay for. Nobody likes him. And if people weren’t afraid of him, nobody would even speak to him. Besides that, you will hurt your reputation if you have a meal with him. Jesus, are you crazy? Of course, a part of the point of that story is the change that took place and the life of Zacchaeus. The major point though, is that Jesus never asked him to change. And given Jesus proclivity to hang out with prostitutes and drunks and swingers, it’s a good bet that Jesus would’ve had dinner with Zacchaeus, if Zacchaeus had never changed. If you want to see the real Jesus, check out Luke 7:16 through 50. That’s where there’s another story, this one is about a prostitute who crashed a dinner party for Pharisees. Jesus hung out with those who were insufferably self-righteous too. Jesus forgave her sins and never once asked her to change. I suspect there was a change, that kind of thing happens when people hang out with Jesus and it still happens. But in Luke 7, all Jesus did was to love her, maybe the first person who had ever loved her, who didn’t want anything from her and told her that she was forgiven, even though her sins were many. Jesus also said that those who were forgiven little, love little. The reason those events are recorded in Scripture, Zacchaeus and the prostitute in Luke 7 is because they reflect a real God. However, those events can be quite uncomfortable too, they also reflect who we really are. You’re Zacchaeus, and I am too. You’re the prostitute, and I am too. We all are. And believe it or not, Jesus wants to be our friend, and not only that, he’ll do anything, go anywhere to be our friend. When you lament your loss and your pain, your fear and your sin, your loneliness and anger, you will discover that Jesus joins you in the dark place. It’s the splinter, as it were in the little boy’s hand. Things don’t always change and sometimes even get worse, but Jesus is there because, listen to me, because he is looking for a place to be with you. How about that sports fans? You and I hardly ever welcome him when everything’s good, when we just got a raise, and when we’re enjoying a good meal, or when we’re dancing at a party. Lament hardly ever happens when we’re fine, but when it gets dark, there’s a wonderful discovery, and it’s what the Psalmist discovered in Psalm 16:11.
You make known to me the path of life in your presence is the fullness of joy.
How about that? In his presence, there is joy, not just plain joy, but the fullness of joy. And in that discovery, there is radical freedom. You know why? Because we all thought that the reason for our pain was like a bill that needed to be paid, a dark place we needed to fix, or a sacrifice we needed to make. In other words, our default position, it’s in our fallen DNA, is to think.
That God wants the fruit of our body for the sin of our souls?
Micah 6:7. That’s a lie. His presence is, as it were, presence just because he wants to be close to you and me. If that doesn’t make you want to dance and laugh, there’s something wrong with you. That’s what radical freedom and joy are about and one of the reasons for it. So, when you go through lament, get ready because he’s going to show. You think about that. Amen.
Slay the dragon, then dance. Well, that sounds like a good time to me. Thank you Steve. Tomorrow we will continue exploring the Biblical foundations of Steve’s book, Laughter and Lament. Hope you join us for that. Well, one of the many joys of doing what we do is occasionally getting to introduce you to new and interesting people, and one of those folks is Michael Reeves. Last month we shared our conversation with Michael Reeves about the Trinity. Good stuff, and I do hope you got that CD, but there’s more because after that we chatted with him about his book called Evangelical Pharisees: The Gospel as Cure for the Church’s Hypocrisy. And guess what? We put that conversation on a CD too. Can we send it to you, for free? If so, call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD or to mail your request go to Keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the CD featuring Michael Reeves. Finally, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? It’s easy to do. You can charge a gift on your credit card. You can include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. Both of those organizations assure financial accountability and we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.