That institution we cannot change

Last night someone said they had never seen a picture of Jesus laughing. And I know what they meant. This is the stylised image we have of Jesus:

mon lisa

(Sorry – wrong pose – here He is)


Our Church. The Sanctuary. The inner sanctum. Where God and Jesus live.

Holy. Polished. Revered. Where we scrub up clean. Where we are washed clean again. Quietly. Reverently. Righteously. That’s the stylised image of church.

And it got me pondering. Why do we prefer our Jesus image to be holy, calm, quiet, thoughtful, tender, silent, constant, eternal, unchanging (and please accept I am guessing on your behalf)?

Because the verses this morning are:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-10

These people are noisy. These people are raucous. These people are not generally attracted to confessional silent reverence. That is the stylised image of sinners: bad people … Lost World peopledrunkardslicentious … unchurchedparty peoplenoisy peopleirreverent people … “not our kind of people at all” people.  And yet … tax collectors and sinners gathered … to hear Jesus.

(and yet WE name ourselves “sinners” week after week … really????)

I remember reading a book by Anthony Robbins – a NeuroLinguistic Programming, NLP, guru – years ago.  He described how he led group sessions for depression. He wrote how he would see all these depressed folks arriving in their cars, chatting to each other, doing all the usual “interaction” stuff we do before the lights go down. And then the lights went down, and out he stepped to call them to order: We are here talk about depression …

And every head went down a little, shoulders slumped a little more, and the “I am depressed” pose swept through the room.

Sort of like I see Sundays: Let’s all prepare for worship …. And the “I am a Christian” slump sweeps through the Sanctuary.

And yet … tax collectors and sinners gathered … to hear Jesus.

Last night someone said they had never seen a picture of Jesus laughing. And I know what they meant. So this morning I went off and found one.

jesus laughing

As with all images used in blogs, copyright is an issue. The Mona Lisa? Tricky!!  Whose copyright of which version of which reproduced image? Stylised Jesus? Tricky!! Same difficulty, same reasons.

But laughing Jesus? When it comes to a “laughing Jesus” I found this:

Who created the iconic image of Laughing Jesus?

It got me thinking: how come I can track back copyright of a “laughing Jesus” so quickly? And that left me pondering:

a) We seem to have established a hierarchy of sinning: the Okay kind – us … and the Not Okay kind – them.  I wonder why that is.  Which then caused me to ponder …

b) Just what is corporate worship doing to Jesus?  And why do we so often distance ourselves from “corporate worship” and “the church” – that institution we cannot change – that gets in the way of God?  Because that led me right back to …

c) We ARE corporate worship … we ARE the church … and until WE change … nothing changes.

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Susan Sayers was the person who asked the question last night.  She brought me closer to My God.  In church.  In a Sanctuary.  In corporate worship.

Here is a little about Susan Sayers

Thank you Susan, I think you prompted a lot of conversations with our Lord last night.

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8 thoughts on “That institution we cannot change

  1. I was talking to the Lord once and said. “you really had a lot of good things to say in the Bible. I guess that’s why you made the words so little.” He reply yes. “And why the pages are so thin.” : )

  2. You make a really good point here. Scripture informs us that in His presence is fullness of JOY, even rivers of PLEASURE (Psalm 16:11; 36:8). Jesus told us to abide in Him as He abides in His Father so that our JOY would be full (John 15:11). Am I seeing a pattern here? Yeah, JOY! So, if we’re all about being gloomy and somber, we may be hanging out in the wrong place.

        • “The etymology of “religion” is indeed disputed. This is not, of course, the case when it comes to English, which clearly inherited the word from Latin religio. Rather it applies to Latin itself, in which it is not clear what the component parts of the noun religio are or mean. The ancient Romans disagreed about this. Cicero, for example, thought that religio derived from the verb relegere in its sense of “to re-read or go over a text,” religion being a body of custom and law that demands study and transmission.

          On the other hand, the Christian writer Lactantius, writing in the early fourth century, opted for religare, a verb meaning “to fasten or bind.” “We are,” he said in his book “Divinae Institutiones,” “tied to God and bound to him [religati] by the bond of piety, and it is from this, and not, as Cicero holds, from careful study [relegendo], that religion has received its name.” Lactantius’s greater contemporary, Augustine, preferred this etymology to Cicero’s while suggesting yet another possibility: re-eligere, “to choose again,” religion being the recovery of the link with God that sin has sundered.”

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