Summary: A prevailing church is one which lives like those persons others thought Jesus might be -- like John the Baptist, loosing himself from tradition; like Elijah, living out of grace; like Jeremiah, let loose in the world.

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I walked into the Baptist Student Center at the University of

Kentucky, about to take over as chaplain. My predecessor

was still on the scene, filling up garbage cans with files. In

those pre-Watergate days, nobody had thought of shredders,

I guess. He was throwing away every record, every letter,

every bulletin, every document that he had worked with over

about ten years. I was appalled. I said I thought I might

need some of those. I might want to know what had been

going on. He said two things, one of which was wise and the

other was not. He said, first, that I would be making my own

way and working out of my own vision, and that I would not

want to be bound by the past; and second, he said that he

had always liked everything to be neat and clean and wanted

to leave the place that way.

One of those two things was wise; the other was not. You

figure out which was which.

Change comes to everything. And when change comes it is

not always neat. When winds blow, they disturb our lives,

and we have to respond. We can respond by working harder

at making things nice and neat. We can resist change. Or

we can learn to love change, we can go with the flow, and

we can enjoy fresh winds blowing.

Jesus introduced change wherever He went. People reacted

to Jesus. They did not just yawn in His face. They did not

respond with indifference. They felt the change He brought.

When Jesus came, He changed people. You might have

been cheating people out of their tax money, but Jesus

looked up the tree at you and said, “I’m coming to your house

for dinner.” And you got busy! You might have been turning

tricks on the streets, but Jesus stood you in the middle of a

crowd and dared them to prove themselves sinless. You

went home free from sin. Jesus changed people’s lives.

And whether it was the Samaritan woman who went running

back to town to tell them to come see a man who told me

everything I ever did, or whether it was the skeptical

Nathaniel muttering about how nothing good could come out

of Nazareth, you got a surprise when Jesus walked into your

life. He changed things. He created chaos. But you loved

it, because He made you different. He loosed you from the

stuff that had held you down.

So when that defining moment on the road to Caesarea

Philippi came up, maybe it’s not surprising that the disciples

reported some wild guesses as to who Jesus was. They

selected some of history’s more unpredictable people, some

of Israel’s most unsettling figures. They said, “Jesus is like

this.” Chaotic, creative, charismatic. Messy souls. Do you

think Jesus is like these guys?!


Like John the Baptist, for instance? The people guessed

that Jesus might be John the Baptist returned to life. John,

who dressed in animal skins and took his breakfast from

locusts and wild honey! John, who did not seem to bother

with niceties like where he would sleep or what he would put

on or how he would eat. John, whose total existence was

wrapped up in announcing one thing, “Repent, for the

Kingdom of God is at hand.” I don’t know about you, but I

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