Fresh Stain

Blood oranges are a disturbing fruit. How or why someone ever decided to splice together the ingredients to make blood-tinged juice flow from a simple orange is beyond me. Yet it is in that horrid quirk that this crossbreed has found a cult-like following, its name being sung like a mantra in the markets of the postmodern bourgeois.

Our culture seeks out that which is not easily come by. If there has been some sense of toil and trouble in arriving at the final product, then its acceptance is guaranteed. Draw a box around anything normal and, once a foot falls outside of that box, its popularity among the relevant culture booms—a new star is born. The church needs to drop the nets and put on the dance shoes.

It’s not new. I wish we could lay claim to being the first culture to gravitate to the non-conformist presentations in life, but we cannot claim such elite status. Enter Jesus stage right, wearing the garb and walking the walk of a rabbi. Calling to follow snuggly to His robe not the standout students of the rabbinical school, but rather the scale-stained fishermen and loathed tax collector. Jesus dance steps could not be learned by manual.

All that is just wallflower talk though. I stand on the outside of the grand dance floor and watch as the church does a dosie-doe around itself in failed attempts to find the parameters and then maneuver its out-of-balance dance steps to keep footing within the box. I hold my breath as the beat of today’s culture swells in the ears of our church leaders—they step and trip over one another’s feet in an attempt to find a single rhythm that doesn’t exist in our postmodern era.

Hymns or repetitive praise, liturgy or “spirit-guided freedom,” bulletins or movie screens; Sunday school or small groups, WWJD, Purpose Driven Life, cheeseball slogans and business empires: The church focuses all its exhaustive effort burying its nose in the dance manual to learn the proper “1-2-3, 1-2-3” cadence and foot placement. Once perfected, it shows off its new steps to a nodding (whether in approval or pre-sleep meditation one may never know) congregation of sanitized saints. The judgment begins even “as the music fades.”

I sense sadness in our present churches. It is not the sadness of a war-torn bride waiting with intense longing and passion for her tarrying groom to sweep down the aisle, claim her as his own, and carry her across the threshold into eternal perfection. Rather, it is the sadness of an entity that has lost its purpose. She is still a bride dressed in white, but her dance steps have become so safe they’ve become nothing more than a gentle sway to a confused beat. Her life reflects the cautious look of an indelible gown that should never be mussed, rather than the frenetic folly of a Bride who is shouting “I Do” then dancing into the arms of her eternal lover.

Over and over I have heard the sermon spoken and the praise rung high, “Our country is ‘free’” and we, as the Church in America, do not know persecution. I remember uttering, thank You Lord as I thumbed-raw the pages of Fox’s Book of Martyrs, using each one as an example of what we are “free from” in this country. I listened to the conventional beat of the elevator music and stood transfixed by the gentle shuffle of my skilled feet.

Yet in each story of martyrdom I missed the underlying tale of passion. Faith for the martyr was hemmed in fury. The box drawn on their dance floor saw the proclamation of a specific doctrinal stance or even the vocalization of belief in God as the ultimate leap into the forbidden realms. To stretch your feet in rhythm to those steps was punishable by death (and not death by the clean stick of a humane IV). Yet in complete defiance, with absolute certainty of belief and the ultimate expression of individual freedom, the martyr looked into the sleepy eyes of the instructor and stomped his feet in a wild cacophony of movement ignoring all lines. Like Jesus, always being certain to avoid the pattern of pre-defined dance steps.

Our present-day Bride stands idly, rocking back and forth in the very center of the box. Her movements will never offend or disturb. The dress will never be ruffled or stained. Sure, her dance may not have the ability to keep in rhythm with the sounds of the world around her, but her defeated posture tells the tale of her thoughts, “Could anyone find a rhythm in this society of Rave and Relevance?”

I yearn with a spiritual ache to toss a blood orange to the Bride. To have her peel back the flesh and stain her dress in a fresh striping of crimson that coats her (and the Church) in redemption. After her sanitized safety is undone, her soul will open to an unending noise of beauty found in the rhythms of society. Throwing her arms about in wild expression, her feet will draw nearer and nearer to the box’s edge till she is jumping about with complete abandon. Her memory will hold no recollection of lines. Her beauty will be captured once again in the blood that stains her and the pure passion she unleashes in her uninhibited dance for her Groom.

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I desire new lines, lines drawn by society. I long for a swell of persecution to cover this country so I will have to wake from my apathy and mosh in a circle of faith that is covered in the blood of my Savior. Till that day arrives, I will continue to blare the noise of my generation with ever increasing volume, hoping that the Bride will shake from her catatonia and pluck a new fruit from the tree—careless of the stains on her dress, and devoid of a dance that is pre-defined!

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