Yesterday I sat in church listening to a sermon on friendship. My friend and I joked about the band: they could've been "The Tonight Show" band, as polished as they were. It was sickening almost. They had this smooth jazz flavor, complete with a saxophone. I was in every department store in the country listening to them.
The sermon was clearly wrapping up. "Maybe some of you aren't concerned so much with being a good friend as just needing a friend right now. Well, there's a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jesus Christ can be your friend today. He will never leave you nor forsake you."
As I listened to this invitation that I'd heard a thousand times in a thousand clever ways, it all sounded the same. I was appalled by it, even though it was sincere and even true. The sermon had had nothing to do with sin or salvation, just friendship. Jesus got tacked on to the end of the sermon like sticky note on a 5-page book report. I thought, "Are we really tacking a quick come-to-Jesus invite on to this? Are we really reducing the most profound and deeply meaningful act in human history--of God dying for men--down into a brief, get-it-in and get-it-done pitch? There was no context for this, except the tenuous "Jesus is your friend" segue. Jesus, the source, center, head, and builder of the church, was squeezed in between the sermon and the closing credits song, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." There really wasn't room for him there, and I would've preferred to not have seen him at all than to have seen him like that, deformed and hardly recognizable. His work, his death, his life and ministry, his suffering and his victory were smashed into some 2 minute meaningless moment.
If this act, of God dying for men, is the foundation of the church's existence, is the source of and reason for all it is doing, when all that magnitude reduced to a sticky note...