Fourth Wednesday of Lent

Psalm 78, Judges 17:1–13

“We will not hide [the miracles of the past], but will tell a future generation…” Except what are we telling?

This is a very personal question for anyone. There have been generations of self-defined Christians whose entire families have walked away from the faith. It may be because the church is full of broken people. That certainly is the case. However, that cannot be the only cause. Many of the families “grew up” in church. Many “met Jesus” at a young age. That is the “fire insurance” tendency of people.

Verses 7 and 8 are the crux of it. We share the legacy of God’s story so that they know (information) and live out (relation). The American church has done a great job of information, but often only stops at a surface relation with Jesus. So much of church life was keeping up appearances. It had to wear out eventually. Once the pretty shell wore off, the ugliness showed through, and people left. The church struggles to this day with the ugliness that often shows through, and strange things happen.

The story in Judges itself is strange. A mother curses the person (we infer) who took her money. When her son confesses, she blesses (?) him. Then in an already confused situation, they use “church” language, which apparently makes it better (?), and make an idol. So, Micah (the son) builds a family “temple” and assigns his son as priest. This is in the context of Israel. The idol is bad. Only one family is supposed to be priests, and Micah’s family is not part of it. Then a person from the right bloodline (Levite) walks by and is hired to be the priest. As there is no mention that this Levite is a descendant of Aaron (the “true” priests), it just gets better and better. Then, oddly, Micah (a father with apparently adult sons) tells the Levite that he (the Levite) will be his spiritual father.

During the time of the book of Judges, there was definitely a soul of independence that believed the “other” was not family (even if of Israel, too), and people could do as they wished. It was controlled anarchy. In the US, we have well over 1200 denominations (not counting all the non-denominational—which have some sort of affiliation—churches). Sounds vaguely like controlled anarchy, too. As we watch big churches and even bigger denominations struggle with leaders who do bad things, we should be able to sympathize with people who wonder if we Christians really do have a single religion. Based on some behaviors, we could even wonder if the church has a bunch of people like this Levite, who has the credentials but is all about the money (or power).

1) Why is it important to sympathize with the perception of the church by those outside of the church? How can such perceptions hinder sharing about Jesus? More importantly, how can they help to share about Jesus?

2) This story (which actually has a second part) is very much about people not being under the authority of a king? Can you think of the Jewish/Israelite reason for this? How can this inform how we interact with each other inside and outside of the church?

3) Denominations pass on legacies of beauty and dedication. Denominations can also pass on legacies of pride and power. How are denominations used by God? How can denominations be dangerous to the mission of God?