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Setting Free
Brett Anderson ©2005

I actually am wanting to use one of the songs on the new Casting Crowns album as this week's thort. When I heard the album for the first time, this song jumped out at me as the 'If we are the body' kind of equivalent in terms of punchy message and gut-grabbing lyrics... not so much as a written song, but when you link it to the truth behind it and how many people live lives that are portrayed in the song, then it really hits home and strikes me deeply.

In Matthew 23 Jesus 'goes off' at the Pharisees in a comprehesive list of seven woes that is not complimentary to say the least. He launches an attack on them for various things but the running theme seems to be hypocracy - appearing to be one thing on the outside and yet being totally different on the inside.

It is quite a violent and brutal vocal attack and really seems to be spurred on with great anger, but at the end of it all there is this verse:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."

It seems almost as if Jesus has done an about take and as angry as He is about the hypocracy and double standards and burdens that the Pharisees have placed upon the people, His true heart comes through. His heart of compassion. Even worse to Him than the fact that people are not being real, is the consequence of that. He is unable to help them.

I think, as the song below suggests, that this kind of mentality is seriously prevalent in the church today. And not in the prideful, oppressive way of the Pharisees so much (altho sadly, that does exist as well in various leaders in the church suffering from insecurity, pride amongst other things) but just in hurting people feeling like they are not allowed to show it.

And I believe it hurts God. It definitely hurts those people who are doing it. And those of us wanting to be there for those doing it:

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Stained Glass Masquerade (Casting Crowns)

Is there anyone that fails?
Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?

'Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way I see them

ARE WE HAPPY PLASTIC PEOPLE
UNDER SHINY PLASTIC STEEPLES
WITH WALLS AROUND OUR WEAKNESS
AND SMILES TO HIDE OUR PAIN
BUT IF THE INVITATION'S OPEN
TO EVERY HEART THAT HAS BEEN BROKEN
MAYBE THEN WE CLOSE THE CURTAIN
ON OUR STAINED GLASS MASQUERADE

Is there anyone who's been there?
Are there any hands to raise?
Am I the only one who's traded in the altar for a stage?

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be?

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay?

ARE WE HAPPY PLASTIC PEOPLE
UNDER SHINY PLASTIC STEEPLES
WITH WALLS AROUND OUR WEAKNESS
AND SMILES TO HIDE OUR PAIN
BUT IF THE INVITATION'S OPEN
TO EVERY HEART THAT HAS BEEN BROKEN
MAYBE THEN WE CLOSE THE CURTAIN
ON OUR STAINED GLASS MASQUERADE

Is there anyone that fails?
Is there anyone that falls?
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?

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I guess there are a lot of us asking the question from the song:

"But would it set me free if I dared to let you see the truth behind the person That you imagine me to be?"

And I guess the truth is that you won't really know unless you do it. It IS a risk, because sadly there are some people who will abuse that kind of trust and confession and openness and others who won't really know what to do with it or how to handle you. Let's be honest for a second - I think most of us like things to be comfortable and nice and pleasant and happy and if something is not and we don't know how to make it so then it can freak us out. We prefer things not to be messy.

But at the same time, things often need to be allowed to get messy before they can be dealt with and healed and made right. And if you look at the ministry of Jesus it was often quite messy. He drew crowds, He touched lepers, He hung out with prostitutes, He went to parties, He taught challenging stuff, He called for sacrifice and even death, and He died a gruesome death. His ministry was messy.

I think the church needs to be okay with messy. I think the church needs to become a little more messy and perhaps less ordered and structured at times to make way for God and for ministry and for hurting people to feel okay admitting that it is so.

Otherwise how will homeless people feel like they can come inside? How can gay people feel loved enough to be included in our congregations? How can those who have messed up sexually with their boyfriends experience the forgiveness of God and love of community?

How can hurting people feel free to say 'Hey I'm hurting. You don't need to make it right. You don't have to understand. I just need you to know and stand beside me and encourage me and pray for me and help me have the strength to face what may take a long time. I need you to allow me to be messy for a while because things are confusing and I don't know the answers and doubt you have them, but I just need to know I'm loved and cared for while that is so.'

If that person is you, than maybe the best thing you can do is take the chance and share it with someone at church. Go up for ministry after the service if your church does that. Get a leader you respect or a friend to pray for you.

The truth is that if you are feeling that way then there are probably many other people feeling the same who are also too scared to admit it or drop the happy smily mask for a while and risk getting helped or encouraged - your stepping out might free up others to do the same and even in your absolute brokenness and messiness, you might be used to help others just by giving them the confidence to think someone else may care or need help too.

So please, I urge you, don't deprive God or the church of being able to stand by you and bring you help and encouragement...

...otherwise it's just more of the same shiny, plastic people meeting once a week under our shiny plastic steeples and then picking up our baggage and pain and disease as we leave to once again try make it through the week on our own.

"But now, this is what the Lord says - He who created you,O Jacob, He who formed you O Israel: "Fear not; for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour." [Isaiah 43:1-3]