“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” (Albert Einstein; H/T: Carl’s Quote of the Day)
Last night I had a dream. I’m not claiming any special status for it, just that it was instructive and convicting — to me. Perhaps it may be for others as well.
The backdrop, (and perhaps inspiration) was my visit, early yesterday, to an event I had not attended in thirty-six years (since the American Bicentennial celebration) — the re-enactment, at dawn, on the green at Lexington, Massachusetts, of the first battle of the American Revolution.
The event is thoroughly realistic, causing not a few small children to cry (though fewer than I remember before television and video-game violence became widespread fare). Volunteer actors for both sides, in full costume, yell and fire period-replica muskets at one another at relatively close range, running as they go, with full black-powder concussive noise, smoke and flash. The ‘slain’ remain on the field until after the crowd has dispersed, impressing on all the gravity of real sacrifice made by our forbears on our behalf. The only thing missing is the musket balls — the bullets.
Genesis 8:6-7 (Wycliffe) –“And when forty days had passed [and the downpour and flood had subsided], Noe opened the window of the ship which he had made, and sent out a crow, which went out, and turned not again till the waters were dried on [the] earth.”
Leviticus 11:13,15 (Wycliffe) — “These things be of (the) fowls which ye shall not eat, and shall be eschewed of you (and shall be shunned by you)… a night crow.”
Deuteronomy 14:11,12,15 (Wycliffe) — “Eat ye all clean birds; (but) eat ye not unclean birds, that is… a night crow…”
As filming of ‘The Crow’ finally neared completion, eight days from wrap to be exact, yet another accident would rock the slip-shod production. Several prop masters, in an attempt to save time and money, made a grave decision regarding some bullet cartridges that were to be used for a scene involving a close-up shot of a handgun fired at Brandon [Lee]. During the scene, the gun was loaded with “dummy” cartridges, which are used for close-up shots because they contain the actual projectile on the end of the cartridge but contain no gunpowder. (It looks more realistic if the camera can see the bullet tips in the pistol’s cylinders.) It seems that the prop department didn’t have any of these “dummy” cartridges on hand, so rather than shut down the production for the night, some Bozo decided that he’d “rig” some of the live rounds. They removed the gunpowder from the cartridges and replaced the bullet tips, thereby giving them the “dummy’ rounds that were needed for the close-up shots. At some point, one of the tips would unknowingly come detached from the cartridge and lodge itself within the barrel or cylinder of the handgun. (The subsequent investigation never conclusively determined how or why the bullet tip came dislodged.)
”As an actor, Brandon wanted to be Mel Gibson.” (Edward R. Pressman, coproducer of The Crow) The night Brandon Lee was rushed hemorrhaging to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., The Crow’s stunned cast and crew gathered at the hospital to wait…
The Crow had been shooting… for three months, usually at night, and frequently in a downpour jetted by rain machines. The surreal thriller, based on James O’Barr’s comic book about a rock musician who comes back from the dead to avenge his and his fiancee’s murders, offered Lee the starring role he had dreamed of-a part that would finally make him a leading man and distinguish him from his late father, martial-arts legend Bruce Lee.
In the early afternoon of March 31, 1993, about 12 hours after being hit by a bullet from an improperly loaded stunt gun, Lee died.
In the dream, the pre-amble to which was lost to the haze of morning sleepiness, I was talking with a man with whom, it was made clear to me, I was to act out a scene of some kind. This man and I were each holding handguns, though we were clearly on the same side. He let me know that his was unloaded, then he indicated to me that, before we began acting out this scene, I must unload mine as well.
I’m not a gun person. I don’t object to them. I just don’t own one. My choice. I used to take target practice with a .22 rifle at summer camp, long ago, as a kid. I remember what bullets look and feel like. I agreed with him right away that this was a good idea, somewhat shocked to realize that, in my eagerness to act out the scene, I had not thought to check what was in my own gun, and whether it might hurt anyone.
Since he was obviously friendly to me (a Christ-ish figure, it seemed) it made total sense that we should not shoot at one another with real bullets. Yet because the guns we were using were real — capable of firing real bullets — we had to be extra careful.
As I began unloading mine (a huge cartoon-caricature of a ‘clip’ that looked more like the silverware rack of a dishwasher) several large-caliber bullets fell out. I smiled at the man, relieved to have taken seriously his advice, thinking that my task was done. He indicated to me that this was not so and that I needed to look again.
I held up the ‘clip’ and shook it. A few more bullets fell out. Once again satisfied with my own efforts, I began to put it back. Yet he indicated to me — a third time — that the task was still not done. I shook the clip again and, to my surprise and dismay, a few more bullets fell out — smaller caliber this time (hey, it was a caricature gun!) but just as deadly as the first ones which had been more obvious. Dream over.
A few hours later, I was led — through entirely serendipitous means — to a tremendous post at ‘The Latter Days’ blog from March 30th (not LDS). I don’t know why I didn’t see before. Quoting from a teaching by Pastor Zac Poonen, here’s one of several things which leaped off the page for me:
Entering into a covenant with our brothers, we surrender every possible weapon with which we can harm them in any way… [and] the weapon with which the maximum damage has been done in Christendom is the tongue. [See James 3:8 -- "no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison."]
Are we willing to lay down this weapon in a covenant relationship with our brothers in such a way that we will never again speak evil or backbite or gossip against another, even once?
This surrender of our weapons also implies a trust in our brother such that we can afford to be defenceless before him, because we know that he will never harm us. It is through such trust and confidence that the brotherhood is built.
I can’t imagine anyone who won’t find conviction in that one. Deliberately leaving oneself defenseless is not a natural thing to do. Yet if we are to follow Christ, dying to self moment to moment, that’s exactly what we are to do. Despite having the entire arsenal of heaven at his disposal, Jesus told Peter to sheath his sword — reversing the curse (as we say here in Boston). In Genesis three, YHWH put up flaming swords to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Jesus (the vine which gives life). Jesus put them away for us, going to the cross defenseless to the worldly weapons of his enemies.
By contrast, scripture speaks of the ‘scoffer’ — the one eager to fire his entire clip into the things of faith:
Proverbs 9:7 — “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse…”
Proverbs 13:1b — “…a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”
Proverbs 21:24 — “Scoffer is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.”
Proverbs 24:9b — “…the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.”
Instead of reason, the only thing that gets to a scoffer is tangible punishment:
Proverbs 21:11 — “When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise…
Proverbs 22:10 — “Drive out a scoffer and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease…”
Isaiah 29:20-21 — “For the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off.”
The scoffer is an impatient man armed with words to ensnare and entrap:
Psalm 70:3 — “Let them turn back because of their shame who say, ‘Aha, Aha!’”
Jeremiah 17:15 — “Behold, they say to me, ‘Where is the word of YHWH? Let it come!’”
Isaiah 5:18-19 — “Woe to those… who say, ‘Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!’”
We are also told that scoffers will be common in the “last days”. Those who don’t choose to unload their proverbial clip and die to self, but who fire away verbally in a manner which has become ordinary in film and television entertainment these days, will be all around us, threatening, just as they surrounded, beat and killed Christ himself.
2nd Peter 3:2-4a — “You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’…”
Jude 1:17-21 — But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Note that the scoffers are described as “worldly” and “devoid of the [Holy] Spirit”. This is key. Without the Holy Spirit (‘holy’ meaning not ‘moral’, as many imagine, but rather set-apart, wholly-committed to YHWH), one is necessarily worldly. One necessarily sees as the world sees, reasons as it reasons and acts as it acts, not recognizing one’s own blindness to the things of the Spirit.
Being thus blind, one therefore resorts too quickly to worldly thoughts, weapons and tactics — words of worldly wisdom, without the fear of YHWH (wisdom’s origin) or guns like the one in my dream. The Spirit’s way is that of suffering in patience — brandishing the mighty sword of capital-’W’ Word and Spirit without apparent defense.
Isaiah 55:7-11 — “…let the wicked forsake his [own] way, and the unrighteous man [forsake] his [own] thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares YHWH. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Is your weapon unloaded? Are you sure? Have you checked with the Holy Spirit, waiting patiently on His answer, then double-checked, and checked again, in His light and the pure water of the rain of His Word, not the dark of sin’s night, and the flood of man’s many worldly words? Are you willing to forsake your own way and your own thoughts in lieu of His? Your brother’s eternal life may depend on your diligence in this matter of trusting. So may yours. Only He truly knows what we each have loaded.
ADDENDUM: Meant to add this earlier but forgot.
Isaiah 6:1-7 — “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”