It’s tough to talk about the possibility of dying at the Olive Garden.
Maybe it’s because of the breadsticks, or because everything just seems so nice, it just feels off somehow.
Last week Leslie and I had lunch with the resident missionary couple at RHCC. They are headed to a place in North Africa that I can’t write about here for security reasons, but you need to know they are a fascinating couple.
She is an ethnomusicologist, he is a community development guru. Their plan is that when they leave people will have clean water, better returns on their harvest, and songs, poems and stories about meeting Jesus. Which sounds pretty good to me.
And so it was strange that at the Olive Garden they were talking about what to do in the case of their village, or home being attacked by hostile militants.
In Acts 19, there is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. Paul has gone to Ephesus to tell people about Jesus, which seems innocent enough, but he actually winds up inciting a riot.
Actually the people who started a riot were the ones who had a vested interest in the dominant religion of the day. They were silversmiths and craftsmen who made shrines for Artemis. They worked for the system and the system worked for them. And they certainly didn’t need some punk Christian coming in and saying that those idols were just decorative, powerless trinkets.
So they gathered a group of people, got ‘em all riled up and for two hours these people shouted, “Great is Artemis, God of the Ephesians.”
Now before you write this story off as some weird, ancient religion you need to know something else.
The name for Artemis is based on the root Greek word for Safety or health.
Artemis sounds like some ancient religion, but the truth is she is worshipped by millions everyday.
And standing juxtaposed against this mob chanting for safety, but acting dangerously, is this guy named Paul, who wants to go into the assembly that has basically gathered just to kill him. Everyone else is out of their mind wanting security, but Paul is willing to risk everything.
Because Paul doesn’t worship Artemis.
I have noticed over the past few months something about human nature, including my own. The one thing that will reduce us to our basest instinct is this desire to be secure or healthy. Watch any news channel these days, when we talk about security or health, people automatically can become belligerent, rude and sometimes hateful.
Almost, at times, like a riot.
Which makes me think back to my two new missionary friends. I thank God for bringing people like them into my life. Not just for the great work that they are going to do in North Africa, but for what they remind me of.
They remind me of the story that I belong to. And that’s important, because If I watch any news station for an extended amount of time they have a way of telling a story that makes me think I am in immediate danger from something (swine flu, terrorist attacks, bad economy) or someone.
But that’s not really my story. So maybe that’s why these new friends are so refreshing.
These are two bright, young adults who could do a lot with their lives. But instead of trying to insulate themselves from danger they are taking a calculated risk, to better the world for the glory of God.
They are taking their place in the long line of followers of Jesus who have gone against the dominant impulses of our culture for self-preservation for the sake of something bigger than themselves.
Because the way of Jesus isn’t the way of Artemis.
Because the real risk of security is that you might be worshipping a god who is no god at all.
It’s time to stop rioting.