It was an unforgettable night at ChattHOP during our Monday night prayer for the city. In the midst of worship, our ministry team began to envision the following scene resulting in a time of powerful prayer:
Jesus was entering our city! In response, all of the churches in the region were leaving their buildings, divisions and denominations to join Him in one massive parade moving through the center of town. There were balloons, banners, singers, musicians, cheering and dancing. Amongst the celebration and on the faces of each person, there was such JOY – compelling joy!
Equally as stunning were the spectators. As this wide-as-the-city, unified procession passed through their neighborhoods, windows flew open, doors flung wide and necks craned as the men, women, boys and girls (like Zacchaeus)1 strained to get a better view of Jesus, His people, and an understanding of what was going on. While the parade continued to move forward, the participants continually moved outward to gather in. Outward, inward, onward. Everywhere the procession went it was as if “color” were approaching sepia toned streets, along with life, purpose and joy. The people were compelled to join in, to be a part, to enter into this… Move.
Jesus is on the move. His course runs along the tracks of time immeasurable, lines lain in all places without bound. His move originates and proceeds from the pulsating bosom of the Father, externally launched and eternally purposed. Love enveloped, signed, sealed, delivered. Love in human flesh: birthed, crawling, toddling, walking and running. The Father’s heart embodied in begotten Son, wrested of royalty, zeal consumed, passion driven. Love propelling Love: outward, inward and onward.
On pilgrimage, He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on donkey’s back. Pausing, he has one last supper with feet-washed friends. Forward – through the garden of agony where knees bend, brow sweats blood and a friend betrays. Proceeding – through scourging and stripping. Stepping, stumbling, global burden bearing. Hoisted upon the cross, enduring – until “It is finished.”
All movement seemingly ceased with a last gasping breath…
And yet Love is stronger than death.
Stilled Heart spills outward. Love’s veins open. Salvation and full redemption pour forth in cascading crimson. Descending, through a quake-cracked earth to the lowest regions, the darkest dungeons. Downward, unto the great un-doing. He perfectly plunders and makes impotent the power of sin, death and hell.2
Upward! He rises as Conqueror, bursting the bonds of death. Ascending victorious, processing triumphant and carrying captivity captive in His train!
Onward: now and forever.
Jesus: the movement of God’s heart toward us, for us and for the world.
Imagine the Roman Generals of old returning from their conquests – clothed as kings, and riding on gold-gilded chariots parading their triumph through the crowded streets. Music and victory chants, the stunning display of the spoils of war, the victorious armies with their defeated captives bound to the chariot wheels. The burning incense in the streets, bringing sweetness to the air of the victorious, but the smell of death to the captives being led to their demise. Mortal man and all of his conquests, wealth, fame and pomp can never match the magnitude, splendor and glory of the Resurrection Parade of Christ, the One who has triumphed once and for all — eternally!
And there you are and so am I! We are in this procession – We are His spoils of war! We are in the train of His triumph, among all of the faith-full ones: Moses, Elijah, David and Deborah, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and Mary of Bethany. There is the delivered demoniac, the leper cleansed, the woman who touched His hem and the boy who shared his meal with 5000. With the great Cloud of Witnesses, the Hall of Fame of those who believe, and the martyrs gone before us — we are the pageant of the “more than conquerors” who process and proclaim the Victor and His victory now and forevermore!
The Chattanooga Choo Choo has a sermon to preach.
With its bold icon on signage raised high over our city – it is rich in history, memorialized in song and embedded in our cultural identity. Most recently, fast internet has defined itself as Chattanooga’s new locomotive. I’d say it has been prophetically purposeful that this symbol of the train and its potential for momentum, speed, cartage and connection is so significantly identified with our city.
Oh, that Chattanooga may be known and celebrated for another type of Train!
Not a locomotive of steel, or information emitted via fiber optics at lightning speed, but a train of flesh and blood – men and women, boys and girls, young and old, diverse and beautiful and ever increasing. The Body of Christ. Jesus, the Head. Carriers of His presence, couriers of Great News! Heart-pumped and coursing Life and Hope through every artery of our region. Oh, the beauty of all the diverse streams coming together as a unified force, joining the procession, swelling in size, gaining strength and momentum. Outward, inward, onward.
“Wherever I go, I thank God, he makes my life a constant pageant of triumph in Christ. And, by our hands waves in every place that sweet incense, the knowledge of Him. Yes, I am the fragrance of Christ to God, diffused among those who are being saved and who are perishing alike. To the latter it seems the deathly smell of doom; to the former it has the refreshing fragrance of life itself. And who could think himself adequate for a responsibility like this?” 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16