Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Being Lifted Up

I've only ever had one brush with true greatness. I'm talking about me, myself, being great. Wait, let me explain. See, this moment of greatness came when I was in seventh grade, the grade where you are confused and finding out about life and yourself and everything and are confused about pretty much all of it. And there is no more intimidating place for a confused seventh grader than the middle school locker room. Why does everyone else, all the big kids (eighth graders) seem to know what's going on, while I feel so weird and uncomfortable just changing into a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt? Why does that big, intimidating gym teacher have to shout at us all the time? And what in the world is this weird indoor gym-class game, with all these weird rules?

My middle school was big enough that there were multiple gym classes going on at the same time, with different intimidating shouting gym teachers. The intimidating gym staff must have had a meeting to try to come up with new ways to intimidate skinny seventh grade boys who don't like changing their clothes in front of others quite yet. So they decided upon a tournament of this gym-class game, the one with all the weird rules. Each class would compete against the others, until one at last
rose to the top to claim victory and bragging rights of being the best at this weird game.

My memory of this game is sketchy now, due to the many years since then, but it had something to do with dodge ball and, perhaps, a bowling pin. There was a line down the middle of the gym that the teams dare not cross, and now that I think of it, there may have been a capture the flag element to it. I don't know. I mostly just tried to avoid being hit by the ball until class was over. The object of the game was to knock over the pin, but it was invariably guarded by some super-speedy-reflexed kid. Probably a boy and probably an eighth-grader.

Anyway, our team somehow moved up through the rankings until, toward the end of class, we were in the finals. The pressure had grown and I began to actually care a little about this game: we could win this thing! One by one, each team's players began to be eliminated, probably by failing to dodge the ball, but I was somehow able to stay in until a FINAL SHOWDOWN: me versus one other kid. I was charged with both guarding my pin and somehow knocking over his pin without getting hit by the ball. By now, all the kids, it must have been hundreds, maybe thousands, had gathered around our section of the gym to cheer at the gigantic spectacle that this match had become. Me versus the other kid. Man on man. The crowd was chanting, "Maximus! Maximus! Maximus!" I don't know why. The other kid had the ball. I guarded my pin. If I caught it, he'd be 'out' and we'd win. If he hit me with it, I'd be out, and we'd lose and it would be all my fault. I felt my heart pulsing in my temples as the sweat ran down my face. Who was I to be in such a position? I was just another kid who didn't like big gym teachers and complex games. I was nobody.

The other kid fired the ball at me, but the shot was wild and it bounced harmlessly off the wall. I grabbed it, not quite knowing what to do next. The crowd began to chant, "Boofa! Boofa! Boofa!" I hated that knickname, but when a crowd of crazed middle schoolers is rabidly chanting it, it's no time to argue.

I don't know how it happened: the details are fuzzy, but somehow I managed to get near enough to the other team's pin that I might have a shot at it, except for this big eighth grader guarding the thing. I must have thrown the mother of all head-fakes or something, but miraculously he moved to the side, exposing the pin. I fired the ball, down went the pin, and up went the deafening roar of the crowd. I was their hero!

I swear I am not making this up: they went absolutely nuts on me, crowding around me and chanting "Boofa! Boofa! Boofa!" And they actually hoisted me up on their collective shoulders and carried me into the locker room. "Boofa! Boofa! Boofa!" After that, it was mister popularity and awesomeness. For the rest of 6th period anyway, and then it was back to normal and on to math class. But I basked in that glow for a while after. Chris Booth: hero for ten minutes.

I was reminded of this whole episode because it was such a contrast to what A. W. Tozer, that good old Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor from the mid twentieth century, said in his book, The Knowledge of The Holy.  He said that God does not need to be "lifted up." "Elevated" was his word for it. He said, in effect, that when we "lift God up" (like the songs say, "Lord, I lift your name on high..." "be lifted up," etc.), we don't lift Him as if He were one of us. He's not one of us. He is Apart. Magnificent. Glorious. Other. And Above. He already is "lifted up." He already is "on high." So when we "lift Him up," we are really just agreeing with Him that He is glorious.

Here's how Tozer worded it:

"Since He is the Being supreme over all, it follows that God cannot be elevated. Nothing is above Him, nothing beyond Him. Any motion in His direction is elevation of the creature; away from Him, descent. He holds His position out of Himself and by leave of none. As no one can promote Him, so no one can degrade Him. It is written that He upholds all things by the word of His power [Hebrews 1:3]. How can He be raised or supported by the thing He upholds?" A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of The Holy, p.40

In 1996, Joan Osborne (thoughtfully? blasphemously?) sang, "What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home?"  This is a very small God, or should I say, god, that she is asking about. If God is God, then He's not first and foremost, in His nature, one of us. If God is God, then He's not like skinny little "Boofa,"  who got "lifted up" back in 1977. It's not as if He were one from among the throng, lucky enough to have knocked down the pin or something, so we can celebrate Him for a moment or two until the Next Big Thing comes along. No, God, in His very nature, is elevated. He is already lifted up. Already Grand. Already Heroic. Already Glorious. So when we "lift Him up," we are really just agreeing with Him that He is Glorious. And that is a happy thought, one that would satisfy us to the depth of our souls if we would allow ourselves to see Him as He longs to be seen, as Glorious!

And thank God that He did become one of us, in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ. He didn't abandon us to the fallen way we had chosen for ourselves. Instead, He took on flesh - the elevated One condescended out of true love and compassion - to live the life we should have led, died the death we should have died, and rose so we can enjoy LIFE as He meant for it to be: enjoying His perfections forever. 

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:15-17


  1. "Maximus, Maximus, Maximus!" I laughed out loud! And could picture it, too! Thanks for this, as always. We had a sermon in church a few weeks back on this very thing. I won't sing those songs in the same way again. The one that comes closest is Twila Paris's "He Is Exalted", I think. I'll see if I can get a link to that sermon, if you'd like to hear it.

  2. p.s. I like your new thingy at the top - banner? Title? I can't even picture the old one now.

  3. What a great story Chris. I'm gonna read it to my teen class on Sunday :) We're working our way through Sproul's 'The Holiness of God' and this fits right in.

  4. Carol, I'd look forward to hearing that sermon.

    I agree too about the songs we sing. Have you noticed that some of the 'worship' songs we sing are songs about worshiping, instead of songs we sing to worship? I know I'll step into it here, (but since only 2 or 3 people read this blog;).....), but to me the biggest offending song is a huge favorite: The Heart of Worship. Why do we sing this song together in church? It's a song about returning to worship after having made it all about 'me.' But the song, though it repeats, 'it's all about you,' still somehow has me thinking about me and my worship, instead of thinking about and adoring God. I miss singing, 'Holy, Holy, Holy' and 'O, For a Thousand Tongues To Sing.'

    Ok, I'll stop now. You got me going on that...

    And I'm glad you like the banner...been wanting to change it for years...and it only took like 5 minutes. Duh.

  5. Thanks Blaine, and I'm impressed that you are able to get teens to read something as 'dense' as The Holiness of God! Fabulous!

  6. Bah ha ha!!! You are exactly right about that song (Heart of Worship)!!! I have always thought it a bit silly since the first time I heard it, in church. *sigh*

    Here's the link to that sermon. Scroll down to 9/11/11, and Joh Rinehart's talk, "Your Jesus is too small". We have been preaching through Colossians. You will see different speakers' names because our church has a team of teaching elders rather than one "senior pastor" who does all the preaching. Share the load, share the fun, share the responsibility. I love the variety, just for variety's sake as well! :)

    so, there you go, Boofa.

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