On the Internet and in our culture, there's a lot of bluster, often warranted, about the failures of the church. We wince as another pastor is involved in scandal; another popular Christian leader says something unhelpful, insensitive, or heretical; another Christian blogger gang war erupts over the controversy du jour.

Every so often, someone pens a post breathlessly announcing the imminent doom of the church because of what a mess we Christians are. And then people like me talk about it. And tweet about it. And blog about it. And bicker about it. Again and again and again.

It's true. We are a mess and need to be quick to repent--doctrinal and moral failure among believers is serious and grievous. But from its earliest days, God has pursued and propelled the church in spite of our bumbling and failure.

And this week, Holy Week, we notice that in the midst of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, we also find an embarrassingly painful display of the weakness, confusion, even imbecility of his earliest followers.

In each unfolding event of the week, the apostles disappoint. During the Last Supper, Jesus tells his friends that one of them will betray him and that they'll all abandon him. They respond by telling Jesus that he's underestimated them and arguing about who is the greatest, the most loyal disciple.

Then, they fall asleep, more than once, in Gethsemene, too weak to be a friend to Jesus when he is most desperate for one. Then, they panic and draw swords against those who arrested Jesus. Next, in a scene recounted with cringe-worthy detail, Peter swears up and down that he doesn't know Jesus even though it's pretty obvious to everyone around him that he does.

A damning ...

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