Archive for August, 2012

It’s after the resurrection. Mary, Jesus’ mother, is sitting with Jesus at her cousin Mary’s house in Jerusalem. The upper room is upstairs — just as you’d expect. They are sitting on the front porch. Rhoda, Mary’s servant girl, is peeling potatoes. Jesus is whittling and Mary is mending socks.

Mary: Jude goes through socks like demons through a rock band.

Jesus: Yeah, but he’s getting better about changing them after football practice.

They sit silently for a minute. The sun is setting. Rhoda rises with a pan of potatoes and goes inside.

Mary (stops darning): I miss my parents sometimes.

Jesus: I know. They’re okay and pleased with you right now.

Mary: What?

Jesus: They are enjoying your mending Jude’s socks. They love you both.

Mary: They’re watching? We’re not alone?

Jesus: No. We’re never alone. If folks only knew. There’s a huge cloud of witnesses. What do you think happens when people die?

Mary: I don’t know. I mean, I know you’re here — you’ve risen. And I remember Peter and John talking about seeing you talking with Moses and Elijah before you left. Lazaras is back, which reminds me of the story you told about another Lazarus dipping his finger in the water.

Jesus (nodding): Yeah.

Mary: And I’ve seen angels. King Saul supposedly talked with Samuel’s ghost. So, I guess death is not the end. So, you’re saying my folks are watching us now?

Jesus: Yes. Sometimes they’re doing other stuff, but now they’re watching us.

Mary: Are they happy?

Jesus: Yes, they are. You can talk with them and they can hear. You see, reality is much greater and wider than you can see. There’s more behind the curtain, so to speak. Every now and then, people catch glimpses of the other side, like when I pulled the curtain aside so Peter, James and John could see Moses and Elijah. There are glimpses of glory all around, but humans miss it most of the time. There’s more than you can see.

Mary: Will I be able to watch Jude and the rest of the kids after I die?

Jesus (smiling): Yes. You’ll be amazed. I’ll let you in on a secret — well, it’s not a secret, it’s a truth most people don’t care about. Love never dies. We, all of us, are never separated — by death or anything else. Most of the guys are going to die violently for me. John’ll take you to Ephesus and he’ll be the only one to die of natural causes. But, whether alive or dead, here or there, we’re together and we’re supporting one another.

Mary: Is that why sometimes when I talk to my parents, it seems like they’re present and listening?

Jesus: Yes. Through me, we are all united in love.

Mary: Can they influence what happens here?

Jesus: No. Only to the degree they work through me. In the future, it’ll get confusing for the church. Future generations will know they can commune with us, even when we’re not present. Some will go to one extreme — praying to you and the saints, and others will assume you and the saints don’t exist at all.

Mary (frowning): Oh, that’s sad. They’ll forget about their spiritual ancestors?

Jesus: More or less. They’ll commune with me, but they’ll miss the blessing of communion with the saints.

Mary (placing her hand on Jesus’ knee): You and me. We’ll never be apart, will we?

Jesus (taking Mary’s hand): You and me. Never. Our family of faith? We’re locked in and never alone. When these guys die, they’ll not die alone. We’ll all be there. And in some cases the curtain will be pulled aside and they’ll see the angels and all of us waiting.

They sit quietly for a minute.

Mary (reflectively): Mom? Dad? Glad you are here. Love you.

Tr8: Commune with the saints. We are not alone and we are part of a much greater kingdom.

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Jesus is sitting at Starbucks drinking a tall French roast – black. Andrew and Peter walk in, order a couple of double-shot espressos.

Peter (looking at Jesus): What if I didn’t pay for my drink?

Jesus (smiling): You’d be in trouble, but I’d forgive you.

Andrew: What if I lied on my income taxes?

Jesus (shaking his head): I’d forgive you, too.

Peter: What if I cheated on my wife?

Jesus (raised eyebrows): I’d forgive you.

Andrew: What if punched Peter in the face?

Jesus (still smiling): I’d forgive you.

Peter (shoving Andrew): What if I threw Andrew off a cliff?

Jesus: I’d be sad, but I’d forgive you. Here’s the deal: Whatever the crime, I’m lettin’ you know I’ll forgive you ahead of time. The Father and I love you unconditionally.

Andrew: Isn’t that dangerous? We could go do whatever we wanted and then come back knowing you’d accept us and forgive us and everything would be fine.

Peter: Yeah, What’s the point of the rules if we know in advance we can get away with anything? You ARE saying we can get away with anything, right?

Jesus: Yep. And see, everything would be fine…but you’d know it could be better. That’s the whole thing. I want you to see what you’re REALLY like. It’s like watching people when they think no one is looking. My forgiveness produces the ‘no one’s looking’ context. It makes you choose between, ‘Can I get away with this?, or ‘Should I want to get away with this?’ If you go ahead and do something you KNOW I don’t like, you HAVE to ask yourself, what kind of love is that?!

Andrew: Of course, you’re right. As usual. When our love is transparent, others’ actions also become transparent.

Jesus: Ahh, Andrew. Yes. Unconditional love requires grace, mercy and sacrifice, but yields pure love. The Father and I bring you love and life, but it’s not in you, it’s in us because we are the ideal — we’re perfect. You do the will of those you really love.

Peter: Actually, your forgiveness is a little dangerous! It exposes bad love.

Jesus: The unforgivable sin is to not love others in this way — to be totally self-serving and self-consumed. People who can’t think beyond themselves act like god. I am the way, truth and life. No one comes to the Father, except my way — the way of love.

Peter: Jesus, I know you love that cinnamon coffee cake. Can I get you a piece?  Rew, you want one?

Tr8: Love one another unconditionally. Live unconditionally.

Jesus, James, John, Andrew and Peter are going to Jericho to help move a piano. Peter’s driving a borrowed pickup and the rest of the guys are riding in the back with Jesus’ dog, Bumper.

John: Did anyone see the news?

Andrew: Yeah, ‘talkin’ bout Todd Akin’s brain fart? (darts a look at Jesus) uhh, sorry, I mean, misspoken press statement?

John: Yeah. He said something about a ‘legitimate rape’ and punishing rapists, not babies.

James: What a nimrod! Legitimate rape? Is he crazy? There’s no such thing as a ‘legitimate’ rape.

Andrew (shaking his head): Yeah, rape is most heinous.

John (tapping Jesus’ knee): Jesus, what do you do with that?

Jesus (looking up with toothpick in his mouth): About rape or about Akin?

James: Rape. The Scripture says we should kill rapists.

The group nods.

Jesus (taking the toothpick out of his mouth):  I tell you, if any one sleeps with another and fantasizes about someone else, he or she commits rape twice. Once with whom he or she is lying with, or to, and the other, with whom he or she is fantasizing.

James (eye opened wide): Whoa! That’s a bit harsh!

Jesus: Whenever one has non-consensual sex, it’s rape. Sex is supposed to be part of marriage — a product of a loyal and exclusive promise. Everything goes bad when sex is an object in and of itself. Sex without love is using someone — it’s rape — real or imagined.

John: But Jesus, people fantasize all the time, don’t they?

Jesus (looking into John’s eyes): It’s what’s in your heart and head. Do you want your spouse to play like she’s loving you while thinking of someone else? Do you not want the joining of hearts as well?

The guys sit silently as the pickup turns up the hill.

Andrew (shaking his head): Well, it’s much more hopeless than I thought. Yet, that’s the kind of love I dream of.

Jesus (massaging his right palm with his left index finger): I’m describing the ideal. Your hearts and minds acknowledge this is your highest hope — a perfect relationship. In this life, reality falls short of perfect — we rarely grasp God’s ideal. Yet, we don’t give up. If you think this way, it will make you a better spouse, friend and partner. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is when you acknowledge the ideal.

Andrew (shaking his head): Wow! Jesus! You blow my mind every time you speak! Peter won’t believe this!

Jesus (smiling, patting Andrew on the back): Thanks, Rew. Poor Congressman Akin would rather be moving our piano than dancing with network news wonks. We should remember him in our prayers.

Tr8: Never quit disciplining the mind — don’t be content with rape in any of its forms. Commit yourself wholly to your mate for life. Everyone wants an ideal spouse. If you are not married, your commitment to your spouse began at birth.

Messed up? See this.

At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a man caught in sodomy. They made him stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this man was caught in the act of sodomy. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such men. Now what do you say? “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at him.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the man still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked Him, “Man, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” he said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Tr8: Don’t play God with others. Be gracious, as Christ was.

[Parallel reference: John 8:1-11]

Jesus and his disciples are sitting at picnic tables at Sonic Drive-in. They’re drinking slushies and eating tator-tots. It’s hot.

Jude: Why do they call this place a ‘drive-in’ — makes no sense.

Jacob (their waiter on roller skates): It’s a new thing in Rome. People drive up in their chariots or carts and we serve them in their vehicle.

James: What about on horseback?

Jacob: Yeah, we do horsebackers, too, but it’s easier if they get down.

John (popping a tot in his mouth): Yer tots are awesome.

Jacob: Thanks.

Jesus: We had a good session this morning about the Law.

Nathaniel: You said the Law is perfect and therefore it can’t work. So, the Scriptures are wrong?

Jesus (after a long sip of his slushie): No. The Law describes an IDEAL life. REAL life is ALWAYS a day late and a dollar short. We shoot for the ideal, but we live in reality. That’s why we keep having to talk about the tension between grace and truth. The truth is ideal and reality needs grace. I’m grace.

John: I guess that explains it. Everyone in the Bible is a screw-up — Adam and Eve raise homicidal sons, Abraham’s a liar, Jacob’s a cheat, Joseph is sold by his brothers, Moses drops the ball, King David, a ‘man after God’s heart’ — raises spiritual idiots! Absalom and Solomon didn’t learn from their father. Hosea marries a prostitute, Jonah wants fire to rain from heaven…well, I get that, sorta. Remember Samaria? (Sons of Thunder burn a chicken coop) You call that good religion? The Law screws everything up.

Peter: Yeah, we trust you with ourselves, but what about out kids? We teach them the Law. Mine are grown and married, but I’d do anything to secure their future. David felt the same way about his boys, even though you couldn’t tell it by them.

Jesus (holding up his hands): You can trust your children to God. He’ll honor you and them. Teach them that grace is better than the Law.

Peter: You can do what you want with me as long as my kids are okay.

Jesus: Ah, a father’s love! Peter, can you love better than God? You trust me? Trust also in him who sent me. The love you have for your kids, that Adam and Eve had for Cain, that David had for his kids, well, God has more love than that, for you.

Peter nods and everyone is thoughtful.

Jesus: Here’s the deal, guys. WE are going to reveal how a real family works. Everyone sees the Law and gets a glimpse of the ideal life, but few see how love and grace make the ideal, real.

Bartholomew (scratching his chin): Hmmm. The ideal, real? I thought that was impossible. The mountain sermon made it sound like thinking was a sin.

Andrew (taking his tator-tots to Judas): No, I get it. See, I know Judas loves the tots. So, because I love him, it makes me happy for him to have my tots. Ta-da! Tot up, dude!

Jesus (taken aback): Andrew! Shut. Up.

Silence.

Jesus (breaking into a smile): Bravo! The law is everyone who pays gets his own tots, but in love there’s enough tots for everyone!

Peter (throws an arm around his brother and hands him tots): Guys, we’re gonna live for others. Jesus will show us how.

Jesus: It’s hard. It will cost us everything to out love the failure of the Law. The people who love the Law will see us as heretics. While we know the ideal of the Law, we live graciously in the reality of its complete and utter failure to deliver anyone to God. God is love!

All the tater tots go to the middle of the table.

Jesus:  Who believes I can bless these into a million tots?

Peter: I do, but you won’t.

Jesus (raised eyebrows): Why won’t I?

Peter: Cause nobody needs anymore tots.

Thomas: Would you multiply tots for me, Jesus?

Jesus: Why, Thomas? Do you need more?

Thomas: Well, no, but I bet Jacob and his dad would love a bottomless tot frier.

Jesus: It’s good that Jacob and his dad supply tots for others, like us. You guys ready to stroll?

Disciples: Whoo-yah!

Jesus (aside to Judas): You’ll get the tip?

Tr8: Make the ideal, real. Give it all to those you love. Love everyone. THAT is good religion.