Archive for December, 2012

christmas partyJesus is cleaning out the septic tank of a widow living in Capernaum. Three of his disciples, John, Matthew and Nate, walk up.

Nate (disgustingly): Jesus, that’s unclean.

Matthew (nodding): Absolutely.

Jesus (wiping the sweat from his brow with his sleeve): Yep.

John (questioningly): I suppose the legal idea of “unclean” doesn’t apply to you, right?

Jesus (throwing a shovel load of muck out): Right.

Nate: Looks like you are about done. What are the ceremonial cleansing rituals for this kind of dirty?

Jesus (smiling): Seven showers, two-squirrel sacrifice and report to the priests for a certificate.

Jesus climbs out of the tank, dumps in a bag of yeast and pulls the top over it with John’s help.

Jesus: Today’s my birthday!

John: Really? We should have a party.

Jesus: For real. I got you all a present and I want you to learn some songs. They’re called ‘carols.’

Matthew: Carol’s? Carol Lombard, the French singer in Lombard’s Lounge?

Jesus: Hmmm. Yeah, sorta. Anyway. I have a present for ya’ll.

Later that evening all Jesus’ disciples, family and friends gather at Lombard’s Lounge with the bar’s regular customers. They’ve pretty much taken over the place.

Crowd (singing): Happy birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Jesus, happy Birthday to you!

Jesus (raising his hands): Thanks everyone. I’m so happy to spend my birthday with you all. I told you I have a present for you — anyone want to guess what it is?

Peter: A round of drinks?

Judas: Cheese fries?

John: Amazon gift cards?

Matthew (yelling): What is it?

Crowd: Yeah! What is it?

Jesus: Ready?

Crowd (shouting) Yes!

Jesus (throwing out his arms): It’s me!

Dead silence in the lounge.

James (Jesus’ brother, after a few seconds): Say what? You’ve been around for 30 years.

Jesus: Tonight I’m revealing THE PLAN. It’s me. I know you’ve suspected something. I’ve dropped hints. I’m God, the Father, the Creator of the Universe — infinity and beyond — I’ve come to be with you and bring you home with me! Wooohooo! And I love YOU!

Continued silence.

Jesus: Listen closely. I’m the Big Guy. The one they worship in the Temple in Jerusalem? That’s me. However, I’m here with you. I’m giving you all hugs tonight before you leave. On top of that, I’m going to give you complete joy and peace in infinite abundance. My love is going to change everything. Get ready, ’cause I’m taking away the sins of the world!

John: Wow! THAT’S some birthday present!

Jesus: Certainly is. I am with you. Emmanuel.

James: Jiminey Christmas!

Jesus: Carol! Come teach us some songs. I like the Joy song you sang for me Thursday outside the hardware store.

Carol (Standing up on a chair): Okay, gang. It goes like this: Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let Earth receive her king! Let every heart prepare him room. Let heaven and nature sing! Let heaven and nature sing! Let heeeeaaaavvvvan and nature sing!

Tr8: God is with us. Christmas celebrates his coming. Enjoy!

NCFCZ5CPFFPY

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bowling in jerusalemJesus and his disciples are sitting outside a bowling alley near the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem. News has just broken about the death of eighteen people when a tower collapsed near Siloam.

John (holding a newspaper): Man, this stinks. Imagine those families. One minute they’re here, the next they’re gone. How sad.

Andrew (looking questioningly at Jesus): Yeah, Jesus, what’s with that?

Jesus (rubbing his chin): What’s with the tower collapsing or what’s with death and sadness?

Andrew: Well, both.

Jesus (stacking pebbles): The tower collapsed for natural reasons. In this case they’ll find that the foundation was built with inferior materials and the last earthquake set the tower out of balance. If people had been paying attention, they could have seen this coming.

Nate (nodding): That makes sense. And I suppose it’s God’s judgment?

Jesus (looking up): The eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

Matthew (frowning slightly): I think not. No, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John (nodding): Agreed. That’s not the way you work. You are merciful almost to a fault.

Jesus (smiling at John): Yes, I love mercy. However, the laws of nature are consistent and one event leads to another. Everything a human does sets a chain of events in motion, too. Humans don’t accept all actions have consequences. Laziness, neglect, substance abuse, fighting, stressing out and ignorance lead to messed up minds, bodies, and relationships. I’m sure the builders of the tower had no intention of it falling, but poor materials and design coupled with minor earthquakes — a natural event for this area — led to disaster.

James: So everything is random? We are at the mercy of a threatening world?

Jesus (shaking his head): No, it’s anything but random. If you live on a beach, you’ll be at risk from storms, floods, tsunamis, and erosion. You can count on it. Humans and nature obey principles — every dynamic action has a consequence. Nature and humans are dynamic and dangerous. Everyone is at risk. Daily. You truly can’t comprehend it all. Since Adam and Eve, the dominoes have been falling. This age is tragic, but know I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also. There is hope in the midst of tragedy.

Andrew: What about death and sadness?

Jesus: Death and sadness make people seek peace and hope. We all live in the shadow of death. All die. I bring life and bring it abundantly. I will take creation back to Eden someday. I am the source of peace. I am the hope for tomorrow. All peace is found in my unconditional love. Tragedy draws people to me as naturally as water runs downhill. There’s no greater faith than trusting in me to turn bad into good. It takes time. I stand with survivors as they face shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, then acceptance and hope.

Bartholomew (shaking his head): That seems a bit formulaic and trite.

Jesus (nodding sadly): Yes. It seems that way on the outside and one would be crazy to call tragedy a good thing. But inside, reality is altered and people grow closer in love and grace. I heal. I loved those who died at Siloam and they are in my care now. My peace and love can comfort those left behind.

John: Seems like a real leap of faith.

Jesus: It is. It takes boldness and time to ask, ‘Where’s the good in this?’ Now you are looking in a dirty mirror, but in my kingdom you will see things clearly. What is unclear now will be clear in my kingdom. I am in the process of redeeming all of this.

Peter: How will you do it?

Jesus: Through a tragedy. You know me and what I have said. This temple — me — will be torn down, but it will arise in three days. Through tragedy you will see my love and redemption made complete.

Tr8: In tragedy, have faith and find peace in Christ. Share love and the source of peace with those who suffer. Jesus has experienced death so we might live in and with him.

shadow manJesus is in the wilderness praying when he is approached by Protopants, one of Satan’s lieutenants (2nd class).
Protopants (triumphantly): We are so gonna mess up your church in the future.
Jesus (looking up): Yeah?
Protopants: Yep. A double whammy. The reformation, 1500s, and modernism, 1900s, will have these morons so distracted they’ll miss your message of love totally.
Jesus: You think?
Protopants: Absolutely. We’ve test marketed this in the Greek and Roman empires. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a perfect plan. Appeals to the innate vanity in humanity.
Jesus: ‘Vanity in humanity,’ sounds like a long-range plan.
Protopants (hands outstretched): Yeah, but listen, it’ll work. First, we’ll wait until the masses are soft, can read, and the Bible is easily available. Then we’ll have ’em read it and decide for THEMSELVES what it means. Every joker will think they’re the Holy Spirit and will make the Bible say whatever they want to hear.
Jesus (confidently): But my story, the Gospel, and my Spirit, will still be there for everyone.
Protopants (waving him off): Won’t make any difference. Remember Jeremiah, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’  The Reformation will split the church into a million pieces. Instead of talking about your grace, they will break fellowship over how you impart grace. We figure we can get rid of ALL the Sacraments. Imagine that! You think popes are problematic? EVERYONE will be a pope in his or her own eyes. And you know the really juicy part?
Jesus (rolling his eyes): What?
Protopants (sinisterly): They’ll all go their own way thinking it is YOUR will! Ha! They’ll scramble to jettison all the sacraments of the church, dream up conflicting confessions, and turn inward. They’ll have councils and tribunals and committees who won’t stop short of killing others over doctrine. Thanks to the vanity of humanity, the papacy and Peter’s Keys have evolved into a winner for us and now we’re going viral.
Jesus: You’ll increase the need and opportunities for love and grace, though.
Protopants (frowning): Ha! Oh, that’s just phase one. Then there’s modernism. Once the reformation gets everyone thinking they are popes and authorities on faith, we’re going to shift these popes over to rationalism. We’ll move faith from the heart and spirit to the mind. It’ll be a field day for proofs and explanations about how the miraculous and mystical were merely ignorance and lack of systematic theology.
Jesus (nodding knowingly): Yeah, that’s pretty clever. So, you’re going to divide believers and conquer them with the vanity of humanity.
Protopants: Yep. This plan can’t fail. Fallen people doing what fallen people do best — self-destruct. I’m thinking by 2100 Christians will be dispised and rejected because they’ve become so narrow minded and self-focused. The whole concept of Christian will become abhorrent. The fundamentalists will agree to nothing and the liberals will espouse everything.
Jesus: I’ve got a surprise for you.
Protopants (uneasily): What?
Jesus: The faithful will converge on me and the true church will be revealed in all it’s power of love and grace. You’ll make things so bad people will flock to love and grace. When you make the world dark, the light shines brighter and truth is revealed. Those who know me and keep my commandment will bring in a new era for the church.  When things are bad, we get better. The church will return to its roots. The heart of the very first church will return to transform the world by drawing others into a growing relationship with me through love.
Protopants (uneasily): Not possible.
Jesus (smiling) Wait and see. I know mine and they know me. I repeat, when things get bad, we get better. You’re still playing the same old game — ‘taste the apple, you’ll be smart as God.’ I’ve got this covered. I’m taking us all back to Eden and I’ll be with my own in the cool of the evening in the garden  someday and you and yours will be watching from the other side — plagued by regret and longing to be with me.

Jesus sits back and looks deeply into Protopant’s eyes. Protopants rubs his mouth and jaw and runs a hand through his hair.

Protopants (thoughtfully): Can I change sides?
Jesus (looking deeper into his eye and placing his hand over Protopant’s heart): We shall see.

Tr8: Converge with other believers in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. The next age is ours. These three, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. In the end, it won’t be about what we know, but about what we do.

Convergence Pledge

grace and truthThe Disciples are sitting in Arby’s in Tiberius. They’d just finished a Habitat for Humanity build. Jesus is sitting at a table across from Philip and Nathaniel. Nathaniel is clearly angry and has his back to Philip.

Jesus (looking at Philip): What’s with Nate?

Philip (shaking his head): He’s broken fellowship with me and Luke again.

Jesus (shaking his head, too): Nate. What’s it about this time?

Nate remains silent.

Philip: He says that when you heal people you give them new bodies in which everything is healed.

Jesus: And?

Philip: Well, I said you just repair the broken parts.

Nate (turning to Jesus): He doesn’t have enough faith in you. As God is my witness and may lightning strike me down if I don’t believe you make everyone whole! Whole. Not part. Whole. Philip, ‘ye of little faith.’

Philip: Frankly, I don’t believe it makes any difference. Parts? Whole? It’s done. I suppose you believe these roast beef sandwiches were molecularly changed when Jesus blessed them a few minutes ago?

Nate (looking at Jesus, raising his chin): Absolutely! These sandwiches, curly fries and drinks are now blessed to the nourishment of our bodies and the furthering of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus raises an eyebrow and looks at Philip.

Philip: So, if he hadn’t blessed it, it wouldn’t work out that way? I agree with you, Nate. I just don’t necessarily see it the same way you do.

Nate: Yeah, and what about baptism? You said at your baptism that Jesus had filled you with grace. YOU KNOW THAT WAS SYMBOLIC!

Philip: Whatever. I know what I know. You can be such a pain in the rear on details. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t told you to ‘come and see.’ THEN who didn’t believe ‘any good thing could come from Nazareth?’

Jesus (holding up his hand): Hold on. Guys! This is going to be with you always. Believers are always going to disagree on details and explanations. Wait until the Ecumenical Councils and the Reformation — the world drives wedges in between you, but I want you to converge.

Philip: But how? Nate thinks I’m barely a disciple! I was feeling kinda good about the Habitat thing.

Jesus (points two fingers at his eyes, then to theirs): Listen. You guys are fighting about what you believe is true. My Spirit has the final say on truth — IN each of you. Your truth is yours and you should live accordingly. You’ll be consistent in the big things and differ on the little ones. Listen to my voice and do as I say and do.

Nate: Why aren’t we all the same? Shouldn’t we all have the same theology, doctrines and orthodoxy?

Jesus (incredulously): Really? Look around you! How many things in creation are identical to another? None. NOT ONE. Everything I do is personal. I LOVE what I do. Each of you are a special creation with unique perspectives and ways of processing truth. Don’t be surprised that you are different. You have different views, ministries, missions and objectives in following me. They’re all good. Uniformity is against my nature, but I’m all about unity. Each relationship is unique and personal.

Philip: So, how do we keep from fighting or arguing?

Nate: Doesn’t there have to be good, better and best in discipleship? I want to be the best.

Jesus: Nate, I appreciate your zeal, but you have this wrong. This is not a competitive sport. Remember, life is a balance of grace and truth. The truth is for you to work out with the Spirit and implement as best you can in YOUR life, not Philip’s. Same for Philip. Grace is how you act toward one another. You teach truth to your children, but you relate to them in grace. I want you to converge in grace regardless of where you stand on details about the truth.

Nate: Are you saying it doesn’t matter what we believe?

Jesus: Sort of. If you really know me and follow me, you’re good on belief. My Spirit will direct you in truth and grace. I will reveal truth and demonstrate how to move on in grace, so that all may be reconciled to me. You are to converge on me. I’ll repeat, the truth is pretty brutal, grace is not. Converge on me.

Nate turns to Philip and throws his arm over his shoulder as he nods his head.

Nate (smiling): Yeah, that rings so true. Sorry, Philip. Sometimes I think too much.

Tr8: Christians! Converge on Christ and work together in grace to redeem the world for Christ’s sake. It doesn’t matter what you think is true, love one another! “By this they shall know you are my disciples.” Convergence makes it possible for the rain to fall on the just and unjust.

Convergence Pledge

trinityJames and John are watching Jesus as he carves a lifelike dove out of a block of driftwood.

John: John the Baptist told us you were trinitized.

James: Yeah.

Jesus (looking up from his carving): Trinitized?

John: He said you were like a clover with three leaves or water that is also ice and steam. He said you were three in one.

James: Made no sense then and still doesn’t.

Jesus: Hmmm. There’ll be a lot of fights over this in the future. Some people tend to over think stuff. Communion. Baptism. Santa Claus. How long is an angel’s wing? Wait until you hear about Calvinism. I get silly stuff all the time — folks take a bit of truth and follow it to  a ridiculous conclusion. Can I make a rock so big I can’t lift it? Can I tell my mom she’s put on some weight? Why don’t churches always win the lottery? IF you know everything, why put that silly tree in Eden? Whatever you know or think you know about me? I’m bigger.

James: Are you saying we don’t have to understand everything?

Jesus: Absolutely, beware those who have to explain everything. Every honest Christian has to say, ‘I don’t know’ on a bunch of things. Faith is not rationalization. Life is full of paradoxes. Tons of them. It’s like fair and equal — both are good, but they tend to be mutually exclusive. You can’t leave love and sacrifice out of the picture.

John: What was John the Baptist saying, then?

Jesus: It’s like this: All of me that is in this body is me, Jesus. All of me that is in the rest of the universe and is not human is me. All of me that is in you — my love, my thoughts — that’s me, too. Everything created in love is me, everything that is not, is’t me.

James (scratching his head): Well, duh, I get that. I know who you are and that you are here, there and you speak inside me. All good things come from you.

Jesus: I am within you and without you. If someone doesn’t really know me, they can use trinitarian thinking as a mental coat hanger, but it doesn’t really do me justice.

John: Yeah, we know you Jesus. We can almost read your mind. We can channel your grace.

Jesus (smiling): Yes, you do know me. Do as I have taught. If you know me, you know the heart of the Father and possess my spirit. Not complicated.

Tr8: Jesus is the Way to knowing the Mind of God — Love. He’s infinitely beyond us. He is beyond doctrine and orthodoxy and more than Scripture, creeds or confessions can capture.