Archive for June, 2013

new church memberThe service is winding to a close at First Church. Pastor Dan is standing before his congregation smiling broadly with a gentleman with an olive complexion and a raggedy-looking street person.

Pastor Dan: Now, I’d like to introduce those who have come forward this morning. First (signaling to the gentleman sitting on the front pew), we have Jacob Tashen, who joins us by transfer of his letter from Crestmont Church in Detroit.

They shake hands and Pastor Dan throws his arm over Jacob’s shoulder.

Pastor Dan (addressing the congregation): Jacob, do you wish to join this fellowship and join in the Body of Christ here at First Church?

Jacob: Yes.

Pastor Dan: Congregation, do you accept Jacob into our fellowship and pledge your support as he serves among us?

Congregation (semi-cordially): Yes!

Pastor Dan (taking an index card from his pocket, signaling again to the front pew): Next, we have… uh. Buck Rog…

Bucky (breaking in): Bucky.

Pastor Dan: Uh, Bucky Rogers, who has uh… come to join our church…requesting baptism. Buck, you have…

Bucky (glancing aside): Bucky…

Pastor Dan: Bucky. Have you come forward to tell us you have accepted Christ and want to join First Church through baptism?

Bucky (looking down at his feet): Yes, sir.

Pastor Dan: Congregation, do you accept Buck — Bucky — into our fellowship and pledge your support as he serves among us?

Congregation (a handful of children in front): Yes!

Pastor Dan: Well, what a wonderful morning! After Brother Patterson leads in our benediction I hope you’ll come and greet our new members.

Brother Patterson (in booming bass voice): Father, we thank you for Pastor reminding us that you were with Moses in Exodus as the great I AM and that you prepared him, with his brother Aaron, in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt, to rally the people of God to do your will while crossing the desert, to Sinai, on the way to the Promised Land, to become the genuine, true Children of Israel. And may we be a new Israel…

Ten minutes later.

Pastor Dan has disappeared (to the church front steps) and Jacob and Bucky are standing before the altar.  The children’s choir streams by, shaking hands. A small group of men have gathered to talk by the piano exit. They are shooting concerned glances toward the altar. A small group of women have gathered in back of the church and are glancing furtively toward the front altar. Everyone else ambles toward the exits.

Jacob (standing uncomfortably with Bucky): Uhm. Are you from around here, Bucky?

Bucky: Yep. I’ve lived in this town all my life.

Jacob: Family?

Bucky: Naw. Used to have, but they’re gone. How ’bout you?

Jacob: Me neither. My ministry sent me here a couple months ago.

They stand quietly. They look up as a man enters from the organ side of the sanctuary. The man is dressed in boots, jeans and a blue tee-shirt that says, “I’m with stupid” below a big arrow pointing left.

Man (shaking hands): Hey, Bucky, Jacob, good to see you. I’m Jesus.

Bucky: Oh, man! I’ve seen you in town at the food pantry and Salvation Army Center, but had no idea…

Jacob: Weren’t you at Kelly’s Friday night? You were the designated driver for the immigrant construction crew, right? Your Spanish is spot on.

Jesus: Sure, right. I’ve seen both you guys. Bucky, you’re always taking food to the folks under the railroad bridge on 27. Jacob, you are the new Young Life director — hanging out with high school kids all the time.

Jacob and Bucky nod.

Jesus: Well, I don’t come here often, but wanted to welcome you anyway. Dan is really a nice guy, but you probably won’t talk with him much. The folks here are “good” and don’t know how to deal with different folks.They’re fearful and overprotective, so, Bucky, you won’t last here for long. Jacob, when the youth director finds out you are YL, he’ll feel threatened, so you can expect a bit of pushback from him. Outliers. You are my kind of people.

Bucky: I know, I’ve been run out of churches all my life. Just thought I’d try again.

Jacob: I’m going to try really hard to support the ministry here, but youth directors get nervous because I spend more time with their youth than they do.

Jesus: It’ll all work out. I think I’ll join next week and see what happens. I usually get the boot after a few months, too. We’ll be good for them and they’ll be good for us even if we don’t get along. I don’t waste anything. See you guys next week.

Tr8: Figure out how Bucky and Jacob would fit in your church.

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dog and beerThe disciples are at a rodeo near Cana. Jesus has gone to get drinks and food for everyone with Murphy (the non-disciple), Judas and his moneybag. There’s a break in the action as the local high school drum and bugle corp line up for their performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Andrew: I got a weird question this morning coming out of MacDonalds.

Peter: What?

Andrew: Someone asked if Jesus was sinless.

John: Sinless?

Andrew: Yeah. A synagogue dude asked me if Jesus was a sinner.

Bartholomew: Well, of course he is!

Nathaniel: I’ve seen him eat without washing — you all have.

James: Right. And remember when he helped Murphy fix his roof on the sabbath?

Peter: He’s breaking the sabbath just about every week.

Matthew: I see him touch unclean stuff all the time. Plus, he ate a bit of bacon at my house once. And he liked it.

Simon: He hangs out with sinners all the time — prostitutes, gays, loan-sharks, pro wrestlers, Romans, women…us. And he also keeps Bumper.

Thomas: I sometimes wonder where he goes when he disappears for long periods of time. Praying in the hills… For DAYS?  I’m not sure I believe that.

James: Well, who says the Messiah has to be perfect? No one is perfect. In fact, one of the reasons I think he is THE messiah is because he’s willing to break a few laws to do what needs to be done.

Peter: Absolutely. The Law is righteous, but we’re not going to get a new king in Israel by righteousness, we’re going to have to overthrow Herod and Roman rule. We’re part of a revolution and revolutions aren’t fought by rules.

John: I agree…. Does anyone here think Jesus is perfect?

Silence.

Andrew: So, Jesus is our master and THE Messiah, but he’s not perfect. How could he be? Who in their right mind would believe that, anyway? He’s kind of a messy, dirty guy who is recruiting dirty, messy followers — like us  — to carry out a dirty, messy revolution.

Everyone nods and voices agreement just as Jesus, Murphy and Judas arrive with the drinks and food.

Jesus (glances around the group and smiles): My ears are burning.

Suddenly there’s a lot of shuffling, clearing throats and looking around.

Judas (with authority): Okay, who ordered what?

Jesus: I asked for a light beer and a hotdog, no relish.

Nathaniel (raised eyebrow, questioningly): D’ja wash your hands? Kosher dog?

Jesus (touching Nate’s chest): It’s what’s in a man’s heart, not on his hands, that makes him a sinner. Whatever doesn’t come from faith is sin. It’s fair to judge yourself (because you know your own heart), but to others always be gracious. Remember what I said about splinters in eyes?

Nate grins as Jesus musses his hair.

Peter (shrugging his shoulders, aside to Andrew): Who are we to judge the Messiah?

Tr8: Who are you to judge? You know only one heart. Judge that one.

thinkerPeter and Paul are talking in Rome, shackled together near the racetracks.Things haven’t been going well and the persecution is getting worse. Their days are numbered.

Paul: When you connect with the Spirit, what happens?

Peter: That’s tough to describe. I always thought I had two voices in my head – one living now and the other living in the past or future. I really didn’t notice ’em until I was around Jesus – he was all about now. He taught that if you live lovingly in him now, the past will be good and the future will be good.

Paul: Two voices…yeah, I get that. Me, too.

Peter: In the beginning I’d have said one voice was me watching life and the other voice was me thinking about what I was experiencing. The watcher tended to tell me what I SHOULD do and the thinker would make up a story to do as he pleased.

Paul: Okay, I’m still with you. I think my watcher is is Jesus. How ’bout you?

Peter: Yeah. The thinker lives a story, the watcher lives reality. When I want Jesus and peace, I surrender to the watcher as much as I can. Communion with Jesus is more than the thinker can think.

Paul: My thinker drives me crazy sometimes — runs stories and scenarios 24-7. He rewrites everything however he sees fit — usually whatever will make him look good. The mental noise gets so loud I have to disconnect with the past, drop expectations for the future and just process now.

Peter: Exactly. Jesus connected with my watcher, too. As I surrendered to Jesus, he awakened a true me. Then Jesus more or less became me and we watched together and as life unfolded. The thinker still makes up stories all the time, but I try to bring it around to Jesus’ perspective with the help of his Spirit.

Paul: Yep. Same with me. My watcher is renewed by Jesus to connect with God and his creation and my thinker connects with Jesus’ stories and Scripture through his Spirit. It’s like the watcher lives in The Kingdom and the thinker lives on earth and the Spirit works to harmonize the two.

Peter: The amazing thing about Jesus was that his thinker was totally controlled by his watcher – by God. He was like, all watcher, know what I mean? He was absolutely connected to the source of life. He’d say, “I only do what the Father tells me” and “The Kingdom is within you.”

Paul: True. God’s Spirit works within me to know and do his will.

Peter: Every good thing that is in me is from God. He transforms me for living sacrifice by the renewing of my mind.

Paul: That’s good. Can I use that to start Chapter 12 of my letter to the Romans?

Peter: Sure. It all comes together in Jesus — John used to say, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him.”

Tr8: Take a moment to quit thinking and get in touch with your watcher and see who calls the shots in your life. You or Christ? Connect with Him and find the source of peace, joy and love.

TMIJesus, the disciples and Murphy (the non-disciple) are sittingt on saw horses during a short break. They’re knocking back Gaterades.

Murphy: I like working with you, Jesus.

Jesus: I like working with you, too, Murph.

Bartholomew: Me, too. But sometimes I think carpentry work is a real waste of your talents and after all, we have a revolution at hand if you are going to really be the Messiah.

Jesus (rolling his eyes): Bart, I keep telling you, I’m gonna die and rise again to redeem the world.

Bart: Well, let’s go on the attack, you can’t die, you’re the Son of God, man. What’s with stalling? You mean we are going to take a few setbacks before we can claim victory?

Jesus: We’re not talking “setbacks,” we’re talking death. I’m going to die and come back – nothing will change around here but your hearts and your perspective on what “Messiah” means.

Murphy: Hmmm. Die? How’s that necessary?

Jesus: My Father thinks it is and I think so, too. Whatever I see him doing, that’s what I do. He’s sacrificing everything, so, so am I.

Bart: I guess we still have a lot to learn before you become Messiah, huh?

Jesus: Actually, not so much. You’ve been following me long enough to know what I do. That’s it.

Peter: Yeah, but what about all the other stuff – policies, government, dealing with traitors, armies, Rome, reworking the Temple, baptizing, healing and…well, you know, the list of things is huge. I think about this stuff all the time.

Murphy: Not me. You mean we have to know all that? All I know is Jesus and you guys and how to frame a house – if you guys help me.

Jesus: Peter, guys, you worry to much about everything. You don’t need to worry about anything and you don’t need to be afraid of anything as long as you follow me. Fear flows from lack of faith. You don’t need to understand all that stuff, you only need to live here and now as I do. I’m not worried about the past or the future. It’s in God’s hands and we can trust him completely.

Murphy: Thank goodness. I’m glad you don’t have to be smart or full of information to follow you. I get completely lost in trying to figure everything out.

Jesus: If you understood everything, you’d be God. TMI on a lot of levels.

Murphy: Yeah, total TMI – way too much information – I can’t handle it all, and even if I could, I’m content doing what we’re doing, like this, building a house.

Jesus: Murph, what you need, you have.

Peter: What’d’ya mean?

Jesus: You’re set. Forgiven, accepted, redeemed and delivered. All that’s left to do is love others and live out the paradoxes of the Kingdom – you know, first, last, sacrifice, service, poverty, wealth in the spirit, meekness, humility – keep the tension between truth and grace – what we’re doing now is what you should do later.

Peter: Sure, but we have to keep all the rules, go to synagogue – you know – earn our keep.

Jesus (shaking his head): Earn your keep?

Peter: Well, yeah.

Jesus: Well, no. All you have to do is live my love now. Now. If you love others now, the past will be good and the future will be better. You can get too caught up in the details if you aren’t careful. Don’t over think it.

Murphy: Good call, Jesus. Let’s get back to work. We can probably finish this up this week if we quit talking, theorizing, planning, and junk.

Tr8: Live NOW as Jesus would, in the Spirit’s love, and the rest will take care of itself. You have what you need.