Archive for August, 2013


Posted: August 30, 2013 in Between the lines, Truth and Grace
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Salt shakerJesus is outlining how he wants his disciples to work.

Jesus: Guys, I want you to be like salt and light.

Peter: Right. You want us to preach like Johnny B.

Jesus: Well, sort of. Think about salt for a second.

John: We’re with you. Salt.

Jesus: How much salt do you put on your eggs, James?

James: A sprinkle. I prefer a bit more pepper. Want us to be pepper, too?

Jesus: Umm. Let’s stick with salt.

Judas: Salt burns on cuts.

Jesus (looking askance): Yes, hold that thought about burning, but the point I’m making, is, salt is seasoning. It’s not the main thing. It’s the thing that makes the main thing better.

Andrew: You’re talking about moderation, right? Be gentle, like you.

Jesus: Bingo. I want you to make everyone’s lives better. I want you to love, spread grace, forgive, heal — just be there to help.

Matthew: Doesn’t take a lot of salt to ruin food.

Jesus: Good point, Matt. Don’t go overboard with this. SEASON lives, don’t make them taste like the Dead Sea.

Bart: Yuck! The Dead Sea tastes really nasty.

Thomas: I don’t like salt in water at all.

Judas: Or iced tea. Can we be sugar?

Jesus (shaking his head): This is an analogy or metaphor. I want you to be in the world loving people, but don’t be obnoxious. Salt preserves and you guys will preserve my kingdom by acting like me.

Peter: What about light? You want us to be salt and light.

Jesus: Light’s a good analogy, too.  How much light brightens darkness?

The other James: Just a little bit — a few stars can light the night. A lighter or match can reveal a whole room.

Bart: Yeah, it’s like salt. A little bit goes a long way. A lot burns you up.

Jesus: Yep. I want you to reveal my love and grace, but don’t burn up others with my truth.

Peter: What I hear you saying is that we can go overboard by being too pushy or confrontational.

Jesus: If you major on truth and skimp on grace, you’ll burn folks for sure. In the future there will be schools just like here where the people will sit around eating salt and burning stuff up in God’s name — like the pharisees. Sure, they’ll mean well and some will be really good people, like Gamaliel, Joe or Nick. But as a general rule, it’s better to live love and grace rather than study it.

John: So, we’re to be subtle?

Jesus: Be like me. Truly, you’re going to freak out when I die and come back. You’ll be out preaching and teaching like crazy. That’ll be fine, but remember to be humble and serve. The first shall be last.

Tr8: Be salt and light. Make the lives of those around you better and brighter curtesy of Jesus.

cow_faceMary had a little lamb, it’s fleece was white as snow. Mary was disabled and walked with a crutch. Her father, Jacob, was taking his family to The Temple in Jerusalem so they could offer Ralph (the lamb) to God. The family had been preparing for this sacrifice for some time.

When they arrived at the temple courts, they found a crowd. The scene sounded like a livestock auction and smelled like a cow patty. In different areas there were priests and temple functionaries who had everything from grain to bulls arrayed around the courtyard. Mary led Ralph as she followed her father past the various tables and stalls. As they passed the lambs venders a priest stopped her father.

Priest (pointing at Ralph): You call that a sacrificial lamb?! Look at these over here — bigger, stronger — all would be great rams if they survived. AND these on the left have been raised by Levite priests and blessed for a very special sacrifice for you and your family.

Jacob (lifting Ralph’s muzzle): This is a special lamb. Mary’s raised it from a kid and the whole family has gotten to know and love him. That’s how we do it — our family has chosen to love and set apart what we give to God. Ralph, here, is our best and we’re thankful for him.

Priest (condescendingly): That may be, but God should get the best and that’s what we have here for you. Not some little milk-fed, scrawny pet.

Mary (shouting): He’s not a pet! He’s God’s lamb for our family! You are a mean man!

Jacob (slightly troubled as Mary begins to sob): Well, we want the best, but this is all we have…

Priest (with a sweeping gesture): We have some real deals today. This prize lamb has been blessed by the chief priest and is the best lamb in all of Jerusalem and Judea – just 30 pieces of silver.  But the real deal today is the ‘Walk-Away-Clean-and-Forgiven Special’ for 300 gold coin. This includes the best in every category — all prime, blessed and ready-for-the-altar — one bull (pointing toward the temple steps where bulls are hobbled standing in piles of their own dung), four rams, three heifers, two goats, two lambs, seven doves, 100 easy-lite logs,  a special commemorative altar set, grain and a ‘Certificate of Forgiveness and Purity’ for your entire family (including immediate relatives) signed by the chief priest — suitable for framing.

Jacob (deflated): All we have today is this lamb and a couple of doves, some grain and an offering for the less fortunate.

Priest: Well, let’s talk about that offering for the less fortunate — I’ll have to talk to my manager, but I’m almost certain we can get you into a sacrifice that’ll make your family proud. Are you interested in a trade-up? We have some fine heifers. Did you ever think you’d be able to sacrifice a heifer?

Jacob: No.

Just then, at the top of the steps a crazy man begins yelling.

Crazy Man: Levites! I’m home! You have some ‘splainin’ to do!

With that, the man pulls off his belt and begins swinging and kicking and pushing and generally losing it in front of God and everybody. Everyone is dumbfounded. Animals are running loose, grain is spilled and priests are grabbing their coins while getting kicked and whipped.

Crazy Man (roaring): This is supposed to be a house of prayer, but you’ve made it a den of thieves! Get ready, ’cause I’m kickin’ tails and takin’ names!

Mary hangs on to Ralph as her father protects her from the crowd surging out of the courtyard. Within minutes the area is cleared of almost everyone, though the bulls are still hobbled in their mess. The crazy man puts his belt on and wipes his brow. His followers are standing behind him in shock, but a few begin to laugh.

The crazy man winks at them and walks over to Jacob and his family. He smiles, nods, and kneels down in front of Mary.

Crazy Man: What a wonderful lamb!

Mary: His name is Ralph. We brought him for God.

Crazy Man: Well, thank you, Mary, but you can keep him.

Jacob: No, he’s been set aside for no one but God.

Crazy Man: That’s me! How ’bout this: your sins are forgiven.

Jacob: Ummm. Thanks, but can’t do that, only God…

Crazy Man: Well, then, how ’bout this: Mary, drop your crutch and walk.

Mary throws down her crutch and lifts her skirt. Her leg is whole.

Jacob (astonished; dropping to his knees): Sir, forgive my unbelief! God have mercy!

Crazy Man: Okay. Done. Now take Mary, Ralph and the rest of your family home. Go! Blessed is the man who is no offended by me being God.

Tr8: Sacrifice from the heart and trust in Jesus’ grace.

atheniansIt’s in the early 50s A.D. (about 20 years after the resurrection) and Paul is in Athens with Luke and some of his friends. He’s been walking through the marketplace below the Acropolis talking with people about philosophy and religion.

Paul: (to a guy in a nice toga sipping wine at ‘Epicureans-R-Us’) So, you’re an Epicurean?

Greek 1 (smiling): Yeah, enjoy it while you can, right? We’re the ‘epicenter’ for Epicureans…get it?

Greek 2: It’s better to be stoic and take life as it comes. It’s all the same. Everything is as it should be.

Paul: Hmm. So, you guys are saying Epicurius and Zeno, who lived and died 350 years ago, had more answers than you?

Greek 1: Well, it’s a start.

Greek 2: Lucky folks tend to lean into Epicurius and sufferers tend to lean into Zeno.

Greek 3: It’s just philosophy – we’ve had some real thinkers in Athens over the years, but we worship anything with legs or whatever — we even have an altar to an Unknown God up where the Areopagus meet.

Paul (squinting and looking south): I’d like to see the altar to the Unknown God. Who are the Areopagus? Can we go up?

Guy 3: Sure, the Areopagus are a bunch of philosophers and such who can argue about dirt for days on end.

Paul (hitching up his belt): Let’s go.

They scrambled up to where the Areopagus meet, a little northwest of the Acropolis. It’s an impossible climb from the north, so they circle the huge rocky mount and follow a trail up the south slope. A group of men are sitting near the top arguing about Earth, Wind and Fire.

Paul (clearing his throat; they turn toward him): Anyone know anything about this Unknown God?

Councilman: What would we ‘know’ (air quotes) of the unknown? Are you a Cretan?

Paul: Mmm, no, but I know something about this Unknown God.

Council leader (frowning): Sounds like a contradiction, logically speaking. What do you know about Maurice White or Phillip Bailey?

Paul: Well, disco blows, but EWF managed to dodge the bullet. Still, let me tell you about the god you don’t know. Just hear me out. Once I tell you what I know and who I’ve met, you decide what I don’t know…I’d tell you to read the Bible, but it hasn’t been invented yet — Luke and I are writing, but outside of a letter written by James, Jesus’ brother, there’s nothing in print.

So, Paul stood up among them and spoke (see Acts 17:22-33)

Paul: Athenians! I see you are way religious. For as I walked around and talked with people in the market I heard about your altars of worship — even an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you even worship what you don’t know! This is what I wanna talk about. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. He’s not served by human hands — as if he needed anything! Rather, he himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that you would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ So, since we are God’s offspring, we should not think god is like gold or silver or stone—an image of human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such cluelessness, but now he requires all people everywhere to rethink their cluelessness. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man, Jesus, whom he has appointed as a model for life. He has given proof of this by raising him from the dead!

The Areopagus guys exchange looks. Some roll their eyes while others scratch their heads. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of sneered.

Paul (holding up his hands): I know! All I can say is I’ve talked with his mother and brothers, his disciples and I’ve seen the empty grave. All of Jerusalem knows this story. And finally, HE, came to ME while I was going to  Damascus to stomp out his followers. Wait until you hear about Jesus’ love, grace and truth!

Dionysius (an Areopagus member): We want to hear more about this.”

Paul (pointing down the hill to the north): I’ll be in the market all week.

Some of the Areopagus were interested and others scoffed. Paul and his crew left.  A woman named Damaris followed him.

Paul did nothing more than talk about what he knew about Jesus. Some believed and some did not. That’s how it all got started in Athens and that’s how new followers get started today, hearing about others experiences with Jesus and his followers.

Tr8: Model Jesus and tell others about it!