I have been thinking much about Jesus lately. I know I should have said I do that all the time but the truth is I think about being a Christian more often, about the good works associated with that title. I consider the ways my church has sneakily tied bits of silk around me and ever so gently pulled, tugged, eased me back into ministries, so many that when a friend asked what I was involved with at church, I realized the list was quite long. It seems that the very act of showing up there for one event allows your face to be present when a need arises, when a slot comes open. The more you enter the building, the more you have opportunity to get involved. Before you know it, ministry events occur most every day, church is no longer a place you visit on Sunday but a people you socialize with, a call you need to make, a group you lead, a meal to be prepared. Easy then to become complacent in that place, to feel comfortable in Christianity, to take a bit of pride in all the good works and forget the point. I love that my church has lured me into the web of deeds, they saved me. But now I am thinking about Jesus more, about that man who walked this same earth and did his own good works, an action packed 3 years that didn’t lead to elevation to committee chairman or board president, He didn’t retire and sit back to let the young folks take over the tough jobs. He promised to keep going and set the example for all of us to do real ministry. He was a servant first last and still.
I have been searching scripture for places where Jesus shouted out at his opposition, refused to listen to the people, deleted those who didn’t understand his message. I can’t find anything. He didn’t practice intolerance even in the face of the Pharisees. He knew their way was against His, He knew they practiced a dangerous religion, rooted in the same beginnings, the same core of what HE was teaching. Yet still He engaged them to allow for discussion, He answered their questions, He listened. He knew their beliefs had been corrupted disrupted coopted into something no longer at the core of His God. I want to be a Jesus Christian, just that simple. I have heard many conversations recently that include a reticence to openly own our label as Christians, a name that has come to be more associated with intolerance and judgement than the love and radical hospitality my friends are seeking to live out. I get that fear, I know that desire for a new term to describe who we are, one that distances us from them, those Pharisees who stand above and not with the marginalized. Yet all that pulling and tugging over the last year or so has readied me for action, for using my voice to speak above a whisper, to proclaim that I follow Jesus rather than announce a denomination for easy classification. I want to be the kind of person who sees those in need, who sees those hurting, and sees myself and not other. I am aching with the hurt I see around me, my soul is bursting with the fear and pain of the marginalized who know life is getting even harder, scarier. I want to scream and shout, demand that we all see them and us. Also, I want to listen to my friends and those who sit in church across the country under the cross. I need to resist the temptation to delete and turn my back, label them Pharisees and lost Christians. I want to show up with my Jesus face on, offer a cup of soup and hear their concerns. Maybe they will listen to mine, maybe we will pray together and God will bring Jesus back into our faith.
Realistically, it hasn’t always been easy to announce participation in the Christianity club especially when it was known only as the God group. It was an underground movement, it was one fraught with danger and imprisonment, one that required those who knew the truth to speak it to power and the masses. It meant followers had to risk much to gather in small groups to bolster and teach each other and then risk even more to go out and speak truth to those who didn’t know or believe yet. Being a follower of our God is not meant to be easy or profitable or safe. There is no promise of resting in riches or celebrating in comfort. These times now are hard again, the Sabbath of sitting in the sanctuary on Sunday counting our good deeds for the week are over. Our very existence as a movement is being threatened, our history and faith taken over by those who want to build walls to keep the others out, those who want to ignore that people are still enslaved by our hands, those who want to define love narrowly narrowly more narrowly still until love only looks like hate.
My friends, if you are a Jesus Follower, we cannot afford to rest. We did that. We waited and hoped and expected that someone else would take care of all the injustices. Can you feel the silk strings wrapping around you, puling you into the movement? Tugging us into a place of awareness that frankly is making me weary and sad and outraged already and I am just getting started. I can bake cookies for meetings all I want, Jesus is just not going to accept that anymore, not good enough. Sure, everyone likes cookies but there are children outside our building who don’t know what a home baked cookie tastes like while we grow fatter with each meeting. I can minister within the building by taking a meal to a sick congregant, but Jesus is just telling me that is not enough. The ill outside of our sanctuary are growing sicker and do not receive homemade soup, ever.
Frankly, the work within my church was practice, a warmup to get me going. The game is on, the buzzer blasted when black men were being killed and I cried at home on my couch but didn’t protest or even write letters. The buzzer blasted when bathrooms became an issue and I shook my head but did not call legislators to register my disgust. The buzzer blasted over and over, I did not move out of church to show Jesus, to be Jesus to power. Game on, maybe I missed the first quarter, but I am in, on team Jesus. A second string player whose skills have been honed, I am ready for action and I am aching with anger and hurt for humanity, fueled by my own complacency. I don’t know about being a Christian, but I am a follower of Jesus and it is about to get rough. That my friends is how it is meant to be.