Jesus lived for the love of people

 

Jesus died for our sins.  He died for the sins of mankind.  

These phrases are familiar to me.  I was raised with them.  I am sure I parroted these words when I was as young as 4 years old.

I hate them now.

I want to flip this phrase.  I want to reorient the main focus of those ideas.  Those phrases are not helping us out.

Jesus lived for love.  Instead of him dying for sins, what if we said he lived for love.  It’s the same thing, right?  It is the same thing, except it totally is not; and I sure do love my paradoxes.  I do not know why we are so obsessed with sin and death.  I thought the whole point of Jesus was that those two things became moot.  

The exceptional thing about Jesus was the overwhelming love, right?

Jesus lived for love.  He came to love all people.  

What if we all said that instead?

I was recently speaking to an old friend about my thoughts on a specific interpretation of one of the ten commandments.  I was raised with a very shallow, and theologically appalling, understanding of the commandment.  I was raised that to say, “Oh my god!” was taking the Lord’s name in vain.  After doing some in depth study, I found that scholars over the centuries interpret this commandment in a different way.  One breaks this commandment by representing God in a way that is completely contrary to God’s character.  English is such a thin language.  It seems like the original Hebrew meant something like, “You better not slap God’s name on or put his reputation at risk for things things that God does not stand for.”  That interpretation is terrifying- as it should be.  It has a weight and depth that I respect.  It also is a really good example of what I hate about traditional Christianity.  

I loathe flimsy rules, based on terrible theology, that hinder us.  

My friend took a familiar stance and reminded me that both interpretations could be true and we all have to be careful not to sin.  

Sin.

Christians sure do love to talk about our sin.  We have to be careful to be aware of all the ways we sin.

But don’t we always know?

Don’t our short comings always eat at us?

I don’t think any of us need to be reminded of our sins.  I think we need to be reminded that we have inexplicable value and can tap into an unending source of grace and belonging.  But that isn’t a message you hear from Christians too often- or often enough to overcome being drown by sin.

That makes me weep.  

This small verbal interaction reminded me of when I worked in a drop-in clinic for homeless men.  I would fill small foot spas with disinfectant and eucalyptus essential oils.  I used cold water from the sink and boiling hot water from huge coffee makers to create the perfect temperature for soaking tired feet.  It was never natural for me to grill the men that visited the foot clinic on their personal faith life.  We did keep medical charts on them.  We liked to know where they slept, if they were homeless, or if they were diabetic.  We handed out hygiene kits when we had them.  Toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and underwear were the most requested items.  We gave out vitamins if we had any.

I would pat the the foot rest on my manicurist bench that I perched on.  It was covered with fresh towels and my gloved hands were ready to start the foot care ceremony.  I trimmed nails, filed down calluses, and tended to blisters.  I liberally applied antifungal creams and powders to tender feet.  Sometimes their shoes were in such terrible shape, I would ask one of our friends at the center to go find a pair that had been donated.  I learned that it was common for homeless people to keep their shoes on 24/7 to keep them from getting stolen.

I had a captive audience while I was providing foot care.  I was giving the gift of first aid and touch and tenderness.  I could have pummeled my guest with questions.  I could have prodded them about their faith.  I could have grilled them about their life and failures and told them they were sinners.  

But I was not cut out for that.  I never was.  

I was an open book.  They knew I was working at the clinic and I always told them about myself and my faith and about how I wanted to learn to love my neighbor like Jesus said to do.  I never claimed to know how to do it, but I told them I wanted to live a life with that agenda.  We played music for them.  We sang them songs/made them listen to us sing songs.  We chatted about foods that can be hard to eat when you don’t have that many teeth in your mouth.  I was humbled to learn so much from these kind men who visited us every week or so.  

I had so many wonderful interactions with the guys- they wanted to know more about my life and faith.  They were always so honest about their religious upbringings.  They all knew of God.  They all knew of Jesus.  They knew the Bible better than I did.  No one needed me to preach.  No one needed a lesson or my proselytizing.  But that was what so many of my friends from home thought I should be doing.  That is what they thought we should always be doing.  They had to win souls for Christ.  They had to convince the world that it needed Jesus.  They had to show the world its sin and then show them that Jesus was the answer to that sin.  They had to warn everyone- it was their duty as disciples.  

Disagreeing with this approach has lost me more than one friend.  I have never cared to live my faith out in this way.  I did when I was younger and I didn’t know better.  I grew out of that really quickly.  

One man at the clinic always stood out to me.  I have mentioned him before, I am certain.  He spoke of going to church as a young boy.  He remembered, sweetly, all the churches on every other street corner in Oakland.  He knew all the stories and the verses.  He knew that Jesus died for his sins.  But he spoke to me with a heavy sadness.  He said to me, “If you knew what I have done in my life, you would not love me.  You would never forgive me.”  His eyes were full of shame.  I continued to touch his feet and he stunned me to silence.  Every bone in my body knew he was right.  I had no idea what he might have done in his life, but I figured that if I knew the atrocious things he had done, I probably wouldn’t want to touch his feet or be gentle and kind to him.

At the end of every pedicure, we always offered to pray for the men.  No one ever declined.  We would ask for specific prayer requests and if the men didn’t have any, we just prayed for general things.  For this man I prayed that he would feel the love of God and that he would believe that he was loved, worth loving, and worth forgiving.  I prayed that he would be able to understand these things in his lifetime.  That night, at home, I prayed for myself.  I prayed that I would someday be able to love people like him- people that did awful things.  

It struck me that this man did not need anyone to tell him he was a sinner.  No one needed to remind him to be mindful of his sin.  He was fully aware that he was a fuck up and that he was fucked up.  He carried his shame everywhere.  He already bore his own cross.  I am certain he would have climbed up on it himself.  He was heavy with regret.  He would not return to the church.  He already knew what the church would say to him, “Sinner, most unclean, you have fallen short of the glory of God.”  And he would say, “I know.”

He needed to be reminded that he had value in spite of his actions and his choices.  He needed to be told that Jesus came and lived for all people and for love.  

It is a simple emphasis change.  And in that moment I knew that I could not live a life where I helped people put their lives under a microscope to find every speck of damning sin.  That is not my job, and if it was- I wouldn’t take it.  

I wonder if saying that Jesus died for our sins is dancing dangerously closely to taking his name in vain.  Is it slapping Jesus’ name on something he doesn’t stand for?  He didn’t stand for death.  Jesus was opposed to death.  He opposed it with his very being.  He overcame it.  He brought more abundant life.  He stood for love.  I don’t really give a shit about the semantics of it all.  But there are a lot of people who do.  

I just wonder.  

And I hope that on this Easter, someone out there feels overwhelmed by the idea that Jesus came to love them in spite of themselves.  And that on Easter, Jesus didn’t die for our sins.  On Easter Jesus lived for love.  On Easter Jesus lived for people.  

Alleluia.

 

Dirty Birth

Advent is long gone, but it is my favorite time of year.  It is the only time that I feel like I can blend in with the heard.  We are all waiting and hoping for light in a time of cold and darkness.  I was raised anti-catholic, and to fear Mary.  To give Mary any attention was to worship a false god.  Now I understand that fear of Mary has more to do with the patriarchy than an actual fear that we will deify her.

As I thought of advent this year, I meditated on Mary.  I wondered about her.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  So I wrote down my thoughts.

Dirty Birth

She was so tired.  The traveling was a chore and a burden and not as exciting as she wished it was.  Her back ached so much.  She did not ride the donkey very much.  Getting on it was too cumbersome with her distended belly.  Her legs and thighs ached because of its heavy gait.  The donkey was old anyway and it was their only donkey.  So she walked.  Her back had a deep ache and the ache was getting deeper and deeper.  
*

On all fours she rocked back and forth on her hands and knees.  The woman that the property owner had brought to help her, a midwife, wanted her to try to get up and squat with a birth stool, but the squatting hurt too much. Even with the midwife offering her own body as support- Miryam refused.  She was just fine on her knees.  The contractions were too close together for her to move between them anyway.  As each one came and crashed against her body, she breathed as deeply as she could and involuntarily swayed her hips.  Her body was simultaneously grasping for relief and working hard to move a baby out.  The midwife rubbed Miryam’s back and a young girl, no more than 9 years old, stood rigidly against the wooden wall, eyes wide.  The child was ready with the birthing stool, a pile of sun dried rags, oil, and a wool blanket that was clean enough.  It was all they had had time to bring.  The midwife had her bag and barked orders at the sleepy girl to assist her.

The laboring mother groaned loudly and tears streamed down her face.  Her back and bottom burned from the contractions and she wished her mother and cousin were there to be her midwives.  She did not cry from the physical pain.  She cried because the young wide-eyed girl reminded her of her former self.  It was only a few years ago that she was 9 and old women barked orders at her.  So many things had happened in the span of a few years.  She was not ready to be a mother and a wife no matter how wonderful the child could be.  Miryam was not sure, but she had been laboring since before sunset, and it was going to be morning soon.  She did not feel favored during these hours.  In this hour she was utterly alone and unseen.

She wept and dropped her head to the rough blanket they had given her on the dirt floor.  Her blanket was less than clean, but she did not care or notice.  It was dark in the stall and she was glad they could not see her cry.  She labored quietly, mind the groans and deep sighs.  She did not want to worry Yossef.  He was within earshot.  Or maybe he wouldn’t worry if she screamed and if she died.  If she were to die in labor, he would be free of her as his obligation.  He could start again.  He was a generous man.  He had kept his promises to her even when her belly swelled with child after she had been gone for months- living with her cousin.  People talked.  He stood by her and his promise.  She shook her head as if to shake the thoughts out.  If she survived this birth, she needed to prove herself strong and brave.

Miryam would not scream yet.  She swallowed the cries with the next contraction.  She had torn her dress off an hour ago and thankfully the midwife was unalarmed to see a naked laboring mother, bottom up, sweaty, and mooing.  The dress was filthy from the walk and smelled.  It was better that it was off.

The pain was unbearable.  Miryam wanted to rewind her life 40 weeks and say no to her blessing.  She wanted to crawl out of her skin and be back in the arms of her mother.  If she had the strength, she would have run away from the filthy stall.  She hadn’t forseen her life looking like this.  This was not how kings were born.

Miryam didn’t know what she believed anymore.

“You are getting close,” the midwife said and firmly pressed on Miryam’s lower back.  She poured warmed oil on her fingers and massaged the laboring mother.  Miryam was so relieved to have the midwife touch her.  She felt momentarily less alone and the pressure on her back was a distraction.  No one had touched her in so long.  Yossef was- well- he was afraid of her.  He was distant.  She felt utterly alone.  Sometimes there were bouts of relief and she felt reassured that he trusted her.  She was glad to be his betrothed.  He had saved her from the disgrace of being alone and pregnant.  But he kept his distance and expected her to be the model wife.  She was humble, diligent, and obedient.

She let out a cry and the midwife knew she was transitioning.

“I can see the head!”  The midwife shouted and used her fingers to make sure it was the top of the head she was feeling.  She motioned for the young girl to come to her.  Every birth was a new opportunity to learn.  The midwife would not tell her helper until later that she was glad to not feel an infant’s face, bottom, or feet.  The midwife was pleased that the soft spot of the infant’s head had a strong pulse.  Delivering dead babies was something she did often, but it never got easier.  Early in the labor, when the contractions were getting closer together, Miryam had nonsensically repeated that everything would be fine and that she was favored, but she also had a slight fever at that point.  The midwife didn’t mind a delirious laboring mother- she also didn’t mind if she did have a mother that was favored.  Uneventful births were happy births.

Miryam continued to rock and her head was on the ground now.  She grasped the blanket tightly and pushed with every contraction.  The pushing helped bring small moments of relief.  But she was so very tired.  She had been having contractions as they walked into town.  She was able to walk through most of them.  As they got closer and closer to town, she had to stop walking for the duration of each contraction.  Yossef was clueless and frightened.  Miryam was clueless and frightened.  She boldly threw her arms around  him for the longer ones, which took them both by surprise.

She yelled out as she pushed.  She could not hear herself and she did not hear the commotion about her.  The young girl brought the rags and knelt down behind Miryam.  Newly born babies were slippery and the rags would help her catch the infant.  The young girl would catch the babe, the midwife would continue to rub the warm oil to sooth the burning that came with crowning.  All the women were knelt there together, taking up space on the modest blanket that was covering a filthy floor.

Miryam’s back slouched and the midwife knew the young woman was exhausted.

“You told me you would be fine and you are doing exceptionally well.  Maybe you are favored.”    Miryam’s head nodded slightly even as she rested it upon the scratchy blanket.  The stall they were in glowed dimly with the light of two meager lanterns.  Dawn was coming, but it was still very dark.  None of the women felt the chill in the air because they were working tremendously hard to birth a baby.

“Now on this next one, take the biggest breath and push with everything you have and you can be done.  Prove to me you are favored,”  The midwife was both scolding her and encouraging her.  Miryam mustered all the strength she had left and lifted her head up off the blanket.  She inhaled and the midwife could see her back and ribs expand with air.

“That’s a good girl.  Now push!”

And as the midwife yelled at her to push Miryam groaned loudly until her body heaved with sobs.  The young girl caught the baby.  The midwife relaxed back on her heels.  Miryam collapsed forward on her side and before she knew it the 9 year old girl had already placed the baby on her sweaty chest.  Her hair was tangled and dirty and matted.  The baby cried out with life in her arms and she swept her hair away from her face to get a look at her child.  The midwife tied a string around the umbilical cord and wrapped the pair in the larger blanket.  They helped Miryam to sit up and nurse the baby.

Her contractions continued and they would continue until she delivered the after birth.  Miryam felt them and she was aware of the discomfort but it did not matter to her.  Her body hummed and glowed with the warmth of her healthy baby.  Her betrothed was not there, and she was unclean, so he would not come too close.  She would be tended to by her family if she was at home.  But for now, she was all alone and in place that was not her home, in a room that was barely fit for animals.  She wept softly, overcome, but she did not feel sorry for herself.

Maybe she was favored after all.

 

 

Responsibility: Why You Should Give a Shit

Responsibility. Moral, Legal, or Mental Accountability.

Accountability. An Obligation or Willingness to Accept Responsibility.

I don’t like semantics. Or rather- I like to say that I don’t like semantics. I think what gets under my skin is when groups of folks let words and meanings bog them down or distract them from all the really valuable and important things they could be talking about or (heaven forbid) doing with their time. I recently heard about this guy at a Bible study I used to attend. One day at Bible study he brought up the word responsibility and he wanted to explore what the word meant. I was not an eye witness to this, but I heard he made a big ass of himself and it turns out that he is kind of a selfish douche. Oh and he happens to be a pastor. He is an example of my least favorite person: he is in a position of religious power, he gets caught up in what words mean instead of doing shit, and he is selfish and doing it wrong and making me look bad as a person who likes Jesus and some Jesusy-type things.

I once got into an epic battle with my brother about responsibility. It was epic because it had to do with things that I take very personally and that shit got heated.

We were fighting because I was telling a story about some kids that are very important to me, that I met during a time that changed my life, and my behavior in the story was impacted by my belief system. Needless to say I was locked and loaded for anyone who was gonna say shit to me about responsibility. My brother, always the instigator, could not just let me tell the story. He had to pick at it and put in his two cents.

I used to work this job that had your standard 9-5 hours. I would walk to work and walk home everyday. Almost everyday my roommates and I would see our 2 year old neighbor outside playing by himself when we left the house. When we returned home in the evening, he was still outside by himself, but his diaper would be saggy and full.

Yes, it was heart breaking.

So whoever saw him first (out of all my roommates) would usually play with him for awhile, invite him over to our place to play inside, grab a snack, and get a diaper change. The sort of people I roll with give a shit about things like this.

Did any of us have kids? Nope.
Did my roommate go out of her way to pick up some diapers in his size? Yes.
Did we all take it upon ourselves to care for this kid? Yes.

Why did we do this? Because it is the decent, human, solid thing to do. It was and is the right thing to do.

My brother did not agree that it was anyone’s responsibility to care for this neighbor kid.

And I rained down upon him a storm of rage and wrath about empathy and mercy. I yelled and cried. I am a much better arguer now, but at the time this conversation was emotionally charged for me. I loved that kid. If I had had the resources or the opportunity, I would have adopted him (and I would have had to fight my roommates for him- because they all would have done the same). But I was also disappointed because my brother did not understand why it is important that we care about a lonesome 2 year old.

The fight started because my brother put a sweatshirt on his dog- she was shivering with cold and I happened to mention that lots of dogs get treated better than children (not to say that we should not treat dogs well, I am just saying that all the things need to be treated well).

I yelled and cried because I am sad that I have to explain why it is important to care for small, vulnerable, children that you see with your own eyeballs. I sobbed and hiccuped because I could not put in to words how important this is for all of us to do. I cry because this is a true and sad part of life: there is great need in the world and there are folks that just don’t give a shit about it.

Here is the part in the post where I get all religious and stuff- so feel free to stop reading if you want. I was raised by some folks who love Jesus. Jesus says that we should care because he cares. One story about him is that he is giving this sermon to these people on a hillside. They come to him because they heard rumors that he has done miraculous stuff and that he has talked back to the big wigs of their religion (think Joel Osteen and Billy Graham and all those crazy Focus on the Family people). Jesus made all those guys look bad on the regular by quoting the Bible back to them. He was a BAMF, for sure. I mean- he made them look so bad that they plotted to kill him. It was serious.

Jesus is talking to all these folks on the hillside and Jesus’ inner circle was like, “You gotta send these people home because they have been here for so long and they are tired and hungry and a long way from home.” Jesus was like, “If they are hungry, why don’t you feed them?” And the disciples were like, “That would cost more than a year’s salary. We can’t do that.” And Jesus was like, “You guys don’t get it. I will handle this.” And Jesus fed all the people because he cared. He felt responsible for them. The gospels should be called, “The Books of the New Testament Wherein Jesus Gives a Shit about People- Especially Society’s Cast-Offs.”

That was me paraphrasing a small portion of the Gospel of Mark. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to quote me on it, too. You’re welcome.

So when I talk about Jesus, this is who I am talking about. I am talking about this guy that spat in the face of a religion that was for show. He fed and clothed and helped whoever came his way and asked for help (people that were so weird and gross most people would not even acknowledge they existed), and he even helped a few people that did not ask. He cared about folks. He says in the Gospel of Matthew, “When you give a shit about society’s most vulnerable and oppressed and ignored members, you give a shit about me. If you don’t care about them, then you don’t care about me.” (also paraphrased by me).

I don’t speak this way about the Bible or Jesus to shirk the holiness of it all. This is real to me. This is the way I see the world. I have been living this way for so long that it does not make sense to me when people do not feel responsible for 2 year olds that are all alone.

My brother is ultimately right. I know this and it kills me (it does not kill me necause he is right and I am wrong, but that I know that most people don’t consider themselves responsible for other humans). It is not his responsibility to care for anyone. This life is so hard and resources are so scarce that you should just work to get yours and hoard your resources and call it a day.

But I really want to believe in Jesus. And he may not be real. I am totally ok with that. Yes- I just said that I am fine with the idea that Jesus could be a made up character in some very entertaining literature. My friend says that the Gospels (all the stories of Jesus’ life) could be written by squirrels for all she cares. It is the simple fact that the stories of Jesus tell us to be responsible for others. And when we do this thing, when we are responsible for one anther and we care for one another, magical things happen. Love multiplies when we take responsibility for each other. We create the world that we want to live in when we take responsibility for each other. We become better people when we take responsibility for others. We also help show people that they have value when we take responsibility for them. Paradoxically when we care for other people, those people will return that love in a greater way (happens every time and it is very shocking, trust me).

That 2 year old boy, his name is Calvin, has value. Sometimes the people in his life forgot about that. I made it my responsibility to make sure he was cared for, as did my roommates. We did not do it because we had to. We did not do it to avoid the guilt we would feel if we left him there. We did it because Jesus has completely changed the way we look at the world and we could not stop ourselves from caring for this boy.

A long time ago I decided to start trying to live my life like the stories of Jesus (the ones that may or may not have been written by squirrels). I drank the kool aid, if you will. I told the sky that I would give a shit. I haven’t turned back since. It has impacted my life in the strangest ways. One day, as I was walking home from work, Calvin broke out into a run when he saw me down the street. He had his arms open wide and he ran to me. I scooped him up and we were glad to see each other. As I was carrying him home he puckered up his lips and came at me. What flashed before me was the knowledge that 2 year olds are microbial incubators and his nose already had snot crust on it. But in that same split second I did not turn my head away from him- I puckered up my lips. Toddler kiss.

YOLO.

He then rested his head on my shoulder and I carried him to our place to play.

I said to Jesus, “Why don’t you care for Calvin?” And he said, “Why don’t you?” I don’t regret taking responsibility for Calvin for the small moment that he made a cameo in my life story.

He moved away a few months later with his family, and I hope that whatever people saw him next took up the torch and felt responsible for him, too. Because if they did, he might just make it. And I think that is why Jesus wants us to take responsibility for each other; so that we can all make it.

 

My Church Manifesto

Someone recently asked me what my ideal church looked like. For years I have been discussing with a close friend the inadequacy of the Christian Church to meet our needs and the needs of the people we love. I have been scalded by the Big Business that the Church has become. And I hope for a real manifestation of church that I can experience in my lifetime.

Henri Nouwen said it perfectly: “More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”          

Henri Nouwen articulated the basic idea of church perfectly: living together and loving each other. But I think he only scratched the surface. I find that most people need more specific direction because it is so easy to get off track and lose focus. Jesus emphasized ideas that seem unnatural and unwise in popular culture; strip naked to clothe whomever asks you for clothes, give generously until it doesn’t make sense, value the persons in your community who are most invaluable, lose your life to save it, oh yeah- and you will probably be homeless. These notions frighten most people who are willing to admit that this is, indeed, the call of Jesus. So instead of people being taught to live a life that is this passionate and severe, we have people that want to hear the Gospel of Comfort, and they want to reserve their pew in heaven next to the people that look like them and make them feel numb. Well, if the Bible tells us anything, it is that Jesus just doesn’t work that way.

My good friend once said, “This is not ‘fluffy’ Jesus.” This isn’t the squishy little lamb that we get in our Easter basket with Peeps and Reece’s Peanut Butter Eggs. Those candies serve as good Communion in a pinch, but they would melt into goow in the mere presence of the fire and passion of Jesus. He told his disciples- some who smelled of fish, some who were women (the modern day equivalent of being gay in ministry), some who would have belonged to the NRA, and some who probably wanted to smoke pot and sleep on the beach- that they should take only the clothes on their backs and go out there and get to it.

He said: “Take your butts out there and love people, touch ‘em, heal ‘em. Touch blood, touch lepers, touch skin infections and boils, touch people with debilitating mental illnesses (depression, DID, psychosis), touch women, touch gentiles, touch Samaritans (comparable to modern day Muslims), tell children that I want to see them and hear them, eat with them, go in their homes and tell them I love them and that I came here for them. Tell them and show them that you love them. Tell them that this life sucks, but with me and each other we can live a slice of Heaven on Earth, and it is freakin’ free, and no one can steal it away from us once we own it. Oh and, FYI, I love the least, the last, and the lost. The first will be last. The last will be first. Lose your life if you want to save it. Got it? Go.”

Jesus was unimaginable. I know for a fact that if he showed up today, we would kill him all over again, because he would jack with our notions of faith.  He would send us in to a furious rage. In his day women did not show their hair unless they were prostitutes. And some lady washed his feet with her hair. That is almost Biblical Erotica. Some married women never showed their husbands their hair, and they were proud of that. Some rabbis didn’t even look at women. Jesus let women be his disciples and learn from him so they could be rabbis too. I try to imagine what that would translate to in our society. It is something like Muslims, anyone from the LGBT community, and folks with disabilities all having a BBQ with Jesus and learning to be his ambassadors. Jesus made people uncomfortable. And he reached into the horrid despair of the lost of society and he made them whole, hopeful, and they left their jobs and families to follow him; to get a glimpse of him. I get the idea that Jesus and his ideas should upset me and make me feel uncomfortable, and if they don’t, I’m doing it wrong.

Church:

People living simply. Taking what they need, so that everyone can have some. Everyone is welcome: gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, disabilities, illness, age, race, language- you need not apply. The door is open and you have a place at our really large picnic table. Each person has gifts and values and we help each other find our places and our gifts, kinda like L’Arche. What the world says is important: stuff money, selfishness; we fight against. We advocate for generosity that borders insanity and love that heals wounds.

I once heard people complaining about church: too boring, I don’t want to get up and hug people, too much scripture reading, the music is bad and slow.  Is that what church has become?

Maybe church isn’t about what you get, but about what you can give. Yeah, so maybe sometimes going to church on Sundays sucks a little. But that is missing the point entirely. Going to church on Sunday is a small piece of what Church is. I go to the building to see my friends, hear some good ideas that someone studied over all week, have a snack. But church doesn’t start or end there. It started a long time ago.  I have church in the park reading, while my friend naps in the shade, while on the phone with friend, while listening to music, or at the beach with my dogs. Church is a lifestyle; a purposeful choice to hear and do what Jesus talked about. Getting together with other people to figure it all out and going out there and helping each other do it. Church is looking into the face of people that society discards and inviting them in to your home and life, permanently.

Oh, and it is not easy. You are going to hear things you don’t want to about yourself, about sacrifice, about your lifestyle. This is hard. What part of, “You have to lose your life to save it” didn’t you understand? You may not have a place to lay your head. Sometimes Lazarus dies. You may have to leave your job and your family. Jesus didn’t promise material or physical comfort. He said, “Love your enemy, don’t hate anybody.”

In a Bible Study someone once said to me that they were not sure this Jesus stuff was worth it. All I could think of was Jesus saying that only the sick need physicians. He came for the people that line up outside his door and break through his roof to be with him and see him and be healed by him. If you don’t feel ill, you don’t go to the doctor. If you don’t see the need for Jesus, you don’t need him. Leave him alone then.  Because those of us who know we need it, who know our very real illnesses, need treatment; those of us who have touched despair, death, poverty, loneliness, and rejection find that Jesus is very worth it.