Posts Tagged ‘ Religion ’

The answer is in the ice cream truck

Have you ever needed God like you needed your next breath of air? As if you were suffocating in your own self image. Have you ever felt crucified to a way of life? You’re nailed to this place and you long to come down, to run away, to be given a second chance. You’re nailed to this place and you long for the email, the letter, the opportunity from God to step away and become the man you know you were destined to be.

I sometimes feel like that man. I found my self crying out to God this morning. “Remember me, Lord don’t forget me. Take me with you on your next adventure.” I long to see danger, confront my fear, and really know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have what it takes to ride shotgun for Jesus. To know I have been tested and molded by the hands of God himself.

Jesus was crucified next to a man that prayed the same prayer I prayed this morning. “Remember me, Lord don’t forget me. Take me with you on your next adventure.”
Why did he say remember me? The first five books of the bible were memorized by Jewish boys by the time they were 12. Scattered like stars throughout the first 5 books is the word remember. 156 times, God was either making a promise to remember us, or men and women crying out for God to remember them. 156 times of us being broken, scared and longing to be rescued from a life we know we weren’t meant to live.

We see time as something moving. God sees time as a still picture, past present and future. 156 times leading up to the cross, 156 times the pray prayed after the cross…It doesn’t matter. He heard them all. He heard me this morning.

“Lord remember me.”
Looking into the thieves eyes Jesus saw mine, he saw yours.

“Remember me, remember me.” It was the codeword, the hot button, the send in the troops because I’m dying catch phrase.
Remember me = God I’m nailed to a place I don’t want to be. I’m suffocating in my self image and I need you more than I need my next breath of air.

Jesus’ answer, “I tell you the truth , today you will be with me in paradise.”

What does that mean? Jesus was a Rabbi. A Rabbi was a very adventurous, respected teacher of the Jewish Bible. They would travel from village to village teaching people how to live what the bible said. These rabbis only taught what they were taught. They never offered any ideas of there own. Among these rabbis was a VERY small group, who had what ancient jews called “s’mikah”.

S’mikah was the God given authority, to explain new ideas of what Gods word means. Rabbi’s with Smikah would say, “you’ve looked at what God said through these lenses all of your life, try looking through these lenses. You’ve been taught the bible means this all of your life, but I tell you it really means that.”

Jesus rolled with this Smikah, and whenever he was going to teach something new , whenever he was ready to blow peoples minds, whenever he was ready to hand them this new lens, he would say “I tell you the truth”.

“I tell you the truth.” It was like the ice cream trucks theme song. Da di nit a lint a dint ta dint, Da dint da dint da dint ta! Kids would spring up with dreams of ice pops, chocolate Sunday lovers would start salivating, and a whole community would gather to offer their hard earned dollars for the soft serve on a hot summer day.

So here we have the thief on the cross asking Jesus to remember him and all he hears coming out of Jesus’ mouth is, “Da di nit a lint a dint ta dint, Da dint da dint da dint ta!” Jesus was about to literally hand him a vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Paradise? What does that mean? The original Hebrew word for Paradise is Gen Eden. It refers it The Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden was a place where adam and eve walked in harmony with God. Jewish people call it “olam haba.” It was a place where God made us in his image, a place where we reflected the beauty, creativity and wonder of God. In this Garden we were pure, whole, and complete. We lived a life of love and adventure and we definitely rode shotgun for Jesus.

Today you will be with me in paradise = The adventure starts today kiddo.

It was the answered email, the letter he was waiting for all of his life, the opportunity to step away and become the man he knew he was destined to be. Maybe our destiny and adventure begins at a cross. Maybe it begins when we realize we need God more than our next breath of air. Maybe it begins when we ask God to remember us.


Mother Theresa’s Simple Path

I just finished reading, “A simple path”, by Mother Theresa. One word,…Amazing.  I to0k notes on some of the things I learned from the book.

“Let Jesus use you without consulting you.” Mother Theresa

“God give me the strength to accept what is in your plan for me.” A dentist that volunteers with the order

“God is so busy with us, you just can’t resist him.” Sister Delores

“One volunteer had a tough time in Calcutta, he felt he didn’t do much besides sit with people, feed them, and stroke them while they died. When asked by a sister how he got on he said, ‘I was there.’ She said, ‘What were St. John and our blessed mother doing at the foot of the cross.'” Sister Theresa

“People often ask me, what I think about homosexuals, I always answer that I do not judge people.” Sister Theresa

These are just a few that really inspired me. Throughout the book I was challenged to live my faith and grow closer to God. One thing she mentioned over and over again was the fact that she didn’t preach to people, she loved them. She showed up, shut up and went to work and expected her volunteers to do the same. I agree with much of the way she lived her life and hope to one day have the courage to live as bold as her.

I was out celebrating mother’s day with my own mom yesterday and we got to talking about Mother Theresa. My dad said, “You know it’s a shame that Princess Diana died the same time as Mother Theresa, she took all of the Media and Attention.”

I thought about that a little. You know. I think Mother Theresa would have preferred it exactly the way it happened. She didn’t life a life of glamour and recognition. She lived a life of shadows and secretly loving people with no one watching. Even though in my soul I would have liked to demand her more honor, I know her humble soul wouldn’t allow it.

May God help me not to walk a path that is complicated, media driven, recognition craving and very lonely. May he help me learn to walk a simple path.

Cain and a pile of horse crap

Matthew 5:21-24

21″You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b]will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[c]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23″Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

I have been doing a considerable amount of thinking about this. I know I have been angry with my brother. I know my brother may have something against me. I guess that means I am subject to judgment and the things I long to offer God need to be put on pause. I wonder if God puts our relationship on pause until things are squared away between me and my brother. Weather or not that is true, I do indeed feel like I am in a life “pause”. And it sucks. I am fighting with everything in me to move forward but I can’t.

Genesis 4:1-7

1 Adam [a] lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. [b] She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth [c] a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Way back, way-way back ever since the days I learned the  “Jesus loves me this I know” song, I was taught this passage was  a  right offering to God.  The sunday school teacher would say, “God wants your first, God wants your best and He won’t accept anything less.” I would think as a little kid,  “That is horse crap.”  As I got older and more mature in the  faith, the pastor would say, “God didn’t accept Cains sacrifice because God demanded a blood sacrifice and Cains agriculture just wouldn’t  do.” I would sit back and think, “Thats horse crap.”

The truth is sometimes my first isn’t my best, and  isn’t  God more pleased with the heart of the giver, not the  gift the giver gives? What if the Garden wasn’t about Able outperforming his brother and winning Gods attention. What if this whole dramatic scene wasn’t about a blood sacrifice? What if it was simply Gods way of trying to reunite two fighting brothers?

If we were to put the story of Cain and Able in Matthew 5, it would sound like this…

Matthew 5:22-24/Genesis 4

But I tell you Cain, you are angry with your brother Able and that subjects you to judgement. Sin is crouching at your door and it desires to have you, but you must master it.
“Therefore, I see the gift you are offering, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. If you do the right thing wont you be accepted?

What if God didn’t accept Cains offering, not because it wasn’t the first, or because it wasn’t a blood sacrifice, but because Cain wasn’t right with his brother Able. It would kind of put a brand  new spin on the whole thing. I ask God for ideas, ways, things to do to be reconciled to my brother. Because until I do my life is on pause,  I guess my acceptance is on pause, my relationship with God is on pause. The only way out of this pause is Murder, or Reconciliation. I choose reconciliation. How about you? Who knows, this too could just be a bunch of horse crap.

House of Prayer

Mark 11
The Triumphal Entry
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ “4They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna! [A]”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
10″Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”11Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

It was a full day, A day where everyone in the city recognized Jesus as the messiah, the king. People took off their jackets and made a red carpet out of them for Jesus to ride over. Children were dancing, people were shouting and singing. Banners were being waved, Everyone had a sign on their lawn “Vote for Jesus, Vote for change”. Hands were shaken, hugs were shared, and babies were kissed and blessed. Old school reporters were journaling, photographers were painting.

Religious leaders of the day are recorded in the book of John saying, “Look how the whole world has gone after him. The whole world is right. Jerusalem was jammed packed, it was the one time of year that everyone came, Jews, and Gentiles from across the globe ended their pilgrimage there. A pilgrimage to essentially get close to God. It says in the book of mark that Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything. He looked around at everything?

As he went to the temple he would have ascended a set of stairs that led to a big courtyard. It would have been labeled, “The Courtyard of the Gentiles”.

If you were not Jewish by blood this was as close to God as you were going to get. If you were lucky you might faintly hear the shafar horn blowing and the prayers of the priest. You might catch a glimpse of the smoke rising from your sacrifice, but it was known, “you gentiles are on thin ice”. You’re one step away from being kicked out, just be lucky we let you this far. Walking through the courtyard Jesus would of saw the many tables of the money exchangers and the pens filled with sacrificial livestock for sale. Birds, calves, lambs, goats, you get the idea. As he walked through this ancient flea market he must have thought, “How on earth does anyone find me in this place. How does anyone get close to me with all of this noise and distraction? Why are they doing this here?”

I don’t think God disagreed with the Temple tax men had to pay or the livestock that was being sold for worship, but there was a time and place for that. The place they chose was very offensive and rude.
Not only to the Gentiles searching for God, But God searching for the Gentiles. That’s when he comes face to face with another sign above a doorway that read. “Jews only.”

Then through another doorway that read “Jewish men only.”

Then through another doorway that read “High priest only.”

Then through another doorway that read, “Tie this rope around your ankle before you come in, Just in case you’re not right before God and he kills you, you’ll need someone to pull you out.”

Jesus’ heart must have broke. As he looked at a doorway inside a wall that separated people from uniting, from being of one heart and one mind. The Jews were to be a nation that blessed the rest of the earth, with inclusion, love, and justice. The Jews became a nation that burdened the rest of the earth with separation, sexism, racism, and injustice. Jesus must have looked around, He must have said to himself,
“The season of people being afraid to get close to God is over. The season of people reaching out for God and not grabbing hold of him is over. The season of courtyards, walls, signs, and ropes is over. May this system never be a way for people to get close to me ever again?”

Since it was already late, Jesus leaves the temple to get some rest.

Jesus Clears the Temple
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
“‘My house will be called
A house of prayer for all nations'[c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'[d]”18The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.19When evening came, they[e] went out of the city.

The fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel. The Figs are symbolic of the fruit God designed the Jewish people to bear. Fruit that tasted like, men and women working Gods heart in the world around them. The Fig tree incident is a real time picture of what Jesus felt the night before. Jesus came into Jerusalem the night before, hungry to see his father’s heart being worked out. Hungry to see people of all kinds being taught what it meant to walk with God. Hungry to see people being encouraged to get as close to God as they could. Hungry to see people being included, accepted, and blessed. Hungry to see people being equipped to be his image as they went back home, to see people, touched, changed, and set free from sin. The Fig tree of Israel looked like the right place for this to happen. People were hungry for the promises they saw from afar.

But there was one problem.

They had the roots, they had the leaves, but they didn’t have the fruit. Their season was over. Jesus must have whispered in his heart the night before. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again?” So Jesus reaches into the tree, finds no fruit, and curses the tree. May no one ever eat fruit from you again.

I could see his disciples, “Chill out Jesus, it’s alright, I know you got allot on your mind, and I’m sure well find something to eat in side the city.”
I could hear Thomas saying, “Man this is going to be a long day, if it’s starting out like this.”
Another disciple shaking his head, “Okay…what was that all about?” As soon as they enter the temple, I could picture Jesus looking at the crowds of spiritually hungry people; I can see him spanning the money changers, the livestock tables of goats, lamb, birds. I can see him flashing back and forth at all of the signs, No Gentiles, No Women, No Men, No God.

May no one ever eat fruit from you again, May no one ever eat fruit from you again. Boom! The money table gets flipped with a yell. May no one ever be taught by you what it means to walk with God ever again. People start step back, money is bouncing all over the place. May no one ever come here to be included, accepted, or blessed ever again. He approaches the table selling the doves, “May no one ever be equipped to bear my image here ever again.” Crash!, tables are flying, people are watching, merchants are trying to calm Jesus down. “May no one ever come here to be touched, changed, or set free from their sin ever again.”

The Court of the Gentiles is silenced. Tables are flipped; animals are running around, birds are flying. The disciples are wide eyed: John whispers, “I told you to pack my boy an egg sandwich…. 

Jesus breaks the silence and says, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Now when Jesus says this line, it’s kind of like him saying a line from a movie to us.

When I say “Ill be back” you think, Terminator. When I say, “Show me the money”, you think, Jerry McGuire. When I say, “The name is Bond. James Bond” you think, James Bond. May the force be with you, Houston we’ve got a problem. Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

When I say these lines, you already know the movie; you know the story, the characters. You remember how you felt when you watched the film. Whether you liked it, hated it, or were confused. It was the same for the people worshiping in the temple. They had the first five books of the bible literally memorized. They know the story, and the characters. They know whether they liked the story, hated it, or didn’t understand it.

So when Jesus spits this line, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.” Everyone knows exactly what he is talking about. Let’s go to the full chapter of Isaiah so we can too.

Isaiah 56
Salvation for Others
1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Sovereign LORD declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

This whole chapter is a chapter about Gentiles reaching out for God with all of their heart, And God reaching out to Gentiles with all of his. As soon as Jesus quotes this, everyone gets it. They get it and they understand that people are being robbed of a relationship with God. People are robbing people of a relationship with God. The story goes on to say that the chief priests and the teachers of the law began looking for a way to kill him. They were afraid because people were amazed. What were they amazed by? In the spirit the curtain was beginning to tear, the signs of racism were beginning to shattered, walls of separation were beginning to crumble, and the fig tree was starting to shrivel. God was leaving the temple built our hands to live among hearts crafted by his.

In 2009 the fruit has not changed but the tree has. What has God uniquely called your community to do? When God reaches in to our leaves hungry, what does he find? I do hope there are no distractions, signs, walls or ropes. Are people really being taught what it means to walk with God? People being encouraged to get as close to God as they can. Are people being included, accepted, and blessed? Are they being equipped to be his image as they go to work, lead their family, and laid their life down in the area God has called them. Are people being touched, changed, and set free from sin. If not where can we improve?

1 Corinthians 3:16 (New International Version)
16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

I wonder what kind of sign, walls, ropes are in our own lives. When my wife reaches into my life, when my daughter needs to be changed. When my brother needs support or my mom wants me there to watch her blow out her birthday candles. Am I so busy with money tables, and selling doves, am I so busy with church stuff, that I actually distract and limit them to Gods presence?

God has called many of us into places that don’t know him. We are called to be his temple, someone people can come to and hear the voice of the Lord. Someone people can see the Lords image in, in the way we serve and accept and lay our life down. Someone people can experience Gods peace and reconciliation with. In our jobs, in our school, in our dreams are we bearing fruit?

Elton Johns Alabaster Box

What is the path to God?

Do you have to say a prayer? Do you have to kneel down and pray every morning? Do you have to read your bible? Do you have to apply the bible to your life? Do you have to go to church every Sunday? Do you have to spend every ounce of your time in the worship band? Do you have to be a servant to the church? Do you have to go on mission trips, or evangelism campaigns? Do you have to make a pilgrimage to a hillsong concert at least once in your life? Do you have to take communion, do you have to be baptized, do you have to go on retreats?

Although these things are good but are they the path to God? What is the path to God?

If someone were to come up to you and ask what would you tell them? If these do’s are the path to God. You do realize what a problem this creates.
It draws a line in the sand of who is in, and who is out. So lets assume everyone reading this blog does “the to do list.” That would make us on the right path to God.
If we are in, who would be out? Who doesn’t follow these sets of do’s and donts? The homosexuals, your friends that hate church services, people at strip clubs tonight, the prostitutes on Newark avenue and your professors in college. Etc.
I just came back from watching a good friend of mine in the production “Rent”. It is a story of struggling young adults in New York City. I had no idea what the story was about before I went and was rather shocked by the end of the play.
I went to work at the fire house the next day and was describing to the guys how I was shocked by the homosexual scenes. Mostly because it caught me off guard. That’s when the senior man of the house yelled to me up the stairs. “God loves gay people too Kevin!” I put my head down, continued to mop and said to myself, “your right, your absolutely right.”

Luke chapter 7 vs. 36
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

The Torah was of great importance to the Pharisees. It was the focus of every part of their lives. They believed that Moses had given a two-part law: The written law of the Torah itself and the oral traditions. These were sayings that help the faithful apply the torah to their life. This oral law of do’s and don’ts became a complex guide to everyday life.
The Pharisees had many beliefs in common with Jesus and the New Testament. They believed in the physical resurrection of the dead and a coming day of judgment followed by reward or punishment. They anticipated the Messiah at any moment. They believed in angels. They recognized a combination of free choice and divine control in human life. They thought of God as all-wise, all-knowing, just, and merciful. They taught that he loved his people, and was constantly calling them to a life of obedience. Because their lives revolved around the study of the Torah, the Pharisees made the synagogue their community center.

There were more than 6,000 Pharisees by Jesus’ time, and they were the dominant influence on the people’s spiritual lives. The Pharisees desired to raise the spiritual character of the Jewish people to help them draw nearer to God. They believed that a relationship to God depended on constant and deliberate obedience to his detailed set of religious laws.
The do’s and donts.
They believed that obedience to the Torah was the path to God. Jesus never criticized anyone for being a Pharisee, unless they didn’t practice what they preached. The Pharisee’s like modern day pastors were a powerful force for good among God’s people. In many (perhaps most) respects, the theology of early Christians was similar to that of the Pharisees. Since many Pharisee’s were community Leaders it was not strange for them to be inviting Jesus into their homes for dinner.
Lets talk about there homes and dinner because it sheds light on the text. It was quite different than what we think of when we think home and dinner. If you were to walk down a road in Jesus’ time there would be high walls lining the streets. Every now and then you would come across a huge gate in the wall. Once inside you would find yourself in a beautiful courtyard. Around the courtyard would be the balconies and homes set up like apartments around the courtyard. Inside this courtyard would be gardens, and a U shaped table were the men of that apartment complex would sit and discuss matters of the community at night.

This was their dinner.

The Gate to this courtyard was always kept open so that people who passed by could overhear the meetings, easdropp. People could come and go. But only the invited, the important, the men could lounge around the U shaped table. Only the men could eat and talk politics / Religion. It was customary when invited to dinner in one of these courtyards to be greeted by a servant. The servant would wash the guests feet and give them oil for there hair. After you were refreshed you where greeted by the men at the table with a kiss.

This symbolized acceptance and friendship.

This is what it meant for Jesus to be invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner.

He would be greeted at the gate, his feet would be washed, oil would be given to make him feel refreshed and at home. He would then be led through the courtyard with the apartments looking on and given a seat at the u shaped table where he would be greeted by the other men with a kiss. He would then lounge, eat, and talk with the men about important things going on in the community.

Luke chapter 7 vs. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
And as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
This was a woman who lived on the outside. She did not follow the oral tradition and apply the bible to her life. She did not follow the written law. The do’s and donts of the system were not applied by her. She didn’t read her bible, she wasn’t part of the worship band, she didn’t go to church faithfully every Sunday. Her reputation was wrecked, her life was broken.
She didn’t have her act together, she worked the underbelly and black market of the community. She new and spoke the dirty words, watched the rated r movies, drank a little too much, was greedy and suckered in by abusive men. She was the social outcast, and because of this she would never be part of the in crowd. The accepted, the saved, the redeemed, the children of God. She would never be invited to dinner, never have her feet washed, never be given olive oil for her hair, never be greeted with a kiss of acceptance. Never have any real say in the community. Never have a path to God.
The bible says that this woman learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s community courtyard meeting. I wonder what else she learned. Maybe she learned how Jesus raised a widow’s son. Maybe she learned that he healed a centurion’s servant. Maybe she learned that Jesus was searching for the poor, the hungry, the heartbroken, the objects of insult, rejected. Maybe she learned about the shriveled hand Jesus restored on the Sabbath, going against the system. Sticking it to the man. Maybe she learned she liked Jesus very much. Maybe she heard that an evil tax collector actually was accepted as his apprentice. Maybe she heard about the friends who cut a hole in a roof to get their friends sins forgiven. Maybe she learned all around her how people where connecting to Jesus and finding a path to God in the most unusual ways. Whatever she learned, she was hooked and decided to pass the courtyard and watch a man she heard so much about.

I can picture her mingling in the crowd waiting for Jesus to show up. The community leaders are hob nobbing together. In their expensive robes and elegant customs they were busy patting each other on the back,

There he is. She notices him as soon as he comes through the gate, but she also notices something else. The servants don’t greet him. The Leaders don’t acknowledge him. But Jesus reclines anyway. He reclines at a table without being refreshed and without being accepted. Jesus is on the inside of the Pharisee’s house but on the outside of their hearts. He is not accepted and he is treated the same way a sinner is treated. The Pharisee’s actions are on purpose.

Their actions are done to shame Jesus in public. To show the people he is not really one of them.

The woman’s heart must have been pounding out of her chest. Why are they doing this to him? Why are they trying to ruin his image? I mean me, I can understand. But this man has done nothing wrong and they are abusing him politically. It is only right to honor someone you invite to dinner. I hate when they do this to people.
“Self righteous. Bleep beety bleeps.”
The woman identifies with what they are doing to Jesus. She sees Jesus being publicly shamed and moves in to rescue him. She breaks down using her tears to wash his feet. She breaks down from years of feeling the same shame and the same humiliation. She breaks down and says, “Jesus, I will not let you be alone.”

She breaks down and chooses to make the Pharisees feel just as uncomfortable as they made Jesus. She breaks down and says enough is enough, not here, not now, no more. “I am broken, I am ashamed, I am humiliated, I am sinful, but I will not allow this to Jesus. He will not be by himself tonight.”

She then lets down her hair and goes against the cultural grain to dry his feet. She lets down her hair as symbol of intimacy. She lets down her hair to say hear I am, no more hiding, no more of this bullcrap, no more big you little me. She lets down her hair to show Jesus who she is, who she’s been, what she needs.

She kisses Jesus’s feet to let him know she fully accepts him. She kisses his feet to embrace whatever friendship he offers.

She pours perfume on Jesus to show the Pharisee’s he doesn’t need them. She pours perfume on Jesus to give him confidence that he has friends. She pours perfume on him to refresh him and make him feel welcomed.

It was a beautiful display of sacrifice and love in a room full of hate and self righteousness.

Where am I in this story? Have I ever tried to publicly humiliate someone? Set them up for failure? Call them out to make myself look right. Have I ever destroyed someone’s character with gossip? Has anyone ever made a really bad decision and I’m there with an I told you so. Have I been on the top side of power so long I feel I have a right to be arrogant, and all knowing? Am I in charge of who’s in and who’s out? Do you use your authority outcast people you don’t like or agree with?
Could I invite Jesus to diner and into my courtyard of coworkers, subordinates, and friends? Could I I do to him what I am doing to the people in my life? I am curiouse how uncomfortable I would make him with my leadership.

Or, am I the talk of the community, the church? Why do I feel my reputation shattered and my life in pieces? Am I broken, hungry, and a spiritual outcast? Why do I feel like the path to God is lost? Why do I hear stories about this Jesus and long to find him for myself?

The first time I met Jesus I was reading a comic book. I was 11 years old. The second time I met Jesus, I was in a youth prison in seacaucus far from the do’s and donts. I have met God outside of a my dads bar and inside a building engulfed in flames. I have met God blowing up balloons in Ramallah for oppressed children and buying a block of cheese for a homeless man. I have met God in extreme fear and fatigue, and in moments where I am made fun off and feel alone. I have met God in the untraditional, unconventional avenues of life and I am hooked.

What if the church was a place not were we find God, but learn how to find him out there?

Where do you see Jesus this morning? What wrongs can you make right? Who can you stick up for, who can you protect, who can you provide a safety net for?

Jesus is in the humiliation, the ashamed, the broken the hungry the outcasts of my life. Maybe my true freedom this morning is moving in to rescue and be beside people. Maybe my path to God starts by asking him to come along side of me and identify with me. Maybe Jesus is waiting for me to say enough is enough, something must be done about homelessness, oppression of immigrants and single parent moms struggling.

In this story Jesus allowed himself to be in the prostitutes shoes. He allowed himself to be publicly humiliated and ashamed. He allowed himself in an unjust situation to show that he was leveling the playing field.

The Pharisee says to himself, If Jesus were really a prophet and I know he is not. He would know who is trying to sexually arouse him and that she is an outcast.

Jesus knowing the judgment that the Pharisee made before he even got there, the judgment in his heart at the moment, challenges him to make one more judgment.

Simon, (the pharisee’s name)
Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now witch of them will love him more?
Simon replied, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.
You have judged correctly, Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came to your house, You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman , from the time I entered has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven. For she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little. Jesus said to the woman, your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you. Go in peace.

It was as if Jesus was saying,
Simon I know who is touching me, I know her life style and I don’t agree with it. Compared to your little offence tonight she has a long way to go. But at this moment she loves me more than you do. At this moment she loves God more than you do.

I was watching a news story recently about Elton John and his life partner. The story describes the rejection of their bid to adopt a little boy who had HIV from the Ukraine. If this boy was adopted he wouldn’t have to worry about a thing for the rest of his life. He would be accepted, cared for, and set up to live his life to the fullest. I almost broke down in tears because it was as if God was saying,

“Kevin I know who is touching me, I know his life style and the great offences he has made against me. But at this moment he loves me more than you do.”

Jesus said in Matthew 21:32 (New International Version)
“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.”

I wonder how many ways the “outsiders” are loving God more than we are as a church. We judge, we shame, we blame, we insult and harass.
I wonder how many times God looks at us and says, I know who is touching me, I know there life style and I don’t agree with it. But at this moment they are loving me more than you.

At the end of the story, the Pharisee was left with questions, the woman was left with peace.

Wild and Naked with God

Wild and Naked with God

Genesis 2:19
But for Adam [g] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs [h] and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [i] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman, [j] ‘
for she was taken out of man.”
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

I wonder what that must have felt like, to be naked and feel no shame. I don’t think it can be compared to the experience of young children. They don’t know any better. It is not shamelessness. A shameless nakedness is inappropriate. When is it ok to be naked and feel no shame? Two ways, when I am alone and when I am with my husband or wife. Why?

Genesis 4 King James Version
1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

It says that Adam knew Eve. This knowing, this knowledge gets lost in our translation. Pope John Paul in his book theology of the body describes this knowing in a unique way that could shed some light on the creation story.
He states,
“A husband and wife who truly know each other have arrived at the core of each other and both are loved at there core. At this level they constantly recognize and speak about what scholars call Unrepeatability. They both are convinced that the other is unique and cannot be repeated or replaced. They are given in marriage to each other to be known by each other.”

The atmosphere is one of protection, respect, patience, kindness, understanding and Love. An atmosphere where neither partner is absorbed or lost to the other. But where they become more of their true self when around each other. It is true Intimacy. (Into me see) It is only in this atmosphere are we ok to be naked. It is only in this atmosphere were it is appropriate to be naked.

So here we have Adam, and Eve both naked, both in intimacy with each other and God. This is where we can feel naked and feel no shame. It is in this atmosphere of intimacy That God says see into me see, and we say to God see into me see. A true test of intimacy is if you can get naked in front of the other person and feel no shame.
Shame what is it? Shame is the opposite of intimacy Shame is what happens when you are naked in the wrong atmosphere. Being naked in an atmosphere where the other person is out to humiliate you, hurt you, use you, absorb you, and disrespect you. Being naked in this atmosphere brings shame.
Why at one moment in the garden did Adam and Eve feel no shame, then the next moment feel shame? Was it because they sinned and felt horrible about there mistake of eating the apple?
Or was it something more?

Genesis 3
The Fall of Man
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

The snake says, “Did God Really say you must not eat from the trees of the garden? You will not surely die, God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like him, knowing good and evil.”

It was like he was whispering. God is holding out on you, He doesn’t really want you to be like him. He really doesn’t want you to see into him. He is lying to you and taking advantage of you. If he is lying about this, is he lying about his protection, his kindness, his respect, his love for you? The snake was creating an atmosphere where God was out to hurt, use, absorb, and disrespect. He was crafting within there hearts the lie that God couldn’t be trusted, he wouldn’t protect, and he had no love for them. And the bite of the apple was believing this was there atmosphere when God was around.

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

It says they realized they were naked, they sowed fig leaves and covered themselves. It says they heard God and were afraid, not because they disobeyed God, but because they were naked. I wonder if there eyes were opened not to the fact that they sinned and were naked. I think they always knew they were naked. The leaves didn’t say oh my God I have a weenie I never saw before I need to cover it.
Could the leaves have said I don’t trust you to be intimate with me any more? There were 3 people in the Garden. And one was making the others feel uncomfortable.

C.S. Lewis in his book Prelandra said,
“As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it also is dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat, and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played.”

Your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? If God, the center of Goodness and Love is Evil in the center of our hearts, then what a mighty long way we have fallen. Then the last card has truly been played. But the last card wasn’t played.

I wonder how many of us lack intimacy with God, because our atmosphere is all wrong. I wonder how many of us are really uncomfortable being naked when God shows up. How does my atmosphere look? Do I live in a world where I believe God really doesn’t protect me respect me or love me? Do I hide because this God thing is just too uncomfortable? Deep down inside do I believe a lie that I cannot trust Jesus? Oh I say I do, but my belly is full of apples and my weeny is covered with leaves.

What do I do about it? God shows up, sees me covered, inside and out and says “So its like that now.” I’m sure his heart was ripped out of his chest. Like a husband who comes home with flowers for his wife only to find her in bed with another man. He must have thought, “What do I have to do to show you I can be trusted? What do I have to do to bring you back to the atmosphere I created you to live in?”

To make a beautiful, long love story short. God comes to a place in history where he says enough is enough. He comes into our world physically in the form of Jesus. He gives himself into our hands and we did to him the very thing we were afraid of him doing to us in the garden. We stripped him naked, embarrassed him, hurt, disrespected, used, hated, and murdered him. It’s as if he came to us naked saying I am not out to get you. You can give me your worst, and I will love you. You can strike me down and I will protect you, I will never use you or abuse you,
I can’t uneat the apple but I can start learning to uncover myself in His presence. God questions us. “Where are you? Don’t you realize you will become all you were meant to be by being intimate with me? I can be trusted with your nakedness. You don’t have to hide or feel uncomfortable in my presence.”

Jesus’ brutal, ugly, death restored the atmosphere of Eden. The atmosphere of protection, respect, patience, kindness, understanding and love was rekindled. An atmosphere where neither partner is absorbed or lost to the other but one where were we become our true self when we are around him. Every heartbeat on the cross was pumping. (Into me see, into me see, into me see)

Sometimes my creativity likes to think Jesus’ cross was made out of the apple tree Adam and Eve ate from. So that when we are tempted not to trust God, We are forced to see Jesus’ nail holes and blood stains. We are forced to come face to face with a God that can be trusted.