Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Messy Messiah

This Easter article about Pope Francis has me thinking.  This man has the whole Jesus discipleship down pat.  He understands that "the Jesus way" (as I call it) is sacrificial.  In this article, he breaks away from the old tradition of washing the priests' feet.  Why was that done, anyway?  Is it because Jesus did it of the twelve?  To me, today, that seems elitest.  Francis has shown himself to be a "People's Pope," taking selfies with young tourists, washing the feet of prisoners, mingling with average people and outcasts. Anti-catholics will assail him because of theology, but this man knows what it means to follow Christ's example.  
To truly follow Jesus' example is messy and uncomfortable for many (most) Christians. Let's see why.

Jesus did not exalt himself above others; though He was the King of Kings, he arrived lowly in a stable and His first bed was a trough for feeding animals.  Once He began His ministry, He had no home.  When He entered Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, He was on a lowly donkey.  He lived a life of simplicity, never connecting with the rich and powerful; in fact, those were the people He assailed against----their theology and arrogance.  He was a "people's" savior, always seeking out the underdogs.  There was Zacheus, the hated tax collector; the Samaritan  woman at the well whom most spurned;   the prostitute who was on the precipice of being stoned; and the unnamed woman of ill-repute, who washed his feet with her tears and anointed his feet with the expensive perfume that had presumably been used to attract her clientele. Then there were all the people He healed, including the leper and the bleeding woman.   He was a "messy" savior because in His day, who wanted to be associated with those social outcasts?  He was judged harshly for those associations.

What about us today?  How many of us truly take to heart these words from Matthew 20:27-28:  "and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life--a ransom for many."  or this, which I think encapsulates everything He meant about service:  Matthew 25:36-43:
                             For I was hungry
                              and you gave Me something to eat;
                              I was thirsty
                             and you gave Me something to drink;
                             I was a stranger and you took Me in;
                            I was naked and you clothed Me;
                            I was sick and you took care of Me;
                            I was in prison and you visited Me. (verse 36)

Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You? (verses 37-39)

And the King will answer them, I assure you:  Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.(verse 40)

Then He will say to those on the left, 'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!

                            For I was hungry
                              and you gave Me nothing to eat;
                             I was thirsty
                              and you gave Me nothing to drink;
                            I was a stranger
                              and you didn't take Me in;
                           I was naked
                              and you didn't clothe Me,
                             sick and in prison
                             and you didn't take care of Me. (verses 41-43)

Living out these words in the name of Jesus is messy, missionary work.  When people think of missionaries, they think of going overseas to some third-world country; on the contrary, missionary work is done any place God plants you, especially in serving any of the above-mentioned people:  incarcerated, homeless, the marginal of society.

For a year-and-a-half I had the pleasure of working alongside people in a local park ministry (until they left to minister to a homeless population in California).  Without going into a lot of detail, it was the most rewarding thing I have been associated with.  I had long-ago become disenchanted with the mega-church trend.  Not only is it isolating, but it is so unlike Jesus' way, and self-serving to those in charge; just look at those tv preachers (but I digress).  I do not ever envision myself going back to a large, mainstream church.  It holds nothing for me.  I have not been led by the Spirit to seek out another church at the moment; I will know when I am.  For now, I serve my lovely shut-in on Sundays.  That is my calling for now.

What is your calling?  On this Easter, Resurrection Sunday, how can you be more like Christ?  It is messy, and it is uncomfortable, but it is so rewarding.