As-Is L4L.06

The WORD

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.’” Matthew 9:10-12 (New Living Translation)

Again…

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?’ Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick?’” Matthew 9:10-12 (The Message)

I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s book, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them,” and this text from Matthew resonates with Ortberg’s sentiment that Everybody’s Weird.

“This is such a fundamental insight,” Ortberg tells us, that it’s as if each of us comes with an “As-Is” tag bargain basement, clearance rack, non-refundable… “As-Is.” And, “because we know in our hearts that this is not the way we’re supposed to be, we try to hide our weirdness. Every one of us pretends to be healthier and kinder than we really are; we all engage in what might be called ‘depravity management.’”

If Ortberg is right, then there is no one outside of Jesus’ reach, no one who isn’t eligible to receive the medicinal treatments of the Savior. In light of the Matthew 9 text, this would mean that not even the self-righteous, snobbical Pharisees are beyond hope of healing, no matter how desperately they might try to cover up their ailments.

Every last one of us is weird, flawed, slightly irregular, sick. Sick, and in need of a doctor who specializes in our unique area of what’s-gone-wrong. The joy of today’s Word is that THIS is WHY Jesus came!

The APP

Jesus called a low-life tax collector to be one of His followers. One of His inner circle. One of His friends.

Jesus regularly ate meals with those who had been publicly labeled “As-Is,” unlike most of us who look pretty darn healthy on the surface, but whose family and close friends could tell you otherwise. With or without the stamp of disapproval, we all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

We’re all in the same, sinking boat unless Jesus rescues us.

Today’s application piece is going to be challenging for us, especially for those of us whose lines are clearly drawn in the sand. It’s time that we, as followers of this Jesus who enjoyed the company of those whose lives were colored outside of the lines, learn to embrace our own “As-Is” identity as a way to bridge the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, the sick and the healthy, the outcasts and the in-crowd.

We simply cannot embrace the whole of another, flaws and all, until we have recognized and learned to love ourselves (flaws and all).

Jesus came for the sick, and it’s time we own up to the fact that we aren’t well without Him.

On our own, we’re a colossal mess.

Such a realization lays us low and minimizes the differences we love to perpetuate between people, between classes, between those with status and those without. Maybe today’s App for you is to be laid low, humbled before the Great Physician.

For the rest of us, a literal interpretation of this short text calls for a new direction in ministry. My Pastor made the observation that he isn’t excited about growth in the church when the majority of new members have transferred in from other ‘flocks.’ What gets his heart pumping and our collective adrenaline flowing is when people make their way to the Body of Christ by way of the hospital gurney – sick souls who have finally found the source of their eventual healing.

If we are to continue Jesus’ ministry in this world, it is imperative that we sit down to meals with society’s ailing members and rub elbows with those who exist outside our social and political lines. In Jesus’ day, that would be the tax collectors and prostitutes. Today, for you and me, the door is wide open and the need is intense. You can fill in your own blank, but if you’ve been healed by the One Who came to save, then you have a ministry among others in need of saving.

Look around you as you live your life today.

Whose “As-Is” tag is showing?

Tempting as it may be to tuck it in, smile awkwardly instead and remember that this is who Jesus’ heart beats for.

If you can’t hear it, grab a stethoscope and try again.

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Hoop Jumping L4L.02

Hoop jumping

Image by Oliphant via FlickrThe WORD

The WORD

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem. They asked him, “Why don’t your followers obey the unwritten laws which have been handed down to us? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.”

Jesus answered, “And why do you refuse to obey God’s command so that you can follow your own teachings? God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say a person can tell his father or mother, ‘I have something I could use to help you, but I have given it to God already.’ You teach that person not to honor his father or his mother. You rejected what God said for the sake of your own rules.

You are hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he said about you: ‘These people show honor to me with words, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is worthless. The things they teach are nothing but human rules.’” Matthew 15:1-9 (New Century Version)

Remember that one of the disciplines we’re working to develop during Lent is listeninglistening to JESUS as He speaks into our lives from His Word. Go ahead – read it again (feel free to read it from your favorite translation – here’s a link to many different versions if you’d like to give a new one a try: Matthew 15:1 at Blue Letter Bible).

Initially, I thought we’d just ease our way into Jesus’ world, Jesus’ thoughts and Jesus’ agendas. Start with the easy stuff and progressively get to His more challenging teachings, maybe as we get closer to Easter. Break ourselves in slowly. But, good grief! There IS NO ‘EASY’ when it comes to what Jesus had to say! These are fighting words spoken to the keepers of the Law. Fighting words that could get a prophet killed; the Messiah crucified.

Jesus has, in these few sentences, accused the leaders of the church of passing off their ‘traditions’ as Gospel. The Jewish hand washing rituals that were spoken of by the Pharisees and Law teachers were not something that God had taught them to do. Jesus says that they are teaching man-made ideas as commands from God, passing off their rituals as God’s ways. This was an especially brazen act in Jesus’ day, when the average Jewish devotee did not have his/her own copy of the Holy Scriptures. What Jesus is saying is that the leaders of the church were taking advantage of the people, furthering their own agendas by failing to distinguish them from the actual teachings contained in the Word of God.

The horror! No wonder Jesus called them hypocrites – a word that meant ‘actor’ or ‘pretender.’ ‘Poser’ is what we might say today. People whose perceived authority enables them to misuse their power, mislead the innocent and make it harder than necessary to walk in the ways of our God.

Amazing. That NEVER HAPPENS TODAY! (?)

The APP

A lot of us know a lot about the Bible. A lot of us have read much of the Bible for ourselves over the years. But a lot of us have not, and we’re taking for granted the sincerity of our faith-leaders when we base our belief and understanding of God on their say-so; on second-hand information.

The APP for today isn’t easy. (Neither was yesterday’s, by the way.) In order to apply these words of Jesus to our own lives, we have to be ready to make it personal. By that, I mean that we have to be ready to study God’s Word for ourselves, taking responsibility for what we’re learning.

The modern day church has created – perhaps inadvertently – a generation of couch potato Christians. Worshippers who are really just groupies, looking for the best show on Sunday morning. Followers who are out to have their ‘ears tickled’ by teachers and leaders who are still passing off their traditions and agendas as Gospel truth.

Much of today’s church, like the church at the time of Jesus, requires a whole lot of hoop jumping that is not biblical, and many of us are so entrenched that we aren’t even aware that such a thing is going on.

This isn’t right. Jesus said so.

To take this text literally, I believe we’re being called to ask the burning questions that are already floating to the surface as the Spirit stirs the pot…

Why do we do (this) in our worship?

What are the roots of our faith practices and traditions? Are they scriptural?

If something feels heavy and burdensome, isn’t that a clue that someone other than God is putting that thing on me?

I don’t know about you, but I sure want to be able to tell the difference between God’s ways and His best for me and the hoop jumping that goes on when we buy into the hidden (and not-so-hidden) agendas of those whose traditions are more sacred than the Word itself. This is not to say that all church leaders and teachers are like the hypocritical Pharisees and Law-keepers that Jesus refers to – there are beautiful shepherd-leaders and Spirit-filled teachers in every denomination and non-denomination today. But how will we know that what we’re being taught by others is a sincere, Spirit-led interpretation of the Word if we don’t compare what we’re hearing to the Word itself?

Today’s APP could be aptly titled: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. And Read the Bible. And Know What It Says.

Some of us have been spiritually bullied long enough. We’re tired of jumping through hoops of tradition, empty ritual and shallow words.

Today, pick up your Bible.

Pick up your Bible, and READ.

And this weekend, READ and REST. I’ll see you back here on Monday, as we continue to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

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