Friday, September 19, 2014

Pack the House #4: The Right Bookend

Obviously after the the account of yesterday, I went on to seminary and to pastor two churches in the wilds of Breckinridge County Kentucky.  It's funny though, as God so often is.  While I felt this massive shift and transformation within, and I was very aware how my worldview was changing, I still did not know what God was doing.  Once again (as I said in post #2), the lens of hindsight can be a valuable tool if one is aware of what they may or may not be trying to read into it.

I can see pretty clearly how the events of yesterday's post were influencing everything that I did; especially how I preached and how I worked to compel my churches to action.  As seminary was beginning to wind down, one of my final classes was an inductive study of the Gospel of Mark, and guess what passage waylaid me?  The parallel account in Mark of the passage from Matthew.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 

I felt like I had found a long lost friend, except some things had changed.  The difference now was that I had three years of seminary studies behind me, as well as the experiences of a pastor, and a whole new set of tools.  The dynamics of this passage are many faceted (Did you ever notice the location?  That it was the same area where the calling of the first disciples takes place?  Did you ever consider that Simon, Andrew, James, and John would have known Levi?  And had most likely been victims of Levi?)  There's a lot going on there, but this time I locked onto the "sinners" and how Jesus approached them.

The first thing that must be noted is that these are not garden variety sinners we're talking about, who might have simply just been ceremonially unclean.  No; these were bad people.  These were folks that no self respecting Jew would have been keeping company with.  These were the types of sinners that would catch the attention of others, these were the types that would cause others to talk; as is illustrated in the passage.  These were folks deemed unworthy and dangerous to the religious establishment.  And yet, these are the folks that Jesus was not only hanging out with, but was calling and sharing a meal with.  Things began to rapidly fall into place in my heart, mind, and soul; even if I did not yet fully understand it.

However, as I continued to study this passage, I was also struck by what wasn't there.  Jesus did not preach at the sinners and tax collectors.  He did not tell them how they must first be.  He did not first prescribe a set of beliefs for them to adhere to in order to break bread with them.  No.  Jesus simply gave them His time and had a meal with them.  These were the people that Jesus would eventually hang on the cross for; no different than you or me.  Mind blown.  Worldview blown.  I now had the traction that I felt was missing, I now had the validation I was waiting for, and now the cipher within had been deciphered.  I now understood all that had been stirring within me since Ichthus,

Go after those that the Church ignores, avoids, and shuns.  Meet them and love them as Jesus did.  Trust the Holy Spirit to do His job.  Recognize that the job of the Holy Spirit is not mine and cannot be mine.  Touch the untouchable.  Love the unlovable.  Welcome the sinner.  Provide a sanctuary for the heathen.

Heathen Church had been born.

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