Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Party

"He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he rose and followed him." (Mark 2)

Here begins one of the great awkward moments in all of Scripture.  Jesus is walking while teaching, like one of the head doctors in Grey’s Anatomy doing rounds with the interns.  In 21st century terms, they were at the shopping mall or on Main street.   And it is reasonable to assume that Jesus knew who Matthew was, and that Matthew had been watching/hearing Jesus for weeks, if not months, because Capernaum was Jesus’ home base.

The first awkward moment comes when Jesus stops at the tax booth.  He is walking through the main hall of an average shopping mall today, followed by a crowd that includes mall-rats, some shoppers, a few of his known followers, and a couple of church pastors.  He stops front of the Apple Store and says to the manager, “Follow me”.  

There is now a moment of utter silence as the two stare at each other, and all the little Apple minions, wearing their ubiquitous tees with half-eaten apples on them, who moments before had been trying to look busy, are now be frozen in their tracks like so many Energizer Bunnies suddenly on pause.   What would become of the whole enterprise if the manager simply stepped out from the protection of the invisible flat-panel wall that is the front of one of those stores and walked off with Jesus?  Awkward.

The scene shifts to the Apple Manager’s home.  It is Friday evening.  Because most Apple stores are in places like Cambridge, MA, I imagine the manager lives in an apartment in a renovated brownstone in Brighton.  It is a nice place by hip-young standards.  The apartment has track lighting and hardwood floors, Ikea furniture, and a 10-speed bike oddly placed by the front door.   Parties are common here, and fun.  Technology and martinis are a great combination.  The pastors from First Lutheran and St. James’s Episcopal, along with some folks from the large Evangelical church downtown have showed up uninvited because they want to see if Jesus will imbibe.

Let’s look in on the scene as Scripture reports it (with a few adjustments for time-warp):

And as he reclined on a large throw-pillow in a corner of the apartment, many retail managers and their employees were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the Pastors of First Lutheran and St. James’s Episcopal Church, when they saw that he was eating with these people (“They are all pot-heads” and “which-of-them-do-you-suppose-is-sleeping-with-whom, Rev. Dr.?”), said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with retail managers and college kids?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Ooo… SO awkward.

Same party, a little later in the evening…

“Now the Evangelicals and the High Church pastors were fasting.”

Well, at least they both said they were fasting.  For once they found themselves on the same page.  They were simply shunning the chips and salsa and martinis because they didn’t want anyone to judge them

“And people came and said to him, ‘Why do Evangelical disciples and the disciples of the High Church fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.’”

Is Jesus actually condoning partying?  I can hear a whole lot of you asking yourselves THE question: “Did Jesus have a martini?”  Awkward. 

And then he says, in ear-shot of both the Evangelicals AND the High Church types:

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Awkward.  Awkward.  Awkward.  To switch back to the actual language of the Bible, Jesus is telling John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees that they feel out of place at this party for a reason.  They can’t relax and enjoy the company.  There is too much here they aren’t comfortable with.  They simply don’t belong here. 

And as to the hot-and-burning question you and I were both asking about the martinis, does it really matter to us if Jesus had a martini?  Do we trust him that little?  Or are we really just looking for license to have a few too many and say it was in the name of contextualized ministry?  Maybe we’re a little too comfortable at the party and don’t like the idea that Jesus is here to mess up our good time.   What kind of cloth are WE made of?  The important thing to notice, after all, is not whether Jesus had a drink.  The important thing to notice is that he was THERE.

Jon

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