So, today I'm thinking about Jesus.
Hang with me here. My thoughts aren't all "holy" or filled with images of church or choirs or angels.
No, I'm thinking of the Jesus who seemed to specialize in "hanging out" with all sorts of people.
So much so that he made lots of powerful people nervous. Powerful religious people. Powerful political people. Powerful rich people.
The fact is you'd never really acquire an accurate understanding of Jesus by watching or listening to most churches.
Churches and their programs don't major in "hanging out." Most church members on their own don't either. Churches certainly don't encourage their members to spend time with the sort of folks Jesus did.
I'll take it a step further.
You'll never really arrive at a complete or true picture of Jesus by reading the apostle Paul.
Paul wrote more of the New Testament than any other author--at least that is the traditional claim. Paul writes lots about what he thought the life of Jesus meant. He doesn't spend much time on how Jesus spent his days.
If you read the gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--you get at least a glimpse of who Jesus was, what he did and who he spent his time with.
Most people who claim to follow him don't act much like he did.
Oh, they depend on him for their personal ticket to eternal life. But, as far as shaping their days as he did his, well, you can forget it.
Maybe that is okay.
But it would be refreshing to at least allow the very radical life of Jesus to inform the values and the attitudes of those who follow him, especially when it comes to how people should be treated, valued and heard.
Jesus was a radical dude.
Far out, off the charts radical.
He wasn't too comfortable in church. Or, maybe its more accurate to say when he was in church, most other folks weren't too comfortable!
He wasn't into the status quo.
He was far too inclusive not to raise eyebrows. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was welcome to be with him.
If he were alive today, he wouldn't be welcome in most churches. As a matter of fact, he wouldn't be recognized for who he really is.
I expect he would be ushered outside on a regular basis, especially when he started talking!
As my friend, James Walters (Professor of New Testament at Boston University) says, Jesus was a charismatic, itinerant revolutionary.
That's why he hung out so much!
He talked to everyone.
He reserved his judgment only for those who insisted on judging others and for those who felt self-sufficient before God and the pain of the world.
He touched everyone--including those declared by the powerful to be "untouchables." Lepers come to mind here, as do all the people and groups considered "outsiders" by the religious among us these days.
He elevated women, remembered widows, cherished children and argued for the poor as a very poor man himself.
He wasn't much into things . Fact of the matter is, he owned nothing.
Have you noticed? Jesus was always borrowing stuff. Food from the edges of grain fields, fish from lakes, meals at the tables of others, rooms and beds in the houses of others, a ride into Jerusalem on his last trip, even his final resting place was borrowed!
Yes, I'm thinking about Jesus today.
When I get discouraged, thinking about how he lived, who he was and what he was really like; well, it just keeps me going.