He walked straight into the dining hall.
Prepared to share a fine breakfast with a group of retired clergy,
He sat down with expectations of the marvelous conversations he would partake in over their meal.
“Good morning ma’am” he paid one sweet elderly woman.
Her response? “Were you raised in a barn? How rude can you be?”
See, he had forgotten, some of us cling hard to boundaries, rituals of courtship, and political-cultural formalities.
His sin? The hat on his head stayed on at the table.
Taking his hat off never even crossed his mind.
He rushed into a panic, how could God ever forgive him? So rude and offensive as he was.
Certainly she knew of a story somewhere in Luke that he’d missed.
Where is it?
Just before the story where Jesus condemns the widow for having a skirt that’s too short,
Or maybe just after the time where he emptied the Temple of all those who were struggling with addictions and the women who were pregnant and unmarried. It’s in there somewhere, right?
What about the time where Jesus attacked the man who dared cook on the Sabbath along with those women trying to teach him how to do so?
Is there hope for them? Any of these wicked people?
How did we get to this place where some of the most Christian things we do have nothing to do with Jesus?
Yes, many of our Christian practices of today ignore every single thing Jesus taught us to do.
Which did Jesus puts first, people and emotional investments or proper-etiquette and tradition?
Woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers:
37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
What does Jesus see that the Pharisees cannot?
The good news is that God’s grace is great enough for the sinful hat on the young mans head and the prejudice of the many Christians who spread hateful tainted versions of the Gospel, just as it was great enough for the dirty, broken-in hands of this Pharisee who shared a meal with Jesus.
Thank God that we worship a creator who asks not of how clean our hands are, but maintains concerns about the status of our hearts.
So many in the church today ask these kinds of questions of their neighbors,
“Shouldn’t you know better? Don’t you know better than to share those things here, than to be honest and broken, than to come here in this state? …Don’t you know better like I do?”
“Don’t you know you have to be clean to eat this meal, to come to the service, to be a part of our community? …Don’t you know that you must be clean like I am?”
“Were you raised in a barn? …because I certainly wasn’t.”
Who are we as Christians if we forget that we sing praises to a man who had no home, a man born to a woman they would have called a whore, and a man who wasn’t just raised in a barn but was born in one.
See, the Pharisees, they wanted God so badly that they made God in their own image.
The Pharisees made God in their own image, we do it today, and I’m guilty too.
The signs of having done this?
Well, all of God’s enemies are my enemies and God loves all of my works and rituals.
We know we’re in trouble when we think God’s proud of our rules and regulations,
and God wants us just as clean as we desire to be.
If we look to Jesus, we can be certain:
God needs nothing in the way of our attempts at cleaning ourselves up for Him and Her
nor for appeasing our neighbors.
Jesus blesses the human experience. He takes it on with a holistic approach.
Jesus says yes.
Yes to the pain of life,
yes to the feeble and finite,
yes to the whole cycle of life.
Perfume? Hand soap? Designer clothing?
No. He speaks nothing of these things for they mask the lives we lead.
The central fear-driven assumption of a cleansing is this:
We are not enough the way we are. We need purification to be acceptable.
Our hands cannot be shaken,
our bodies bound for shame – marked with the lowly smells of the roads we‘ve traveled.
Through his encounter with this Pharisee, Jesus teaches us another way.
The path that leads to life is not about purification.
It’s not a walk towards doctrine, and it’s not about saying the right prayers.
Jesus teaches us that the path that leads to life is about breaking down the walls of conceit and division.
Borders, party lines, class-boundaries, denominational separations,
All of these assert some kind of pedigree, which keeps all of us from entering the kingdom.
If I leave this church today teaching how I’ve cleaned myself up to gain God’s acceptance,
I’m bound to expect the same from you.
So what does the Lord require of us?
He might ask that we put down our weapons of soap and water and pick up the bread and the cup.
He might ask that we listen to stories rather than teach doctrine.
For Jesus is clear,
We’ve always had the gift of life,
but we keep it clean and chaste,
Like a sweet little grandmother’s china cabinet.
Treasures, so beautiful and intricate, handmade and alluring, the woman keeps her best things locked away.
Certainly, life is a beautiful gift, but we’ve been fed a lie.
This world tells us to store away the magnificent things of life, but Jesus runs the opposite direction.
Life is a gift and that gift is to be chipped, weathered, and torn, otherwise it might just go to waste – unused and vacant.
Shane Claiborne shares these words:
“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.”
Let us keep from the world’s ways of hiding from life’s cycles. May we cling not to the clean and the proper, and may we run towards pain and misunderstanding – as these are the places where Christ lived.
So with hats on and eyes wide open, no make up and no cologne, lets us walk into this world seeking to cleanse our hearts before our hands, and help us find the love which we know our heart longs for – a love seeking inner peace and outward reconciliation. And all along the way, may we remember that our hands are just as clean as they have ever needed to be and that God called us good before we ever took our first breath.