Monday, July 30, 2012

Starbucks Gravy for My Chicken Sandwich

I like to dip my friend chicken in gravy. I figure if I'm going to treat my body with tasty fat I might as well coat it in tasty fat because:

Tasty fat + Tasty fat = "Ahhh!"

But that's not my point. There has been a lot of talk, tweets, and posts about Chick-fil-A's president's opposition to same-sex marriage and some public officials' push to ban and boycott the fried chicken Juggernaut. I think boycotts are LAME. It's lame when Christians boycott Disney and it's lame when public officials boycott Chick-fil-A. I love Chick-fil-A not because of their stance on same-sex marriage but because they make a killer chicken sandwich (excuse me while I wipe the drool from my mouth). I drink Starbucks Chai, a company that supports same-sex-marriage, because it blows my taste buds up! (So...why not create a Starbucks gravy for my chicken sandwich!) Boycotts are a reactionary response which fail to seek understanding, fail to promote conversation, create gaps rather than bridges and breed animosity and stereotyping.  Therefore:

Boycott + Boycott = Lame

Yesterday I preached from Luke 19 on Zacchaeus and in this passage Jesus has a much better strategy for change than bands or boycotts. Zacchaeus was a jerk, the CEO of "Jerks-R-Us." He was a traitor to Israel nationalism and religious worldview. He cheated his fellow Jews out of money to fund the Evil Empire, Rome. Needless to say, the Jewish crowd who had gathered to see Jesus that day hated Zacchaeus. They wished he would change. Zacchaeus would change and not because someone yelled from the crowd, "You suck," or because the business owners formed a federation to ban Zac from their stores, or because a Pharisee handed him a note listing The Ten Commandments with every "Thou" replaced with a "Zacchaeus."

Zacchaeus radically changed that day because he met Jesus. Jesus could have gone to anyone in the crowd. He could have picked a likable guy, a hero to the people, a widow in need but he picked the "Punk Numero Uno."  Sure, flexing your political and social muscles can force some behavior modification but only a transformed heart produces lasting change. Jesus knew Zacchaeus did not need another scolding finger. He needed someone to take a genuine interest in his person. Zacchaeus needed what we all need, to feel loved and valued. Jesus engaged Zac on the deepest level and his genuine compassion altered Zac's life.

Brokenness and sin are all around us and INSIDE of us. As the church prays for transformation and change may we embrace Christ's approach: engagement over condemnation, genuine concern over dogmatism, love over law. Now, for a chicken sandwich and an iced chai!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shame LESS: Part II

In my last post, I began a piece based off my sermon "Shame Less," centering on the Samaritan Woman in John 4. I drive home one key point, when you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. When the Samaritan woman first meets Jesus shame is bullying this woman's life around, but by the end of the conversation Jesus frees her from shame. In the last post I unpacked one way her encounter with Jesus freed her. In this post I offer two more observations.

 Jesus offers "Living Water" regardless of performance

The text says, "He [Jesus] had to go through Samaria." John is not saying Jesus had no alternate route to bypass Samaria because Jews made it a point to avoid Samaria. The path around Samaria was a well worn path.  Jesus had to go through Samaria because he had to see her. He had to see her because he needed to give her something: “living water.”  He wanted to give her the gift of himself, a path to true fulfillment, a life free of shame, hurt, brokenness and fear. 

He came to offer her water as she was. He did not say, “First, you need to marry this guy you are living with and then we’ll talk about the water. Oh, before that, I’ll need to see the divorce documents from the other five guys you married and divorced. If you divorced these guys for any other reason than adultery I will not recognize and accept the divorce. If that is the case, you will have to go back to the first guy…” Neither does he say, “Get your life together and then you will be worthy to drink," but says instead, “I came here! I came here where no Jew wants to come to find you, to give you this living water. I came here so you can drink now; you need it now. My gift for you is not based on how well you perform; it’s based on my love."

Shame has so many of us locked in an arm-bar because we find it nearly impossible to believe the life Jesus offer us, the “living water,” derives solely from his character and love and has nothing to do with our performance. It is hard to believe because most of your life you are judged and accepted based on your performance. It starts as early with potty training.  If you make the right deposits in the right little buckets you get “Yay! Did him do a poopie! Great job!” You get Skittles and gummy bears.  Some parents even throw “Potty Parties" with banners, cakes, and "Pin the Toilet seat on the John."  Society evaluates your ability to gather, store, and regurgitate information on a percentage system. Score less than 70% you received a performance score of FAILURE! Colleges accept you based on how well you perform. You accumulate medals and trophies by performing physical feats better than those around you.  Companies promote and offer raises based on your performance. No wonder when you have an EPIC FAIL the door is left wide open for shame to come in and tell you how useless, worthless, and unlovable you are.  And yet Jesus comes along and says, “70% or 110%, I love you. What I have to offer is not for people who have it together. It is for everyone.”

Many people refuse to become a Christian until they "get it together." They are missing the point.  You need to become a Christian because you don’t have it together.  Jesus silences her shame by offering her "living water" while she is at her worst. He offers you the same, water just as you are.

 Jesus levels the playing field

After engaging Jesus for awhile in conversation, the woman realizes Jesus is more than a guy looking for a Gatorade. She acknowledges that he is a prophet which leads her to ask him a question regarding "true" worship. She wants to know who is right: Jews or Samaritans.  Are the Jews right in naming the Temple in Jerusalem as the center of Yahwheh worship, or are the Samaritans right by naming Mount Gerizim as the true center of worship. 

Jesus responds, “A time is coming when location, ethnicity, color, age, or gender won’t matter and neither will past mistakes, sins, and failures. Everyone who has the Spirit, who accepts my living water, will bear the title of a legit worshiper."

The ”People of God” is not determined by a certain group of people: it’s not American people, middle class people, not republican people or democrat people, not "people who have grown up in church" people, not "people who look like they have it together" people.  It’s simply "Spirit People," people who accept the gift of Jesus, the living water.  He told her, "YOU, yes you, with 5 ex-husbands and your boyfriend, you are no lesser than the Pharisees in Jerusalem or the Priests at the temple."  He tells this woman - a woman judged daily by her community to the point of fetching water alone in the noonday sun, a woman whose train-wrecked life has pushed her to the margins…he tells her, “If you have my Spirit there is no pecking order. You are all the same!”

It doesn’t matter what kind of baggage you have in tote. It does not matter if you carry a small day-pack burdened with a couple of cliff bars and Vitamin Water or if you push a cart piled high with half-a-dozen 50 pound suitcases – when you drink the living water, when you become a Christian, when you receive the Spirit - Jesus shows up at the baggage claim and takes it all!  He takes it, leaving you free.

If you are in Christ you share the same Spirit as all who are in Christ. God does not  hand out blue ribbons in heaven. Heaven does not have a gold medal stand. There is only ONE people, and no matter your past if you are in Christ you are part of the ONE people!! You, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the ex-guitarist ex-druggie from Korn, and the murderer turned Christian all get the same seat at the table.  When you come to grips with this truth, it will disarm your shame. It did with the Samaritan woman.

Shame will paralyze you. It will make you ineffective. It will destroy you. It will lead to self-hate. Turn to Jesus and be free!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Shame LESS

That annoying sound at 6:00 AM...yes, your alarm! You are up now...sorta. Your first stop, most likely, will be the bathroom (unless you are like me and Old Age foreshadows your future by waking you up at 5:30 AM for a pre-alarm tinkle); then shower, then coffee, and then teeth (I hope). You depend heavily on WATER for your morning routine . Water belongs at the top of life's priority list. If you don't believe me, go a day without any water and then post your comments below. So, in the NT times, when you could not simply turn a handle for your own personal river, you started your day fetching water. I picture the NT wells as ancient Starbucks: a hum of activity and conversation as people start their day, Baristas greeting you with a smile and asking if you would like the Venti bucket or simply a Tall

If you wanted to engage society, early mornings at the well might be your "Happy Hour," but Jesus shows up at noon! No one comes to draw water at noon, no one unless the someone trying to hide from everyone. Jesus camped out at Jacob's well at noon, not because he was hiding, but to meet the woman who was. John 4 tells the amazing story of Jesus' encounter with a Samaritan Woman, a woman who disengaged from her community because of her shame. She would soon discover that when you encounter Jesus your shame loses control over your life. He frees her from her shame in three ways.  In this post, I describe the first way Jesus disarms the Samaritan Woman's shame.  I will address the other two in subsequent posts. (You can hear the sermon "Shame Less" here).

Aware of her worst, Jesus loves her the same.  

At one point in their conversation, Jesus offers the woman perennial water - "living water." She is no fool and takes him up on his offer, to which Jesus responds, "Go, call your husband and come back." Woops! How was she going to get out of this one? She was not married; she was just shacking up with some guy in his pad.  And, the only husbands she had were EX-husbands, five of them.

The live-in boyfriend, the multiple failed marriages, and her embarrassing and broken past explain her peculiar time for fetching water. She did not want anything to do with anybody because she believed no one wanted anything to do with her. She was ashamed, humiliated, and likely felt like an unlovable failure. 

How would she explain this to the prophet? She did not need another disapproving head shake, a pointing of the finger, or a glance of disgust. How could she avoid another person knowing all her baggage? Quite cleverly, "I have no husband," she said. She did not lie; she simply concealed, and you would too if your life had her storyline.

She was unaware everything she was trying to hide, everything she was running from, everything saying, “You are a horrible person,” Jesus already knew (John 4:17-18). He knew her at her worst and yet he is not shocked, disgusted, hateful, or even disappointed. He loves her the same! He loves her no differently than he would if her life had no cracks and dents.

Shame keeps so many people locked in an arm-bar because shame whispers in your ear,  "If people knew what you were really like, if they knew what you have done, if they knew how bad you really are they would hate you, disown you, turn their backs on you." But Jesus already knows. The one thing you can’t tell anyone because it will destroy the person and you, the one thing you are afraid will end the relationship, cost you the job, destroy your marriage, break your mom’s heart…the one thing… Jesus already knows. And, he loves you the same. It has no impact on his love. It does not sway his feelings or opinion of you at all.

When you come to grips with a Messiah who knows all your junk as well as you do and loves you the begin to feel Shame's grip loosen a bit. It did on the Samaritan woman.