Monday, August 29, 2005

No Jesus For YOU!

Yes, the title comes from an old Seinfeld episode. I only saw about six or so during their run and one of those was about the soup Nazi. He was a difficult man who made the world's best soup. When someone annoyed him or stepped out of his rigidly drawn lines of correct behavior he would shout "No soup for you!" And THAT, my friends, is my argument against legalism.

Legalism is not a love of the law. It is not wanting to do the right thing to please Jesus. Legalism is saying that you must have Jesus AND.... or that you can't have Jesus UNTIL... and then placing barriers around the would-be disciple. Jesus talked about the devout Pharisees who would search the world for another follower and then turn them into twice the child of hell they were! Strong stuff from the Prince of Peace. (but where we ever got the idea that peace was achieved by being nice all the time is beyond me...)

My Catholic friends tell me I need Jesus AND the Pope and their structure. My Mormon friends tell me I need Jesus AND their extra Bible (Jesus: The Sequel). My charismatic friends tell me I need Jesus AND a second outpouring of the Spirit. My friends in the church tell me I need Jesus AND the right doctrines on a hundred different crucial matters. And if I don't have Jesus AND whatever they add? Then -- no Jesus for me! I am denied equal status with them, turned away from their fellowship, because I only brought Jesus and that -- to them -- was just not enough. Or, alternatively, what I brought wasn't the real Jesus because the real Jesus only comes in a package with whatever else they declare as essential.

We sometimes do this unintentionally. While one of our three Sunday AM crowds is about 30% minority our staff is unrelievedly white. I wonder what message that sends. The majority of us are shiny happy people and I wonder if that makes some people -- who will never be shiny happy people -- think "no Jesus for me!" While this church makes a sincere and effective effort to reach the downtrodden, thrown away, and broken I wonder how many people are still turned away from Jesus because we act as if they have to have Jesus AND our traditions, way of speaking, and code of conduct.

This doesn't have to be the way things are. I remember a trip to the American West when I was twelve years old. It was 1969 or 1970 and a small church in Wyoming asked my father to come help them launch their new congregation with a week long meeting. They were a very small group of highly conservative people who were renting a VFW hall. Every night they arrived early enough to clean out the beer cans and get things looking 'churchy.' Every man sported a buzz cut or flattop and every woman used about a can and a half of Aquanet on their 'do' before arriving (which is why, I maintain, the churches of Christ don't use candles in worship. Open flame around that much hairspray might replay the Hindenburg disaster). We spent the day passing out leaflets saying "whosoever will may come." And then they did...

A proto-typical VW van pulled up, painted with daisies and peace symbols (remember the year?). Out of it poured a gaggle of hippies: long hair, dirty, handmade sandals, John Lennon style wire rimmed glasses, tie dyed shirts. They walked in and I braced myself. What would happen in this clash of cultures; similar to that between the Jerusalem Jews and the new believers in Galatia? What I saw, I will never forget. Those old, rigid, sticks-in-the-mud Christians turned out to be anything but. They got up and offered seats to the smelly newcomers. They opened the Bible and showed them where we were reading and how to use the songbooks. They asked them out to eat afterwards. I remember even going to the trailer one hippy 'family' used and seeing the old folk talking to them -- kindly and with great dignity -- about Jesus.

Instead of a "No Jesus for you!" attitude, they showed a "Jesus and nothing else" attitude. When I read Galatians to this day I think of that VW van, that clash of cultures, and the war that was avoided because nobody insisted on anything but Jesus and nobody brought anything but Jesus. Dear Father, let me be more like those old folk and less like me.

13 Comments:

At 8/29/2005 03:38:00 PM , Blogger KentF said...

Thanks Patrick - wonderful message. I often wonder why the grace of Jesus was sufficient for Paul, but not for us?

 
At 8/29/2005 04:35:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Great post Patrick! Thanks for the reminder. It calls to mind the prayer of St. Patrick:

Christ be my light to illumine and guide me!
Christ be my shield to cover and guard me!
Christ be under me, Christ be over me!
Christ beside me, left and right-
Christ before me, behind me, about me,
Christ this day within without me-
Christ in every heart that thinks of me-
Christ in every mouth that speaks to me-
Christ in every eye that sees me-
Christ in every ear that hears me!

I need to pray that prayer DAILY!

Love you bro!
DU

 
At 8/29/2005 06:46:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

David, we use St. Patrick's prayer every time we send out missionaries or hire a new minister on staff. It is a long prayer in the original form and some of our small groups have used it for a four to six week study/meditation. If you or other listers would like it printed here in full I would be happy to do so.

 
At 8/30/2005 08:19:00 AM , Blogger Scott Roche said...

That's awesome (and I suspect unusual). More churches need to be that welcoming. I belonged to a church once and we had a meeting about changing some things to get more visitors to come and check us out. We were thinking about changing our name (we were called Holy Trinity UMC at the time) and during the discussion the preacher explained that he wanted the church to be attractive to all kinds of people including homosexuals. One man said that if homosexuals came into the church that he would leave and he wasn't the only one that felt that way. That church died. Oh those people no doubt found another church that was as exclusive as they wanted it to be and we found a church that loves sinners and welcomes them in with open arms.

 
At 8/30/2005 11:02:00 AM , Blogger markemason said...

I dig, dude!

 
At 8/30/2005 12:21:00 PM , Blogger Serena said...

The one basis of fellowship that I have with others is that the blood of the Messiah is what redeems us and saves us from our sins. If we have a mutual faith around that fact, then I know they have "Jesus" and the rest of it we all are learning and in different parts of the journey.
Shalom,
Serena

 
At 8/30/2005 02:13:00 PM , Blogger Stephen said...

Thankfully we do not have any "soup nazis" at Conneaut. I think we do not worry as much about keeping out as we do about keeping the congregation alive.

 
At 8/30/2005 03:25:00 PM , Blogger KentF said...

Patrick - I for one would love to have the entire prayer printed - thanks!

 
At 8/30/2005 10:31:00 PM , Blogger Gary said...

Patrick:
I too would like for you to print out the original form of St. Patrick's prayer. Thanks!

 
At 8/30/2005 10:34:00 PM , Blogger Hoots Musings said...

Once again your words punched me in the stomach. Now I am accountable for the lesson taught.

Ouch.

 
At 8/31/2005 08:55:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

The candle/hairspray comment really made me giggle...Your entry echos the longings of my heart. I want only to be a Christian and be Jesus to those in my path and don't know why that has to be so complicated. I have heard a lot of..."if you don't do this, then you can't have Jesus". It's hard to break my heart of that guilty thinking. You keep writing and I'll keep reading.

 
At 8/31/2005 09:22:00 AM , Blogger Neal W. said...

I once nearly got yanked out of the pulpit for preaching something I still believe with all my heart:

"Jesus plus ANYTHING is heresy."

 
At 9/04/2005 10:21:00 AM , Blogger Larry said...

Traditions and legalism have certainly taken their toll on the "unchurched" as well as Christians who became totally confused and exasperated with the narrow-minded viewpoints espoused by many churches.

Faith in Jesus, not the letter of the law, will save souls.

 

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