Why didn’t Jesus go to church? I know one of the reasons is that he was Jewish; but I can’t think of a single time he went to synagogue either, except to pick an argument with the puffed-up religious leaders of his day. When he needed to get to close to God and his own soul, he got as far from religion as he could get, heading out to the desert or across a stormy lake. Or he went for a long walk into forbidden territory (Samaria) and talked to forbidden people. Much of his testament is a long, long list of conversations with people up trees and standing lonely by wells with some so totally crazy they needed demons to be cast out. And he was famous for his parties. But pretty much the only reason he went to “church” was to throw money-counting tables upside down, or to scare the heck out of his home folks by claiming God sent him. He sure didn’t sit down in a pew and sing.
For that matter, he didn’t show much respect for any religious trappings, which made him an easy and constant target for the healing he did on the Sabbath in very direct opposition to the rules.
This is all so obvious. But it is hidden from us because we usually have heard these outrageous stories of this first century messianic itinerant carpenter inside….church. Hearing of this wild and unconstrained savior in such tame surrounds wraps the story in bubble wrap so we can hardly feel the hard, sharp edges even when we try to grab hold.
This is on my mind because I visited a church that shall not be named today. I was going because of a special event that promised to blend blues and hard-talking about following Jesus. I could use some of that, so I showed up. Deadly predictable, faux challenging, achingly polite and ancient. Jesus would have headed to the desert at a fast jog and stayed there until he ran out of locus and honey. There is a story of the devil tempting him to jump off a high tower to test God and prove divinity. I think Jesus would have jumped off the nearest steeple just to get all the niceness out of his mind.
How it is possible that this wild, bold man has devolved into the mascot for what has long passed away into harmlessness?
It isn’t just the churches that have wrapped Jesus in blandness. It’s us–me.
Today there was a most curious article in the Memphis paper about a gorgeous young woman, 23, who was having her tummy tucked and other parts touched up. I think that must happen a lot, but not usually for beautiful young women. What is most bizarre is that she did this to help her career as a…songwriter and singer. My life has a soundtrack largely written by smart southern women (Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, Michelle Malone, Emmy Lou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Raitte, Jewell (Okay, she’s from Alaska….)). The whole point is that they tell the truth so vividly that even I can hear it. So it was a shock to think of a smart southern song writer getting her tummy tucked. Who can I trust?
But is it any less shocking to think of people who know a very great deal about Jesus forgetting what a wild man he was/is? We preachers, deacons and evangelists have self-administered theological tummy tucks for decades just to keep up appearances and hide the deeply annoying prophet/God who broke every rule he came across on his way to the Cross.
– Posted on the journey