We have in this Sunday’s reading what I would call the crankypants version of Jesus.
It’s a passage from Luke, one of the books I like because whoever was doing the writing did it for an audience that was sort of … let’s sit around and have a bite to eat and talk about this God stuff. Right up my alley.
Jesus is in a hurry to get on with things, to get the whole preaching and ministry thing up and running and stabilized, presumably before he dies, and his friends are kind of dragging their feet, talking about stuff they need to get done first and Jesus is that mother who is desperately trying to get out of the freaking house to Just Get the Goddamned Grocery Shopping Done and the toddler needs that one tractor toy and the mom is like “I’M WALKING OUT THE DOOR AND IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE CAR I’M LEAVING YOU HERE GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW!”
Which you know is never true because no mother worth her weight in Cheerios would actually ever leave her kid behind. I hope.
Jesus is pulling the same stuff in this reading. When someone says, “I have to go home and bury my father first,” in response to Jesus’ giddyap, Crankypants replies “Let the dead bury their own dead.”
Dead people can’t lift dead people, duh, Jesus. Let the dead bury the dead? Does he mean … only the spiritually dead will be left behind … to tend to the dying and dead? Because if that’s what he means I take umbrage, capital U.
Another person in the passage says “Let me first say good-bye to those at my home.” To which Jesus responds “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
First of all, Jesus, my understanding is that everyone is fit for the kingdom of God, even and perhaps especially those who are tending to the dying and those who are caring for the earth and growing food and caring about everyone back at home. I would argue that it’s precisely within our vocations and relationships where we find God. In all of the daily crap we have to tend to, in all of the things we don’t really want to do, in all of the hard work our lives ask of us, in all of those people back at home who are driving us nuts. God is hiding out in those places.
Also, everyone should have one last chance to say good-bye. Take a chill pill, Brother J, the kingdom of God can wait.
Maybe Jesus is talking about a kind of urgency that we’re supposed to pay attention to. Maybe what we’re supposed to understand is that the sooner we show up for God the better our lives will be; the sooner we get on board the train, the quicker we’ll get there kind of thing.
Well. I grew up on the train. I went to Catholic church for the first 18 years of my life. The very same church run by priests who were raping children and nuns who were pushing kids down the stairs. That church. So I have some questions for you, God. And you, Jesus. I’m not in a rush to buy into the whole thing, kadabing and hurryup! I. Have. Questions.
Yep, it’s true, I’m a pastor and I struggle all the time with what I do and don’t believe. I’m a pastor and I don’t care what you do or don’t believe. You can believe anything you want to believe, your secrets are safe with me. In this passage Jesus says that anyone who takes the time to plow their fields, anyone who isn’t sure about the whole God thing, anyone who is maybe a little tired today and just wants to get their work done and go to bed and think about it tomorrow isn’t fit for the kingdom of God… to which I respond … Crimminey Jesus, you need a day off.
Wrestle with your faith, wrestle with your un-faith. Take your time. It’s the wrestling, not the answers, that matters. Certainty isn’t the endgame. Expansion is.
Therein lies the great paradox of life: the more you give up, give in, give away, the more you grow. If you don’t believe me, experiment with it for a while. Give only love and unconditional acceptance to the person you find hardest to love, stop drinking, find a faith community that feels OK and hang around there, spend some time each week in service to those who need your help: the homeless, hungry, lonely, scared, impoverished members of your own community who have become invisible to you. Give a bunch of your stuff away to people you know will appreciate and enjoy it. Just give it all away: your time, your love, your stuff, your addictions. And if your soul doesn’t feel better, your skin isn’t glowing and you’re not sleeping better than you have in years in six months’ time, come find me and I’ll give you a full refund.
Also, I’ll see you Sunday, when we will have a more comprehensive breakdown take-down of Crankypants the Christ.
Also, a rainbow in the side field, just because.