jesus was born

jesus was born. whether he was birthed in a cave or a local community house with other jews celebrating the party of the dwelling place (feast of tabernacles) really doesn’t matter. it doesn’t matter whether the first-century view of the word virgin meant that Mary might not have been a “virgin” in the modern sense. jesus was born, this is the point. God became a man in the form of His own son, let that wrap around your head a bit. Mary carried God into the world. Let these word seep deep into your psyche and celebrate that jesus was born, period.

Becoming…

He turns the rusty door knob and slowly makes his way out the door, the back of his head is the only memory she will ever have. She goes on to live out her life thinking rejection is all she deserves. Rejection is now who she has become. The closing of a door has changed her life forever. She is now a street-walker who seeks all the acceptance she needs in the arms of numerous men who are looking for love in all the wrong places. The streets are littered with defenseless women who have been told in one way or another that they are not valuable. Abraham had the fear of rejection, He lied to a ruler about his marriage to his wife Sarah just to save his own neck. Aaron was a people-pleaser who gave into the Israelite people while his brother was camping out with God. David killed his best friend and slept with his wife and then tried to hide because he didn’t want to deal with the consequences. I made fun of a special needs student because I knew if I did the right thing I might not be popular anymore. The idea of rejection is a scary one. At the heart of the fear of rejection is this feeling that we might not be valuable, that we might be unlovable and unacceptable. These messages will forever alter the course of our emotional development. They will transform rape victims into shadows that fear intimacy. They will whisper dishonest accusations to the guy who runs into the arms of a woman seeking acceptance. Or to the woman who chases after the embrace of another woman because her mother walked out on her when she was a fragile little girl swinging on swings and scribbling on walls. We become the things we do. We our altered by the decisions of others. Rejection is the silent

distance of who we are and who we become. The prophet Isaiah told a story of man who was going to come on the scene, and the way we knew that He was going to be the guy we were waiting for was that He wouldn’t be popular, he would be part of the rejected. He would be bruised for our screw-ups. Jesus relates himself to the outsider—to the unloved. He himself moves in next door and voluntarily puts himself into a place of impending vulnerability. A place we are all scared of. He was able to do that because His acceptance and identity was bound up in who God had made Him to be. He’s hanging out with a bunch of his close friends and He let’s them in on the reality that most of them will be rejected and turned away because of who they are to become while in relationship with Him. In one conversation, He tells Peter that one day some Roman officials are going to lead Him where He doesn’t want to go and He is going to die for Christ’s sake. Paul later tells the church in Corinth that God is the one who qualifies us. The message that is really being sent is that if we follow Christ we will become part of the unlovable, we join the community of the marginalized, we will eventually be the outsider. In doing so, Christ is making us responsible for the outsiders, for the unloved. His message is that since God is the one who says we are all acceptable, our acceptability isn’t challenged by the rejection of others but enhanced by the truth that God loves us no matter what. The invitation is to believe that we are children who have a Father who loves us unconditionally and accepts us no matter where we are in the journey. This should empower us to become the outsider and fight for the unloved.

grace

I think I’m a getter. On a occasion, I like to give gifts but when it comes down to it, I would rather receive than give. Giving makes you too vulnerable to the giver. What if they don’t like it? What if it was the wrong gift? What if I didn’t spend enough? At least as a receiver, I can fake my through liking a gift. But let’s be honest, if I give a gift, I usually deep down in depths of my heart am hoping for something back. I want more than I am able to give. My capacity to give is frustrated by my hunger for getting.

Yosef was strolling down the dusty street when he overheard a conversation between a fisherman and his lover. He pressed his ear against the old wooden door to get more details of the ensuing adultery and as he listened in his stomach turned in knots at the injustice that was going on behind closed doors. How dare they break the Mosaic Law. Yosef ran as fast he could to some of his Rabbi buddies and told them what was going on and all the could come up with is that she deserved to die. No one breaks the Torah and gets away with it. No one. As they were discussing how to deal with the situation, Yosef came up with the idea that this would be a good way to test the deity of this new Rabbi who recently came on the scene named Jesus of Nazareth. Yosef assembles a meeting right outside the scene of the crime and invites Jesus to come along hoping to trap him too. The religious leaders and Jesus start talking about the woman and her destructive choice, paying no mind to the man who was also present and might have actually been a religious leader himself. Jesus listens to this argument of the Rabbi’s, and what seems to be a closed case, ends up being a lesson of reverse Kingdom values. Jesus scribbles in the sand, in a sense, saying that there accusations don’t really mean much in comparison to the grace he is going to show this woman caught in adultery.

Jesus was a giver. He gave grace freely without directions of how to use it. This infuriated the church of the day, like Jonah, they wanted people to earn their salvation – not freely receive something as prized as friendship with their Creator. Jesus meets up with another woman at Jacobs’ Well and she ends up running off to tell everyone about this man she met. Because Jesus, without question, handed over grace without a manual. We want people to experience grace, but we want to have a hand in how they receive it and we want to be there every step of the way to help them be “wise stewards” of this holy gift. I am not minimizing grace. It is a powerful indescribable gift from our Father who desires romance with His Creation. I am being reductionist in our approach of constantly defining what a “Christian” should look like.

God chose an incestuous alcoholic to manufacture a boat and repopulate earth. He chose a stuttering ex-murderer to pastor the first mega-church through 40 acres of redemptive wandering. The message of God’s grace is that its’ His to give and do with as He pleases. He can choose that the salvation of all mankind be found in an old feeding trough in below zero weather. He can use an atheist to save Christians. He could use an ex-pimp to rescue women from prostitution. God is outside the box, just because Jesus was born in a makeshift cradle doesn’t make him any less God. If anything, the fact that the Creator became the created says a lot about our value to Him. Grace is His to give-to whoever He wants. If He invites us to follow in his footsteps than who are we reluctant to show grace to? Grace is free and it doesn’t come with a manual, and it looks different for each person. Go, celebrate the diversity of grace!

OutCast Kingdom

THE OUTCAST KINGDOM.
by George Elerick

I think God doesn’t like rich people. I think the affluent really frustrate Him. Or maybe, just those
who have a lot and don’t use it to help others. Sometimes, I think the word frustrated might even
fail at the disgust that the Creator feels when His creation neglects those in need.
There were these two ancient cities in Palestine that were destroyed completely. For most,
we may have been taught that Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to rubble because of their
promiscous lifestyle, but the prophet Ezekiel had a different opinion. He would say that the people of God
were bed-fellows with them by doing what they did; they had resources to
help the poor and did nothing. That we saw a person in need and walked on by. Or maybe for you,
it might have been that you recently met an AIDS victim of which you chose not to shake their
hand because you were afraid you might catch something. Or for another, maybe it was the
condemning remarks under your breath as a gay couple passed by. Jesus invites us to love them
all unconditionally. To see them as He sees them — fully forgiven. He did and still does that for us.
John, a family member of Christ, records a story where Jesus meets up with a woman, who let’s say didn’t have the
best reputation in town. She was caught by some Jewish pastors breaking some laws within their culture and they try
to get her killed. As the story goes, Jesus forces them off the scene. And then what happens next is so transformational
it could only be a mysterious thing called grace. He says, without her asking for it, “your sins are forgiven”. Wow!
She didn’t even ask or beg for it, Jesus just gave it. He handed it over without a manual. In fact, read some more stories
where Jesus interacts with sinners and you will see this same kind of shameless behavior by our Creator’s son. Can you
believe it! He just gives away forgiveness. He restores people without them earning it. This is not fair! They should have to earn it!
Yet, Christ reacted the same way to us and calls us to react the same way to others. Nestled in the pages of the ancient
writings of our fellow Christ-followers is this short dialogue between Christ and his intrigued Jewish audience. He talks to
them about a stone that the builders rejected becoming a cornerstone. First-century Christians might have thought
Jesus was talking about Himself, but actually, within the Aramaic context of scripture what Jesus was really saying was
something most subversive. He was really saying that the outsiders and the rejected — those are the ones
who are going to make up the Kingdom of God. The ones you are purposefully excluding are the ones who will hold up
what I am about! Wow! Quite uncomfortable talk for a people who thought they were the “chosen” ones. Jesus was really
saying that the outcast is really important, and that we are all equal because we all used to be the outsider. We must
somehow keep a sense of the outsider inside of us. We must embrace a sense of our lostness so Christ could come
and find us. We must rediscover our ever-growing need for God. And it’s never too late to start now!

Tribal

what is going on in places like Palestine and Darfur and other places that the media has yet to get to is tribal mindset. We are fighting for our tribes, our empires, our own views and instead of trying to live in harmony as one, we take all of our energy and expend it on destroying the souls of many to sustain one — our own. We are in a sense saying that our lives and views have much more potency and reality then that of the life of a baby child who doesn’t have a vote on whether they live or die, or a mother who is raped by an army of men for self-pleasure and then killed because they have nothing else better to do. We cry when a commercial pops on the screen and we see bloated children and may even send in a few dollars to help a cause where most of our money really goes to admin fees for most of the organizations. We need to do something! We need to not say we believe in peace and we wish for peace, we need to fight for peace, this word fight is not about creating a war for peace, there are some who would say that we need war to have peace. This is shit. It’s like saying we need black to have white. Yes, there are time for peace and war, but, we cannot simply justify that anytime we seek peace that a war has to be the first response. At one time, early on in our civilization, most people bartered and traded and hunters only killed as much as they needed. Then things changed. We changed, and with some of those changes came destruction. God breathed his very own breath into each human, which means, each human soul has value. Each soul has purpose. And who are we to destroy that purpose and act like we our our own tower of babel. We must move away from the empire mindset and relinquish our tribal worldviews and start seeing our lives as worldcentric as Christ did. Christ is bigger than one tribe. He is bigger than one concept, we must move away from the colonial approach to shoving faith down the throats of others and see people as valuable and worthy of love and a chance to live life and to be loved and to share life with them. What is that going take?