November 21, 2010


If you are King of the Jews, save yourself. – Luke 23: 37

We associate kings with power, often arbitrary power, but nonetheless the power to avoid the kind of punishment our Lord was subjected to. With this King, there couldn’t be more of a contrast. Jesus did not have a scepter but He did have a towel. He had no army but He did have disciples. He sat not on a throne but rather on a donkey’s back. He wore no crown of gold but one of thorns. He did not take life. He gave it. He did not set boundaries but included all kinds of untouchables in His kingdom. He did not wield the sword but mercy. He did not force. He invited. He seduced His subjects.

One such subject was Anne Lamott, a writer who influenced many. In her book, Travelling Mercies, she describes her very unwilling encounter with Christ. She grew up in a hippie household in California that provided no boundaries for her. Her parents occasionally went to church for show, but both were atheists.

When she attended school on the East Coast she came to believe in the existence of a supreme power, but it made no difference in how she lived. After graduation, she returned to California where she became a writer & adopted the hippie life she knew, i.e., she used cocaine, became addicted to alcohol, got pregnant & had an abortion.

Now & then she kind-of attended a small Presbyterian Church. She mostly stood in the doorway in the back & listened primarily to the choir she liked who sang Gospel music. She always left before the sermon. One night, after some heavy drinking, she became aware of a presence in her room. She knew instinctively, without a doubt, that it was Jesus. She was appalled & horrified. No way was she ready for Him. What would her hippie, liberal friends think if she had Jesus for a friend? Worse, what if she ever became a Christian? She turned to the wall in rejection & cried out “No way. I would rather die!”

But all was not over. Not by a long shot. Try as she might, she could not shake the feeling that Jesus was following her, stalking her, as it were “like a little cat,” as she put it. She wrote, “It was as if God wanted me … to open the door & let it in. But I knew what would happen: You let a cat in one time … & it stays forever.” She didn’t want that to happen. No way.

About a week later she went back to the little church, so hung over that she had to sit. This time, too drowsy to move, she stayed to the end. The last song of the service moved her deeply. She ran home, but had a sense that the little cat ran with her. She opened the door to her house, stood there a minute, hung her head & said, “I quit. Then I swore & said All right! All right! You can come in. This was the beautiful moment of my conversion.”

This still wasn’t the end. Things weren’t smooth or easy. She got pregnant again & had to go into recovery, but for all of that, she was hooked. She had said yes to the King who was gently but relentlessly calling to her.

This feast, though sounding stilted & obsolete to some, is meant to say how we too should surrender to a different & often unpopular way of life where we make deliberate decisions to follow Jesus, rise above “What’s in it for me?”, choose honesty & fidelity rather than deceit, forgiveness rather than revenge, to serve rather than be served, & yes, even dabble in heroism.

These attitudes do not make for a popular kingdom & won’t get you far in a world of greed & conquest, but it’s part & parcel of Jesus’ Kingdom & the world needs it, really needs it. In December 1997 a young man walked into a school in West Paducah , Ky. with a gun & killed seven of his classmates. A mother of one of the dead boys was asked if she would donate her son’s organs to someone else in critical need & she said yes. After some months, she discovered that her son’s heart went to a Methodist pastor. She met with him, & ended their conversation with a strange request. She asked, “Can I put my ear to your heart? Can I hear my son’s heart beating one more time?

We are called to be that person who has the transplanted heart, the heart of Jesus. There are so many people today who are discouraged by war & the threat of more war, the economy, corrupt leaders, overwhelming greed, the grossness of society & the absence of morals that they desperately need to hear the reassurance of that heart. They need to put their ears to our hearts & know that Jesus Christ still reigns. AMEN!