Today is Credo Friday, when I try to post something that describes the state of things that I believe…the things that make me who I am.
This week I posted a reply to a comment on someone else’s Facebook. Here’s what I wrote:
I am amazed at the conviction that exclusion will lead to repentance. Every single apostle, including Judas or especially Judas, demonstrates that Jesus’ way is exactly the opposite of exclusion. It is God’s kindness that has worked repentance in me and the courage to discover the depths of my own sinfulness. Who, in their right minds, would ever long to become part of a group that excluded them without knowing them? I am genuinely mystified by followers of Jesus who still think people are transformed by the silent treatment when we literally worship the Word.
After more than 30 years of following Jesus and trying to help others do the same, I believe that transformation require proximity to the source. I can’t change myself; I need to be close to Jesus and a Jesus shaped-community for transformation to happen in my life. That’s why my impulse is to include and embrace rather than exclude and avoid those who seem in need of the kind of transformation that Jesus promises to do.
Jesus chose a gnarly bunch of disciples. They included some bad hombres. Even a domestic terrorist. One was an embezzler and Jesus put him in charge of the petty cash.
They had anger issues that Jesus said made them murderers. One couldn’t tell the truth, especially when it counted most. Same dude turned did violence on a man Jesus had to heal as a result of his impulse control problem. Doubters. Bigots. Deserters.
But Jesus hung out with them for 3 plus years. Ate with them. Travelled with them. Made them his brand ambassadors. He sent them out on ministry trips and at the end of his life on earth he commissioned them to be Gospelers.
Even though their chief spokesperson was still a racist.
I have this funny idea that Jesus was more likely to let a prostitute get intimate with his person than he was to get comfortable in a “by the Book” priest’s home at dinner time. I have this crazy notion that Jesus was more likely to enjoy table fellowship with a man who would betray and rob his own kin than he would recline at the tables of the rich and religious.
Call me a liberal, call me a progressive, but I think Jesus is constantly with me while I have dirty thoughts, yell at the idiot in front of me in traffic, and lie to a friend about how I’m doing. And if he’s not, I’m screwed. He’s all I’ve got, you see. I can’t heal myself. I can’t make myself more like Jesus. I can alter my behavior for a moment but I can’t change my fundamental wants and desires the way he can from the inside – God knows I’ve tried and God knows he’s done it.
From my time among my beautiful and courageous and perfectly imperfect brothers and sisters in Recovery, I’ve learned that my moral sobriety isn’t maintained by the judgment of the holier than thous but by the fellowship of the “I’ve been there too-s.” I am grateful that in Recovery we never exclude people based on their gender or sexual orientation nor do we make it the criteria for who can lead a meeting, who can work the Steps or who can be a sponsor. In the Rooms you find acceptance, encouragement, help, companionship and an allergy to judgment which we have learned leads both the judge and judged to another slip or rock bottom bender.
I’m too old and too aware of myself to pretend that I’ve got any moral high ground. If I’m going to get better and be more like Jesus, it will come by kindness, embrace, inclusion and the generous hospitality of God who, while I was still in my spiritual drunkenness and moral darkness, gave his life to secure my sobriety and my liberation. If I am a healer, I am, as Nouwen wrote, a wounded healer.
Jesus said that when someone from the Jesus shaped community fell into a sin cycle (like soul cycle only not at all) and they seemed stuck and they wouldn’t listen to love or reason, we supposed to fall back to our greatest offense – we treat them like a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
Hold onto that. Pause there a moment. Remember our story.
Do you think Jesus looked over at Matthew when he said “…a corrupt tax collector…” and do you think Jesus’ disciples thought of the Syrophoenician woman or the Samaritan woman or the Roman Centurion with the paralyzed servant or maybe even back to the horoscope reading Magi when he said that?
Our whole story is about inclusion and the posture of transformation is found in the warm embrace of a hug, in a running prodigal father who protected his law breaking son from the consequences he deserved so that he might wear the ring and the robe before he’d confirmed by a single action that he had left his wandering-heart-ways behind him.
On this Credo Friday, I’m thinking about how good it is to find myself embraced by a God who looks like Jesus, acts like Jesus and talks like Jesus. And my life is being shaped and changed daily by the experience of this love through his presence and the proximity of my Jesus shaped community of kindness.
Here’s some Lectio Dylana to contemplate as you consider this posture of love that transforms…I always imagine the Father sings this over me in Bob’s voice…
Make You Feel My Love
When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love
I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong
I would go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love
The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet
I could make you happy make your dreams come true
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love*
*lyrics by the great Bob Dylan, of course. But you already knew that…unless you thought it was Adele, I hope you didn’t think it was Adele.