Tag Archives: disciples

Veil of Tears 105: Unwashed

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The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.” Mark 7:1 NIV

There is an apocryphal story that surfaces on social media every so often of a pastor, newly appointed to a church, and largely unknown there, who turns up at a service a week before his induction disguised as a tramp. He is covered in ragged clothing and he smells. Though one or two people are kind, he is given a wide berth, snubbed and generally made to feel unwelcome, before being asked to leave. The following week he comes in as the new church leader and tells the congregation what he did to shame them into seeing the unwashed with new eyes.

I doubt the story is true, and I’m not sure that shaming is a particularly kind teaching method, but the fact that this could be true, ought to get everyone thinking who participates in any kind of community that professes to have Christ at its centre.

I don’t believe there is any record of Jesus ever being disgusted by anyone’s outer appearance, gender, race or hygiene. The only thing that seemed to revolt him was the stink of self-righteousness that he found most strongly radiating from the religious people of the day, from the Pharisees in particular. He spent time with tavern keepers, lepers, prostitutes, homeless people, disabled people, loose women, the deranged and the possessed. In short, with all those the “good” people deemed unclean and would not associate with.

He hung around with them, befriended them, taught them, healed them and forgave them when it was necessary. He and his crowd of travelling followers, often dusty and sweaty in the Middle East heat, were no doubt a bit wild and unkempt like the prophets of old, like John the Baptist who heralded Jesus’ arrival clothed in camel’s hair and with bits of honeyed locust in his beard. They were social pariahs, not the goody-two-shoes keeping-their-noses-clean puritanical religious elite.

You know what else? I don’t think Jesus’ robe was white that often. I think he probably needed (by our western modern running water standards) more trips to the river (bath/laundrette) and that he and twelve other blokes walking miles across the whole of Judea, with or without the hundreds of other followers of this strange parochial Rabbi, probably sweated and whiffed a bit on occasion. I think some of them probably swore now and again. I think that they were human and I like that idea.

I also think that if we get caught up in constantly cleaning ourselves on the outside and worrying incessantly about whether we are in a state of grace nor not, that we will spend too much time washing and confessing and not enough time relating and laughing with, learning from, adoring and pondering God. Besides which, if we leave our feet dusty, perspiring and tired, and admit they are made of clay, we might just find our Saviour-friend taking them in his hands over a bowl of water, giving us rest from our toil and removing the burdens from our striving shoulders.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

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17: Strange Tides

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And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.” Luke 21:25 NLT

When Jesus spoke of the End Times (as we tend to call them) the signs sound terrifying. This verse tells us that the very things that mark our time, our days, nights, months and years, will be out of sync. It would make sense if odd things were happening in the solar system, that seas and tides would be affected, and no wonder that there would then be turmoil. And yet afterwards, on the other side of Judgement Day, Revelation tells us that there will be no seas, no moon or sun, no day or night. So perhaps these things too are passing from one kind of reality to another, just as all souls on earth will do.

I love the sea, or rather, as a card carrying landlubber, I love looking at it, and hearing its sounds, so it makes me sad to think of it disappearing. God though, always changes or redeems things for the better, so I am reassured to know that though things will be very different when heaven finally comes to earth, they will be infinitely better. I have a sneaking theory too, that the seas will remain but become fresh water, fed from the river of Living Water that streams out of the Temple in those days. But I’d be hard pushed to make a theological case for that….

The Lord goes on to speak of war, famine, pestilence, betrayal and persecution unto death for those who believe in him. It is worth remembering that eleven out of the twelve Disciples were martyred, and John only escaped because being boiled in oil somehow didn’t kill him, and endured banishment instead. Being a Christian sometimes has a high price.

But though none of this is really comprehensible to us, and we can grow fearful of what may happen, or even become obsessed by eschatology, as many sects and Evangelicals have, our focus needs to be not on how the supposed Rapture will come and how many will be saved, but on Jesus. Whilst some may read these events as linked to environmental disaster, and still others like Donald Trump, see no further than the ends of their noses, tweeting erudition like “It’s freezing out there today. Where is “global warming?” we need to see the signs, but to read them as birthing pains.

When the world is in chaos, and all is turned upside down, when the enemies of our faith come for us, as has happened and is happening in many parts of the world today, it is our witness that will matter, given by words from the Holy Spirit. And the Lord’s advice to us when all is in turmoil? To stay alert, to not trust in our own words but in his which shall never pass away, and to “…straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 NLT partial). When the sky falls, when the earth crumbles under us, then we find out on what we stand. Not on the fear of a Chicken Licken world, determined to panic, or on the ostrich-vision of politicians, their heads full of wet sand, but on something more reliable than tides, and more permanent than even the very stars in the sky.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

10: Shaking Sandals

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“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Mark 6:11 NIV

Jesus was not one for giving up easily. He tells us to go the extra mile, even under duress, to forgive our brother or sister seventy times seven times. Yet here is this glaring anomaly. As his disciples we may need to leave a place so entirely behind us that we have to make sure we don’t even take a grain of its soil with us.

Obviously the shaking of the dust from our feet is a symbolic gesture, and Jesus is speaking figuratively, as was his way. But there is something to be gained in remembering that when a place or person needs to be left behind us, as occasionally happens, then we need to sever that association so totally as to not even be connected to the ground they walk on.

On social media, one is encouraged to disconnect from anyone who doesn’t agree with us, who “disses” (disrespects) us, to label people “toxic,” and disregard them when they are negative or difficult. I don’t believe that is gospel living and I certainly don’t think Jesus is talking about us leaving the broken behind us. If we don’t learn to live with, tolerate and even love the difficult or crushed among us, then how shall we accept or face our own shadow places?

No, this is the very specific and sad situation of leaving a place or person because they stubbornly refuse every help we offer. There is no point preaching to a congregation who already believe they know better than us, who dismiss us, who will take nothing we offer. In such a case, we are casting pearls before swine, and our words are just blowing away on the wind. Ties then, can be severed, and we must move on to more fertile ground. Ground is vital in this context, as we need a clean start, and to re-root ourselves in the love of God. If the soil we walk on has been made so dry and dusty that nothing can grow there, we need to shake it off and move forwards, under the Lord’s direction. A cause for sadness, but whilst there is no bleakness God cannot make green again, his servants must stay established in his love, and there is some ground where this is not going to happen.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com