“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Sunday mornings for us are a blur. We are usually moving 90 to nothing and most of the time we arrive after church has already started. Yesterday, we walked into a near standing-room auditorium with just a few seats open on the back row. Not necessarily sitting where I’d like, we grabbed what was open and tried to enjoy the service. My already rushed attention was diverted when a man to my left would not stop clapping. It became embarrassing and my issues were only compounded after I noticed my seat position placed me in between him and an uninvited destitute on the right. The odor pierced the incense filled air and I did my best to close my eyes, sing the songs and offer a less than worthy performance amidst the distractions. And then it hit me. The smell of litter and dross, the feelings of discomfort and a reluctance to welcome these intrusions in, radiated from the place in the middle. My seat, the seat of the unwanted Pharisee.
Tears fell from my eyes, almost immediately, as I contemplated the divine chair arrangement. I wondered what Peter did when his canceled debt nearly sank his boat. I wondered what Paul did when his blood-stained hands were washed white as snow. I wondered what David did when his stone found its seraphic mark on Goliath’s forehead. I thought about the courage of the one leper that turned around and ran through the other nine to thank Jesus for healing him. I thought about the 60-year-old invalid, who did backflips through the gate at the pool of Bethesda. I thought about the elation of Lazarus and his friends, the first words of the mute, the reaction to the colors in the peripheral of the once-blind man and the celebration in the household of the widow’s risen son.
And therein lies the question that puts me on my knees almost every day. Is my desire to know God not worth the courage required to walk into today’s brick and mortar surrounded by the silk and diamonds of those around knowing my odor is not of roses and my clothes are borrowed? Is the fact that my relationships, my business, my desires and my quality of life in general worth absolutely nothing without Jesus Christ, a cause for endless clapping? I am the one who should be bothered by my inability to sing hymns of praise. It’s my actions that prevent me from the intimacy freely offered. It’s my sorry, sinful judgement in watching those around me instead of pouring out my courage and elation for my audience of one.
I’m not worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven much less receive the willingness given by my Savior Who accepted the nails and crown of thorns with gladness in His heart as my broken body walked in front mocking and spitting. The all-caps bold script anthem of my soul is the rooftop shout that He is everything. My efforts are of trash and refuse if my life and the details of it does not point to the living Messiah.
Looking to my right I remind this modern-day leper that I’m glad he’s here, and as I put my arm around him to vocalize a prayer, the lights and noise vanish from the room. The millisecond moment seems surreal, and the silence is broken as the gentle whisper of my Rabbi hails “I’m glad you’re here too.”