To be Christian is sometimes an ambivalent experience. It is sometimes a title that makes me cringe in light of voices which shout much louder than me words of hatred and violence and anti-gospel in the name of our God, and sometimes it is a way of being and truthful reality that makes me weep with gratitude. Such has been our times Friday nights.
A couple of weeks ago, Anna, faithful volunteer and friend was having a conversation with George.* He asked her what group she was with and as she responded with “I’m a part of a church,” I can just imagine the thoughts which ran through his head which were translated through his face and then his words to her. “Oh…so you’re a Christian…pause…that’s o.k., you’re still cool.” To be Christian to George was something of which to be forgiven, to be graciously overlooked for the sake of continued conversation and relationship. Moments like these make me think of all that has gone wrong in the world, all who have been wronged, and all that has been done wrongly by myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ to have gained such a reputation of ill repute. Yet, I return to gratitude. Thank you Jesus that through You George can experience You differently through your daughter Anna. We have done much and much has been done to mar Your name and the name of Your children, but should people look they can see You.
Last week I was surprised with a humbling moment, shaken by honest sorrow from an unlikely source. We have known Paddy* for many years and have rarely if ever seen him sober. Should you see him, swaying as he walks, spitting and slobbering as he talks you would not expect that he is a man who reads of Nikola Tesla, mathematician, scientist and inventor, yet he does. Last week he spoke of Einstein and then Tesla and then somehow we got to Moses. Paddy asked me if I knew what Moses said to the Israelites after he descended Mt. Sinai and to his surprise I did. As the night progressed came several more questions from Paddy to quiz my Bible knowledge. It was like a game and we reached the final round. He asked, “when Jesus was in front of Pilate there was another man who was a robber and rapist and Pilate asked the Jews which one should I let go. Who did the Jews pick?” Paddy had known the answer to every question he had asked me up to this point and I thought this one would be no different. I responded with “Barrabas, the thief and murderer.” Paddy thought he finally got me, and said “No, they picked Jesus.” I said, “No, they picked Barrabas.” Something happened. Paddy’s eyes were bewildered as he spit out, “They picked the murderer?” He could not believe what really was unbelievable that they would choose to release the murderer rather than the only One who was innocent, and he began to cry.
He cried and stumbled about ready to fall, but having nowhere to land, saying over and over “they picked the murderer…” I don’t remember the last time I was so undone by the reality of Jesus, who He is and what He has done, but strange as it may sound, for a brief moment I feel like Paddy and I were worshipping together. I was glad to be a child and disciple of the Most Holy One. Thank you God.
*Names have been changed