Saturday, June 29, 2013

Time to Make the Donuts

There was an article recently saying that the famous donut chain had no intention of reviving the famous ad campaign with the tagline “Time to make the donuts.”  According to the spokesperson, the reasoning had to do with the shift in social expectations and that the product now being pushed was no longer the donuts that gave the company its name, but the coffee and other beverages that were the real money makers these days.  And the new slogan is “American runs on ...”   

Me, I suspect that the sentimental reason why the commercial won’t be resurrected is that the actor who made the “time to make the donuts” line famous died in 2005.  Probably worked himself to death.  Actually, he retired and then didn’t last much longer.  I’ve heard that happens to some folks.  Their work was all they lived for.  And once that ends there doesn’t seem to be any reason for living.  Work defined them.  We are what we do.

Except that sometimes what we do wears us out.  Like the donut maker, you meet yourself coming and going.  You feel stretched, you feel used up.  You feel as though you can’t do anything right, even though you have lots of things to do.  Work defeats us.  We are what we don’t do well.

Which is it?  Or does it shift from one to the other depending on circumstances or our moods.  Do we measure ourselves by our essence or our ability to produce?  Is there some intrinsic value to our lives or is it only in our doing, in our work that we find meaning?  And most importantly, how did we get so deep so quickly?  One minute we were talking a fictitious donut maker and the next we are hip deep in philosophy.  How do these things happen?

I blame Jesus.  Well, Jesus and Peter to be precise.  Our “I Am a Follower” series continues with a seaside, breakfast conversation.  And as with most conversations with Jesus, it gets deeper than you realize before we are ready. 

John 21:15-25  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."  16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."  17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.  18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go."  19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."  20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?"  21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?"  22 Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!"  23 So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"  24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.  25 But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 

I left in the little bit at the end of the Gospel, even though it isn’t what we are talking about here.  I just like that little tangent that doesn’t really tell us anything, except perhaps trying to point fingers at John the Apostle.  But I especially like the final verse which says there is always more, more to say, more to do, more that we don’t know about how all this works, about who he is and was.  We, because of John 21:25 are never allowed to say we know everything there is to know about Jesus.
“There are many other things that Jesus did.”  So, what do we do?  He was always working, so are we to be always working? It seems beyond our meager capabilities to work as he worked.  Maybe we aren’t the workers in the vineyard that he was seeking after all.  Maybe we are onlookers at best, bystanders, not workers in the end.

Or maybe we just don’t understand the work required.  Maybe we just don’t know what it is that we are supposed to do or to be.

That seemed to be Peter’s problem.  He knew, or thought he did, but now he’s not so sure.  He’d been through a rough patch to say the least.  He tried to follow, at a distance, but what he saw he knew he didn’t want anything to do with.  When all seemed lost, he went fishing.  Oh, he had a moment when he ran to the empty tomb, but he didn’t have a clue what it meant, and was just as afraid that it would be bad news as he was that it would be good.  So, he went fishing.  Seemed like a good idea.

Well, you’ll have to read the first part of the story to see what happened next.  It was another fish miracle that didn’t have anything to do with fish.  He had a moment of certainty and jumped out of yet another boat to walk through water to get to his Lord.  He sat in the chill light of dawn to eat breakfast, and he was still gulping down a bit of grilled fish that somehow got stuck in his throat as our scene begins.

“Do you love me more than these?”  These what?  These fish?  These other disciples?  These failures too many to count?  These what?  Simon, son of John, not Peter, not the name that he bore like a gold star from one of the few moments when Peter did something right.  But Simon, son of John.  Like it was a legal transaction.  Like he was being asked to sign on the dotted line, like he was being hired.

Feed my sheep.  That’s the job he was signing up for.  That was the work to which he was called.  Time to make the donuts, Peter.  Feed my lambs.  Tend my sheep. OK, fine, sure, no problem.  Um, how?

It’s not that we don’t want to work.  We just don’t know how, or what to do, or when to step in and get involved and when to keep away and stay pure and unstained from the world.  We are given so many different instructions that we are almost inert in our indecision.  And like Peter we hear Jesus’ relentless question “Do you love me?”

We want to, I’m confident of that.  We want to love him, because we know that he has the words of life, because we know that he has the key, he has the life.  We want to love him ... and we do, as best we can.  The tending thing is difficult work, though, and get weary in well doing.  And sometimes we work almost against our will.  We work because it is within us to work.  We stretch out our hands and we are taken where we do not wish to go.  

Feeding sheep is hard work.  It seems like they are always hungry, always needy.  But we go, we feed, we tend, we love because that is what all this means, we love as we tend the sheep, we love as we see the neighbor bruised and bleeding along the side of the road, we love even when faced with the ones who let us down, who deny us and betray us, we love even when we encounter the ones we don’t think we would ever be able to love.  Because in the end it isn’t our love that drives us, it is His.  He doesn’t say to Peter, do you love them?  He says do you love me?  

Because he knows that unless we are filled up with love - heart and soul and mind and strength - for Christ our Savior, we will never be able to love those we call neighbor ... or better, the ones He calls our neighbor.  He knows that without being driven by an all consuming love for the Lord of life, we will never be able to drag our selves out of our beds in order to get to work.  And there is work to be done.

Time to make the donuts.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Where I Am

The cat threw up this morning.  Yeah, well, it might seem unsavory to read first thing out of the chute, but it was much worse to wake up to that sound.  Non-cat people don’t have a clue, but cats have a way of announcing to the world that they are going to throw up.  It is not a sound you can sleep through, believe me.

The problem was that this morning La Donna had to get ready and leave at o’dark thirty for a meeting about Mission U (that’s the new name for School of Christian Mission ...  yeah, ...  me too).  Which meant I was on pet duty this Saturday.  I had to get up earlier than I really wanted to in order to walk the crazy dogs and get their day started.  And it also meant that there wasn’t anyone else to respond to the call of the wild from our three legged cat Hairy (yeah, well, he’s ... hairy) at whatever time it was.  Oh, I could have waited for Maddie to clean it up, but since it was happening right beside my bed and I wasn’t likely to see her before your lunch date at noon, I figured I needed to take care of it.

Didn’t really want to.  Just sayin’.  But you probably assumed that.  I mean who would?  That’s not the kind of thing you get up to take care of because you want to.  It definitely falls into the “have to” category.  Don’t you think?  Along with a whole long list of other things we could mention.  Most of which aren’t suitable for publication.  At least since someone could be reading this at meal time.  Our lives seem to be full of the kind of thing from which we want to keep our distance.

Which is what I thought about when I chose the text for this week.  We’ve been going full steam into this following thing.  Embracing the joy of being close to Christ.  Calling for surrender for the sake of the joy.  And there is joy in following.  But there is also struggle, there is also sacrifice.  Jesus never seduced his followers by telling them how easy it was going to be.  He was often painfully blunt about the hazards that await.  It makes it hard to go along.  Makes it hard to want to follow. 

John 12:20-33  Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.  27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.  28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."  29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."  30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.  31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."  33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 

What happened to the Greeks?  They just disappeared from the story.  They told Philip that they wished to see Jesus.  Philip told Andrew and the two of them went to Jesus.  Jesus answered them.  Really?  That was an answer?  What was the question?  Jesus takes this moment of potential hospitality and turns it into an invitation to die.  “The hour has come,” he says.  Why because a couple of tourists from Greece show up?  

Well, sort of.  Step outside the action for a moment.  For John there are always layers of meaning.  Yeah, it seems a bit clumsy in terms of action, Greeks show up and are never heard from again.  But on another level, they represent the world.  They represent the rest of the world that is clamoring to see Jesus.  Jesus has been limited by geography and by history.  He has been confined to a little plot of ground and a group of people.  But now knows that his mission is to go to all the world.  Philip and Andrew see two nondescript tourists who want to see Jesus.  Jesus hears a world crying out in need.

And he is ready to go.  Even though he knows how this is going to have to happen.  It is for this reason that I came, he declares to a bewildered couple of followers who aren’t quite sure where he is going.  To move beyond the limitations of the flesh.  To step outside the confines of time.  To reach beyond the span of my arms.  They can only go so far.  And to show them he stretched them out.  See, he told them that quiet afternoon, see, how can I embrace the whole world with arms that only go so far?

That’s my son, came the voice from above.  That’s what it meant anyway.  Father, glorify your name, declares Jesus.  I did, says the Voice.  I did in you, I did when you became flesh and dwelt among them.  I did glorify my name in the life that you lived and the words that you spoke and the deeds that you did.  I was glorified in your every act, in the breaths you drew, in the light you showed forth.  And, there must have been a pause here, I will glorify my name again.  There had to be a hush in the heavens as those words were spoken.  A divine hesitation before declaring what was to come.  I will glorify my name again, the Voice whispered, the Voice thundered, the Voice wept in the gentle rain that fell.

What was that, the folks standing around wondered?  A sudden rumble of thunder, and few drops of tear-shaped rain.  Maybe, some ventured, maybe it was an angel speaking to him.  Jesus smiled that wistful smile as they once again missed the point, and said, the Voice was for you, not for me.  To ask you to raise your eyes and see beyond yourself, see something more significant, see the big picture.  The Voice was confirmation that I will indeed be lifted up, hung on a cross to die so that I can live.  To die so that you can live.

See, I skipped over that little bit in there.  Went from vanishing Greeks to Jesus conversation with God about his true purpose, his burden and his joy.  Skipped right over the middle bit where he talks to us.  Where he invited us to follow him.  Invited us to hate our lives.

Excuse me?  Why would the one who came that we might have life now want us to hate it?  Seems counterintuitive to say the least.  OK, he doesn’t really want us to hate living, doesn’t want us to despise ourselves and run around beating our breast and ringing our bells and calling ourselves unclean.  What he wants is for us to hold our lives lightly.  To hold ourselves lightly.  It is not all about us, despite what various and sundry advertisers what us to believe.  It is about something bigger than ourselves.  It is about giving ourselves over to a larger truth, a deeper reality, a more profound life than the one we find at the end of our noses and fingertips.  He wants us to extend our reach, just like he is about to extend his.

In fact he says that very thing.  “Where I am, there my servant will be also.”  Where he is when he says that is looking at giving his life away for something bigger than his own flesh and blood.  And that is exactly where he wants us to be.  Living beyond ourselves, living more deeply, living through surrender, living through giving ourselves away.  We can find our lives by holding them lightly enough to lose them - not always physically.  You know that something really profound is going on when you lose track of time, lose track of yourself because you are wrapped up in something beyond you.  It might be art or beauty, it might be nature in its wonder and majesty, in its terror and power, it might be in the love and laughter of a soul friend, it might be the tears shed in sympathy with one you call brother or sister.  But you can lose yourself, if you learn to let go.  To hold yourself lightly.

And then even cats with digestive issues can’t derail your desire to embrace what God gifts upon you and those you love.  Hold your life lightly, and you’ll be where He is.


Friday, June 14, 2013

No Place Like ...

Home is a contentious subject around here these days.  For those who haven’t heard, my mom and dad are in Fort Wayne.  Long story, but mom is in rehab for a hip she broke the day after she got here.  Dad is staying with us when he isn't staying with mom.  But mostly he is wanting to go home.  To get mom and take her home.  He feels unmoored somehow.  Like he can’t figure out what to do with himself.  He stands in the middle of the kitchen, usually when La Donna is trying to work in there, like he is trying to remember what he was going to do.  Or maybe even who he used to be.

He just wants to go home.  And even my sister and brother think I’m being mean to him because I don’t think it is a good idea for them to be going back to the house in Paris Tennessee where they have lived for about 33 years off and on.  Far longer than they lived anywhere else.  Dad was a pastor and therefore moved around from place to place, even more often than I do, I think.  But he walked away from that itinerant life and settled down in a house that should have been bulldozed and rebuilt from scratch, instead he worked on it piecemeal mostly on his own until it was almost liveable.  He was quite proud of it, to say the least.  Until the fire.

Long story, but someone with a grudge broke in and set it ablaze while he and mom were up in Fort Wayne a few Christmases ago.  It had to be completely gutted and rebuilt inside.  By professionals, the insurance company insisted upon it or they wouldn’t pay.  So, he submitted to that and let them rebuild.  Of course he grumbled about it, says he could have done a better job.  Doesn’t like this or that, isn’t quite the same.  Hasn’t felt right to him.  Until now.

It would be more right than here.  This is my home, not his.  He doesn’t live here, he is a guest.  And he makes a terrible guest.  Mostly because he doesn’t want to be here.  So, he spent most of the time at rehab with mom.  Until he got on their nerves too.  They said for mom’s sake he shouldn’t be there all day long.  So, now he is here more.  And wanting to go home.  He doesn’t say it all the time, but it is there in distant stare of his eyes, in the slump of his shoulders, in the inability to find anything to do.

Settle down, it'll all be clear / Don't pay no mind to the demons / They fill you with fear / The trouble it might drag you down / If you get lost, you can always be found ... Phillip Phillips has probably made a mint on the song called “Home.”  It was the theme song for the USA women’s Olympic gymnastics team last summer and has been used in every other commercial you hear on TV.  They say he didn't like it at first, didn't want to sing it.  Mostly because it wasn't his song, he prefers the ones he writes himself supposedly.  But I think he has made his peace with this one.  It has become his signature song. He probably will never do a concert and not sing Home, fans would demand their money back.

It is a good song, but it has become a phenomenon.  In a uncertain age, to sing about home has captured everyone’s attention.  It touches something deep within us.  Some longing, some hope that almost goes beyond words.  Home. Family.  Roots, settle down, put your feet up.  Make yourself at home.

Funny how Jesus seems so anti all those things.  Wait. What?  Really?  You’d think that he’d be in favor of that.  Of helping us to get home, to find where we belong.  To find where we relate, fit in, are known.  Isn’t he?  Isn’t that what this faith thing is all about?  Finding ourselves?  Arriving at home, at last?  

Well, you’d think so.  And he does do all those things, will all those things for us.  But his description of that is different than ours.  His methodology of finding, seems almost like losing.  His depiction of arriving sounds more like journeying.  We want to be settlers, He wants us to be pilgrims.  

Luke 9:57-62  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."  58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."  60 But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."  61 Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home."  62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."  

Sometimes even home isn’t home.  The unreachable destination, the unrealized dream, the undiscovered country. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him with that foxes and birds thing?  Are we really supposed to leave our parents to deal with their own end of life issues?  Are we really just supposed to slip away, rudely, as though the people who know us best aren’t important enough to even bid farewell?

You know, this setting the face thing can be a real pain in the associations.  The Samaritans didn’t want to deal with him because of it.  Ticked off the disciples too, they wanted to call down fire to burn them all up.  Everyone seems to be a bit on edge in chapter nine of the Gospel of Luke.  It’s like everyone just needs to go home.  Go home and settle down.  Go home and calm yourself.  Maybe if Jesus just lightened up a bit...

We don’t like the edge Jesus puts on things at times.  We don’t like the demand part of the faith, the commitment part.  We like the grace part, and we often interpret that as anything goes, as long as your heart is in the right place. We like the be like little children command rather than the be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  That must have been a bad day for Jesus.  The folks who came alongside must have felt like they caught Jesus on a bad day.  Understandable, really, since he was heading to Jerusalem to die a difficult death, after all.  So, we can forgive his curt responses, his heavy handed demands. He was a man without a home, so he was anxious to get back to where he belonged, back into the arms of the Father.

On the other hand, maybe he wasn’t just short tempered, caught in a bad moment.  Maybe he knows something he desperately wants us to know.  And that is that home is never found by standing still, or even less by going back.  Who said that you can’t go home again?  Might as well have been Jesus.  It is never back there.  It is never found through nostalgia, through wishing that is was like the good old days that never were.  Except in our fractured memories.  

And the other thing he wants to tell us here is that home isn’t a place as much as a relationship.  The first eager follower would have been better to simply say “I will follow you.”  By adding in the “wherever you go” it became about the destination, not about the journey.  I became about place and not about the commitment to follow the Word made flesh.  The other two?  They wanted a both/and.  They wanted to follow, but wanted to stay behind at the same time.  They wanted to divide their focus, a little bit here and a little bit there.  I want to follow, and will follow, but I’ve got responsibilities, so as soon as get my life under control, I’ll be back.  I’ve got lots of relationships, as soon as I get them in order, I’ll be back.

I wonder if the second one had simply said, yes I’ll follow you, if Jesus would have sent him back to care for his father.  Having made the commitment to be in relationship with Christ, then all our other relationships and responsibilities become even more vital, even more pressing.  Because now it is in the light of Christ that we fulfill these other duties.  It is in the light of Christ that we serve and love and create home.

Hold on, to me as we go / As we roll down this unfamiliar road / And although this wave is stringing us along / Just know you're not alone / Cause I'm gonna make this place your home ...  Home has always been a moveable feast.  Not this place or that place, but the accommodation created when followers journey together for a time.  There’s no place like it.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Have Decided

“Just pick one, sweetpea, any one.”  That is one of my most well used lines.  “Just pick one.”  Usually to Maddie, she hates making decisions.  But it is a family trait.  Try getting this bunch to choose where to eat when we decide to go out.  And sometimes we decide to go out because someone (who shall remain nameless) can’t decide what to fix for supper.  She loves to cook, but hates to decide.  Making the menu is the tedious part.  The choosing, the deciding.  That’s hard stuff.

Well, sometimes.  Some decisions are easy. ... Um ... Can’t think of any at the moment.  But surely there are some that are.  Or maybe they are just easy for some people.  There are the deciders in our midst, it has been said.  There are those who know how to choose.  

Like Levi.  Wow, already we are getting to the text?  Who made that decision?  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  But I can put it off for a while, if you aren’t quite ready.  Don’t want to rush these things, gotta keep our options open.  Don’t you think?  Or do you?  I don’t know for sure.  Maybe.  Sort of.

Not Levi, so equivocating.  No weighing the options, analyzing the pros and cons, no sleeping on it.  No the choosing moment comes and he leaps ... unlookingly.  Unlookishly?  He grabbed his chance, he carped his diem. It just seemed to fit him - no wonder they named those jeans after him - so he went with it.  Go Levi, go.

Luke 5:27-39   After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me."  28 And he got up, left everything, and followed him.  29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.  30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"  31 Jesus answered, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;  32 I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."  33 Then they said to him, "John's disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.  34 Jesus said to them, "You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?  35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days."  36 He also told them a parable: "No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.  38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, 'The old is good.'"  

Just like now, in Jesus’ day there were taxes and there were taxes.  There were the taxes everyone paid, like a land tax or a poll tax - taxes for living and for owning.  Those taxes were collected by polite visitors to your door, usually accompanied by large assistants with kneecapping experience.  So you paid them.  Then there was the temple tax, paid every time you visited the temple to worship or make sacrifice.  And you paid those taxes with joy since it was part of your obligation to God, a way of expressing your faith, of being reminded that everything you have belongs to God.  Those were collected at the temple.

But then there were the business taxes.  Or the taxes for the privilege of doing business.  Excise taxes, sales taxes, custom tax, transaction taxes.  These were taxes you had to pay in order to buy and sell.  These taxes were collected by a guy sitting in a booth in the middle of marketplace.  You couldn’t get around him, you couldn’t set up your stall without proof that you have paid the right tax.  You couldn’t take home your purchases without showing that you had paid the right tax.  You had to have the mark, the right paperwork, the proof.  

The tricky thing is that while the property and poll taxes were collected by Romans - the government; and the temple tax was collected by Jewish officials, priests and Levites; the business tax collector was a collaborator.  It was a Jew who worked for the Romans.  And to get this job you had to pay Rome ahead of time whatever they calculated the tax would be for that region, and then you could collect whatever you could squeeze out of folks as they went about their business.  Naturally, these tax collectors were not often on the invites of the A-lister parties in town.  Sure, they made a good living, but it was on the backs of their neighbors and not-likely-to-ever-be friends.  It was a lonely job, well paying, but lonely.  This was Zacchaeus - that wee little man.  Remember him?  This was Levi, who didn’t have to climb a tree.

Because one day, striding right up to his booth there in the marketplace, came a rabbi of sorts.  Of sorts because he didn’t act like any rabbi anyone had ever met before.  Rabbis tended to be standoffish sorts, behind closed doors, or in obscure corners.  If you wanted to be a disciple of these rabbis it took persistence, knocking on their door, showing your earnestness, your willingness, your ability to sacrifice.  They certainly didn’t come walking up to busy people in tax booths and look them right in the eye and say “Follow me.”

Surely there was more to it than that.  Surely Jesus had brochures printed up about the benefits of on his team, a mission statement, core values, a fancy logo and a detailed listing of the benefits.  He must have negotiated with Levi, asked him if he was happy in his job of making people unhappy, told him what he needed to bring on this filed trip, gave him a chance to call his associate in training and let him take over the booth, since there was a long line of grumpy people wanting to hand over fistfulls of cash so they could get on with their business.

But no.  That isn’t how it happened.  A two word question and a snap decision in hot dusty Mediterranean village in the middle of the day.  “Follow me.”  “And he got up, left everything, and followed him.”  Just like that.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  Maybe he was primed, by a dead end job that made him the whipping boy of the whole community.  Maybe he was considering making a break for it and Jesus showed up at just the right time, caught him on a good day, or a specially bad one and leaving behind the tax booth was what he had been dreaming of doing anyway.  Jesus was an answer to prayer, perhaps, that is why he was so ready to go, why he threw a party and invited all of his other outcast friends to join him.

Maybe.  Or maybe this has less to do with what he might have been leaving behind and everything to do with what he about to embrace.  Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees is about looking forward, not about looking back.  It is about living in the joy that He brings.  It is about getting drunk on the new wine of a different way to live and a deeper way to worship, rather than clinging to old patterns out of habit or preferences.  Or fear.  It is a scary thing to choose Christ, everything is different.  Everything you thought you were living for suddenly becomes excess baggage, the stuff you leave behind in your booth when you stride off the follow Him.  

There are some who think that we mainliners, we who grew up in the faith never really made a choice.  That’s why our worship is somewhat dull, not like the party going on at Levi’s house.  That when we joined the church is was a kind of more of the same sort of deal.  We didn’t leave behind anything, we didn’t get up and walk, we didn’t hear the call and decide to follow.  That explains a lack of commitment, a lack of passion.  It is a good idea, we think, to follow, but it isn’t really a life and death kind of thing.  We have decided to follow Jesus, yes, but we rarely go on and sing “no turning back, no turning back.”  There are always options, other routes to take, other voices to follow, and if we choose something else for now, we’ll be back.  Leave the light on for us, and don’t change anything.

I don’t know whether that is true, it seems unfair.  It seems to not acknowledge a deep, sincere but quiet faith.  We don’t all have to jump around, do we?  Which reminds me, verse 28 says Levi got up and followed.  That “got up” was just used two verses earlier, the same word in Greek, to describe the paralyzed man who was healed.  Levi got up from his paralysis to follow.  How about you, paralysis or following?  Have you decided?