Invitation: Interlopers Welcome

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A couple years ago, this little gray striped cat started hanging out on our back porch. If you sat on the steps, she would lie next to you and scoot closer until you petted her. She was pretty and friendly and maybe most importantly she didn’t trigger any of the allergies that prevented us from keeping a cat in the house.

One afternoon she was purring with a little more urgency than usual and looking into the kitchen. Both of us had Italian grandmothers, so naturally we fed her. We emptied a can of tuna into a bowl and set it out. She wolfed it down. After that, Miss Susan Moochie (yep that’s what we call her) was a  daily visitor. We started buying tuna and cat food to be ready for her visits. We even rotated brands and flavors when she seemed to lose interest.

After a while, a couple other cats started showing up. These two were a little more wild and had no interest in meeting us. One was white with gray markings. We called it The Nemesis. The other was almost all black and we just called it The Other One. Together they were… The Interlopers. Miss Susan Moochie didn’t like to eat when The Interlopers were around. We didn’t want them around harassing our Miss Susan, so we’d shoo them away. As soon as she was done eating we brought her leftovers into the house.

Little by little, Miss Susan started skipping a day here or there, or leaving more than half the food untouched. The Interlopers were persistent, and seemed hungry. When the weather started to turn cold, we felt a little bad for them, and stopped taking in the leftovers. The Nemesis and The Other One consistently finished off whatever was in the bowl. Gradually, Miss Susan weaned herself off our company and generosity. We can only assume it was because she didn’t care for the continuing presence of The Interlopers.

Now we feed the Interlopers when they show up. The Nemesis will let me pet it once in a while, but never for long. The Other One has never even been close enough to bite the hand that feeds it. They aren’t the cats we wanted, but they are faithful and in need. Probably they are faithful because they are in need.

I don’t particularly like The Interlopers, but that felt like a pretty darn hypocritical reason not to feed them. After all, in Matthew and Luke Jesus says: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” That got me thinking about people and church and communities. We are sad when the “right” people move on because the “wrong” people — usually people who have less than we do or are unfamiliar to us — have invaded our church, or neighborhood, or country.

We are called to love the people who do not love us. Christ invites everyone to the table, and we’re not going to love them all. Some people may harass us and others may not speak to us. Some may seem like they’re only showing up to take and not to give. We don’t get to pick and choose who Christ feeds. Jesus is the host and whether we showed up to the party first or last, dressed to the nines or looking like we don’t care, we are his guests and arrive on equal terms. We are all interlopers to someone. How fortunate for us Jesus is the one with the can opener.

The Peace of Christ be with you.

You Don’t Know Me

Today’s readings: Psalms 46 or 47; 149, Isaiah 45:14-19, Colossians 1:24-2:7, John 8:12-19

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Judgment: to some degree, we’re all guilty of of it. At our best we can take a mental step back and move beyond it. At our less-than-best, we’re capable of doling out some pretty shabby treatment. Why do we judge? Sometimes it’s out of fear. Other times it’s because we see traits reflected in others that we don’t like in ourselves. Once in a while it’s because we need to believe someone did something wrong — usually defining “wrong” as something we haven’t done or been caught doing — that caused their illness, death, poverty, unemployment, public shame, prison sentence, or other problem. After all, the unacceptable alternative would be to admit that under the same circumstances we might have the same outcome, rather than convince ourselves we are saved by our virtue. Continue reading

Innocence by Association

Today’s readings: Psalms 46 or 97; 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 8:1-3,  Colossians 1:1-14, John 6:30-33, 48-51

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When we talk about peer pressure, we are usually talking about school age children. We worry their friends will pressure them into drugs, alcohol, sex, or smoking. We offer them overly-simplistic methods of dealing with peer pressure, such as “Just say no.” We repeat advice we heard from our parents (“If your friend jumped off a bridge …”) even though it had little if any effect on us in our own young lives. Peer pressure concerns us not only because so much of it happens beyond our sphere of influence, but also because in our hearts we know it is something we never escape. Continue reading

Something To Chew On

Today’s readings: Psalms 46 or 97; 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 8:1-3, Colossians 1:1-14, John 6:30-33, 48-51

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Bread gets a bad rap. The carbs, preservatives, bleached flours, and chemicals it contains fill our media and magazines with articles about how they are slowly killing us. We see it on a restaurant table and know it’s there to fill us up before the real food arrives. Baking it ourselves is better, but in most homes that is a rare and indulgent occasion. If Jesus called himself the “bread of life” in the United States today, some disciple would try to substitute a lettuce wrap Continue reading

We Three Kings

Because it’s a day of celebration and Ella Fitzgerald is proof God loves us!

Last Day of Christmas

Today is the last day of Christmas. I’m closing out the celebration by posting a classic and classy version of one of my favorite Christmas carols. Enjoy and peace to you all!

Invitation: Eat up.

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When I was around 14 years old, my dad brought home a friend from work. Let’s call him Walt. Walt had fallen on some hard times personally and financially. For several months Walt spent a lot of time at our house in the evenings and on weekends. He helped out with home improvement projects. He played games in the yard with us. He had dinner with us on many evenings. Most importantly, Walt was not alone.

One Saturday we installed paneling in the living room. I say “we” but I was only peripherally involved; my dad and Walt did almost all the work, though I did lend the occasional steadying third set of hands. It was a big project, and we worked well past our home’s normal supper time. When the project was done, we washed up and sat down to supper, which was already on the table.

“Eat up,” I said to Walt. “You sure earned it.”

That was a mistake. My dad shot me a look that I knew meant we were going to have a talk.

A few hours later, after good food (my mom is a great cook!) and plenty of conversation and laughter, Walt went home. I had forgotten all about my earlier misstep, but my dad hadn’t. As the front door shut he turned to me with a stern look.

“Don’t ever tell anyone they have to earn a meal here,” he said. “That’s not how we do things. You should know better.” I started to say it was a joke, but didn’t get to finish. “It wasn’t funny. Don’t do it again.”

My dad is not a particularly religious man, but that day he taught me a very Christ-like lesson. When Christ invites us to the table, it’s not because we’ve somehow earned it; it’s because he loves us. Christ offers us a grace freely given, and no one else around the table gets to judge who should partake. We don’t even get to judge how much. In the Parable of the Workers, laborers who work a partial shift get paid just as much as laborers who work a whole shift. If that seems unfair, take it up with Jesus. Until he says differently, we are all welcome at the table.

The Peace of Christ be with you.


 

This first invitation is dedicated with much love and thanks to my dad, who is so encouraging to me about the blog and has provided great feedback that has helped shape it. Love you, Dad!

Invitations to Communion

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I was raised Roman Catholic and am now a member of the Disciples of Christ. In both traditions, though they have different understandings of the essential nature of communion, it is central to the liturgy. Several years ago I was honored to serve a term as one of the elders at a Disciples church. Among other duties, each week we issued an invitation before communion. We understood the table as Christ’s table, so the invitation needed to be inclusive of everyone present. Sometimes that included people we didn’t like or had active disagreements with, but we were called to be representatives of a nature higher than our own. Delivering the invitation was deeply meaningful and sacred to me.

On Sundays I will be adding an extra post reminiscent of those invitations. Of course I can’t follow up with an actual loaf of bread or cup of wine, but I hope they help you feel welcomed in the body of Christ.

You may have noticed that, in the devotionals, I don’t write in first person singular. That’s because there’s no “I” in Team Jesus.  Kidding …  and anyway there’s one in “Christ.” The devotionals are not about pushing my particular take on doctrine, theological specifics, conservative versus liberal views, or other personal agendas. Writing as “we” helps remind me of that. My invitational style is going to be a little different. When I was an elder I took an event from my life or something I’d learned that reminded me of the universal nature of Christ’s love, and adapted it to the purpose. The concept of open communion is not itself universal, and may come across as a theological statement if that’s not your belief. If you feel that way but otherwise enjoy the blog , maybe skip the invitations, and stick to reading the daily posts. I won’t be offended, though I’ll miss you. The invitation may be my words, but the nature of it is something I can only aspire to.

Peace!