Nervous anticipation whistled through the crowd.
“Would he talk over our heads? Would we be engaged or flat bored stiff?”
As it turned out, we hung on the every word of renowned scholar, Dr. Scot McKnight. Simple yet challenging, they made sense in a real world way. We drank in the wisdom as he challenged us to recite the Jesus Creed daily.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29
Remember it as your feet touch the ground in the mornings, as you retire at night, and any time it just pops into your head. Then came the warning, “If you recite this, I promise your eyes will be opened to the homeless and other situations like never before.” You will be punched uncomfortable and pulled to action repeatedly.
And so it happened.
During ten o’clock service the next day, in the plush white columned auditorium, a scrawny figure appeared. Instead of skulking late into a back row, he strode bold down the carpeted isle to the front pew and stood awkward, tugging his dingy backpack off before plopping down to gaze around. His hair hung limp in shoulder length strands like tattered ribbons brushed in cooking oil.
Spying the preacher on the front row of the next section, he grabbed his pack and scooted in to whisper close of his current need. On this day of all days he breezed in, oblivious to guests aplenty, and numerous scholars attending to soak in the words of wisdom.
Bruce, a regular in our down-and-out orbit, hadn’t been seen for six months. But today, like a test of our sincerity, he appeared, innocently distracting us from hard truths.
Or maybe he was sent to emphasize the hard truths?
Would we be annoyed by the diversion?
When the words falling around us preached love for all?
The ageless question lays before us. Who is our neighbor? If Bruce isn’t, who is?
It flows easy, nodding our heads, agreeing with the principals of scripture, and feeling pricked in our pews for those less fortunate. But does the same charitable stream bubble forth when we pass them on the streets, and when they enter our buildings, and disrupt our sermons, and make the “perfect” setting for a sought after speaker– Less. Than. Perfect?
Did God issue a challenge in that moment?
Are we the real McCoy?
Or great pretenders?
Rarely do we have more than one homeless appear on a Sunday. But on that very day, not only did Bruce appear, but also Carl in his wheelchair and a new young woman. All asking for aid, at an inopportune time… But our timing pales foreign to God’s time, and even weary Jesus never turned those away in need…
How transformed would our shattered world be if we and all the earth held the Jesus Creed foremost.
Love God above all else and and love your neighbor as well as yourself.
No envy, and dissension,
No murder, and treachery,
No hate or war,
No worry about a “perfect” setting being tainted by those in need.
Sigh…I think I just described heaven.
While we must live amongst these things for now, we can strive to live above it with,
A heart for the needy,
Our eyes toward our Lord,
And the Jesus Creed on our lips.