How has Jesus messed with you lately?

Jesus shows up
and messes with people’s
preconceived plans
for example
he doesn’t always wash his hands
before he eats
and he doesn’t complain
when a prostitute
washes his feet
and sometimes it seems
like when a group of lepers shouts unclean
Jesus goes running off toward them
instead of running away
oh–and after he touches them
he sits down with the children
and starts to play
all unteacherly
all unpreacherly
and the religious leaders get all screecherly

 

Does this sound like Jesus to you? How has Jesus messed with you lately?

To the Boy with the Red Ukelele

I spotted you as I pulled up next to the school today. Dark-haired boy, wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt. You sat cross-legged on the lawn, strumming a red ukelele. I rolled down the passenger window so I could hear you. It sounded good, a serendipitous slice of live music in my afternoon.

Katie climbed into the back seat and I pointed you out to her. “Oh yeah,” she said, “the ukelele dude.”

“Your school has a unicycle dude and a ukelele dude?”

“Yep.”

“How come I haven’t seen him before?”

“Oh,” Katie said. “Usually he walks home playing his ukelele. He must be getting a ride today.”

All matter-of-factly. As if a red-ukelele-playing elementary student on the school lawn is something to be expected.

To me, though, you were unexpected and altogether wonderful. Play on.

The Nagging Question

Let me rewind a bit in the Lazarus story. To the point where Jesus goes with Mary and Martha to the tomb where Lazarus is buried. There’s a whole group of friends gathered around, grieving with the sisters.

And Jesus grieves, too. Most translations say that “Jesus wept.” One translation says, “He burst into tears.”

That’s what you’d expect a friend to do at a graveside service. But then Jesus does something unexpected.

“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” John 11:39 (NIV)

Okay, so there’s a stone blocking the entrance of the tomb. Jesus tells the people to remove it. Martha objects, understandably so. Lazarus’ body has been in the tomb four days, in the middle eastern heat. You don’t want to open the tomb. It will stink. And really, there’s no point. He’s dead. Four days past the point of no return. You can’t do anything about that.

Oh, but he can.

Jesus convinces them to open up the tomb. And then he calls into the tomb—“Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus comes out. Still wrapped up in the grave clothes, but very much alive. And all that’s left is to unwrap the guy and take him home to dinner.

Here’s the thing: God is in constant pursuit of life, of transformation, of resurrection. And because of that, he is constantly challenging us to open up any part of our hearts that might stink of death and give him access. Give him room to resurrect what’s dead.

You know what? It would have been improper for Martha to expose a decaying corpse. It would have been embarrassing to take that risk in front of the crowd that was gathered. It would have been amazingly difficult to trust this Jesus who had just let her down. And forget opening the tomb for a minute—it would have been wrenching to open her heart to allow even a hint of hope back in.

I’m most of the time reluctant to let Jesus into the dead parts of my heart. To really let him have access to all the things I’m feeling. To all the stink I’ve kept closed up for so long. But you know what? Usually (after a fight), I get to the point where as scary as that is—it’s scarier to stay dead if there’s the possibility of resurrection, the possibility of transformation.

There’s this nagging question that flits around the corners of my mind: What if resurrection isn’t just something that Jesus did centuries ago, but something he does now? What if resurrection isn’t just a piece of Jesus’ history, but part of his character?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” –John 11:25 (NIV)

Jesus says that he is the resurrection and the life. He IS. That means that he embodies resurrection—that in him is the power to bring life where there is death. And if we let Jesus anywhere near our lives, we dare not rule out the possibility that at any moment, Jesus may want to bring life and resurrection to something that is currently dead.

I’m not talking about the people who die in your life. Though I suppose God could do that. I’m not talking about God changing the outside circumstance that wounded your heart. He doesn’t always do that. I’m talking about him transforming your heart itself, whether or not the outside circumstances change.

 

Martha’s Leftovers (a poem)

martha’s leftovers
by kirsten
november 16, 2005

 jesus, if you had been here,
i would not have died

it’s the first thing martha said
and mary too
when jesus finally showed up to bethany
a day late and a dollar short
well, four days late and maybe only fifty cents short,
give him credit for crying at the grave
for raising lazarus from the dead—
not just anyone can pull that off

but who puts their friends
through something like that
i mean really
who the hell thinks it’s okay
when you get the middle of the night
phone call
when it’s for real
your best friend is dying
and you could be there
could actually save the guy’s life
who the hell says into the receiver—
okay, I’ll be there in four days
then hangs up and goes back to sleep

martha doesn’t let jesus off the hook
mary either
martha hears he’s coming
finally
and pounces on him

if you had been here
(you should have been here)
lazarus wouldn’t have died

mary stays camped in the house
betrayed
till he sends for her
and then she vollies forth like her sister

if you had been here
(we called and you didn’t come)
lazarus wouldn’t have died

and so is there any way
lazarus
once unwrapped
once he’d hugged his sisters
maybe even jesus too
sometime later sitting down with jesus
to late night leftovers
of whatever martha had prepared
wouldn’t he have come out with the same thing

 if you had been here
(you said you loved me)
i wouldn’t have died

we all say it to him
don’t we
i do
because we die these horrible deaths
all the time
not even the final one
(that’s maybe easier because
at least you don’t have to do it again)
it’s not that but
all the meantime deaths
the ones we deem unnecessary—
those are the ones that kill us

because resurrection’s cool and all
but not when you have to die first
not when you have to sit
with martha’s leftovers
sit across from jesus
and declare either
your death necessary
or your lord untrustworthy