This morning my nephew Justin Murphy sent me an article about Pastor Jeremiah Steepek. This man was to be introduced as the new pastor at a large church. He disguised himself as a homeless man and walked into the service. He was shunned again and again. When the new pastor was introduced, up walks Pastor Steepek, who then proceeds to read from the Gospel Jesus’ pointed words about what will happen to those who ignored Him when He was in need: “When I was hungry, you didn’t give me food.” The congregation became quiet and obviously uncomfortable.
A gutsy move by the pastor. Hope he gets to keep his job! Unfortunately many religious professionals who actually voice Jesus’ message are not well-tolerated because we American Christians don’t like to be made uncomfortable. We don’t like to be reminded that we are supposed to welcome and embrace the marginalized. We don’t like to be reminded of the dangers of wealth. We certainly don’t like being told to love our enemies.
Pope Francis, too, is coming under attack because he chooses not to focus on homosexuality, abortion, or contraception but instead is reminding us not to judge anyone and to reach out to the disenfrachised with compassion. Also an unpopular message. There are vocal portions of my own Catholic Church upset with Francis that he is not condemning the gays, the women seeking abortions, or the millions of Catholics practicing birth control.
Pastor Steepek’s message makes me uncomfortable. So does Pope Francis. But then so does Jesus. I am constantly confronted to examine being judgmental. I am challenged to look at my attachment to stuff. I am invited to release my resentments. I am reminded that I can’t be a followerof Jesus only when I feel like it.
Those WWJD wristbands were very polular some years ago. What would Jesus do if He were to show up these days? I suspect you’d find Him standing in line at a soup kitchen or holding the hand of a man dying of AIDS or sneaking through the desert with other desparate illegals trying to find some safety and opportunity. And I suspect He would applaud Pastor Steepek
Reflection: 1. What aspects of the Christian message make you uneasy?
Further Reading:The story about Pastor Steepek can be found at http://ireporterstv.co/church-members-mistreat-homeless-man-in-church-unaware-it-is-their-pastor-in-disguise/
Afterword:Since I wrote this piece, it has been pointed out to me that the story about Pastor Steepek may be more of a modern urban legend. the story does indeed bear similarity to a novel titled In His Stepsby CM Sheldon as well as the little-known War Prayer by Mark Twain. Maybe it was really Jesus who showed up in that church. Judge for yourself whether the story of Pastor Steepek, legend or not, speaks to you in any way