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
Anyone who champions the marginalized will be despised, and hey, they can kill you for that, and Jesus knows all about that. I mean seriously folks, if Jesus came back here today, he would close Ft. Bliss, stop all wars, shut down all of industrial civilization until it had dealt with climate change, and not only would he be serving in a soup kitchen, he’d be healing everyone on the spot who needed healing. As a recent TV news anchor recently remarked, “Jesus never asked a leper for a co-pay.” All of this would definitely get Jesus detained indefinitely as a terrorist, an enemy of the state, and probably executed for high crimes. Empires and patriarchal systems MUST silence and discredit such voices.
I am not sure that that Jesus’s messages make people feel uncomfortable. I think His messages are simply antithetical to human nature. It is our nature to be greedy, selfish, and unforgiving and apparently war-like. It is divine to be otherwise. Now the forgiveness concept in particular does seem divine to me. Victor Frankl had his life taken away (profession, house, personal belongings, wife, parents, unborn child) and still managed to forgive those who did it. So some of us humans have divine qualities. I still find it difficult to forgive those who enjoyed health insurance while taking mine away. But then I remember the poem, “Were you there when they nailed by Lord to a tree?”. Although I think that the soldiers had at least some idea of what they were doing, He said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. Dr. Patterson said that if Jesus were here today he would have compassion for women seeking abortion. During Catholic Mass I often heard the intention uttered “For an end to abortion”. I never heard anyone ask for an end to war. I have not really heard the Church speak out against it, though war causes many innocent victims to die. Maybe we could take the funding for all the wars and put it towards funding to help the most vulnerable (orphans, homeless). The problem is that we are worried that other countries want to kill us. And some of them do. And, do we need to forgive them? Not trying to be provocative here. Just thoughts with which I wrestle.
I may not know what God’s real words were meant when the bible was written back then…but if we were to follow all of God’s teaching and chose which one of the verses in the bible we can apply to our lives nowadays well we will have a huge huge debate…meaning: in Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians? . I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them? I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die? I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? we will never know what to do or how to apply these things in our lives…I just try to follow the rules and pray I am doing it right…I will not judge or hope not to be judge…
As always, thank you Rich for sharing your insights and the invitation to share our own musings. I love that my church makes me uneasy. I love that I do get uncomfortable when I react in a selfish manner. I love that Jesus gave me the Holy Spirit so that I can continue to be uncomfortable when I am not all that God designed me to be. The world today is much the same as the world of the Bible with all the legalism, intolerance, injustice and hatred. If Jesus were here today, I think he would be doing exactly what he was doing in biblical times. He would be hanging out with the sinners and saints, the wealthy and poor, the healthy and hindered alike showing us all how to live a life of love and abundance. He would be shining a light on today’s Pharisees’ and temple money changers’ hypocrisy. Jesus IS here today doing all this with love and forgiveness and compassion. We see him in healers like you Rich, we see him in hugs from a child, in nature, in restored relationships, in hospice care, and in ourselves as we learn, stumble and grow closer to him.
Thanks for your comment, Michele. I hope you are well and recovering from all your travels.