If you’ve been a regular attender of the faith communities commonly known as ‘churches’ for any period of time you’ll have heard plenty of sermons, talks, exhortations, homilies, addresses from the teaching pastor, minister, priest, lay preacher regarding the Christian faith.
My pastor used to go on for an hour or so perhaps twice a week so I guess that over the 16 years or so that I listened to him I’d absorbed 1664 hours of ‘bible exposition’ between the ages of 15 and 31, when I decided to move on.
Folk now wonder why I can’t drift along to a ‘church’ each Sunday morning, sing a few songs, observe a few necks, hand in my money and listen to a little inspirational message from a professional preacher. Now you know.
Anyway, over those years I’ve never once heard a preacher teach or expound the following series of Yeshua sayings that we’re going to revisit. If you can figure out why send me your thoughts.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they’re saying ‘Look! A gluttonous human and tippler, tribute collectors’ and sinners’ friend’.
In the next few posts I hope to examine some of the relatively unknown sayings of Yeshua, the Galilean prophet whose teaching challenged the civil and religious powers of His day.
If the Divine exists then surely He is an inclusive God. A Being, responsible for the Cosmos and beyond, must love variety and welcome it into its place in the Divine scheme. A Creator Source must by nature, embrace all that has flowed from His Divine Will and Energy. If He is responsible for it all, He must embrace and welcome it all in its totality.
Such was the view of Yeshua bar Yoseph, the first-century, itinerant, Jewish preacher, who burst onto the religious scene proclaiming the inclusive reign of God to his Galilean listeners. However, many of His early followers eventually walked away, disillusioned by such an inclusive vision. The people wanted a Warrior King, steeped in the dualistic Jewish mindset, who’d get rid of the Roman occupation force (them) and restore Jewish independence (us). Yeshua wasn’t going to play their game.
Within the Middle Eastern social norms, hospitality and especially sharing meals with strangers was high on the list. If you ate with someone you liked them and were making a profound statement of relationship. The only trouble was that not everyone got invited. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ mindset had undermined traditional Jewish hospitality in the guise of religious and political morality. Society was split into the never the twain shall meet groupings of ‘the righteous’ and ‘the sinners’. Into such a social scene stepped the Nazarene with His radical message of Divine inclusiveness.
Traveling around as an itinerant preacher, Yeshua got many dinner invitations from His listeners. Sometimes, a call from a curious Pharisee to share a few hours theological discussion around a nice meal. Sometimes a call from the local brothel, where the girls wanted to hear more about Yeshua’s take on His Abba God, through his gift of storytelling.No matter what the host location, Yeshua would have been wined and dined.
However,in accepting the invitation of Jewish sex-workers and swindling government custom officials Yeshua was making a big, big statement. He and His Abba God didn’t wait for moral change before accepting such ‘sinners’. Their invitation revealed their true spiritual condition. That was enough for Yeshua and He believed, for His God.
Unfortunately this new radical inclusion, outside the moral conformity of Torah observance, wasn’t welcomed with open arms by all God followers. The rule-keeping brigade were distraught. This couldn’t be right! Yahweh had given the Torah to separate the sheep from the goats! Now this Galilean upstart was eating and drinking with the goats!
The insightful tale of Yeshua lodging for the night at Zaccheus’ richly furnished apartment, backs up this radical new approach to religious ‘outcasts’. The vertically challenged Zac had no qualms about welcoming the Galilean rabbi into His family circle. The amazing fact is that Yeshua wanted to stay with him in the first place. As a top customs official, Zac would have milked the average Jew for as much as he could, by fair means and foul. No wonder he was rich. Such a national traitor and extortionist would have been classified well outside the ‘righteous’ camp.
I wonder what the two men talked about over dinner? Anyway the outcome was almost unbelievable. Zac decided to clean up his life by offering half of his wealth to the local poor. If he’d defrauded anyone, he promised to return four times as much cash to his victims. Amazing! What had triggered such seemingly reckless behaviour? Had Yeshua laid some religious heavies on the little rich guy? I think not. What caused the change then?
In my opinion it was the simple fact that Zac felt comfortable in Yeshua’s presence. He enjoyed the holy man’s company and somehow felt fully accepted for, perhaps’ the first time in his life. Yeshua’s reply to his criminal host changed the religious world forever. ‘ Today salvation has been coming to this home’ What a reply. No rules, baptisms,rituals,temple-attendance were required. By welcoming the Divine Presence resident within Yeshua, a heart transplant had occurred; a Divine rewiring of Zac’s tortured psyche, leading to the surrender of his ill-gotten gains.
I believe that such a welcoming of Divine Presence in the form of Holy Breath/Spirit is the antidote to the paralysing poison of any religious legalism we may be locked into. The power to live free of attachments is in the welcome, the outstretched arms of the human heart. May I suggest that ‘salvation’ or wholeness is less to do with Christian creeds and belief systems but an openness to the whispering approach of the Divine.
Isn’t it ironic that religious systems that claim the name of Yeshua, practice the very dualistic model of human classification that Yeshua Himself loved to break down. The believer/non believer Christian paradigm helps no-one, only reinforcing the old self-righteous religious judgement of one’s fellow-man. In my experience, we’re all children of the Divine Father whether we know it or not. It’s more fun knowing so why don’t we enjoy our birthright and let the ‘righteous’ do their own thing.