On most Sundays, I publish a brief Sunday Lesson. It’s nothing more than an observation or an idea or useful application from something I’m studying. I feel deeply blessed and deeply responsible for writing this. I schedule the posts to publish at 1:35. Don’t worry about the time: you can sign up to receive a notification any time I publish something. I’m up for all comments and try to respond to them all. Be forewarned that I reserve Sundays for my family. It’s a work in progress, but a goal we’re all growing into. So, if I don’t respond, I’m probably playing chess with my daughter or watching lousy TV with my wife. On an outstanding day, I might catch a couple innings of Braves baseball. With my wife, of course. It’s Sunday.
A caveat: this is not a teaching or an observation about what Jesus was purported to have said. There are no Greek tenses to parse. It’s a question that I don’t know the answer to, and I’m glad for you to tell me what you think…
We spent last weekend in Charleston for a swim meet. I can never figure it out, but we have to be at the pool at about 6:30 in the morning, and we stay until around 8:30 or 9:00 at night. There’s plenty of free time between, but after three days, it starts to weigh on everyone.
We got to our motel at 9:00 on Saturday, and the girls decided that the greatest thing in the world would be for dad to run to Waffle House for dinner. I grab my wallet and leave while they snuggle in and flip the channel.
Waffle House is only doing takeout, but there are lots of folks just hanging around inside. I’m savvy enough the figure out that ‘Take out only’ is code for ‘you can’t sit in a booth.’ I line up behind this youngish, shortish guy who’s holding a list of about fourteen dinners, and he has to order each one and pay for it individually. I’m positive his friends sent him alone because they know there’s no way he can pull this feat off without getting beat up.
I’m waiting, moving my wrist band from one wrist to the next to remind myself of grace and mercy, and some guy walks in with a cigarette hanging from his lips. He trips and falls into me, and I’m pretty sure he’s downed at least a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry. He steps in front of the line, and the place erupts.
“Hey, man,” he says, his arms raised like he’s arrested. “I just need a light for my smoke!” As if it were choreographed, the cashier and two cooks reach into their aprons and pull out lighters, each one holding theirs high as if Jimmy Page is tuning up for a solo. The guy leans his cigarette into a flame and sucks a deep drag, and then goes to sit in a booth. I’m confused, and after about the third drag, one of the cooks yells, “Dude? What’re ya doin’? You can’t sit, and ya can’t smoke that thing in here.”
The smoker jumps up. “Sorry man. I forgot it’s take out only.”
“Crap with that,” the cook says. “You can’t smoke inside! You gotta go outside!” He looked at everyone else, shaking his head. The smoker nodded and thanked everyone for a light, and then left as stumbling as he was when he came in.
I order dinner and then sit at the bar waiting for my bags. The place is a comedy club and everyone is having fun. Between scoops, the cook comes over to me at the bar. “Dude”, he says, resting on his elbows, looking around, and coming close. “You got any Jack or anything like that in your car? I could use a drink.” I must look like a guy who keeps a bottle close.
I laughed, not sure he’s serious. “Man, I got nothin’.”
“Bummer,” he said, grabbing his spatula.
In a few minutes, another cook brings me my bag, and I got up to leave. This was the most fun I’ve had all weekend and, maybe it was a little dramatic, but I set my bag on a stool and raised a hand toward the cooks.
“Guys,” I said. “G bless every one of you. You guys are all crazy, and you’re the last ones working in town tonight. Thanks for the meal, and who knows, I might be back.” They all laughed and, weirdly, they all blessed me, too. And no one pulled a gun. I grabbed my bag and left, pushing on the glass door to go to my car, hoping I wouldn’t be mugged.
I sat in my car for a minute, wondering What Would Jesus Do. I know what he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t pull a tract out of his toga of the four or six or however many spiritual laws there are. I can tell you that would turn off every person there. I don’t know what Jesus would do, but I know two things: one is that, when Jesus showed up, leaders gnashed their teeth. I know, too, that everyone else – the workers, the cashier, the cooks, that portly kid ordering a hundred meals – I know that their hearts would burn in Jesus’ presence, wanting to be right with G and with Jesus. I know that Jesus didn’t offer wholeness and health and belonging, but instead, those things just followed Him wherever He went.
I really don’t know what I would have done to bring any of this to the Waffle House. I don’t know what I would have done differently or have said or even what it would look like for Jesus to go to the Waffle House that night. Would it have been different if He was in front of me ordering twenty dinners? Would it have been different if He had been the cashier? What would he have said to the cook who was looking for a drink?
What does it mean for Jesus to bring wholeness and belonging to people? These were all good guys and gals. They could probably use a higher wage and better health insurance and they probably whine about their hours. But what would it mean for Jesus to come in and change their lives? Is this what Temple leaders wondered about? Give the workers an extra fish, and they’ll shut up? But here comes Jesus, and He gives them such a new life that they change the world?
I don’t know.
By way of explanation, I label myself as an agnostic Christian. I attend a Southern Baptist church and am comfortable with Roman Catholic and Orthodox theology and all kinds of Protestant thought. For Bibles, I generally use the Jerusalem Bible, the English Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible. A favorite verse is Micah 6:8 where the prophet says:
G has already told you what is right and what to do: do what is right, love loyalty, and walk humbly with G.