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Leftover Pizza and Dirty Towels – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith NelsonMatthew 9: 9-13

Jesus saves.

I believe that to be true. Probably, so do you. We believe that Jesus saves us from sin – our own and the sins of the whole world. Jesus saves us from death: by his Incarnation, by his freely given human life, and by his freely chosen death on the cross. Jesus saves us from the worst in ourselves: from our daily blindness, ignorance, resentment and failure to love.  Jesus saves. For us, that is good news.

But just imagine that somewhere there is a person who doesn’t believe he is in need of saving. The message that “Jesus saves” rings hollow in his ears. In fact, he and his many friends hear this proposition and yawn, or chuckle, or roll their eyes. The offer of a Savior is not what they need.

Jesus heals.

I believe that, also, to be true. Probably, so do you. We believe that Jesus, our Savior, was also a Healer at heart, spending himself, spending his life bending down and reaching out to touch the leper, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the bleeding and broken and forsaken of the world. In healing bodies, he healed hearts and souls, and lives even now to do the same. Jesus heals. For us, that is good news.

Our imaginary friend doesn’t believe he is in need of saving. But if pressed, he might admit that, in some sense, he is in need of healing. Deep down, he has felt the dis-ease of living – that feeling when he rests from all his motion and commotion that things are not entirely right, that something is off kilter, out of balance. A bruise, a burn, an open cut throbs beneath the surface. He longs to say, “I’m sorry,” but to whom? If he were to come across Psalm 51; if he were to read the words, “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”; he might remove the bandage from the wound within and yield himself, even if for one trembling moment, to God’s healing touch.

But healing hurts. After all, the wound has been there so long. It’s easy to give up on the course of treatment.

OK, Jesus says. I’ll meet you where you are.

Jesus meets us where we are.

Jesus does not wait for us to “get our act together.” He doesn’t wait for us to clean the snot off our noses or put on a clean shirt. He certainly does not wait for us to solve the mystery of human suffering, or articulate an airtight personal theology, or establish an invariable routine of daily prayer. He does not wait for us to prove that we deserve his love.

If your experience is anything like mine, here’s what Jesus does:

On a Thursday night at 9pm – when your heart feels as empty as your refrigerator – Jesus pulls a chair up to the dinner table and helps himself to a piece of your leftover pizza. Jesus doesn’t care that you didn’t cook, that you didn’t even know he was planning a visit, or that you don’t have any clean towels. Shhh. I’ll meet you where you are, he whispers.

Jesus met Andrew and Peter by the Sea of Galilee, mending their fishing nets, because that’s where they were. He met Zacchaeus standing in a sycamore tree; he met Mary Magdalene in the prison of her own mind, possessed by seven demons; he met Paul on the road to Damascus intent upon persecuting the early Church. Jesus met Matthew sitting at the tax booth. And he met all of Matthew’s friends at dinner in Matthew’s house – a group of people who had likely never had dinner with a rabbi and felt disillusioned and cynical about the institutional tradition that had labeled and judged them. That’s just where they were.

But, you see: that is how Jesus saves. That is where Jesus heals. Jesus saves us and heals us by meeting us where we are.

If we let Jesus do this; if we open the door to let him in, even once; if we let him eat our leftover pizza and use our dirty towels; we can be certain he will return the invitation. He will invite us to be with him where he is. Jesus takes us where we are, as we are – and, before we know anything about it, summons out what we shall be, one moment of meeting at a time.

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1 Comment

  1. Leslie on July 15, 2018 at 06:48

    Thank you, Br. Keith. Here is an authentic icon for my life: Jesus, leftover pizza and dirty towels.

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