Wednesday, Dana and I were going to hang out at a friend’s house, but he got caught in traffic and we ended up on his side of town with time on our hands. We saw a wine bar, and went in to wait for our friend’s traffic to die down. I am not as much of a wine person as Dana. I got a St. Arnold Christmas Seasonal. Dana got a pinot from the Willamette Valley. As we always do, we shared both. The first time we traded glasses, I put my nose into the glass and the tears started to well up, to the point that it took a second for my throat to go back down enough to taste.
When the liquid hit my taste buds, the emotional response was overwhelming. I could smell Oregon. I could mentally sit among fields of lavender and laugh with Dana through tears about the time we met Justin and Leah, a psychiatrist and a lawyer, at the winery. We remembered the times we shared as members among the honeybees and grapes. It was beautiful, and this morning, my mind has been wandering on it………….
At this point in the story, John has been imprisoned but not executed. He sends his (John’s) disciples to speak to Jesus (important to distinguish they are not of Christ’s first string). John wants to ask him if he is really the one he’s supposed to be waiting for. He wrestles with doubt because it takes time for belief to become action when you’re pondering a question that large. Theologians have accused John of doubt; to me, that just takes things a little too far.
Forgive John his doubt, and use it. Jesus is John’s best painting of his own cognitive dissonance. This is his cousin, someone he’s grown up with. He doesn’t believe, and yet, he doesn’t not believe, either. He unfortunately does not live long enough to see whether he was right or not. He, however, receives an assurance that reads as poetry, and one day I will have it memorized even if I have to tattoo it to my palm to achieve it. Jesus says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” To me, this is the most important mission statement in the whole Bible.
It clearly tells people why being a follower of Christ is important. You are volunteering to move the self out of the way to achieve understanding and peace. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Christ as well, it matters if my willingness to change my behavior encourages you to step up and change yours. It took a while for me to realize that was all Christianity had the power to do for anyone. Change their lives if people were willing.
Since people translate self-actualization in different ways, the Bible is interpreted that many ways as well. But at its core, most people don’t understand that now, they ARE the gospel writers. Their worship experience is their thread back to the one who said good things were exploding all over the place because through his ministry, people were seeing themselves with new eyes!
As I told my friend James this morning, people don’t respond to direct questions. They respond to direct answers. People do not volunteer information about themselves. They slowly unpack themselves layer by layer while they’re doing something else.
In my own ministry, I’ve examined my own pain and it has allowed others to examine theirs. People have metaphysically joined me as I’ve stood hoping to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Nowhere is that more evident in the Anglican Communion. We all strive to touch at the same time when we go to the rail for Communion.
When the liquid hits our taste buds, the emotional response is overwhelming. We can smell Jerusalem. We can mentally sit in the Upper Room with the extraordinary man we’ve known since he was a baby. We can sit in the miracle of having met him, known him, and shared a meal.
We can go home in a single sip.