Another Round on the House
Mark 2:13-22 (Daily Office, 2/23)
Jesus’ religious contemporaries found him to be utterly exasperating. Nothing he did made sense to them.
Consider the surprising vignettes found in Mark 2:13-22. (It is the Daily Office Gospel reading for today.) In the space of a few verses we find Jesus inviting a despised tax collector to be one of his inner circle. Then he is the guest of honor at a large party filled with moral rejects – “sinners and tax collectors.” He shares the same table with them, and seems proud to call them friends!
What kind of Teacher was he? What kind of movement was he building? It was like nothing else they’d ever seen. Pharisees fasted; so did John’s disciples. But Jesus’ disciples feasted. Why?
“Well,” Jesus seems to say, “The kingdom I’m announcing is like a wedding. It’s time to celebrate. A new day is dawning. The time for fasting will come; today is a time for feasting! Another round on the house!"
What’s going on here? Why such a party?
In Jesus’ kingdom, everyone is welcome. The world is not divided between good guys and bad guys; it is divided between those who know they need Jesus, and those who think they don’t. As he said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Those who recognize their sin will gladly sit at Jesus’ table; those in denial will not.
When I think about the Incarnate Son of God sharing a laugh and a drink with religious rejects, I can’t help but smile. It sounds a lot like the unconventional church we have here at the Buffalo Chip. No wonder Jesus likes to hang out with us on Sunday mornings. We’re his kind of people!
If you had told me forty years ago that someday I would be pastoring a cowboy church which met at a bar, I would never have believed it. And yet, here I am, and loving every minute of it.
Because we meet in a bar, I am invited to say the opening prayer every week at the Chip’s live Bull-riding event. How many pastors have the chance to invite a thousand party people to church every Friday night?
Because we meet in a bar, one day the New York Times and the Arizona Republic came calling. Before we were a year old, people all over the world heard about that crazy saloon-church combo in Cave Creek.
Because we meet in a bar, tax collectors and sinners feel right at home at our table. And I, for one, am proud to share a meal with you.
This Lenten season, as we take an honest look at our sins and our sicknesses, we don’t do it as an exercise in self-flagellation. Nor do we do it with a view to self-congratulation. Neither of these responses are appropriate, for both of them have their root in pride.
Instead, we do it with joy and thanksgiving, for Jesus himself is the guest of honor at our table. He is the Bridegroom: he loves us unconditionally. He is the Great Physician: his death heals our sickness. He is the Lord of the Feast: his new wine has turned our mourning into dancing, and our fasting into feasting. Another round on the house!
Daily Office for February 23 (Morning readings)
Psalm 40, 54
1 Corinthians 3:16-23