Jesus Stories #1
They cast uncertain looks at us as we came in the door, but when I gave the name of our home denomination we received a warm welcome.
In fact, at the end of the service I was asked to come up to the front of church and give a short word to the congregation about our purposes in the country, along with a hymn from our own church. Not exactly the kind of “stay in the background and observe and learn” sort of start I was hoping for in our first month and first visit to church in our new country!
After my introduction, the congregation was told that we would be the guests of honor at the Feast of St. John that was held after church, and we were urged to sit down in two chairs while most of the congregation stood to eat, making due with whatever surfaces were available.
During that feast, a small band of darker-skinned locals in threadbare clothes approached the church. Most were kids. They got as far as the gate and looked like they really thought they might get food, but then they were shooed away empty-handed. I watched this from my seat of honor, with more food than I could even get down. I didn’t do anything.
Once I heard some folk sharing what they called “Jesus Stories”, moments when they felt a story from the Gospels was happening in their own life. I’m going to share my own such stories here, and would be happy to share yours as well.
Unfortunately, the passage that this particular incident reminded me of is James 2:1-13, where James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, lays bare the differences in how the church treats the wealthy and the poor.
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and becomes judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.