a paradigm parable

This isn’t the “Part II” I intended to post, but perhaps I’ll save that for a rainy day. I found this post this morning and thought I’d repost it here. Via The Parish.

1 And it came to pass that Jesus came to America, not in the way of Joseph Smith’s story; rather, he showed up at Chili’s in a Southern state. He was tired and hungry and wanted bread and wine. 2 When he discovered the wine available at Chili’s, he immediately left that place and went to a local restaurant with a better menu. 3 The place was frequented by many different people of various races and religions (some having no religion) and political leanings. 4 He sat at a table in the rear of the bar and ordered a red table wine (under $15) and a basket of bread. 5 After the server brought the bread and wine, she asked if she could get Jesus an appetizer or lunch. 6 “Nay,” Jesus replied. “But please, invite all the patrons to come have bread and wine with me.”


7 The servant girl was taken aback but did as Jesus requested. 8 Upon hearing the news, many of the patrons refused to go into the bar area of the restaurant for fear that they would become ritually unclean or because they mistranslated a verse in Thessalonians about abstaining from evil or because they thought Jesus was just testing their faith to see if they would actually drink something that they knew to be forbidden. 9 (They were possessors of the truth, after all.) 10 Some of the patrons did enter the bar, but when Jesus offered them bread and wine, they insisted on knowing the religious or political or sexual affiliations of the other diners before they would eat. 11 “It is my bread and my wine, and I may give it to whomsoever I choose,” Jesus explained. 12 “Nay, ’tis not true,” said the white, Christian, conservative Republican. “Only those people who have confessed you as Savior and Lord can take bread and wine with us.” 13 “Nay, ’tis equally untrue,” said the white, Catholic, moderate Democrat. “Only those people who are in the Communion of the Holy Roman Church may take bread and wine together.” 14 “I’m afraid I have to disagree with both of them,” said the goateed emergent church planter. “We should all sit down together and share bread and wine, and afterwards we’ll paint a picture about our experience.” 15 The lone black evangelical scoffed at the young emergent church planter. “Foolishness,” he said. “We can’t have bread and wine today because it isn’t the first Sunday of the month. Besides, we should be drinking grape juice. 16 “Amen!” Said the Baptist, the Nazarene, and the Pentecostal. 17 “Why are we even in here?” Asked the Baptist. “We should be in the restaurant, not in the bar.” 18 “Don’t be such a teetotaler,” said the white middle-aged Calvinist. “You’re here because God predestined you to be here so there is nothing you could have done about it anyway. I would like to know how many tulip petals you ascribe to before I drink with you though.” 19 “I’m not drinking,” the Baptist shouted. 20 “Amen!” Said the Nazarene. 21 “And I believe three of the tulip petals,” the Baptist said. 22 “That’s like being 3/5 pregnant,” said the Calvinist. 23 “I’ll take care of this,” said the political organizer. “I have experience working campaigns, so I’ll organize this meeting so that everyone can get what they want.” 24 “Whose campaign did you work?” The Pentecostal asked. 25 The organizer tossed out the name of a Democratic legislator. 26 “You’re pro-abortion!” The Pentecostal shouted. 27 “No, I’m a pro-life Democrat,” the organizer replied. 28 “No such thing,” said the Calvinist. “All ideas have consequences, so if you support the party, you’re supporting their platform.” 29 “Well you support the killing of innocent Iraqis,” the emergent church planter said. 30 A gay white liberal finally chimed in: “Aren’t we supposed to be taking communion with Jesus?” 31 All the other Christians looked horrified, but only the Baptist would speak what was on everyone’s mind. “We are not taking communion with a homosexual.” 32 “I would like to take communion with all of you,” Jesus said, but no one heard him. 33 He munched his bread in silence and had one glass of wine too many before going in search of a place to pray.

Comments (6)

  1. Jon A

    That reminds me of a poem introduced to me by Larry A. Bell, a wonderful teacher and powerful, powerful person:

    The Cold Within
    by James Patrick Kinney

    Six humans trapped by happenstance
    In dark and bitter cold
    Each possessed a stick of wood–
    Or so the story’s told.

    Their dying fire in need of logs,
    But the first one held hers back,
    For, of the faces around the fire,
    She noticed one was black.

    The next one looked cross the way
    Saw one not of his church,
    And could not bring himself to give
    The fire his stick of birch.

    The third one sat in tattered clothes
    He gave his coat a hitch,
    Why should his log be put to use
    To warm the idle rich?

    The rich man just sat back and thought
    Of wealth he had in store,
    And keeping all that he had earned
    From the lazy, shiftless poor.

    The black man’s face bespoke revenge
    As the fire passed from his sight,
    For he saw in his stick of wood
    A chance to spite the white.

    And the last man of this forlorn group
    Did nought except for gain,
    Giving just to those who gave
    Was how he played the game,

    Their sticks held tight in death’s stilled hands
    Was proof enough of sin;
    They did not die from cold without–
    They died from cold within.

    Reply
  2. Lora (Post author)

    Jon, thanks for sharing that.

    Reply
  3. SteveK

    So, even in this story, the only ones who can take communion with Jesus are the ones who will accept His kind of peace. They exclude themselves by determining what kind of Jesus they want, which is different than who He is. I know that’s not exactly what you intended when you posted this, but isn’t art in the eye of the beholder?

    Steve K

    Reply
  4. SteveK

    Excellent post and poem, though, I must say.

    Reply
  5. greg

    Steve,

    When I wrote the piece I had just finished dealing with two trolls on my own blog who felt perfectly free to exclude everyone who did not meet their own self-determined criteria. I think it’s always been the way of the kingdom to be open only to those who understand the kind of peace/openness that Jesus embodied. It’s not that God wants to exclude; it’s that we do so naturally, based on cognitive dissonance, prejudice, etc. Even as an ex-Christian I resonate with the anabaptist understanding of kingdom. The exclusivity of anabaptism has always been predicated on openness to the kingdom, which is to say, all who are willing can come, but there is a politic to the kingdom. (Yes, I read way too much Yoder in grad school.) But they understand the exclusivity to be necessary to the grammar of the kingdom, because to force a different socially embodied ethic on top of the kingdom, makes it a kingdom of the world with the simulacra of the kingdom of God.

    Reply
  6. SteveK

    I agree, Greg. Inasmuch as there is a criteria– and there must, or else Jesus wouldn’t make such a point that the Pharisees were excluded– it is Jesus who determines that criteria, and he says little that fits into our modern theological categories. This is why I generally agree with the post. We tend to exclude ourselves from Jesus when we look to denominations, theologies or cultural biases to speak Jesus’ mind for Him.

    Steve K

    Reply

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