Much of the credit for this post (including the title) goes to my friend, Andy Scott. Andy came out a few weeks ago and preached on John 11, when Jesus is anointed by Mary. She washes his feet with a pint of perfume and her hair (scandalous-only her husband is supposed to see her hair). Of course, Judas is furious, saying, “she just wasted all of that money that we could have used to help the poor.” Granted, Judas is only concerned with the cut he’s going to skim off the top, but he’s answering the way he thinks Jesus would answer.
Well the sermon stuck with me because honestly, it’s the way I think Jesus should answer too. Why accept such a lavish gift? But that’s because, like many people, I’m trapped inside what Andy calls the “Judas mentality.” To paraphrase him, in the Judas mentality poverty is a problem to be solved. For Jesus the poor are people with whom we engage. It is not simply an “issue,” but people with faces and names. People Jesus loves. For Judas it’s a metrics game; it’s an issue of more: more money, legislation, righteousness, etc. If we only had more we could solve this issue. And those things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they become a problem when we divorce them from relationships with people.
If there was ever something in danger of slipping into the Judas mentality, friends, it is intentional community. Let me tell you, programming is so much easier than relationship. We do love the metrics game. Programming has specifics: times, dates, consequences for not showing up, etc. There’s an element of control with programming that you don’t have in relationships. Not if they’re healthy relationships, anyway. In Todd at least, up in the mountains, it’s much easier to try to start programs to help people than to actually go out and meet people and form relationships.
Relational work is messy. It’s difficult to explain without sounding like a 26 year old pie-in-the-sky idealist (who me?). In the house we call it terriblegreat. When people politely ask how the house is going instead of pausing and awkwardly trying to come up with a phrase that somehow sums up what we’re doing, I’ve taken to saying “terriblegreat.” But it’s what we’re called to. We’re called to relationships with each other and, the fact is, when any one of us is missing the body suffers.
So why accept such a lavish gift? Because that’s what we’re called to do first of all: love each other lavishly and scandalously. The legislation and money and resource raising and all that can come later (and I trust it will come when our hearts break for people we love), but first we learn to love each other deeply (read:intentionally). Without this, we’re lost.
Please pray for us as we figure out the future of our program and how we can best love each other well. (No seriously-add us to your prayer lists and prayer boards and bring us up during morning prayer at worship). We need the whole body on board to figure this thing out together. And when we get off track, we’re going to come back together and wash each other’s feet, and try again.