|Posted by chesterlanducc on February 2, 2017 at 6:20 PM|
One of our newer members shared with me a book which begins with a story about a man named Paul who is leaving a business trip in Brooklyn with several of his co-workers. As they leave the front door of the building they see an empty cab on the street, which in NYC is the equivalent of winning the lottery, so they rush towards it yelling for the cap to wait.
In their hurry they inadvertently knock over a small fruit stand on the corner. Paul realizing what happened stops half way between the fruit stand and the cab. His co-workers yell to him “get in the cab—you’re going to miss your flight”. Paul instead looks back at the toppled fruit stand and tells his co-workers to go on without him—“I’ll catch up” he shouts.
As Paul reaches down and begins to help the woman pick up some of the fruit he sees tears streaming down her face, and what more, he notices for the first time that she is blind. He apologizes for having knocked over the stand and after helping her clean up the mess, he puts some money in her hand to pay for the damaged fruit. As Paul begins to leave, the woman yells to him and says, “Mister, are you Jesus?” Paul turns back towards her humbly and replies, “No, no I am not.” The woman continues, “I only ask because as I heard my fruit falling all over the ground I prayed, Jesus help me!”
Today we hear those immortal words of Jesus, the beatitudes, the timeless proclamation of a world turned upside down—the weak and the oppressed are strong and theirs is the Kingdom of God, the meek are mighty, peacemakers are called the children of God, those who mourn are comforted, and those who show mercy and compassion receive it in kind.
In the time of Jesus, just as is now, society often lifted up the powerful, the wealthy, the arrogant, those concerned primarily with themselves over others—but today, this day, Jesus says, no—no, it is the leper, the widow, the blind woman behind the fruit stand, the good Samaritan, the outcaste, the humble, the good—these are the ones that have a special place of honor in the kingdom of God.
Jesus calls us to leave those boats and fishing nets behind—those instruments of safety and security that have served us well but that often distract us from following Jesus. Society tells us to think of ourselves first, to hop in that cab and let the woman at the fruit stand fend for herself. But the beatitudes tell us to go back—to go back and be in relationship with this woman, because in her, we encounter Jesus—in loving her, we love God.
In our story, because Paul stops to show decency to someone, he misses his flight home that night. But, as he lays in his hotel bed with the t.v. on in the background, the same question enters his head over and over again: “When was the last time someone confused you for Jesus? ” (repeat than pause)
Here we are, like Paul, standing somewhere halfway between that cab to the airport—and someone who needs us to be descent—not perfect—not a saint—but just someone who needs us to be descent—someone who needs us to Christian. Our friends, our co-workers are calling to us—come on, get into the cab, you’re going to miss your flight—and there we stand.
Jesus calls us to leave the boat—to leave the cab, to leave those fishing nets behind. Jesus calls us to leave the comfort and security of looking out for ourselves first and foremost and invites us to look out for others—to love others as ourselves. This is what the beatitudes are all about—loving others as God loves them—not just some of them, not just some of the time, and not just when it is convenient for us.
It’s often hard to put other’s needs ahead of our own. It’s hard to say go on without me. It’s hard to watch that cab drive away knowing we won’t make it home tonight. But, for the woman whose livelihood has been scattered, taking a few minutes to do the descent thing—to be in relationship with a stranger—to show compassion and justice—it makes all the difference.
Like Paul, I can imagine us as a faith community, asking this question of ourselves today—when was the last time someone confused us for Jesus?
Thanks be to God for God’s still speaking voice.