When Jesus messes up our plans, Part 2 (Or, perhaps, Peripheral People 1)

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I have asked this before, and I probably will again, because it is a really good start-thinking-about-what-it-means-to-be-a-follower question. Yes, that sentence did set a record for most hyphens in one compound adjective.

What does your Jesus look like?

Not the stained-glass guy behind the baptistery, but the one who walked this earth 2,000 years ago. What did he look like? How did he sound? Did he like the foods you like? How did he smell? Would he have fit in with your friends? At your church? Did he have good manners?

Think about it for a minute while we go somewhere else . . .

My wife, Susan, recently became involved in efforts to restore the old downtown of our small community. It was a beautiful place 60+ years ago, but then the four-lane came through a few blocks away, and the businesses shuttered one-by-one. Think really bad, decaying, abandoned, hardhat only dereliction.

But now we want it back, so  a group of “concerned citizens” are making some real progress in getting it there. Long way to go, but progress.

One evening last week, as part of getting to know the neighborhood, Susan led her committee on a walking tour of the streets—and alleys—of the downtown.

And that led to some unexpected encounters.

At the back of the abandoned buildings are some very bottom-of-the-market apartments. Apartments that most of her committee did not know existed. They’re populated by people—families—many living on the fringes of society, and certainly beyond the circle of community that I draw.

As they walked down an alley, Susan took the time to stop and introduce herself and a committee member or two to the chance encounters.

A single mother with a diapered toddler, blonde ringlets tumbling down her little neck.

An elementary-school girl who spun and danced to her own music.

Children playing in the dirt.

Perhaps the definition of community for everyone had to change. As a wide-eyed committee member whispered to Susan, “I didn’t know this was here. I was more comfortable before…”

Back to the question of the hour:  What does your Jesus look like?

These are the people who were Jesus’ context, much more so than my stained-glass community. He called them “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”

So if I don’t’ get it, maybe what is wrong is my picture of him. Maybe I need to re-identify Jesus.

The Lord I talk to in my prayer time is the brother of the filthy kid on the streets of Brazil.

His sister is the little girl in the brothel.

His family lives on the back alleys of Jefferson City, Tennessee… a short walk from my own home.

Has Jesus messed up your plans lately—or removed your blinders?

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