Two weeks ago, in a small Texas town, a mother closed her car door and walked away, forgetting about her child in the car seat. Five hours passed. Finally she remembered. Her little boy would have turned two this month. And we say, “I would never do that.”
The FBI director, James Comey, announced yesterday that his bureau would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face criminal charges regarding how she (mis)handled classified documents while serving as secretary of state. Even though she had been "extremely careless," Comey said that her actions were not worthy of prosecution. In other words, Hillary goes unpunished.
We go into hiding for various reasons. We’re running from something or someone. For some, it’s a husband's fist. Others an outstanding warrant or tyrannical parents. Some of us are just trying to stay alive to see another sunrise. We know that if we stay, death by another's hand, or our own, will likely come. Whatever the reason, when we run, we nurture at least a spark of hope that, one day, we’ll be free from what pursues us.
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” So the saying goes. When someone tricks you, you’re supposed to learn your lesson the first time around. Those who fool you, trick you, fail you, are not to be trusted again. If they fool you twice, well, shame on you for giving them a second chance.
Tucked away in the deep recesses of your being is that dirty, little secret that you’ve been carrying around for years. At times you forget it’s there. Then a certain person’s name will come up, or the DJ will play that old song, or you’ll hear something on the television that triggers the memory. Then all of a sudden you’ll feel your secret reach out with two long-nailed fingers and pinch your soul, just to remind you it’s still there.
It didn’t matter if it was the dead of winter or the height of spring, if it was Monday or Friday, raining or the sun shining, a frown was frozen on this man’s face.
I had an abortion. I was young and scared. And now I can't seem to get past the guilt. If I could do it all over again, I would have my child. Now I worry that God will punish me by not allowing me to have other children. Can God forgive me for what I've done? Will God stay mad at me for taking a life? Please, help. I don’t know if God will forgive me. M.N.
For more years than I care to remember, a stalker has cast her shadow over my life. She trails me to work, spies on me at home, skulks nearby when I go out on the town. Never is she far away, and never does she slack in her pursuit. She’s a different breed of stalker, however, so reporting her to the police will do no good.
“What would you like to eat for your last meal?” That question, at some point, is posed to the criminal awaiting execution. Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, chose two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. John Wayne Gacy, a serial murderer and rapist, selected shrimp, a bucket of KFC chicken, fries, and strawberries. The ticking clock may have run out of ticks before these men digested all they consumed, but the food was served anyway. All the condemned get to choose their omega meal. What would you want? Not just if you were on death row, but if somehow you knew that tomorrow would be the final day of your earthly journey, what would you like on your plate? A sweet dessert? A thick, juicy steak? Some variety of comfort food?
Given such a choice, and given the finality of this feast, I’m afraid my imagination might just go into the what-if overdrive.
What if my lips, which have tasted the kiss of one I was forbidden to kiss, could taste food that consumed those sins until not a tiny morsel of immorality remained?
What if my tongue, which has spit out words in hate, feasted on rumor, and lapped up a million lies, could banquet on food and drink that cleanses my palate of even the deepest verbal stain?
What if my teeth, which have chewed up reputations, bitten into the backs of friends and foes, masticated plans of revenge, could chomp down on a divine delicacy that makes my blood-stained teeth as pure and white as light from above?
What if my throat, down which I have gulped words I should have spoken to defend others, could swallow a meal that swallows death and hell itself?
What if my stomach, indeed my whole body, could digest and be permeated with a feast so rich in celestial love, that rather than me transforming the food into my body, that food transformed me into the body of God himself?
What if. But there is no what if. There is the real meal, the real deal, the feast of feasts. There is a supper that belongs to the Lord. And to that supper he invites all who hunger and thirst for him.
I am lord of all I eat. I lord it over meat, potatoes, pecan pie. I make those foods serve my body, transforming them into me. But it is not so with the meal of Jesus. It is not my supper but the Lord’s supper. Of this meal he is Lord. He feeds me his body. He gives me his blood to drink. When I do, what I eat is Lord of me. His body transforms my body into his body. I am a member of the body of Christ. His blood transforms my blood into his blood. I pulse through the veins of the body of Christ. The Lord I eat, the Lord I drink, devours in me all this is opposed to life, to holiness, to immortality. I am made to be as he is, even as he has become as I am.
What’s more, if this meal is my last meal, it will not be my last meal. For if I am in Christ, even though I die, yet shall I live. The day my body dies I will be with Jesus in paradise. There I will dine at the feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end.
So, I ask you again: what would you want for your last meal?
Imagine a church where members are nicknamed for the most well-known sin they’ve ever committed.
Sitting on the next-to-last pew is Bob the Drunk. He’s now in his late seventies, and he's been sober for the last three decades, but up into his forties he was still hitting the bottle pretty hard. And everyone knew it.
A few pews up from him, surrounded by her doting husband and three children, is Backseat Betty. You see, her oldest child was conceived out of wedlock, when Betty was in her senior year of high school. It was the talk of the town back in the day.
The man in the starched white shirt and blue jeans is Mike the Thief. He served a prison term for holding up a convenience store. Although it was in a different town, and even a different state, the story had a way of catching up with Mike. So when he joined the congregation, the nickname was soon forthcoming.
Bob the Drunk, Backseat Betty, Mike the Thief, and other nicknamed sinners gather every Sunday with other sinners who are not nicknamed. They’re just Margaret, Paul, Cindy, John. It’s not that these others have not sinned; it’s just that their sins haven’t been big enough, or public enough, or scandalous enough to earn a nickname.
The preacher proclaims from the pulpit, to everyone assembled, that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, all their sins are forgiven. But in this particular church, all sins are forgiven, but some sins are more forgiven than others.
Every year, in the springtime, Christians around the world gather in their respective communities to celebrate Good Friday. It is the day Jesus was crucified to atone for the sins of the world. It is the day that he dies for Bob the Drunk, Backseat Betty, Mike the Thief. On Good Friday, they become Bob, Betty, and Mike.
Anyone who dares to attach a nickname to them seeks to uncrucify Jesus.
All sins are forgiven, and none are forgiven more, or less, than others.