It’s been a very odd weekend. That’s nothing new in the life of Joyce. Oddity and unusualness are the adjectives most used to describe my life. My thoughts are jumbled as I write this… it will be interesting even to me to see where I end up. Friday night my husband and I watched a movie on Netflix, Shades of Ray. The movie made us laugh. It is always good to laugh.
Saturday morning brought omelets, plain and spicy followed by the weekly ritual of going to the dump with our trash. We are now true country folk. We have a huge pickup for this task. It’s high, so high that I can barely get my rump on the seat. I refuse to get a step stool and look like an old person though. Next stop, a county fair…
If you read Storehouses of Snow, you know that fairs and I don’t usually get along. However, this was ONE fair… not a series of dirty dusty 4-H Achievement Days in deserted locations. There would be entertainment and promises of fair food. I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, a pleasant experience.
Yesterday was church. I visited yet another church…another Methodist one… I was disappointed that they didn’t have communion. But they sang some hymns I knew. The preaching was fair. The people were nice. I was even invited to join them for a potluck to welcome their new minister – I declined.
Now all those things may seem normal to you. But wait – there’s more. As I walked into the Mercy Lounge in Nashville last night, I realized how sheltered my life has been. I can count on fingers the times I have been in a bar – probably on one hand. I’ve never been to a “lounge.” For the first time in my life I was asked to show my ID to get into an establishment. I guess the rule is to check everyone. My right hand was stamped certifying I was old enough to drink. As we reached the top of the stairs, the bar was front and center. From church to the bar in one day – may not seem odd to some, but for this sheltered goody-two-shoes, it was.
The Muslims Are Coming comedy show was what brought us to this strange world. Already the few seats were filled with people. I spotted a couple of bar stools not fastened to the floor. I moved them to where we could peer over the crowd. Ah, but there were two seats in the front seemingly unoccupied. My husband was sent to ask if they were free. They were. We had front row seating. The folks we sat with were old hippies – still living in community, fighting for world peace, and growing vegetables. We had a pleasant chat. They offered us some of their hummus and beer. We politely declined.
Soon Negin Farsad appeared in a bright red dress. The show was ready to begin. For an hour and a half we laughed at Muslims making fun of themselves. The crowd was queried, a few Muslims, more Christians, fewer Jews, and a noisy crowd of Atheists. At times I was offended by the humor, but mostly it was just PG comedy with a sprinkling of R-rated comedy.
As I pondered my experience at the Mercy Lounge, I thought a lot about Jesus. I thought about the radicalness of Jesus. Jesus ate with sinners. I’m not saying that if Jesus were here in the flesh today He’d have been at the Mercy Lounge last night. The conservative part of me says No of course He wouldn't… but there is another part of me that wonders.
In a joke about Gay marriage, a comment was made about opposing Gay marriage because it might destroy the sanctity of marriage – it was followed up by a line that “we” have already destroyed it and that we needed to fix ourselves – then the comic rattled off names like Tiger Wood, Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards, etc. I thought yes, and the same is true with Christianity. The world hasn’t destroyed it. Like the Pharisees who forgot God’s love and mercy, we have. I get pretty burned when I hear the constant harangue against Christians – that we are narrow minded and full of hate. That is so antithetical to the message of Jesus – The message that God so LOVED the WORLD…But the truth is, some people called "Christian" are filled with hate. No longer are Christians known for our love... we are known as haters.
No I don’t know if Jesus would have found Himself among the sinners at the Mercy Lounge last night. But I do know that Jesus loves them. I do know that Jesus’ message is one of inclusion – Whosoever will… Come unto Me… I wonder what we’ve missed of the message of the Gospel in our quest for purity. No I’m not endorsing anything or anyone. I’ll probably never go back to the Mercy Lounge. I am praying to shed my Pharisaical legalism and love radically like Jesus. As a Jesus follower, that’s what it is all about… The greatest commandment – love the Lord your God with all…and your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:36-40.