Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Gospel Isn't Monkey Business, or, Is It?

I saw a monkey, day before yesterday. In seven-eleven. He opened a straw to put into his Big Gulp and calmly took a long sip. This would have been odd, all on its own, seeing as how this was Edmond Oklahoma. Then the fun happened. His handler took the cup from the monkey, placed her lips on his straw, and took her own long sip.

I wanted to freak out. I wanted to run out in the parking lot and drag everybody in, ask the woman to make him open straws and do the soda thing again, take pictures, share the experience. Not because it was that unusual, but mostly because, then I would know I was not merely suffering from sleep deprivation. That this was actually happening. Thirty-nine years, that's how long I have been here, conscious of my existence on this planet without ever having once, so far as I remember, shared a seven-eleven with a lower primate.

The woman has obviously been working with them for years. She was very comfortable with the whole thing, beyond just the drinking after the monkey part, she was cool and confident, as if people should be used to seeing furry patrons in the seven eleven. Not at all like the high maintenance women you see with their yippy little fur balls in designer handbag/ travel kennels, cruising through the mall to the clack of stiletto heels. They were wanting attention, but this lady, didn't seem to mind it, but was just out for the evening with her monkey.

Turns out, my brother knows the lady. Assures me that she is eccentric to be sure, but harmless. He cleans her windows and once asked her if she spanked her monkey, which he meant in the form of discipline, then realized it had come out wrong. She didn't notice.

The monkey sat on the counter, took the money from his handler and gave it to the cashier, which she thought was adorable. He took the change with an outstretched hand and tucked it into a coin purse held ou t by his handler, jumped onto her shoulder and they walked out the door.

I envy her. I really do. She is living life. She didn't need me or anybody around her to approve or applaud, she is content and she has nothing to prove. This is the way I want to share the gospel, with nothing to prove.

I was pondering a section of scripture over the past several days. It appears in Luke chapter 10. Jesus sends out 70 of his disciples, without shoes, without money and instructs them to be totally dependent on the kindness of strangers. They were told to enter the first house they came to, pronounce a blessing of peace and if it was received they should stay and eat what was put in front of them.

This seems counterintuitive to our modern way of thinking. These disciples were sent to pray for the sick, cast out demons and spread the gospel. They did not have any promotions, did no market research and essentially had nothing to offer, other than their message. They were penniless hobos.

Why would God ask that of them? Here is what I think. It wasn't about them, and that was the point. In our modern world, we get way hung up on appearances. We rate people based on what they wear, or don't wear; the things that they say, the music that they like, the list goes on for days. What I think Jesus was trying to prove was that the message, and not the messenger was the real issue. In other words, if you hear a hobo, who has nothing to lose and nothing to offer you, share a message and you recognize it as the truth. Not just truth, but the kind that will make you sell your business and chase after it, then you really get it.

Hearing a message, well produced with a little backup lighting and a slide or two, laden with pop culture references and some sweet music in the background can definitely get our attention. But what about a guy just showing up in your living room with no shoes, claiming God sent him? Yeah, no wonder there were instructions for handling the ones that threw them out.

So why is it, with the wealth of examples we have Biblically that we just don't seem to understand that God's messenger is not the issue, its the message. Maybe we have missed the point. Now, God help me remember this the next time I am tempted to write somebody off as having nothing I need, because they just drank after a monkey at the seven-eleven.

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