Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 6:60-71) transports me to the next version of what my friend Wanda Murga in Cuba calls a proyecto loco, a crazy project. I tend to come up with ideas for music and church that come out of left field, if not beyond the fence. Jesus Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (the Beatles Easter musical) and Have You Experienced Advent? (the Jimi Hendrix Christmas musical) are a couple of examples. The next idea I’m working on is the Rolling Stones Lenten pageant, called Were You There When the Rolling Stones Did Pray? It will document the end of Jesus’ life through the music of Mick and Keith and the boys. It all makes perfect sense in my head. I mean, can’t you just hear Lazarus singing Start Me Up when Jesus raises him from the dead (along with the weeping Jesus singing back to him, you make a grown man cry)? One of the recurring songs will come when the going gets tough and various of the followers desert the Lord. It will be a mashup of Lord I Want to Be a Christian in My Heart and You Can’t Always Get What You Want. I love it when these crazy musical ideas click.
Apparently there were a lot of folks in Jesus’ day who wanted to be Christians in their hearts; they wanted to be like Jesus in their hearts; they wanted to be more loving in their hearts, but when the following part pushed them too far out of their comfort zones, they realized they couldn’t always get what they wanted. It never was just about belief in the heart. It was about following a radical Way. Jesus had just finished giving them a foreshadowing of the Eucharist meal, where they would feast on his body and blood, ingesting sacrificial love and a life of deep grace. As Eugene Peterson translated it in The Message Bible, this teaching was too tough to swallow. So it happened that many disciples deserted. And they would keep deserting, and keep deserting. One of the twelve, the devilish Judas, would desert. But the eleven others were not to be immune from the ranks of desertion. They, too, would scatter and go AWOL, when the bread of life as embodied by Jesus got too tough to swallow.
I often read the scripture, as so many do, and want to put myself in the band of the good guys. I want to be a Christian in my heart. I want to follow Jesus in my heart. I want to be more loving in my heart. And so I want to imagine myself hanging in there on the radical Way. I’m sure there are times in my life when I do eat the bread and drink the wine and ingest the Way of Jesus. There are issues and stances and commitments I make because I see the face of Christ among some group of the least of these, and I’m ready to follow. But, when I am honest with myself, I realize that there are also many times when I desert the cause, when the bread is too tough to swallow. I’m practiced at the art of deception, and I can’t always get what I want. But the song doesn’t end there, and even in moments of desertion, when I fail miserably at being a Christian or being like Jesus, I hear the refrain, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. What we need is grace, the radical grace that brings deserters back into the fold to try the walk of love one more time.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.