Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Feet, Hands, Kisses and Living Hilariously

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." (Luke 7:36-39)

Jesus is having dinner with the Pharisees. While at this religious leader's home, the unthinkable happens. A woman of sinful reputation begins to wash his feet with her tears, wipe fragant ointment over his feet, and even kiss his feet. Now the owner of the home in which Jesus is a guest finds this behavior unimaginably repulsive. Doesn't Jesus know this woman is a person of bad reputation? A sinner? Doesn't he realize that he is allowing this sinful woman to make an embarrassing spectical here in the Pharisee's own home? Perhaps Jesus would have been well advised to tell this woman to go her way, and give thanks to God in a traditionally acceptable manner. Something like a sacrifice at the temple, or sharing the good news of her thankfulness for forgiveness with all her friends might be a more acceptable manner to show appreciation, but this - this looks she and Jesus must have a "thing" going on. After all, word will get around, and no doubt someone will even write it down for all posterity.

How is it that Jesus allowed the dinner at the respected leaders house to turn into a controversial interaction with a woman with a bad reputation?

I know about such moments. I have lived them, and I have experienced the weight of religious repulsion, and judgment which comes from such moments. The genesis of all our denominational trouble last year was tied to a picture with me greeting a B Horror Movie actress who played a voluptuous Vampiress. I did not not know the photos were on the internet, or had forgotten, or something. They were taken at an innocent moment, when I greeted the actress as she strolled the streets of Salem in full costume, with some of my Pagan friends in town. I was working on our outdoor stage, and saw them pass by. I jumped off the stage, and greeted her as I would anyone in full Victorian regalia. She held out her hand, I took it, and said, "Good to meet you Countess." I bowed to kiss her hand, but only did a mock version, and never actually kissed her hand, or her large spider ring. Someone snapped a few photos. I said, "Now don't you get me in trouble with that," and I ran off to get back to work. The innocent 2 minute interaction was witnessed by Diane, one of our church council members at the time.

Perhaps I should have considered the possible ramifications of treating an actress with a "reputation" in such a familiar manner. What if someone thought we had a "thing?" What if word got aroound? What if it would be written down for all the world to see?

Oh dang, it did get around - the whole world did hear about it. It made the front page of the Wall Street Journal, but even before that, it made the District office, and the denominational headquarters, and they decided to remove me from the denomination - without really checking on the issue sufficiently. Instead they took the word the Pharisees who said I was a compromiser.

Well, even some people who have sided with me have thought that this moment was somehow my undoing, and must have therefore also been my fault. I wonder why Jesus did not stop the woman who kissed his feet? Of course, 2,000 years later we extol the foresight of Christ who allowed the moment to occur, and saw that it taught a lesson about the judgmentalism of the Pharisees, and the compassion of Christ.

I am not sure if the moment were to present itself again that I might not do the same. The playful silliness of Halloween in Salem provides the opportunity to create moments of acceptance in the interactions which occur. Perhaps I am the only Evangelical Christian Pastor to ever be comfortable enough around the Countess Bathoria to greet her hilariously, and to tell her that I was pleased to make her acquaintance. Even that falls far short of allowing her to kiss my feet at a public meal with the District Supervisor present - as Jesus did.

I had not written about this moment with any thoughtfulness until now. It was the words of friend, who mentioned this moment and felt comfortable enough to tell me that he wished this moment never occurred, which has caused me think on it a year and a half after it made trouble for me. I know it was my friend's gentle way of saying that the careless moment was in error.

Sure, the moment was careless, but I wonder if careless is sometimes the way to live. Jesus appeared careless. He could have cared less what the Pharisee thought, even while eating dinner at his house. He could have cared less that the story would make the headlines in human history. He lived carelessly toward the Pharisees, and caringly toward the woman. He lived hilariously, and I hope to someday to live as hilariously, and carelessly as He does.

My friendships with the Pagan community have grown exponentially in the last few months. I am sure that photo ops will present themselves in the future, and I will look like I am living carelessly among people whom the Christian community thinks are people of bad reputation. Yet I hope that I will be walking the path of Jesus: living hilariously among those He (and myself) loves.


carl said...

When controvesial circumstances happen like this one I usually revert to the wisdom of Solomon to try to find clarity. Unless that is I think someone is in the wrong. It's my annoying answer to all lifes problems.

There's a time to be "cautious" and a time to be "careless".
(quotations my words)
The church is long overdue for a season of carelessness. Your free spiritedness is a breath of fresh air.

cerndeosil said...

Who was it that went leaping to conclusions about what the photo surely MUST imply? Heh, my eeeevil side would have had me suggest to the District Supervisor that I might hire someone to take photos of that District Supervisor day and night to attempt to catch them in what could be spun into a story of compromising circumstance.

The BIG problem with the denomination, as far as I see it, is that they just don't get the idea of relational ministry- the idea that it might help if you try to strike up a relationship with the community so you earn the right to share your understanding of the Good News of the Gospels. That could be extended to a reflection that perhaps they have some kind of arrogant notion that they have an automatic right to demand to be heard. In fact, when I think about it, the whole sorry saga lends itself to the notion that the denomination may very well thrive on arrogance.

Hmmm, the humility of Jesus vs the arrogance of the denomination. They're supposedly a Christian denomination, right?......



agent wife said...

I think your analogy and reflexion are true and I want to encourage you to continue to follow your heart and the lead of the Holy Spirit to do even more ridiculous things than these. God can not be boxed in and while such unhindered love got Jesus killed and may get us killed too (even if only from the denomination), there is no safer place than to walk in the steps of the crucified lover. May our fear of God always eclipse any fear of man.

Pastor Phil said...

I like your thought that church is long overdue for a season of carelessness. Dang! That's cool.

Pastor Phil said...


I'm not sure corporations easily retain a sense of personal relationship. The nature of corporate business is to be just that - business. It has no heart of its own, and at some point good people defend the organization, without considering the people who make it up.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Abilene Agent Lady,

Thanks for a really good word, and the encouragement to be more ridiculous. I'm not sure my wife will be thrilled with the idea of me getting crazier. ;-)

Webb Kline said...

One of my favorite lyrics is from a song penned by the late Rich Mullins. I sing it to myself while driving down the road late at night, when the reality that I have been taking things too seriously sets in: "Another mile farther down the road,
Another mile deeper into the night,
I can drive as hard as I want,
And never get as far as my heart was meant to go."

We're a driven people, and that kind of mindset can particularly be harmful to functional ministry. The point Rich was making, believe, is just that. Jesus, while his sights were set on his mission, he was able to accomplish it while eating and drinking with publicans and sinners.

Paul, change his whole plan because of a dream. Got up the next morning and said, "Yo dudes, a guy came to me in a dream in the middle of the night and we've got a change of plans."Those guys must have laughed hard at that one, and even harder once they started on their way.

Gettin me excited about this new thing God's leading me into. ;)

Anonymous said...

I think you're great and love reading your stories :) That's a good word about being carefree. Yep, we should consider others but if bad-minded people are looking to condemn and accuse they'll always read into circumstance to find something. Wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Innocence and purity are beautiful things. True friends believe the best and see the heart. God bless you mate. Caz

Pastor Phil said...


Get caught up in the adventure bro.

Pastor Phil said...


You've stated my mantra (okay I reallly don't mean that as a eastern religion humming chant meditation, but you knwo what I mean.) Wise as serpents, harmless as doves, and bold as lions - that is my totemic identification with the Gospel. Thanks for the encouragement.

Agent B said...

You met Elvira?

Pastor Phil said...

Hey B,
No, someone quite a bit younger, and quite a bit darker in her movies.

zaque said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zaque said...

I remember the first time I saw the "proof" of your indescretions from the faith. I subsequently remember yelling at my wife to come into the room while I hastily explained your situation and then I showed her the pictures.

Her reaction was even more appalling. "He was kicked out because of these?" It was a sore point because her mom is Wiccan and you won't hear this from most son-in-laws, but she's also one of my favorite people.

One of these days, I'm going to shake your hand and say thank you. Maybe someone will snap a photo while I'm giving you hug and expel me from the faith because I look like I'm caught in a compromising act despite the evidence to the contrary, despite all the sound minds who know better, despite common sense.

In the words of Snoop Dogg, "Bitches [insert group stereotype here] be trippin' and so it goes..." I've since expanded the lyric to include a wide variety of people. And it's helped me a lot. Maybe it will help you.

Pastor Phil said...

Zack on Crack!

I love the way you write and think. Are you sure you don't feel the draw to move to Salem? Grace on you bro.

zaque said...

I've wanted to visit Salem from the moment I discovered who you were. Here's to hoping...

Pastor Phil said...

Here's to it back. iechyd da!