Some of the teachers of the Law of Moses were Pharisees, and they saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors. So they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” Mark 2:16-17
Many were upset about the company Jesus kept. The Jewish elite had become ingrown. They were blind to their own spiritual need but pretended to know the spiritual needs of others. You would think that would have sparked their compassion but it didn’t. Jesus went where they were unwilling to go. He went to where the sick could be found.
Though I grew up in a country Baptist church, my parents were not stereotypes. My mother reached out across our community of 900 with acts of mercy. Nurturing, baking, sitting with the dying; these defined her ministry. My dad broke the mold as well. He was a principal, then guidance counselor, in our local public high school. (Yes, my sister and I couldn’t get away with anything.) He watched the emergence of the hippie movement. I was a teenager at the time. Moved with compassion instead of judgment, he found a way to reach out to them after school hours. He went a couple of times to their local meeting place, an abandoned house in the middle of town, and spent time talking to them. After they called him ‘cool and groovy’, he asked if they’d like to learn the book of John from the Bible. They were accepting to the idea and considered that a ‘cool and groovy idea’ as well. For a year, he met with them weekly. A few came to love Jesus and they walk with him to this day. One is a pastor in Boston. They are all in their 60’s now. Many live locally and still tell stories of how this cool principal came to find them.
Have you ever noticed that when one believer breaks the mold, he leaves the warm acceptance of the fold? Just like Jesus. He entered a no man’s land. The religious elite wasn’t comfortable with him nor did his lifestyle match the sinner’s lifestyle. Nonetheless, He was willing to be solitary and take the Gospel where it was needed.
Dad did it right, too. He didn’t draw attention to his ministry. He didn’t scold others in the church for not caring. He went about his life quietly. When his outreach cut across the grain of others’ pride, I never remember him lashing out. He was a gentle soul.
Today is my day with my grandsons. The day started sitting at the kitchen table with my grandson, Andy. He asked me if I knew what hippies used to say. (I was surprised he had heard of them.) I asked, “Hmm, what did they say?” He answered, “Groovy!” I laughed. That sparked many stories from my adolescence, including the story of my father teaching hippies the scriptures in their local hangout. Andy sat wide-eyed. My father’s legacy lives on and challenges descendants he never even got to meet. How ‘cool and groovy’ is that!
Let Dad’s generational legacy live on, Lord. Make Andy a fisher of men, casting his net among the spiritually sick. Amen
Originally published Wednesday, 03 October 2018.