Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Teaching - Spit and Grace

No one likes anyone else's spit.

With two exceptions - your beloved, and your kids.

Everyone else's spit grosses you out, but not theirs, most of the time.

After all, one phrase for kissing is "swapping spit". It isn't a good kiss unless some measure of spit is involved.

And we don't mind our kids' spit too much either.

Think about it...

Your kid has a cookie and it's too big for them to eat. You don't think twice about sharing the cookie with them, even when they are toddlers and their eating involves some - well - sogginess. You'll eat a slightly spit-soaked cookie after one of your kids, no questions asked, no dry heaves restrained.

Now, picture your best friend's kid. You love this kid. This kid is a delight. You wouldn't think twice about giving this kid a bear hug, maybe even a kiss on the cheek.

But when this kid, child of your best friend whom you love dearly, hands you a soggy cookie, you're looking for the nearest trash can. Or potted plant.

Sharing spit connotes intimacy.

There's this scene in John 9 in the New Testament.

A guy approaches Jesus. The guy has been blind since birth. In that culture, such a disability carried moral implications. Maybe his parents did something 'wrong' and their punishment is a blind child. Maybe God knew that this guy would be a bad apple so He inflicted blindness on him as a warning to others.

Whatever the cause, blindness in this culture was a one way ticket to isolation, poverty, friendlessness, desperation.

So, this guy cashes in all of his chips and goes to Jesus. He has to get through Jesus' people first, the disciples.

The disciples are religious guys, for the most part, and when they see someone with a problem they are looking to cast blame. That's what religion does. Every time.  The good and well-behaved are in and the bad and ragged are out.

Religion looks to fix blame and isolate.

So, the disciples, looking to make a point, say to Jesus in front of a crowd: "Hey, Rabbi, check this guy out. Who sinned - he or his parents - to cause him to be born blind?"

The point was to point out this guy's wrongdoing, make an example of him, and then divert attention elsewhere. Nothing to see here after you've seen what there is to see - the sinner's guilt...move on.

Remember, religion equals public blame-casting and isolation. Gotta blame somebody.

Jesus (I imagine) rolls his eyes and sighs. He says a few words about darkness and light, night and day. He makes the radical and unexpected claim that it's not about wrongdoing or rightdoing, it's about God showing up and doing something that shows how great He is.

Then he does something downright weird.

He spits on the ground. Then he puts his finger in the wet dirt and makes a muddy paste. Then he takes the spit-soaked mud and he rubs it on the guy's eyes. Tells him to wash. Heals him right then and there.

Why the spit?

Scholars debate this question. I've read all the arguments and don't find any really convincing, though some are clever and even plausible. I think it's pretty simple.

Jesus - if he truly was a healer, as the Bible claims - didn't need to spit. He could have just said "See!" and the guy would have seen.

But he chose to use spit.

Earthy, intimate, messy, a little gross.

Like always with Jesus.

Religion is cut and dry - isolate the wrongdoing, pronounce sentence, let the consequences play out, move on. We don't want to think too much about it, especially when it involves someone else. We don't want to get too involved because we see too much of ourselves in the blind guy getting spit rubbed on his eyes.

And who the hell wants someone else rubbing spit on their eyes?

Jesus, I think, was saying this - it's not about what this guy or his folks or his neighbors have done, though well and truly they have all done bad things and good things alike just like the rest of us.

It's about what God is doing. Taking elemental things like spit and mud and creating beauty. Using something dirty and off-putting to show off His offer of forgiveness and grace and a fresh start. Saying that God is here, right now, in the most unrefined and basic of ways that you can touch and smell and see.

The Christian faith is not about pronouncements and laws and plans and spreadsheets and neatness and processes.

It's about God being born in an animal's mucking stall, and bread and wine and mud and blood and messiness and prostitutes and criminals with white collars and blue getting invited to Christmas dinner at the Biltmore House and being put at the head of the table, eyes blinking and mind spinning and stomach rumbling.

When it comes to the blindness of others are you more apt to spit on the ground or at the blind guy?

When it comes to your own blindness have you let mud be rubbed on your eyes today, or are you trying to clean up on your own?

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