“Lunch With Jesus” is a story sermon written for the UU Fellowship of Fayetteville’s Easter service in 2015. Jesus is relevant to Unitarian Universalism in a way that continues to grow, mostly as one of our sources belonging to the “words and deeds of prophetic people.” If our religious ancestors had not reclaimed the historical Jesus – the transcendental, human, unitarian, universalist, and Liberationist Jesus, then UU would not be as it is today. I updated and reprised the sermon in 2017 as its message was still relevant, and even more urgent with the political and social changes surrounding us. Also, we had a number of new folks and children who had not heard it, and I love telling the story. This is the updated version from 2017, and a reminder: it is written more as a sermon, prose to be spoken.
“Lunch with Jesus”
Rev. Jim Parrish
The stories attributed to Jesus in the New Testament of the Christian Bible are known as the parables, and many of them are not so miraculous or supernatural, but of a human nature… a human nature that tells a story of how we should be and act on the side of love over separation, fear, and hate.
In our story for all ages this morning, “Jesus, The Carpenter’s Son,” author Sophia Lyon Fahs imagined the way Jesus learned what his religion, Judaism, meant to him ethically and morally. She wrote about how it influenced the way he wanted to live and teach, and why his religious life came to be one of peace and acceptance of others over violence and separation.
Jesus hung out with foreigners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and other people considered of common or “low stature,” but he also invited those with power or wealth into equity. He didn’t ask them for belief or loyalty, but by his actions and words demonstrated that they were all equal and loved in his heart, and that of his G-d. Jesus was open to people being people and finding love there.
Which, when you think about it, is really the best parenting model there is. How do we teach children? By yelling at them?
The Disciples would yell at Jesus that he was not “handing down the law!”
and I know that sometimes, as a parent, I would “hand down the law,” and get nowhere…
But as I look back at my parenting years, I see that modeling what I believed to be “how we should live” (and this was not perfect) was the most effective thing my spouse and I could do as parents.
Jesus, in his sermons and parables, modeled a society that broke down barriers and lifted people up.
I was looking for a new story that illustrated this, a modern parable of Jesus, and not finding one, I wrote this about a Jesus of today…
“The Parable of Lunch with Jesus”
Jesus was sleeping late in the back of our old Camp-More Recreational Vehicle. We’d pulled into the Indiana KOA in the wee hours of the morning, having gotten a late start the day before.
Somehow Lord Krishna and his biker gang had found us at our previous campsite, and of course, all heaven broke out. Krishna and Jesus played music into the wee hours of the morning, and us campers spent the night laughing, singing, and dancing along with them.
The next day, when we finally had enough sleep to be safe on the road, Krishna with his colorful entourage of bikers, and us in our old RV, waved goodbye and parted ways… a LOT later than we’d planned. So when we finally got to our next camp it was lunch we would be waking up to serve, which is typical these days.
I’d met Jesus in New York City during an Occupy Wall Street event, he being a stockbroker, and I a protester… it’s another story altogether, kinda complicated…
suffice it to say he asked me and a couple of others to help him to his next gig, and after several doubting days (my name could have been Thomas), eventually we found his message compelling, so we joined up.
I’m Artie, and the other two disciples on this trip are Yolanda and Charles. I’m a natural born Unitarian and atheist, so some of this trip is a bit of a stretch for me. But my parents and UU church raised me good, open to questions and being curious, so I’m going to go with the experience as it is and see what it teaches me… even though I just shake my head now and again and wonder what rabbit hole I’ve dropped into.
I’ve gotten more used to the idea of Krishna, Asase Ya, Buddha, or Artemis showing up on our trips to just to hang out, and from what I’ve seen it’s actually confirmed my non-theism, that the religion is not about being supernatural, but super-natural…
however what I’m left with will take some time to unpack and sort out… let alone explain or teach.
Getting back to the journey – Jesus has an appointment with fate, always has, always does, and we help him get to it, whatever or wherever it is.
On the way his job is to spread the word of love and acceptance, what else? It’s up to Yolanda and Charles and me try to keep the old RV going, help with the crowds, and figure out what he’s talking about for the parables. Some days are better than others.
Today, like I said, we’re late waking up at the KOA campground, so we forget about breakfast and start getting our camp ready to serve lunch. I fire up the grill and we get chairs set up and the picnic table ready. I’m the cook, so I haul out our lunch staples; Jesus’s Bologna (the kind that is sliced with the wrapper still on it to peel in red rings), cheese, Wonder Bread, and Miracle Whip. Jesus loves his fried bologna sandwiches, with American cheese and Miracle Whip.
So we set up and we wait for Jesus to wake up, not for long, Jesus has an uncanny timing to know when he’s on.
Though this time he is still brushing his teeth as he looks out of the RV, kinda foaming at the mouth, grinning, and looking a little sheepish. He gives us a look asking forgiveness, and goes to spit and rinse.
Just to let you know, when I met Jesus on Wall Street, he looked like a banker, an old white male banker, and now, well now he looks more like a Bob Marley.
This is one of those things we had to work through before I would sign on to be his RV driver… again, another story altogether.
Back to lunch.
Our campsite is next to the playground, so there are a number of kids swinging, running and laughing nearby… Jesus really likes this, the music of heaven he calls it. Jesus finally steps out of the RV with guitar in hand, he looks around, smiles, and settles into a chair.
And he begins playing, accompanied by the other disciples. Charles and Yolanda are talented with drums, guitar and other instruments, and can actually sing.
My job is driving and cooking, I do both pretty well, and I try not to get out of rhythm clapping.
But the music, that’s what it is about, the Jesus music. He plays Sesame Street and street music, he sings Dylan and Seeger, Klezmer tunes and Muddy Waters. He does gospel and blues, and sometimes a pop tune, but he never does what I call old white protestant hymns, which is fine by me.
He sings what someone needs to hear; calming, healing, uplifting, laughter, memories, hopes and dreams. Everyone is included, no one hears a sour note…
That is the music that happens.
As usual the kids nearby are fascinated and drift over, and with them their parents, to make sure they are safe.
I greet them quietly and let them know they’re welcome to listen, and they are welcome to lunch with us. They are taken in by the music, and we have lunch.
Lunch is… well, you know the stone soup story, or the fishes and loaves.
These modern parents look at Jesus’ bologna and white bread and say, “wait, I have some leftover chicken,” or these days “veggie” chicken strips, or a nice quinoa salad. And maybe, seeing the grill going (I grill the bologna for Jesus, yes, I do) they’ll bring some extra burgers, veggie or otherwise, to fry up with buns and fixings… watermelon, slaw, and potato salad show up.
Pretty soon we’ve got a good crowd, everyone has plenty to eat, and they’re singing songs they’d thought they’d forgotten, or just knew from somewhere deep inside.
People will drift in and out of the circle, no one feels unwelcome, as we greet them when they arrive, and say goodbye with their names as they leave.
In between the singing Jesus will say a few words, talk about Love and Mercy and Justice, how it is a blessing to be together in peace, how bountiful the world is when we come together to care for each other.
He pays attention to the children and the music they want to hear, saying that they are the pure in heart, and closest to love. He notes how wonderful it is to be at peace, even for a short time.
RV campgrounds are usually pretty peaceful places, but they can have rough elements, and we’ve had some incidents with hard characters that have scared me… Them taking exception to whatever they wanted to, so as to be in control…
But the hardest people to deal with on this trip have been some of the police we’ve encountered, City or county authorities… On highways or in parks, or parking lots when we stop in a city or town. And this is where Jesus’ story goes, where we taken him…
Sometimes we disciples get to participate… we met up with Coyote and the Standing Rock Sioux to sing for the earth and its people…
But mostly we take him and wait at the gate…
Towns small and large, north and south, east and west… we will camp, and Jesus will walk into his next story.
We wait until he calls us to pick him up… and there is the weirdness for us, as time on this journey sometimes seems to stand still, or suddenly pass quickly, and we’ll be at another call, another place, and not remember having driven there… just being where he was needed…
We left Jesus in Ferguson, Missouri for a time,
and in New Jersey.
In New Orleans…
He was lost until I heard of a transgender woman killed in New Orleans… I had a suspicion.
And when she’d called to be picked up, I knew. We collected Jesus outside a morgue, and it took a while for the journey to begin again. She was silent and weeping for a day or two, keeping to herself and playing her guitar softly.
Do demi-deities age? Grow weary? I ache inside for all I have witnessed, and I don’t know if there is enough belief in love in the world to heal it…
I think Jesus believes there is, enough love that is…
She perked up eventually, and we had lunch at a campground with a lovely dance, and now we have a new direction, a new set of campsites to visit on the way to an intersection with fate.
He, sometimes She, or sometimes Ze – I believe has been doing this for thousands of years, passing through the world telling people that there is a better way to live.
A way of life that lays down fear for understanding,
To lay down creeds and dogmas for an open heart.
To give up power and authority for shared peace and plenty…
Jesus, or whoever it is, changes some hearts and minds along the way.
But it is a long road, and it inevitably leads to death, somehow, some way…
Sometimes in jail,
sometimes she’s gassed,
sometimes he’s shot on a balcony,
sometimes they die of old age,
Sometimes she’s beaten to death,
Sometimes with witnesses,
Sometimes alone and neglected…
Male, female, queer, transgender, black, Latinex, European, African, Asian, Islander, rich, poor — too many descriptions of so many ways for humanity to be human.
Always a story where power and hate takes a life… Where he tries to make sure the story is told…
But there is always another story to tell, so many stories. And many don’t believe…
But we hope that someday there comes a time there is only one story… of love and acceptance. Someday…
The irony of Jesus is, that some folks told his story one time, put it in a book, and forgot to write the next story, and the next…
They got stuck on that one story and even changed it to meet their needs, made a power base out of it, out of his death…
lots of kingdoms and Pope-doms, and evangelical-doms (I made that word up)
People have made a lots of money, fame, and fortune from his death… They even made a movie out of it… several in fact.
They never understood that his death wasn’t the point, that his life was.
The sermon on the mount and his parables are probably the only sure things left from the life of Jesus.
So he, or she or they – Jesus, keeps trying, and I’m serving lunch with Jesus until we get him to his latest destination…
somewhere where he will be a homeless man in an alley, Or a single mom on the edge of collapse, Or someone asking for clemency before being put to death by the state.
Always telling their story, while preaching peace with songs, with some food, laughter, and community… or trying to, until someone in authority, with power and privilege puts an end to it…
another end to him and to us.
But there’s hope, always hope.
maybe someone will pay attention this time… try to change things for real.
Try to change our society towards love and acceptance once again…
Because of his death… again
and the death of others who are related to Jesus… And really, we all are
Then Jesus will look for whoever needs him next… and the story will start again…
I ask that you and I work to re-write this story, this parable of constant love and death in the face of hate, of discrimination, racism, of love of power and money over life…
Jesus needs help!
And the only way to do this is to re-write our own lives as narratives of universal love as he did.
We may not look to the church, or to Jesus, or even to whatever you believe god might be, for our salvation.
But we know our internal struggles to love ourselves, so we might love others as well. We try our best to recognize in another their inherent worth and dignity, as we would want from them. We learn how to be accepting of difference, because we really are all different, and all the same.
The words that we hold tight are words of love, of justice, of forgiveness, They are the words of our story as Unitarian Universalists… Principled words.
They are words that Jesus would approve of… indeed, he spoke them in his lifetime… as the story goes.
And I think we’d help him serve lunch, work beside him in his latest quest… To tell the story of love.
Because like him, we’re out to change the world…
One lunch at a time.