Summary: This series is based on Mike Yaconelli’s book "Messy Spirituality and is designed to convince seekers that God wants their Nitty and Gritty lives.
June 8 & 9, 2002
Matthew 10: 18-36
“Nitty Gritty …Meet Who I Have Become!”
There is a wonderful story contained in Robert Fulghum’s book entitled “Uh-oh”. The story is about a young elementary school student named Norman. Norman’s teacher announced that the school play for the years was going to be “Cinderella.” Many children were very interested in becoming the leading parts of the handsome prince and Cinderella. However, Norman was a quiet youngster. Fulghum relates that Norman wasn’t shy or bashful, he just didn’t do a lot of talking. Fulghum says, “Talking about nothing was a waste of time for Norman; he talked only when he had something to say. Norman had a mind of his own and was perfectly comfortable being himself.” All the real parts and some made up parts had already been given to the rest of the children in the class. Norman’s teacher said, “Norman, I’m afraid all the main parts have been taken for Cinderella I’m sure we can find an extra part for you. What character would you like to be?” Norman’s immediate response was, “I want to be the pig.” “Pig?” the teacher replied, “But there is no pig in Cinderella.” Norman replied, “There is now!”
Mike Yaconelli describes the rest of the story from Robert Fulghum’s book like this. “Norman designed his own costume-paper cup for a nose and pink long underwear with a pipe cleaner tail. Norman’s pig followed Cinderella wherever she went and became a mirror of the action on stage. If Cinderella was happy, the pig was happy; if Cinderella was sad, the pig was sad. One look at Norman and you knew the emotion of the moment. Fulghum writes, “At the end of the play when the handsome prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot and the couple hugged and ran off happily together, Norman went wild with joy, dancing around on his hind legs and broke his silence by barking. The presentation at a teacher’s conference was a smash hit. At the curtain call, guess who received a standing ovation? Of course, Norman the barking pig. Who was after all the REAL Cinderella story. The script limited Norman. There is no pig in Cinderella.
Well the script did not include Jesus. The religious leaders of the day had already written the script that described the Messiah. A Messiah does not disregard his reputation, befriend riff-raff or hang-out with or in places where questionable people are. The Messiah does not break rules, he does not question their leadership, threaten their religious practice or act irresponsibly. What does Jesus have to say? Well, this Messiah does!”
That is why the Good-News is the Good-News. We are an equal opportunity faith. The door is open wide to everyone. There are plenty of scripts written by an abundance of playwrights in the church who are all too ready to announce that that there is no part in the Christianity play for those who wear earrings, have a tattoo, drink wine, have too many questions, look weird, aren’t baptized, have pink hair, have had an abortion, are gay, liberal or conservative.
But Ahh-Haa, Jesus wrote a script that found parts for those who don’t have parts. Jesus invited every Norman he could find he called sleazy businessmen, a terrorist (that’s what a zealot was at that time) dock workers, a bullying tax collector, psychotics, successful, rich and even the over privileged elite of the society. (Yaconelli, p76) Jesus made a place for everyone who had no place.
But it seems today that we are often out of step even with the script that Jesus wrote for us. Who or what do we become when we become a believer…a Christian? Strikingly, when we read the tenth chapter of Matthew we get a picture of a believer that causes a few internal dilemmas. When you hear how Jesus describes what occurs when our Nitty Gritty meets who we have become, a little turmoil may arise. Listen to a quick synopsis of the script that Jesus writes. He talks about arrest, betrayal, hidden things being revealed, whispered things being shouted from the roof tops. He speaks of swords, destruction and even death. After all this is the same guy who spoke these words, “If anyone would come after me, they must first deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” What characterized Christianity from the first years after the death of Jesus up till today is an oddness. Christianity has always been a home for people who are out of step, unfashionable, unconventional. Peter describes us in scripture as “strangers and aliens.” Folks we are an odd lot. We dip you in water to wash away sins. We don’t even use a good pre-soak, soap or wash cycle. We put you straight into the rinse cycle. We commemorate our Savior by symbols of his broken body and shed blood. We were accused in the early centuries after the death of Jesus as practicing cannibalistic rites, it sure sounds like it. We have plenty of people who preach and teach that the bread and wine/grape juice actually become the flesh and blood of Jesus… ACTUALLY BECOME.