Chutzpah! The prophet Nathan comes into the house of King David — a man with the power of life and death over him; a man whom he is confronting because he exercised that power of life and death on a soldier named Uriah — the prophet Nathan comes into the presence of that King David, confronts him face-to-face, pokes his finger right into David’s chest and declares, “You are the man!”
Chutzpah! Knowing he’s done a huge wrong; knowing that the God who transformed him from boy shepherd to unrivaled king was, to quote Pastor Lind, “pissed”; knowing and, in fact, depending on Nathan to speak for that God directly to him, David let’s Nathan in!
Chutzpah! A “woman of the city” (now there’s a euphemism!) comes into the house of a city ‘father’ named Simon — a man with the power to exclude, expunge and even execute her — a “woman of the city” comes into the home of Simon the Pharisee, undoes her hairdo (a sure sign of her wantonness), breaks open a bottle of expensive perfume (proof positive of her lawless lewdness), washes the visiting rabbi’s feet and dries them with her hair!
Chutzpah! A rabble-rousing rabbi named Jesus, from a backwater town of Nazareth, has been rattling around Capernaum and its environs for several weeks;
• preaching against the rich and religious;
• healing, that is, working, on the Sabbath;
• touching at least one contagious leper and then, for good measure, the unclean dead body of a woman’s only son. He, with his motley crew of followers, have been eating, without ritually washing their contaminated hands;
• he’s made a traitorous, treacherous tax collector one of his disciples;
• he’s a well-known associate, and still mourning relative of a despotically decapitated baptizer named John.
And …. chutzpah! Rich and religious, “goody-two-shoes” Simon the Pharisee invites this Jesus into his own house to confront him face-to-face.
Chutzpah! We gather today with a prickly prophet, a killer king; a wanton woman and a patronizing patrician; we gather with a beheaded Baptist and a traitorous tax
collector; and we invite this unwashed, unclean, unabashed, un-boundaried, rabble rousing rabbi named Jesus to come among us and meet us face-to-face!
Because we want to hear how bad we are? Naa!
Because we need to know how angry God is? Naa!
Because we want to hear that we’re better, or stronger or wiser, or more hospitable or more needed than somebody else? Naa!
Why would we need or, given his track record, expect Jesus to tell us that?
No! Nathan went to David, David welcomed Nathan, Simon invited Jesus, Jesus received the woman and we welcome Jesus so that we can be restored! Not just to God, but to each other. Not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the church, the city and the world.
Restoration: That’s what confrontations among God’s people and gatherings among
God’s people and welcomings of God and all God’s people into God’s presence are all about.
• David welcomes Nathan’s confrontation because he needed to be restored.
• Simon let in the woman because they both needed to be restored.
• God gives us one another so that all can be restored.
• God sends us into the Church, the city and the world so that all may be restored.
Chutzpah! Unwashed, unclean, unabashed, un-boundaried, rabble rousing Jesus always shows up!; And draws us all — prickly prophets, killer kings, wanton women, patronizing patricians, traitorous tax collectors, bawling babies, and each and every diverse person that is all of us; and, not by accusing us, not by dividing us, not by demonizing or lionizing any of us, but by receiving, nourishing, and being us, Jesus Christ restores us and forms us to be a welcoming and diverse communion, nourished God and called by God to publicly engage with others to creatively shape life in the city that God and we call ‘home.”
Some call that courage; some, chutzpah; some even say it’s absolute foolishness. But God calls this Gospel — Good News! News that makes for reconciliation. News the makes for peace. News that renews and re-invigorates life!
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter’s Church
in the City of New York