>I first was introduced to Terry Hershey back in 1992. He was one of the speakers at the now defunct Jesus Northwest in Vancouver, Washington. He spoke on intimacy and gave one of the best talks I have ever heard. Below is an excerpt from his book “Jesus In Skin”. I hope you enjoy it and please check out his website at http://www.terryhershey.com .
“This little boy was having nightmares. You know, the bad kind where you have to go to mama. It’s really no use going to dad because he just says, “Go to mama.”
“Mama, mama, I’m having nightmares!”
“It’s OK honey. Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to go back to your room. I want you to knell down by your bed. I want you to pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it.”
He went back to his room, knelt down by his bed, prayed to Jesus, got back in bed and he had more nightmares. All mamas out there, you know this story. Back and forth to mama all night long, six times: “Mama, mama, I’m having nightmares!”
“I know, honey.”
“I know mom. I’m going back to my room. I’m going to kneel down by my bed. I’m going to pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it. But before I do that, can I just lay in bed with you and have you hold me?”
“Well, sure honey. Why?”
“Because sometimes, mama, I need Jesus with skin on him!”
I understand where he’s coming from. And it reminds me of a story in the Gospel of Matthew. A very strange story actually. Jesus is talking to a large group of people and his mother and brothers come to visit him. And Jesus, who is the PR man’s nightmare, says the thing that you don’t expect him to say. He pretends he doesn’t know his family. He does an amnesia thing: “Who is my mother?” And the disciples are thinking, “Lord have mercy! He’s been in the sun too long.” And then Jesus says something extraordinary. He points to the people in the crowd, just the people who there and says, “This is my mother. This is my brother. This is my sister.” If Jesus meant that, it’s going to change the way we live, that we are literally linked. Now he’s not making some theology about the nuclear family. He’s not saying this is the way you treat your mother and brothers and sisters when you go home for Christmas or Thanksgiving. He’s saying something more profound and that is this: that if we really are brother and sister then no one, no one is on a faith journey alone. No one.
If that’s true, if we really are brother and sister, then it literally changes the way we live. But if it’s true, then that means there is going to be some good news and bad news with this which is at least better than the sermons I got when I was a kid. Those sermons were bad news and then more real bad news! But this at least has some good news. But we’ll start with the bad news first.
If Jesus meant that, we are really brother and sister, Mother Teresa said it best. She said that one of the reasons we don’t have peace in our time is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another. So bad news number one: none of us can make it alone. Now this is bad news because we live in a culture that we pride ourselves in self-sufficiency, self-reliance, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. When we’re flat on our back we shake our fist at the world. We can handle it, thank you very much! I mean even as a country we do this whole “we can do it.” None of us can make it alone.
Bad news number two: if we really are brother and sister, then guess what? We’ve got to quit keeping score. Now that really is a problem because in this culture our value, our worth, our very identity is predicated on keeping score: what we do, what we produce, what we achieve, what we accomplish, and how busy we are, anything that’s newer and faster and more up to date. And then what happens is if our paradigm for our value and worth is keeping score, then we’re no longer brother and sister and we see one another as competitor or adversary. And then I spend all of my energy because I’m keeping score, I spend all of my energy putting you down or trying to lift me up. And I use a lot of conversations talking about us and them. The problem is this: if our paradigm is keeping score then we’re scared to death to be real with each other, to be ordinary.
There’s a great story about a Sunday school class of first graders. The kids were acting up so the teacher tried to settle them down: “Kids, kids, kids, kids, kids!” she said. That’s how you can tell you’ve taught Sunday school too long! “Kids, kids, kids, kids, kids!” She said, “Let’s play a game. I’ll describe something to you, you tell me what it is. It’s a furry little animal with a big bushy tail and it climbs up trees and stores nuts in the winter.” Nobody said anything. She said, “You are a good Sunday school class. You know the right answer to this question. Furry little animal, big bushy tail, climbs up trees and stores nuts in the winter.” Finally one little girl raised her hand. The teacher said, “Emily?” Emily said, “Well teacher that sounds like a squirrel to me but I’ll say Jesus!” If we’re really brother and sister, a squirrel can just be a squirrel because we have nothing to prove and no one to impress.
Which leads to the third piece of bad news and that is this: if we are really connected, if we are really brother and sister, if we are on this faith journey together then that means we’re going to be connected to some people we don’t like, people we didn’t choose, and people who are different. Here’s the extraordinary irony. Some day, because we are brother and sister, someday God’s grace will touch you, will touch me through someone I did not choose and someone I least expected. And some day God’s grace will touch someone else, some one different through me in a way I did not anticipate.
You see, when I look at that person who is different I need to recognize that God did not put them on this earth for me to change or for me to convict or me to save. God put them here for me to learn from, listen to, to challenge and be challenged by, and to enjoy together this dance called life.
OK. That’s the bad news. Now the good news. Three pieces. One: if we really are brother and sister, then we don’t need to pretend we’ve got our act together! We can literally do this: whew! Why? Because if we’re brother and sister there is nothing to prove and this is not a race or a contest or a beauty pageant. Which leads to good news number two and three and that is this: we can receive from one another without keeping score and we can give to one another without expecting a pay back.
Where I live in Seattle, there is a program in a town called Bellevue called Buddy ball. Now, Buddy Ball is a program for baseball that mixes able-bodied children with children with disabilities. It was started by an extraordinary woman named Beth Campbell. She started it for her own son who is ten, who was not allowed to play in—and I love the way we say it with kids—he was not allowed to play with “normal children” in Little League. So she started Buddy Ball. He had a variety of disabilities and it’s called Buddy Ball because if you can’t run, a buddy runs for you. If you can’t hit, a buddy hits for you. If you can’t throw, a buddy throws for you. You’ve got to go to a Buddy ball game! It’s an extraordinary thing to see a kid in a motorized wheelchair as he gets to go by himself, to see a kid in a motorized wheelchair trying to stretch a double into a triple. It’s a hard thing because he raises his hands to cheer. When he does the wheelchair stops. You’ve never seen such joy. I’m quoting from the Seattle Times now and it said this…oh, I have to say, you have to know the rules of Buddy Ball and one of the rules is it is against the rules to strike out! Once you get six strikes, you automatically get to go to first. I know a lot of you are saying, “Hey, I could have played baseball that way!”
I gave a talk once to some professional psychologists and ministers and I talked about getting six strikes and going to first. And this man was so angry because he got in my face and said, “How dare you teach that kind of freedom to children!” I said, “Sir, you could use more roughage in your diet!” We’re scared to death when we live by grace instead of keeping score. And the Seattle Times says this: when that son gets to first, it says he doesn’t stop there. It says, but he doesn’t go to second either. It says he runs into the crowd and he hugs everybody. And then it goes on to say this: “It is what sports can be. People running and jumping and playing because nobody’s keeping score because nobody cares.”
And I say to you, it is what community can be. Some place where we can run and jump and play because at least for a minute or a day we quit keeping score. Why can we do that? Because we know that essentially we are brother and sister, we are connected and we are not ruled by fear and we are not ruled by score. And in the end because we are connected, we can literally be Jesus in skin.
From “Jesus In Skin” by Terry Hershey