Basically, none of them is particularly interested in it; at least, not at the expense of truth-telling.
Even a cursory read of the Gospels confirms that Jesus didn’t mince words, especially around religious people who needed clarification about the realm of God. Luke, in particular, tells hard-hitting stories peppered with Jesus-quotes that he might have softened, or left out entirely, so as not to offend the powers-that-were (and are). But Luke had a special heart for telling stories of outsiders and minorities, and he portrays a Jesus who challenges the powerful and privileged to rethink their assumptions about tradition, purity, and who’s in and who’s not.
In his new book, Jesus: A Life: Daily Reflections on the Gospel of Luke, RCA -educated and ordained minister, Daniel Plasman takes us through Luke’s stories one day at a time: 365 one-page examinations of the book of Luke. The book is not a church-year-based lectionary devotional. You can put it down any time, but we’re guessing you won’t want to. From his fluid rephrasing of the original text and/or several English translations, to his unpacking of Luke’s stories, Plasman isn’t interested in soft-selling the implications of this gospel.
Instead, while Plasman establishes in the introduction that he writes for “people who deeply love Jesus, God, and the church,” his more purposeful intention is to address “those who’ve given up on all three because of the harm authority figures and religious institutions have inflicted on them. This ….. includes those who’ve been devalued, discouraged, and denounced because of their gender or gender expression, their life experiences, their marital status, their ethnicity, their race, their addiction, their disability, their sexual orientation, their politics, their doubts, or their questions.”
And that he does. Take this unpacking of Luke 9: 23-27, the “take up your cross” verses. Titled, “Tough Talk,” Plasman imagines this congregational mission statement based on the passage:
THIS IS WHO WE ARE…We are cross bearers with Jesus. We know you’re looking for a “friendly church” filled with nice people. We’re not inhospitable; it’s just that we believe God calls us into true community… We invite you to lose your life, to give yourself to the one who gave his life to show us a more godly way of living. This is serious business. We don’t care about your felt needs. Jesus didn’t live and die for felt needs. He was executed because he cared too much for victims of unfair treatment,, who were overlooked and underrepresented… The Gospel cuts deep. Get over it! By all means, we welcome you, However, if you decide that our community isn’t for you, we understand. Not everybody looks good nailed to wood. (p. 151)
Or this, from “Not One of Us,” based on Luke 9: 49-50, where Jesus rebukes John’s gate-keeping:
We see evidence that God is at work in the world; it’s just too bad that our competitors down the street are doing it. The sermon was thoughtful, biblical, and challenging; too bad it was preached by a woman. He’s gifted for ministry and she’s experienced a call to seminary, but we don’t recognize gays and lesbians in leadership positions. Gandhi and Mohammad were worthy men, but God’s heart has no room for Hindus and Muslims. We see your Spirit’s effectiveness, Jesus, but we don’t approve; they’re not like us and certainly not our kind. Put a halt to it now! We’ve got purity issues to consider! (p. 160)
By now you’ve figured out that Daniel Plasman supports Room for All’s mission, and that he bases that support, in part, on what he reads about Jesus in the Gospel of Luke:
Luke’s Jesus models new ways for people to relate to one another in which walls and barriers are dismantled, the downtrodden are lifted up, exploitive powers are brought low, forgiveness is the norm, and mercy extends to all. This is God’s story – the Gospel according to Luke. (p. 2)
In “Jesus: A Life,” Daniel Plasman takes up good company in speaking truth to power. We’re grateful for this book, and grateful that its author has designated all profits to support the work of Room for All. Sure, we like that. But the truth is, we would be recommending the book anyway. It’s scholarly (with an impressive source list of writers who have informed Plasman’s understanding of Jesus), well-written, and expressive of the inclusive love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the love that compels our ministry.
(We also love it that amazon.com informs us that “customers who bought this book also bought the LEGO Arctic Outpost.” Talk about people living on the margins.)