People watching and Jesus paintings

"Head of Christ", Warner Sallman, 1940

“Head of Christ”, Warner Sallman, 1940

Baggy striped PJ’s.  A white beaded rosary necklace.  Messy hair, sunglasses and a backpack.”Oly” fashion never ceases to amaze me.

Cut-off  jeans, chains, lumberjack beards, piercings, tattoos, a rainbow of hair colors. Outdoorsy people, hippies,hipsters (the distinction of the last two depending on frequency of showers, length of hair, and tightness of jeans), homeless, and a few professionals.   I see it all in this delightfully eccentric little town.

I don’t know why I fixate on this woman.  Perhaps its her appearance at the 4th Ave. Tav during a slow moment of the nil-nil world cup final.  Perhaps its the 2nd IPA.

Three hours later I walk past Jesus.  I intentionally make eye contact as I run back and forth bringing  bags of  food, toilet paper and toiletries to those who line up in the fellowship hall during the meal.  Jesus is sitting at the table with his disciples.  A table filled with food and large glasses of wine.  His brown hair flows around his milky-white, smiling, face like a Disney prince.  He is well dressed and looks like he would smell like your Grandfather’s Old Spice.

Each time I pass the painting I take a deep breath hoping to tap into his compassion and love.  Feeling good that for at least a few minutes of my week, I am doing exactly what Jesus asked.  Taking care of those called “the least of these.”

I think Jesus would especially enjoy giving out makeup, hair dye, and nail polish.  I think he’d smile knowing that even dogs and cats were getting something to eat.

“Can I help you?”  I ask, flipping my note pad to the next page. “I need mouthwash, toothpaste, snacks, and canned food. Thanks!”

My jaw dropped as I looked up to see the woman from the bar.  The woman I had judged.  The woman whose clothing I had laughed at earlier.  I walked down the hall humbled, ashamed, grounded.

People watching is all fun and games until you remember that she is a child of God… Jesus in his more distressing attire.

Why do I automatically assume that Jesus is on my side of the table?  Jesus was just as smelly, dirty, and disheveled as anyone at tonights meal.   He was only rarely the host, mostly relying on the hospitality of others. (What color hair dye do you think Jesus would have asked for?)

When we forget Jesus was poor we forget Jesus.

Jesus in the receiving line forces us to rethink our position in the transaction.

Those of us  intent on giving have to let go of the status that comes with that.  We must take the person before us seriously.  We have to make eye contact.  If we do that we can’t help but make conversation and joke and believe that he or she has something to offer.  We have to look and listen and pay attention.

As I hand her the bag, her boisterous  “God bless you,” rings in my ears.

Lord, help me to take hold of that blessing.



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