Monday, August 23, 2010

Peanuts Christ

The other night, on the way home from my orientation day at SFTS in Pasadena (which went great, by the way), we stopped in Lake Elsinore, at a place called Flour Fusion, to hang out with Amanda's family and go to a birthday party/coffeehouse concert. Amanda's brother Chris played in a couple different sets and he was awesome. It was really a great night not only because we got to see family but because some of our old friends were there. My friend Johanna played that night (and gave me my copy of her new CD), my friend Ryan George (the man with two first names) was there, and we met a few other friends as well. I can definitely say it felt good!

As the night wound down, an older looking man walked by the crowd of us hanging out in front of the coffee shop. He appeared to be homeless (and I later discovered that he was) and he was asking for spare change. I handed him a dollar, despite the common warnings not to give cash to "people like that," and to be honest, I was feeling kinda good about myself. As the man walked down the line, my friend Ryan (who probably didn't have any cash anyway) started walking with him, making conversation along the way, instead of handing him a bill. I laughed and thought, "of course. That makes sense. Only Ryan..." I wondered what they could have been talking about but instead of venturing to find out, I simply went on with my evening.

Several minutes later, maybe half an hour, Amanda and I got curious. We walked over to where Ryan and his new friend had sat down and were conversing. I tried to look busy on my phone (how ironic) so that I could get away with only listening in, eavesdropping even, but that didn't last. They were simply hanging out, laughing together, telling stories. Soon enough, we were all laughing together and sharing stories. He was a funny man with a warm and quirky personality. Most of the stories he shared were about Jesus. He kept saying, "I really enjoy talking with you kids" The three of us (Ryan, Amanda, and I) sat as he told familiar stories about Jesus feeding five thousand hungry people, how he didn't have anywhere to lay his head, how he taught his disciples to care about people, and how he trusted God. He told familiar stories but somehow, coming from him, I was hearing them again for the first time.

This man, a homeless man with limited education from Lake Elsinore, transformed the environment we were in into something which words cannot express, a sacred space. At one point, the man knelt down and simply held my foot in his hands as I sat on the bench. He was telling us the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Here was a poor man with dirty hands, sitting on the concrete sidewalk beneath us, holding my foot in his hand saying "Jesus was not afraid. Jesus was not afraid of his disciples." In that moment I understood, for the first time, something I've known for a while. Jesus was not afraid. And that fearlessness, that love which casts our fear like a demon from a possessed man, was being displayed for me in a poor homeless man from Lake Elsinore. I understood, in that moment, what the incarnation was all about. I understood, in that moment, how God can come alive in a particular person, even as particular as Jesus Christ--a poor homeless man from Nazareth. I understood the true counter-productivity of the church's constant quest for relevance and spectacle. Although this man appeared to be held captive by financial strain, his fearlessness in love revealed a freedom which transcends all understanding. The gospel of Christ was being embodied in front of me.

Indeed the gospel was embodied in my friend Ryan as well. In his freedom, Ryan went beyond simply handing the man a dollar to get him off of his chest. He started a conversation and became a friend. That night Ryan showed genuine interest in a man in whom none were interested. He displayed a freedom in love that can never be earned or won, a freedom that free if only we can learn to love.

The man's name was Peanuts. "I was born with a big round head and my parents didn't wanna call me Charlie Brown or Chuck so they called me Peanuts." And he ministered to us --three graduates of a theological institution of higher learning--and he taught us the meaning of Jesus. "Help the person on the street," he said. "Be a friend."

Mother Teresa once said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

14 comments:

Paul Pavao said...

Sorry for commenting so much, but I have to say this ...

Wow.

I'm going to send a link to this one to about about a hundred adults. I hope some of them show up to read it.

doug.rvc@gmail.com Chamley said...

This truly the example we need to see, hear and do likewise with. What a perfect picture of friendship with Hod and befriending one another in His character. Thank you for being brave and open with your experience. It has blessed me and given me more purpose this day.

David Dickerson said...

That was one of the most encouraging things I've read in a long time. Thank you for posting that.

It's too easy to compartmentalize 'giving' into the 'money' box. What's needed is for us, who are containers of the living Christ, to give of Him, to give Love. I'm sure that can mean money sometimes, but I would think never money alone.

Your friend Ryan sounds awesome.

Dossie said...

I appreciate your honesty. It is the way we all think. But, a way we need to desparately overcome. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is like entertaining angels unawares, only the angel was ministering to the young people. How awesome this story is.
Brenda Martin

Frank said...

Thanks for the gentle reminder that we do indeed live in an "Upside-down Kingdom". what an encouragement to knock the dust off my Jesus 101 manual and re concider the Heart of my "Homeless" Savior.

Paul Pavao said...

Lol. I don't have to wonder which Frank that is. I can hear your voice clearly saying "Jesus 101 manual."

Anonymous said...

How easy it is to think of entertaining angels. Sounds more like a visit from our risen Saviour. "if you've done it to.... You've done it to me. How many of these opportunities pass by us every day? Does it take courage or JUST genuine LOVE

Ed said...

I thank God for not only allowing me to taste and see Him thru this example but for turning me towards Himself that I would not miss Him when He comes... Thank you Father

Your beloved
Donna

WES ELLIS said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'm still learning from the experience I had with Peanuts.
Wes

Kitty said...

Yes, thank you for your honesty and post about Peanuts. What a story, really makes me think of being more aware of those around me ,no matter where I go. Also this story will be used as part of the morning devotions too since I am reading the story of The Quiltmakers Gift , a lady who gave of herself not just money.

Paul Pavao said...

Hi, Wes,

I'm glad you're glad for the comments. Yesterday and today I got emails from a friend in Memphis and another in New Jersey thanking me for pointing out your post and telling me they're passing it on to friends.

I know my friends in Memphis already talk to the homeless people there. We've been promised that one of them is going to take the teenagers from our church out with ten one-dollar bills and a sandwich, turn them loose in downtown Memphis (in twos and threes), and tell them to give them all away before the day's out.

Now that should be interesting.

Faith said...

Thanks for reminding us that "the hope of the world was a homeless man". It will be neat to see Peanut in his glory on the other side - when we will know as we are known.

John Michael said...

Wow! I'm going to read this to anyone who'll listen, starting with coffee in the morning, and at supper, if I can.