Happy Birthday! The pastor who took Jesus’ words literally

Geoff Waugh

The Netherlands: The pastor who decided to take Jesus’ words literally


Jan Wolsheimer pastors a missionary Baptist Church in Woerden, a mid-sized town in the Netherlands. “As a Christian the words of Jesus mean a lot to me,” he says. “I study them, analyze them, and try to apply them. If Jesus really meant what he said, I want to take his words to the test, in real-life.”

19th century Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard once said: “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”

Provocative words for Jan. “Take the Sermon on the Mount,” he says. “The choicest teachings of Jesus. What do we do with it in our churches? We deal with it as if it’s the best piece of poetry ever written. After church we close the book and continue to live like we never heard these words. So I searched the Gospels for commands Jesus gave that are at their core dead easy to put into practice, yet no-one I knew was doing it. I reasoned: If we have nothing to do with those simple commands of Jesus – how are we ever going to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’? That is quite a thing.”


‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, relatives or rich neighbors’

Jan decided to start with a simple, unambiguous text:

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

“Easy peasy, right? But I don’t see anyone doing this. And I’ve never done it either. A nice test to see whether it all makes sense.”

In preparation for his birthday Jan decided to print an invitation with his picture on it and a welcoming text. He went into town and dropped them into the hands of refugees, street paper vendors, people without money and people with a psychiatric disorder. “I couldn’t find a blind person, but I finally met someone in a wheelchair, so at least I covered the lame part of Jesus’ assignment.”

‘People were enthusiastic, as if they had been waiting to put the words of Jesus into practice’

To remove any barriers, Jan mentioned in the invitation that the guests didn’t have to bring a present, as he already had everything. He then rented a meeting place and asked the folks in his church to give him a hand to prepare a great meal. “People were enthusiastic, as if they had been waiting to put the words of Jesus into practice,” Jan says. “A band spontaneously volunteered to play live music. One lady baked a cake, another made nasi and it all started to come together.”

But meanwhile, Jan was nervous, wondering if the invited guests would really show up.
[Edit: You could involve family and friends as helpers and servers, not invited guests.]

‘The party room filled up with the most exotic characters’

The day of his birthday came, and the party room filled up with the most exotic characters one can imagine. “I had to admit that Jesus was right: you will be very happy when you invite people to your party who can’t return the favor,” says Jan. “A house packed with people who normally don’t get invited to a birthday. It breaks your heart.”

“A lady named Cora came to tell me that this was the first birthday party she was invited to since her youth. Now she was welcomed to the anniversary of the pastor, with an abundance of food and drinks. For Cora this was heaven. And for me too – I laughed and beamed of joy all afternoon, like a monkey on big pile of bananas. How improbably cool this was, and above all how simple.”

For Jan no more ordinary birthdays. “The ‘Luke 14 parties’ acknowledge the Bulgarian street paper vendor with two teeth in his mouth. And the middle-aged woman with HIV as a result of a rather rough lifestyle. And the Palestinian-Syrian refugee who desecrated Ramadan to attend the party. And the regular man in his fifties with a low IQ who showed up an hour before the party on his bicycle, with expectant eyes.”

With which mission of Jesus would you get started? ~ Just to test whether his words are really true.

Source: Jan Wolsheimer
Joel News International 1010 | 10/04/2016


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