Monday, August 25, 2008

Exit None (one of many "Last Exit in NJ") -Hoboken Jesus

Hoboken, the Birthplace of Baseball, soft-serve ice cream, Frank Sinatra, the zipper, the Oreo cookie, the Blimpie, America’s first brewery and the automated parking garage is also home to the winking Jesus. Yes, the winking Jesus.

I’m not particularly fond of the methods of street preachers -I guess I’m a little bit biased against crazed guys shouting at me telling me I’m destined for hell and they don’t even know me. One of these guys placed a plaster Jesus in a make-shift shrine on Jackson Street.

A little background on this statue: the preacher found it in a dumpster and it is in disrepair - well, of course it is, if someone is trashing a plaster Jesus -

A little background on the preacher: unemployed and partially blind.

Next thing you know, preacher man claims Jesus winked at him! Now Jesus would wink at a partially bind street preacher to convey what exactly?

How you doin’?
Thanks for taking me out of the trash, I owe you one.
Well done my good and faithful servant.
Hey, nice duds, dude.

A winking Jesus is quite a news story and all the New York press crossed the Hudson to cover the event…..Some claimed it was a miracle, a sign from God …..

A 14 year old girl put things in proper perspective, “It’s just a sculpture. I think somebody just scraped its eyelid off.”

We’re always looking for signs and wonders.

Luke 2: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Exit 52 Route 80 - Fairfield Jesus

As with other New Jersey townships, Fairfield shares its namesake with yet another in the state. Known as Fairfield only since 1924, you would have thought the townsfolk would have come up with something a bit more original.

I recently walked into a Christian retail store in town and to my surprise, Jesus was for sale. When exactly did Jesus leave the church and get into the retail business?

Didn’t Protestants once bash Catholics for buying indulgences and absolution? Forget all that, I can go straight to the god-man himself, for a price.

Ya know, I was always taught, "Jesus paid the price for my sins," so why would I need to buy a Jesus?

The makers of the Jesus doll (yes, doll) state, "It is an interactive figure for children and adults alike. It conveys love, compassion and security. It is incredibly huggable…it gives and takes loving, meaningful hugs whenever they are needed." After an argument with the Mrs. or a bad day at the office, there’s nothing like getting a big ole meaningful hug from a fiber-filled Jesus.

Also in the toy section was, "The Risen Savior Set." "Experience and celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ with these educational action figures," so says the box. An action figure Jesus? Wait, he’s on the shelf next to….is that, Bibleman? Look, there’s even a plastic Bible in B-man’set, then again, The Risen Savior does come with a roll-away stone.

At what point do parents explain that Jesus is real, and Bibleman is, well, that guy from Celebrity Fit Club 6?

We are a total consumer-driven culture as Jesus steps down from the sanctuary and on to the retail rack.

1 Corinthians
"You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. "
Which kind of contadicts the concept of buying a retail store Jesus.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Exit 43A-B Route 80 - Morristown Jesus

Morristown is known as the "Cradle of the Revolutionary War." In 1773 George Washington slept here. On this particular Saturday it was known for something else: water.

The Green in the town center was transformed into a 2008 version of Water World, but without Kevin Costner. Sponsored by Liquid, this local Morristown church is having global influence by raising awareness for clean water in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Waterwalk: For each local resident who carried canisters of water down the waterwalk, Liquid provided access to clean water for a child for the next 20 years.

Waterslide: Not just for kids, this slide told a story of well, water waste.

Water bottles: To remind us that unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease, and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old.

Liquid’s tag line, "Living water for a thirsty world," is derived from Jesus’ words: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

There were lots of believers, streams of living water and streams of just plain water as the skies opened and the water flowed.

Matthew 10: And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Exit 44 Route 78 - New Providence Jesus

The town was originally named Turkeytown, seems there was a rather large presence of wild turkeys in the area. In 1759, the balcony of the Presbyterian church collapsed. The lack of serious injuries was declared by DIVINE PROVIDENCE and the town was renamed to NEW PROVIDENCE.

Here in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church is World Vision’s mock Ugandan village. One cannot miss this village along Springfield Avenue. Downtown New Providence is beautiful, this Ugandan village is not.
As WV’s mission statement says, “Motivated by our faith in Jesus, we serve the poor…” and this small piece of Uganda is meant to give us just a glimpse.

Entering the tent-like structure, I was provided an iPod (not standard in Uganda).

Following the earpiece instructions, I take on the identity of a 13 year old Ugandan, Stephen Migeria and begin my 20 minute life-changing tour. I am immersed in the role of this Stephen.

I sit on his straw chair soaking in the sounds of the African landscape. It is quite peaceful. I lay in his bed, while still soaking in the “peace,” I hear gunshots, lots of them. The voice in my earpiece says something about “The Lord’s Resistance Army,” then the words, “They’re coming for you, Stephen.” I literally stand motionless as I listen to the voice in my ear telling me that I am now abducted and training to be a child soldier. The earpiece voice tells me I have killed others both by gun and machete.

A year into my abduction, my small army of boys is ambushed by another army and I am taken to the Gulu Children of War Rehabilitation Center. Here, I am cared for by a mentor who tells me that God loves me and actually forgives me for what I’ve done.

But after being saved from the Lord’s Resistance Army, I am told of yet another threat, a hidden one: AIDS. I wait in the clinic for my test results.

“Negative.” I am relieved.

James 1: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”