It’s the Sabbath, Saturday morning, about 9:00 AM. Jesus is sitting with Matthew and Bartholomew at the Starbucks across from his old customhouse in downtown Capernaum. Jesus and Matthew are drinking espresso, Bart is drinking a tea.
Jesus: Matt, you headed to synagogue?
Matt: Nope. Unless you’re preaching.
Jesus: Not today. Next week I’m reading out of Isaiah.
Bart: That’ll be good.
Jesus: So, Matt, why are you not going to synagogue?
Matt: I’ve been. Seen enough.
Bart: But, Matt, you need to go to synagogue.
Jesus: Well, depends.
Bart: Every good Hebrew goes to synagogue…by definition.
Matt: It might should be that way, but it’s not.
Jesus: So, the reason you don’t go to synagogue is you’ve been?
Matt: Yep. When I went, I was judged, ridiculed, embarrassed, harassed and made to feel guilty and clueless. Swore I’d never go back again.
Bart: Well, that one must have been a bad synagogue. Others wouldn’t do that.
Matt: Nope. It’s that one, three doors down, on the left. And I’ve visited others. If heaven is full of people like that, I’m not interested.
Jesus: You are right, Matthew. The people who avoid synagogue are usually the ones who have been. Strangers will at least sample it.
Matt: Yep. The people who stay away from synagogue are staying away for a reason. And it’s not because they hate God or want to go to hell or are atheists. It’s because believers built a club a lot of people don’t feel comfortable joining. The synagogue isn’t about God or goodness or friendliness — it’s about who agrees with the leaders.
Jesus: That may be a bit harsh, but I can see where you’re coming from. But remember, you were a tax collector.
Matt: I sure remember. My dad helped in the Syrian uprising to get our customhouse, there, across the street. He fought for peace and worked hard. Better to have a good man collecting taxes for Caesar than a bad one, right?
Bart: Now that you mention it. I’ve always kinda hated synagogue, too, but I’ve kept going because I thought I had to.
Jesus: Hmmm. You don’t have to go to a synagogue like that.
Matt: Bart, you know the old store over on baker’s street that has the big parking lot?
Matt: We call it Crossroads. There’s a group of believers there who have been meeting for years now. My dad was with the original group. The place is packed with sinners and tax collectors and such. Everyone is welcome and we just have a good time learning from the Prophets. Jesus visited us a few years back and has preached more than once. That’s where I go on Sabbath. I work on the production team. We also hold two services on Sundays.
Bart: You’re talking about the place that has all the traffic problems on Saturday mornings?
Matt: Yep. Our goal is to lead others into a growing relationship with God. Regardless.
Bart: Regardless of what?
Matt: Regardless of anything. Plus, we have killer music.
Jesus: I’m going to walk over to the “real” synagogue this morning. I’ll be over at Crossroads tomorrow. Matt, Bart pay attention to what’s going on a Crossroads. I want the future church to be a place people want to return to.
Tr8: Be a person who welcomes all. Regardless. And join a church that loves others regardlessly.