Illustrating from the 10 commandments in a very personal way

The first thing I noticed about pastor Jon when we met this week in a Phoenix coffeeshop was his elaborate tattoos. The second thing I noticed is that Jon is theologically savvy, with his undergraduate degree from Gordon College and his Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. From the anabaptist heritage, Jon is the articulate, well-spoken pastor of Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren in Scottsdale, a small church of about 50.

The Church of the Brethren is a 300-year-old church that believes the first followers of Jesus used the word brethren to describe both women and men whose lives had been changed by God’s love.

Today’s Brethren churches look to the Bible to set its doctrine, particularly emphasizing compassion, peacemaking, service (especially to victims of war, poverty and natural disasters) and simple living. They Baptize adults. They anoint each other for healing. They share in love feasts that includes a supper, foot-washing and communion.

And then came this in our conversation.

Jon said he loves to preach. “I work hard on my sermons and usually preach from a full manuscript,” he said.

“What are you preaching on these days?”

“Well, right now the 10 commandments,” he said.

Then he told me his tattoos actually represent the 10 commandments. “They are helping me,” he said.

On Sunday morning, Jon normally wears a collared long-sleeved shirt, with the sleeves rolled up.

But he’s wearing short sleeves the Sundays while he preaches the series on the 10 commandments. “I can point to them if I need to,” he said.

Now there’s a first for me: talking to a pastor who uses his own tattoos to help illustrate his sermon.