Pentecost 5 (July 9, 2006)
WHO IS JESUS ANYWAY?
Although officially retired, I am serving a small “new” congregation, if you can call 105 official members small. Some weeks ago when the Scripture involved that startling statement of Jesus: “Ask anything in my name and I will give it to you,” I asked the assembly what they thought Jesus would want them to ask of him. They came up with 4 items I found quite exciting. 1. Increase in membership. 2. A larger facility. 3. To start a Christian school (primary grades thru ?). 4. Harmony among the members.
I thought those 4 requests to Jesus were God-pleasing (of course, I have the right and duty to declare what is God pleasing, right?) and could expect to be answered. But I wondered if I (or the other members) had faith enough in Jesus to give this “called out” group of people what they/we wanted. They would be miracles if these 4 requests were answered.
Not enough faith in his home town of Nazareth, or the lack of faith (what kind of faith we’re not told), seem to be the reason that he could not do but a few miracles in that town,
Do I believe Jesus can do miracles? Yes, of course, is my immediate glib answer. I never doubted Jesus did miracles, and even still does them, but do I have enough confidence in the words of someone whose message and methodology seem pretty strange in this age of e-mail, internet, cell phones, blue tooth (is the plural, blue teeth?), blackberries, and all kinds of other “fruit” of this age, to believe he would do the requests we presented to him? At this moment, we are waiting with eager expectation to see what he will do with “us” at this place and time in history.
Would Jesus be amazed at “our” lack of faith in who he is? Who is he to us anyway? We in the church can recite what we believe, right? “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord who was conceived by…” and on to the end of that part of the Apostles Creed.
“Lord,” “Jesus Christ,” “God almighty” are largely used in expletives. Our “lord,” the one who tells us what life is all about probably is the television set. We derive more and more of our morals, ethics, images, and dreams from the stories we let amuse us and much more day after day, night after night. The news channels report on fires, famines and floods; wars and crimes (is there a difference?) all over the world, natural and structural disasters, massive depression of persons in flooded cities, corrupt CEO’s and elected government officials, excessive profits of oil companies and more children in poverty than ever before, outrageous greed followed by hideous envy, fears, terrors—and who is Lord? It doesn’t take a holocaust to doubt his presence.
Where is he? Where are we going to see him in action, proving (the miracle) that indeed he really does have “all authority in heaven and on earth”?
Who is he to us anyway? To his hometown people, he was, well, Mary’s son, although they usually called people by their father’s name, as in sons of Zebedee. But then they all knew his start in life as different?! He wasn’t much more than just a builder of things; need to know your craft all right for that, but that doesn’t give you much insight into life, does it? Where did this wisenheimer get the wisdom to perform miracles? His brothers and sisters certainly didn’t display any of whatever it was Jesus had. He is just showing off, trying to one up all of the citizens of this town.
Who is he to us? Well, I suppose we have to have some order in life and this “do unto others, as we want them to do to us” thing is pretty good. It’s nice to think that after all the stuff we have to go through in this life we’ll get to a better place. That does depend on “the good we have done in this world” doesn’t it?
To think Jesus has all the answers to all the questions—isn’t that a little arrogant on our part? Shouldn’t we tone that down a bit? After all, you can’t tell whether it was God or the medicine that worked, can you? If I haven’t prayed for food in years, doesn’t mean the super market will be empty, does it?
Sure we all need miracles now and then, but that’s not the stuff that our lives encounter every day. We need to learn to calm our nerves in this frenetic traffic that makes our roads look like clogged drains (nothing going no where); take a deep breath before we let everything hang out; take the meds for depression; and, well, look on the bright side of life, smell the roses, take time for yourself, get an interesting hobby or get into sports.
Who is this Jesus to us?
The hilarious part of today’s reading from Mark’s version of the life of Christ is what he does next. He sends his twelve disciples out two by two and gives them authority over evil spirits.
These twelve, well, they didn’t have much more of a wonderful history than Jesus. Some were fishermen and probably smelled like fish that had been in the sun too long. The tax collector, Matthew, certainly must have been something to see what he was doing, after being not much more than a low life most of his life to this time. Little education (all wisenheimers?), except for their time with Jesus. Not very “faith” filled persons. Jesus himself had said that they had little if any faith, whatever kind of faith that was to be. If that is the kind of people Jesus sends out, I guess we don’t have to be thinking our qualifications aren’t good enough.
What is their mission? Cut down the authority of the devil. Show who’s in charge? God or the devil? Evil and sin or forgiveness and restoration to God’s family?
They were sent—no money, no extra clothes, no lunch money, no bag of things a person can’t live without. They were to be dependent on the people they went to see. They weren’t to have it all together. They needed people to provide everything but their shoes.
Jesus is pretty open with them. Some will reject their message (whatever it was) in favor of some previous message and faith. Shaking off the dust was a symbol of rejection. Not to waste time with such; but to bring healing, reconciliation to those who need it.
I said this was hilarious. If Jesus walked in that door and sent you out to Buda, Kyle, Creedmoor, and other places, would you go? Go without preparation? Go, believing you have power over evil spirits? Go with no money, no credit cards? I don’t know which part we would find more hilarious!
He was amazed at their lack of faith, or is it our lack of faith? Would he be amazed at our quantity, (or is it?) quality of faith? Or our lack of the same?
So they went and preached, not as preachers, but as proclaimers of the Good News about Jesus. This caused people to repent, change their attitude and direction in life, start new, give up the old; have hope when like seemed hopeless. After people heard the message from these disciples, they gave us hatred and anger. They were reconciled with people. They were anointed with oil and got healed. No longer squealing in pain and despair, but well oiled with the oil of gladness coming from the Good Shepherd. It worked, their message!
But, of course, these little faith-ed people could do what Jesus promised because they believed in him. They trusted him. If he said it, it was going to happen, and it did!
Who is Jesus anyway? What instructions could his first century message have for 21st century people? What is the content of our “preaching”? I mean your preaching, not this stuff I do on Sundays? What does it say about your faith in Jesus?
Some in his home town thought he went too far for a local lad; some of us are reluctant to believe Jesus can do all he promised.
Even that cross thing of Jesus, that’s often too difficult to explain. My “sin” is involved in that? My “sin” is no more? All because of this Jesus?
Think for a moment what healing could take place if we believed that we are part of the world God loved. Lay out in your mind what we could give up, in both frenetic behavior and fear we might miss something if we trusted that we will live under the protection of the divine forever and that this present living is but a time of listening and proclaiming?
Who is this Jesus anyway? “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Amen.
Walter W. Harms, retired pastor