Photo by Ester Marie Doysabas on Unsplash “On the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mark 9:34). How do you imagine that argument went? Today’s gospel (Mark 9:30-37) doesn’t tell us what the disciples said…
“But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about [his teaching], said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’” Let’s start there. Who’s offended by today’s gospel (John 6:56-69)? Raise your hand if you are. Anyone? No one? When was…
Last week, some of you may remember, I ended my sermon by asking this question: Will we, in 2021, be different from and better than how we were in 2020? There’s not much about the first ten days of 2021 that suggests we will. I think it’s still an open question and, I hope, still a possibility. But after the events of last Wednesday and the assault on our nation’s capitol I’m just not so sure we will be. As I reflect on the events of last Wednesday I keep going back to words from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
This coming Sunday one option for the gospel is the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23). Every time read this story I remember the words of poet George Szirtes and the music of Richard Causton. Richard Causton is…
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These, Jesus says, are the two commandments on which everything else hangs. They are two sides of the same thing. You can’t truly have one without the other. This is about more than our feelings or affection for God and one another. It’s about our commitment to the life and well-being of the other. It’s a choice we make every day - to love or not to love. I wonder what that love looks like. I wonder what your life and my life would be like if we held those two commandments as the guiding principles for what we do. I wonder what we might create and achieve if we embodied and lived those commandments.
Isaiah describes how God dug a vineyard, cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines. Then God built a watchtower in the midst of the vineyard and hewed out a wine vat in it. And now God want to know, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” God “expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” (Isaiah 5:1-7) How can that be? That God wouldn’t or couldn’t get what God expects or wants doesn’t fit with many of the images and concepts we have of who God is and how God is.
Jonah has finally arrived at Nineveh. It’s a city so large it will take him three days to walk across it. Going a day’s walk into the city he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” What do you hear in his words? What do you imagine Jonah might be thinking and feeling? Let me tell you some of the things I wonder about as I hear his words.
What would you say if I told you that every day is the third day? What would you think if I told you that resurrection is happening every day everywhere? What if I told you that resurrection is happening even in the current political, economic, and racial struggles of today; even in the midst of the pandemic; and even in our divisions and disagreements about who we are and the values we hold? Can you see it? Are you experiencing it? Is it real for you? If so, what does it look like? Where are you seeing life and more life? What difference is resurrection making in your life today? And if you can’t see it and aren’t experiencing it, if it’s not real for you, why not? Are you standing with Peter in the “God forbid it” place?
I thought I knew or had some idea of what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah. The events of the last six months, however, have caused me to rethink what it means. It used to be mostly a Sunday morning kind of question, but now it’s an every day kind of question. It used to be about the future, but now it’s about the present moment. It’s no longer only or even primarily about saving souls, it’s about changing hearts. And if Jesus is not changing your heart and my heart then he is not the Messiah of our lives. And if he is our Messiah then he necessarily changes how we live.
When you look at you life today, when you look at the lives of the people you care about most, when you look at everything that is happening in our country, what are your deepest hopes? Whatever you just named, that hope carries the seeds of your life. And it’s asking something of you. It’s a call and an insistence waiting to be given existence.