Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sunday June 28th, 2015---Shake it Off

This Sunday, we come to the time in Jesus' travelings where he comes back home to Nazareth with a rather cold welcome. Actually, it wasn't really a welcome at all....

Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever go somewhere and expect one thing and get another? Are you ever disappointed in how someone receives you? Do you ever think "how could someone think they are so great?"

I imagine that Jesus was not very pleased in how he was received in his own hometown. There he was, teaching in the synagogue, and the townfolk thought "where the heck did he get so smart?" They were suspicious and surprised. They were repulsed, thinking "who does this guy think he is!?" And this appalled Jesus. Yes, he was disappointed to the point where he was only able to heal "a few people."

When we don't believe in Jesus, in God's work through Christ, this limits the impact God may have on someone. God uses us to reach and even heal people (although this does not mean God needs or relies on us wholeheartedly; Jesus is still able to heal without the faith of the people).

Jesus knows that a prophet will not be accepted in their hometown; he cites scripture and fulfills there in Nazareth. And he uses this moment to teach his disciples, and us today, a lesson:

"If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.”

I'm sorry, but I can't help but think of that catchy Taylor Swift song "Shake it Off." The song definitely speaks to different circumstances than the ones Jesus faced in his hometown, but it does invite us to simply be ourselves and be confident in who we are. If we take that a bit further---I think we can be led to a self-confidence that is grounded in the faith that God has uniquely shaped us, and has called us each to be who we are.

Jesus called his disciples to shake off the dust of the town that refused their message of the gospel. He called them to be confident in who they are as Christ followers, even if it means that some may not accept them or what they have to say. This is part of what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus...to be willing to shake off the dust; shake off the shame; shake off the rejection...and follow Christ, speak the gospel; to turn your life around (repent) for God.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sunday, June 21st, 2015---Jesus the Multi-Tasker

Jesus multi-tasked even before it became the norm of our fast-paced 21st century culture. Mark 5:21-43 tells the classic story in which Jesus comes across the sea of Galilee (where he just calmed the storm) on a boat, where a group of people are waiting for him. Among this group is a leader from the synagogue, Jairus. His daughter is in some serious trouble and is at the point of death. So Jesus, with the crowd following him, goes with Jairus to heal his daughter at his house.

On the way there, a woman was so desperate for healing that it was all she could just to brush the edge of Jesus' clothes. She, too, needed healing. Jesus stops the caravan and says "your faith has healed you."

Jesus continues on and heals Jairus' daughter, too.

So Jesus multi-tasked. He problem solved. We can relate to Jesus in this way. So many times in life, something unexpectedly pops up and we have to take care of it, even if it interrupts our original plans. Although we do not have the power to heal people quite like Jesus did, we do know how it feels to deal with "problems" as they come up like Jesus did that day.

This story lies in a crucial portion of Jesus' ministry in Galilee. In chapters 3-6 of Mark, stories are shared with us where Jesus healed people around this lake-front town. What seemed like an interruption that day, is actually included in Jesus' ministry as one of the most significant healing acts he ever did. And it was on the way to do something else. Jesus healed on his way to heal someone else. He ministered on his way to minster.

So, when something unplanned happens in your life, it, too, may be an opportunity for you to minister to someone. Jesus stopped the caravan of people in order to speak life into this woman who needed healing. He did not simply continue on, he was present for this woman.

Unexpected things happen all the time: car trouble, deaths, chores, interruptions, accidents, disasters, you name it...Jesus is showing us, telling us, to be present in those moments for others so that we may show others that their faith heals them; that Jesus is there for them.

Ephesians 2:8

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.

Amen! See you Sunday!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sunday June 7th, 2015---"Give us a King"

Coming off of Pentecost, you may be thinking of the birth of the church. The Holy Spirit came that day, and the church as we know it began with a bang, a rush, a wind...a fire. When we think about that day, it seems pretty dramatic! What it must have been like to see the fire, to feel the wind, to hear everyone in their different languages. It seems very different than what we see and experience today.

Although that may be the case, the God who gave the spirit to those gathered there on that day remains the same. God remains the source of all we do in the church. God remains the one who leads, protects, and loves us. God's Spirit is still with us.

In  a sense, God is our King. God is the one we serve, and God is the one who provides for us. In our world; in our country, we do not have kings. America never did; we were founded on the idea of democracy, not monarchy. So the image of kingship may not mean the same to us here in the U.S. as it may in a country that has had kings and queens. Even for countries like England, Australia, and Canada, who name Elizabeth II as their queen, may in fact treat her position as a mere title.

Still, there are many countries in the world who are ruled by queens or kings . Kings ruled in the days of the Old Testament (and the NT, too).

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 tells a story where David gets anointed as the next king by the prophet Samuel. The people of Israel desired, expected, and needed a king. It takes the rest of the 1st book of Samuel for Saul to die, and David becomes king in the 1st chapter of the 2nd book of Samuel. We know David as a great and mighty king, a "man after God's own heart," even though he had his, shall we say, "lesser" moments (he pretends to be crazy, and we all know about his encounter with Bathsheba). We will talk more about David later this summer.

This passage introduces two kings of Israel, Saul and David, but now God is the King of our lives. We worship God and we depend on God. God's love is more than anyone can ever give us. God's care is more complete than anything anyone can ever give us. God provides us with more than we could ever need. So, will we turn towards God and accept what God has for us? Will we accept God as our king?

I will admit, this "kingly" language does strike me as a bit of an odd analogy to God. The idea of being ruled by a king or queen is an earthly, human-made concept that is carried out in a variety of ways that end up oppressing people and, ultimately, not providing what God give us. God gives us life, hope, salvation....love. I take comfort in that, because God is more than we see in kings. No king can measure up to God. That's good news, friends.

See you on Sunday.