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“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, NAB)
I’ve often realized that sometimes the sacred Scriptures get quite “dull” to me, and I think the reason is that for all the “this and that” over Scripture, it is and will always be a collection of stories about real people and their interactions with each other and with God. The Scriptures are not a formulaic self-help manual, they are real stories about a Real God Who is ever-present in the lives of the people, the stories, the history, and still to this day.
I love the Gospels for this precise reason: they are stories of Jesus the Messiah interacting with people and they are also narratives of how the people around Him interpreted and experienced Jesus. That is one reason I love the Book of Acts, because it tells how, once the holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and disciples, that they (like Jesus) began to speak and act with authority of God: a balance of Love and Truth.
When I think about Jesus, I often forget or deny His humanness. Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, and he was filled with the Spirit and power. And what did he do with his Spirit-filled power: he used it to go about “doing good” and healing all those who were oppressed. Now, how many of us can say if we had “power” that this is what we would do?
And when I look around at many Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongerers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the “true professed followers of Jesus” were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, gun-supporting, reactionary close-mindedness, and narcissistic self-help pedagogies promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…
I truly feel that if Jesus were alive today, He would be locked out of most churches. I can hear the gossip now: “how dare He hang out with prostitutes, drug addicts, money-launderers, the dirty, the unclean…and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.
Can you hear it? “Just exactly who does this Jesus think He is? How dare Him. Well, He’ll mess up my agenda. He might mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll offend the neighbors…”
Damn right Jesus will mess with you! And so He should. He is the Lord and Messiah, not any one doctrine or the views of people. Understand this: going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus executed! Going around spreading God’s messy grace lavishly on those whom society thought unworthy offended all the religious and powerful people of His day. Jesus did not win some local civic award or the Nobel Prize, nor did He get 1 million hits on His YouTube viral video or have the most friends on Facebook. He touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, and forgave the supposedly unforgivable.
He got strung up on a tree for following the leading of the Spirit, for doing good, for healing the oppressed and for challenging the religious and political authorities claim to power through the only Real Power: God’s passionate love for humanity.
I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I want to be like Jesus. Well, I do, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid because those who love God and the poor often times suffer the same fate as the poor.
So I ask myself (not in ego, but in truth): what will the stories be about me when I die? Will I be known for going about loving Jesus and doing good? Will you be known for going about doing good?
What legacy am I leaving? The kingdom of Niles or the Kingdom of God?
The question is: Am I out there going about loving Jesus and doing good? How about you and your Church?
You can’t tell when strange things with meaning
will happen. I’m [still] here writing it down
just the way it was.
“You don’t have to prove anything,”
my mother said. “Just be ready
for what God sends.”
I listened and put my hand
out in the sun again.
It was all easy.
[An excerpt from a poem composed the day Mr. Stafford died.]
Source: from “Are You Mr. William Stafford?” in The Way It Is, Selected Poems
“Where sin abounds, [God’s] grace abounds all the more.”
Where pain abounds, God’s healing abounds all the more. Where darkness abounds, God’s light abounds all the more. Where fear abounds, God’s hope and Presence abound all the more.
Remember: with God, nothing is impossible. NOTHING! Without God, even the possible and mundane can become impossible. For the Sacred Scriptures say that “greater is He (Jesus) that is in me than he who is in the world (the evil one).
So with God all that is impossible becomes God saying I’m Possible.
God is saying to us: “I am the God of possibilities, potential, promise; I am the God of budding hope, the would-be miracle. I am the God of the Unlikely. I am the God of whispers turned into symphonies, whimpers turned into roars, tears turned into the flowers of Joy.”
“I AM” says God, therefore all else can be…when the Great I Am says it will be, or it could be or it should be, then trust we are starting from the place of God’s Being, which is Pure Truth, and not from our own place, the little finite.
But, and this is a big but: we must first “take up the cross” and follow Jesus. I am not saying that we are going to create the life we’ve always dreamed of; far from it. What I am saying is this: God is calling us out of comfort zones into a life of complete and absolute surrender to Him and the cross, in order to fashion a world we can only dream about – a world where peace reigns over conflict; healing over brokenness, “enough”ness over poverty.
Not a sermon, just a reminder.
“Then looking up at His disciples, [Jesus] said: Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are hungry now, because you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! Take note—your reward is great in heaven, because this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich because you have received your comfort. Woe to you who are full now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, because you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets.
“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.
Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” (Luke 6:20-31)
These words that Jesus said (not some socialist or right-winger) seem to fall upon deaf ears in 2012. These words are tough for Western Christians to hear, for we pride ourselves on our ‘evangelical entrepreneurism’ – work hard, get some breaks, become rich, and somewhere in the mix is Jesus.
And during this election season, as I listen to Christians of both sides focusing more on hate and divisiveness, I hear little from followers of Jesus about the poor and the marginalized. All I seem to be hearing is patriotic drivel, the middle and upper classes and yet I am reminded of these words of Jesus that seem to be nowhere to be found..
It seems that Pax Christi has been replaced by Pax Americana…a religion where flag and faith in Jesus have become so mired together, there is very little telling them apart. But the flag of any country shall never fly higher than the cross that Jesus hung upon.
I love my country, I truly do but blind patriotism has been elevated to a new ‘evangelical’ faith, one that ignores the very heart of the message of Jesus: that He came to bring good news to the poor and the wounded (and thanks be to God we all fall into the latter category).
But this is the hard truth of the Scripture that many Western Christians of any political persuasion fail to grasp, namely that good news for the poor is bad news for the rich.
Ouch…sometimes the Truth hurts before it heals..
|From Ashes to Easter by Robert Morneau:
“God’s table is large, as large as creation.
All are invited, all are to have access to the necessity of food and the miracle of love. Both are essential to the fullness of life. Without food, the body languishes and dies; without love, our souls wither and are filled with despair. The many leftovers in our lives? What are they and who will get them? So many people can live off our leavings if we would only share. This is hardly sufficient.
Disciples of Christ give abundantly in imitation of the Master who gave His very self.”
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
Source: Dancing With Joy edited by Roger Housden