Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Forgiveness is Our Business

 
John 20: 19-31  
Easter 2  April 11, 2021

 Christ is Risen!

 The Resurrected Christ pays a visit to the disciples this week.

They are hiding together behind a locked door in fear.

And Jesus enters their locked room.

 We read this gospel lesson every year on

the second Sunday of Easter and most of the time

we focus our time on Thomas and his doubt.

The Doubting of St. Thomas
Rocco Normano

Now, I happen to like Thomas.

He left that locked room when no one else would.

He went out to get everyone coffee or lunch or whatever he was doing.

He was the brave one in the group.

He just happened to miss all the action.

I don’t have a problem with his doubt at all.

But we can talk about him another year.

In all the hubbub about Thomas, we often of miss

a very important thing here.

Jesus whole purpose for being there.

 

So what did Jesus come to the disciples for?

Just to haunt them like a ghost?

Just to catch Thomas while he was out?

No, of course not, Jesus has a purpose in his visit.

He says to the disciples,

“Peace be with you,

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

 

Jesus has returned to give the disciples peace in their fear,

to give them the presence of the Holy Spirit

And at this point in the narrative, he also gives them a clear mission.

 

For a long time many in the church have believed-

or acted at least – that Jesus sends our churches out primarily for two things:

For recruitment, so we can increase the number of Christians in the world

And/or to tell people about the rules and about morality –

teach right from wrong.

 

Those are noble causes for some to have to be sure,

But neither of them are what Jesus tells them to do

here at this very important moment after his resurrection.

He doesn’t say to the disciples, “make sure you get a lot of new members,

OR make sure you teach everyone knows what the rules are.”

 

Jesus sends the disciples out into the world with one main purpose:

That is forgiveness.

as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." He says,

"Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any,

their sins have been forgiven them;

if you retain the sins of any,

they have been retained."

 

Forgiveness. This is what Jesus sends the disciples out to do.

To forgive one another and to let others know about God’s forgiveness.

This is Jesus’s gift to his disciples and this is the disciples gift to the world.

And this is what we uniquely have to offer.

 

There is an Episcopal priest named Robert Capon

who writes wonderful thing mostly about Jesus’ parables. He writes:

 

The world is in the morality and rules business and they succeed at that.

What the world cannot get right, however, is the forgiveness business –

and that, of course, is the church's real job.

She is in the world to deal with the Sin

which the world can't turn off or escape from.

She is not in the business of telling the world

what's right and wrong so that it can do good and avoid evil.

She is in the business of offering, to a world

which knows all about that tiresome subject,

forgiveness for its chronic unwillingness to take its own advice.

But the minute she even hints that morals,

and not forgiveness, is the name of her game,

she instantly corrupts the Gospel and runs headlong into blatant nonsense.

The church becomes, not Ms. Forgiven Sinner, but Ms. Right.

Christianity becomes the good guys in here versus the bad guys out there.

Which, of course, is pure tripe.

The church is nothing but the world under the sign of baptism.

 

On this second Sunday of Easter, we and the disciples

are sent to the world to tell it of God’s forgiveness.

We are sent to act out own forgiveness of others.

We are sent to forgive.

And why?  Because we believe in the Resurrection.

Not just in the stark fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

But we believe that the Resurrection of Jesus was just one big example

of the new life that God offers the whole world.

 The Resurrection tells us that God is not spending time

writing down when we’ve been naughty and when we’ve been nice.

God is not saving up and will make us pay for them one day—

The Resurrection says that if God could forgive

the crucifixion, God can forgive anything.

 

We believe in the Resurrection which tells us

that God won’t check the list twice or once,

God has thrown out the list all together.

Resurrection tells us that no matter what has taken place,

God can and will create New Life.

God will forgive the old and make the new.

No matter how bad it has gotten, God will redeem the world.

 

And that is Forgiveness.  That is what the church is sent out for.

Because we believe that Christ is risen,

we believe that redemption is possible in all situations.

 

For decades, people suffered under the

horrible racist oppression of Apartheid in South Africa. 

The white government sanctioned stiff segregation, kidnappings,

killing and torture for any one who rebelled against it.

 

After being released after 30 years in prison, once in power,

Nelson Mandela did not call for retaliation and uprising against

the white government oppressors. Although no one could have blamed him.

He didn’t even call for a Nurenburg type trial – although they may have deserved it.

With Bishop Desmond Tutu’s help,

he called for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

 

In this commission,

people would admit to being a party to the oppression,

then they would listen to the stories of the horror told by the victims.

In turn, they would be forgiven.

 

This commission did its work for two years.

It hasn’t been perfect in South Africa,

but there has been a noticeable absence of

bloody, civil wars which have arisen in other places in Africa.

There has not been an attempt at ethnic cleansing which certainly could have happened.

And  there is a presence of Justice.

Black people and white people are working together.

There is hope for that nation.

 

Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Episcopal archbishop who lead the commission:

“Forgiveness is an act of much hope and not despair.

It is to hope in the essential goodness of people

and to have faith in their potential to change.

It is to bet on that possibility.

Forgiveness, is not opposed to justice,

especially if it is not punitive justice, but restorative justice,

justice that does not seek primarily to punish the perpetrator, to hit out,

but looks to heal a breach,

to restore a social equilibrium that the atrocity or misdeed has disturbed.

Ultimately there is no future without forgiveness."

 

Jesus has come into the room. The pain is still visible,

the crucifixion has not been forgotten

and swept under the table.

The wounds are still there for Thomas to see and put his fingers in.

But Christ still comes with a word of forgiveness.

“Receive the Holy Spirit. 

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;

if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

 

Our own former presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson asked:

“Do you think by that Jesus could possibly mean

that if I fail to tell my neighbor, my colleague at work,

my son or my daughter,

the Good News that God in Christ forgives you,

then their sins are now mine?

It’s an interesting way to look at what Jesus said.

 

Forgiveness is what we are sent out to share with the world.

God’s forgiveness and our own forgiveness.

Forgiveness is new beginnings. Forgiveness is hope for the future. 

Forgiveness means that the past won’t hold us back.

Forgiveness means relationships can start again.

 Forgiveness means that life can start again.

 Forgiveness is hope for all of God’s people.


When we share forgiveness with a friend or a relative

or with a stranger, or an enemy,

or with those who have done us harm –

it is the Resurrection of Christ made real to the world.

It is the hope and promise of New Life.

Forgiveness is God’s gift to us.

Forgiveness is our business.


Monday, March 22, 2021

The Greeks See Jesus

 John 12: 20-33 Lent 5, March 21, 2021

 
Some Greeks ask to see Jesus.

John 12, Fifth Sunday in Lent Yr B
Cerezo Barrero
It doesn’t say a whole lot about them,

but we can infer some things.

It says that they were Greeks in town worshipping

for the festival of the Passover.

In other words, they were Gentiles by birth, non-Jewish people

But they’re in town for the Jewish festival

like people come to town for a Greek Festival or an Italian Festival.

 

Maybe they’ve converted to the Jewish faith.

Not unheard of, even in that time.

Or maybe they haven’t converted, but they’re spiritually curious,

Like people today they’re trying out different things,

hoping to find the one that fits.

Or maybe they are just religious tourists

fascinated with other people’s spiritual practices.

Like people of different faiths, or no faith, visiting churches and temples.

 

For whatever reason they’re there,

now they want to see Jesus.

Jesus had developed a reputation for

doing many impressive things and they just wanted to see him.

If it were modern times, they might have just wanted

to get a selfie with him to show their friends.

They just want to see Jesus.

See what he’s all about.  Just observe, not get involved.

Like they told Andrew, and Andrew told Phillip,

and Andrew and Phillip told Jesus.

“We want to see Jesus, please. “

 

So , I don’t think these Greeks at the festival

or Andrew and Phillip, were quite prepared

for the speech that they got.

Somehow their arrival prompts Jesus to tell

them and the crowds around him that this is it.

Now is the time for Jesus to be glorified.

And for that to happen, he was going to die.

 

Uh, we just wanted to see Jesus.

 

Jesus talks about his death, he compares himself to wheat,

saying if a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies,

it spreads it’s seeds around so that more can grow.

In other words, Jesus death isn’t just a death

it’s for the benefit of all people, so that others can live.

 

Now, we believe that in Jesus death there’s life,

that somehow because Jesus died and rose,

that  gives us eternal life.

 

But there’s more to it than that,

because Jesus also says this life and death cycle applies to us:

He says, “Those who love their life lose it and those who

hate their lives will keep it for eternal life.”

 

The Greeks are getting much more than they bargained for here.

 

Hate our lives? What does Jesus mean by that?

Should we reject everything

on this earth and just focus on Spiritual things?

Should we be negative all the time, should we always complain,

or be outraged by everything in this world?

(it seems that some Christians have taken Jesus words to mean just that.)

I thought we were supposed to live with gratitude every day.

That seems more healthy and Christ like than hating our lives.

 

I mean, I don’t hate my life, I  actually love my life.

I love my job, my husband, my home, my friends.

I love doing the things I enjoy.

I love my life. Does that mean I’m going to lose it?

 

And those Greeks just wanted to see Jesus.

 

I don’t think Jesus wants us to actually hate our lives.

Jesus is using hyperbole again, exaggeration, which he uses often,

and which often throws people off.

 

What I think he means is this:

We should not cling to the things of our lives,

and be willing to give them up if we need to.

We should long for God’s kingdom, God’s ways, God’s will.

And do everything to see it come to reality.

Even if gaining the kingdom means losing something that you

have grown fond of  and even love.

Hate your life. Don’t love all the things of this world so much

that you won’t trade the gospel for them.

 

The gospel of Jesus, the gospel of serving others,

of justice, and love requires sacrifice.

As Christians, we are asked to give up things that

we love in order to see God’s vision through.

 

Those who cling to the  things of this world,

the power, the comforts, the predictability,

their status, their reputations, even their traditions,

and refuse to give them up for God’s vision,

will find that the things they cling to are temporary

and unsatisfying.


Jesus is saying don’t love the things of this life so much,

that you are not willing to release them for God’s sake.

 

To quote Martin Luther:

“Were they to take our house, goods, honor,

child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away,

they cannot win the day, the kingdom’s ours forever.”

 

And all those poor Greeks wanted to do was see Jesus.

 

This world is filled with stories of people who cling to their

power and their money and their comfort and won’t

give it up, even if it means taking many, many lives.

 

Kings and queens and presidents  and pastors,

and prime ministers, and CEO’s

and senators and representatives ,

 who hold onto their positions long after they’re able to do the job.

 

The president of Syria has refused to leave office,

even though it has meant ten years of war and his

country basically destroyed.

 

The US has trouble letting go too,

Our own leadership in this country is filled with

people who won’t relinquish their power to the next generation.

The average age of the senate is 63 years.

And the oldest Senator is 88 years old.

 

And there is a generational wealth gap.

Although they make up a majority of the population

people 25-40 only have 5% of the wealth. Down from 15%

a few decades ago. People over 50 are holding 75% of the

country’s wealth.

 

And many of us have made sport of dismissing generations

younger than us, insulting millennials, and generation Y and Z

calling them weak and sensitive, and insulting their choices,

and their likes and dislikes, and basically insinuating

that they aren’t capable of leadership

just because they want to-- or have to –

do things differently than we did them.

 

And our own love of our comfort and our own waste

and use of fossil fuels are leaving a huge problem for

the next generations in the form of pollution

and climate change that we’re just beginning to see

and experience and understand.

Do we cling to our lives so hard that we can’t let some of it go?

 

Pr. June, we didn’t want to hear all this.

We just wanted to come and see Jesus.

 

And here is Jesus.

Jesus loved his life, I’m sure.  He loved his friends,

he loved his ministry, he loved to eat and drink.

He nurtured and cared for us and saved our lives,

and then he stepped aside and his followers take over.

 

Jesus had the ability to live eternally on earth and rule forever.

But Jesus didn’t do that.

Maybe it would have been nice to have him around.

But he didn’t want to be about him, he wanted it to be about us

and about future generations who will share the gospel with

their future generations.

Jesus became the seed that bore much fruit.

Generations and generations of fruit.

 

Like those Greeks at that festival. We want to see Jesus.

And certainly we certainly have. We have seen the light in the world

that scatters the darkness, and we can testify to that.

 

But Jesus doesn’t just want us to see him.

Jesus wants us to be him.

Jesus doesn’t need religious tourists who

just say they saw him, Jesus wants disciples.

Jesus saved us, so we could be him to the world.

Be his hands and feet, and do his work.

And also when the time comes, to hate our lives

to let go of what we have, and let the seeds fall,

so that others can live.

 

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat

falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain;

but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 

Those who love their life lose it,

and those who hate their life in this world

will keep it for eternal life. “

 

Let us see Jesus. Let us truly see Jesus.

And let us be Jesus for the sake of the world.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Jesus and Nicodemus


John 3:1-17

Lent 3

March 14, 2021

 

My uncle was a pastor,

and we wrote to one another often when I was in college.

I remember one exchange we had.,

One of my friends adamantly did not believe in God

and I thought that was wrong and I asked my uncle about it.

He asked me if I believed in God.

I wrote him and told him, “Of course I believe in God!”

I was sort of self-righteous about it,

thinking I was better than my non-believing friend.

I felt like I was “protected” just because I said I believed.

And he wrote back and asked,

“I’m glad you believe in God, but how has that changed your life lately?”

 

I had to admit to myself,

that my belief in God had not really done anything new

to me in a while. I wasn’t going to church,

my belief didn’t affect the things I did or the way I thought.

At the time, it was no bother whatsoever.

My belief in God had not changed my life.

I just filed that away under “Things to think about”

at the time and let it sit and percolate.

“I’m glad you believe in God but how has that changed your life?”

 

Nicodemus was a man who believed that Jesus was from God.

It said he believed in Jesus specifically

because of the miracles that Jesus could do.

Since Jesus could perform a lot of signs

Nicodemus believed that he was special.

 

But still, Nicodemus would only come to Jesus by night.

He would only confess his beliefs to himself and to Jesus,

Jesus and Nicodemus
Henry Ossowa Taylor

but not to anyone else.

During the daytime he was a Pharisee, a leader of a group

of people who led things very differently from the way that Jesus did things.

If he let his belief in Jesus actually affect him, it would certainly change his life.

He wanted to keep his belief over here,

and the rest of his life over there.

 

So, Nicodemus believed in Jesus, but

wanted to keep his life exactly the same.

  

Nicodemus is not seen in a very positive light in this gospel

but we should certainly be able to relate to him.

So much of our faith-life is conducted in the dark.

We don’t do it in the literal dark,

we are usually here when it’s day light,

But we do it in the figurative dark,

the way Nicodemus was using the dark.

Lots of times we show our faith and live our faith

only in the safety and security of our worship services,

and in our discussions with like-minded people.

 

But when we get around into our day life,

in the public, where there are risks involved, we are silent.

Think about the question:

“How has my faith changed my life?”

In the last 50 years, 10 years, 5 years, in the last 30 days?”

 

Jesus pushes Nicodemus on just this thing

Jesus tells Nicodemus that belief is great,

but change in our life is what God wants.

He tells Nicodemus that he needs to be

born from above, from water and the Spirit instead of flesh.

In other words, to be different than before.

 

Now, I have to interject, this phrase born from above

has been turned into “re-born” or “born again” and has been used

and abused by modern Christians as a threat

a litmus test for salvation. People ask, “are you born again?”
insinuating that if you’re not you’re bound for hell,

using this scripture as proof.

But Jesus also says here he’s not here to condemn us.

 

So let’s not even consider heaven and hell,

Let’s consider the here and now

Jesus says we will not see the Kingdom of God if we’re not

born from above. If we don’t see this world with the

new eyes of faith, and if that doesn’t change

who we are, then we won’t see the wonder of the Kingdom

that has been all around us all the time.

 

The ways of the world that we live in

are the ways of death and destruction,

for ourselves and for the rest of the world.

Our ways are isolation, fear, greed, division, and violence.

We are naturally people who love the darkness.

We will not see the Kingdom of God by following our ways.

The way we can see the Kingdom is to

die to our own ways and rise into Christ’s.

 

God doesn’t just want us to confess a belief in Jesus.

God wants us to be “newly born” to be people of the light

and to bring that light out into the day,

out into our jobs, into the streets, into the public

where the whole world can be changed.

And we should hope to be reborn,

not just once, but many, many times over in our lives.

 

The only other time I came to South Carolina,

Besides coming here to see you fine people and move here,

I came here on a mission trip to

John’s Island while I was in Seminary.

We were helping to fix up houses for the Gullah

community that lived there.

 

While we were there we went to another island

for a shrimp boil.

It was on the pier with the fishing boats

They took the shrimp right off the boats

and dumped them into boiling water,

then they threw the boiled shrimp

onto these giant wooden tables and we just ate.

There were lots of people there and we were

having a whole lot of fun after a long day of hard work

we were laughing and eating.

 

And after we had eaten enough, the owner

of the whole thing, the shrimp boats and the pier

came out and called all the seminarians

over around him and told us his story.

He was about 70 years old.

 

He opened up telling us that all his life he had been very racist.

He believed deeply in white supremacy.

It wasn’t only a personal feeling or emotion,

Much of his family were in the KKK

it had been part of him since his childhood.

It was a long-standing family tradition.

And he lived it, advocated it, and he talked about

non-white people in very unpleasant ways.

He faithfully went to church his whole life.

And his church basically supported his beliefs.

Or at least didn’t challenge them.

 

Then one day, when he was in his 50’s,

he was sitting listening to his preacher in church

the church where many of his friends and family went

and his preacher read this chapter in John

that we heard today.

And he said he heard the words very clearly,

“God so loved the world”. That stuck with him.

It got under his skin.

He sat there in church and he understood

for the first time God’s love for him,

and at the same time, God’s love for the whole world.

He said in that worship service that he decided

that he just couldn’t be racist any more.

 

He felt shame and sadness for the things he had said

and done during his life and he worked to change them.

He wanted to make amends for the way he acted for all those years.

He started to go out and help people.

He started by being involved in a prison ministry,

Then he started to work fixing up houses

for the Gullah people on John’s Island.

And it was his ministry we were working for while we were there.

 

He started these Shrimp Boil fund raisers

he would take a whole day’s catch of shrimp

and sell admission at his dock to raise money for

the building material.

That’s where we met him and heard his story.

 

He even closed down his business down for a month every year

at a great expense to himself I’m sure,

and he took crews of people down to South America

on the boats to build houses in a poor community in Brazil.

He wanted to share God’s love with the world.

 

And, he wanted us to know that this journey had cost him.

And not just money either.

He lost many of his friends, lots of his family stopped talking to him.

he changed his church, he lost his free time.

But he didn’t even consider that a loss, because he gained so much.

New friends, a new church, a heart that was full of love

instead of hate, and he said, the best thing he gained

was a relationship with Christ that he didn’t have before.

God had changed him and now he was part of God’s vision.

And that was worth all the money in the world to him.

 

He had accepted Jesus as his “Personal Lord and Savior”

decades ago as a teenager. He had put a check in that box a long time ago.
He had probably heard John 3:16 hundreds of times in his life.
But that Sunday when he was in his 50’s,

he really heard it for the first time.

If you asked him how had his faith changed his life,

he wouldn’t even need to think about it.

 

Now, we might not make such a dramatic 180 in our lives.

We might not change so much of our identity as this man did.

And God loves all of us, change or no change.

But God doesn’t just want our belief so we can check off

a box, I did when I was in college.

And God doesn’t just want us on a Sunday morning.

God wants our whole heart and our lives.

God wants all of us to change in some way.

God is in the business of change,

renewal, rebirth – resurrection.

 

We don’t know exactly what happened with Nicodemus.

The next and last time we see him is at the end

of John’s gospel when he helps Joseph of Arimathea,

bury Jesus body after he was crucified.

We can only use our imaginations

and what his story teaches us.

 

But we know it is never too late to be born.

It is never too late to hear the Gospel again for the first time.

To understand something different about ourselves

and about God and about God’s love for us.

 

It’s not too late to bring our faith in Jesus out into the

light in some very real ways.

 

God wants us to be born from above, of water and the Spirit,

to follow Jesus’s way, to live into our baptism.

God wants us to come out of the darkness and into the light.

God wants us to die to ourselves and rise with Christ.

 

And God wants that because God so loves us,

and God so loves the world.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Jesus Gets Angry

John 2:13-22

Lent 3

March 7, 2021

 

I think we mostly like to think of “nice” Jesus.

The Good Shepherd Jesus,

the one who welcomes children, the healer.

Cleansing of the Temple
Alexander Smirnov
But today Jesus is not that nice Jesus.

This week he’s angry Jesus.

I mean he was also angry Jesus just last week, when yelled at Peter,

“Get behind me Satan.”

but we don’t like to remember that Jesus.

And this week he’s demonstratively angry Jesus.

 

They often call this the “cleansing of the temple”

and I’ve never liked that term.

Cleansing seems more innocuous than what Jesus was doing.

And it suggests that Jesus work was completed

and everything was changed after that day which it wasn’t.

I don’t think that what he was doing there is completed today.

 

What Jesus was doing here was actually an angry protest.

He saw something that was wrong, that went against God’s plan,

and he was showing that with a demonstration.

Now Jesus crossed a line that many societies draw in the sand

when he disregarded personal property

and turned over tables and drove profitable animals out.

 

Jesus was a problem for the status quo.

They probably called him whatever the Hebrew word for “thug” even.

And sure enough, in Mark’s Gospel it says that this

was basically the thing that made the religious

authorities look for a way to arrest and crucify him.

 

Now some say that he did something like this on purpose

in order that he would be arrested and killed

and follow the destiny that was set before him.

But I say he did it for the reason that so many other

people get angry and protest and upset the apple cart:

Things are just plain wrong needed to change.

 

So what was Jesus so angry about?

Let’s start with why they were selling things

in the front of the temple in the first place.

 

The reason that they

were selling animals in the temple,

was so people could buy them to do sacrifices

which was the main element of Jewish worship at the time.

 

The original idea was that people worshipped God by giving

God back the best of what God had given them. A sacrifice.

Most people would bring their own animals,

or they would trade whatever they produced

for an animal to sacrifice.

 

But when the temple was built in Jerusalem,

people would to travel there to do their worship.

They couldn’t bring one of their own animals

or a bunch of other produce. So people started to

sell animals in front of the temple for money.

 

And because Jews couldn’t use Roman money,

there were money changers, who would exchange

Roman money for Jewish tokens for a price

so then you could use them to buy the animals.

 

It wasn’t outrageous. It all made perfect sense.

They weren’t selling terrible elicit things,

or necessarily bad things.

It was all stuff for worship.

All of these things were proscribed by religious law.

But what had developed was this:

The temple that was built for everyone to worship God

had become a marketplace.

 

The whole purpose of the temple

and the act of sacrifice, was so that people

and communities would grow closer to God.

So they could understands God’s will for humanity.

So they could live out God’s dreams, and live

in a just community, caring for the poor,

the orphan and the widow.


But they ended up just “doing temple”

they weren’t doing God’s will.

The purpose of it had become to make money.

And actually the marketplace itself was unjust,

like all marketplaces.

It gave the wealthy more share, and excluded the poor.

 

And this is why I say Jesus work in the temple is not completed

People today who follow Jesus still

find ourselves “doing church”

doing the rituals and the practices,

and not getting down to helping out God’s dreams.

 

We could be “doing church” just right.

We could say all the right words right,

sing the right songs, have the most accurate budget,

the best classes, the nicest facility,

the best most organized ministry teams,

We can check off the

“12 most important things for a successful church.”

but still forget what God wants out of this whole thing:

justice, mercy, forgiveness, loving our neighbors,

loving our enemies, self sacrifice, faithful service, and love.

And if we’re not doing it all for God’s vision for us

and for this world, what is it all for?

 

Lots of people have been “doing church”

for a long time, but many have forgotten

what we were “doing church” for.

People can go through their whole lives

doing the practice of Christianity and never

have it change them, never have it affect their lives.

 

And many Christian Churches do Church so well,

that they’ve turned the whole process into a place

where the wealthy are included and the poor are excluded.

 

All churches have to struggle against those two things.

Just going through the motions, and excluding people.

That is what made Jesus angry in the temple that day.

 

When I was in seminary, one summer

I went to Guatemala for a few weeks by myself

to learn Spanish. I still don’t know Spanish,

but that’s another story.

 

When I was Guatemala,

the church around where I was staying

was in the center of town near the town square. 

There were always vendors there. 

But on Sunday morning, the vendors were doubled

they were selling rosaries, wooden crucifixes,

all types of religious articles.

They were trying to get some money from the more well-off people

who would be going to Sunday worship.

 

And while I was in worship on Sunday every week

a boy who was paralyzed would come into church on

a homemade wooden cart and roll around

the church asking for money and especially

coming up to all the gringos in the church.

When he would come to me, I would just

shake my head at him and go back to focusing

on my worship, like every other person in that church.

 

Now lots of people like me when we’re in seminary,

we go through this phase where we think about

what the “right and pure” way to do church.

For many seminarians,

nothing in the real world is ever good enough

At the time I was there, I was in just that phase.

 

And I was put off by the whole spectacle.

The selling of religious trinkets in the front

and the boy asking for money right in the middle of worship.

It wasn’t “right”. The Church after all was a “sacred space”

Sitting there, I actually thought of this scripture,

we shouldn’t make God’s house a marketplace.”

I felt more than a little self-righteous as only a seminarian can.

 

But what system would Jesus have wanted to change then?

Which table would Jesus have turned over?

Would Jesus have scolded the poor ladies

who were selling and just trying to make a living?

Would he have scolded that young paralyzed boy

rolling around church bugging the worshippers?

 

Honestly, I think that if Jesus was there that day

he would have left those tables alone.

I think Jesus what Jesus would have done was turn over

the table of my heart that felt entitled

to have my sacred moment and ignore someone in need.

 

He would have turned over

The table that looked down on that young boy.

And the table that had only the more well-off in worship

who didn’t engage with the rest of the community.

The tables that put a barrier between God and others.

 

He would have turned over the tables of the

system that allowed people to go to worship,

but never touched people’s hearts and lives and attitudes.

 

Jesus didn’t just talk about his anger in the temple that day.

He didn’t waste time telling a parable, or asking a clever question,

That day he flipped it all over.

He turned over a tradition that he had been a part of,

that his parents had been a part of,

in a religion that he loved and honored.

He turned it over. He disrupted everything.

Everyone was disrupted that day.

He loved God and God’s people so much that he disrupted what they were doing.

Richard Rohr a well known Catholic theologian said:

Christianity is a lifestyle - a way of being in the world

that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving.

 

However, we made it into an established "religion"

(and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself.

 

One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history,

and still believe that Jesus is one's "personal Lord and Savior" . . .

The world has no time for such silliness anymore.

The suffering on Earth is too great.

 

The suffering on Earth is too great.

And God is disrupting us now in so many different ways.

God isn’t being nice and gentle these days.

Things are changing quickly and the church

is struggling to keep up with the Holy Spirit.

 

God is kind of being a thug right now.

Not having any regard for our property and our possessions,

and the things that we have valued and coveted all our lives.

 

We have to do this whole church thing

completely different than we once did it.

God loves us so much that the tables are being turned over on us.

 

And that, brothers and sisters, is good news.