Sermon for October 17, 2021 Twenty-first after Pentecost “Blessed are you poor in Spirit”
Jesus mission was to show people God. The God who formed all that is out of nothing, the God that calls us to continually re-visit and re-new the nature of our relationship with God. Jesus is not interested in supporting or maintaining the status-quo and appeasing long held and by time skewed views or God. Nor is Jesus interested in laws and rules that enable a few and oppress most. Jesus is starting a revolution toward a new understanding of what it means to believe in God and after his resurrection, believe in Jesus. Under Constantine in the 4th century the church came under Roman rule, the church was perceived to be a tool so people would tow-the-line. Slowly a mandate for the poor (in spirit), healing, relief for widows and orphans was replaced by a preference for wealth. Clergy began wearing fancy dress and hats, the message was to look to the rich and there see those who you should try to emulate. And over the centuries the church has just gotten better at these traits and it has become normal. The message of the beatitudes is to aid us in refocusing and recalibrating.
In the TV series on the live and times of Jesus titled ‘The Chosen’ there is an entire episode (season 2 episode 8) dedicated to the struggle of Jesus to compose and get this Beatitude message correct. I am still planning to do a study on this series when COVID rules permit and folks feels some measure of safety. For this series I am primarily using the work of Mark Scandrette and Richard Rohr though the wisdom of many teachers is woven into the words.
Part of the intention of the beatitudes is to push us to think differently, to move past primitive stereo types and look beyond first impressions. The word Jesus uses for ‘blessed’ is Makarios and means incredibly fortunate, favored or God-like. Words that most would use to describe the rich, famous and gifted of the world. What follows caused the first listeners and those who hear today to do a dramatic double-take. The words tip our understandings on their head and leave us exposed. And that is exactly where Jesus needs us so that we can be open to new ideas.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”
Most people spend their entire lives living up to the mental self-images of who they think they are, instead of living in the primal “I” that is already good in God’s eyes. But all I can “pay back” to God or others or myself is who I really am. It’s a place of utter simplicity. Perhaps we don’t want to go back there because it is too simple and almost too natural. It feels utterly unadorned. There’s nothing to congratulate myself for. I can’t prove any worth, much less superiority. There I am naked and poor. After years of posturing and projecting, it will at first feel like nothing.
But when we are nothing, we are in a fine position to receive everything from God. As Thomas Merton says, our point of nothingness is “the pure glory of God in us.” If we look at the great religious traditions, we see they all use similar words to point in the same direction. The Franciscan word is “poverty.” The Carmelite word is nada or “nothingness.” The Buddhists speak of “emptiness.” Jesus speaks of being “poor in spirit” in his very first beatitude. It from this place of ‘poor in spirit’ that we can receive everything from God.
“Poor in spirit” means an inner emptiness and humility, a beginner’s mind, and to live without a need for personal righteousness or reputation. It is the “powerlessness” of Alcoholics Anonymous’ First Step. The Greek word Matthew uses for “poor” is ptochoi, which literally means, “the very empty ones, those who are crouching.” They are the bent-over beggars, the little nobodies of this world who have nothing left, who aren’t self-preoccupied or full of themselves in any way. Jesus is saying: “Happy are you, you’re the freest of all.”
Our success-driven culture scorns failure, powerlessness, and any form of poverty. Yet Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount by praising “the poor in spirit”! Just that should tell us how thoroughly we have missed the point of the Gospel. Nonviolence, weakness, and simplicity are also part of the shadow self. We avoid the very things that Jesus praises, and we try to project a strong, secure, successful image to ourselves and the world. We reject vulnerability and seek dominance instead, and we elect leaders who falsely promise us the same. It is no wonder the counter culture Jesus proclaims as the path to life and life in abundance is sequestered to sealed vaults. How can we possibly have great, meaningful lives when we advocate for nonviolence, weakness and simplicity?
The “poor in spirit” don’t have to play any competitive games; they are not preoccupied with winning, which is the primary philosophy of most of the world today. Jesus is recommending a social reordering, quite different from common practice. Notice also how he uses present tense: “the Kingdom of God is theirs.” He doesn’t say “will be theirs.” That tells us that God’s Reign isn’t later; it’s now. You are only free when you have nothing to protect and nothing you need to prove or defend. Trapped people have to do what they want to do. Free people want to do what they know they have to do.
Eknath Easwaran writes that “the joy we experience in these moments of self-forgetting is our true nature, our native state. To regain it, we have simply to empty ourselves of what hides this joy: that is, to stop dwelling on ourselves.” As we forget our false, floating self, we rediscover our substantial and anchored self—which is not very needy at all.
The truly poor in spirit are rare in the world. But I expect we all know people who live into this way of being and we feel it when in their presence. I also know that we are all capable of being this way from time to time and that is enough. Jesus was not saying that we have to live all the beatitudes all the time but use them to model our daily lives. Yes we naturally gravitate to one or two but living means we also nurture them all from time to time. Our default position of comfort is to have our glass full. Jesus teaching is to; empty our glass and it will be filled to overflowing.
Sermon for October 17, 2021 Twenty-first after Pentecost “Blessed are you poor in Spirit”
Sermon for October 10, 2021 Thanksgiving “I will love God with all my Strength/Spirit”
“you will love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and strength. And you will love your neighbour as yourself”
Lois Tverberg has this insight: “Soul (nephesh) also can have a different sense in Hebrew than just your “spirit” or “emotions.” Nephesh means “life” as well as “soul.” So the Jewish interpretation is that you are to love the Lord with all of your life, meaning with every moment throughout your life, and be willing even to sacrifice your life for him. If Jews are able, they will quote the Shema at their death to make a final commitment to the God of Israel. Many a Jewish martyr has exclaimed the Shema with his last breath as a testimony to that fact.
Strength (me’od) is an unusual word usage which really means “much” or “very”. You could translate the passage “with all of your much-ness” or “with all of your increase”. It is interpreted to mean “with everything that you have” — your money, your time, your possessions and your family. Loving God with everything you have is a high calling indeed!
So, as we re-read Jesus’ favorite law from Jesus’ favorite book, we can capture it in this modern way:
“Listen up, Israel – The Lord is your God, he, and he alone!! You should love him with every thought that you think, live every hour of every day for him, be willing to sacrifice your life for him. Love him with every penny in your wallet and everything that you’ve got!”
So what about the last part about loving my neighbour? The commonly understood interpretation is that we should love others with the same measure that we love ourselves, which is certainly very true! But the rabbis also saw that the Hebrew of that verse can also be read as, “Love your neighbor who is like yourself.” While either interpretation is valid, their emphasis was less on comparing love of ourselves with love for others, and more on comparing other people to ourselves, and then loving them because they are like us in our own frailties.
This actually fits the original context of Lev. 19:18 better, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor, as/like yourself; I am the LORD.” When we realize that we are guilty of the same sins that others are, we see that we shouldn’t bear grudges against them, but to forgive and love them instead.
The rabbis of Jesus’ day saw it as a challenge to realize that we are to love those who do not seem worthy because we ourselves are unworthy, and all are in need of God’s mercy. All people, including ourselves, are flawed and sinful, but we need to love them because we ourselves commit the same sins
Perhaps it is for this reason that Jesus spent so much time breaking down social strata’s, insisting that it is always the right time to treat the person beside you, in your neighbour-hood or world as you would like to be treated. This Thanksgiving and for all the days forward it is an excellent time to reflect on and act into the ancient, newer and contemporary commandment to ‘love God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit, and to love your neighbour as yourself’.
Sermon for October 3, 2021 World Wide Communion “Love God with all your body”
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit, and you will love your neighbour as yourself” These ancient words were repeated by Jesus as one of the principle guides for faithful, wholehearted living. The direction to love your body may at first scan be a bit odd but a closer look at the root meaning from the Hebrew tradition will expand our understanding and place this care and love for body on par with the others.
With thanks to the Jewish teacher Mary Okkema we begin with her work: “There are some words which no one should attempt to translate from Hebrew,” to quote my current Hebrew teacher. Sometimes the meaning is so rich, to translate it into one or two specific terms greatly diminishes it. Such is the case for the word me’odeka. In this portion of the second phrase of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:5 we are told to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your body” … but what is all (your) me’odeka?”
Mary goes on to share her story of getting in shape and says she did not know how her body all worked until she started doing group fitness and pushing herself to be in better shape. She had to give it her all or she describes all her umph. The definition of me’odeka in the biblical glossary is: “exceedingly, much, force or abundance,” but it means so much more! I am sure that we are familiar with the idea of putting our whole body into effort. It may be elite training as an athlete, preparing for and finishing a long hike, bike trip or mountain climb, it may be the controlled energy to make a finesse shot or it may be the umph it takes just to get out of bed. I started a spin class a few weeks ago, I was planning to take it easy as it has been some time since I was at a spin class. I was doing ok, then the instructor said faster…so I did, then faster…and I did and thought this is it, no more faster for me, then the frantic urging…faster and then faster…ten more seconds give it all you got and I discovered I had a bit more. All my umph.
As we celebrate Communion with our sisters and brothers around the world we are afforded a glimpse of the vastness of the ‘Body of Jesus’ and what that means for our faith life. As we eat the bread and drink the wine that represents the body and blood of Jesus we become aware that this simple feast will soon be a very real part of our body. But more than that our spirits and hearts and minds are transformed by the love of Jesus as we continue the long journey of being and becoming followers of Jesus in all aspects of our lives.
For those who first shared this meal with Jesus the words were likely confusing. Jesus had talked of his death but humans of every age are prone to say ‘lets not talk about that now, maybe later’ and so this addition to the customary prayers would have been unusual. I imagine the words were filled with deep love, emotion oozing out of each word and spoken while eyes filled with tears. It was not until later that those first followers felt the impact of the words. And every meal was a reminder of Jesus…’for as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine…remember me’…every meal a reminder.
May it be so in our lives. That remembering is not a ‘once in a while’ thing but part of our every meal where we share bread and drink. May we so humble, so energized, so committed, to love God and Jesus with all our umph.
Sermon for September 26, 2021 Eighteenth after Pentecost “All your Mind”
In Hebrew, the heart (lev or levav) is the center of human thought and spiritual life. We tend to think that the heart refers mainly to our emotions, but in Hebrew it also refers to one’s mind and thoughts as well.
Many cultures assumed that the heart was the seat of intelligence, and without an advanced understanding of physiology, it makes sense. The heart is the only moving organ in the body, and strong emotions cause the heartbeat to race. When the heart stops beating, a person is dead. Because the Hebrews were a concrete people who used physical things to express abstract concepts, the heart was the metaphor of the mind and all mental and emotional activity. (Lois Tverberg)
Much has changed in our understanding of the separateness and connectedness of the human body, mind and spirit. We now better understand the mind and with all that there is so much that we do not know.
We do know that what we dwell on can become our reality. Sport stars know this all too well. They will visualize a shot, a move, a routine, a catch, a jump or a landing so that when the body is engaged it has already experienced what can happen.
More to the realm of prayer and meditation, there are countless studies that show when the mind is engaged in prayer, specific prayer, then the amazing can happen. When we set our mind on Jesus and God there becomes less room for other distracting and by times destructive thoughts and actions.
Perhaps that is why the ancient words of Moses are repeated by Jesus, that you must love the Lord your God with all your mind. When our mind is fully engaged in God and Jesus then it follows that we begin to align ourselves with the thoughts and actions of God. Which are all about love, justice, right relations and spirit filled wisdom.
What is challenging to explain about God and Jesus and the ask to ‘love God with all your mind’ is that it takes the experience to nudge belief. Our experience of Jesus is deeply personal, hard to explain and life transforming. I am talking here of our personal experience of Jesus. Not the ones that may have been forced by ones who had agendas for the shape of God’s love.
The teachers of wisdom paint a picture with words, they don’t force a preconceived agenda or outcome, that is for us and our journey. It is the pondering, wrestling and experiment with the teaching that we arrive where we are supposed to be…under the umbrella of God’s love and for me as revealed in Jesus.
The magnificent truth is that we are always beginning and ending this journey, always learning, always cleaning out the backpacks of our mind as we move ever so delightfully toward the realm of God. I will love God with all my mind is the beginning and the end and the end is the beginning. Faith is awesome eh!
Sermon for September 19, 2021 17 after Pentecost “Love the Lord your God with all your Heart”
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deut 6:4-5 Is known as the Shema and one of the if not the most sacred text of the Hebrew tradition and one that formed the wisdom of Jesus. It would have been a prayer that was spoken each day or many times each day. The Hebrew life is filled with ceremony, ritual and tradition that has been lost in 21st century Christianity but is still vital for the Jewish people.
If there is no other prayer for you this week, may I suggest that you say with intention, out loud or to yourself each day; I will love the Lord my God with all my heart.
To hear has not lost its impact over the millennia. For the people of Moses day, it was a call to obey, the town criers of old used ‘hear ye, hear ye’ to call the people to pay attention and in our day to hear is to listen with intent and purpose. So when the words ‘Hear O people of God’ are spoken it is a call to pay attention, to listen and to heed.
For Moses, when he said to love the Lord with all your heart it was understood to be with all your knowing, feeling, and willing. That is a powerful and all encompassing way to love God. It meant that there was no part of your day that was separate from God, no thought that God did not hear and no intention that was un-noticed. It was just how the people of God lived and it was not an intrusion…it was a gift.
I am not sure what has happened in the past hundreds of years but it seems more and more that loving God is what Christians do when it is convenient. We call on God as if God is a magic elixir when all our resources are depleted. I know it is harsh to hear especially on a Sunday when we are beginning a four-week celebration of God. It is necessary to hear so that we can reclaim some of the ancient and true meaning of what it is to love God.
We celebrate that God has always been intricately woven into our lives whether we notice or acknowledge God or not. The we, all humans, are created in the image and likeness of God and that image is imprinted right into our DNA. So the psalmist and Gospel writers who penned ‘there is no height nor depth, no width or length, no place we can go or be, physically, mentally or spiritually where God is not’.
When Jesus invites us to follow, it is not from some distant place, it is from within, from our heart. For that is what Jesus is wanting of us…our heart. To love God/Jesus with all our heart, with all our knowing, feeling and willing. Then we can be aware of the light and love that has always surrounded us and celebrate. For there is great celebration when one comes to the belief that Jesus loves them and they turn their heart to Jesus.
Sermon for September 5, 2021 15th After Pentecost “If you have ears to hear…”
When I first read the texts for today I thought ‘oh no, this is challenging for a long weekend’ and then upon reflection the humanness of Jesus is revealed in a way that makes the teaching accessible for me and just maybe for you. To not have biases I do not think is humanly possible and yet the text today nudges us in the direction of treating all people with respect and dignity…sort of like the Golden Rule.
The teaching from James is to recognize how easy it is to decide the value and status of a person based on looks. It is easy and yet we are called upon to look past the outward appearance and view the character of a person. There are times when I wonder what people think about me. Let me share more; I have clothes that are so good they can only be worn while gardening, mowing or chores in and around the house. Then I will be asked to go get something, not wanting to change I just scoot out and get the item. And I wonder, what do people think? And then I wonder…do I do the same thing. And the answer is by times yes. And I am reminded by this teaching not to be so quick to pass judgement.
And there are those who wear the finest designer clothes and yet do not measure up in character to most who dare leave the yard with those ‘too good to leave the yard clothes’. I am sure that we have all met folks along the way that fit motif.
James goes on to teach that we must keep all the commands, for if we fail in one then we are guilty of them all. Oh my! I expect I will not be alone in the boat of the guilty. The teaching reminds us of the difficulty of being a follower of Jesus. Our biases, our prejudices, our pre-conceived notions of others all need to be set aside as we look at all as brothers and sisters in Jesus. That along with following all the rules all the time.
But do not give up just yet…keep reading…keep on listening and hearing for then you will hear; ‘mercy triumphs over judgement”. The mercy and forgiveness of Jesus is constant and is the core of our faith. For even if we fail or fall short, even repeatedly…Jesus does not. Jesus has named, called and redeemed you for purpose that is revealed and being revealed.
And that leads me to the Gospel teaching. There are many nuggets of wisdom and teaching in these verses but for today I would like to step back and look at verses 24-30, the interaction with the woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit. Jesus is seeking rest and respite from the rigors of his days. The context is that Jesus has had a very challenging week; he healed many at Gennesaret, he leaned of John the Baptist’s death, he fed the five thousand, he walked on water, is challenged by the Pharisee’s again to mention a few of the events happening in the life of Jesus. And he wanted rest. The clue is in verse 24 ‘he set out for the region of Tyre and he entered a house and he did not want anyone to know he was there’.
But the news spread before he could even sit and put his feet up. A woman, a foreigner and a gentile came in and begged Jesus to heal her daughter. In a very human moment Jesus dismisses her and her daughter. Her response is that even the dogs have opportunity to eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. Even tired, Jesus recognizes that he has not acted with hospitality, he has acted contrary to his teaching and the daughter is healed. It does not say in the text but I am sure that Jesus seeks her forgiveness for his rudeness and will do better next time.
What a delightful teaching moment that the teacher practices what is taught. How good for me to know that perfection is not expected. Jesus seeks our heart, mind, soul and body to witness to truth. To know with every fiber of our being that the message we hear and proclaim is spirit and truth, for all people all the time. If you have ears to hear…hear.
Sermon for August 29 2021 Fourteenth of Pentecost “Perfect Gift”
I know you all listened carefully to the reading from the letter of James and nodded in agreement. And I would argue that this is a great teaching…all the teaching are. In this case the compilers of the lectionary missed the hard work part. So let’s back up a bit and look at the verses that precede this reading. In verse one; ‘count it joy when you endure trails that test faith for that is the path to patience’, ‘if you lack wisdom ask God for it, but ask without doubt’, ‘exalt the lowly and be humble with what you have’, ‘blessed are those who endure temptation for they will have life’.
There is a scene in the Chosen where Jesus says ‘I ask little of those who do not follow me, but I ask much of those who do’. Being a follower of Jesus is hard work, it takes constant effort. The letter of James goes on to say ‘be listeners, be slow to wrath, set aside filthiness and wickedness’, and live out the Word and teachings of Jesus in all you do. So yes it is hard work. But like most hard work the more we practice the easier it becomes.
I remember when Nicholas started Tae Kwon Do and Jennifer figure skating, the moves were awkward, they fell a lot, they were shaky on their feet or skates but after time they got it, they learned more complicated skills and had less bruises. I am sure you can relate. The same is true for our Christianity. At first there were lots of questions, I expect there were doubts as we wrestled with the answers, we may not have been good at studying scripture or praying or listening or rage or wanting to do things ‘my way’. With time, even lots of time we got better. Just in case you are wondering perfection is not happening in this life. For the more we learn the more we want to learn about how to live into the teachings of Jesus in our 21st century context.
Kathy and I were chatting this week about the texts (she is leading worship at Harmony) and we were reflecting on the saying of Socrates: “Is it true; is it kind, or is it necessary?” That fits the teaching for today about being quick to listen and slow to speak. In the midst of our current context in NB or Saint John or even the world, there is too much speaking and not enough listening. We are in the middle of a federal election and I wonder what would happen if those vying for seats would listen instead of speak. In the midst of COVID I wonder what would happen if we could listen instead of concocting our own theories.
The world is a noisy place as not enough are not leaning into the teaching to practice listening. We have been gifted this perfect day and time that the glory of God will be revealed and we miss it because we have not learned listening. Proverbs 17:28 says better to be silent and have people perceive you as wise than open your mouth and prove them wrong. The teaching to be silent, to be still, to listen is ancient and wise, and yet so many are slow to learn.
The Gospel reminds us to be aware of those teachings that are of God. We humans and our institutions (the church being the biggest) have designed rules. The challenge is to understand which of our rules match with the teaching of God and which do not. The Hebrew people developed food rules that made sense for their day but not so much in the 21st century. In Mark it is about washing hands. In the days of Moses and even Jesus and to our time, washing hands was important but in the 21st century does hand sanitizer serve the same purpose? I grew up where you ate fish on Friday. I never knew why exactly but now I eat fish on any day and I do not consider whether it is Friday or not.
Again we are asked to listen for the teachings of Jesus that have abiding impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. This perfect gift will be different for each person. The question I wonder about is will I or you chatter your way through it or listen and learn of the wonder this gift is for you? Be as ones who are quick to listen and slow to speak and this message will not self-destruct in 5 seconds. Amen
Sermon for July 25, 2021 Ninth after Pentecost “Worried about the Cost”
One of my good friends was always saying to me ‘in 5 or 10 years are you going to miss the money or the experience?’
It is interesting that in the recording of the feeding the multitudes it is the experience that emerges as important and not the cost. The surprise to the disciples and readers of this account is about left overs. It is interesting that after years/thousands of years of being God’s people and all the accounts of the miraculous, mysterious and odd, the followers of Jesus are surprised.
If we skip ahead for a moment to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he starts out ‘for this reason, the glorious grace of God is extended to all”. Paul understands that in Jesus all are welcome. From the first disciples (who were all very different from one another) to the tribal squabbles of the first centuries, to the sects of Judaism to cultural and social separations or our day…followers of Jesus have struggled with the full measure of grace given to all.
As I speculate on the scene of the feeding of the multitudes I imagine that all were fed. The disciples learned fast to feed all who were hungry not just those they liked. So the Samaritans, the outcast, the lepers, the Gentiles and yes, food was offered to the Rabbi’s and Roman guards who kept careful eye on the proceedings were all fed. No one was left out, all were invited. And there were leftovers.
As the layers of the story are revealed we discover that there are no magic tricks, no hidden stash of food, just a simple miracle. Such is the nature of God. If we try to overthink or explain it with some sort of reason, the story loses its impact. Jesus sees a need and responds. Jesus saw the sick and outcast and healed, saw the blind and restored sight. And so on.
Miracles are messy to explain and mostly leave us baffled. We want to get sidetracked with the story so we speculate about cost and the periphery. The message is simple…Jesus is prepared to meet your need. Jesus knows how this works but we resist. Recall the reading from Paul…that you may be strengthened in your inner spirit and rooted and grounded in love. That takes practice on our part. The Spirit may work with speed and efficiency but we humans are slower. We, in our day, are required to unlearn many traits and undergo ego transformation in order to feed the multitudes.
You may say…what? Say again. Paul teaches that the glorious spirit is extended to all. The disciples ask; what will it cost? Jesus says to the disciples; what inner ego changes do you need to make to feed the leper? The Samaritan? The Roman guard? with real heart and love. Now the disciples were trained from an early age to stay away from lepers, taught to hate the Romans and learned healthy prejudices about people who were not like them. And yes they had to unlearn and relearn… quickly.
We might ask ourselves the same question, or we may find ourselves being reluctant, even aggressively reluctant to go there. The wonder of the teaching of the feeding of the multitude is that Jesus does not need much to make a big difference. Jesus asks how many loaves and fish, the disciples reply; just a few and Jesus says perfect that is plenty. Jesus asks us; how much compassion do you have for those who are not like you? We answer; just a bit, and Jesus says perfect that is plenty. The wonder of grace and the capacity of Jesus is that there does not need to be much to make a big difference.
We have gotten used to counting the cost and finding we are often lacking so we do nothing or little. Jesus keeps reminding us that what is left over is far greater than what we have now. That you need faith as grandiose as a mustard seed, that a widow’s mite is of extraordinary value. Show up with what you have, in your eyes it might seem like ‘not much’ but in the realm of Jesus it is extravagant, it is perfect it is just enough, and just in case you might have forgotten…you, created in the image of God, named, chosen and redeemed… are amazing.
Sermon for July 18, 2012 Eighth after Pentecost “Rushing to hear Jesus”
With summer into full swing and the veil of COVID lifting we are seeking even craving a time to rest. This need for rest is well ingrained into our makeup and physic. From Genesis to Revelation rest is a recurring theme and continues even today. With the advent of online inquiry, I discovered that rest is mentioned 275 times in 265 verses. The scope is for mind, body, spirit and soul and from what I can glean (and can vouch for personally) rest is essential for our good well-being.
In the Gospel text today Jesus is aware that both he and the disciples need a rest. The disciples have just returned from a ‘mission trip’ and after the stories and accounts were told the weariness became obvious. So Jesus sent them to rest. The quickest way to find solace was by boat so away they went.
What is interesting is that not everyone rests at the same time. When Jesus and the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, the people arrived there before them and rest was fleeting. And that leads me ponder what it was about Jesus that people would actively seek him out and spend considerable time and effort doing so.
In a time when many were proclaiming to be the Messiah, when there were many itinerate preachers and many claiming to have the true way…including the various Rabbi’s and of course the Roman Empire, what was it about Jesus.
For me Jesus is all about authentic and heart. He met people where they were, all people; the privileged and outcast, the women and men, the clean and sick, the young and old, the lost, weary and searching. And there was no ‘fake’ in him. The miracles and healing were not for show nor were a publicity stunt, they were the genuine desire to bring wholeness to lives. Physical, mental and spiritual wellness to whomever he encountered.
These same attributes were expected of the disciples as Jesus sent them out to minister. No extra clothes, no extra money, no sacks of lollipops for trinkets for children. Just the simple mission to announce the mission of Jesus and to bring wellness to those who are receptive along the way.
I expect the disciples were anxious and scared. What if we get it wrong? What if it doesn’t work? What if we get beat up? Plenty of what ifs. And when they all returned to Jesus the stories of awe and wonder at what was accomplished. If you could only hear the stories; people healed, relations restored, maladies mended, and each pair of disciples desperate to share their stories, all the while amazed that their original fears were for not. It is not to say that each encounter was picture perfect and they did not encounter harsh words or even abuse. We do know they were excited to tell Jesus and the others of all the successes.
At the end of the stories Jesus knew the disciples need for rest. Rest has always been a key path to restored mind, body, spirit and soul. The disciples expended plenty of all aspects of their energy and rest is now the order of the day. After 18 months of COVID and the world almost stopping in many regards, you would think that we would have found time for rest. But for most, that did not happen. A weariness and lassitude evaded our minds, souls and bodies and we crave rest more now than ever before.
At the same time Jesus and the disciples seek rest, word is spreading that not only Jesus but the disciples too have the capacity to heal, restore and bring to wellness. There is a hunger for this healing, for this possibility for wholehearted living, so much so that Jesus is sought, followed and word spreads quickly as to where he is and the crowds are there wanting to be healed and to hear the message of Jesus.
The attribute I would somehow like to harness, bottle and then dish out again is the excitement of people for Jesus. They craved his teaching, healing and presence. So much so that they would set out on (for them) long journeys just to be part of a large crowd with the chance of seeing Jesus. That would be a delight.
The topic for another day is ‘what have we done to the teaching of Jesus?’ teachings that are meant to set us free, open us to justice and love, and to be welcome to all? I long for and work for the day when the teachings of Jesus again have the eagerness and gentleness to change lives. The Spirit is at work…are we dousing the flames or adding fuel to the Spirit’s changing?