Please click the PLAY button above to listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "Be Opened," from Sunday, September 9th.
Please click the play button above to listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "A Sacramental Life," from Sunday, September 2nd.
Please click the play button above to listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "Sanctuary," from Sunday, August 26th.
Please click the play button above to listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon from Sunday, August 19th, "Wisdom's Table."
Please click the PLAY button above to listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "Bread of Life," from Sunday, August 12th.
Sermon by Paul DeArman: August 5, 2012
Gospel Reading: John 6:24-35
Epistle Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
Old Testament Scripture: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Sometime this week you will make a trip to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread. It will be readily available on the shelf. There will be quite a variety to choose from. You will pay little attention to the price, not realizing that the packaging in which the bread is wrapped actually costs more than the wheat that is in the bread. All in all, you will think it is a rather uneventful trip, but you will be wrong.
It is difficult for me as an American to understand the importance of bread unless I turn on TV and watch what is going on in so many parts of the world today, or unless I can draw on my own experience. When there is no staff of life, there is suffering and famine. A simple loaf of bread: in certain parts of the world it means life itself.
Each of the gospel writers deals with some common theme, or material. Each has his own style and each has somewhat different intentions in telling his story. John, for example, is strongly attracted to metaphor and seems to delight in poetic expression. Unlike the other gospel writers, he is attracted to the more obscure miracles of Jesus, spending far less time on Jesus' direct teaching and more on finding the important truths by relating Jesus' obscure answers to simplistic questions.
The passage in today's gospel reading is quite typical of John. In the scene that he sets for us, Jesus is literally being pursued by a crowd that simply can't seem to get enough of him. It kind of reminds me of the groupies of the nineteen sixties. Most of those in the crowd had witnessed the feeding of the five-thousand that occurred the day before on the shore across the sea. It is also entirely possible that some of those who showed up were newcomers--perhaps just curiosity seekers. They could have been there because they had heard about what had happened and they wanted to find out who this man called Jesus was. It is also possible that they could have heard the rumors of Jesus calming the sea and walking on water. Their questions suggest, though, that they were simply baffled by his actions and his words.
An example of this is that the crowd can't believe how Jesus is now on the other side of the sea. Someone in the crowd asks, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" If you recall from last week's scripture, following the feeding of the five-thousand, Jesus' disciples took the only boat anchored at the shore to the other side of the sea. We know from this scripture that Jesus was not in that boat with them.
But later that day, after the boat left the shore and the disciples were several miles out to sea, Jesus, undetected, left the crowd and started across the sea -- literally on foot. He walked on the water until he caught up with the disciples and joined them in their boat. By this time, other boats had arrived and were anchored at the shore. Some of the crowd got into these boats and went to search for Jesus. They found him at Caperneum, on the other side of the sea. When they arrived, Jesus told them, in effect, that they were missing the signs because as far as he could tell all they have really cared about was that he recently organized a picnic on the other side of the sea and fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread. And then he told them something that they don't seem to fully comprehend. This, Jesus said, was not the sort of food they should really be working for, because ordinary food doesn't last long, it spoils. Rather, he said, the focus for their quest should really be "for the food that endures for eternal life."
Once again, the crowd appears to misunderstand what he is talking about, they seem confused by his words, and instead they wonder what they might do to achieve the same results as Jesus with his strange but wonderful acts. "What must we do to do the works God requires?" they ask. They see Jesus as somewhat of a magician; an entertainer of sorts. Jesus is anything but direct. In effect, his answer was, "Believe in the one God has sent." And they just keep pressing him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?" They were looking for some sign like their ancestors received. Like, for instance, Moses giving them manna in the desert. That wasn't Moses, Jesus tells them, that was God acting. Anyway, he says to them, the true bread from heaven is the bread that gives eternal life. It is at this point that Jesus elevated the responsibility for what he has done and what Moses did to a higher level. This act was God's initiative. Jesus has taken acts of a physical nature -- those that the people are most interested in -- and given them a spiritual meaning rather than just an ethereal one. The most important question the crowd asked Jesus that day was in essence: "And how do we get that?"
To that question, Jesus responds with an extraordinary.
"I am the bread of life," he says, "Whoever comes to me will never be hungry."
Maybe those in the crowd don't realize exactly what's going on here. What has really happened is that Jesus has extended an invitation to join him -- challenged them really. If they truly want to share in God's great gift, then they must commit themselves. Think about it. Questions like, "Who is this man really?' and "Can we have a share in his same gifts?" are actually rather typical questions that still appear to puzzle many, even today.
Of course, we can't know what exactly was in the hearts or on the minds of all these people following Jesus around asking him questions, asking him for bread -- or simply trying to understand who he is. Perhaps many of them, if not most of them, had their minds, as Jesus suggested, on their hungry stomachs more than on Jesus, and we know that Jesus had his mind on something far more important. It is important that we distinguish between the two -- the difference between the need to satisfy physical hunger and the need to satisfy spiritual hunger.
The people ask for signs and bread and Jesus talks about faith. Not just faith, actually, but bread, too, but not bread in the same sense that the people mean.
Fred Craddock, a well known Disciples of Christ minister, writer, and professor emeritus of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, writes this about the people who gather about Jesus at this event and ask questions of him. He writes "they still want to be in charge, even of faith itself. Show us a sign, we will see, we will weigh the evidence, we will draw the conclusions, and we might even decide to believe." Does this sound like us, at least sometimes?
So what does all this mean? How do we interpret Jesus' message for us?
Benjamin Sparks, a Presbyterian scholar, has written an intriguing commentary on this text of John in which he compares the crowds to "those who see faith and church membership as something instrumental, as something they can choose for themselves to use for their own needs or to pursue for their own interests." Certainly it's possible (and probably all too common) for any of us to shop like consumers for a church that best meets our own needs. Isn't that the way we look for a church? Isn't that why we come to this place for worship? Sparks goes on, however, to suggest all the wrong reasons to invite someone to church: for the "right" kind of worship, for political engagement on behalf of the poor and downtrodden, for the sake of a Christian America, for a strong youth and family ministry, for the opportunity to practice mission in a downtown location, or to go on mission trips to Africa or Central America. Wouldn't any of these be very good reasons for someone to become an active part of a church congregation? But, he continues by saying that we offer something much greater than all of these. The church offers "soul food" and that lasts forever. This kind of food nourishes us even after we satisfy our physical hunger.
Something has haunted me for many years now. I saw it many times when my family and I lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and, of course I also saw it in The Gambia, West Africa when we also lived there for a while. (Some of you might be wondering what brought me to these places. I was working for a federal agency, assigned as a technical advisor to the governments of t hese countries to direct projects to help people help themselves.) It became a very intimate part of my daily life in these places, but this one particular time was particularly trying for me. I had gone to the field to work with some villagers on a conservation project we were doing with them. There was a little girl, maybe three or three and a half, sitting at the end of a field while her mother worked with other women not far away. Her face was very, very dirty as were the rags she had on. Her nose was running down from her nose to her mouth and flies were all about her face. She had obviously been crying. She was trying to ease her hunger with a mouthful of dirt, which is not uncommon in Haiti. When I approached her, she sheepishly covered her mouth, perhaps to conceal what she was doing. Her eyes were full of pain and sadness and I asked her why she was sad. With a shy, subdued voice she told me she was hungry. I didn't have anything to give her to eat. The only thing I could do was comfort her for a few minutes and go about my way. I have always regretted not doing something more. In situations like that one, and there have been many, I always feel inadequate. What more could I have done?
God has showered us with grace and blessings. The only way we can respond adequately is with gratitude. Perhaps the only way we can do that is to seek a worthy life -- to do what God has asked us to do. To work for the food that offers eternal life may be a metaphor, but in no way can it be interpreted as passive. When Jesus says, "I am the bread of life" and tells us that we should work for that bread, it then becomes a call to action.
Paul, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, addresses this very issue. He helps us to understand what Jesus meant. He writes to the Ephesians from jail. He has spent much of his adult life in prison, for doing nothing more, really, than preaching the gospel of Jesus. He knows first-hand what it means to be committed to a cause, and the sacrifice that it requires. His letter is to the church, but it also applies to each of us as devoted followers of Christ.
Paul sets the stage for us by explaining how things really are, he tells us that long before God created everything we know, that God had us in mind and that we, God's people, would be the focus of God's great love, and that we were to be made whole and holy by that greatest of all love. He begins his message to the church by telling them that they are to be strong, to be one in voice and action, and to be worthy of God's calling. How powerful are his words when he says, "I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called?"
How many of you are familiar with the Disney animated film, The Lion King, or have perhaps read the children's book, by the same name, or have seen the stage production? I have seen the film and Nancy and I saw the stage production in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. What a fabulous production! The costuming is fascinating and the music sets it apart. How many of you know that it was based on Shakespeare's Hamlet? If you know anything about The Lion King, then you must recall the most moving part of the whole story. Little Simba, the lion cub, whose father, Mufasa, was murdered by his own jealous, arrogant, power hungry brother is reminded each time he faces a choice, that he, Simba, is the future king of all the animals. Of course, he has these buddies, or groupies, who provide advice to him along his way to being king. He has a huge responsibility, to be brave, to be wise and to be strong in order to be a great leader. So when things are looking scary, as they often do, and Simba wants to run away from who he is, he hears this deep booming voice (in the film, it was the voice of James Earl Jones) of his father, "Simba, my son, remember who you are."
Isn't it true that we need one another to help us remember who we are, who we're becoming, who we are called to be? Paul, in writing to the Church at Ephesus, encourages them to remember who they are.
For us, you and me, this letter says, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for." In other words, we not only discover who we are, we go deeper, we understand the very meaning of our lives. We hear that God is at work in each of our lives, that our lives have purpose and that each of us is important, that we are a key part of the plan that God has for us and for the world. We understand what Jesus said when he proclaimed that "I am the bread of life."
Paul reminds us at First Christian Church of who we are, who we are called to be as followers of Jesus and who we are living for. He reminds us that the strength of the church, of this church, of each of us, doesn't come from within us as our own resolve or determination or intelligence. This wasn't our great idea. It is God's dream for us. This dream won't happen because we make it happen. It will happen because God is bringing it to fulfillment. God has invited us to partake in this great unfolding plan for all the world. Paul reminds us of how important it is to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk."
I mentioned earlier that Nancy and I and our kids, who were quite young at the time, spent about two and a half years living in the village of Bakau, in the West African country of The Gambia. I would be very surprised if any of you have been there, so I will take the liberty of giving you a brief geography lesson. Are any of you familiar with The Gambia? The Gambia is a tiny country, the poorest in all of Africa. It is roughly 30 miles wide on its Atlantic Ocean side and it gets somewhat narrower as it continues inland for about 220 miles. The Gambia River, which begins in Mali, runs the full length of the country, down its middle, and dumps into the Atlantic Ocean at the capitol city of Banjul. At its mouth, the Gambia River is about 8 miles wide. It is the largest navigable river in West Africa. No ships go up and down the River now, but once upon a time there were many ships plying its waters.
The Gambia is the ancestral home of Alex Haley. Many of you have read his book, "Roots," which traced his ancestral family back to a person named Kunta Kinte, a young African teenager captured from his village and sold into slavery in America. Many of you may even remember the mini-series of that book when it showed on TV many years ago. You probably do not recall, even if you read the book, but the name of Kunta Kinte's village was Juffure. Juffure is located on the northern bank of The Gambia River, not far inland from the Atlantic Ocean. From the village of Juffure you can see an island, called James Island, in the middle of the Gambia River. It is from that island that Kunta Kinte was shipped to America in the belly of a slave ship. James Island is an infamous place with a dark history. The ruins of its ancient fortress and dungeons that once housed thousands of slaves still remain as ominous reminders of a disturbing past.
Now, to my point. Juffure, is a small village of several hundred people. When Alex Haley visited the village when doing research for his book, it had no public water supply system, no electricity, no sewer system and no paved roads. He promised the people of the village that he would use part of the proceeds from his book to build them a public water supply system. He stuck to his word and did just that. He funded the drilling of deep well with a diesel driven pump, pipelines to get water around the village and public hydrants. Of course, after many years of use and no maintenance, the pump quit working, the pipes started leaking and the whole system failed. The village appealed to Alex Haley to replace the pump, repair the pipes, and rebuild the system. But Haley never put any more money into it, citing the obvious lack of maintenance. What happened in Juffure leads me to ask the question, was it the failure to accept responsibility for maintaining a generous gift that led to its ultimate failure or was it the lack of gratitude shown? Unless it has been replaced in recent years by some other generous donor, the village is now back to using its hand-dug wells. My hat is off to Mr. Haley. Maybe the villagers of Juffure need to take a closer look at who they are.
By recognizing that we are not alone in this world, and by knowing that we must work together, only then can we accomplish what we have set out to do, to live a life worthy of God's calling, not only as a church, but as responsible Christians. God has given us the gift, in this church, of preachers, teachers, musicians, those with voices who speak up on behalf of the weak, the sick and those who are treated unjustly, and we have been given those who nurture and children who laugh, and leaders who guide and direct us. God has indeed been wonderful to us. Knowing this helps us to remember who we are. Sure, we know all about being kind to others, even if we don't like them, being gentle and caring, being patient and humble, and loving. All these things are hard at times, but we must do them, because
" living a life worthy of your calling" is inspiring, uplifting, and identifying.
Last month, Nancy and I made a trip to Reno, Nevada to visit our son and his family. We had a real purpose for this visit, we were to accompany our just turned 5 year old grandson, Kaleb, to a "Grandparents and Me," church camp sponsored by the Northern Region of the California Disciples of Christ. What a totally wonderful experience that was -- except sleeping in a tent for a couple of nights isn't one of Nancy's favorite things to do. Anyway, our son and daughter-in-law took the opportunity, while we were in Reno, to be away from home a few days. That left us with the privilege of spending some quality time in their home with our two youngest grandchildren before we left for camp.
One morning when we were getting the kids dressed for the day, I was washing Kylie's face and getting her dressed and getting ready to fix her hair when out of nowhere came, "Grandpa, make me pretty." Now, how do I make a two-and-a-half-year old, beautiful little girl, pretty. Of course, my somewhat surprised response went something like, "Sweetie, you are already pretty, but I can fix your hair nice."
We can't make each other pretty. We can make each other look good, but only in a pertnership with God can we be pretty. At least that is my observation. You know the old saying, "Pretty is as pretty does." Little children don't have a choice. They don't have to do anything to be pretty. But Paul says we all have to grow up. When childish faith is tossed about, it leads us only to be arrogant and taints our judgment. Childish faith seeks easy answers and doesn't like the hard questions or things that challenge us every day. And, yes, it often makes us act and even look childish.
Paul reminds us of our calling and reminds us, too, of the importance of living a life worthy of that calling. We are called to grow up and to grow into a reconciliation that calls us to remember that from the very beginning we are one, that there is one body, one Spirit and one hope and that divisions among us, the hate and mistrust, the prejudice and the greed, and all the bad things that befall us, are not a mark of God's dream, but of human failure. Let's not just "talk the talk" of faith, but let's "walk the walk," no matter what the price of bread. We can be pleasing in God's sight. Indeed, as Christians, that is our goal. To live a life worthy is hard. It takes responsibility and effort, but if we know who we are it is not an insurmountable thing to do.
I want to close with this story.
Suffering from terminal spinal cancer at the age of 47, former North Carolina State University basketball coach Jim Valvano spoke candidly with a reporter. He looked back on his life and told a story about himself as a 23-year old coach of a small college basketball team. "Why is winning important to you, coach?" the players asked Valvano.
"Because the final score defines you," he said, "You lose, you are a loser. You win, you are a winner."
"No," the players insisted, "Participation is what matters. Trying your best, regardless of whether you win or lose -- that's what defines you."
It took 24 more years of living. It took the coach bolting up from the mattress three or four times a night with his T-shirt soaked with sweat and his teeth rattling from the fever chill of chemotherapy and the terror of seeing himself die repeatedly in his dreams. It took all that for him to say it: "Those kids were right. It's effort, not result. It's trying. God what a great human being I could have been if I'd only had this awareness back then."
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry." Paul directs us to an understanding of what this means.
Live a life worthy of your calling he tells us. To do that, we must first answer a very important question.
So who am I, really?
Below is the text as preached, by Claudia Ellquist on Sunday, July 29th, 2012. Rev. McCormick is away on vacation thru August 5th.
Delle asked me to preach this morning, based on something I wrote, and emailed to her, that I called "A midrash about the eye on the sparrow." Remember that "midrash" is a word we learned, from the rabbi who Delle invited to preach?
Anyway, I had not written it as a sermon. I feel strongly that sermons should be on the assigned texts, to keep preachers from lazily preaching on all the easy stuff, and never grappling with the bigger issues. Delle graciously compromised: I could just. . . combine it, whatever the texts. So, I'm just sayin', if this gets confusing, we can always blame Delle!
The sermon title, as you may have noticed, is "of kings and sparrows." So I did combine them. Maybe Delle was right.
These texts are hard enough, without reference to birds. The story line, in the gospel, is of Jesus, and includes two familiar, but fairly unrelated, tales.
The first one is of Jesus and the feeding of the 5000, from the basket of a child, who has two loaves and five fishes. There is an obvious tie-in, of theme, with the Old Testament lesson, where Elisha feeds 100 men from ten loaves. If we do the math, we can see that Jesus bested Elisha by at least 100 fold, as one might expect from a messiah, if this whole thing was a competition.
The second part of the gospel has Jesus strolling across the surface of a lake, sans boat, in the wee hours, and scaring his boat-borne disciples, who were already shaken by a storm, which Jesus promptly calmed. No puddle-gliding by a prophet, to thematically compare that to.
So, where are we, with all this?
The answer is sometimes found in the context. The passages preceding today's gospel are also about miracles, about crowds of people. In that instance, Jesus is healing folks until he is about to drop from fatigue, and they still keep coming. It's worse than the waiting room, in Rudy's office!
So healing, then the story of the feeding multitudes, and then the midnight water walk. Miracles. . . but to what end?
It feels like the crowds are leaning on Jesus, and his magic, to be their cure-all doctor, and then to be their farmer and feeder and cook, and then to take their hand, when they are scared. What is going on here? Next thing they are probably going to bug him to tell them where they left their car keys. Or to make their politicians behave themselves.
It was really verse 15 that began to reach me. "Jesus knew that they were about to come and seize him, in order to make him king, by force, so he went off again, into the hills, by himself."
There were really two options for an Old Testament lesson today. The one WE read tied in, by theme, since it had to do with stretching a skimpy food budget to feed unexpected guests. Susan and Sharon could tell us about feeding people. Those who have brought cans of food for the Foodbank also know. Elisha knew.
But there is a more traditional Old Testament option for today, and it is the story of David and Bathsheba. Or, more accurately, the story of how David betrayed, and assassinated, his loyal soldier, Bathsheba's husband,. Uriah. Another familiar story, but one that would be hard to tie to feeding multitudes, or walking on water.
In this alternative text, it is the first verse that caught my attention, so I'll share it. Before David even lays eyes, or hands, on Bathsheba, and spirals into deception and murder, there is this opening sentence:
"The following spring, at the time of the year when kings usually go to war, David sent out Joab with his officers, and the Israelite army: they defeated the Ammonites and besieged the city of Rabbah. But David himself stayed in the city of Jerusalem."
Til I read that verse, I had no idea that there was a time of year that was "when kings usually go to war." Isn't spring when farmers plant crops, so that people can eat? But kings "go to war." Not because they've been invaded, and need to defend their people and land. But because it is, I guess, tradition. It is what kings do. Maybe it is good politics. Proves you care enough to kill the very best. Proves that you are macho. Distracts people from asking just what the job of king is, or why YOU get to wear the crown, or how the economy is going, or why the cronies are up at the top, or who the king is sleeping with.
Why do we have kings? Why do we have football gods, for that matter, with statues that have to be torn down, when they cover up pedophilia. Why do we have candidate ads that focus on fear, where the other guy is a slimy spineless demon, and you guy all sunshine and strength? Why do we want the one who is "man enough" to send out assassination drones, and to send out the best and brightest, or the poorest and most desperate, to die. But not the candidate who is sane enough, for example, to say we shouldn't let less kingly madmen buy arsenals to use on innocents, closer to home?
I'm not being flip, or even political in this questioning. Well, maybe a little bit political, but mostly, I think it is a valid question. The Israelites had judges, and they wanted a king. instead. And, if you look at the objective evidence, we seem to want a king, instead of, for example, a president.
Kings send their citizens to war, mostly because it is that time of year, and even when the king, himself, would rather stay home, in Jerusalem, and indulge the other prerogatives of corruption.
The crowds wanted to make Jesus their king, by force if he couldn't be talked into it, and Jesus ran away, as fast, and hard, as he could. He would heal them, and feed them, and walk on water to hold their hand in the dark and stormy night, and even die for them, but he did not want to be their king.
So, who is this Jesus?
In the first week of June, I was watering my sunflowers, in the early morning, and a small white parakeet fluttered onto my driveway. Once I identified that it really was not some wild bird, I put my hand down, and talked reassuringly. But it would not let me get closer than a foot away. So I called to my neighbor, Howard, who was out tending his garden and his cats, to come and help me capture it. Howard found some wine-colored gauze cloth, and tossed it over the tiny bird, and held the perimeters, while I wrapped the bird, and took it in my hand.
I had no birdcage, but did have a large dog carrier, with open windows covered with square wire bars less than an inch apart. I put a small heavy-bottomed glass of water in there, and then began to loosen the bird from the cloth. It took a good bit to unfurl him, since I had to keep the door closed, and work from the outside. But he was finally free, and he hopped to a wire window, to have a perch, and to see the world outside. I pushed bits of bread through the bars, and some seeds. And then went to clear a place, in the house, where the large dog carrier would be high enough up that our dog would not trouble it.
But while I was inside, the bird escaped. I could hardly believe it-- the openings were so small between the wire bars. But the bird had been frightened and desperate. And now, it was gone.
I looked everywhere. I peered into neighbor's yards, scanned low tree branches, walked the block, and the next block. It was getting hotter and hotter, and cats were prowling, and where was there water for it to drink? By evening, I gave it up. The pudgy little white bird, by then, was either dead or had survived, but nothing that I could do would affect it.
Still, it is hard to give up on something that you have held in your hand, and tried to save. It was incredible that it should have come to my driveway, it was incredible that Howard and I were able to capture it. It was miraculous. Surely God intended something here. But what?
My sister, when I emailed her about it, quoted back to me "God's eye is on the sparrow."
And when I began to think about it, that was an odd thing for Jesus to say. In one sense, it seems to trivialize human life, and death, for God to be watchful of birds. Why did Jesus decide to express a concern about us, by talking about birds? Why not just talk about us?
I suppose, in part, it is to point out that God does not watch us-- and stay with us, in our life and in our hour of death-- because we are so intrinsically more important that other living creatures. We need to get over ourselves-- birds count too. God watches them, cares about them. Maybe there is a bird heaven [or doggy heaven or earthworm heaven], maybe not. But God IS with them, at the time of their death. They don't fall to the ground alone.
God will not spare us death. It will come. But God will be with us.
Several years back, when an execution was scheduled in Arizona, I would attend the clemency hearings, representing CWU and the AEC. After a day of the defense attorneys, and then prosecution attorneys, restaging what they had said at the sentencing hearings, years before, the Clemency Board would allow a 5 minute statement from anyone else who attended, before it voted [as it is appointed to do] against clemency.
I spoke. I would start by saying, for the sake of the victim's family who were there, "Your loved on did not die alone and frightened. They may have been frightened, but God was with them, and the next face they saw was the face of God. They did not die alone."
Then, for the family of the person who was going to be executed. "I have come to speak for clemency, in the hope that your family member will not die at the hands of the state. But, if it comes to pass, I say the same thing to you. He will not die alone. God is there. God is there for all of us. The next face he will see will be the face of God."
God's eye is on the sparrow, and God's watchful presence, as it falls from the sky. God's eye is on that parakeet, wherever it is. God is with each of us, across the globe, without exception. We may be frightened, but we are not alone.
Today's Ephesians text tells us that Jesus makes his home in our hearts, so that we, together with all God's people, may “have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love, which can never be fully known.” We, all of us, are to be “completely filled with the very nature of God."
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the one who is our doctor, not to impress us, but because we need healing. Jesus is the one who feeds us, not to flaunt the miracle machine, but because we faint for lack of food, and won't share unless we get some childlike trust that allows us to offer up our loaves and fishes, or our canned goods for the Foodbank drive. Jesus is the one who crosses the water, not to stun us that he can, but to get to where our boats are, and be with us. Jesus is the one who does not want to be king, and doesn't want us to want a king.
Jesus is the one who wants us to govern ourselves as though their were no borders or boundaries or inequalities among us, and as though all of us, without exception, could be filled with the very nature of God. Jesus is the one who wants doctors without borders, and no more starvation, anywhere, ever again, and no more seasons for sending our young men and women to kill, and to die, because it is spring, and politics requires it. Jesus is the one who lovingly counts the hairs on our heads, and who let's us hold the small wilding bird in our hand, and feel its heart, and want to do what is right, and then who reminds us that all the birds belong to him, and his care.
This text in Ephesians ends with yet another reminder about who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who, by means of his power, working in us, is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of."
There IS a kingship that is worthy of Jesus, and it is the kingdom of God. The place we pray for, and are citizens of. Where people are fed, and forgiven, and folded into God's care, singing happy hymns and holding hands and taking stands.
If we stop trying to drag Jesus, by force, into being the kind of king we want, and let Jesus be who Jesus is, and let Jesus transform us, every one of us, into being filled with the nature of God, and doing along with Jesus, healthcare for everybody, food pantries and refugee camps overflowing with shared food, governments transformed, fear and violence shrunk-wrapped to nothingness, then we get to know who Jesus is, and working in and with us, all of it can be done, more than we ever knew was possible, or thought to ask for.
That's who Jesus is.
The next question is. . . who do we choose to be. And what miracle project are we going to join Jesus in working for.
May the God who watches sparrows, and tiny white parakeets, watch over us
as well. May the Feeder of the multitudes help us plant seeds, and
harvest crops, and bake bread, and share it with the world, sitting down
to a common table. May the Jesus who walks on water, show us where the
stepping stones are. May the God who would not be the king we sought,
lead us into the Kingdom we never even knew to ask for. May we wake up
Monday morning, prepared to live out what we believe on Sunday.
Click the play button above to Listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "God's House," from Sunday, July 22nd.
Please click on the PLAY button above to listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "To Tell The Truth," from Sunday, July 15th.
Please click the play button above to Listen to Rev. McCormick's sermon, "Forgiveness," from Sunday, July 8th.