Every week in sermon preparation there are some things that end up on the cutting room floor. Some weeks there’s so much of it that I choose to write a summary as an extension of my sermon for that week. Look for future “Cutting Room Floor” here by subscribing to spiritstirrer.flywheelstaging.com.
“Happy is anyone who doesn’t stumble along the way because of me.”
Luke 7:23 (CEB)
One of the many things that I’ve had to struggle with in my life with God is the difficulty of the way of Jesus. It is easy to be warmed by the many inspiring things that the gospel tells us and ignore the things that make us uncomfortable, make us think, or just seem out of reach. As I tell my congregations the gospel often “messes with us.” It is in this grittiness that our salvation is worked out with fear and trembling. For it is in the reality that we cannot on our own power live into the way of Jesus that we become ever aware of our desperate need for divine grace.
This week’s gospel was no different. If the disciples of John wanted an easy answer or a simple answer they were out of luck. If John imprisoned wanted a long excursus, a series of doctrinal statements, or a guarantee he was out of luck too. We know that talk is cheap and beautiful words can be deceiving. Yet because they are we preferred them, we lulled by the beautiful display at Target and in awe of the hamburger and fries before us on a commercial.
As one of my favorite theologians, James K.A. Smith says humans are “creatures of desire.” So our imaginations are easily captured by what makes us feel good, comforts us, and gives us an instant “fix.”
Imagine now the conversation the disciples of John had on their way back to visit John in prison. Signs and wonders had been done before them, amazing signs and wonders. Yet Jesus did not free John nor hinted at anything that would get close to that reality. Jesus did not damn the Roman oppressors nor the religious ones. Instead he demonstrated the kind of kin-dom that he came to establish: one that placed healing, wholeness, salvation, completeness for all people at its center.
All unreachable by us, all a gift of divine grace!
Since then I have often visited this passage to remind me of our task as Christ’s body the Church. By the power of the Spirit we who have experienced this freeing, justifying, and sanctifying grace carry on the work of Jesus. This seems impossible, we giving sight, we giving legs to walk, we cleansing diseases, we giving ears to hear, we raising people from the dead, and we bearing good news to those that need it most.
Yet we remember that what seems impossible for us is possible for God. That we too are those constantly healed, freed, and surprised we good news. This is why we are the Church and that way of life is what I have been called to lead this body towards. I too am often overwhelmed by the task and reminded that it is impossible for me to lead in these ways but that by the power of the Spirit I can indeed lead, share, empower, and bring good news. I can be an agent of healing to all I encounter, I can offer ALL the Christ that I’ve met along live’s way.
As we begin our life together I am wondering how you see Jesus’ healing ministry around us? What would it look like for us to be a community that gives sight, hearing, freedom, life, and good news? What are the dreams for our Jesus centered ministry in the next 100 years?
From the beginning of time the Spirit of the Lord has hovered over the chaos brining life, light, order, peace, and creative power. That power is still at work in us, in our congregation and in the world, I believe it and I look forward to living it among the people called First United Methodist Houma.