I think the goal here is to live and dwell in Jesus – to take his flesh and blood, the very essence of what makes him human, and make him your own. Jesus is inviting you to live as he lived; to love as he loved; to dwell in God’s everlasting grace where past mistakes are forgiven, and new life is fashioned and formed by God’s own hand. What Jesus is offering is not a ritual or a religious experience, but a new life and a new home in God’s everlasting heart.
For some, home is a great place to be. It’s filled wonderful memories of family life and the stories that shape who you are. A community bond that you yearn for when you’re away at college or have been shipped off to war. For you, home equals safety and security; a place where the bad stuff in the world is locked out by the same front door that is always open to welcome you in.
But that’s not the case with everyone. There are those for whom home is nothing less than a hellish nightmare that you couldn’t escape quickly enough. Instead of safety and security, it’s abuse, dysfunction, and brokenness, which follow you out the door and haunt you wherever you go. Your heart yearns, but in different way.
After the ‘94 earthquake I had this unusual yearning to go back to my parent’s house. It wasn’t the main earthquake rattled my nerves. It was the earthquake-size aftershocks that had me on pins and needles for weeks. Any time a truck would rumble down the alley, I’d brace myself for another jolt. After each one I longed to return to Washington, DC where nothing bad or unusual ever happens!
Friday, ABC studios transformed our house by sending it back to the 1970’s. Yet no matter how hard we try we cannot change where we come from, but we can change how we live and abide. Jesus invites you to move in with him. He wants you to be his roommate, and to share all the goodness of his life. Leave your baggage behind. All you need to bring is yourself.
But you may not want Jesus as your roommate. Not only is he a goody-two-shoes, but he is prone to saying some weird stuff. Like, “I am a gate.” He once said to a woman, “I am living water.” And he is often heard saying, “I am the light of the world.” In John’s gospel alone Jesus makes seven of these “I Am” statements – each one offering a deeper, more personal perspective of the incarnate Christ.
Today he said, I am the bread that came down from heaven. He’s comparing himself to the manna that God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. That stuff was temporary. It had a shelf life. Jesus said his bread is everlasting. And if we eat it, we too will live forever.
You might be tempted to think Jesus is offering us a way to be immortal like Count Dracula or Kenny from South Park. This is a perfect example of how strange Christian faith can sound even to the most seasoned believer.
Amy Howe writes, “Jesus uses these familiar symbols of bread, wine, flesh, blood, and water to teach us about the gift of life, eternal life - not immortality, but a way of living that deprives fear of having the upper hand.”
To follow Jesus is to follow a way of life that moves us out of our brokenness into a home where forgiveness and healing are plentiful, and love and joy abound.
Jesus offered his followers this great gift: a home they’ve always yearned for. Now here they are – standing on God’s doorstep. The door is open, but do they embrace Jesus and walk into the house? No, they complain, “it’s too difficult.” And they walk away.
Maybe Jesus’ crazy words aren’t so easy to understand. But to deny his life-giving gift seems like a crazier thing to do. But little-by-little most of the people begin to move out until only a few of his closest disciples remain. Why is that? Why do we walk away from such love? Why do we abandon the very thing our heart desires the most?
Jesus turned to his disciples and asked them what they’re going to do. And Peter said, “Where would we go? You have the eternal words of life…you are the Holy One of God.” You see, Jesus said some beautiful things too, like “You are forgiven” and “Give me your burdens and I will give you rest.” That’s a good roommate.
When we live with Jesus, we live with God. When our home and heart dwell with God, we ourselves become a place where love and peace can flourish. Faith calls us to not simply consume the body and blood of Christ (practice religion), but to also emulate his manner of living and dying for others (practice Christ-likeness).
When we abide in Jesus, we cannot separate our flesh and spirit from one another. It is, by it’s very nature, a communal act. So just as Jesus is the incarnation of God in the world, so too are we to be the incarnation of Christ wherever we are.
Let’s face it, we know how easy it is to turn away and go at it alone. But like the manna in the wilderness, self-sufficiency only goes so far. Jesus said our flesh is useless. It eventually dies.
But when we feast on his words we are fed both spirit and life, and become part of God’s divine flesh in all of its eternal fullness. When our life becomes one with Jesus’ life, so to does our death become a part of his resurrection. Not immortality, but everlasting abiding.
The Twelve chose to pursuit a life of faithfulness in God through Jesus Christ because they had come to realize that a life in and with Jesus is a full life. A true life. And as hard as it was to practice, it was a way to everlasting life where fear and hurt are transformed into peace and kindness.
When we share this life with Jesus, we do by serving others as he did; healing those who are suffering even if it means suffering to do so; to always seek justice, mercy and forgiveness no matter the cost.
By abiding in Christ we see how God’s everlasting love and grace moves throughout the world and throughout the ages.
Jesus offers you this great gift. He’s calling you home. The door is wide open. But will you walk in? Will you leave your bags behind and find your peace in the welcoming light and love of God?
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox) 2009. pp.380-85.
So far, that has not been the case. God has not shown me a plan or a set of blueprints. But God has shown me the Way. Revealing to me his presence in astounding ways. For example, a few minutes after the phone call ended, my daily bible reading spoke to what Tiffany and I had just shared. In the devotional was a story that reminded me I didn’t have to be so hard on myself. God’s got this.
The story was about a cracked pot. And it goes like this.
A water-bearer in India had two large pots, both hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot always arrived half full.
The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream:
‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes the water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.’
The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them.
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
The author of the devotional concluded the story with this affirmation, “Thankfully, God uses cracked pots! You do not need to be perfect for God to use you.”
Think about that statement. You don’t need to be perfect for God to use you. Whether you are chipped, cracked, or shattered into tiny pieces, God finds a way to use us for restorative purposes.
Both my conversation with Tiffany, and this story, helped me to remember my purpose – to proclaim God’s love and grace through my words and deeds. Am I perfect at it? Not at all. Do I fail often? More than I’d like. Does it stop me from trying? No.
I don’t need to be perfect for God to use me. And neither do you. Your story, your scars, and all your imperfections and misdeeds, are all the ways God uses us to tell Jesus’ story of overwhelming love and saving grace. This is why it’s called the good news. And why we were called to proclaim it to every corner of the world. Which is easier said than done when you have a seminary degree, right? What do you do when you don't have that?
But consider the man who was born blind in John’s gospel. The disciples asked Jesus, 'Was this man born blind because of his own sins or his parents' sins?' Jesus answered, “Neither. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him."
When the Pharisees asked the man about who healed him, the man said this about Jesus, "He is a prophet! If this man were not from God, he couldn't have done it."
Before Jesus came into his life, the blind man had his story that came with all the usual stigma’s attached to being born that way. After Jesus did what he did, the man’s story becomes God’s testimony.
His eyes are open to the truth and he becomes a living witness to God’s power in the world. Because of Jesus, this man was able to see God do some truly amazing things. He didn’t understand how it happened but was happily surprised that it did happen. And he shared that joy with everyone.
I am constantly surprised by the way God loves me. And in spite of my brokenness, God still finds a way to make me a part of his service and plan. From Moses, to David, to Mary, and Peter, to you and me, God takes our weaknesses and makes them our strengths.
In his second letter to the Churches in Corinth, Paul writes, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take this [thorn in my flesh] away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
The Apostle takes pleasure in his weakness and brokenness because he knows this is where God is most active in his life. And wherever God is active in your life, you too can rest assured that you can do anything God has called you to do. You don’t need to be perfect. Just faithful.
Like the water-bearer, God is planting seeds along the paths we walk, and God is enjoying the beauty that our flaws help to create. Yet we have to walk the walk, do what we are called to do!
Through Jesus Christ we receive all the grace we need to make us strong enough to overcome insults and hardships and the personal attacks on our faith that chip away at our core and cause us to crack in the first place.
In following Christ we not only find our strength, but learn also how to use it for the good of God’s kingdom and our communities. By our words and deeds we proclaim the good news that heals and restores.
So don’t worry if your faith is all dinged up or you have a low Bible IQ, God can and will use you in the most amazing and creative ways. The bible is filled with examples of ordinary people like us, who did some extraordinary things that led people back to God’s welcoming heart – the very heart of everlasting love where your story began.
Perhaps your purpose isn’t to be a preacher or a pastor. Maybe it’s just being a good friend, a faithful spouse, or a compassionate human who seeks to do some good in the world. God will use you.
Maybe you’re being called to get involved in local issues; making sure there’s justice and fairness imbedded in your community. Look around your neighborhood and ask God where you can be of service. Then step out in faith, knowing God is your strength.
Maybe your call is to support a particular mission, like this one, which reaches people who’d never step foot in a church. With so much hurt in the world, there is still more work to be done. And the people who have been called to do that work need more than just your thoughts and prayers.
We’ve been given the story of Jesus, the healing balm that brings relief to those who are suffering. And we are called to share it so eyes can be open and hearts can be healed.
There are many ways God uses us to proclaim gospel of Jesus Christ. And as St. Francis of Assisi taught, if you have to use words to do so, well then, the more the better.
Gumble, Nicky. Bible In One Year. Living Church Bible app, 2017. August 13, 2018.
Seriously, whose truly gentle, merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker these days? It’s not easy to always be concerned about justice when the kids need to get to school and find ways to cover the bills.
If Jesus only knew what we have to go through in order to survive in this world, he’d never suggest this impossible list to attain. Right?In her book “Accidental Saints,” Nadia Boltz-Webber doesn’t see the beatitudes as some kind of conditions that need to be met in order for us to be blessed, but describes them as the “lavish blessings of the people” who came to see Jesus speak. They are the lucky ones, even if luck has never been on their side.
To summarize her point, Jesus’ blessings are gifts, freely given to the ones who “the world didn’t seem to have much time for: People in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance.” The people we don’t always look up to or admire. Jesus just goes around blessing people who, for the most part, society has deemed undeserving or unworthy.
Have you ever felt like that? Like maybe you don’t deserve to be blessed – believing you’re not good enough, or poor enough, or meek enough to receive the love and grace of God? But Jesus says you are good. You are worthy. You are enough.
“You are blessed when you are content with just who you are—no more, no less.” But how often do we forget that each blessing come from the very heart of God? This means that when we accept such blessings we become a part of God’s heart; the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
My friend is feeling God’s heart beating inside her. It’s awakening in her a new sense of purpose. She has come to realize that God’s blessings didn’t stop with Jesus. They didn’t die on the cross. They were resurrected with him, and now flow through us. When we receive the blessing of God’s love and grace, we become that very blessing. And we, like Jesus, must give them all away “as if blessings grew on trees!”
So when Jesus calls us to love God and to love others, he is essentially saying “You have been given an invaluable gift. The only way you can pay it back is by paying it forward.”
As Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
In her novel "Pay It Forward," Catherine Ryan Hyde takes this ancient wisdom one step further. She believes it’s our obligation to do three good deeds to others in repayment for one good deed we receive. By this measure, one blessing can spread exponentially through society, creating a social movement so powerful that it can redeem and transform the entire world. This seems right up Jesus’ alley, don’t you think?
As we have learned in past weeks, Jesus had a way of multiplying blessings by sharing his life with others. And if we believe Jesus actually meant what he said back in the first century, then it must still apply to us in the 21st century.
Our ministry begins the same way as Jesus’ – with a blessing. By accepting God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ. I invite you to take this amazing gift and let it grow in your heart. Then when it feels right, share it. Pay it forward, and watch love grow. Watch peoples lives transform before your own eyes. Watch hearts beat as one. The One.
Jesus’ words and blessings are purposeful and intentional: to restore human beings to their true self and beauty. From this particular hillside to the one that he will later be crucified on, Jesus never stopped caring for those who the system overlooked, and pushed aside.
You know who they are - the homeless, the poor, the lonely, the angry, the uneducated, the incarcerated, the widows and kids in foster care. But they are also relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and friends who can’t seem to get a break, or fall on hard times, and slowly become invisible. Jesus makes it a point to bless them because we all need to be blessed.
Just as Jesus confronted the injustices of the world, so too must we; using the same love and grace that has been given to us. For the blessings we receive from God are the very blessings we are to be for God.
Through Jesus Christ, God has provided us with everything we need to bless the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the dying.
Through Christ Jesus, God has given us a living example of how to honor the poor in a way that empowers them; to show mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt us, even if we get nothing in return; to strive for peace instead of war with people and with nations.
If we want to get things right in the world, especially in our own life, then according to Jesus we must love each other, and lead others to do the same.
For as it is written, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Jesus shows us the way to be in the world without being of it. When we model our lives on his, we will be comforted and we will have our fill; mercy will be shown to us; and our past mistakes erased.
Best of all, the kingdom of heaven will reign, and a new earth will be our inheritance – a blessing that is so abundant we can give away freely without losing a thing. In fact, the more we give it away, the more we will receive in kind.
Let us pray: Lord Christ, we commit ourselves to you this day so that we might be receive the blessing of your Spirit and become the blessing for others to be. Amen.
Like faith, the word both a noun and a verb. To “Disrupt” or to be a “disruptor” is to be a person or a brand that rocks the boat. The one who mixes things up and break the rules,...whose unique innovation throws the status quo into a tizzy. Can you think of a biblical character who does that? Perhaps someone who wandered the streets of First Century Jerusalem.
I believe some disruptions help us to ask better questions, keeps us thinking, and progressing. And if nothing else it keeps us on our toes. From the church's point of view God, of course, is the original disruptor....thinking outside the box long before that phrase was a cliché.
God has been mixing things up since the beginning. Before his light burst through the vast darkness God had already thought about alternate times and dimensions, of new worlds and universes,
each one seamlessly integrated with the other. In comparison to the planets in our solar system, Earth is a perfect creation born out of true visionary thinking.
Of course the incarnation was a true game changer. It overturned all assumptions about the beginning of life. Matthew's gospel reveals how through Jesus Christ, God challenged the conventional wisdom; not just in the way Jesus was conceived through the Virgin Mary, but also in the way he showed us how to live in a radically new way: through service, forgiveness, and submission.
And of course we cannot not forget the resurrection...another perfectly executed disruption, that redefined both the way we think about life and the way we experience death. I don't think the greatest writer could have ever penned such a beautiful tag line as Paul wrote about faith in Christ Jesus,…we must die in order to live.
I'm sure we all have at least one story of God disrupting our life.
For me, it was a sudden and unexpected head on collision with cancer. For my wife, it was a slow and sorrowful walk toward the death of her beloved father. For you it might have been overcoming an addiction, or suffering through a failed relationship, dealing with unexpected news, like winning the Mega Millions jackpot...a disruption I wouldn't mind happening to me.
While we were driving to the lake yesterday, we witnessed an amazing accident on the road. Someone's bad decision to exit unexpectedly forced a cement truck to swerve out of the way causing another car to slam into the dividing wall. We watched in horror as her car flew into the air...narrowly missing the truck. I would come to find out she was on her way to a bridal shower. Her day was disrupted, but her life would be forever changed by this event.
We like to tell ourselves that these things happen to us in life because God has a purpose. But that seems a little crazy to me, that a loving God would willingly put us through hardships. Yet is this the only way we can explain why all this crap happens to us or why our world has turned upside down?
Maybe it's just God's way of waking us from our sleep. Maybe these are car alarms in life we need to both protect and to serve us. After all, even the most faithful of us forget to lean on the One who said, "Come, follow me."
When Jesus says this he is disrupting our way of life. But he says it, so we must listen, and do what he did, and live and love as as he taught. Jesus calls us to follow his way...and give over ever so faithfully so we can live fully and freely! In such a paradox of life we find our hope, our peace, even if it's cluttered with crap that disrupts us from truly embracing this gift.
Again, perhaps God disrupts our lives so we might wake up and engage our faith in new and scary ways. We know that we often grow through our struggles and find, through our weakest moments, the strength that lies within us. Through the trials and tribulations of life, we discover that what we are truly capable of is actually more than we ever believed possible. Disruption helps us to see the depth of our faith and the boundless love of God...so that we can live in God's righteousness...and not our own brokenness.
To quote Lee Clow, one of the most visionary thinkers in advertising history, “You can’t preach disruption unless you are willing to live by it.” Jesus, more than anyone else, understood this. And so he calls us to do the same. that is to say, put our faith into practice.
The gospel of Matthew ends as profoundly as it begins. Before his ascention, Jesus commissions his followers to go out to every corner of the world and disrupt the status quo by proclaiming the Good News...through our words and deeds.
In advertising terms he tells these new disruptors to “Reach Out and Touch Someone.” Go forth and “Teach the World to sing in perfect harmony.” Oh, and don’t worry about facing the obstacles of life, because “You’re in Good Hands,” when you have “A Piece of the Rock.”
Jesus has made it our mission to confront injustice, care for the sick, feed the hungry, stand up for the poor, and forgive one another and to love so that we may live peacefully as God intended since the beginning.
It's through this we shake up and wake up the world, so that the world might see and know that the kingdom of God has come already. May it always be alive in us...After all, We - Are – Christ-ians, bum-de-bum-bum-bah.
Let us go now and disrupt life as if Jesus meant what he said.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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