Friday, January 26, 2007

Run to the Back of the Line

The text for Sunday January 28 is Mark 9:33-37. It's about competition, greatness, competitiveness, and my need to be better than you are. I don't think it's just a "guy" thing, because I hear moms really get competitive about their children's accomplishments or their taste in shoes and purses. We all think we have pretty good standards, opinions, tastes and value; a little better than yours. And we jockey subtlely and not-so subtlely about whose ___________ is better than whose. We argue about schools, restaurants, sports teams, music styles, regions of the country, etc. You name it, we argue about it.
Jesus takes the disciples to school, literally, (and us) when he walks home to Capernaum, into the house (probably Peter's), sits down as the rabbi-in-charge and summons all the disciples to him for a tutorial in greatness. Greatness, he says, begins by racing to the end of the line to serve the little ones. It's only from the vantage point fo the end of the line or the bottom of the ladder, that we can ever hope to see the little ones. Nobody up in first class looks back at the poor person in seat 67f. But you can bet the person in 67f sees everyone ahead of her!
We removed the communion table (altar) for this Sunday and instead put in things you "don't normally see", things belonging to the "little ones" around us: a child's school chair, a disabled person's cane, a worker's rake and gloves. You really only see them when you run to the back of the line.

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is such a prickly topic. There are those who I love forgiving; tender, sensitive, broken souls who genuinely repent of a wrong I hardly felt. There are those ones who are so broken by their own sinfulness, I love stepping into their lives with the good news of God's grace.
Then, there are the other ones; who just don't get it, who are habitual, addictive, repeat offenders of the same thing. How much is too much? When do we have the right, if not the responsibility to cut our losses and move on without them? 3 times is enough said the rabbinic scholars of Jesus' day. Peter proposed 7 times, double plus one, for a truly christian approach to forgiveness. But Jesus said 77 times is a good beginning point. Why 77? To bookend and counter the 77 generation curse of Lamech on anyone who messed with his family in Genesis 4:24. 77! That's way too many times for me to keep track of anything. Which is exactly the point with Jesus. Stop keeping track and monitoring your lists, and just forgive; wantonly, extravagently, unendingly.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cross-Shaped Followers

The cross is ubiquitous, everywhere, almost over-used as jewelry, decoration, tatoo, bumper sticker, letter-head, fashion-statement. The cross on the altar this week is an ancient Ethiopiam processional cross of hammered silver. The conical base fit over a long pole which led the procession of priests carrying the Bible and maybe the eucharist into worship. The cross always leads, because the cross proclaims not only a person (Jesus Christ) but a life-style (crucified).
As I read through Mark 8:27-38, I realized how much I like to fashion the cross than I like the cross to fashion me. I put crosses in places I like, but I don't like crosses putting me in places i don't like. A cross-shaped life is not in control, but controlled, guided, directed and submitted. The fine print Jesus offers his disciples in following him is indeed tough, but the finer print (resurrection promise) is fine indeed!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sent Ones

It's not a pretty arrangement up front, on the chancel steps. In fact, I had to argue against a beautiful altar display for this more rugged image of an old rug, sandals, staff and tunic. The backdrop is beautiful: the table laden with communion trays and the tall Christ Candle, shining brightly.
The text for January 7th, the first Sunday after Epiphany is Mark 6:6ff where Jesus sends the disciples out in pairs with the Gospel. What is it they need to take along to do the job: a degree, a library, props, financial resources? No, Jesus said, "take nothing....but a staff, sandals and one tunic" along with Jesus's conferred "authority" over all evil spirits.
The two points in the sermon for Sunday will be: What do we need to to the discipleship job we have before us? How much more stuff do we think we need to be effective disciples? For some of us what we have is never enough: more books, seminars, classes, and degrees. Jesus cuts through our need for stuff with his word to take nothing along but his authority.
The second point in the day revolves around the whole notion of "sending." Who gets sent anywhere these days: military, police, fire, diplomats. But how about Christians? When was the last time anyone "sent" you? We really don't like being "sent". Instead we like to volunteer, be asked, consider and choose. Those are not strong concepts when it comes to Jesus. Jesus as Lord (not spiritual mentor or consultant) sends us where he chooses. Yikes!