My sermon from Sunday August 2, 2015. The sermon is formed around the idea that the crowd who follows Jesus for bread is advocating for themselves. Also, when Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” But we know there are Christians in the world who lack food and clean water. What if the message to us First World Christians is that Jesus can transform our desires–what we hunger and thirst for. What if he instills in us a hunger and thirst for justice?
In Mark 5.21-43, the author wraps one story inside of another like a pig-in-a-blanket. One is about a man who wants Jesus to touch his dying twelve-year-old daughter and heal her. The other is about a woman who touches Jesus and is healed of a twelve-year long disease. These are stories of healing. They are stories of faith wrestling with fear. But at their core, they are stories about touch. About contact. About suffering people reaching out for Jesus. About Jesus reaching out for suffering people. They are stories about the touch of Jesus. That’s why Mark wrapped them together like he did.
On this Pentecost, the church’s birthday, I just wanted to encourage the church to be who we are. Instead of doing the lectionary thing and preaching Acts 2, I chose Luke 11.1-13. The church is most ourself–the church God envisions–when we partner with God to make his kingdom visible by making sure our neighbors have their daily bread; and when our communities embody forgiveness and reconciliation. The church is able to live on these terms by the good gifts of God and the power of the Spirit.
The truth of the parable of Luke 15 (which is more about a father’s reckless love than it is about a son’s rebellious wandering) is embodied whenever we gather for the Lord’s Supper: at the table where we all—Prodigal Sons and elder brothers alike—find ourselves welcomed and accepted.
After the thrill of Easter, however, we discover that we have to return to what is called ‘the real world.’ Perhaps we are left wondering, He is risen—now what? It’s awesome that Jesus is alive with God up there, but down here it’s still a mess. We have mortgages to pay and children to feed and wars to fight and stuff. What does Easter have to do with any of that?
If there ever was a time to stand up for Jesus, it was when that rotten scab Judas turned Jesus over to the posse of temple goons. And one of the disciples did stand up for Jesus. He cut off some dude’s ear. But Jesus told him to knock it off before he hurt himself. Funny thing is, Peter – the disciple who stood up for Jesus – is also the disciple who pretended not to know Jesus a few hours later. The lesson is this: when Christians get to standing up for Jesus, we often find ourselves – like Peter – forgetting who Jesus is.
In the Passover, worship, sacrifice, and ethics come together in a way that may prove instructive for Christians in light of the Cross.
Abel’s blood echoed on throughout history, and echoes still. Whenever justice is deferred. Whenever voices that deserve to be acknowledged are silenced. Whenever the wounds of the people are dressed as though they’re nothing. Whenever people suffer alone. Wherever anybody prays, How long, O LORD?—that is the echo of Abel’s blood crying out.