In Hebrews 1.1-4; 2.5-12, the author presents Jesus as God’s first and final Word. God was speaking through the life, cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. What was God saying? Have we heard? Are we listening? In this sermon for 10/4/2015, I suggest that God calls for the redemption and reconciliation of everything and all through the life of Christ. And that since God has had a human experience through Jesus, the conversation between God and humanity can never be the same.
In Mark 7.1-23, Jesus did something stunning: He boldly declared that people had misunderstood an entire chapter of the Bible (Leviticus 11). Now if there’s anywhere you can make the “Bible clearly says” arguments, it would have been the dietary laws of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus offers a radically revisionist interpretation of them. Why can’t we read the Bible like Jesus?
In John 6.59-69, many of Jesus’ disciples get fed up with him and walk off. Jesus looks at the Twelve who remain, and ask: “Don’t you want to leave, too?” And one of them replies: “Lord, where else would we go?” Perhaps you’re only still sticking with Jesus because you don’t know where else to go. This story says that’s perfectly okay.
Several years ago, the marquee of a country church in West Tennessee read: JESUS SAID: EAT ME! (JOHN 6:56-57). The sign left a bad taste in a lot of peoples’ mouths. And most everyone in the surrounding area agreed that the sign was in poor taste. It didn’t have the flavor of Jesus. Maybe we should all ask ourselves sometimes: “What does our Jesus taste like? Is the American church being fed by Jesus’ life, or are we feeding into culture wars and consumerism?” After all, we are what we eat.
In John 6.41-51, Jesus unloads on some Judean operatives and announces the Exodus God has inaugurated in him.
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?
What if the real miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is sharing? What if the point of the miracle is that God is a God of abundance and generosity in a stingy world? What if God is trying to say, “Welcome to a kingdom where everyone has enough”? What if miracles begin when we’re audacious enough to see the potential in the can of sardines and pack of crackers we’re holding?
What about these people ignited compassion in Jesus? They were like sheep without a shepherd. Now, that’s a pretty heart-wrenching image, isn’t it? We understand that this means they’re lost, directionless, vulnerable to attack by predators. What we might not understand is that, in the world of the Bible, the phrase sheep without a shepherd is loaded with significance. It is a politically-charged phrase, an indictment of failed leadership.
In fact, one of the most bitter judgments in Scripture about corrupt leadership trades exclusively in the metaphor of bad shepherds. Ezekiel 34.2ff says: “Doom to Israel’s shepherds who tended themselves! You drink the milk, you wear the wool, and you slaughter the fat animals, but you don’t tend the flock. You don’t strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost; but instead you use force to rule them with injustice. Without a shepherd, my flock was scattered; and when it was scattered, it became food for all the wild animals.” So when Jesus, the “Son of David”—the shepherd who became king—encountered this crowd of people at the end of their collective rope, I suspect he had an Ezekiel 34 moment. He was obviously heartbroken, but I think he was also outraged. Every framework, every structure, every safety net God had put in place to protect his people; to ensure justice and prosperity and peace; to promote the flourishing of human life—they’d all been compromised.