Saturday, July 31, 2010

Predicting The Weather with Jesus

I confess an addiction to weather reports. Each morning I reach for my Bible and prayer book and there sits my ‘i-touch’ which puts me only a click away from the current weather report. Should I bother having my coffee out on the deck? Of course, I could just open the door and check.. but its so much more fun to hear the latest weather channel predictions.

I think it’s more than just wanting to wear appropriate clothing for the temperature. Perhaps we are all interested in knowing the future?

Jesus relates our human tendency to predict the weather to our lack of understanding about the forecast for God’s coming reign. And THIS is a forecast that effects our present AND our future.

We encounter a few problems when we read these two sections in Luke. It would be easy to stay puzzled and ask, “Did Jesus mean for there to be family conflict? Was fighting between parents and in-laws ‘meant-to-be’?”

I like the explanation of one commentator, Audrey West, that this passage is “descriptive rather than prescriptive. That is, - it is not Jesus’ purpose to set children against their parents, or parents against their children, but this sort of rupture can be the result of the changes engendered by Christ’s work.”[i]
We have only to look at the story of the ‘prodigal son and forgiving father’ to realize that even as one son is welcomed home; the beneficiary of expansive grace, - the other son’s reaction is one of alienation and anger.
One wayward son is reconciled and the other’s reaction builds a wall between he and his father.

Those of you familiar with Systems Theory will recognize the signs of a triangle D in these situations. When there is conflict between two people in a ‘system’- the SYTEM seeks stability by finding a 3rd person to involve.
 One of the parties in conflict will reach out to a 3rd person – increasing their bond with someone else while the first relationship is strained. And all too often, reaching for the 3rd person is a way of ‘getting someone else on our side.’ A 3-legged stool is stable, 2 legs are too wobbly to sit on.

“A ministry that reconciles long-standing enemies will inevitably rend relationships that depend on the old status quo.”[ii] (Bonds strengthened between 2 sides of the triangle, strain the 3rd connection.)
When this occurs on an international level we have the situation Everett encountered in the Holy Land; Israeli guides unable to enter Bethlehem and Palestinian people unable to cross into Israel even for basic needs.

We see more than the ‘rumors of war’ mentioned in the Bible, we have seen the real thing, over and over again and today the Holy Land is partitioned by a giant wall.

Did Jesus plan for this? Is war and conflict God’s will? . . .

I don’t believe God PRESCRIBES alienation or war for God’s people, especially not in the land that is so precious to all of Abraham’s descendents.
Jesus DESCRIBES the deeper nature within humans, one that he worked to crack open, expose, and HEAL.

Jesus brought an equalizing love. His grace, forgiveness and sharing of God’s love was without exclusion and without walls.

He stepped into situations to extend love and grace and was ridiculed for the company he kept.
He stepped outside the boundaries of polite society and entered doors that were jammed shut by years of hatred.
And when those doors began to crack open the fall-out caused division.
                        “father against son, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law.” (v. 53)

Even the most basic elements of human relationship break down when WE – humanity, fail to accept the inclusive love of God.
            - Jesus ate with gentiles; the ultimate outsiders
            - He touched lepers; the most unclean
            - He lived away from his family; which was totally against social convention
And  - He offered God’s forgiveness to adulterer and thief.

Jesus continues to offer forgiveness to us; which gives us a warm feeling of grateful inclusion. .
But, Jesus also offers forgives to our enemies – which raises our hackles and pushes our discomfort into anger.
            “No one expects to see their enemies in heaven.”[iii]  . . .

Today, we celebrate communion.
This table is about GRACE, LOVE, and INCLUSION.
            And yes, this table has been used to exclude, with all kinds of explanations and theological reasons.
Jesus was right in pointing out the human inability to read the signs of God’s Reign.

We are to accept the grace offered by God, which is symbolically re-enacted here.
We are to extend that grace to the people we label as OTHER –
            Outsiders, immigrants, enemy,                        traitor, sniper, terrorist,             Judas, gentile,
            Or even mother-in-law with whom we disagree, or brother who just plain doesn’t understand God’s inclusive love.
YES, even those who don’t accept the openness of Christ, get to be included WITHIN his LOVE. Such a wonderful GRACE-FILLED paradox is the HEART of the gospel.

We are all equally worthy or Unworthy of God’s grace. And when we interpret God’s love like Jesus did, we too can expect division and dissention, even here within THESE walls. AND when we extend the all-inclusive grace of God to OTHERS -
We can expect walls to be built around us.
 We will be given labels that exclude. We will be called,
            “Peace-mongers, immigrant-lovers, welcomers of ‘just anyone’”

Yet our discipleship calls us to be faithful to continuing Jesus work, even when the result seems to be predictable.
Even when all the signs of our work point to failure, conflict, or to the cross, we MUST share the love we receive.

So receive God’s grace renewed today in symbol and element so you may go and extend that grace tomorrow.

[i] Audrey West Feasting on the Word Bartlett and Taylor, eds. Theological, (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p. 360
[ii] ibid p. 362
[iii] ibid p. 360

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