Saturday, September 12, 2015

Teachers, Tongues and Taking Up

Mk 8:27-38 Teachers, Tongues, Taking Up James & James 3:1-12 - 9.13.15 Year B Proper 19

If I asked you to turn to a neighbor and tell them the theme of a book you read recently, you could do it, right?
(ask someone? prompt ahead)

If I asked you the theme of the Bible, could you tell me?

Thankfully commentators like our friend Eugene Boring, and others like Walter Brueggemann (who spoke at conference 2 years ago) have spent so much time with their Bibles that they can tell us in one sentence the theme of the Bible.
“It is the story of the human response to Divine Grace”

What do you think of that? accurate?
Could you tell me your idea of a faithful response to God’s Grace?
What constitutes a faithful response is an evolving concept in the biblical narrative.

From the “Big Stories” we are engaging on Big Sundays, like Daniel in the Lion’s Den, or even the story of Adam and Eve’s children - Cain and Able, we the varied ways humans have responded to God.

In much of the family histories of the OT (great stories in Genesis) we learn that being faithful is following TORAH - God’s Law.
or as Ps. 19 puts it: “Torah enlightens the simpleminded and refreshes the human soul”

When we get to the book of Proverbs full of poetry and powerful sayings, we hear words about the wisdom of God (instead of stories) 
We are told a faithful response is a WISE response.
“1:20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.
1:22 "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? ..
1:32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;

 In proverbs God’s Wisdom is spoken of as an individual, a FEMALE.. to the consternation of some conservative Christians at Annual Conference this year…
Our ideas of A faithful response to God have often included common sense.
“Scoffers delight in scoffing - fools hate knowledge - the complacency of fools destroys them”

Does it sound like any of the scriptures you heard this morning?

James: . Often gives us “common sense” or common wisdom. So we learn from James that… 

“The heart of a faithful response to God..  is integrity in living.
“Undisciplined speech poses a constant threat to one’s integrity”

Perhaps in the past one had to teach that words lead to consequences. 
But it seems so easy to understand today when 
  • a slip of the tongue goes viral on Twitter, a public racial bashing is recorded on YouTube and  we see it all within seconds when a news flash from CNN interrupts our TV.
I once tried to teach the concept of Dangerous Words to some Junior High youth by giving them each a tube of toothpaste, having them squeeze some out, then challenging them to put it back.
One would think THIS was the perfect example that words said in anger or haste cannot be withdrawn.     (at least until one junior high boy eats all the toothpaste and gets sick to his stomach. . . so much for the perfect lesson..)

James gives us many sayings that we know to be true. And after you’ve read enough of them, you begin to feel a bit like a school child who’s been scolded. 

Humanity’s concepts of God have evolved from the days of Big Stories of a “Super-Hero-style-God” who had to be appeased with sacrifice in order to offer a faithful response
to the stern LAWs aimed at keeping God's people pure
to teachings that combine common sense with a sense of God's Justice 
to the questions that surrounded Jesus’ interpretation of faithfulness that we heard in today’s gospel reading. 

[That brings us to] Mark’s story of human response to Divine Grace

"Divine Grace is found in Jesus."

…It begins with our answering the question Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do YOU say that I am?"

Jesus tries to teach the disciples and it sounds much like my experience with Junior Highs.
He asked  the perfect question to illicit the perfect response
Yet the answers we hear sound like an episode of “Family Feud” 

  • John the Baptist  
    • Elijah
    • One of the prophets

I could ask you the same question. .  .

When you hear this story, do you feel a little tug at your heart? wondering how you would answer if you were looking into the eye of Jesus? pause    

Would your answer today in church be any different than your answer sitting among strangers at Starbucks? or discussing faith with friends in your living room?

James’ sternness would tell us, “Our answer better be the same no matter where we are…” But we, even I - have to be honest and say, we don’t always know HOW to describe “Who” Jesus is. - 

. . . pause. . .
Last week we heard Cliff Kindy tell a brief story of a Chibok woman, taken captive by Boko Haram and told if she would renounce her faith, and stop proclaiming that Jesus was Christ, her life would be spared.

Do you remember the story? What did she do?

She would not, COULD not renounce Jesus, because her faithful response was to proclaim that HE IS THE expression of Divine Grace. So she placed her complete trust in such GRACE and she was stoned to death.

Is she an example for us?
Is it likely we would ever have to ‘take up OUR cross’ in such a manner?

When we hear a story like that we are instantly put in the same place as Peter in Mark’s story today.. .our tongues are full of ‘but waits’ and reasons why death isn’t the answer.
. . .
Peter offers common sense
Common Sense has been the human response to Divine Grace for our lifetimes. 
"No Lord! You don’t need to die. How can you spread your message of Good News if you are dead? You must LIVE! 
.think about what you are saying.. think before you speak…" 
all the common sense in the world tells us to protect ourself.

So what IS Jesus talking about? We should all be martyrs?

What must die for OUR response to be faithful?

Have you ever had a ‘wake up call’? not an alarm, but some question, an accident, a horrible mistake —that brought you to a realization and opened your eyes? an intervention, an accident, a heart attack?

Peter tries to give Jesus a LIFE-wake-up call.
but instead, Jesus wakes Peter up.
“Get behind me Satan!”
not the words I’d want to hear if I was looking Jesus in the eye. . .
Jesus tells them to get used to the instrument of torture. 
A cross wasn't gold, wasn't a work of art, wasn't an image on a hill with a lovely sunset behind it, it was extended torture ending in death.
and his words about the cross continue to challenge us to WAKE UP
for a faithful response to Jesus is not found in the world’s common sense.

What is your wake up call? What was the story so pivotal for your life, that it keeps you coming here on Sundays?
keeps you offering your time to AFAC, to this community, to Affordable Housing, to hospital patients.. or wherever you give your life to others?

For a large number of COB youth that ‘wake up call’ comes at National Youth Conference. Over  a year ago, thousands of youth heard a wake up call from Jarod McKenna. An Australian minister active in refugee resettlement and part of the NEW anabaptist movement of people who have never heard of Mennonites or Brethren, but discovered that Jesus’ life is about more than a incredible birth story and a spectacular death.

McKenna told those youth that they didn’t know what the had. The COB has been following the LIFE & TEACHINGS of Jesus for over 300 years.
and that UPSIDE DOWN way of living is the WAKE UP CALL the world needs.

McKenna asked for 8 people to commit to following the Jesus Way (like those first 8 did at the Eder River.) Instead he got thousands! 
Because they heard the WAKE UP call of Jesus that night, and were ready to risk a faithful response and answer his question,
Who do you say that I am?

These youth like Peter, said, “You are the Chosen one of God.”
even tho they were not quite sure what that would mean for the rest of their lives.
What is your wake-up call?
the call for a faithful response to our God
the call to return to THE WAY.

It is the call to leave the world’s “Common Sense” self-protection behind and take RISKS…for Jesus.

People who speaks the truth - even to power
even to ‘Boko Haram'.
. . .
people who lead the charge to bring refugees to safety,
people who offer more than common sense allows.

a faithful response is being willing to do more than you think you can
Because you are wiling to be led, by DIVINE GRACE that always finds a way.
What wake-up call do you hear right now? for you, for US?

For when we answer OUR wake-up call,

WE are ready to answer JESUS’ question,


Terri said...

Fascinating! Love your take on this question, very different than my approach. Well done.

Monica said...

Nice! The Family Feud thing is hilarious. I giggled out loud. That would be a fun skit someday.