Monthly Archives: September 2015

09-27-15 – THE LANGUAGE OF LESSONS

THE LANGUAGE OF LESSONS

Mark 9: 38-50

 

This week has had some extraordinary highlights for me. On a local level the Celebration Community Synagogue in Celebration, Florida sent their warmest greetings to our congregation on their holiest of weeks, observing Yom Kippur- the Day of Atonement. Dr. Christeson went to that faith community this week to offer greetings and music. Before he came back here, people of the Synagogue thanked God for our congregation and sent their warmest greetings.  How wonderful. We are glad to have offered our greetings and prayers in return. So remember the Celebration Synagogue this week. On a national level I was most moved by the extraordinary visit of the Catholic Holy Father, Pope Francis.  Taking his cues from Christ himself from all I could tell, his modes of transportation and of accommodations were humble, his words were incisive but kind, and he welcomed people of every age and income, but he had a particular affinity for children and the poor, like Jesus. He warmly greeted people of other faiths and even of no faith. I was moved by his visit, his words, and his presence. He deeply affected the crowd at his speeches, with his sermons, and all who were in his presence.

 

As we move back in time to the days of Jesus, even Jesus would not have had such security or such notice. There were fake holy men and fake healers around, but religious leaders had become jaded about anyone, or anything new religiously.  Still if we could go back in time, how do you think you would have felt if you were near Jesus? Would you have been in awe of his manner and his stories? How would you have reacted to his teachings? And would he have changed you?  This question is hypothetical of course since we cannot go back in time. But in our study of Scripture, to not take into account the culture, the practices, and the historical setting is to not get the truest reading of God’s Word. Since we can’t be in the actual crowd where Jesus once was, let’s get as close to him and his message as we can.

 

The first thing we notice is that Jesus was a master of language.  How did a poor Jewish family raise a boy who was a master of language? You say, “Well, he was the Son of God,” but for his early days he was simply Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph.  It is likely he and his father went to work in a Roman city named Sephoris as carpenters or stone masons. They were skilled, but a little backwater village like Nazareth would not have had enough work to sustain many families. Sephoris was a large Roman city north of Nazareth. It would be there where they would meet people—both skilled and unskilled, both rich and poor, both Jew and Roman—who would enhance any education Jesus would have gotten from Torah or from home. He would hear expressions (like we hear expressions), and he would listen to them; when the time was right, he began to use them.  Some of the expressions would be what are called “idioms,” that is, expressions known by people of a period of time, but sometimes not understood years later. For example in the time of Charles Dickens and earlier there were expressions like “Dead as a doornail.” In our day people wonder, “What’s a doornail?” After Charles Dickens, an expression came into use even into the 20th century: “I did something wrong, and mom gave me the Dickens!” It was an expression based on the huge number of words and books that Dickens wrote, because he was paid by the word! An idiom is someone saying “He kicked the bucket” to indicate death; or when a politician tries to reach people  “from Wall Street to Main Street.” Those are idioms. There are also figures of speech, known as hyperboles, which are exaggerated comparisons. For example: one pop song from 1989 by a group called the “B-52s” has a verse that says:

“Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale, and it’s about to set sail!

I got me a car, it seats about 20 so come on and bring your jukebox money!”

 

Virtually nothing about that description means what it says literally; it means what it means through figures of speech! If we say something’s as big as a whale, it means, “really big,” not to pull out a measuring tape! If we say the car is “about to set sail” it means it’s about to drive away, not that it was seaworthy!

And to say his Chrysler seats about twenty, he’s not seriously thinking that 20 can fit in a four-door sedan! He’s just saying his car was roomy! No one needs to explain lyrics like those; we get them. But how many times do people go to the Bible and say: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” How unfortunate.  Sometimes things the Bible says don’t mean what they say, they mean what they meant to its first century listeners. If you read Revelation 7, for example, it says there’s a gathering of persons “sealed for God” in Heaven that number 144,000.” There are some religious groups who believe that is the literal number of those who can get into heaven, so there is a battle to see who will stay in heaven and who can win a place in heaven and knock someone out since the number who can go there is just 144,000. But if you read Revelation 7 and think it doesn’t mean what it says, it means what it meant; it lets our measured minds think that 1000 times 12 is 12,000, and it included masses of people from the 12 tribes of Israel, multiplied with the countless witnesses led to Christ by the 12 apostles 12 times 1000—making 144,000 not a limiting number, but a number of completeness. When Revelation was written by John around 90 A.D. it meant:  “not anyone who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ will be missing in Heaven.”  So it’s a comforting statement instead of a threatening one! So being aware of idioms and figures of speech are important. Jesus once told a man in the next chapter of Mark, chapter 10, that “it is harder of a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Can you imagine a camel ever, in your wildest dreams, going through the eye of a needle? Yet I believe there are some rich Christians, who’ve been generous with others, who are part of God’s Kingdom now. But Jesus is using a figure of speech, addressing one man, likely with rich, self-absorbed men listening! So we would be wise when we turn to the Holy Word to consider whether Jesus is speaking in parables, or in similes, or in metaphors before we decide what he means.

 

In the passage read today, Jesus uses exaggerated language again to make a point: “If anyone causes one of my followers to sin, it would be better if a millstone were wrapped around his neck and he is thrown into the sea.” Of course that would be a horrible death; but Jesus does not believe in murder. Jesus is giving examples to make a point, not saying what he would do! Do people in our day know what a millstone is? A stationary heavy stone was on the bottom with a millstone on the top that moved in a circle, grinding grain! Millstones were very heavy. With that knowledge, we come to the tough sentence in Mark 9: 43- “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better to enter the next life maimed than to go to hell with both hands.” I don’t know any priest, or the Pope, or any minister, pastor, or chaplain seeking to follow Jesus who would command or recommend for someone to do that. The words are to make a strong point, not to take what the Bible says literally.  Let me illustrate that danger of taking the Bible literally. The story is told of a man who decided that he would believe and follow every word of the Bible as if it were the actual words of God for him that day. So he started a new day with that mindset. Reaching for his Bible, he decided he would open it randomly, put his finger on a passage, and follow God’s guidance for him. So he closed his eyes, opened his Bible and let his finger drop onto the page. It said: “Judas went out and hanged himself.” Well, he decided, that time his plan didn’t work too well. So he decided to try it again. He closed his eyes, opened his Bible, and put if finger on this passage: “Go and do likewise.” It doesn’t work to take words, even holy words, literally. It works to take them in the context they were given, and to consider them carefully.

 

Next, Jesus goes on in Mark 9 with these words, and now we’re prepared to hear them with the right meaning: “It is better for you to enter the afterlife lame than with two feet and be thrown into hell.” He goes on and makes me wince if I were to take him literally: “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Literalists would conclude that a lot of people who lusted after someone, or coveted the car, home, or clothes of another, should pluck out one of their eyes as self-punishment. Is that what Jesus means?

 

What is the point of Jesus’ strong message?  When we, for example, ask God to “Lead us not into temptation” in the Lord’s Prayer, it asks the Almighty not to keep testing our resistance to sin. As much as we love the ideas of grace, forgiveness, and of Jesus paying the price for our sins, the best defense against sin is to say “no” to people and situations that urge us to do something wrong. Just saying “no” is best. Jesus’ extreme descriptions of what should happen to those who tempt others to sin make me shudder. As our Jewish friends took account of their sins this week, we too do well to not tempt others, but also not to take the bait of temptations concerning sex, or money, or power. Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly. As Cara demonstrated in her children’s sermon two weeks ago, when we do something wrong, it’s like a sharp pencil that pokes a whole in a paper plate. The pencil may get removed when someone forgives us, but the plate is still pierced.. Consider well Jesus’ language, and Jesus’ presence with you now. Love is powerful, and forgiveness is welcome, but staying clear of trouble is golden.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                September 27, 2015

 

Let us pray:

 

Dear Holy God: although we are not holy, you ask us to keep living to a high standard: one where we stay connected with you, reach out to others, and seek to be not just ordinary examples of persons, but extraordinary examples of Christians. Those who accept the invitation will seek to shine the light of Christ in the world; yet if or when they fail, may what they learn, and who they reach, bring messages of hope and forgiveness, for we need those too.  Thank you, Almighty Lord, now and forever. Amen.

 

09-20-15 – BEING CHILD-LIKE, NOT CHILDISH

BEING CHILD-LIKE, NOT CHILDISH

Mark 9: 30-37

 

A girl named Danielle once wrote these words in her blog:

Childlike, not Childish:

One of them makes you a jerk; the other makes you awesome!

Here’s the difference between childish and childlike: Childish behavior in anyone who isn’t an actual child is obnoxious. It’s ramming your cart into random objects at Target for no reason; it’s throwing a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way; it’s refusing to apologize when you’ve made a mistake. Being childlike, on the other hand, is immersing yourself in something just because you love doing it. It’s being open to liking things that aren’t “cool,” without pretense or explanation, because they make you happy. It’s the ability to be curious and interested without worrying what anyone else might think. …

In fact, being childlike is especially important when you’re a teenager—a period when you’re changing constantly, and sometimes confusingly, and are meanwhile being barraged by messages about what is acceptable and what is cool and how you should act/look/be—because it will keep you connected to some truth about yourself. It allows you to ignore everyone else’s input so you can figure out what you want for yourself. And it’s easy enough to do: Just tap into what it felt like to be a little kid with a free afternoon. Five-year-olds don’t worry that it’s “juvenile” or “uncool” to play in the sprinklers in their underwear or stare out the window for a while making weird sounds with their mouths or spend an entire hour just coloring. This is why no five-year-old ever says they need help figuring out what they’re passionate about.

 

Why did I want a girl …  a young woman now — named Danielle to describe the difference between childlike and childish? Because in part it was beautifully expressed, and because I’m not very good at either behavior.  My grandsons can pull me into childlike behavior, but then I slip back into grownup land when responsibilities loom. Is that the way it is with you? Dr. Edwin Friedman describes the state when we move away from childlike behavior into our grim adult behavior as “slipping back into our reptilian brains.” By that he means that a part of our brain, the part that we share with lizards and dinosaurs and snakes, is the serious, humorless part. It is when you can’t force yourself to be playful. Dogs can be playful; lizards- well, no! Children can be playful; some adults be constantly playful while others watch and conclude that they are irresponsible.  But still others seriously and purposely go to work, pay bills, and wait to die. Sometimes adults slide into, and get stuck in, that reptilian brain. Sometimes it’s because responsibilities or tasks they have to do overwhelm them.  Sometimes it is caused by depression. And sometimes people just get frozen in a certain state of numbness, moving through a day with the same rituals, the same breakfast, the same practicality and financial issues, and the same chair in front of the same TV in the evening.  But when we move into different parts of our brains, the part that under brain scans actually glows when we pray to God, the part that helps us to reason, the part that can tell the difference between right and wrong,  then our lives can begin to have meaning again; our hearts can begin to have joy again; and our faces might crack a smile. It takes a child, or a dog, or an encouraging friend, or someone like Danielle to remind us what life can be like, and in some cases, what life used to be like.

 

As I have studied and learned more about the twelve disciples Jesus called, I’ve learned how ordinary they were; not all elite, not all wealthy, not all poor; a little of everything.  In Mark’s Gospel they seem as uncertain about their powers and their place as a young follower might be. In the beginning of chapter 9, Jesus lets them see himself transfigured on a mountain. Their mouths and eyes were certainly wide with amazement, perhaps even with child-like excitement! “Lord! It is good for us to be here with you, and Moses and Elijah (whom they saw in a vision on that mountain.) We’ll make three tents for all of you and we’ll stay here with you!” But Jesus had concern in his heart for others and responsibility in his mind. He led them down the mountain to keep ministering to people. In the next scene the disciples are puzzled as to why they cannot heal a boy possessed by a Spirit. Jesus teaches them why. They are like children at that point. Then Jesus tells them very grown – up things; things that some adults try to hide from children or other adults. Jesus says he’s going to die a very painful death.  What a harsh thing to say; but these disciples are grown men, even though their learning curve seems slow. They hear his harsh words “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed he will rise.”  Could they even hear  and take in the news about his rising with their minds stuck on the words of his killing?  With those words still ringing in their ears,  they walk on to home base, Capernaum, probably to Peter’s or Andrew’s house. They have been whispering among themselves as the traveled. They sit down in the house. Jesus asks them: “What were you talking about back there?” Like a good lawyer who never asks a question for which he does not know the answer, I highly suspect Jesus had heard them. He wanted to hear what they would say.  In a manner of speaking, they were doing what grown children often have done when they know a family member is dying; they wonder if there is a will; if they might be included in the will, and if so, with how much money! It can become a childish discussion that sometimes spirals into a hateful one.  Sometimes human nature is the most base when there is the possibility of money involved. As Jesus walked the earth, and as he declared that his death was imminent, the disciples fell into childish, unattractive, human behavior. They were arguing about who was the greatest! Another way of saying it is: “They were arguing about who was his favorite!”  Childlike?  No childish; selfish; and self-serving.

 

So Jesus takes a child in his arms.  We picture Jesus doing this all the time but it was actually rare for a man to do that. Children were rarely seen or heard except at home doing chores. They were never around the men as they talked religion, politics, or taxes. Children were “persona non grata.” In a brilliant illustration, our Lord told grown men who were acting self-servingly and childishly, that a child was ahead of them in his esteem right then!  A child, who in Jesus’ day was socially invisible, has a higher standing in his Father’s eyes than self-serving, bickering adults.

 

Who needs to hear that message?  Politicians need to hear that message; teenagers need to hear it; property associations need to hear it; and you and I need to hear it!  What if someone followed us around with a cellphone camera trained on us all day? Cameras are everywhere? Would we be happy with the person we see? Would we be pleased with the way we were acting? That’s how God sees us! What would God think of your selfish or hurtful behavior, or mind? Like someone with a camera and a microphone, God sees us, and God hears us! This is Jesus’ message to his disciples! And it is his message to us! Even with all our good works, and our good minds, and our good intentions, could a child go into the Kingdom of Heaven before us?

Perhaps our actions are stored in the heavenly “cloud” until our Judgment Day! Actions and attitudes speak volumes. Those who have ears, let them hear: choose the actions, and the attitudes for your Christian life.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner September 20, 2015

09-13-15 JAMES 3:1-12

I want to think with you today about the power of words. Our words have a tremendous influence and control over our lives. We shape our words, but our words also shape us. The tongue is small, tiny and because it’s tiny, we think it’s insignificant. Yet it has tremendous power. Words are powerful.

 

The power of words, in some sense, shows the image of God in us.  It is by the power of the Word that God created the universe.  When God said, “Let there be…” there was!  It is the Word become flesh that brought us salvation.

 

Words create. They tell stories, paint pictures, and shape the world around us. Yet few things in this world are as destructive as our words.

 

I think I was six when I came home from school and told my dad that the whole “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” saying was a load of baloney. Bruises heal swiftly, but the things kids said cut deep and stick with me still.

There isn’t a person who makes it past middle school without learning of the power of words to cut, to hurt. We all have scars by things people have said. And we’ve also left scars, whether we’ve meant to or not.

 

We’re human after all. We are bound to fail sometimes, but with our words we leave wounds we cannot completely heal. When we say something, we cannot take it back.

 

We also use words to excuse what we’ve done. Or to encourage others to see it our way.  William Barclay in his commentary on James, expands on the dangers of our words. “…(the tongue) is the organ which can make evil attractive. By the tongue men can make the worse appear the better reason; by the tongue men can excuse and justify their wicked ways; by the tongue men can persuade others into sin.” We can convince people that what we did wasn’t so bad. Or that looking the right way is really the right thing to do.

 

The prophet Isaiah puts it more simply in some ways, saying “ Woe to you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20) When we use our words to make the bad sound better and make good sound like the wrong choice, we cause damage not only to ourselves, but also to everyone who listens. We use euphemisms to make things sound better. saying we are letting someone go instead of firing someone. Or saying someone is on the streets instead of homeless.

 

But the dangers James talks about aren’t just about name calling, or maliciousness, or excusing our own failings. It is also things we say off handedly. What we say about other people.

 

There is a folk story told about a man who was known for his gossiping. One day he said something about his neighbor that was untrue. The word spread around the village as one person told another and the neighbor was disgraced. Even after the truth came out, the neighbor’s life was still ruined. The man felt terrible. He went to see the village priest and the priest gave him some strange instructions.

 

“Take a bag full of feathers and place one feather on the doorstep of each person who heard the untrue story you told. Then go back a day later, pick up the feather, and bring the bag back to me.”

 

So the man did as the priest said. But when he went back to pick up the feathers nearly all of them were gone. When he went back to the priest he said, “Father, I did as you said but when I went back the wind had blown the feathers away and I could not get them back.” And the priest replied, “So it is with careless words, my son. Once they are spoken, they cannot be taken back. You may ask forgiveness for what you said but you cannot take your words back. The damage has already been done.”

 

Today with social media, texts and twitter, this is even more true. What we say remains. Even if we attempt to go back and delete that post, we don’t know who might have sent it. We can’t unsend email or texts. We don’t know what phrase might end up going viral and spreading far further than we ever expected.

 

There is no getting around it. By what we say, we can cause much destruction in the world. The tongue can cause raging fires indeed.

 

When we hear about all of the damage it can cause, it’s small wonder why James speaks so viciously about the tongue. Why don’t we then do as some orders of monks do? Take a vow of silence. After all, if you don’t speak, you can’t hurt anyone by what you say. Maybe that’s what James is advocating here, to speak as little as possible.

 

Maybe. But I don’t think he is. A vow of silence is not only impractical, but it ignores the fact that our tongues can do as much good as harm.

 

Words can build up as much as they tear down. They can create hope and soothe hurts and offer wisdom. Words can make the biggest difference in our lives.

 

Think of a child who has been told she is smart, or fast. She will naturally try harder because she believes she can succeed at what she tries. Studies have shown time and time again that what we say to children shapes who they are and who they will become. The more a child is told she can do something, he is worthwhile, the more likely that child is to believe it and to succeed later on in life.

 

Or remember what it was like when someone first said “I love you.” Think of the impact that has on your life. Knowing that you were worthy of love, that you mattered to someone. The words “I love you” mean a great deal.

 

On a smaller scale, think about how much your day can get better when someone asks how you are doing and really listens to the answer; when someone says “hi” and smiles at you. Think about the impact of an honest compliment has on your day. Or how being told you are doing a good job makes you work harder.

 

Leo Buscaglia once said: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Small gestures, off handed compliments can have a much bigger effect on the world around us.

 

Words can even change our own minds. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman,

wrote a book called: Words Can Change Your Brain,  and in it they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” To put it more simply, positive words can make you less stressed.

 

Positive words, such as “love” and “good work.” can change the way our brains work, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. They actually help us think better! Positive words propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resiliency. Meaning you can put up with criticism better, if you are around praise. You can actually help others through stressful times by telling them how much they mean to you.

 

According to James, we speak with a fundamental contradiction. With the same mouth, we praise and curse God. With the same tongue, we slander and uplift our neighbor. With the same words, we can help others or crush their hopes. Both come from the same mouth whether we like it or not.

 

We all have our own memories of words that wound or heal, given and received. We can all think back to things said that left an impression, for good or for ill.

 

What then are we to do? We should do what we tell every child to do: to think before we speak. We must use care in choosing our words. We know that gossiping in idleness can have devastating effects. We can control our wild tongues, but it takes effort.

 

What we say shows who we are. Christ himself mentions this. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” said Jesus.  “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

(Matthew 12:34–37)

 

What do your words say about you?  What do you want them to say?

 

Think. And then speak. Amen.

 

09-06-15 JESUS’ HEALING MINISTRY

JESUS’ HEALING MINISTRY

Mark 7: 24-37

 

Medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments; faith, hope, and love. All of these have, at one time or another, been a human choice for trying to heal.

People get a backache, for example.  Some try pain relievers, some exercise, and some hope it will just go away! People get cancer. Some try chemotherapy, or radiation, or prayer, or forms of holistic medicine while some just wait it out. When we study passages in the gospels of Jesus’ healings, some background would be helpful. In Jesus’ day most people believed they were sick because of sin: that is, what they had done wrong in their life made them sick. When it came to mental illness or medical conditions that could cause delirium or tremors, people believed the devil was at work. So if they heard that there was a man who could heal in an age of sorcery and suspicion, people lined up to check him out. If he “performed” as advertised, then word would spread like wildfire. Today’s text from Mark reminds us that Jesus did not just heal the people of Israel; today Jesus healed no one from Galilee! He healed a girl whose mother was a Gentile—Greek by origin—in  a region north of Galilee.  He then healed a man who was in the Decapolis. The Decapolis (Greek: Δεκάπολις, Ten Cities) was a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, but southwest of the Sea of Galilee. Gentiles lived there.

 

Even as we have reporters and photographers today, I’d imagine there was quite a stir wherever Jesus went once he was named as a “healer.” He wanted to be a “Savior” but they named him their “healer.” So I’m wondering if the Gospel writers did not just give the “highlights” of Jesus’ encounters in one area? Do you notice as I notice that we generally hear about just one specific healing in an area?  Jesus does not set up a clinic, but he heals those who are pointed out to him or who call out to him.  Surely there are people who are not healed in those towns or villages! Is it likely that except for the few, the others went through life living with, or living through, their afflictions?  For example, we know from the Book of Acts that Paul had a visionary encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Yet Paul, who almost single handedly carried the message of Jesus to areas like Rome and Corinth and Ephesus, has some affliction he calls his “thorn in the flesh.” In 2 Corinthians 12:7 he says” In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh.” Could it be that our afflictions sometimes keep us coming back to Jesus, dependent on him because we are weak on our own?  Listen to this description from author Carol Hamblet Adams in her book My Beautiful Broken Shell:

It is low tide and I watch, mesmerized, as the ocean rises slowly …

curls  …and then spills its white-laced foam onto the shore.

I walk by a broken scallop shell … and leave it to search for more

perfect ones. But then I stop … go back … and pick up the broken

shell. I realize that this shell is me with my broken heart.  This shell

is people who are hurting … people who have lost loved ones …

people who are frightened or alone … people with unfulfilled dreams.

This shell has had to fight so hard to keep from being totally crushed

by the pounding surf … just as I have to. Yet this shell is still out on

the beautiful sandy shore … just as I am. “Thank you, Lord, that

I haven’t been completely crushed by the heaviness in my heart ….”

 

Carol Adams’ brokenness is her connections with others who are broken. Your brokenness, and my brokenness, not only connect us with other broken people, it causes us to realize how much we need Jesus! Could it be that our brokenness is our power to connect with others; and our reminder that we need Jesus? And could it be that many followers of Jesus, even in the Bible, lived with their illnesses rather than being healed from them?  I am a broken man: my diabetes has driven me to workout with a trainer twice a week. My energy does not return as fast as it does with some people. Yet in my illness and my training I have connected with others, and have talked about Jesus with others who I would never have met otherwise. In 1987 I experienced burn out and wrote about it for my dissertation. In preparation for the dissertation, I invited other ministers, chaplains, and laypeople to talk with me if they had ever felt burned out. Dozens responded.  Most days I am anxious about many things, even thought I know Jesus said “Do not be anxious about your life.” I am not perfect; like that shell on the beach, I am the broken one, not the perfect one. How about you?

 

Henri Nouwen, in his book The Wounded Healer, gives this account:

The Talmud [a collection of Jewish Laws and traditions has a] story

that suggests that, because he binds his own wounds one at a time,

the Messiah would not have to take time to prepare himself if asked

to help someone else. He would be ready to help. Jesus has given

this story a new fullness by making his own broken body the way

to health, to liberation, and new life. Thus like Jesus, [those] who

proclaim liberation [are] called not only to care for [their own]

wounds and the wounds of others, but also to make [their] wounds

into a major source of [their] healing power.

 

Isaiah, in describing the characteristics of s suffering servant, declared:

“By his stripes we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:6]  Christians believe that those words describe Jesus too. Perhaps it is through our own brokenness that we reaffirm our dependence on Jesus. We need one another; and we need our Savior, not just a man who healed people in front of the public’s eye.

 

Today perhaps our ministry to others has the most power, and the most authenticity, in our brokenness. Do people really feel the need to seek perfect people with whom to share their problems? Or do they want someone who says, “I’ve been where you are;“ or “Put your hand in mine;” or “I hear you;” or “I thirst.” I choose Jesus, the one who was broken on a cross of wood; he suffered far more anguish than many people have, and yet he has the power to save me, and to save you; to give me life beyond this life; and to give you life beyond this life. I choose the one the church has described as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

Our communion meal will remind us of his brokenness, as it offers us wholeness. Thanks be to God!

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                September 6, 2015