Sermon for Sunday, July 8th, 2018
So Jesus went down to his hometown to a little family reunion. Folks had come from all over the country. Like any family reunion or gathering, there was a lot of neck hugging and hand shaking in the beginning. People saying:
“Hey cousin, I haven’t seen you in years.”
“James, my goodness, how much you have grown!”
“Simon, how’s your mother-in-law, last I heard she had taken ill?”
“Jesus, how’s your mom doing? How many years now since Joseph died? Seems like it was only yesterday we were at the funeral?”
Of course, after about an hour of “hellos” and “howdys” they got down to what was really important: dinner. As usual, Jesus gets stuck catering most of the affair. Naturally it’s a fish-fry since that’s his specialty. Of course, there would be cornbread, and biscuits and hushpuppies and baskets of bread everywhere. You know, you make some wine at a wedding and save a couple picnics, and you end up getting stuck doing the food for the rest of eternity. But that’s OK. Jesus enjoys it. He loves bringing his family together.
Now his family is just like any other family. It doesn’t take long for people to start fussing. Cousin Peter doesn’t want to sit next Cousin Paul because they’re not on speaking terms, we’re not sure why. Nobody wants to sit at the kids table, they all want to sit next to Jesus at the head table. Some people don’t want pork in the collard greens. There are squabbles about inheritance; arguing over who gets to keep grandma’s silver and when it gets to be used. Who gets to be in the kitchen? What time is dinner? Who’s going to say grace? Some people want to eat outside; some people want to smoke inside;some want to use the nice china cause it’s a special occasion; some want to use paper plates cause its easier…and on and on.
Finally, Jesus gets everyone to sit down and be quiet, and he says: “you know, there’s a few things I want to say to y’all while we’re all together…” so he starts talking and teaching, just like he had been doing in the villages and towns. He said:
“Things in this world are going to start changing fast. The evil that you see, the wickedness and greed, the hypocrisy the violence, God’s not going to let it go on forever. There is a new world coming, there is a new kingdom coming, and if you want to be a part of it, you’re going to have to change too. The jealousy, and the squabbles and the anger and the unforgiveness, you’re going to have to let those go. Self-righteousness? Well there’s not going to be any room for that in this new kingdom, because there is only one that is righteous. Judgement and vengeance? Those will belong to God, and God alone. Your material possessions? They will be worthless in this new kingdom. If you want to be a part of this kingdom, you are going to have to let go of some things. That’s the hard part. Therewill be a cross for you to bear.
But here’s the good news: you are going to be blessed in ways that you never imagined. Those parts in your soul, and in your body, that are broken, they are going to be made whole again. The hurt that you carry around inside, God is going to heal it. Those sins that you just can’t let go of or forget, God is going to wash away. God will show you mercy; God will show you love. God will give life to that which is dead, even that which is dead within you.
God is alive in this world. He is casting down the unclean spirits and raising up a mighty new kingdom and you get to be a part of it, if you will. Come, follow me, and I will take you there. Follow me and I will show you the gate. Follow me and let’s share this news with the world.”
And the whole room just sat there, stunned, chewing their cornbread.
“What was all that about?” someone asked
“Who knows, doesn’t make any sense to me.” another replied.
“Surely, he doesn’t intend for us to take this kingdom he speaks of literally.”
“No, certainly not, I’m mean obviously he is speaking to people his own context. Clearly this doesn’t pertainto us.”
Someone else asked: “Wouldn’t it be better Jesus if you called it a sovereign reign or a new order, rather than a kingdom? When you say kingdom won’t people just think of kings like Herod?”
Others grumbled: “I have known this man my whole life, his stories aren’t new to me.”
“That boy always was above his raisin’, I remember that time he ran off on his parents. Looked for him for days they did.”
A voice from the back chimed in: “I heard he’s done some amazing things, hasn’t he healed the sick?”
“Yeah,” someone replied, “but I am beginning to wonder about some of these tales we hear. I am beginning to doubt these miraclesare true. They are probably just stories made up by his fanatical friends.”
“And where does he get off implying that we are self-righteous?” another murmured indignantly.
“Oh I just thought he was talking about the people in power in Jerusalem. I don’t think he is directing that at us.”
“Could someone pass me an extra piece of fish?”
“Who ate the last hush puppy?”
Well Jesus just shook his head. He said: “If I had been a big city consultant charging thousands you might have taken me seriously. If I just had some extra letters after my name, maybe you would have listened. A total stranger you would pay attention to, but your own flesh and blood? That’s too easy to ignore. Not much more I can do here.” And he walked out of the hall and headed down the road.
Jesus’s friends and a few close relatives caught up with him on the road.
“Hold up Jesus! We’re still with you.”
“Tell us what to do. We want to be a part of this kingdom you speak of. If what you say is true, then it is the best news we’ve ever heard.”
Jesus smiled and then he said to them: “then go, tell others.”
“Ok, Jesus, we’ll go, but we just want to make sure we have what we need. We can’t do this without the right tools. Give us a book with the right words and the right kind of prayers in it…we don’t want to end up using words like ‘y’all’ people will think we are unsophisticated.”
“Go,” Jesus said
“But Jesus, we need to do this strategically. Let’s plan to do some big rally’s in a few key cities and you can come and be the keynote speaker. You are the one people really want to see. You are the celebrity”
“No, you go. You can go two by two. You don’t have to go it alone, but you need to go. Some people will welcome you, some people won’t; don’t worry about that; just go and tell them what I have told you.”
“But, but, but Jesus, we haven’t budgeted for this. We need money to buy the right advertising space. We need to do a study of our communities. Give us a committee that can examine this issue for the nextthree years or so, then we will be ready. We are committed to this really we are, we just want to do it right.”
And Jesus said to them again: “Go! It doesn’t take money to talk about the kingdom of god, it takes guts, it takes courage, it takes love. Forget about all that other stuff. Just go! Time is wasting!”
“But Jesus, you can’t really mean that you want us to go out into the world without any tools at all? No fancy vestments, no electronics, no glossy handouts, no catchphrases?”
And Jesus said: “I will give you one tool and it is the only tool you need: grace.
Grace to overcome your fears.
Grace to know your weaknesses and to know my strength.
Grace to forgive people even when you don’t want to.
Grace to share love with a world that rejects love.
Grace to look beyond your own needs and to see the needs of others.
Grace to look beyond your own pain and to see the pain of others.
Grace to see that there is a world that exists beyond your own feelings.
Grace to see God working in the most unlikely and unexpected places.
Grace to pick yourself up when people reject you and to keep going.
Grace to keep believing when others don’t.
Grace to smile when others won’t.
Grace to proclaim the kingdom of god with your lips and with your lives.
Grace to know that I am with you even when you feel desperately alone.
Grace to plant seeds, even when the soil seems rocky or the weeds seem tall.
Grace to carry your cross, and grace to lay your burdens down.
Grace to prophesy to dry bones, and grace to see them come to life again.
If you want to proclaim the good news of this kingdom, then put your shoes on and get going. I will give you the one and only tool you need: my grace. It is sufficient for you. Here, take my grace and go, and just watch the demons scatter.