Copyright, Yellow Tavern, 2011
Not to be copied for publication, in part or in whole, without proper acknowledgement.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Everyone Will Know

John 21:1-19

Turn to page 34 in The United Methodist Hymnal – to the vows of baptism and membership in the church. Look at the verbs in those questions:










In the vows of baptism and confirmation, we are not asked what we believe until we are asked what we will do. Christian discipleship is not about what you think about Jesus and about others. It’s not about what you feel about Jesus and about others. It’s about following Jesus. It’s completely about what you do. Faith is not a noun – it’s a verb. This is a call to action, not a call to feel or think, as important as feeling and thinking are. Yes, we should love God and love each other with our hearts and minds and bodies, but there are a whole lot of people who think and feel all kinds of good thoughts and good feelings, but who never get out of their recliners to do anything about them.

There is a story in Isak Dinesen’s book Out of Africa about a boy named Kitau. He appeared at the author’s door one day to ask for a job as a domestic servant. She hired him but was surprised when after three months he asked her for a letter of recommendation to Sheik Ali bin Salim, a Muslim who lived in a nearby town. Dinesen offered to raise Kitau’s pay in order to keep him, but money was not his interest. Kitau had decided to become either a Christian or a Muslim, and his purpose in working for Dinesen had been to se, up close, the way a Christian lived. Now that he had worked for Dinesen and seen the ways of Christians, he would go abd observe Sheik Ali to see how Muslims behave; then he would decide. The author remembers how she wished Kitau had told her that before he came to live with her.[1]

Jesus takes 513 commandments in the Hebrew Bible and boils them down to exactly one. What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means just one thing: to love others, as Jesus loved you. Jesus didn’t just think nice thoughts about you. Jesus didn’t just feel nice feelings about you. Jesus laid aside all his heavenly riches and glory and power, was born in a stable, raised in a crummy little village in the middle of nowhere, spent his life healing the sick, feeding the hungry, befriending the despised, and comforting the lonely. And then he stood in between the powers of corporate evil and its victims, and died in their place. He did all those things we’re going to ask you to do: renounced the forces of wickedness, rejected what this world thinks is powerful, lived a life of humility and repentance, resisted evil, injustice, and oppression even though they killed him, and put his whole life in God’s hands in solidarity with God’s people. That’s how Jesus loved you. So, if you’re going to follow Jesus, that’s how you’re going to have to love others: not with nice gushy feelings or with nice correct thoughts. By the way, being nice has absolutely nothing to do with following Jesus – the word nice appears exactly zero times in the Bible. As a song by my son Drew says, be not frightened, but be frightening people. And if you follow Jesus, you’re going to scare people to death, which is why they killed him.

Today I invite you to turn the world upside down. I invite you to take the sick and dying values of this world -- which thinks that life is about being nice, or about being famous, or popular, or rich, or powerful, or comfortable, or safe – and throw them in the garbage where they belong. I invite you to become frightening people, because you live like Jesus.

The great Indian reformer and apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, was once asked what he thought of Jesus. He answered, I like your Christ – I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, then all of India would be Christian today.

The British writer G. K Chesterton, a devout Christian, said the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

The life you embrace today is a hard, hard life. You cannot live it by nice thoughts and nice feelings. That’s not the Jesus way to love. You can only live it the way he did – by standing in the face of the structures and powers that rule the values of this dying world, forever. This is my commandment, that you love others as I have loved you. By this the whole world will know that you are my disciples.

The whole world is watching you, hoping, and betting, that you will not live like Jesus. Prove them wrong. Be not frightened, but be frightening people.

[1] Bartlett, David, and Brown Taylor, Barbara, eds., Feasting On The Word, Year C, Vol. 2., Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2009, p. 472

No comments:

Post a Comment