Fear, Faith and a Child Shall Lead them!

Grace and Peace to you, beloved

Abandon your fears

Cradle your soul in childlike faith

Leap into the Loving Presence

Of the One who Welcomes All,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

 (pause)

There is this unseen force that drives us

Away from the loving presence of the Creator God

Diverting us instead into this unbreakable cycle of fear

Fear, which grips and shapes us as human beings

Fear has the potential to dominate our journey

(share with the congregation about what fear grips me regarding the very real night terror I had as a child before my family and I went on vacation. The plane that we were traveling on went down in flames and I could hear the screams. I woke up visibly upset and tearful. My mother upon hearing my night terror gave me the option of not going perhaps, but I went with huge trepidation. Nothing happened; I’ve been on planes since then but few and far between; each moment I have heard of some ridiculous and horrible plane crash I vow to find an alternative route, and usually do. Share about Wendy who is a Ph.D student and flight attendant who has recently told me, it is her goal to get me onto a plane; Share about all the solutions that other people have jokingly shared with me, from medicinal to therapy to having conversations with actual pilots. Pause before asking the congregation about their fears).

What fears weight you down,

My sisters and brothers in Christ?

What fears peel away the layers of joy from your very being?

Or are we too afraid to name them?

Can you share your fears in this sacred space?

(Ask the congregation to name some of the fears that they may have and affirm all of the answers. Pause before continuing).

We are not alone

In the fears which haunt us

(pause)

There are fears in this room that are even too deep for words,

For speaking them into being,

Would place a harsh spotlight upon ourselves

Where we would be bathed in colors

Of selfishness and foolishness

I wonder what fears were manifesting

In the midst of the conversation

Of these foolish disciples

as they were arguing

Who among them was the greatest?

Anxiety

Apprehension

Insecurity

Jesus reminds them again

In our Gospel text this morning

That this path towards forgiveness

Mercy,

Rebirth

Was littered with the stark reality of changes,

Potholes

and Pain.

“The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands,

and they will kill him…”

This was not their ideal march towards glory triumphant

(As I was) Reminded of a clip from the movie Glory yesterday

Comes the realization,

That greatness comes through giving up of oneself

For those who have nothing

Who have been robbed

Denied

Of anything resembling power.

(pause)

What fears deprive us

From being connected from who Jesus Christ is

And what Jesus holds for us?

This common theme of fear

And having no faith

is apparent throughout the Gospel of Mark

lived out through the disciples

But what would you do,

If you were there?

Even as a disciple, we must remember

That they were human first

(pause)

Fears of not being able to feed 5,000,

They hadn’t a clue about leaning on their faith

Even as they had witnessed the miracles from Jesus

(these) Feas of not trusting in Jesus

in the midst of calamity and storms

Forgetting that Jesus would never leave them

Or forsake them

(The) Fear of not trusting the power that Jesus was and is,

They were still blinded to God’s Mighty Power flowing

Through Jesus Christ

Fear of going down an unknown road

They were more worried about securing their place

Setting up that Plan B, C and D

Just in case this whole Jesus deal fell through

Fear of hearing the truth

about how the Kingdom of God would come into being

Not understanding fully

That Jesus’s death is the Grace and Mercy

That both they and we are in need

They were too wrapped up in their fears,

To see that the resurrection shatters all of our fears

How scary is it for both the disciples and for us, beloved

When we are fearful because we do not have Jesus right here

And now

To cling to

And instead,

We are left to live out and proclaim the Good News?

(pause)

What’s going to happen if we reach across the aisle

And actually engage in a conversation

with someone new in our community

someone who unexpectedly we are drawn to?

What happens if we reach across a sidewalk,

A street, A shelter,

To join hands with those who are the least of these,

To be recognized publicly as a witness with the least of these

What happens if we actually sit down,

Inviting someone to tell their story

Whose existence causes our spirits to weep

And yet, how their faith blossomed in the midst of hell

Renders us speechless

(pause)

What happens if we kick open the doors of our church

And welcome conversation

And fellowship

With someone who is Muslim,

Who blesses and greets us into their midst

Because they love God just as beautifully as we do

Or Buddhist,

Who shares prayers and wisdom to uplift us in this battle

Toward the beloved community

Towards healing

(pause)

Or simply through the delight of children

Who are fascinated with Creation

Like through the eyes of a 14 year old Sudanese-American boy

Who just wants to share with us,

Something wonderful that he has done

To see the gifts of knowledge that pour from him

Because our hearts should be delighted

(pause)

One day when the glory comes

It will be ours, it will be ours

One day when the war is won

We will be sure, we will be sure

Oh glory

(pause)

Do you hear the Good News?

The Good News is that because God Loved US, beloved

and after three days, he will rise again”

Jesus reminds us,

Proclaims to us

He will NOT LEAVE US.

He DID NOT LEAVE US

Our fears were crushed into dust

On that CROSS

Resurrection GLORY!

Yes its okay to be fearful,

Because in those moments of fear,

Jesus Speaks to Us

Jesus Assures and Soothes Us

That HE IS THE ANSWER

Washing our fears away!

(pause)

Do you hear Jesus calling us

Giving us the Power of the Gospel?

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all

And servant of all.”

Do you hear Jesus charging us,

Commanding us

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me..

Whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me..”

But GOD, The Creator

The Redeemer

Who calls us to welcome the least of these-

Refugees,

the homeless

The atheist

The agnostic

The loner,

The thief

The troubled

The lost

Yes, beloved

Even you and me.

(Pause)

One day,

There will be no more fear,

We won’t have to worry about flying on planes,

Or heights

Or mice

Or the darkness

Or pain

Or death

One day our fears will dissipate

Because the Risen Christ will be among us

In Glory.

(pause)

Thanks Be to God.

words hurt, The Word Heals

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

With welcoming the infusing of the Holy Spirit

Glued to our being

So we have no other recourse

Than to share the Living Word

Of forgiveness and of truth

Amen

(pause)

“I Love You”

“We have Missed You!

“Welcome!”

“So Glad To See You!”

“God Bless You”

“Peace of God Be With You.”

(pause)

These are words of welcome

Of Healing

Of Agape

Of Hope

These are words that we all need to hear

Especially when we struggle with the blues

So we are able to breathe fully and deeply

Reminding us of God’s Presence

When life blossoms into its foulest

Throwing a wrench into our journey

Robbing us of things most treasured

There is power in the spoken Word

More and more along this journey,

We need to hear a Word

Affirming our path

Asserting our essential nature

Encouraging us to be in relationship

(pause)

But we are also painfully aware,

The power of the spoken word

Can seamlessly slice into us

Inflicting the deepest wound

To which sometimes we never recover

“You’re stupid!”

“Worthless!

“We don’t want your kind!”

“You’re Hopeless!”

“God hates YOU!”

(pause)

Time and again

 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father,

and with it we curse human beings,

who have been made in God’s likeness”

God’s Word

Meant for liberation

In humanity’s hands

Has been fashioned into a tool

Of Annihilation

Leaving the entire body of Christ, broken

Useless

Damaged

(share with them the class that I took at McCormick Seminary and how damaging God’s Word has been used to chain people to the ugliness of domestic violence and sexual abuse; where pastoral leaders have perhaps unwillingly sent people back into harmful situations based on what it says here in the Bible.)

God’s Word

Has been twisted to fit into the small box that we place God in

Because it is difficult to face the truth of God’s Word

That Jesus Christ

“.. himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together”

“Who do people say I am?”

Who is Jesus Christ to you, beloved?

How have you encountered Jesus?

How did this ancient faith community encounter Jesus?

Perhaps it was reflected in their words as they shared with others

Jesus is-

Son of Man

Son of God

Jesus is

John the Baptist

A prophet

And still some saw Jesus as-

A blasphemer

Heretic

Peter uses this interesting word, when Jesus inquires of him

“You are the Messiah”

(pause)

What does Messiah mean?

Messiah meant anointed one,

Which can mean Blessed, Successor, crowned

Or even King

Which means supreme, royal, Absolute

Which means unconquerable, powerful

I wonder how many of the disciples followed Jesus

Because they saw Jesus as King

Who would vanquish all of the wrongs that had happened

And raise up their long suffering people to an elevated status?

But when Jesus Christ begins to testify, to teach

To proclaim and prepare those who followed Him

With what was about to happen to His life,

This was not the victory march that any of them,

Even us

Are expecting

Even today many use the word King Jesus

Jesus Christ sits on a throne

Jesus will judge those who have been unfaithful

Jesus will make those who are sinners pay for their unfaithfulness

(pause)

That is the perception of many sisters and brothers in Christ

Jesus, Strong and Mighty

Gives us everything we desire

As long we stay on the straight and narrow, right?

But Jesus witnesses that God, Our Father,

Our Redeemer

Meets us in our suffering

Our sorrow

Our loss

When we are exposed and open

To this world.

Jesus

Is to give up His Life

Upon the Cross

For all of our sins

For forgiveness

Regardless of our faith wavers

Or how much we give the appearance of doing the right things

THAT is how the Kingdom of God

Will conquer this world

THAT is how God manifests God’s self

Into the God that we desperately need

Through the Cross

Through the experience of death itself!

(pause)

Peter was having none of this-

“Jesus what are you saying?

Dude, come on, you promised us triumph and success and glory!”

This is not going to motivate anyone

This is not what any of us signed up for.”

(pause)

If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves

and take up their cross and follow me.”

What is Jesus charging, challenging the disciples

And us, with?

For those who want to save their life will lose it,

and those who lose their life for my sake,

 and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

(pause)

How confusing the disciples must have been

Hearing Jesus’s words

Jesus are you saying we must stick to this path,

That we should not foster relationships

Enjoy fellowship with our sisters and brothers

Not to sing, to dance, to love?

Never to embrace Creation

Never to fully live our lives here and now?

Should we just run to Calvary and wait for you to return there?

(pause)

Here too, these same scriptures

Have been used to condone and excuse abuse

We are NOT called to bear our burdens alone

Carrying our shame, our sins

To be silence about the unforgiveable

which is perpetuated upon us

THAT IS NOT what the risen Christ calls us to-

Because the Good News is that CHRIST ALONE

Bore the weight of the suffering of this world

Of us, beloved

Upon the Cross

And Jesus SPOKE A POWERFUL WORD

FATHER FORGIVE THEM, for they know not what they do

IN THAT MOMENT, Jesus Christ was TRANSFORMED

FROM DEATH TO LIFE

And we beloved, were transformed

FROM CONDEMED TO FORGIVEN

(pause)

So when Jesus calls us to take up the cross, and follow Him

Jesus is calling us to be immersed in this world

To give of ourselves

To actually reach into that ditch

The side of the road

Into that dirty space

Across the fence

And bless someone with words of LOVE

“God is with you,

What can I do to ease your pain, your burden?”

To fight for those who have been forgotten

To stand up and say WORDS OF TRUTH

“NO MORE will you abuse, my brother, this elder, this child”

“NO MORE will you toss aside this person

Because of their status

Because of who they are”

“NO MORE will you deny these people, this tribe

With the right to LIVE,

Because you think God’s Word condemns them”

NO MORE WILL WE ALLOW GOD’s WORD TO BE MISSPOKEN

WE ARE CALLED TO SPEAK TRUTH TO LIFE

(pause)

And even though that road will be hard, rough

That we will be ridiculed

Because we do not feed into the harsh words of this world

Because we believe in a God of Grace and Mercy

Because we cling to the Cross just as Jesus Did

Because THROUGH THE CROSS

God Reveals God’s SELF

And God’s NEVER ENDING LOVE for US,

All of US, beloved

(pause)

Words hurt

We as humanity have still not learned

how our words can hurt one another-

But GOD’S WORD,

Jesus Christ

God’s Word heals

Spoken from the Cross

“It. Is. Finished.”

Pain-Finished

Rejection-Finished

Injustice-Finished

Oppression-Finished

Evil-Finished

Death-FINISHED

(pause)

Thanks Be to God.

Struggling With Mark, Struggling with the Naked, Ugly Truth

God’s Word is challenging,

Moving,

Provoking

Confusing

We look to these Scriptures for guidance,

For answers

We lift up saints

Examples, Models of Holy Perfection

But here, in this Holy Text

We are sometimes thrown for a loop

By the parables, and stories

And sometimes the meaning is not always so black and white

These Scriptures are countercultural

These Scriptures expose everyone’s faults

Errors

Prejudices

(pause)

Humanity is hardheaded

We would rather conform to the world’s directives

Than God’s commandments for our lives

God calls us out of our poorly constructed strongholds

I won’t say comfort spaces

Because as humanity, we’d rather corner ourselves

Refusing to share,

Refusing to reach out

Refusing to live out what God has called us to do

(pause)

Initially,

I was going to share how the Word continually impacts

Our lives

I’d been wrestling with what Mark was projecting

In this one verse which I had heard all my life

But now, I had a different understanding

(pause)

We have to realize there is a gaping hole of Jesus’s life

We are not privy to

So when Jesus utters this slur-

Dog?

Think of where she is positioned when she addresses Jesus

She is at his FEET, weeping, pleading

For healing, for reprieve, for peace,

She is a Syrophoenican Woman

Not

One of the chosen Tribe of people of God

She’s a Gentile

Pagan

Her speech, accented with diverse tones

Her skin, tinted in different hues

But she recognizes who Jesus is

She recognizes what Holy Power Jesus cradles in His hands

And she is desperate

She can not protect her child from the demonic

that encroaches on their lives

What Mother would not go to ANY length

For the protection of her child?

(pause)

But Jesus responds like this?

“Let the children be fed first,

For it is not fair to take the children’s food,

And feed it to the dogs.”

(pause)

Is this Sarcastic Jesus?

Some commentaries conclude that this was a test,

But for whom?

Is this Jesus’s way of saying,

“I will only heal you if you acknowledge

That I am your Lord and Savior?”

Or was Jesus reacting based on how he was raised

The societal influences and clues

How this ancient society reacted and treated those

Who did not have status,

Who were outsiders

Perhaps Jesus mimicked the way we do sometimes

When we see the homeless

Or immigrants, who based on the color of their skin

We assume they are undocumented

Or the way they wear their clothes

Unkempt

Tattered

Because perhaps, not a stitch of compassion has been shown

Or showered on their communities

Neighborhoods

Which are seen as dumping grounds for garbage and waste

We, in our righteousness conclude

They are nothing more than leeches

Their only purpose is to consume what we have

Our knee-jerk reaction when they come Scavenging

For our dropped, wasted crumbs of tangible things

Is to turn away,

Muttering perhaps

Or even admonishing to their face

“There are others more deserving than you-

We call them not by who they are

Sister

Neighbor

Friend-

But what we consider their unforgiveable sin

Drug addict

Alcoholic

Thief

(pause)

Society has conditioned and taught us to be wary

Guarding our personal space,

Our time

Our treasures

From those people

Yet, funny how James reminds us clearly-

Is it not the rich who oppress you?

Is it not they who drag you into court?”

Aren’t the oppressive economic establishments

Who are slaves to the bottom line, to greed

Who siphon off our precious time

Who hoard and steal our talent that we give freely

Who decimate small towns and annihilate small businesses

Should we not go with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ

And call to them, remind them, of the hurt they have inflicted

On their fellow siblings in Christ and in Faith?

(pause)

Is it not oppressive structures throughout our government

Those who swore to serve ALL?

Through passing of laws which ultimately reduce the quality of life

For our neighbors, for family members, for us

Through economic restructuring supposedly

for the common good,

Benefiting in all actuality,

The chosen few

(pause)

Many people proudly proclaim this land

As the place for the Tired, poor, huddled masses

But the reality is that there is a systemic issue of being ungenerous

Unwelcoming

Hoarding spaces

For only a certain cluster of people

Only a specific people deserve of God’s Grace

It says right here in the Bible, right?

(pause)

Meanwhile everyone who is different

In every way, shape, sound

Which includes us, my sisters and brothers in Christ

Are pushed to the margins,

The wastelands

To desperation

(pause)

I was supposed to preach on Mark

And then Wednesday happened

Scrolling through my Facebook Feed

And I saw THAT picture

And I slammed down my laptop

And my spirit wept

That child

3 years old

Family in desperation,

Begging for a peaceful place

Where that child should have been laying down for a nap

Or laying down to feel the beauty of the wild in his face

Or some creepy crawly thing moving past

NOT instead feeling the harshness of an endless ocean

Separation from his family

Alone.

(pause)

The ugly truth is that people of faith refuse

To follow JESUS

Who CLEARLY time and again,

JESUS states to us

Love your neighbor as yourself

Yet Jesus utters this ethnic slur

Was He loving His neighbor in that moment

Didn’t we hear last week in Mark,

Where Jesus states that it is the things deep within us

That pollute our actions and our beings against our neighbor

(pause)

“If you show partiality

You commit sin

You are a transgressor”

Where is the Good News?

(pause, pick up one of the pictures and display it)

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
  the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
    he upholds the orphan and the widow,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Good News is

“…God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith

and to be heirs of the kingdom

that he has promised to those who love him”

The Good News is

Jesus Christ experienced life here, among us

Was one of us

So that He understood our shortcomings

Our prejudices

Our –isms

And calls US to Love one another

Because of what He gave to US, here at the Table

Gave up for US, here on the Cross

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