Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Year B Proper 17 WED 2018 Shoot the Messenger

Year B Proper 17 WEDNESDAY 5 September 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Shoot the Messenger”  
John 8:44-59 
44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?47 Jesus said: “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.” 48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51 Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. 
[Note: after giving this homily, people were worried I was addressing a current problem. I WAS NOT. No worries around here, but one does the hard work when things are going well, not when you need it. Thanks!]  
There are times and place that call for being polite. And there are times and places that call for speaking the truth. Sometimes these are the same. Too often they are not. 

Like the old jokes, you always know the answer if the question is “Does this outfit make me look fat?” You are polite. 

But the curse of every preacher, teacher, politician, or anyone who puts themself “out there” with an opinion is that there is always a time when one has to decide whether to do what is right, or to do what is popular. 

Some have put it this way: We are called to “Comfort the Afflicted,” and to “Afflict to Comfortable.” That, however, can have its consequences. There are many who think that in doing God’s work, the ends justify the means. Ethically I would argue that, especially in the Church. When people seek to put the enactment of God’s Will into their own hands we end up with things like the Inquisition and the Condemnation of Galileo.  

Jesus confronted the powers that be in this this mornings’ readings and in doing so upset them to the point of murder (or death penalty as the religious leaders would have seen it).  

I am going to put in a pause here. I know I am not Jesus. Thanks be to God for both your sake and mine. But I do have the task of trying to make the Scriptures come to life, make it applicable, and culturally relevant. That upsets people at times. I would ask a favor. 
  1. When I upset you, not if but when, let me know. I am a big boy, and I could be wrong. If I am I will say as much. 
  2. When you hear that someone else is upset, refer them to #1. Anonymous complaints mean nothing because nothing can be done about them. 
  3. Breaking fellowship is not a good response for anything I have done. Preachers come and preachers go. This community will be here long after me, and the one after me, and the one after them. 
  4. Getting together with like-minded upset people is an even worse response for what I have done. (Jesus said go to the source, and take some friends if you have to. Matthew 18:15-18) 
  5. If in doubt, I would ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt, and if you cannot, come and clarify. Like I said, I am a big boy, and I could be wrong. 

If you think that I will never upset you, then you are mistaken. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. If I do not upset you then we are not about the revolutionary work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are a spiritualized social club, and I know we are better than that. 

“If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing,” Jesus reminds us today. We live in a culture where we are expected to toot our own horn, to be our own “brand.” But as we become more and more like Christ, we will have more and more people not know what to do with us. They did not know what to do with him either. 
 The religious leaders called him a Samaritan, a half-breed of defiled blood; they called him demon-possessed because they could not do acts of power they assumed the same of everybody. How often do we miss seeing the hand of God at work because it comes in a form we do not allow ourselves to imagine? Amen 

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Blessings, Rock