For some reason, throughout history, people of faith have thought that we can separate our relationship with God from our relationship with others. They have thought that we can pick and choose those whom we will love. We will love those we like, those we feel good about, those we approve of. Forget about the others.
The road that leads into the Kingdom of Heaven runs through fire and axes and water. That road invites us to separate the Kingdom of Self from the Kingdom of God – to let go of things that have no Kingdom value and clear a road for Jesus to come in.
This sermon was preached at the 2012 Ordination Service of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach...
I have always been intrigued by how much easier it is to destroy things than it is to build them. It takes years and months to build buildings, and when buildings are demolished, only days and seconds to destroy them. This is what a critical tongue does: it takes aim at a person, a church or organization, a project, an effort, a habit, an incident, a conversation, and it sets the charges to blow it up. What is amazing is how powerful our words can be, how easily they can offend and how deeply they can wound.
Grace brought me to him; Grace made me right with him; Grace is the only way I am allowed to live with him. God’s first word and his last word toward me is Grace.
So here’s the question: what does your life feel like right now? Are you doing that thing where you get up every day and walk through it, then fall into bed, get up and do it all again the next day … no change, no vision, no resurrection power? Are you existing … but not really alive? Do you realize there is an option? It is a choice to let the resurrected Christ live in you. And it is a choice to let the cross work on you.
We must not be afraid to touch places where there are wounds. For these are precisely the places where Christ is most clearly revealed. If we try to circumvent the wounds, we will see only the glorified Christ who can go through locked doors…the triumphant one. But the wounded Christ shows us something else. Thankfully, the scarred Jesus does not wait until we’re all beautiful and ready for church to meet us. He comes in the midst of pain, illness, and injury.
Wait. Watch. Work. This is how it happens. One conversation at a time, one meal at a time, one prayer at a time, one bag of food at a time, one nail at a time, one kind word at a time in the name of Jesus. That’s how the Kingdom comes.
He is saying that those who get it will be the ones who realize we’re nothing by ourselves that what we want most from life won’t happen if we think we have to do it ourselves. It will happen when we let the One Who Is Enough serve us as Lord, and Messiah, and Friend.
I understand these people better than I want to admit. I know what it means to become so focused on the work and the politics and the systems and the next big book that’s going to tell us how to really do it right, that I can forget what Jesus is capable of and why he’s filled me with the Holy Spirit and what he’s called me to do. Somehow (I’m sure this is not the correct theological language), it seems like the Spirit leaks out. Or maybe I push him out. I know it has happened when I find myself telling God how big my storm is, rather than telling my storm how big my God is.