Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Crazy Talk

Preached for Pentecost 17, Proper 20B, on Sunday, September 20, 2015.

    It must have been a very long walk for Jesus and the disciples through Galilee to Capernaum - not so much the distance but the awkward silence.  You have been on long trips when conversations flourish and sometimes things get quiet.  Sometimes people say profound things and sometimes people say such crazy things it brings everything to a grinding halt.  Crazy talk. That is what shut up the disciples; Jesus talk about His betrayal, suffering, death, resurrection...
    They did not know what to say so they let it pass.  This was a place none of them dared to go.  But Jesus was not about to let it drop.  In the midst of the awkward silence, Jesus asks His disciples.  “So what were YOU talking about that was so important?”  Probably their conversation was not so different from our own.
    They talked about the weather – don’t we all.  They talked of politics – how the debate turned out.  They talked of family and friends, of YouTube and Facebook.  But they also talked about the important things that consume our attention -- the subtle competitions in a game of life that has winners and losers and people trying to stay ahead of others.  Perhaps it was not overt but there was a quality to such talk realizing that to succeed often means someone else must fail.
    We want to succeed, to have money for a comfortable life, to care for home and family with something leftover for me, to be happy, to be content.  And we want to squeeze all we can out of our lives – travels, experiences, leisure, fun, and culture.  We want to make sure that death does not find us with a full bucket list.  These are important things that we think about, dream about, talk about, and worry about – then and now.  We are not much different than the disciples in their normal talk.
    But this is not what Jesus was talking about.  He was talking crazy - about the betrayal from one of His own that would turn Him over to suffering and even death upon a cross.  The disciples were not talking about this and neither do we.  Yet Jesus insists that this is the important stuff, this the stuff of greatness.
    Jesus came to invest His life in suffering that will relieve our pain, in the cross that will carry the full weight of our sins, and in the death that will kill death once for all.  This is what Jesus accomplishes and what He invites us to live.  He bids us walk in His way of greatness and not just watch it like a spectator.  For if we believe what Christ has done for us, our lives cannot continue in their old ways of sin, self-centeredness, and pleasure.  Those who live in Christ by baptism and faith lead cross shaped lives, defined by the new values of the kingdom.
    Losing is winning. The very means by which His life is taken from Him becomes the means by which our lost lives are reclaimed to eternal life. Such is the power of the cross. His victory becomes our own victory. In Him we do not fear losing -- as the world describes it.  Greatness is not how many serve you but the freedom in Christ to serve others, to love your neighbor as Christ has loved us.  This putting others before self even to death is the radical definition of marriage, of family, and of life together in parish and neighborhood.
    The radical nature of Jesus’ words is hidden in the simple statement made about children.  When Jesus was speaking children were largely unseen and unheard.  It was not that they were not valued but they were valued for what they would become and not what they were. Today we live in a world even more unfriendly to children than Jesus world.  But Jesus insists that even a child matters and that the true nature of the Kingdom is shown by the way we treat children -- those who can do nothing for us but take from us.  Children are like leaches to their parents -- not because they are bad but because they require so much from parents for so long.  We all did.  Nobody should have a child because of what the child might do for them -- only because they love giving and sacrificing.     
    These words of Jesus bite us at a time when Planned Parenthood videos talk casually about harvesting organs from unborn infants.  In a world in which abortion is legal and children are considered second to career, desire, and personal happiness, we have much to learn about greatness.  We live in a world in which children are unnecessary appendages to people who value their freedom to do as they please most of all.
    So here you are at church today and perhaps you hoped maybe to hear about some important stuff like how to get ahead at work, earn more money, make your marriage happier, make family life easier, make your life fuller, or improve yourself.  But what you heard was crazy talk like sin and forgiveness, repentance and good works, love that serves, and sacrificial lives.
    That is the struggle we face everyday.  The world is great at distracting us with things that do not matter from the things that matter most.  Our sinful hearts like what the world says. And every week God must recall us to that which matters most – even though our great temptation is to write it all off as crazy talk.  What Christ has done to redeem us and how we live as the redeemed in the world.
    Crazy talk!  Like confessing you are a loser in a world where only winners count.  Crazy talk!  Like greatness measured by the weight of a cross.  Crazy talk!  Like a child that matters as much as I matter.  Crazy talk!  Like trusting in the promise that we know through a cross of death and a grave that delivers life.  Today we come to meet the Lord where He is to be found – in the crazy places of water that kills and gives life, of words that deliver what they promise, and of bread and wine that tastes of Christ’s flesh for the life of the world.
    What is important?  What matters most?  Don't listen to the world.  Listen to Jesus.  Repent of your old ways and heed the call of the Gospel.  Believe in Christ and live the new life that is marked by certain persecution by an unfriendly world.  Do the good works that cost you something but give evidence of the kingdom of God.  Love your neighbor as Christ has loved you.  Live out your life in the pattern of the cross where Your redemption was born.  Sing the songs of faith and life and hope.  The world calls it crazy talk.  We call it the Word of life and the Voice of God.  Oh, Lord, please give us ears to hear and hearts to believe.  Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“Losing is winning.” There are those who revel in the mysticism of a paradox. They think it is the height of knowledge to deny knowing anything. Not so the Gospel. It makes clear that what the world has always believed to be truth, is not truth at all, of which His prophet spoke years before our Lord walked on the earth, Isaiah 43:19,
“I am about to do a new thing;
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
When our Lord came, He said, Luke 4: 43, “I must preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” From His lips we hear the paradoxes of the Gospel, which the human mind cannot believe, Luke 22:26, “But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should become like the youngest, and the one who leads should become like the one who serves.” John 14:28, “If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” John 3:3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” And many more.
Therefore, when we hear, “Losing is winning,” we can say a joyful, “Amen,” because that which no human mind could imagine, God has revealed to us through His Son and through His Scripture, and enables us to understand through the Lord, the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Rev. Peters.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart