Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God's Wondrous Love Always Surprises: Advent Midweek Missal (3)

Luke 7:18-23

John’s disciples informed him about all these things. John called two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord. They were to ask him, “ Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?” When they reached Jesus, they said, “ John the Baptist sent us to you. He asks, ‘Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?’ ” Right then, Jesus healed many of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he gave sight to a number of blind people. Then he replied to John’s disciples, “ Go, report to John what you have seen and heard. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled now walk. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. And good news is preached to the poor. Happy is anyone who doesn’t stumble along the way because of me. ” 

"The kingdom of God dawns in that moment when, from the ditch, you look down the Jericho Road, having lost your last, best hope of rescue by a nice savior, only to see coming toward you, the lousy Samaritan you despise."  Will Willimon, Why Jesus? p. 30

This reading tells of how false expectations lead to desolation. Some have to do with success. All of these constructs are based on the lie of that by controlling life, events, others, and God, we can have it our way. The religious version goes like this: If I do the right things, God will reward me with whatever is "in store for me." The gifts of faith become bargaining chips. Prayer becomes magic so that with little or no effort on our part to create a more peaceful, nonviolent future, public prayer in schools will zap them into becoming safer. Easier to do that than to buck the NRA.  
But the problem's in us, and what's in us is the desire to rule over others, for God to conform to our wishes, and to get what we want. It's amazing to think that John's own best hopes for messianic change are shattered!  Both liberation from oppression and the freeing of prisoners are omitted in the Luke 7 report of Jesus' ministry to ahem, the imprisoned John the Baptist. They are clearly included by Jesus himself in Luke 4!
It happens to all of us. Especially clergy. We can easily experience disillusionment when hopes for our kind of church or ministry are lost. The better part of spiritual maturity is to keep taking the next step in faith. Especially when we don't get our way or when we're drained of all reserves.  

It is not about manipulating God or others. It is about asking for and receiving what God gives to all who ask: life and love here, now, and always.  The absolute "wonder of his love" is the miracle of God's continuing "pure, unbounded love" despite the barriers we erect and the violence we do to each other. 

And, "Happy is anyone who doesn’t stumble along the way because of me.” 


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