Sermon from August 29, 2010
Isaac was just minutes old; the nurse was weighing him; I was exhausted, but ecstatic to be a brand new mom, when I noticed that another nurse was coming near me with a scary looking needle, for a shot for something. “What that’s for,” I gasped. “Why do I need a shot?” “It’s not for you,” she said. “It’s for the baby.” “Oh good,” I said relieved. Seriously, that’s what I said…Good! Obviously not the kind of mother that would jump in front of a moving car to save her child. My first opportunity to be a fierce maternal protector and I failed. Not a great way to begin motherhood.
And now it’s been nine years and I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a mom; what I’m supposed to do; how I’m supposed to act. Sometimes it comes naturally…I love those moments, but more often than not, it’s the most difficult thing in the world—that I have to keep practicing at, that I have to keep failing at; that I have to keep trying, because those little moments—those moments when I get a hug bigger than I could imagine, when I watch them sleeping and imagine their dreams, when I see them be kind to another…that makes this living into being a mommy thing worth it.
So, whether you’re a mom or not, you know what I’m talking about. Just because you all of a sudden graduate, doesn’t mean that you know what it means to work 9-5…taking orders from other people. Just because you receive your AARP card in the mail doesn’t mean you instantly know all the places you’re entitled to a discount…Just because you’ve had to move out of the home you’ve lived in for decades, doesn’t mean you still don’t long for your old bed and your pots and pans. And just because you walk through those front doors…just because you’ve felt the gracious waters of baptism wash over your head, doesn’t mean you automatically know how to be a follower of Jesus.
A little tangent here—most of you know that I’ve been doing this lifestyle change thing to get healthy. And although it’s working, a little faster for my husband, but still…although it’s working, I get some really strange reactions because of the non-conventional rules. “What do you mean a calorie’s a calorie”—“you honestly don’t think you can lose weight by eating a candy bar a day,” they say…well, actually you can. And they to get really angry and defensive when they learn the guidelines, because it’s nothing like they’ve ever followed before…when the rules for losing weight don’t conform to the “normal” way, they assume I’ve lost it…and do their best to try to talk me into a more established program.
We’ve also started following Dave Ramsey, a financial turnaround guy…I think we’re turning into guru worshippers…He lays out these quite simple rules, tells you it’s not complicated…but, it’s very, very difficult, and one way you’ll know if you’re on your way to financial freedom is if everyone thinks you’ve gone completely insane.
So? How do you know if you are faithfully living into your role as a follower of Jesus? If everyone thinks you’re absolutely crazy. Honestly, that’s one of the best tests. Because the Bible, these stories, this passage in particular, is not just a guide or a rulebook. Jesus is not simply telling these people where they should sit at a dinner party—Emily Post could and would tell you the same thing.
But following Jesus, almost always means that you’re throwing conventional wisdom out the window, that you’ve finally discovered “the way things have always been” is not usually the ways of God. Because we, those of us living into this follower of Jesus life, often get so tired of the difficult parts, and so we revert back to the complicated. And we create all these rules about who’s in and who’s out; we say you can’t build there, you have to build here; we make laws about who is worthy and who is dirty…and what once was difficult, yet simple, we’ve now made complicated, yet livable.
And believe me, we aren’t the first ones to have made up this system of hierarchy…Jesus was attacking that very thing…a quick note about history. In Jesus day where you sat was of the utmost importance…the most important guests sat right next to the host, and the lowliest spot was the farthest away. The closer you sat, the more honorable you were; the farther away, the more shameful. So, your job was through money and time and power, move your way up the table. You would invite someone to your house for dinner, so they would in turn invite you. This was something they had done (and we continue to do in some form) for centuries.
But remember, Jesus wasn’t really into that whole hierarchy thing. Because in God’s world, the most important people were the ones at the end of the table; actually the most important people were the ones who weren’t even invited…were the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…those whose honor had already been lost. And Jesus wasn’t afraid to speak up and tell everyone…he didn’t care that people would think him crazy; he didn’t care the he knocked over the table and sent their places of honor flying; all he cared about, was the people that no one else cared for…and in the long run, it got him killed.
So, how do you know if you’re living into this follower of Jesus thing? One, people have labeled you a little crazy because of all the new people you’re talking to, and the boundaries you’re crossing, and the way you no longer seem to care what others think and what those constraining rules are. And two, you know you’re doing a pretty good job, if you’re starting to make some people a little angry. Because being a follower of Jesus means looking at the world a little differently; it means seeing things through the eyes of Jesus, not through the eyes of power and honor.
It means living as one who opens your very soul to the world, because in doing so, you might be entertaining angels…in speaking to the one that no one sees, you very well, might be speaking to Jesus. So, this week live into your identity as a follower of Jesus. Embrace those moments when you encounter the living God, when you see the face of Christ, when you hold the hand of the angel in your midst. Embrace those moments and see Jesus. And close your ears to the words from the outside—to the ones calling you crazy, to the ones wondering what the heck you’re doing talking to her—because you know that you’re a Jesus follower…and if you make a few people uncomfortable along the way, smile just a little—because I imagine, Jesus is grinning from ear to ear.