You Have the Power. Live It!

No Sermon, Pastor In LasVegas
Photo Credit: The Atomic Eye

Matthew 21:23-32

While Jesus was occupying the National Cathedral, the bishops and the priests came to interrupt his teaching, saying, “Show us your papers, and tell us who you’re working for?”

Jesus said, “Here’s the deal, you tell me something first, and then I’ll give you what you want. But first you tell me whether John’s baptism was heaven-sent, or if he just made it up himself.”

They debated among themselves: “If we say John was authorized by heaven, he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him. But if we say he just invented it himself the crowds here, who all think he was heaven-sent, will lynch us.” So they said, “We don’t know.”

“Fine,” said Jesus. “Then I’m not showing you my papers either.

“But think about this:

A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, you need to put in a day’s work at the family business.” And the son said, “Hell, no.” But later on, he went anyway.

The man went to the second son with the same order, and the second son said, “Yes, Sir!” But then he never showed up.

“Now which son did what his father asked?”

“The first one,” they said.

Jesus said, “No doubt there are bookies and whores who are closer to God than you lot. John told you how to do right, but you passed him off. But there were bookies and whores who got it. And even when you saw they got it, you still ignored the truth he was telling you about yourselves.”

Jesus did tell them whose authority he had that day. But, in the same way they didn’t get what John was saying, they didn’t get what Jesus was saying either. Jesus got his authority from his baptism – John’s baptism – in which Jesus, along with the bookies, whores and rest of the crowds who were there that day “got” that they were all children of God.

It’s the same authority everyone has who has “got” that they are God’s children. And, in the same way, anyone of any religion or no religion, who has “got” a calling and knows who they really are has that same authority. It’s the authority of knowing oneself to be fully human. As such, Jesus’ authority and yours and mine is no less than any other human on the planet.

In spite of those who think of themselves as “higher authorities” and set up social, economic, political, and religious systems wherein everyone else is robbed of theirs, Jesus and the rest of us have the power to do what we are called to do, by virtue of our humanity – even if that means occupying the National Cathedral (or any other idolatrous monument).

This is what the parable is about. Those who, in spite of rough beginnings, discover their calling and show up for life – live. Those who talk a good line about how everybody else ought to live, but never show up to live it themselves – don’t.

You Can Do Anything (When Nothing Is Beneath You)

Hands togetherPhilippians 2:1-13

(See also, Daily Reading comments on Philippians 2:1-4 and Philippians 2:13-15.)

So then, if Jesus encourages you, if love comforts you, if you would share a greater purpose, if you yearn for community, then I’d rejoice to see you work through your differences, love one another, stick together, and find points of agreement. Don’t do things just to promote yourself; try to give someone else a lift. And, among you, it’s not “every man for himself,” rather seek the common good.

Be like Jesus:

Being as God, for him, wasn’t the point.
Instead he gave himself away,
Becoming a nobody, becoming human.

And being fully human, nothing was beneath him –
Not even, to achieve God’s aim, crucifixion.

So God esteemed him,
And put his name first on the list.
This is why we bow to him,
Whether we’re in heaven, on earth, or in the pits.
This is why we call him our Leader.

So then, as you have always done as I have asked, not only when I was with you, but also since I’ve been gone, I’m asking you now to do the work. Your salvation is in our own hands; and God’s desire for good finds expression in your longings and in your work.

It’s widely agreed that the central poem here is probably a hymn sung in the first generation church. In the original, I’m sure it was beautiful and mystical. But the message in the music is that to be divine, that to really and fully live, one must become fully human. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what Paul says those who follow him must do.

It makes perfect sense. We’re human; humanity is all we’ve got. So long as we try to be something else, that something else isn’t real but a fantasy, a projection, an empty wish.

I’m convinced that if church (or any other institution) could be more about getting in touch with our humanity rather than trying to buy an entrance into heaven, it would be more successful. Not to mention more faithful.

The power of being fully human is highly underestimated by many people. But as the hymn suggests, once you are fully human, that’s when you can do anything to achieve a greater, even divine, goal. The first generation church realized that this was what the life and death of Jesus demonstrated. And it was so powerful they called its discovery, “Resurrection.”