Faith + Works = WWJD

Faith + Works = WWJD January 20, 2017

Year  A – January 22, 2017
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Can I just start out and say how glad I am that I am  not responsible for preaching week in and week out? Holy moly, we are only on week three of this little project and I am already worn slap out. As soon as I am all done with a post, it’s time to turn the page, read the next collection of texts and figure out how the hell to make sense of it in the world today.

Okay, okay, I promise not to complain every week…

This week has been particularly rough, not really because of the texts assigned, but because of the greater narrative unfolding in our national lives as well as my personal life. We are today, preparing to see our nation pass from one leader, a true leader, into the hands of a petulant, narcissistic, dangerous man-child and I for on am sad, defeated and terrified. Perhaps a great deal like the Israelites to whom the prophet Isaiah was speaking and with whom Jesus was living, preaching and working.

This week I’m just writing about the Gospel text and the text attributed to Paul, but I highly recommend taking time to read, think about and pray about the Isaiah and Psalm assigned for today.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18 – Addressing divisions
I have a love/hate relationship with the Pauline this week. We are looking at yet another small portion of his letter to the folks in the churches of Corinth.

On one hand, I am not on board with the ridiculous notion that everyone in a community should be of a single mind on all things. In fact, I believe this is a fatal fallacy in many churches leading some to disastrous ends and others to never begin their journey. I rather like the UCC tag line, “where ever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.” This creates generous space for people of many different theological, sociological and even political mindsets to be truly welcome in a community. This of course is really hard work and often leads to the very problems Paul is addressing.

That said, I find I.m of a similar mind as Paul (painful as that is for me to grasp) because I hold church folks to a higher standard than people in other human organizations. I desperately want churches to be above the petty squabbles and major rifts that we see in every denomination and every church, regardless of size. Name any small topic – music, carpets, candle size, choir robes, hymnals…and church people will spend ENDLESS hours passionately debating the “right” way to think about or do church. Then zoom out and look at even bigger issues, one that is near and dear to my heart, and congregations and denominations split over how they see theology sin and sacred worth. All of these shenanigans piss me off, quite like Paul who is seems to be seething with frustration when he says “I thank God the tI baptized none of you expect Crispis and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.” C’mon people, get your heads out of your collective asses and focus on Christ – and for God’s sake, get to work in the world!

But how do we do that? How do we transcend our brokenness that compels us to constantly cast God in our own image? I have no solid answers, but am thinking that if we try really hard to understand the message of the Incarnation, we might just get close to getting it right.

Matthew 4:12-23 – Your kingdom come…
We cannot approach today’s text without pausing to understand what happened right before our scene opens with Jesus.  Can you imagine it? John, the wild and faithful man who baptized Jesus has been arrested. And why? Because he spoke truth to power and the power of a petulant and insecure man boiled up and silenced his voice – for good.

So Jesus retreats to Galilee. Why Galilee? As John Dominic Crossan points out, in God and Empire, because Herod had built a commercial fishing operation on the shores of the lake in Capernaum. Jesus finds an calls fishermen in the midst of the injustice of the American, oh wait, Roman imperial policy “Romanization by urbanization for commercialization.” (102, Crossan).

I wonder how we look at our role in the world today in light Jesus’ work then and now?

I think there’s a clue is in the verse of this text. Fatih + works = WWJD. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” 4:23

In this seemingly simple sentence, we see a complex and often debated truth. Life here on earth matters. We see a lived example of “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is attending to the real, critical and immediate needs of people on earth. Jesus is NOT preaching a pie in the sky, just wait until the afterlife and you will be healed and whole. Nope. Nope. Nope. If we want to know God’s will, if we want to know what the good news of the kingdom is, it is all right here in the WORKS of Jesus.

Where are our healing hands needed in the world today?  Where are mine, where are yours?

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