Note: If we have problems with some of the Ten Commandments, we usually can "check-off" our living of the First Commandment: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me. But what if the "god" we believe in is a god of our own making? This "god" agrees with all of our opinions and fears, judgments of who is in and who is out, who is good, who is evil, etc. This "god" allows us to have enemies to shun or destroy and "blesses" our refusal to reconcile with those who have hurt us. This "god of our own making" requires no faith. This "faith" may profess belief in Jesus, but subtly ignores his example and teaching. This is why the Gospel is so important, because it allows all of our thoughts and actions to come into its light. This takes real faith! John+
Enemies to Friends
Terri and I enjoy watching some popular TV programs that focus on discovering talent. Our favorites are The Voice and America's Got Talent. In each of these programs, you have a panel of stars that can perceive in a particular contestant a potential for greatness that surprises the person themselves. Week by week, as they stay in the competition, the panel and audience see the artist develop more and more. All along this process the artist/contestant witnesses to the fact that they never thought this development possible!
God is like an impresario who sees that each one of us has what it takes to be useful to God even before we realize it ourselves! Like young Jeremiah, who didn't believe he could articulate the message of God to his people, hears Gods words to him:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
In other words, God says to Jeremiah:
Don't make excuses. Go to the people where I send you. Speak whatever I command you to speak and don't be afraid of them. I am with you to deliver you.
Like the young contestants, God saw in Jeremiah potential that Jeremiah never knew he was capable of of. It's the same for us! We spend a lot of time deploring our knowledge of God, but that's not the important thing. What's important is that God knows us, just as we are, worts and all, and sees out potential usefulness to God in our surroundings and the world. St. Paul agrees and puts it like this:
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known.
The only god we can know fully is the god of our own making. This god is the god that agrees with our view of reality, our judgments upon the world and people living in it: Who's good and who's evil. We love this god of our own creation and are comfortable living with this god. This god allows us to have enemies and find scapegoats to blame for the world's problems.
But worshiping at the altar of this god, whom we can see clearly, takes no real faith and makes us enemies of the true God. To believe in a God we can only now see "dimly," takes faith, trusting Jesus' revelation in the Gospel of his Father and the Holy Spirit of Love. What is important is not that we can claim we "know" God, but that God knows us!
All of this forms a backdrop to the Gospel today from Luke chapter 4. Last week we got the first part of the story:
Jesus returns to his hometown and was asked to read in the Synagogue. He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he finds the part where it says: the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has annointed me, to bring good news to the poor . . . etc. So, returning to his hometown, at the very beginning of his ministry, he uses this passage from Isaiah to outline his whole program and purpose for coming. The people in the synagogue loved the whole presentation, but when he sat down like teachers do, with everyone's eyes fixed on him, Jesus went on: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. It says the people were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. Is not this Joseph's son? Jesus senses some doubts arising in their minds. They have their knowledge of God and maybe what this young rabbi is emphasizing might not jive with their understanding. Jesus, knowing this, says "Doubtless you will quote to me the proverb: Doctor, cure yourself." In other words: We don't need to be healed by you. Heal yourself.
So Jesus breaks the tension by mentioning two of their favorites: Elijah and Elisha. Yes, tell us those stories! Tell us about when Elijah murdered the prophets of Ba'al when they lost the fire contest! But instead of the stories they wanted to hear, Jesus tells them how each of the prophets were sent by God to help and heal the lost: people who were not the "saved" of God- a poor pagan widow and a General of an enemy army! This is outrageous, they wouldn't stand for this any longer! So, in the length of a church service, the people's approval of the hometown boy made good, turned to scorn and hatred. And they got up and drove Jesus out of town, wanting to kill him by hurling him over a cliff, but the passage ends by saying "He passed through the midst of them and went on his way." Whew!
So let's wrap this up with a question:
If Jesus came among us to die for our sins and rise from the dead, why couldn't he have been murdered there and then? Hurled off that cliff. God could still raise him up. Why wait and have to go all the way to Good Friday and the Cross? The answer to this question lies in Jesus having more time to teach and give us the example of his life. This was necessary for the disciples and many others to become credible witnesses of Jesus' life and death and, later, his Resurrection. When he appeared to the disciples and many others in his risen state, they knew him before when he walked, talked, taught, and healed. They saw how he dealt mercifully with sinners and how he loved and forgave his enemies. All of this took time to experience and witness. It was for all of our benefit that Jesus passed through the angry crowd that day!
The Good News is that the living God in Jesus knows each of us intimately and loves us just the way we are. Like with Jeremiah, God understands our fears, doubts, and feelings of inadequacy, but believes in our tremendous potential to be God's witnesses in the world. We can leave behind the gods of our own making, which makes us enemies of God, and let God transform us from enemies to friends. Jesus said to those gathered around the table, the same table that we are gathered around this morning:
I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I learned from my Father.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE
(everyone means everyone)