Archive for December, 2023

Leave Us Alone 1-28-2024

Monday, December 18th, 2023

As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, a
poor crazy man created a scene. He cried out, “What do you want
with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” In
effect what the man was saying was, “Leave me alone! I’m no
good. I’m evil. I’m not worthy of love or care.”
It’s a cry we hear more than once in the Gospel from people
who believed they were possessed by devils. “Don’t meddle with
us. Leave us alone. Don’t try to change us”. They recognized that
change is painful. Whether they were actually possessed by devils
we do not know. But what we do know is that they were sick,
broken, isolated, unloved people, who had no dignity and whose
self-worth was nil.
There are many such people in our world today – in our
prisons, in our psychiatric hospitals, and on the street. Any of us
can be caught in some desperate situation. At least the man in the
synagogue didn’t try to hide how he was. He came to Jesus. Jesus
wasn’t put off by his desperate cry. In the cry, “Leave me alone!”
Jesus heard a cry for help. And he cured him. People find it hard
to admit that they can’t manage their problems. Pride tells them: I
should be able to handle my own problems. Recognition that there
is a problem is the first step towards rehabilitation. The
acknowledgement of our weakness and need would open the way
to recovery. It’s the courageous ones that ask for help.
Psychologists tell us that sometimes people don’t really want
to be cured. Why is this? Because a cure can be painful – it
involves a process which requires a lot of change, and all change is
painful. The idea of recovery can even be terrifying.
Often, we are afraid to talk about something that is hurting
us. We keep it locked up inside us where it festers. We may not
say, “Leave me alone”, but that is what it amounts to: “You
wouldn’t know, you couldn’t possibly understand.” Unvoiced
suffering is more harrowing than suffering that cries aloud.
Shortly after the birth of her son a young mother discovered
that he was blind. She called her family together and said, “I don’t
want my child to know that he is blind.” She insisted that from
that point on everyone should avoid using words such as ‘light’,
‘color’, and ‘sight’. The child grew up believing that he was like
everyone else until one day a strange girl jumped over the garden
wall and used all the forbidden words.
The story symbolizes much of our behavior. Many of us
seek to hide what is strange and painful, and to act as if things are
normal. We act as if we had no problems, no abnormalities, no
pains, no wounds, no failures. The urge to hide is very powerful,
and can be more harmful than what it tries to conceal.
I close, when we have the courage to face our problems, new
creative energies became available to us. Fear, shame, and guilt
often make us stay in isolation. It is by showing our wounds, by
allowing ourselves to touch and be touched that we are healed. It
is in our brokenness, our woundedness, that God the Holy can heal
us – if we give God a chance. Will we give God a chance?

The First Disciples of Jesus 1-21-2024

Monday, December 18th, 2023

The time was now. Jesus decided he was ready to choose his
twelve apostles. Just advertising in the newspapers didn’t seem
thorough enough. So, Jesus decided to hold an Olympics from which
the twelve would be chosen. The people came from all over. The
competition was fierce. Jesus had to judge all the events.
First came the prayer event. People had practiced and it showed in
the speed with which they could recite the words. Some articulated the
words with utmost precision. Some used big impressive words. Still
others expressed lofty ideas. But when it came time for a winner to be
selected, Jesus chose none. There didn’t seem to be any heart in their
prayers. They were just words.
Second came the worship event. These contestants, too, had done
their homework. Some wore beautiful garments. Some used lots of
incense. Some emphasized music. Others incorporated gestures. But
again, when it was selection time, there was no winner. There didn’t
seem to be any heart in worship. It was too showy.
Third came the teaching event. This was a prepared group. Some
came with elaborate posters. Some came with long, well ordered talks.
Some came with DVD players. Others came with their small groups to
demonstrate process. Again, no winners. There was no heart in
teaching. The methods seemed more important.
So, the Olympics ended. No winners, no apostles. Exhausted after
his long exasperating ordeal, Jesus went down to the lake to cool off and
relax. Then the miracle happened. He saw people fishing. Now there
were some people who put their hearts into what they were about. So he
chose them!
Remember… the first disciples of Jesus were ordinary people.
They weren’t great public speakers, scholars, kings or saints. They
weren’t presidents, theologians or ordained ministers. They were
fishermen. A tax collector. Common field workers. Who, by God’s
power, and their openness, made great things happen! What about us –
Could great things happen through us? Yes — By God’s Power and Our

Extreme Faith 1-14-2024

Monday, December 18th, 2023

I picked up a major California paper – there was this big article on
Extreme Sports and how popular they are. Tied into that article was
another item about all our extreme fashions – not only extreme clothes
but also ornaments attached to the body. There was a cartoon in this
article which shows a teenager who has a nose ring – baggy clothes and
spiked hair. He says to a friend “I don’t really like dressing this way,
but it keeps my parents from dragging me everywhere they go.
There was NO article in this paper on “Extreme Faith”.
Maybe we have made being a Christian too easy. Maybe we need
to offer people the opportunity to risk life and limb for Christ, as did the
early church. Maybe we need to give people the opportunity for danger,
as did the great missionary movements that have swept through the
church throughout the centuries. We have made being a Christian so
convenient and so comfortable that our faith has lost its edge. A faith
that demands too little will not grab hold of the passion that many people
need in their lives today.
Maybe we have made it all too easy. And that is a shame. People
are risking their lives simply for the purpose of getting high. People are
mutilating their bodies just to get others to notice. And yet there is a
world out there that still needs to be saved by men and women with
adventurous spirits who are committed to Christ.
I want to particularly address the younger people in our community
for just a few moments. The most rewarding adventure a young person
can devote himself or herself to is that of following Jesus. That is what
extreme faith is all about – following Christ.
Our scripture lesson today is about a young man named Samuel –
perhaps twelve or thirteen – who gave his life to serving God. Samuel
had been left at the Temple as a child by his parents to serve as an
assistant to the prophet Eli. One night as he lay in his bed Samuel heard
God speak his name. At first he thought it was Eli who was calling for
him, but Eli realized it was God. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down,
and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So
Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord called his name
again. And this time young Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant
is listening.” And the Lord spoke to Samuel. Here is what he said:
“See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of
everyone who hears of it tingle.”
In other words, God was saying to Samuel, “I’m getting ready to
cause some excitement in this land and I want your help.”
Young people, that is God’s call to every generation: “I’m getting
ready to cause some excitement in this land I want your help.” And, if
enough young people – and enough older people answer as did Samuel,
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” then exciting things do
happen. Suddenly extreme adventures as well as extreme fashions seem
somewhat irrelevant. Suddenly you are in tune with the mind and the
heart of the universe and every day throbs with the excitement of being
alive to God.
A missionary society wrote to the great missionary David
Livingstone deep in the heart of Africa and asked, “Have you found a
good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other

men and women to join you.”  Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men and women who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them.  I want men and women who will come if there is no road at all.”  Christ is still looking for men and women like that today, people who will come if there is no road at all.  Better than extreme sports – more exciting than extreme fashions.  God is looking for men and women who have extreme faith.  What will our answer be?