From the very first time I heard it, Jackson Browne’s “Rebel Jesus” has haunted me. In a season dominated by nostalgia, Browne’s stark view of the historical Jesus calls us to remember the one who stood with the poor and the oppressed, the outcast and the wounded. As we enter the season of Advent, can we hold nostalgia at bay long enough to engage our deepest longings and desires for peace? Not some nostalgic peace that stretches only so far as our own needs, or our own loved ones, but the peace that embraces those beyond our circles of care? Can our compassion for the earth and all her creatures move us beyond the idol we have made of the baby in the manger, toward the complexity of embracing the desires and longings of a rebel we probably wouldn’t want to entertain at our festive gatherings? Or will our seasonal madness crucify the rebel once again?
This year, like all the rest, my challenge is to live somewhere within the tension created by the rebel Jesus and the one his contemporary detractors condemned as a glutton and a drunkard; between choosing life and recognizing my culpability in the cries of the ones still waiting for us to join the rebellion.
Advent is a time of waiting in the darkness…if we dare…trusting that the light will come…knowing that the light needs reflectors in order to dispel the darkness! May your Advent be filled with the challenges of rebellion!
Preparing to preach on Reformation Sunday I found this sermon I preached a few years ago. Our readings that year included both John 8:31-36 and Luke 18:9-14
When my friend, (let’s call her Jane for the purposes of this sermon), when Jane was a baby she had a pale green receiving blanket. It was soft to the touch, with a two-inch band of satin around the edge. It kept Jane safe and warm and as she grew her fondness for that blanket grew. In time it became her very own security blanket and heaven help you if you were the one trying to settle her and you couldn’t find her blanket. As Jane learned to talk, for some reason that old green blanket earned the nick-name “Nuggie”. If Jane was upset or fussing, she would holler for her Nuggie and the entire household would scramble to find it. Jane dragged Nuggie everywhere she went and it often got very dirty. We learned very quickly to launder Nuggie long after Jane had settled down for the night. One of us would sneak into her room and gently ease Nuggie from her grasp and quickly toss it into the washing machine, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t wake until we retrieved it from the dryer and tucked it safely back in her crib. Jane was particularly fond rubbing the satin over her cheek and over the years the satin edge became worn and frayed. Whenever life wasn’t going her way, or she was not feeling well, or she was tired, or if she was frightened, Jane would scream, for her Nuggie. Only after her Nuggie was firmly in place and she had comforted herself with the soft satin, would order be restored.
Standing here, smack dab in the middle of a Reformation of epic proportions, it feels to me like someone is trying to steal my Nuggie. Semper Reformanda — Always Reforming. Change, change, change. Sometimes I just want the security of that old time religion. I want to feel the comfort, the security that I once felt in the church. All this reforming is wearing me out. I’m tired of thinking. I’m tired of reforming my ideas. I’m tired of learning new things. I’m tired of all the questioning. I’m tired of all the questions. I want some answers. Sometimes I just want that Mighty Fortress to keep me safe. Sometimes I just want that Almighty Father to say, “There, there dear it’s all going to be all right!”
I knew were I stood in the old days. I was a wicked sinner. Heck, I was in bondage to sin and could not free myself. But I knew that Jesus was willing to die for me and save me from all my sins. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that even though I was a sinner, I was a forgiven sinner, simule justus et pecator. By the grace of God, I was both saint and sinner. Justified by God’s amazing grace. Thanks to the redeeming blood of the Lamb of God who washes away all my sin. Jesus died for me. Jesus saved me. And Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus! I want my nuggie!
But in the words of dear old Martin Luther,“ Here I stand, for I can do no other.” Smack dab in the middle of a reformation, trying to follow Jesus. Jesus, who said that everything could be summed up in two commandments: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.” If only Jesus had left our minds out of the equation. If only we could switch off our minds and stop this constant quest for truth. But then Jesus did say, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” So, how can we keep from asking: “Free from what?” Continue reading →