“Must be fulfilled” let us pray….. Rev. Stuart Buisch
It is easy to think all we ever talk about is the virus. As each day unfolds the sense of ‘snow day’- not needing to go to work or even get something done has shifted to needing to get more done because there is no clear date when things will return to familiar or if they will return.
It is most curious how our situation seems to disclose the post -resurrection story of Jesus. Every church year, several weeks after Easter Sunday (which for some people didn’t happen this year – no building, no celebration, almost no eggs) is Eastertide in the church. But usually Easter is the beginning of the end – sports start up, families get busy, school is starting to wrap up for the year and worship attendance diminishes. Who knows this year what worship attendance looks like? Check out the early days after the resurrection.
Confusion, uncertainty, incredible drop off of numbers because Jesus isn’t running around teaching and doing miracles. There are no numbers to count. Except Jesus does, rather unnervingly keep showing up. And in addition to being a ready hand with carpenter tools, excellent with miracles, dazzling with teaching – especially parables, now we see how good a reader of the Hebrew Bible he was. However, his reading is not simply rote knowledge, he seems to understand and interpret it for those still baffled that the dead one is talking, eating and exposing scripture truths in their ears.
For a significant part of three years Jesus from Nazareth kept telling his band of disciples that he would die and rise again. Now as I read and reflect on that I must admit I would be scrambling to understand the metaphor, reality, or implication of those words.
Now with resurrection behind him, Jesus saying the same things seems profoundly different. He eats, talks, goes through doors – not doorways, appears – I only have Star Trek to help my imagination with that. But his words are the same and he starts with the Torah, goes to the Prophets and then the Psalms. He includes the regular readings of a devout Jew (most of the early followers would be familiar with these texts.) The prophets were the corrective to those literalists who were great at litigating but not so generous with liberating their people. Then the Psalms – the prayer book of a people – not just men, anyone could pray, sing, and live the Psalms. All the feelings of people: love, fear, hate, acceptance, etc.; captured in prayers, poetry and song to accompany a people with everyday living. “Great peace have they that love thy love and nothing will offend” 119: 165 -psalm words that cut to the core of our being.
Jesus is exposing all of these. What did the disciples hear? What do we hear? Yawn Yawn. Some would say, “I have heard it all before. I know the Bible. I’m right and you are wrong. That’s what I hear from Genesis to Malachi. If you are not with us, you can/should die and get out of our way.”
Pharisees and Sadducees are pretty good at these distinctions. Christians today were able to access these distinctions from our religious forebearers. If you don’t read all of the text in Luke you can buy into that thinking pretty easily. Jesus will suffer and die and rise on the third day.
But the text doesn’t stop there, “and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
This situation that Jesus has lived out in front of the Jewish world of his day was not confined to that period in history. But if our interest is academic: “I know the Bible; I have all the words in my mind; I follow the ten commandments;” All in the head but where is our heart? Can we preach to all nations if that change is not continuing to unfold in our hearts?
The health of our nation and people may have some a faith connection. No this is not permission to judge those who struggle with health but rather it calls us to open our bodies and souls to God’s reconciling work. Open our souls to trusting God with those who are ill, watching and praying with them because each of us is the beloved of God. Being diagnosed with something is not proof of anything but it is a clarion call for the people of God to befriend all those whom God loves and lives with and sit with them, minister to them, give water to them, hold their hand -even if we need to be gloved to not spread any illness.
Jesus spoke to his disciples, before the resurrection and after because the words in scripture must be fulfilled in each generation. Words of life need to be said and lived in each corner of every community. Instead of obsessing about our own safety can we focus on being minsters to those who continue to be essential, making sure they have what they need to do their work safely? Will we recognize that too many people with poor healthcare and challenged economic situations have fallen victim to an illness that those not in similar situations see generally from a safe distance.
The words of Genesis to Deuteronomy, the Prophets and Psalms call us to live lives of faith. To have changing unfolding hearts always returning to God for grace, love and compassion. We must live this way not simply because these words were meant to be fulfilled but because in the fulfillment of them is found life now and life everlasting. Amen.
Lord, be gracious to all those this day who are ill, alone and afraid…
Mighty One, grant strength to those who are at the end of their capacity, give hope…
Forgiving God, pour that grace into us, through us, and around us as a contagion of peace…