They were having a joyous celebration, but to the Joneses with a baby that couldn't sleep through explosions, it was annoying. It’s funny how one person’s celebration can be really annoying for someone else, especially if they don’t understand the reason for the party.
Jesus was making a habit of having celebrations with all of the wrong people. And in all three stories, Jesus was trying to explain the reason for celebration. He wanted everyone to know just how joyous the occasion was.
I was talking with a friend this week who is preparing for a cruise. On Saturday they’ll head to Texas, board a cruise ship and head out on a new adventure. But as she was telling me about her cruise, I couldn’t help but think about stories that always make the headlines, you know the ones, hundreds of people sick on a cruise ship. How would you be feeling if you had a ticket for the next voyage on that ship? Or what if you booked tickets to fly somewhere and then you saw on the news that the airline had a tragic plane crash. Would it make you a little unsettled about flying with them? When something like this happens, it makes you second guess where you’re going, right? You start to wonder if you should just stay home.
In our story today, Jesus is on a trip. He’s traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate a major holiday. It’s almost time for the Passover celebration, which is a huge Jewish festival where Jews from all over the world gather in Jerusalem.
Peter wants to stay right there, in that moment as long as he can. He wants to linger on the mountain with the figures God has sent to redeem Israel. He’s ready to pitch tents and settle in. Why not stay there, in that moment, on that mountain top forever? But, there’s more that has to take place before it can be all mountain tops. Peter had a taste of what’s to come, and he wants to stay, not realizing that there is so much more to come.
This week our family grew by the addition of yet another girl. The girls have been asking for a puppy for awhile, and every time we drove by a Petco, the chatter in the car would turn to puppies as they eyed the big red and blue logo on the side of the road. I always reminded them that we couldn't get a puppy until everyone was potty trained. That always seemed like a long ways out. But a few months ago, Harper was potty trained and they certainly didn't forget my words.
This week I heard the same story over and over again. It popped up in my Facebook Newsfeed between political rants and drama, and it was the narrative at the coffee shop and on the bleachers. I hear it quite a bit, but right now, in the thick of February, I hear it more frequently and I hear it with more desperation. Societal expectations are wearing you down. People expect a lot from you. Don’t they?
Jesus does not come to give us a list of new rules, instead he tells stories, he speaks in parables, setting up his teaching in such a way that there aren’t hard and fast, black and white, rigid lines. Instead, he tells us stories about how to have values, values that are rooted in love for God and love for people. And here we see, here we hear from the mouth of Jesus that more important than the law of Sabbath is the core value to save life. That’s at the heart of his mission, to love God and love others.
There’s a question that I guarantee all of us have asked at one point or another. It’s a question that either elicits great excitement or tremendous pain. It’s a question that philosophers and theologians have been asking for all of time. What is the meaning of life? What is the point of all of this?
In just 5 days, we will hear an inaugural address from the 45th president of the United States of America. Jesus also gave an inaugural address, but just before he did, he encountered Satan in the wilderness. Satan attempted to get Jesus to accomplish his mission with security, popularity, and power. Instead, we see a very different mission outlined in Jesus' address.
My mom likes to tell me a story about a cold November night when her and my dad threw on their tennis shoes, bundled up in their coats and walked four miles. After the walk, they changed into their pajamas and played Yahtzee. They filled up an entire score card that night, crawling into bed well after midnight. The next morning she woke up in labor and I was born just before lunch.
This week we put our hope in political candidate. As a pastor, I spend a lot of time listening. I have listened and I have learned from those who find themselves afraid and in deep pain. And I have listened and leaned from those who found a reason to celebrate because they have been heard. I have listened to friends and family and colleagues and mentors on both sides of the aisle. And I’ve watched the distance between the two sides grow impossibly wide and the desire to understand the other all but disappear. This week we put our hope in a political candidate. This wasn’t the first time we’ve done this.
Regardless whether or not people are free, most people don’t feel free. We don’t feel it. We live in fear that our freedom is threatened, that we are threatened, that our way of life is threatened. It’s important to note here, we won’t be talking about American freedom today, but our cultural understanding of freedom heavily influences our Biblical understanding of freedom, and we need to be acutely aware of that.
The Israelites had a pattern of “sin, judgement, repentance and rescue.” Over and over again. They wandered away from, they ended up oppressed under a foreign ruler, and then they would repent and God would rescue them, and then they’d fall right back into the same pattern as before.
Last Sunday was supposed to be a day of celebration for our community. We received a piano in memory of a member, and it would have been her 100th birthday. Her entire family came for the celebration, and I had the service all planned. I wrote the sermon early in the week. The cake was ordered. The decorations were hung.
And then two black men were killed by police officers.
And then five police officers were killed.
God isn’t confined to a geographical place. God is the creator of the world. God is everywhere. God is even where you are. And God is pursuing you, wherever you’ve wandered, and drawing you back. God is working to reconcile you. God is moving you towards his plan.
When I walk through my grandma’s front door, I take an inhale and the smell immediately triggers a flood of memories. I see the blocks I played with as a child on the coffee table, my grandpa’s guitar waiting to be played in the corner, and the family table where I've spent nearly every holiday and special occasion for thirty years. I'm conditioned to look for those things.