Being Where Jesus Is
Sometimes we need to hear a message several times before it sinks in. Perhaps that is what was running through the minds of the group that produced the Revised Common Lectionary as they considered this Sunday’s readings. We hear the same message three times in four readings.
Consider also the flip side, to help keep ourselves honest: Those who trust in themselves and become the center of their own attention, and thereby turn away from trusting God, will suffer woe.
Blessed are those at the margins, Jesus tells us—and he urges us, and in particular the whole Church, to make those margins our home. Those who are comfortable so often believe in their own ability to put themselves in a position of comfort. Putting trust in God and God’s promises is hard—we tend to come up with work-arounds that in the end undermine and even blunt our sense of God’s presence with us.
The Beatitudes provide another broad brush-stroke in Jesus’s instruction about the priorities of God. Even before Jesus’s birth, in Luke’s Gospel, we hear revelation after revelation about God’s love for those that society might deem “losers:” the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the outcast, the notorious sinner. First there is the Magnificat, with its proclamation that God has filled the hungry with good things, while the rich God has sent away empty. Mary’s is a raised-fist shout of defiance repeated by her son thirty-some years later. We heard it again a few weeks ago, when Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Freedom, release, contentment, jubilee. These are the gifts God gives to those who allow themselves to trust in God, rather than trust in the working of the human will.
In the gospel passage for this Sunday, notice that Jesus addresses his remarks to the disciples–not necessarily to the crowd around him, but to those who will become the Church. Jesus has just finished calling the last of the disciples and is giving them their marching orders: If you want to live a godly life, deposit your hearts and souls into the love of God, into reflecting God’s kingdom values. Jesus, who just a few weeks ago reminded us that his ministry inaugurates the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in the world, now leads us to understand God’s love of those who are marginalized.
As the self-professed heirs of the apostles, Jesus is always with us in ministry. But I want to turn that around for us as well. To be the Church, to truly live a life of faith, we also must be where Jesus is.
Where Jesus is, there we must be also, if we are to actually be disciples, and not just fans (here’s my nod to the Super Bowl). And Jesus calls us out into the deep waters and into the margins. As we seek to witness to the life and vitality of the gospel in our hearts and in our parishes, Jesus calls us, right now, today, to cast our nets our wide in sometimes deep water, and do the hardest thing of all for modern people: to reflect God’s priorities, not our own, in all we do.
Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.