I'm not going to begin by speaking of slicing off body parts
and why Jesus uses such strong language to caution his followers
who are so ready to exclude good people
from the community of disciples --
except to caution you not to try those things at home!
Let’s look at some of the other imagery in these scriptures
which may, at first glance, seem removed from our experience
but which, on closer inspection, may be right up to date.
Consider these images:
- a vision of God appearing in the clouds
- the spirit of Moses anointing a group of elders
- someone driving demons out of the possessed.
Some of the most difficult questions I deal with as a pastor
are precisely the questions these images raise.
As people speak to me of their struggles with the Church
and making choices and decisions,
their underlying questions are these:
- Whose vision of God is the true vision
and who’s to judge what is true and what is false?
- Who is anointed to announce the truth?
- Is there a common, shared truth
or is every individual a prophet of his or her own truth?
- And the business of driving out demons?
What does this mean in an age where one and the same spirit
might be considered a demon by some, an angel by others?
A culture in which the same reality
is understood by some to be a blessing
and by others to be a curse?
Questions like these rise up in our struggles as a Church
just as they do in the social and political struggles of our nation.
Not unlike Joshua in the first reading and John in the gospel,
we are inclined to be jealous and defensive
of our own notions of truth and authority
and dismissive of any who appear to rival or threaten us.
That happens in politics and in religion;
in our church and in our parish;
in our marriages and homes and families;
in our neighborhoods and schools and where we work;
- and even within ourselves.
So, some more questions:
- How is God present in our lives
and who is anointed to speak for God?
- What is true and what is false in the choices and decisions we make?
- What spirits tempt and guide us?
Where are today’s demons and where are today’s angels?
- How are we to know a blessing from a curse
if we’re unsure of what’s right and wrong?
These aren’t easy questions
and most of us will not be easily satisfied by simple answers.
Finding the right answers will demand a certain humility on our part:
a recognition that each of us is not a font of truth and wisdom.
The search for truth has its starting point in our relationship with God
and in our trust that God’s Spirit will waken us to wisdom
and invite us to see and understand our lives through it.
If we begin by acknowledging
that God’s truth is deeper and more reliable than our own,
then we will be better prepared to discern
true from false, demon from angel, blessing from curse.
Any other path will likely lead and leave me to my own devices
and the chaos bound to ensue when my pride and jealousy
limit my vision to my own logic and imagination.
The search for truth begins right where I am
and at the moment I ask:
- What is my vision of God?
And how does my vision of God shape my heart,
my marriage, my family, my work, my faith?
- What are the truths by which I live?
How do I test the depth and strength of what I claim to be true?
What wisdom greater than my own
do I invite to critique my own ideas of what is true?
- What demons and angels compete for my attention?
my time, my energy? my imagination?
Which spirits lead me closer to God
and which spirits lead me away from God?
- Of blessings and curses we all know many.
Are what I name as curses sometimes blessings in disguise?
And what I name as blessings -
might they sometimes be stumbling blocks along my path?
So many questions – and I have no easy answers.
But there is an ever-increasing need for us to ask the questions
– and to work on answering them honestly
until we have arrived at the truth that truly sets us free.
It is so important, then, that every week
we gather here to open our hearts to the Lord’s Word
to the spirit of his truth,
and the blessing of his presence in our prayer
and especially in the sacrament of the this altar.
May Jesus who remained faithful to the truth of God’s love
through death into life
guide us on our search for God’s truth
and give us the blessings promised us in that search.
Posted by Concord Pastor at 1:14 PM