I am sure many of you watched the first State of the Union address by President Obama. He shared with the listeners what went right and what went wrong. Sometimes even to raise the eye brows of the Supreme Court judges. But still it was a political rhetoric. Here is another State of the Human World address by Jesus Christ. He is raising issues that are causing irks amongst His listeners. Rubbing the fur in the wrong way is what some who listened to Jesus said.
From today’s story we can conclude that Jesus did not seem to know, unlike the president, the rules of the game in politics. He aimed at liberals and conservatives, scribes and Pharisees, democrats and republicans, socialists and capitalists. No one was spared for their failure to see the truth.
Jesus was no stranger to them. Everyone knew who this man was. Jesus was their homecoming king. Why; because he was born and brought among them in Nazareth and returned as great teacher. Reading this story I was reminded of my visit to Arkansas Tech University a few months ago. Dr. Brown showed me the enlarged photos of our past home coming queens. What a wonderful thing to see men and women who have achieved greatness in our midst. People from our midst grow up to be great men and women, glamorous and glorious at times and they are honored for their achievement.
Then I remind myself of the fact that all great men and women were born to young and passionate parents, may be in the midst of some foolishness of life. But they have made it through rough times. They have journeyed through the ruffled waters of life to get to the steady stream of success. Then we wonder about this man or woman as who is he or she by the way? Didn’t he grow up amongst us? Was he not that young man sometimes acted foolishly, talked childishly and was just like one of us?
Yes that is what Jesus is going through. He is the homecoming king here. He had his glorious hours of ministry as we hear the first part of the story. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Then the tide changed. He had to grow up and move away from glamour to genuineness to greatness.
Last day as I watched a documentary on the Enron scandal and all that happened behind it I realized that we all have the potential to grow into greatness or glamorousness. Everybody loved the CEO and CFO of the company because they projected a glamorous and glorious days ahead without the substance of reality and truth. They lived a secret untruthful life that lead to the failure of a system and the destruction of thousands of families’ future. They were indestructible in a destructible world.
This is where the message of Christ becomes powerful. Christ calls us to recognize that none of us are of a different breed in a world of failure. We have all failed and we have all gone through roads that are sometimes rocky and rough but many times dirty. None of us is too different from the other around us. We may look different with the clothes we wear and the make we put on.
God is not looking for beautiful faces or well dressed people. God was looking for Naman the Syrian who was infested with leprosy and rejection. God was in search of those who needed a God and those who knew within them that they cannot make it on their own. God is looking for man in need of God.
God was looking for those around the world who sometimes do not look or act like us. This was the experience of the people of Israel. But hard for us to believe, understand and accept.
Christ is challenging the people of Israel in their own comfort zone of their idea of God and God’s mercy. Christ challenges the people of Israel and yanks them out of their seats by telling them that God can take the kingdom to those whom he chooses to enter in and they may not look perfect like they think they are.
Barbara Brown Taylor says, “We don’t like being told that our enemies are God’s friends. No matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to get God to respect our boundaries. God keeps plowing right through them, inviting us to follow or get out of the way.” (Taylor’s sermon, “The Company of Strangers,” is in Home by Another Way).
When we hear the truth we have to train ourselves to applaud and welcome. When we meet human beings we should rise on our feet and welcome them.
It is in truthful living in the midst of untruthfulness that makes a homecoming man or woman a king or a queen. It is our ability to applaud and welcome truth that makes a disciple and a follower of Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters, we have all come on different ships to where we are today. But what makes us one in Christ is our willingness to explore the journey we take together as one family. We are clay pots holding great truths and depth of God within us, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We may have come in different ships. But we are all in the same boat”. We could be broken at any moment and there will be clay pots to follow us. None of us is indispensible. God can and will continue beyond us.
Let us remind ourselves of one thing. God has set His Gold in clay pots. The one who gets it, the one who knows that he is destructible and small, he or she lives a truthful life and the one who does not get it, lives a lie.
It is the truth about ourselves that makes us free. But it is the truth about God, a God who is free without boundaries that makes us fully human. But living the truth of God is what makes us kings and queens in the eyes of God.
(C) Fr. Jos Tharakan
Sermon given on Sunday January 31st, 2010 at All Saints Episcopal Church, Russellville, AR.