May 17, 2023
I was browsing the book table at BJ’s
the other day, looking for crossword puzzles for an upcoming trip, when I
noticed another new title in the devotional series by author Sarah Young (Jesus
Calling, Jesus Always, and many others).
This made me smile. The author is
prolific and certainly very well intentioned. But do we really need a series of
books telling us what Jesus might have said, when we have the Bible at our
right hand telling us exactly what Jesus did say, on the authority of people
who knew him or knew someone who knew him? None of the New Testament writers
are more than one degree of separation away from Jesus himself. And if you
can’t find in this collection of Jesus’ own sayings what you need, go to the
prayerbook he himself always used – the Book of Psalms.
But, okay – if we are imagining how Jesus could have
addressed us, how might it really go if we happened to pick up the heavenly
hotline when we heard Jesus calling?
Given today’s world, I’m betting it would be less of a stream
of consolation and more of a heated rebuke, along the lines of how Jesus addressed
the local religious leaders: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
(Matthew 23, repeated six times), or the sentence he handed down to the “goats”
among his own disciples: “You that are accursed, depart from me into the
eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matthew 25).
If we are to hear this at all, we must hear it directed at
Is it not our sacred obligation as followers of Christ to
be proclaiming the kingdom of God wherever and whenever we can, particularly as
the world seems to be going in the wrong direction and time is getting short? And
yet is it not true that most of the time we behave exactly like scribes and Pharisees
and goat-ish disciples? We say we are people of faith. We vow to worship only
the one true God. But then in the next breath we go our own way and satisfy our
own desires, forgetting all about Jesus until we plop down in the pew on Sunday
or only when some calamity hits us over the head and we remember that Jesus is
there for us. Until then we bluster our way forward, forsaking our friends, making
new enemies, and living only for today.
I think I’d rather buy a book called “Hard Words from
Jesus.” Or maybe I’d like to write it. Darn, I just did an internet search and someone
has already held forth on the topic, starting with the decent observation that
“Jesus is not a fluffy bunny.” Still, maybe there’s more to be said.
What we can be sure of is that Jesus would not leave us
with those hard words. Remember the soaring conclusion in Matthew, after all
that calling out in the preceding chapters? “And lo, I am with you always, even
to the end of the age.”
A recent article recapping the pandemic noted that, where the
last three years might have brought us together as a nation the way natural
disasters usually do, instead we are now more deeply divided than ever. This
division must not get the better of us. Let’s let Jesus not only call us but
call us out, so that we can see clearly what is really happening and then,
together, begin the work of healing that will bring in the kingdom of
May the peace of Christ be with you always!
– Pastor Raabe