First Lesson Hebrews 12:1-3
Children: John 6:1-14
November 1, 2015 – Holy Communion and All Saints Sunday
So I can pretty much imagine how it was. These twelve men had signed on with Jesus. At first it was just twelve men who were attracted to him for reasons they didn’t understand, and when he called them they had literally left everything to follow him. But they’ve been with him for a while now. They’ve traveled up and down the countryside with him, wherever he went, and amazing things are happening. Wherever they go with this man Jesus, crowds are following him – thousands of people. Miraculous things are happening. He is wildly popular and instead of twelve men following one man, this is becoming a movement. They’re beginning to have plans for this man Jesus and for themselves. They’re beginning to think that it might actually be true – what some people are saying all along – that he could actually overthrow the very powerful Roman governors. Those Governors who are controlling their country and charging them such high taxes. That are dragging them down into poverty. Those Romans who are charging them such high taxes that they are losing their farms and their homes and their businesses. Those Roman soldiers who are based in their country and who are harassing their women in the streets and making life hard for the men. They’re beginning to think that they could actually install their leader, Jesus, as King in their capital city, Jerusalem. With a royal crown on his head and sitting on a royal golden throne and wearing royal robes.
These guys are flying high. They’re inspired by the crowds around them, and three of them, at least, have just had a deeply spiritual experience up on the mountain with Jesus.They had actually seen his face change and his clothing become a brilliant white and they had heard with their own ears a voice from heaven – this is my beloved son.
So they are walking along the road and talking with each other. And they’re beginning to plan their own futures with Jesus after they install him as king. And I’m imagining that Peter is the first one to speak – he was always the first one to speak. And he says, “Well, it’s clear that I’ll be the Vice President when the time comes. You know I’m a man who gets things done. I’ll be right there beside Jesus, supporting him all the way. I’m the man for the Vice President’s job.” And Matthew is saying, “Well, I should surely be the Secretary of the Treasury because I’ve got all this good experience at collecting taxes. I do that very well.” But somebody else says, “Well, you’re very good at collecting taxes. No doubt about that, but you cheated people doing it.” And then Judas say, “But don’t forget, I’m the treasurer of our group – I’m the one who handles the money. Matthew worked for the Romans and he cheated the people. Who would ever trust him? It just makes sense that Jesus will choose me for the job of Secretary of the Treasury.”
And everybody knew without saying it that James and John, the two brothers, had the most money to contribute. They had left their fishing business, but their father and their employees were still handling things very well, and their mother was a very wealthy woman, and could well afford to be generous. Nobody had to say it. And Andrew says, “And don’t forget, I’m the one who found that kid with the tuna fish sandwich a few days ago. We didn’t have any money and we had all those thousands of hungry people to feed and far away from any grocery store, and I found the kid with the food.” And Philip says, “But of all of you, I’m the one who knows the Bible the best. I’m the Bible scholar around here. I should certainly have a very prominent position.” And James says, a little more quietly than all the others, perhaps. But James says, “But remember, Jesus choose me to go up the mountain with him and I had a spiritual experience so powerful there that I can’t even talk about it.” And after everybody else had had their say, John says, “Yes. But. Jesus loves me best.”
And Jesus catches wind of this conversation they’re having among themselves on the road and he asks them about it. And like naughty little boys, none of them says a word. So he looks at them and says to them, “Have you not heard a single word of what I just said?”
Did you not hear me say that I’m going to die? That I’m going to be betrayed and die and rise again? There’s going to be a crown in my future. But it’ll be a crown of thorns, and Roman soldiers are going to shove it down into my forehead until I bleed. And the only royal robe I’ll ever wear will be a purple rag that they’ll throw over my shoulders to mock me. And there aren’t going to be any important positions for any of you, either. And don’t even bother wondering who will be the Vice President and Secretary of the Treasury. Because you’ll die, too, and some of you will die horrible deaths.
Stop thinking so big, said Jesus. Don’t think big. Think little. Think very little. Look at this child and think little.
And if you want to talk about saints, Jesus would say. Don’t talk about the Secretary of the Treasury or Vice Presidents or kings, though they may be very good people. But don’t talk about high powered people in high powered places.
If Jesus were here today he would say, “If you want to talk about saints, think about a small church in a small community. And the power here. If you want to know about saints, think about six or seven people in a lively Bible study in the conference room of a church. Think about two or three or four children every week being surrounded by a church full of people who love them and teach them about Jesus. If you want to see saints, look at a congregation full of people buying underwear and sox and warm pajamas for children. Think about people putting toothbrushes and crayons and coloring books in Christmas boxes for children in all kinds of other places whom they have never seen and won’t, but whom they love anyway because they are children of God. If you want to think about saints, think about people writing out checks for peace here in this community and throughout the world. Think about two large barrels in a large room in that church and take a look at how quickly they fill up with food and how often that food needs to be emptied out and brought for people in their community who will eat it gratefully. Think about one dear woman who sits in her lazy boy chair in her nursing home and prays for the rest of us every single day. Think about a group of deacons who bring fruit and cheese and cookies for the others to eat. And while they are eating they laugh and share important stories and unimportant stories and get to know each other. Think about one friend bringing supper for another one, and sitting a bit to talk. If you want to talk about saints, think about a small congregation of about fifty people in one place offering their prayers to God in holy, mystical silence, and see and feel the power of those prayers. Hear that whole bunch of very simple people singing joyful songs, with maracas, even. Think about faithful, quiet people who are very generously supporting this church every week to make all that possible. Those are your saints, Jesus would say. Those are the people who are a part of the kingdom that I’m bringing.
And then take a good look, and see what it’s like in the Upside Down Kingdom of God where everything is the opposite of what you might think. Then see that little is really big, after all.
And then look at this table. With little cups of juice and small loaves of bread. And think of Jesus. Sit in this sanctuary in the quiet as the music is playing and remember Jesus. Think of his life and his love and his deeds and his death. Take a sip of this juice and feel his power in your life. Take a little hunk of bread in your hand and feel renewed for the work you do – in his kingdom that will never end.