1 Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2
John 6:35. 41-51
Do people have a tendency to judge you?
Do you find yourself stuck in other people’s pigeonholes?
Do you ever wish you could just go far away
from the people who “knew you when”—
go someplace where nobody knows you and you could start over, fresh?
For many Americans, this is a fundamental part of the American dream: to be able to start over from scratch. Nevertheless, we also have the fundamental human longing to be loved and accepted by “our own”—
a longing which frequently disappoints us.
Jesus understands all this— he’s been there, done that,
got the bloody T-shirt.
Each of the four Gospels in our Bible tells how Jesus was disrespected and disbelieved when he went to minister in his hometown. We recently read the account of this, found in Mark 6:1-6, in worship. Even the gospel according to John, so different from the other three gospels in so many ways, includes this same basic story in chapter 6. John 6 begins with Jesus miraculously feeding the crowds... and yet they still disrespected and disbelieved him ! They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’ ?” (John 6:42)
Jesus was demonstrating to his neighbors that he is the eternal Bread of Life, the Manna from Heaven, but they still rejected him.
In our lesson this week from the Letter to the Ephesians, Christians are told, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. ... Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. ... Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-27, 29, 31-32)
Reading this reminded me of the remarkable article Mary Luti wrote, which was published yesterday as the StillSpeaking Daily Devotional.
[ subscribe ! http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional ]
Jesus showed himself again to his disciples by the sea [where they had gone fishing]. When they came ashore, they saw a charcoal fire, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” - John 21:1,9,12
Maybe you followed the recent story of twelve boys and a coach trapped in a cave. First it was a story about whether they'd be found. Then about whether they'd make it out. Then, thankfully, about heroic rescue, triumphant success.
But for me, it was first a story about tempting fate. About a failure of responsibility. Why did they go in there with monsoons looming? How could the coach have allowed it, much less led them in? If they died in that lightless underworld, Ekapol Chanthawong would be to blame.
One of the waiting mothers saw it differently: “If he didn't go with them, what would have happened to my child? My dear Ek, I could never blame you.” Then she added, “When he comes out, we have to heal his heart.”
When someone emerges from a cave (any cave— we trap ourselves in so many), awash in guilt, expecting reprisal, knowing they deserve reproach, you could pile on, rub their noses in their recklessness, strap shame to their back, make them carry it forever.
Especially if they were careless with you, betrayed you or left you to suffer alone, you could tell them they don't deserve you, that you don't love them now.
Or you could build a fire while they're still lost and ashamed. You could lay on fish and bread. And when they approach, aiming to kneel, wanting to own the damage and pain, you could tell them to wait until you feed them. You could say, “Come and have breakfast.”
You could make someone pay. Or you could heal their heart. And your own.
Prayer: Heal my heart, good Jesus. It defaults to blame. Make it all mercy. Like your own. Amen.
About the Author: Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.