Jac Essing -July 5, 2020

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Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Who is this Jesus guy, anyways?

May the Words of My Mouth. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

I’m sitting in a room with about 7 individuals, including the bishop.

All eyes are on me, waiting for a reply.

Moments before someone asked who is Jesus to you?

Various responses flood my brain in the few seconds before I open my mouth to respond.

I know I should not say “Jesus is my boyfriend,” but beyond that I am a bit stumped.

I see the ups and downs of each option.

I weigh the potential answers, knowing each to be mostly true yet none capturing the full scope.

Though the experience of this particular context is left mostly for those seeking ordination, it is important for each Christian to contend and wrestle with to figure out what relationship they have to Jesus.

So, who is Jesus to you? Perhaps Jesus is your friend, savior, boyfriend,
revolutionary socialist, or some combination.

Have you considered whether he is someone you worship or someone you follow?  And how does Jesus, being the manifestation of God in human form, change your faith?  How does it transform you and your experience of and in the world?  If these are overwhelming questions for you, fret not.

It’s good to be challenged and luckily you’re in community,  even when it’s virtual, to process them. Today’s gospel reading creates an entry point for us to explore these questions.

First, we hear Jesus’s social commentary and curiosity regarding this generation.  This role of Jesus is somewhat familiar to us; his use of parables and references back to previous prophets. Jesus is constantly inviting us into critical thinking practices,  challenging us to reflect on if what we’re doing is truly sustainable and  asking if it is in alignment with our faith and values.

In it, he reminds us that just because others might be acting selfishly or inconsiderately,  we are not excused to do the same.  It’s like Jesus is acting as the friend who holds us accountable to being our best selves,

not letting us sweep things under the rug because it’s more convenient and comfortable.

We see and relate to Jesus as he provides us with moral advice,

reminding us that our actions have long-term consequences and signifies our values.  Jesus is the type of friend who prioritizes truth-telling, holding up a mirror and saying is this what you want to continue to be and do.

Each of us is asked this by the companion of Jesus who loves us unconditionally,  making all of us squirm a little bit because it doesn’t just influence our spiritual life.  It shapes our personal and professional ones.

It requires each of us to think about how we’ve been in relationship with others, our world, and ourselves.

In a way, the next part of the passage asks us what type of friend we are to Jesus.

Are we one who scoffs at the counter-cultural radical?

One who ignores the mourning and balks at the thought of spending time with outcasts?

Jesus indicates that we have to be willing to sacrifice the comforts and certainties of this world for one that will lead to better things, that we can foolishly be swept up with earthly matters.

This means that we are subject not only to earthly concerns but also earthly solutions.

We might find it easier to be silent towards racist comments or policies,

it could be more convenient to slip on precautions in regards to covid-19;

we look to justify these with excuses such as “it’s difficult” or “it’s not that big of a deal” or “but it’s the holiday weekend, can’t we ignore some of this.”

Yet we have to ask ourselves if our actions, beliefs, and policies are truly building the best community with Jesus and others.

Jesus acts as our savior and redeemer as he encourages us to move past the norms of ordinary life that excludes, exploits, and oppresses those that are different.

Our response to the invitation is our own responsibility.

So how are we a friend back to Jesus?

We could be indifferent, seeming to not care about it.

We could act with justification and defensiveness to our way of life.

Or we could try and live into the relationship with Jesus.

Even in that affirmation though, we find nuances.

Are we worshiping and idolizing Jesus?

Meaning are we seeing him as someone to admire but not trying to emulate.  Seeing him as someone that is untouchable and impossible to replicate in beliefs and actions.  Or do we see him as a God incarnate, showing us the possibility of a world and life anew? Do we recognize that his humanity was an example for us, so that we could picture ourselves with his way of life?

That’s the third part of this scripture.

Jesus mentions how through him we can know of God.

Jesus is the way; we can be transformed.

The world is transformed through God’s human embodiment of Jesus.

This signifies the glory and capacity of God –

something to be awe-struck and inspired by,

something to draw strength from as we remember we too are beloved children of God,  tasked with the vision of love, liberation, and justice.

Through Jesus, God is further revealed to us.

We have the veil of the world lifted away  and we can see as well as participate in the possibilities that Jesus presents of a world transformed and redeemed.

Readers hear in this passage about wisdom being vindicated and things being hidden and revealed.

There are shifts of who knows of God and of the Son of Man.

Again, the world we know is turned upside down by this revolutionary.

It’s exhilarating, and disorienting, and somewhat exhausting to have life transformed.

The gospel concludes with a well-known verse.  “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus can be a place of refuge for us, holding space to breathe and remember that while it is difficult to transform that we are not in it alone, that we can still be gentle and loved.

We can share our burdens with Jesus since we can trust that he holds our sorrows in real ways because of his incarnation.  He lived the experiences of turmoil and what it means to be mortal.  Jesus can be a place to rest in our heartbreak, distress, and exhaustion because he felt it, too. In this, we can relate to Jesus as one who comforts, sustains, and provides rest.

Aren’t we lucky? Lucky to be in a dynamic relationship with the dynamic Jesus.

Perhaps one of these seems to be spot on for you and your conception.

Or maybe you haven’t given it much thought.

Yet isn’t even having the choice of that glorious?

We are each constantly invited into broader and deeper relationships.

It will never be complete and simple.  Jesus is complex, serving as savior, revolutionary, Son of God, rest.  So our relationship to and with him will be complex.

This could be the 50th anniversary of your baptism or your first service –

each offers an infinite well of love and inspiration to draw from and build upon.

Who Jesus is to you and what you make of that relationship necessitates your own presence.

One cannot expect it to be life-giving if life, love, and labor aren’t put into it.

Blessed are we that this invitation to a mutual, expansive relationship has no expiration date.

Let’s remember – Christinaity has been around for how many years and is still finding new ways to transform individuals, communities, and structures.

That’s because each of us, clergy or lay, young or old, cradle-episcopalian or one dipping our feet into the waters of Christianity, are called to reflect on and build a world with a foundation on justice.

And this will take time as our world shifts and as we discover how Jesus would respond to it.

So questions of who Jesus is and how he transforms our lives are not going to get stale or dull anytime soon.

It will take re-orienting ourselves to it, over and over again.

If anything, it could be a quite demanding journey.

Similar to our commitment to public health in taking precautionary measures against COVID-19 or our continuous struggle with racism and fighting for justice,  the long-haul dedications require our mental, emotional, and spiritual presence.

We are not free from these duties just because it can be taxing.

Yet we know that it is worthwhile for ourselves, our communities and the world.

We can rededicate ourselves to the relationship with Jesus and the vision of liberation and justice that he sought as a savior, redeemer, and revolutionary.

We can draw strength from his truth-telling, find rest in his holding space for humanity, and reminders of transformation and possibility in his incarnation and resurrection.

May we each take time this week to see these movements happening in our own life and act upon them.

So again, I ask who is Jesus to you

As for me, I settled with a half-joke, half-truth.

Jesus is my episco-pal, I say as I explain how the pun doesn’t actually capture what I mean.

I describe the changes in my conception of and relationship with Jesus over time. How he continues to surprise me, and how I continue to surprise myself with new understandings.

I note to the group that I think this answer will constantly change for me as it reflects the infinite expanse and potential of Jesus.

And again, I say how lucky are we to have a dynamic relationship with a dynamic Jesus.

Amen.

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