...Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to live in the year 30 and walk and talk with Jesus around Galilee? To break bread in Nazareth and hear Jesus’ parables and gather in the Upper Room for Passover in Jerusalem?
Most of us would jump at the chance, right?! We’re doing our best to journey with Jesus today, but wouldn’t it be better, wouldn’t it be more satisfying, wouldn’t it be easier, to journey with Jesus if we were fishing with him like James and John? If we were sitting at his feet like Mary? If we had him over for lunch like Zacchaeus?
It must have been so much easier to follow Jesus in the flesh, the first time around, going about Galilee as a group like the 12. Better! More satisfying! Easier!
Maybe. Maybe easier. But not easy.
What do we know about the disciples, about Jesus’ friends and followers? Tax collectors, zealots, fishing folk. Struggling, striving, ordinary people – people making mistakes, people trying again, people seeking abundant life. They walked and talked and ate with Jesus. They traveled healing, preaching, feeding, with Jesus.
They learned. They grew. And still. They kept making mistakes.
We heard about a few of them through our dramas this morning. Simon, struggling with anger, Andrew, struggling with mediocrity, Matthew, struggling with doubt, and Peter! Peter is the rock upon Jesus says he will build his church, Peter gets out of the boat to walk on water and he sinks like a rock! Peter denies Jesus three times! And what about Judas?! Judas walked with Jesus and they shared the first communion, the first feetwashing. Judas was a disciple. Journeying with Jesus in year 30 – well, maybe it was easier, maybe it wasn’t, but we know it wasn’t easy.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them,” says Jesus. And that is just one of the ways he lives, just one of the ways Jesus lives, just one way that he is resurrected. When we gather in Jesus’ name he lives.
Jesus doesn’t say, “where two or three gather in perfection in my name, there I am among them.” Jesus doesn’t say, “where two or three gather and have it all figured out, then I show up.”
Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber says “Where two or three screw-ups are gathered” Jesus is among us. Praise God. In the upper room, Jesus broke bread and knelt in service, and poured himself out in love, for Peter, who would deny him. For Thomas, who would doubt him. For Judas, who would betray him. Where two or three screw-ups gather, in year 30, in 2016, Jesus lives among us.
And we live, too. We come to life, we resurrect, with Jesus. You’ve heard it said, “Save your life, you’ll lose it. Lose your life, you’ll find it.” You’ve heard it said, “Those who love their lives in this world will lose them.”
We come to life when we stop trying to save ourselves, when we stop trying to perfect ourselves, when we stop trying to control our righteousness. We come to life when we let go and let God work in our lives.
The disciples and all of Jesus friends and followers lived in a world as scary and unjust and cruel as ours is today. They wanted to love like Jesus, by serving others and witnessing for peace, but they couldn’t do it all the time, they couldn’t do it perfectly, they were living in a corrupt culture with an oppressive empire. I think some of today’s politicians are scary, but woah, in year 30 there were terrible leaders too. The disciples got to walk and talk with Jesus, but still lived in a messy world.
We know what that’s like. We know how it feels to find peace in our heart, in our faith, in our prayers, and then in the very next moment, find ourselves in a pit of despair, or a well of grief, or a storm of anger. We’re always dancing between our faith and our fear. We journey with Jesus, but it doesn’t mean life is suddenly simple, in fact, life is often harder when we choose to walk with compassion, with conviction, with commitments.
We’re not called to an easy life. You’ve heard it said, “Save your life, you’ll lose it. Lose your life, you’ll find it.” You’ve heard it said, “Those who love their lives in this world will lose them.”
So some days our lives are harder, because we’ve chosen to journey with Jesus. But not harder in the long run. It’s like the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness we find in the moment, joy we cultivate in the long run. Happiness can be fleeting, joy has staying power. Happiness might be shallow, but joy runs deep.
When we orient ourselves towards the next happy moment, we’re loving our lives in this world, and we’re losing them. When we’re trying to save our own lives, we’re losing them. When we try to fix our problems – with drugs, alcohol, sugar, candy crush, gossiping, sexual thrills, control, self-righteousness – we make our problems bigger. These are idols, and they will never love us back.
If our solutions aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit, they make our problems bigger. If our solutions don’t pour us out into this world in service, in love, as Jesus asks us to do, we’re losing our lives....