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Rebel Jesus, Rebel Christian

Rebel Jesus, Rebel Christian – July 8, 2018
Pastor Jeri Viera Dahlke

P: The Holy Gospel according to Mark.
C: Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief.

P: The Gospel of the Lord.
C: Praise to you, O Christ.

The Christmas Eve sermon.
Lutheran Pastor, Peter Marty, preached one several years ago.
Days before, a mother was nearby weeping over her murdered little boy.
When the text for Christmas Eve was King Herod killing every child under two-­‐-­‐“evil knocking at the door even while Mary was inside trying to get the hang of the breastfeeding thing,” Pastor Marty made the connection between the two.
At the end of the service a woman greatly offended said talk of children being murdered had no place in a Christmas sermon.
“I will never set foot in this church again.”
And she didn’t.

Color within the lines.
Walk on paths, not the grass.
Don’t rock the boat.
Be a likeable, nice person.
Church on Sundays.
Isn’t this what Christians in the US do?

It is. The question is, is that what God wants for us?

And so we turn to the life and teachings of Jesus.

Was Jesus a likeable, nice person?
Jesus said, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” Here we learn that Jesus offended his family and the hometown folks.

This is the fourth rejection so far in Mark.
1) After calling the disciples, people said “he is out of his mind” and his family tried to restrain him.
2) Legal experts said he was from an evil force.
3) People across the lake pleaded with him to leave their region.

Jesus, from his birth to today, offends lots of different people. He is an equal opportunity offender!

This is not the portrait of a color within the lines, don’t rock the boat kind of person. But who wants that for you more than your family and friends? They don’t want us to stir things up as they don’t want to see us get hurt, they don’t want to change, and they might get in trouble, too. This limited thinking made it almost impossible for Jesus to do what he was called to do in his hometown.

What comes to mind when you hear someone is offensive? When you hear someone is a rebel? a resister?

In the Ezekiel passage, rebels are people who turn against God. In the beautifully written love song in Isaiah and in the Ezekiel text, God’s people chose to ignore God and God’s ways. The love song turns to lament because the nation betrayed God’s principles. There is bloodshed and the most vulnerable people are crushed instead of helped. They only produce unusable, stinky fruit. Here a rebel is someone who does very bad things.

My guess is, this wasn’t the kind of person or behavior that came to mind earlier. What did you picture? Addicts, people with tattoos, anarchists, people living in the extremes, those with purple hair, kids with hoodies—people we keep at arms length or farther if possible, even from the church?

The people in these texts were people just like you and me. People that mostly stayed in the lines, showed up for worship, didn’t rock the boat, likeable, nice people. They were the majority, the comfortable. Not only did they have disdain for those living on the margins, they did nothing to make their lives better and often made them worse. [CHANGE SLIDE] They had little or no regard for justice. They didn’t grasp that when we are right with God, we are right with all people. When we are not right with all people, we are not right with God.

The dictionary definition of a rebel is “a person who rises in opposition…usually against a government or a ruler.” Of course, being in opposition to God is a bad thing. Resisting God’s rule in our lives harms others and us. In Isaiah’s love song, God pulls back and let’s the consequences fall where they may. Though it sounds very bleak, it isn’t the final word, though. Later on we hear,

The mountains may shift, and the hills may be shaken, but my faithful love won’t shift from you,
and my covenant of peace won’t be shaken,
says God, the one who pities you.

Both God and Jesus dealt with rejection in today’s texts. We hear their disappointment. Yet, God ultimately chooses vulnerability and comes to walk among us as Jesus. That is the Christmas story. What does Jesus do after being rejected? He sends out the disciples to be vulnerable! God’s power isn’t used coercively or in one way. God’s power is used in such a relational and constructive way! And Jesus shows the disciples how to do the same thing!

If there is any time Christians today get really resistant to the Good News, it’s Christmastime. I include myself in that truth. Pastors often preach Christmas in July because the truth is we are more open to hearing it’s message when we are not in the throes of all the other stuff we put on Christmas.

One of the most gospel oriented Christmas songs that captures what happens to us at Christmas is “The Rebel Jesus,” by Jackson Browne. Here are some of his words…

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children…

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus.

Jesus is an equal opportunity offender and Jesus is an equal opportunity savior.
A milk toast, don’t rock the boat Jesus doesn’t save us.
A hypercritical, angry Jesus doesn’t save us.
A rebel Jesus does.

That’s what we have with Jesus—a resister, a rebel WITH a cause.

When culture and people say buy more, Jesus says choose life.
When culture and people say shame and stigmatize, Jesus says love.
When culture and people value rugged individualism, Jesus values community.
When culture and people say protect boundaries, Jesus crosses right over them.
When culture and people say be safe, Jesus says risk your life for others.
When culture and people offer trinkets as their help to the poor, Jesus says do something about why they are poor.

As 2000 years ago, Jesus’ words and actions challenge the status quo of the church, the government, the family, the individual and so much more. They are offensive. What happens when we continually avoid these messages? What happens when we walk out and only choose to hear the sweet songs and the sweet stories and have the sweet treats?

We produce unusable, stinky fruit! We bring more pain on others, and that pain ultimately comes to us. We are separated from others, ourselves and God.

When Christianity became the religion of the empire, the radical part, the rebel part got dropped. Luther and countless others throughout Christendom led the way in bringing back this central part of Christian life. For a lot of reasons, the church forgot about this part over the past several decades. When we listen to people who are living on the margins, we hear how we have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to their suffering. The prophets, including Jesus, show us the way forward, show us we are called to be rebel Christians and need to start exercising those unused muscles.

Wait a minute! If God and Jesus were rejected, we could be rejected! What do we do with that? In the text that follows today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells the disciples what to do. When the good news in action or deed is not welcomed, we are simply to go on to other people.

The invitation to be a rebel like Jesus is good news to teenagers! It fits their stage in life perfectly! What about the rest of us?

Does God want a comfortable widow to be a rebel Christian?

It happened here just a few weeks ago.
One of our members invited folks to her home so we could learn about and possibly support an empowering movement in Rwanda.

Does God want those on Facebook to be a rebel Christian?

there are folks that do it on a regular basis in various ways
share their faith and questions
open people’s eyes and call out government injustices

Whether it’s talking with family members, going to a protest, spending money differently, voting differently, researching issues, sponsoring forums, planting veggies, making friends with neighbors, going to places where we can meet people who are different from us, there are many ways to be rebel Christians today.

Color within the lines.
Walk on paths, not the grass.
Don’t rock the boat.
Be a likeable, nice person.
Church on Sundays.
Isn’t this what Christians in the US do?

It is. The question is, is that what God wants for us?
The answer is…no.

I invite you to spend a bit of time now, listening and talking with God about how you might be called to be a rebel Christian.

Marty, Peter. Christmas Unvarnished: A Savior for a Troubled World. Christian Century. Dec. 21, 2012


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