31 august, 2014
Get Up! Stand Up!
(Scene 1: The Prophet’s Cry)
O, Eternal One – you know the anguish I am facing. Remember me. Do not ignore me. Pay attention to my pain. The are the words that the Prophet Jeremiah is screaming to God. Often called the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, is, in my opinion the most real of the prophets. He feels an unrelenting call to be the voice of God; the voice of Justice and at the same time seems to get none of the pleasure a being a divine voice should give.
He is ignored. Mocked. Beaten. Left for dead. Called a false prophet by others in the King’s court. The words of is mouth, though scripture say they shatter rock, seem to be feathers lobbed at a brick wall. He did not want this job. He tried his best to ignore it…to give excuses. But the words of God burned in him. He was told by the Eternal One that he was made for this time. That he was knit together in his mother’s womb to be God’s voice.
Eventually he took the word of the LORD and consumed it. Devoured God’s word and was filled with the joy and exuberance of a new convert. He had a fire burning in his soul to do something. Anything. “When I discovered your Words,” he says, “I ate them up. There were my great joy and my heart’s delight.” Many of us understand that feeling. That just back from church camp feeling. That just home from holiday. That worship service that cause us to walk just a little bit faster. Made our heart heat a little quicker. That filled with the Sprit kind of feeling.
The prophet took that exuberance – that joy, and began to do God’s work. He began to proclaim to the King and his mother, “Come down from your thrones, and take a seat in a humble place, for your crowns will be taken from you….there will be no city gates open to you. You and your people, Judah, will be taken into exile….for you have forgotten the Eternal One and trusted the lies of another. Therefore, I, the Lord, will strip you naked and everyone will see your shame. They will see how you have cheated on me with another.” (from Jer. 13)
Filled with the fire and the courage of one filled with the word of the Lord, the prophet stood in the face of the powerful and named the ways they cheated on the Lord. The prophet, strong and mighty, stood boldly in the face of power. Only to be laughed at. Only to be mocked…ridiculed…again and again. His work never seemed to bear fruit. Instead of repenting the King and the people of Judah, continued to ignore the Word of the LORD.
A dark cloud began to cover the prophet of the Lord. “Why aren’t things going the way I want them to? Why can’t the hear what I am telling them? Why won’t they come to church with me and repent? Why do they mock me? Why do they call me crazy? Don’t they know they better turn around or your wrath, o God, will turn on them?” He began to doubt his mission. He had been doing everything right. He had said the right word. He kept himself away from troublemaker. He isolated himself. He began to develop a superiority complex. He began to think it was all about him.
Self-pity began to replace the powerful word of the Lord. Self-loathing lit the path. This is about me – I am the one who is obeying you, the prophet, thought, why have you abandoned me like water from a thirsty man?
(Scene 2: Our cry)
Why have you abandoned us like water from a thirsty people?
We see it all around us. The liars and tricksters are the ones who are gaining in the world. We point fingers at “those people” are taking our hard earned dollars and wasting them on pop and chips. We have done what we were told to do. Work hard. Do right. Preach about getting to heaven. We have done it all, so why won’t people listen to us? Why won’t they get it? We go to church. We go to bible study. We faithfully give our tithes and offerings. We keep ourselves away from “those kinds of people.” So, why don’t we see results? Ahh…it doesn’t matter. We are going to heaven, so it doesn’t matter. Let the world go to pot. It’s time to give up.
I am sure this has been the thought process for many of us. I know I have thought this from time to time. If we are honest with ourselves, we probably think like this more than we care to admit.
Most of us here have experienced being filled with God’s Spirit. We talked about it on Wednesday in Bible Study. Those moments of pure joy. Pure exhilaration. Those times when we are “on fire for Christ,” and ready to conquer the world. We have been so filled with the Word of God that nothing will stop us. Like Peter when asked who Jesus is, we reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” We are blessed by being able to see Jesus for who he is. We are filled with Holy Fire. We are the bedrock of the church.
I can’t tell you how many times I came back from church camp or youth conference so filled with fire that I was practically bouncing off the walls. I would blast my Petra in the car, I would scream with Stryper. I was not afraid to wear the t-shirt that told the world I belonged to God’s Gym. The fire burned in my belly to tell the world about God.
I would gather at the flag pole praying for the school and the city. I would try to invite my friends to hear Christian Comedians, I wanted to save souls. I became a defender of God. I tried to protect God. When people would laugh, I would tell them they were making a mistake.Eventually it became hard. People started to mock me and make fun of me.And now, I was again like Peter telling Jesus what to do. It became about me. About how I felt. It became about making sure I was following all the rules. That I was isolating myself. I began to be weighed down with guilt. The fire began to go out.
I thought I had done everything right. But years later, I realized the fire that was burning in me was the fire of one who, yes, had devoured the word of the Lord, but I ate it so fast that I could not enjoy the taste of it. I was so hungry for something, that I thought it was all about me being fed and I hoarded it. I blocked the nutritional benefits by not letting them soak in. I sat like the weeping prophet longing for something that was missing.
When everything around us is churning in the chaos of the primordial sea, it is natural for us to seek shelter. To seek safety from the storm. We pray as the prophet did, as I did. We are doing everything right, aren’t we? Why are we suffering so? We have had the fire. We have devoured Your Word? We have screamed our belief from the mountain tops, and they all just laugh at us and mock up. They ignore our pleas. Why have you left us thirst?
(Scene 3: God’s response to the Prophet)
While he is shrouding himself in self-pity, the Lord speak to the prophet saying, “Are you done? Take your time, but when you are, turn around and look at me. Look at me. Taste the words. Let them nourish you. I will restore you. But hear them for what they are. Not words of piety to should screamed at people. Not words of superiority. Not words of your self-righteousness, but of my righteousness. Of my truth. Of my justice. Of my judgment. Of my redemption. Stop making them about you.
Get up. Stand up. If you speak my words instead of what yo think my words are, You will be speaking for me. Let the people come. Let them try to hurt you. Let them laugh. Let them mock you. When you speak my words…MY WORDS of justice, transformation, and redemption, when you speak my words, I will make you like a wall of bronze. Yeah, the words will hurt, but it won’t matter – they will not win. These are my words. Get up. Stand up. I will rescue you.”
In the middle of his self-pity, the word of the Lord comes to him and calls him out of himself and into the world that laughs at him and mocks hime. The words that the Lord had given the prophet were not words of an immature child, spewing out undigested fragments, but of words that have been digested, interpreted. Words that speak God’s truth in the face of power.
The mission of the prophet is no longer about him, but about the Word of God. God tells the prophet to Get up. Stand up. And be the voice of truth, of justice, of transformation.
(Scene 4: God’s responds to Us.)
Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You are just getting in the way. Your belief is not enough. Just saying I am messiah is not enough. If you keep just saying that eventually you will think it is you you are talking about. You setting your minds toward human things, bringing glory to yourself and not setting your mind on divine things. Instead, my brothers and sisters, you are on the path of being a disciple. And being a disciple means bearing a cross. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
The Son of Man is coming in all his Father’s Glory. You will see. Many of you will see the son of Man in this glory before you taste death.”
Jesus is redirecting Peter’s thinking. He is pushing Peter and the disciples and us beyond just belief but into the steps of true messianic discipleship. Into sacrificial discipleship. Jesus is calling us our of our selves and out of the belief that we are the ones who name what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Jesus called me out of the accusatory and demeaning ways of my youth. My belief was strog – I ate the words up, but it was through the being laughed at, through the being ignored. It was through my walk in the wilderness that I began to savor the Word of God. That I let the flavor of justice touch my lips. That the aroma of grace infiltrated my nostrils. That the nourishment of God’s love push through my veins that I began to see what it was all about.
I saw the Son of Man in all his glory there on the cross. I saw what Jesus was talking about. I understood that being a disciple meant not trying to convince people that Jesus was the way, but that being a disciple was a way of living in The Way. The Way of standing up for the oppressed. Of giving voice to the voiceless. Of walking along side the broken. It was expressed not in judgmental accusations, but in a grace filled life. And it meant, still being picked on. It meant being ridiculed. It meant being mocked and laughed at – but this time it wasn’t because it was me pointing a finger at people; rather it was because I was acting in a way that made people see a reflection of the Reign of God. And you know what, It doesn’t matter to me anymore that people laugh and mock. Because I am not doing these things for myself, but for God. For the Reign of God.
The Reign of God where we are picked up. Dusted off. Given power. Given voice. The Reign of God where the four year old and the 104 year old can stand side by side and call each other sister. The Reign of God were are are promised, like the prophet of old – where we are promised that when we speak and act with God’s words – God is with us. That when we carry our cross, we carry it not for ourselves or by ourselves. That we carry it with the one who gave up everything for us. That we when we bear our cross we are carrying with us the Glory of God. The sacrificial Glory of God.
And when we are mocked and ridiculed – we get up and stand up and praise God because God is our strength that pulls us up.
When we are hurting and carrying too much trouble – we get up and stand up and praise God because God is our comfort – wrapping arms around us to keep us from sinking.
When the chaotic rivers of our life are tossing us to and fro – we get up and stand up and praise God because it is God who calms the storms. It is God who stills the sea. It is God who quiets the wind.
When we feel we need to defend God it is time to Get Up and Stand Up because it is God who is defending us. God doesn’t need our protection, but instead covers us with the wings of a mother Hen.
We get up. We stand up. Because when we are there on the ground it is God reaching down God’s hands picking us up.
We get up. We stand up. Because the way of disciple ship is the cross and the only way to get there is on our feet. And when we are walking along our own via dela rosa, on our way to our calvary, and the weight of the cross gets too heavy, the burden of our messianic discipleship gets too much to bear – when we fall there on The Way – There is Christ to pick up our cross and carry it for us. Leading the way to calvary, where in all his Glory he gives us everything so that we can go on.
We get up. We stand up. Because truly, that is all we can do.
Thanks be to God.