Monday, November 19, 2018

Reflection on Mark 13:1-8

“What large stones and what large buildings!” The disciples are impressed by the grandeur of the temple as they walk away from where they saw the widow offer her last two coins.

I confess that I am often impressed by the grandeur of all that humanity has built. I am not the first person to run into a sign on the streets of New York City as I stared up at the buildings, right? Right? Not just me?

But, for these you men, you have to understand how much more impressed they would have been than even we. After-all, there were no mechanical cranes back then. These young men, from the backwaters of the world, have not seen buildings constructed with stones any bigger than a man can lift. Maybe, they have seen larger cornerstones that have been drug by mule, but that is it. So, when they see stones that are higher than they are tall stacked upon one another, they are simply blown away by the accomplishment.

I confess that I too am a person who is swayed by the bigger is better mentality. I have marveled at the height and artistry of the National Cathedral in Washington DC. I have been impressed by the size of mega-churches with thousands gathering to worship on a Sunday. I have been in awe of the power and sound while participating in a choir of teens numbering over a thousand. Bigger is better.

It reminds me of a joke from years ago.

A guy visited Texas for the first time and ate at the restaurant housed in his hotel. The steak that he got was huge…it was the size of the plate. He commented on the size to the waitress and she responded, “Well, everything is bigger in Texas.”

Similarly, he commented on the size of the toast that came with the steak, it was bigger than both of his hands. The waitress responded, “Well, everything is bigger in Texas.”

And, when she came with his beer, it came in something that was the size of a small barrel. “Wow!” he shouted out loud. “Well, everything is bigger in Texas,” the waitress repeated.

Having to go to the bathroom after all that beer, the guy ventured out of the restaurant and just happened to slip and fall into the hotel’s pool on the way past. Dripping wet, he walked back into the restaurant he exclaimed to the waitress, “Make sure you watch out for the toilet.”

O.K. did I wait years for this Sunday’s text to come around just so that I could tell that second grade joke? Yes, yes I did. I was hoping that it would be a huge joke!

Because bigger is better! It is better to write a massive book than a pamphlet. It is better to sell thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies than twelve. It is better to fill the tables at the restaurant than to have a hand full of customers. It is better to fill the pews than to preach to five people. It is better to get the huge gift under the Christmas tree than to get the one consisting of a small box.

I confess.

I confess to thinking that success is all about numbers rather than caring about individuals.

I confess to exiting the temple and being overwhelmed by the size of the buildings, and completely missing the widows who have lost everything sitting by my feet below.

I confess to desiring greatness rather than focusing on God’s greatness.

I confess to desiring massive success rather than holy sacrifice.

I confess to desiring the golden gates of heaven and ignoring the pain of the cross.

I confess to completely missing the kingdom of God because I am too busy looking up.

"Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down," Jesus declares.

For Jesus, grandeur is not a goal. Greatness is not what he seeks. His power is not found in the earthquakes, great famines, and world-wide wars of the earth; though some claim that his workings may be found there.

Instead, his power is found in the little things, like the healing of those who are blind. Jesus’ power is found in making the mute to speak and the deaf to hear. Jesus’ power is found in welcoming the foreigner and healing the ill. Jesus’ power is found in humble acts of love, not the grand acts of armies. Jesus’ influence is found shaping twelve men and a handful of women and is not found in the thousands who pay him lip service and then turn on him at the last moment. Jesus’ power is found on a cross, the death sentence of a criminal, and is not found on the throne of a king.

In Jesus, all of that grand stuff is thrown down and love is given birth.

Sometimes, we build our grandeur so tall that God cannot even be seen. Sometimes, the stones need to be thrown down for God to be revealed. Sometimes, death needs to occur before something holy and pure and full of Godly life can be reborn.

Sometimes we need to stop and confess before we can go and live. Sometimes we need to let all that we built in the past to crumble away before new life can be born. Sometimes we need to let go of the grand visions and embrace the meekness of love.
Let us confess:
For obsessing over greatness
we confess.
For desiring great numbers rather than great love
we confess.
For focusing our attention on those in power rather than those who have none
we confess.
For being impressed by the great stones rather than the small acts
we confess.
For desiring a large church rather than a faithful church
we confess.
For seeing success in terms of money and things rather than love shown
we confess.
For seeking thrones rather than crosses
we confess.
For wanting to be served rather than serving
we confess.
For desiring forgiveness rather than forgiving first
we confess.
For all that we have done, and all that we have failed to do
we confess.

Holy God, forgive us our failures, knock down our stones of accomplishment, and give us a new birth in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Reflection on Mark 12:38-44

Jesus notices her. No one else does, but Jesus sees her. Jesus always notices the lowly.

You know who is easily noticed? The scribes; the famous religious leaders of the time. Jesus describes their actions this way:

“[The scribes] like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”

Not only that, those with high standing such as they (and the rich in general) love to enter into the temple and dump buckets of money into the metal collection horns in the temple. The clang of the money echoes their greatness. The clang of the money echoes their blessedness. The clang of the money echoes the level of respect due to them in society.

The clang of her two coins did not even register a fraction of a decibel against the noise of the rich. No one noticed her two coins. No one noticed that she, the poor widow, had given away the last of her money.

She trusted completely that either God would take care of her or that she would die…one of the two.

No one noticed…well, almost no one noticed. Jesus noticed. Jesus always notices the lowly.

You know who gets noticed in our society? The rich; Hollywood actors; sports stars; politicians; even some preachers; they all get noticed and get plenty of airtime. They are the ones who get invited onto the talk shows and asked their opinions, though I do not know why staring on a television show makes someone’s opinion on the horrors happening in Yemen any greater than anyone else’s. That is the power of stardom, I guess.

They are the ones who get the best seats and are invited to the parties and banquets. They are the ones who have the nice houses and no one fears diving down their streets. Quite to the contrary, people pay money to take tours down the streets containing their houses with their impressive gates, gardens, and grand entrances.

No one pays to take a tour of a poor neighborhood. No one trusts that they will be safe in the neighborhood of the unlucky in life. No one wants to even drive through the poor sections of the city.

If you think too hard about this, it might occur to you how ridiculous this reality is. In many countries, it is the rich with their nice lawns who are able to hire hit-men to do their murderous deeds. In these countries, it is the rich who are the dangerous, self-absorbed, do anything to get ahead members of society.

Yet, across the world, the rich are automatically ascribed wisdom and morality and the poor are automatically ascribed stupidity, laziness, and threat.

No one tours the poor parts of the city. No one even considers going. The lowly are easily overlooked. No one notices. Well, almost no one notices. Jesus notices. Jesus always notices the lowly.

What might you see if you looked closely, the way Jesus does? What might you see if you took the time to listen to the subtle clanks of those two coins from the hand of the widow?

What Jesus sees is sacrifice. He sees that this poor woman has given it all, while the rich have given only a small fraction. But, this sermon is not going where you expect that it might typically go. I am not going to start into monologue about how you should be like the poor woman rather than the rich people and how you should give it all to God and to the church. I am not going to say that you must give it all the ministry of the church because I know that you are not going to, and neither am I. That was not Jesus’ point in any case.

Rather than focusing on yourself and worrying about your level of giving at this moment, Jesus instead wants you to focus outside of yourself and take notice.

He wants his disciples to notice the one who is forgotten.

He wants you to notice that the old woman has given it all…she has nothing more to live on.

He wants you to notice that she is now in peril.

He wants you to notice that she trusts that God and the temple will do something about her plight.

He wants you to notice that the temple will not do anything because they are too busy with their long robes and their fame.

He wants you to notice that the widow exists. She is right there. She is a child of God and is no less important than anyone else in existence.

Jesus wants you to notice, because he notices. Jesus always notices the lowly.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus notices the lowly and heals. Jesus notices them and multiplies the loaves and the fishes. Jesus notices and forgives the sins that burden. Jesus takes the time to look below the flash and the glamour. Jesus takes the tour of the back alley neighborhood. Jesus notices the lowly, and invites you to take a wander through the dark alley also.

This woman need not be in peril. If only the temple were doing its job…what it was supposed to be doing as charged by God…and caring for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. If only God’s people would be less concerned about their own comfort, and were, rather, focused on looking out for the struggle of those around them. If only the disciples could have the eyes that notice.

The temple is not going to notice this widow. She is probably too proud to speak up and the temple probably would not care all that much anyway. There are banquets on the daily schedule after-all. But, Jesus notices. He takes the time to sit down and watch. God does not forget God’s own children.

There is a lot in the news this morning. Big stuff. Of course, there are presidential tweets. Jeff Sessions is out of a presidential cabinet job. There are races for senate and races for governors to be recounted and settled. Elvis is being given the Presidential Metal of Freedom, and of course the fires in California and the loss of lives there are still on the front page. Raw turkey caused a salmonella outbreak and Meghan Markle’s personal royal assistant has turned in her resignation just 6 months after the royal wedding. No one knows why!

And, in all of this news of the rich and powerful there is no mention of the widow. None. Not one story this morning talks about her. Even the stories of devastation from the California fires which certainly are full of the stories of the widows are focusing instead on Trump’s tweeted responses and the loss of rich people’s mansions. The lowly are noted in passing…but usually as a number: 23 have died so far. But, to Jesus the lowly are not a number. You are not a number. We are all God’s children, and as children of God, we are not forgotten.

This week, I ask you to do one simple thing: notice. Notice as Jesus notices. Notice those who are often forgotten. Take notice and point them out to others. Take notice and care. Follow the lead of our savoir Jesus Christ our Lord and be the church that God created us to be. Be the church that takes notice.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Reflection on John 11:32-44

Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

There is a great freedom in Jesus. In Jesus there is new life! It is a life that is free from the burdens and strangulation that life has wrapped around you. It is a life that is free from the fears of this world…even free from the fear of death. In Jesus you can find life even after the tomb has enclosed you and the darkness has sealed you in. In Jesus, all that binds you and holds you back from being who God has created you to be is cut off and drops away. In Jesus there is life! There is a great freedom in Jesus.

There is a lot of hope in that promise of unbinding, but the hope does not stop there. There is a lot more hope in this Bible story.

We can hope in the resurrection, or at least the resuscitation, of Lazarus. We have hope that death cannot have the last word. We hope that death does not have an eternal hold on those who we have grieved at solemn funerals, and who we still grieve today.

We have hope that because Jesus was able to open the tomb for Lazarus, maybe Jesus can open up all of our other tombs. Maybe, drugs do not have the last word. Jesus can overcome that tomb. Maybe, rotten, abusive relationships are not the final scene. Jesus can overcome that tomb also. Maybe, the intense pain of the loss of the one you loved is not the last emotion you will ever feel. In Jesus, new life can be breathed into all of that. In Jesus anything is possible.

We can even find hope in Jesus’ tears. On those lonely nights of the soul, when we cry to God out of a sense of loneliness and hopelessness, echoing the cries of Mary, “Don’t you care, if you have been here, none of this would have happened!” we can still find hope. Our cries of anger to God do not elicit wrath and fire from on high. Rather, they elicit a rain of heavenly tears.

Tears only come when one shares in the pain of another, and when Mary cries out to Jesus over Lazarus, he shares her tears. Our pain is not ours alone. We have a savior who cries with us and shares the burden of the pain.

There is a great freedom in Jesus. In Jesus there is new life! It is a life that is free from the burdens and strangulation that life has wrapped around you. It is a life that is free from the fears of this world…even free from the fear of death. As the darkness surrounds you and the tombs threaten to encase you, Jesus walks up to the tomb and shouts out in a loud voice, “Come out!” New life is on the way.

Go ahead, cling to that hope! Cling to that promise of new life, because it is a gift from God to us all.

There are some promises that are not in this story. What I mean is that there are beliefs to which we sometimes hold that actually are not true.

First of all, following Jesus does not guarantee that nothing bad will happen. Lazarus did die. It actually happened and Jesus did not stop it. Mary and Martha did truly grieve. The tears and heartbreak were real and Jesus did nothing to put that painful reality under wraps. Bad things do happen and God does not promise that we will never suffer from those bad things.

In fact, the new life that Lazarus is given by Jesus does not result in a long, suffering-free life afterward. Quite the opposite, the miracle prompts the creation of a death sentence upon both Jesus and Lazarus from those who oppose Jesus’ ministry.

Life has suffering. That is the plain truth. Life is filled with streams of tears flowing from the faithful and unfaithful alike.

Jesus does not promise that bad things will never happen, even to the faithful. He does not even promise a good life for himself. Jesus ends up dying on a ancient device of torture: a cross. Life has suffering.

What Jesus does demonstrate though is that he will be there to share in the tears. What Jesus does promise is that he will walk up to the our graves of pain and darkness and call in a loud voice, “Come out!” And, we will. In Jesus there is new life! There is a great freedom in Jesus.

When I was a child, I once declared my hate for the class bully. And, yes, I did use the word “hate.” I was not lying, I did actually “hate” him. So did the rest of the class. I did not ever want him to cross the path of my life ever again. Of course, the next day of classes always came and our class’ dreams of being free from him never came to pass.

When the world “hate” came from my lips, my grandmother stopped me in my tracks. “We do not hate people,” she declared. “We can dislike people. We can dislike what people do, but we cannot hate. When we hate people we are saying that God is unable to fix things. When we hate, we are saying that God does not have the power to heal. We do not hate people.”

Well...I hated the guy.

Sorry grandma.

For years and years I hated the guy. For years and years, I did not care a lick about what happened to the man.

Then, one day, he popped up as a friend suggestion on Facebook. Another fact in life, Facebook is terrible at suggesting friends.

Even though I never cared if I ever saw the guy again, I clicked on his profile to see what was up in his life. The guy had not thought to place any security settings on his profile, big surprise there. I could see the guy's entire life. And, what I saw shocked me.

After a stint of alcohol abuse (no shocker there) he became a family man. But, not just any family man; he became the father to lots and lots of foster children who had lost their own sense of family. On his Facebook wall were continual expressions of gratitude for his devotion and love from each of these children.

The guy even went to church! Who knew?

I never realized that the guy had an ounce of love within, but he did. Somehow, Jesus had walked up to that guy’s musty tomb, called out to him in a loud voice, and the guy actually came out. The bands of whatever was strangling him in life and creating his evil actions somehow fell from his body and the love of God that was there the entire time was exposed. Somehow, in some way, he was made into a saint: one who has been loved and redeemed by Jesus.

Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

There is a great freedom in Jesus. In Jesus there is new life! It is a life that is free from the burdens and strangulation that life has wrapped around you. It is a life that is free from the fears of this world…even free from the fear of death. In Jesus you can find life even after the tomb has enclosed you and the darkness has sealed you in. In Jesus, all that binds you and holds you back from being who God has created you to be is cut off and drops away. In Jesus there is life! There is a great freedom in Jesus.

It is the freedom of the saints of God.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reflection on Mark 10:46-52

What do you do when life becomes dark and confused?

How do you get by to the next day when the uncertainty of the next day is so anxiety ridden that two days blend into one long, sleepless night and day?

Would it not be nice if you could look into the future and see whether or not everything will turn out well?

When things in life are dark and uncertain, people will tell you, “Everything is going to be O.K.” as if they somehow are able to peer into the future.

When they say this, you know that the person is one of two things; either lying or they are some sort of future predicting witch. If they are a witch, then the only conclusion as we have learned from history is that they should be burned at the stake. Luckily for you and the person speaking to you, chances are pretty good that they are not a witch.

Of course, that means that the person is lying and actually is in the same boat as you and has absolutely no idea that anything is going to be O.K. For all they know, tomorrow could be the end of civilization as we know it.

The truth is that the person simply cannot handle the darkness that you face. So, they push you away like you are the town’s blind man left to fend for himself on the side of the road.

Poor blind Bartimaeus. His life has been dark for a long time. His life has led him to the beautiful vistas of the side of the road where the smell of road kill and donkey excrement can be enjoyed by the blind all for free! Yet, there is a little hope in the darkness…a coin here…a bit of bread there.

You think you have it bad. Not only is this man’s future dark, he literally could not see his future if it approached on foot.

What do you do when life becomes dark and confused?

How do you get by to the next day?

One of the tactics that the Psalmists use to get through those sleepless nights, when anxiety takes over the mind and the darkness of the future oppresses, is that they remember. They remember. But, they do not remember just any old thing. They think back to those times before when they thought their worlds were coming to an end and God pulled them through.

Listen to these words from Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

First, notice that the Psalmist here does not let God off the hook. The Psalmist still feels free to accuse God of not taking action when taking action would have been a great thing: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

However, the Psalmist does not remain in that accusatory space for long. The Psalmist does not remain in the darkness of their thoughts, wandering aimlessly. Rather, they move rather quickly to remembering.

“Yet you are holy…in you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.”

The Psalmist remembers the last time that the world felt like it was going to end, and the Psalmist also remembers that God pulled them through. They trusted in God, and God delivered.

This sort of uncertain trust is a wisdom that comes in time.

It is the wisdom that the High School student starts to gain when the horrors of the first test pass and there is another day, another test, another opportunity. You quickly learn that if God could bring you through the first time, God can do it again.

It is the wisdom that is gained after the first boyfriend or girlfriend is let go and the teen learns that it is possible to overcome the painful, heartbreak in order date and love once again. If God could heal you after the first breakup, God can do it again.

It is the wisdom that comes when you realize that even though you may not know what the future looks like beyond the darkness, you trust that Jesus will be standing there in the darkness with you.

That is exactly what blind Bartimaeus does. When he hears that Jesus is approaching, he cries out into the darkness, trusting that Jesus might show mercy, trusting that Jesus will, somehow, make things right. Even more, when Jesus calls to him, Bartimaeus gets up and walks to Jesus.

Do not let that fact just slip by you as your mind begins to wander to compiling your shopping list or preparing for the upcoming hunting season. Did you catch what just happened? A blind man, got up and walked over to Jesus.

He's blind. How did he know where he was going?

How did he know that he would get to Jesus?

How did he know that his stumbling through the darkness would bring him to a place of goodness and healing?

How did he know?

The truth is, he did not know.

Bartimaeus did not know where he was going.

He did not know if he would reach Jesus.

He did not know if Jesus would do anything, much less be good and bring healing.

He did not know any of these things, but he remembered.

He remembered the stories of those who passed by on the road. He remembered the whispers of healing and frantic cries of joy passing by. He remembered, so he got up, stumbled into the darkness and trusted that Jesus would somehow, in some way find him.

Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again."

Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well."

What do you do when life becomes dark and confused?

How do you get by to the next day?

I believe that blind Bartimaeus was meant to encounter you today. I believe that you were meant to see blind Bartimaeus on the side of the road; this man who gets up and wanders ahead in the darkness despite not being able to see anything because he trusts that no matter what happens, Jesus is there.

What do you do when life becomes dark and confused? You walk ahead anyway, trusting that Jesus is there.

Many Protestant churches celebrate Reformation Sunday, but it is not primarily a celebration of Luther and the other reformers, though can be part of it. Rather, it is primarily a celebration of a truth from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

In other words, we celebrate the faith of Bartimaeus, who trusts that God can save and heal.

But, even more than celebrating our faith, we celebrate the faithfulness of the one who meets us in the darkness every single time (even that last time when we will finally be with him forever and ever): Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus is the one who calls to us in the darkness. He is the one who brings healing. He is the one who does not forget us on the side of the road. He is the one who is worthy of following.

“Immediately [Bartimaeus] regained his sight and followed him on the way.” And, so do we…even on the dark days, we too follow…because we remember and trust the goodness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reflection on Mark 10:35-45

How do you achieve the good life? What does it look like?

In the time of ancient kings and queens, the good life probably looked a lot like sitting in the presence of royalty. People who found a way to sit in the royal courts and found a way to slip into royal favor are the people who achieved the ancient world’s version of the good life. As they sat to the right or the left of the king, they presented themselves as favored, honored, and wealthy.

It is not too different today. I vividly remember a conversation from High School where my friends and I discussed our run-ins with fame and fortune. One friend recounted standing in front of Weird Al Yankovic while getting a frozen yogurt at the mall…remember them…malls? He dropped some money and the man behind him picked it up. When he turned, he recognized the iconic look of Weird Al and began to ask, “Are you…” Weird Al simply replied, “Yes, yes it’s me.”

That was a cool story that gave my friend a little boost in his popularity, but none of us could come close to matching the stories of a different friend, Jack (his name has been changed to protect his awesomeness).

Jack’s dad was the owner of a successful communications company. His family was rich and well connected...well, rich and well connected for people in a small town that is.

Jack had stories of eating supper with Donald Trump, before the time of Trump’s presidential aspirations. Jack had stories of eating with all kinds of people in the entertainment industry and it was fun to listen to these brushes with fame and hear each famous star's eating quarks.

Just as it was awesome for Jack to sit at the right or the left of famous stars, it was nice for me, as a friend, to sit at the right or left of Jack. My family was a poor family, and I figured that sitting one step removed from fame was probably all the better I would get in life.

Jack’s Dad paid his allowance in $100 bills, so from time to time Jack had no money for lunch at school because the lunch room refused to break his $100 bills. On multiple occasions, I, the poor kid, would pull out the few dollars I had and pay for the rich kid’s lunch. I was never paid back either, but, it was all good because I got to sit at the right or the left of one of the popular, rich kid.

I did not think I would ever achieve the good life…the fame…the nice house…the nice cars…the fancy coffee makers…the riding lawnmowers…you know, the good life; but at least I could sit close to the good life.

I did not realize it at the time, but I was simply echoing a desire that had been spoken long, long ago. It was the same echo that reverberated through the lips of James and John as they asked Jesus: "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."

They too wanted to be in the presence of greatness. They too wanted the good life, and all that comes with it. They too wanted to sit at the right or the left hand of royalty.

How do you achieve the good life? What does it look like?

Our notions of the good life usually has some sort of prosperity attached. Houses, cars, money, nice lawns, and a big, peaceful family.

You can find preachers out there who will give you promises of this sort of prosperity, if only you believe. “If only you believe that God is for you and God wants the best for you…if only you have faith that God is for you and not against you, O people of God, you will get the very real rewards of large houses and blessed families who life around nice lakes,” the preachers of prosperity declare.

“If you give a tax deductible donation to God’s ministry, you too can have a mansion just like me!”

But, Jesus preaches a very different form of the good life. Prosperity, for Jesus, has nothing to do with mansions or lawns or cars or any of that earthly junk.

That is because Jesus’ throne is a horrifying cross.

That is because those who sit to the right or left of Jesus are thieves who die with him.

Prosperity, for Jesus, is giving his life for someone else.

Prosperity, for Jesus, is dying for the sake of the sinful and stained.

Prosperity, for Jesus, is living a life in which you seek, not to be the one who sits in grand places and is served, but rather to be the one who does the serving.

For Jesus, the American dream of gaining good things and good standing is not the good life.

How would the world be different if we taught our children, not to seek for the house, car, and 2.5 children in the suburban dwelling family, but rather to seek out the forgotten and despised?

What if the good life was defined by dying for another rather than gaining for one’s self?

What if the good life was defined by a cross and not an advertising board?

What if the good life was defined by an anxiety ridden struggle for all that is good and loving, rather than the image of peaceful retirement?

What if the good life was defined by God and not by humans?

When James and John say that they indeed can drink the cup that Jesus drinks and can endure the baptism with which Jesus is baptized, they do not know what they are saying. They do not realize the struggle and pain that the good life can entail. They do not realize that the cup is a cup of blood and the baptism is a drowning into death.

But, in following Jesus, they will indeed experience both. "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,” Jesus promises in an eerie prediction of future, cross-like struggles.

The good life…the life of faith, after-all, is not a promise of the carefree existence, rather, it is the promise of unconditional love. Never forget that loving unconditionally is a struggle, and it comes with a cost. It cost Jesus his life so that we might have a life.

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Jesus lived the good life. But, he did not have lots of possessions. He was not born into the life of royalty, and he did not have servants waiting on him at all times. He sat the right or left hand of no earthly power.

Neither did Jesus seek any earthly fame and, in fact, he told everyone he healed to be quiet about the event.

Even the undesired fame that he did gain was destroyed in very little time by a death penalty and a cross.

Still, Jesus lived the good life. He touched the untouchable, and they were changed. He forgave this sinner, and they were changed. He healed the sick, and they were changed. He led a band of no-faith nobodies and they were changed. He loved even the unlovable, and they were changed.

And, we are still changed by him today. Jesus still reaches us through the Holy Spirit, touching us with his love, and changing our lives. Jesus is the good life.

We are a people of the good life. We are a people who follow the one refuses to be served but rather serves. We follow the one who gives his life in exchange to save others. We follow the one who loves, even if it hurts. That is the good life after-all, giving of yourself, even if it hurts, so that others might be changed.

You have been given the gift of the good life in Jesus Christ. You are one who has been baptized into the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ, our Lord.