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Monday, October 20, 2014

Homily - In Which Jesus is Found to Laugh with Delight

Homily for the Installation Service of Rev. Greg Morrisse to the Senior Pastor Call at The Plymouth Church in Framingham - October 19, 2014

Gospel Reading    Luke 10:25-28

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus asked, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus replied, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”


It seemed like any other day in the Gospels of Our Lord and Savior.
- Disciples full of questions
- Sadducees concerned about the integrity of the temple
- Pharisees discussing everything as they adapted faith to changing conditions
- …all familiar to Jesus.

Actually, in the Gospel stories, not much surprises Jesus. He pretty much sees coming what’s coming.

In this story, the gospel writers send yet another putz up against the hero, Jesus. This time, it's a "lawyer."

And we, the readers are more than readers. We are an audience with popcorn, bread, and grape juice and we have front row seats!

‘Cause we get it.

- There are people in our lives who have opinions about what we should eat, how we should fertilize our gardens, what car we should drive, who we should vote for, etc., and we would sometimes like to tell them to take a hike.
- There are people in our lives who think that there is a God whose voice stopped when the Bible was “written” or a founding spirit who vanished when the US Constitution was signed and we would like to tell them that the spirit of this nation continues to change and grow and that God is Still Speaking.
- There are people in our lives who don’t seem to quite "get" us and that is both wearying and irritating and we impatient with being so patient.

So, we’re all set for a Jesus smackdown.
- We're ready to see him meet corruption with angry table throwing
- We can't wait for him to respond to pedantry with devastating truth
- He's about to put the lawyer on the ground with a folding chair!

Not only doesn’t that happen, but Jesus doesn’t fall for the trap at all.
I mean, he doesn’t fall for the trick-question trap that the writer of Luke places in the mouth of the lawyer.
He also seems not to fall for the writer’s trick either – I mean the setup for a dramatic refutation and confounding of someone opposed to Jesus’ story about the kingdom of God.

And you won’t fall for it anymore either, will you?
Greg has shown us all how the stress and anxiety of this life, of his life, and of this church do not command his behavior. Greg chooses again and again not to fall for the trick.
Beloved, if you haven’t realized it before this minute then this minute is your time to pivot – to turn the tables on the trickiness of life. After now, you won’t fall for any political ad trying to get you angry. You won’t be fooled by anyone’s attempt to put you down.
When someone tries to make their anxiety into your problem you will take a dancer's step back so it doesn’t land on you and listen kindly – without taking it on.
Now you will leave that manipulation behind.

So Jesus turns the tables on this trick situation – and I propose that the Bible narrative fails to fully report the surprise ending. And I hope you like surprises, ‘cause…

Here’s the picture of Jesus I want to paint for you today, I want you to imagine!
See him there in his rough clothes and a rough beard,
See him there surrounded by some who love him, some who aren’t sure, and a bunch of strangers.
See him ready for people in need of a kind word, in need of healing,
...People yearning for deeper meaning, "leaning out for love," for just one touch of the hem of his garment
…and he expects it all – he’s expecting the dust, the mixture of people, the suspicion, the anxiety, the expectations, and, yes, the trick questions,
…and sure enough, here comes the lawyer.

From wherever Lawyer is sitting, Lawyer pops up, raising a hand high and 
Lawyer:   Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Brad:       And expecting just one more of these interactions, Jesus turns
                patiently and asks,
                “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
                And I think the lawyer might have paused briefly to think. And
                then eagerly said:
Lawyer:  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
                and with all your soul, and with all your strength,
                and with all your mind; - and your neighbor as yourself!
And Jesus is so surprised by the beautiful answer that he wraps the lawyer in his everlasting arms with a great shout, “Yes!” And Jesus, filled with delight, laughs and laughs and laughs!

Beloved, God grieves when we grieve. And the source and spirit of life itself rejoices when we get it right.

Oh, one more thing. Jesus doesn’t at this time make a promise about eternal life, no, Jesus says, “Do this and you will live.” Period. This life. Right now.
And we all know now that there is solid ground on which we can stand and that ground is to love our God and from that ground we can go forth to love our Neighbor and with that confidence, we need no longer be tricked by the world’s trivialities, we can live and live with joy, and that beloved friends, will make Jesus laugh and laugh and laugh!