The Peace Pulpit: Jesus was OK with those who were not among his inner circle preaching his word. Why shouldn't the same be true today?
The Peace Pulpit
Once again, we have lessons that are intended to help us understand how to be a disciple of Jesus -- what it means to follow Jesus. To put this in context, it's good to remember from the last couple of Sundays what our scriptures have been teaching us. Last Sunday, you may remember, the first lesson was from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet proclaims, "God has taught me, so I speak as God's disciple. I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning, God wakes me up to hear, to listen like a disciple."
As we begin our reflection on this week's scriptures, I think it's important to remind ourselves that last week, Jesus, after performing an extraordinary miracle -- healing a person who was deaf and mute, and causing terrific amazement -- told the person who was cured and the disciples, "Don't tell anyone about this." This has come to be known as Jesus' attempt to keep the Messianic secret, that he was the Messiah.
There is something strange about that command at the end of the Gospel today where Jesus tells the person who is cured, "Don't tell anybody."
If we listen carefully to the scriptures today, I think we will discover what it really means to like a holy life, what it really means to follow God's law, and through that law, to become holy. I remember back in the seminary, for 12 years, I was taught to follow the rule. They had a rule that guided our day in all its details. Just follow the rule, and you will become holy. We were taught the rule expresses the rule of God, so all you have to do is follow that and you will become holy.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the reading of the Gospel, this concludes a series of five Gospels that we've had now where Jesus started by first performing what John calls a sign, a sign that John at the conclusion of this Gospel says, "There were many of these signs given that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." So this extraordinary event that took place in the desert was a sign of who Jesus really is.
In one of his letters, St. Paul, in reflecting about his own mortality and the possibility that he would soon die, proclaimed his belief that he would never really die. He said, "I live now, no longer I, but Christ who lives in me." These are words that I hope we will take to heart and make our own, especially as we reflect on these scripture lessons of today, and that we will leave this church understanding that each of us lives now, no longer I but Jesus living in me, now and forever.
As we listen to the first lesson this morning, we could easily have been impressed -- and I think should have been impressed -- by how God was careful to watch over the prophet Elijah. We can consider this lesson perhaps as a prefiguring of what Jesus does in the Gospel. God nurtures and feeds God's people, but this is even more of a revelation of that. It's not just a prefiguring of the Gospel. This incident is a way of showing who God is that is very clear, reassuring and consoling for us.
What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do? This question is supremely important, as you might imagine, trying to know what God wants us to do, and as we listen to our scriptures today, I think we will find clearly what God wants us to do, and then we must pray that we respond and do the works God wants.
Now when we take a few moments to reflect on the scripture lessons today, to try to listen together to this word of God and let it enter into our minds, our hearts, our spirit, and transform us, we must first of all remind ourselves of something about the Gospels -- they are not biographies. They are not historians sitting down to write the facts of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, they are theological reflections.