Monday Scripture - Luke 7:19 - he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Monday Quote - Wendell Berry - “Especially among Christians in positions of wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus' commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective "Christian".”
Monday Thought -
John the Baptist sends representatives to ask Jesus if is he is 'the one,' that is, the Messiah. It is a shocking moment because one would think that if anyone knew that Jesus was 'the one,' it would be John. After all, John is the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan and recognized him as 'the one' at that point. So we are left wondering, what has happened that has caused John to doubt what he had previously believed? We will dive into doubts and disappointments a bit more tomorrow. For today we will think about what happens when Jesus is unexpected and unsettling. So let's set aside wondering why John doesn't recognize Jesus as 'the one,' and think of that time or the times, when the life, actions, & teachings of Jesus, were unexpected and unsettling for us.
I fear we tend to rush by these moments as Christians. We are so settled on Jesus the 'friend,' who is comforting that we ignore Jesus the prophet who is confrontational. There are plenty of examples. Luke has already told the story of some of them. For instance, when Jesus reveals that his mission as 'the one,' is not for Israel only, but for gentiles & Samaritans & even the oppressive Romans, his neighbors, who have known him since his youth, want to throw him off a cliff. Another examples from Luke would be his version of the Sermon on the Mount that we know so well from Matthew's Gospel. In Luke's version, the Sermon on the Plain, we do not only hear Jesus offer kind and encouraging words, like, 'blessed are the poor,' but also warnings, 'Woe to you who are rich.' Jesus is a bit more confrontational and challenging in Luke's telling. His ministry is to heal and forgive, like in other gospels, but his ministry is unsettling, and not just to religious leaders. His own disciples are shocked and even, apparently, are his biggest supporters, like John the Baptist.
It is very tempting to only think of Jesus as the one who is always kind and gentle, always forgiving and merciful. And don't misunderstand, in a day in which fear, anger, division and violence sometimes seem so prevalent, Jesus, who shows us the way to hospitality, community and peace is very important. But Wendell Berry's quote for today reminds us of the danger of a Jesus who is only affirming and never unsettling or challenging. It is incredibly tempting to baptize our desires, our assumptions, the expeditious, the popular, and the convenient as 'Christian' when Jesus is only affirming and gentle. Luke shows us from the beginning that Jesus has also come to challenge and confront the misuse of power that causes suffering and injustice. Now, I am not saying that John the Baptist is another of the religious leaders who have traded in faithfulness to God for power and influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. But John is challenged by Jesus behaving in ways that John apparently did not expect. Luke uses this story of John questioning is Jesus is 'the one,' to offer the question to us. Will we trust, not only in the Jesus we thought we knew, but in the unexpected Jesus who challenges us and confronts us. Will we trust, not only in the Jesus who comforts, but also unsettles us?
Monday Study - Luke 6:20-26; Matthew 10:32-42
Monday Prayer - For those moments when your word to us is comforting and encouraging, when we feel lost, afraid, or ashamed, we give you thanks. But we ask today that you would send your spirit to give us the faith and courage to listen when your word is unexpected and unsettling in its challenge to us. Forgive us when our image of you becomes an idol of our own making. Shake us from complacency and stir our hearts to know you, Christ, as you are and not as we wish you to be.