June 15, 2010

Zealous for the Lord

by Janice Love
I Kings 19:1-15a, Psalm 42 & 43, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 8:26-39

I admit to admiration for Elijah’s zeal for the LORD, though perhaps not always for his methods. His dedication to Yahweh is absolute. He is on the run for his life now because of it, feeling alone and exhausted; tired of the compromises with idols, evil and the powers that be which Israel continues to make. But Yahweh, thank God, has not given up on us yet…

In my life of service in and for the church thus far, I have come to a profound appreciation for Baptism. The renunciations and vows are deep and powerful and grace filled and not to be taken lightly. There is the much needed reminder that we are one in, and only in, Christ Jesus and not a collection of individuals. This is God on God’s terms, not my own. I have recently begun to make Baptism books for the persons baptized in our congregation. The books contain a page for those witnesses present to sign, a place for photos taken, the Apostle’s Creed, the vows undertaken (I will, with God’s help) and a quote from the Galatians text for this coming Sunday:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

(Galatians 3: 27-28)

…have clothed yourselves with Christ.

This is an intriguing metaphor to reflect on. As we teach our children with patience and much (much) practice to dress their bodies – the tag goes in the back, make sure your zipper is done up, put that lace through this loop – for protection and dignity, so we are called to teach them, through what we do as church, with patience and much practice, that in our Baptism we become clothed with Christ…

In Sunday’s gospel text we encounter a man who runs around naked, whose neighbourhood is death, whose only company a legion of demons. His people try to help, keeping him in chains but the demons make him break them, driving him to run wild in the wild. He is in so much trouble that only God can get him out of it…so much trouble. Jesus, having just commanded nature in the calming of the storm out on the lake to the astonishment and wonderings of the disciples, “Who then is this…?”, commands the demons to come out of the man. The demons shout out the answer to the disciples’ previous question…Jesus, Son of the Most High God.

We put this on; it goes this way: it is Christ who commands – nature, the unnatural, us. This protects us from following the commands of that which would lead us in the paths of death.

The man, whose name we never learn, is healed, made whole, restored in relationship with others, clothed and sits at the feet of Christ.

We put this on; it goes this way: it is Christ who enters without hesitation into suffering, who heals and transforms. We are the company of folk, of all kinds, who sit at the feet of Christ, healed and made whole. This makes us not afraid to enter the suffering of the world too.

There is much speech that occurs in this text. Commands and declarations made, begging, witnessing, and finally, proclaiming. There is no guarantee that the witnessing and proclamation will be well received. Here, in contrast to the reception given Jesus’ actions in Luke 7 (vs.16), fear and fear alone results – keeping this guy around might just not be good for business. But Jesus does not give up on them and leaves behind a most devoted witness and proclaimer, the healed man himself, who at the end makes an even greater declaration as to who Christ is: when instructed to declare how much God has done for him, he declares how much Jesus has done for him.

We put this on; it goes this way: Christ Jesus is the good news that the suffering world aches and longs for, like that thirsty deer we saw last Sunday making its way down to the lake for a much needed drink on a hot, dry day. Jesus calls us to be zealous, grace filled proclaimers of this good news and puts us where he needs us to be.

We are to put on Christ as easily as we put on our clothes in the morning and go out in the dignity, love and grace that affords us for the glory of God and for the sake of the suffering world God so loves.

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