Children’s message: Listening to the voice of Jesus
I have a very special guest for you!
Methusala the Dragon: Welcome one and all, gather around while we hear the tale
Of Jesus starring in his role as the GATE and Jesus starring as the GOOD SHEPHERDAnd Jesus starring as the VOICE,
Well you get the picture, Jesus is the star of the show!
And he is joined by his faithful but often unrecognized disciple: The Camel who went through the eye of the needle!
[Jesus enters the stage speaks to the camel]
Jesus: As I was saying to my faithful disciples, (good group of guys! well, except Judas that guy, man, that one hurt, not cool bro, not cool bro! I would forgive you though, but still that was not cool!) Anyways…
I want you to know, that: I am the gate, I am the door, I am the window, I am also the shepherd who leads you into the gate and out of the gate, oh yeah plus I am the voice that you hear that calls to you, and I am also the bread that you eat during Communion! Also, I am with you in your heart and mind!
And you, you! My dear faithful disciples…
You, are the sheep!
Camel: I don’t get it Jesus… I’m a Camel you know…
Jesus: Let’s just say I am a lot of things! But mostly I am the love that you feel in your heart, the forgiveness when you do something wrong.
I am what brings you abundant life!
Camel: I don’t get it Jesus… How can you be so many things?
Jesus: Hmmm…. How can I say this so that you will understand?
Basically, pay attention to my teachings, do what I did and
Just try and be like me, okay!
Try to love people unconditionally!!
And trust me it’s a lot harder than it sounds…
Camel: Ooohhh ok ok I think I am understanding…
But… Just one question, or comment really…
Camel: What if I don’t want to be a sheep??
Jesus: I think you’re missing the point here…
The point is you are easily distracted! As we have witnessed today!
And you might be encouraged to do something
That goes against God’s love.
[they exit stage still talking, Methusala comes back and bids everyone a wonderful week]
What does it mean to have life, and have it abundantly??
Is it contentment, in knowing you have lived a good life?
Is it becoming famous
Earning the respect of your peers
Inventing a new technology or writing a popular book
Being the best that you could be?
Is it living with purpose?
If we have abundant life will that include happiness?
Or at least the pursuit of happiness
a la Declaration of Independence.
Is it okay to be happy, or to want happiness?
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, as a Christian
We are here to give to others, serve others
(actually, our happiness is found scientifically speaking
to increase even more when we give to others than to ourselves)
But be that as it may, we are supposed to be penitent,
saddened by our sin, A guilty people
And even in the public in general we are not meant
To be too happy, to smile too much, or laugh too often
Except for perhaps when we are out with family and friends
In very intimate settings
Now that I come to think of it when people go out dancing
they tend to laugh and smile
And be happy very much so
especially the ones who are dancing!
I’m not sure why that is though…
What does it mean to be happy?
I was surprised when I saw a translation of the Beatitudes
That said “happy are the poor” happy are the etc…
I thought, “this can’t be!”
Happy instead of Blessed?
So, I ran and looked up the Word (well my fingers did)
Makarios I believe in the Greek,
“blessed” can also be translated as “happy”
But Jesus contrasts this
with things we don’t often imagine as being happy…
Was Jesus ever happy?
Did he ever laugh and dance?
Jesus said, “I came so That you may have life
And have it abundantly.”
“life” here is the word “zoe”
Now this can be confusing to me because another word
“psyche” is translated as “life” also in the Bible
But it means the soul, the psyche, the mind and heart even
also known as the “identity” of a person
In the synoptic gospels Jesus says
“If you seek your life (psyche) you will lose it,
but if you lose it, you will receive it.”
Here it is the psyche you will receive
But in the gospel of John there is an addition. Jesus says “if you lose it (your psyche),
You will receive your psyche… for eternal life, in this case the word is Zoe.
Basically, this existence is not all there is.
And who you are, in a sense, will continue on
And it is important to be outward focused not inward
Jesus combines the spirit which brings life
with the psyche, the identity of the person,
And it lives forever and
And Paul even speculates
that there will be a new heavenly body
All very fascinating of course…
The point is that is relevant here is that
We have continued with a physical/spiritual dichotomy
that does not exist.
What in fact we have is a continuum of physical experience from earthly to heavenly
The life force that is present is the same throughout
Christ teaches us
that we will maintain our psyche with our spirit.
For eternal life
Our heart and mind, our identity, with our spirit
There are positive and negative directions this can go..
Christ says that he is the gate to that life he offers
The positive one
The sheep go into God’s gate, stay there
And they then go out to pasture, back in the world
We have separated the two: abundant life now and abundant eternal life in the future
But when looking at the language used, the perspective, these are not two different things
But a continuum of the same life, in different stages.
Therefore, if we will be “happy” or content after we die and go on into the next life
Then we can be “happy” now…
Life (Zoe) eternally and now is the same
Salvation eternally and healing now are the same
Both Zoe and Soso can be interpreted in the earthly sense
as in life we experience on earth and healing
and wholeness we experience on earth,
and they also mean continued life
beyond what we experience on earth.
If salvation can mean wholeness here and now,
What does wholeness look like for you?
My dad has been on a kick
watching reruns of the series Monk,
I’ve caught some episodes here and there
One episode in particular
A man from Sudan I think it was, comes out
to find out what happened in a hit and run driving incident
Monk lost his wife and is still trying to figure out who did it.
He is very empathetic with the man
who lost his family member
Together along with his assistant they are trying to figure out what happened.
They finally catch the perpetrator after going through danger
And the Sudanese man shows the culprit
a picture of the girl and says “say her name!”
Then Monk shows a picture of his deceased wife
and says “say her name!”
And the man says, “I don’t know who that is!!”
“Say her name anyways,” he says!
Later the two new friends embrace, saying goodbye
One day you will have your answer, says the man from Sudan
Monk's great empathy led him to help this man
As it did for him to help so many others,
Found purpose in helping others
Our purpose comes from going into the safety of God
Into building a safe community here in the world
What does that safe community looks like?
For Monk he was not alone in the tragedy
He had an assistant who looked out for him
Friends in the police force
They worked as a team
Even a stranger he met whom shared a connection with
Which goes back to the Beatitudes and what Jesus taught
I don’t think blessed are the poor in spirit
Or happy are the poor in spirit
Happy are those who mourn, etc…
Means we are supposed to like getting beat up
It is pointing out a truth about life:
In the community of faithful
Where those who mourn are looked after,
Where the sick are visited,
Where the hungry are fed,
When we receive grace from someone else,
When we live an honorable life following after Jesus’ teachings
And treat all people with love and respect
We can be truly happy,
We can move forward in transformation together
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be sad at times
Or remorseful for what we have done wrong
Or even angry with the injustices we see happen
We have to express a wide array of emotions
throughout our days of course
In appropriate contexts
We can laugh and cry together!
But what does it mean to be whole for me today?
What do healing and eternal life mean for you today?
What would bring me peace
Can I be content,
can I be happy with who I am and what I have today?
Where and how God wants to use me
Can I let go of the negative of the past a little
Even use it as momentum
to move forward
Can I sing and dance a little bit in my living room? (Can I here?)
Can I shout, Hallelujah!!
Can I smile because,
despite it all,
Today is a new day.