Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Baby, the Rain Must Fall (Reflections on the story of Noah)

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In the immortal words of James Taylor, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. Well, I haven’t actually seen that much of fire. I once drove up the coast of California from L.A. to Santa Barbara and saw wildfires at a distance burning up the scrub brush. I’ve also lived in Wisconsin where tornadoes are plentiful in the summer, and heard the sirens go off at 1 AM as the neighboring town of Barneveld was blown off the map by a twister. My only actual disaster experience was living through several pretty scary earthquakes in Southern California. One did a good deal of damage to my home, but I managed to escape—for the most part—unscathed.

But if I had to pick my least favorite “Act of God” type of disaster, I’d have to go with a flood. I once had a basement flooded by a bad rainstorm here in Philadelphia, and that was enough for me. In a flood, everything gets ruined. When the water subsides, all you have left is soggy, gooey mess. That’s followed by mold and mildew and disgusting stench and potential infection and disease. Also, you can’t escape from a flood. You can’t dive under a table like in an earthquake or head for the basement like in a tornado. You just have to get to higher ground and hope the water doesn’t rise too fast and help arrives in time.
Nobody is safe when the waters fall. They fall on the good and bad alike. Even Oprah Winfrey sustained property damage when the rains poured mud on her Montecito, CA home earlier this year. (And if Oprah isn’t safe, God help the rest of us!)

Yet, somehow, I take a little comfort in God’s wrath. Not that I wish harm on anyone, mind you. In fact, I’ve always been disturbed by the violence in the Noah story in Genesis (Genesis 6-10). It’s like God temporarily joined the NRA and thought that the answer to violence was more violence. Fortunately for us, God repents at the end of the story and promises never to destroy us with a flood again—at least not everyone at once.

What comforts me is the reminder of God’s awesome power. The flood story tells us again that we’re not the ones who drive this bus. When the rain comes down and the river rises, it doesn’t matter how rich, beautiful, important, or connected you are. It doesn’t matter what kind of degree hangs on your wall or trophy sits on your shelf. Your age, ethnicity, political affiliation, and religious denomination won’t be a differentiating factor. As much as we think of ourselves, God will have the final say.

And that should put some stuff in perspective for us. We better give a little bit of thought to the things we can control, because there’s a whole lot that we can’t.

Of course, besides the death and destruction aspect of the story, the other thing that gets me bothered about the tale of Noah is the idea that God singled out this one guy and saved him and his family when everyone else (and all the other critters, too) were drowned. Okay. The Bible clearly says that Noah was righteous and everyone else was violent and wicked. I guess they got what was coming to them, but it makes me wonder: If I get saved from a flood and my neighbor doesn’t, does that mean I’m good and he sucks in God’s eyes?

Maybe it’s better we just take the story for what it is and not go there. I’ll just stick with the idea that I can’t really control anything on this crazy rock. I’ll be thankful to God for the blessings God bestows on me every day and for God’s shear awesomeness. And I’ll hunger and thirst after righteousness, too. Not because I fear punishment, disaster, or retribution. But because I experience my helplessness. I don’t know how much time I have here, and I don’t want to waste any of it trying to out-God God.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Patriarch's Journey (Reflections on Lent 2, Year B)

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"The Expulsion of Hagar" by Gustav Dore, French print ca. 1866.

“I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7)

The above is the promise God made to Abraham, the “Big Daddy” of three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. God made a deal with this old boy: Get up and leave your secure and settled home in Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq, we call it) and head west to land I’ll show you. Just keep going, keep believing in me, and I will bless you so that you will be a blessing to the whole earth (see Genesis 12:1-3).

In Abraham’s time, that was a pretty tall order. It was a big and gutsy decision to leave settled land and venture into God-knows-what kind of territory with no proof that things will turn out well at all. But, then again, that’s what we call faith.

When I think of Abraham and his journey—which is a heck of a story, and if you haven’t read it in a while you should look at it again (Genesis 12-25)—I think of my own dad. My illustrious patriarch did what a lot of guys his age did when they returned from military service in the Second World War. He took his wife and journeyed west, leaving his home and family on the East Coast and ventured in search of the Promised Land in Southern California. My parents settled in San Diego where they produced my two sisters and my dad went to work in the aerospace industry.

As Abraham was forced to journey from Canaan into Egypt in search of food, my Old Man was forced to uproot his young family and head to Kansas where he could put his engineering skills to work keeping Khrushchev’s murderous hordes at bay by the installation of intercontinental ballistic missiles.  I was born during this leg of his odyssey.

Alas, famine struck again when the last missile silo was filled with its deadly inhabitant, and Dad headed out on his own to find work in Colorado, sending for the family once he was settled. Eventually the work took him back to California, the land of Milk and Honey, where jobs for veteran engineers were falling off the trees.

That is, until the early 1970’s. As the Vietnam war wound down and we had beaten the Russians to the moon, the government tap for aerospace work was twisting shut and the milk and honey ceased to flow. My dad lost his job and spent a torturous fourteen months on the unemployment line. Now, anyone who’s ever been laid off knows you only have to be out a short time to get a long way behind in the bills. For years afterwards work was sporadic, and there were many frustrating periods of unemployment for this middle-aged engineer.

My dad tried a lot of career changes during this period—real estate, manufacturing dune buggy bodies, selling household products—all of which proved unsuccessful. Yet he never lost faith that somehow everything would turn around and he and his family would be safe and financially secure again. He never skipped church, never stopped reading his Bible, and his offering envelope went in the collection plate (sometimes with rather meagre contents) every Sunday. It always seemed that, just as he was down to his last buck, something would turn up to keep us going.

Eventually, my father was hired back by the same firm which had laid him off years before, and was able to retire comfortably with full benefits. His legacy supported my mother for the rest of her days, and even stretched far enough to pay off my student loan from seminary. I feel, like Abraham, my dad had been blessed to be a blessing. A faithful and active Christian himself, he was also the father of a Lutheran clergyman and a Disciples of Christ teaching missionary (my sister Lorraine who has served in South Africa and Myanmar).

I never really gave thought to my dad’s faithfulness until years later when, as a graduate teaching assistant, I attended the funeral of the father of one of my students. This man, frustrated by his unemployment, had killed himself in the family garage by poisoning himself with carbon monoxide.

My dad wasn’t perfect, but nobody’s family is. The Hebrew Scripture text in the Revised Common Lectionary for Lent 2, Year B (Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16) finds God re-making his covenant with Abraham after Abraham, frustrated by Sarah’s childlessness, doubted God and tried to take matters into his own hands. Sarah gave Abraham her slave girl, Hagar, as a concubine (Nobody asked Hagar what she thought of this arrangement!), even though God had promised that Sarah would eventually be the mother of Abraham’s offspring. Abraham impregnated Hagar, and Hagar suddenly became a little smug and snooty at being the patriarch’s baby momma. This resulted in Sarah beating the crap out of her and blaming it all on Abraham. Two women in the household made for a pretty tense situation for old Abe, and he was eventually forced to send Hagar and her son, Ishmael, packing. God, on the other hand, was patient with Abraham and eventually gave him a son by Sarah.

God doesn’t always see to our wants in the way and on the timeline we want him to. In fact, God doesn’t even see to our wants. He sees to our needs.

Religion isn’t about how we influence God, because God will do what God will do. The rain will fall on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. Religion is about how God influences us. Faith means that we will sometimes be called upon to carry the cross and simply believe, trusting that such belief will make us a living witnesses and blessings to others.

Share the blessing, my friend. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

God Bless! (Reflections on the Creation Story)

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“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

God bless.

I say that phrase a lot. I tell it to the guy at the toll booth when I cross the Delaware River every morning. I say it to the young girl who hands me my freshly cleaned and pressed black clerical slacks at the dry cleaner. I use it as the closing salutation on my emails. I want you to know that God blesses you. By the dictionary definition, God favors you, endows, you, and desires your joy.

When I looked again at the famous creation story in Genesis 1, I noticed that three times it’s mentioned that God blesses something. God blesses the first creatures to crawl out of the primordial sea (v.22), he blesses human beings when he creates us in his image to be caretakers of the earth (v.28), and he blesses the Sabbath day of rest (Chpt. 2:3).

I think that’s pretty cool, don’t you? I mean, to think that the God of Creation approves of this world, provides for it, and wills its happiness—basically loves this world—is a pretty great way to navigate through our lives.

The Genesis 1 story shouldn’t be looked at as “Creation Science” or “Intelligent Design.” I sure wish the fundamentalists and evangelicals would let that one go. This isn’t a lesson in science, and the veracity of the Scripture doesn’t rest on the literal truth of this narrative. The fact that there’s actually two contradictory creation stories in Genesis should’ve been a clue that this wasn’t to be taken literally. What we have in Genesis 1 is the conviction of Hebrew believers from the 6th Century BCE about the nature of God’s relationship to our world.

In this narrative, these believers from a polytheistic culture declare that there is only one Creator God. This God—our God—created a world of order and harmony out of chaos. It was a beautiful world, and it was made simply by God’s will, by God speaking it into existence. God loves and blesses it. It is a world where there is no bloodshed as humans and animals are provided for by the plants which grow abundantly for food (v.29-30).

So what’s the big deal here? I find three things which touch me about this story. First, it’s the idea that God blesses creation. He loves it and endows it. If you can’t wrap your brain around that, you’re doomed to live a life of fear of privation. Even as badly as we humans have jacked up this planet, there is still enough food produced to feed every man, woman, and child if we are willing to share it. The problem is not overpopulation but, rather, underdistribution. Faith in God’s blessing can produce generosity and peace. Fear will produce something very different.

Secondly, the writers of the Genesis 1 creation myth believed that God made the universe orderly. There’s a way that it works and a way that it won’t work. If we’re willing to work with it, we can be blessed by it. God has given us the sun and the wind and every plant bearing seed after its kind by which we can power our homes and industry. At Faith Lutheran in Philadelphia we have committed to purchasing only electrical power from renewable sources. The world was not created to have filth poured into the seas and into the air. We can exploit finite resources, but we will pay a penalty for it. (Similarly, we can build a 2000 mile wall along the southern border of the United States, but it won’t keep drugs out of the country. What it will do is interrupt the migratory patterns of many species with the potential of bringing them to extinction!) Genesis calls us to see the order and pattern of the created world, and seek harmony with it.

Finally, the belief that God created the world in order to bless it. God’s blessings are myriad, and God does not stop being good just because we, in our selfish circumstances, fail to recognize his goodness. You may be having a tough day, but you had sky above you, food to eat, and water to drink. Somewhere a kid started his first job. Somewhere two teenagers fell in love. Somewhere a baby has been born. Somewhere an elderly soul has died peacefully after a long and meaningful life.

Belief in God’s presence in creation is not just to assure us of going to Heaven when we die or to give us rules and regulations for our journey through earthly society. Granted, such beliefs are powerful; nevertheless, seeing God in creation as provider and guide can give us a sense of joy in all we encounter daily. We yearn to feel God’s presence and love in all things, and know that he has pronounced it good. In this way, we come alive.

God bless!

PS – If you’re interested in the ecological effects of the proposed border wall, click on WALL  for a link.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Noah Was a Jerk (Reflections on Lent 1, Year B)

“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)

So what’s a “covenant?” I’ve been trying to get the concept across to my confirmation students this semester since the word seems to crop up a lot in the Bible. It’s a contract, an agreement, a treaty, a hand-shake, pinky-swear, “let’s-drink-on-it” mutual promise between two parties. And covenants show up pretty early in the Bible. Adam and Eve are the first parties to a covenant with God. That deal went like this: “Live in my garden,” God says. “Eat all the fruits and veggies you want, be in charge of everything and have lots of babies. Just don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and everything will be peachy between us.”

Well, that deal didn’t last too long.

Before you know it, everybody is just sinning their butts off. By Genesis 4 we get our first homicide, and by Genesis 6:11 the whole earth is filled with violence. So God finds one pretty righteous dude—Noah—and tells him to build a big boat to save himself and his family and enough animals to repopulate the world. Then God proceeds to wipe out all other life on earth with a devastating flood and start from scratch (which, if you ask me, sounds pretty extreme!).

But God’s plan to end violence with more violence turns out to be a bust. When Noah finally sets foot on dry land once again, he builds an altar and makes a sacrifice to God, presumable in thanksgiving for not being drowned himself (Genesis 8:20ff). There is no mention that he has any regret for the mass death and destruction which has just occurred or any pity for those who’ve died. It’s God who recognizes that even righteous Noah can be a selfish jerk, and laments, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth…” (v.21b)

To be sure, Noah actually turns out to be something of a tool. In Genesis 9:18-27 (a story we never teach the kids in Sunday School), our “righteous” friend plants a vineyard, makes wine, gets totally hammered, and passes out buck naked. When his son Ham finds the old man sleeping it off in the buff, he gets his brothers to come and cover him up. Unfortunately, Noah, in his hang-over embarrassment, blames the whole incident on Ham for seeing him nude, and curses him and his descendants forever (As if seeing your dad drunk and naked isn’t enough of a curse already!). The guy whose boat-building skills have saved the human race turns out to be a drunken, abusive father after all. (I guess nobody’s family is perfect.)

Knowing that the flood idea didn’t work too well, God makes another treaty with humankind: This time, God relaxes the rules, knowing that we’re probably going to break them anyway. He even gives up on the vegetarian thing and lets us eat meat (9:3). The new deal is totally one-sided. God just promises that he won’t wipe out life on earth. Period. He seals the deal with the rainbow, his signature on the dotted line which says he loves everything he’s made, and his desire is that it should flourish. There are no pre-conditions on our part.

This is a pretty daring thing for God to do, knowing as God does, how totally weak and faithless we are. God again gives stewardship of this planet into our stupid hands (9:1-2). God promises to be patient and to bless the earth. We’re the ones with the potential to screw it all up.
So what is our response to God’s non-aggression pact? Do we say, “Thanks, God” and forget it, or are we inspired to develop some kind of responsibility towards the other living creatures of all flesh that are upon the earth? Or towrds the earth itself?

I kind of wonder why the Revised Common Lectionary marries the story of God’s covenant with Noah to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Mark 8:31-38). Perhaps it’s just to illustrate for us as we begin our Lenten observances that God’s goodness is stronger than sin’s temptation. God is willing to give us this planet and trust that we’ll take care of it. We’ll be tempted to make selfish choices and mess it all up. But Jesus came to walk with us in this wicked, jacked-up world, and teach us by example. We really can be grateful and faithful once we let into our hearts the knowledge that God’s love is mightier than the world’s sin.

Look to the rainbow. Feel God’s grace. Then do the right thing.

Thanks for reading, my friend.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Where's Your Heart? (Reflections on Ash Wednesday)

People don’t like to hear bad news. Especially not in church.

But the prophet Joel (Joel 2:1-2,12-27) is warning us that “a day of darkness and gloom,” is at hand, and we are enjoined to return to the Lord with fasting, weeping, and mourning. And I don’t think his warning is ill-timed at all.

Yesterday, the Federal Office of Management and Budget released its proposed budget for fiscal 2019. According to the smart guys who study these things, this budget will slash Medicare and Medicaid, make deep cuts in the SNAP (Food Stamps) program, and drastically roll back federal protection and oversight for the environment while shoveling huge scoops of money to the military and, potentially, increasing the federal deficit by $7 trillion. Have you considered what would happen on the day when the U.S. government can’t pay back all the money it has to borrow because of run-away military spending and tax cuts? You don’t need to be a Biblical prophet to figure that one out.

We are being called to a Day of Repentance.

In the Gospel assigned for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21), Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also (v.21). So where are our hearts? I’d say that just about all of this section of Matthew’s Gospel, part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” is a warning that our hearts have turned inward. Sin, as Martin Luther often pointed out, is a case of the individual curved in on his or herself, forgetting the commands of God and the needs of the world around us.

In the Gospel Jesus warns us about the self-aggrandizing arrogance of those who blow a trumpet when they give alms. But what about those who sound off because they refuse to give alms? What about those who ask, “Why should I pay school tax when my kid doesn’t go there?” or “Why do I have to provide a safety net for people who are too dumb to save for a rainy day like I did?” or “Charity just makes people lazy. Let ‘em get a job!”

We love to sound our trumpets, don’t we? We spend hours on facebook, showing ourselves off. We all become instant celebrities. And we love fame for its own sake—as if notoriety is the same as worthiness, and everything we do must have universal appeal because we’re the ones doing it. (For the record, I’d really love to see pictures of your new grandchild, but I don’t have to see the restaurant meal you’re about to eat or your vacation photos. I’d much rather enjoy a meal with you and have you tell me about your adventures!) So often, however, the touch screen keeps us prisoners of our own narcissism.

Not only do we become besotted with our own lives and narratives, but the instantaneous nature of social media seems to have led us to believe that we’re entitled to everything we want the instant we want it. We grow impatient in our self-importance. We honk the nanosecond the light turns green. We sigh heavily if the customer in front of us has a complicated transaction. We treat minor annoyances like they’re crimes against humanity—ignoring the fact that true crimes against humanity are being committed every day even though our media outlets seem more interested in telling us about the Kardashians.

Ash Wednesday and Lent are our wake-up call. This is a time to get real about who we are and what we care about. This is the time to look inside and ask “Where is my treasure? Where is my heart?”

The exhortations Jesus gives us in this Gospel lesson are meant to re-focus us. He says, “Whenever you give alms…” which to me presupposes that he intends his disciples to be alms-givers. He means for us to be people of compassion who unfold ourselves, look around us, and recognize we have a duty to those in need.

Jesus also gives us a word about our prayer life—which suggests to me that he expects us to have one. He is calling us to seek God’s way in our inmost hearts. Intentionally, Quietly. Personally.

We are also called to that arcane Lenten discipline, fasting. This isn’t just a suggestion that we go on a diet, but a reminder to jettison the unnecessary things in our lives. Traditionally, Lent has been a time of sacrifice. For centuries, Christians have used this forty-day period as time to give up an unnecessary indulgence and dedicate our resources to charitable giving or acts. We can give up the cigarettes or the lattes, and donate the savings to World Hunger. We can give up facebook, and spend the time listening to our families, reading the Scriptures, or praying contemplative prayers. We can give up complaining, and find words of praise for the people around us. We can give up worrying about the world, and commit to some form of advocacy.

The good news is that God is always listening, always present. God is always willing to help us find our way back to being the people we are intended to be. There are no wrongs God can’t make right if our hearts turn in God’s direction. A change in the world begins with a change in our hearts.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Shining Moment (Reflections on the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Year B)

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It’s no small challenge for a church or a preacher that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday are falling on the same day this year. The two are kind of like jalapeno nachos and chocolate sauce—I like both of them, but not together. I mean, what are you supposed to do with this conjunction? Send a card that says, “Be mine forever, even though we’re both dust and to dust we shall return?”

But! I think I can make a nice parallel (Okay. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch but I’m doing my best!) between Valentine’s Day and the Feast of the Transfiguration. In this last Sunday of the Epiphany season in Mark’s gospel (Mark 9:2-9), we see Jesus dressed in dazzling white and utterly transformed before his closest disciples in such a manner that they are completely blown away by the experience.

I experience something similar at wedding ceremonies. I’ve performed quite a few weddings in my time in the ordained ministry. I’ve married some pretty plain looking women, but I’ve never seen a bride who wasn’t beautiful on her wedding day. There’s just something about the nature of the experience which is transformative. People say that brides “glow,” and I can testify that they do—I’ve seen it again and again.

But, of course, it’s not just the physical transformation which defines the experience of a wedding. It’s the fact that this is a life-changing moment when the two become one. Unfortunately, the glow, the dazzling white, the intoxication of joy that occurs when the bride comes down the aisle is a fleeting experience, and like all sublime moments, it will be gone in a breath and live on only in a memory. (Your really expensive wedding album might help you remember it, but the feeling can never quite be recaptured. It’s kind of like our Eagles winning the Super Bowl. There may be other championships sometime in the future, but the comradery and the chemistry and excitement of this past season has been unique, and is destined to fade. That’s a shame, but that’s just how it is.)

For Peter, James, and John on the mountain with Jesus, there was a moment of sublime realization that Jesus was unique and so much more than he appeared to be. He was the one. Granted, they really didn’t know what that meant. Peter, carried away as always by the excitement and joy of the moment, makes an offer to stay forever on that mountain top, but that’s just not practical or even possible. The moment had to fade, but the change in the disciples’ relationship to Jesus had to be permanent.

Again, this is sort of like a wedding. We see our beloved glowing before us, and we don’t imagine we could ever be more happy or in love, or lucky than we are at that moment. But we don’t really know what’s to come, do we?

I appreciate that Jesus orders the boys not to talk about their experience. It makes sense. They won’t be able to explain it or make others feel the way they did. Truth be told, they didn’t really understand the experience themselves. Nevertheless, their lives had been changed by Jesus—even if they didn’t see quite how it would all play out. They were just told to be faithful—faithful to his words.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m asking the folks in my parish to bring in their wedding pictures to church to have them blessed. We’re also going to invite the married couples in the congregation to renew their wedding vows during the Transfiguration service. Of course, when you think about it, we are always renewing our vows to Christ whenever we gather for public worship. In the liturgy of Confession and Forgiveness, the recitation of the historic creeds of the church, and the coming together to meet Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar we are keeping the transfiguring moment of our baptism alive and recovering our promise to be faithful. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

It's a Secret (Reflections on Epiphany 5, Year B)

“…and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:34)

My old synodical bishop was a very clever fellow. He used to caution me about giving out too much personal information. He figured there were probably a lot of things the average parishioner just didn’t need to know. “There are nineteen interpretations for everything you say,” he’d tell me, “and eighteen of them are wrong.”

Sometimes it’s just a good idea to keep stuff to yourself. I think that explains the “Messianic Secret” which gets introduced in the gospel lesson in the Revised Common Lectionary for Epiphany 5, Year B (Mark 1:29-39). Jesus, if you’ll recall from last week, has just performed a miraculous healing of a man possessed by an unclean spirit in the local synagogue. People get really excited about this and start talking it up. When Jesus leaves the synagogue and enters the home of his friends Simon and Andrew, he finds Simon’s mother-in-law down sick with a fever. I guess since there’s no other woman there to do the cooking in this male-dominated society, Jesus heals the old gal, and she immediately gets up and starts serving the guys.

(You’d think he’d let her rest a bit, but maybe, being a Jewish mother, she couldn’t rest when there was food to be cooked!)

Suddenly Jesus finds himself to be quite famous. He doesn’t even get a chance to finish dinner before the whole town starts trotting out the sick and demonically possessed hoping he’ll heal them—which, of course, he does. However, he won’t let the demons speak to him. He knows they know who he really is, and he’d rather keep that tidbit of information to himself just at the moment.

Why? I’m guessing it’s because the folks just wouldn’t understand. The demon in the synagogue dimed Jesus out as “the Holy One of God” (verse.24). That wasn’t something Jesus wanted shouted, because he might’ve figured that the local folks would think he was going to be some kind of Davidic king who would free them from their oppressors and give them everything they think they wanted. But that’s not what this messiah came to do.

The next day Jesus goes out to pray by himself. He’s had enough of the crowds cheering his celebrity. He needs a few minutes to connect with God, but the disciples run and find him and tell him that everyone is looking for him. His response is to move on to the neighboring towns and proclaim the kingdom of God. He doesn’t want to stay in Capernaum and take a curtain call. Fame isn’t what he’s after. It also seems to me that he’s not that interested in the individual acts of healing, either.

Jesus says that his mission is to proclaim the message. He might be able to do this through healing and casting out unclean spirits, but such spectacular shows of divine power may have only a minimal effect. Yes, the sick were made well, but they would eventually die some other day. What would their lives be like in the interval between their healing and their death? Would they know the kingdom of God was with them, and would they be able to praise God in all their circumstances and see God’s presence in those around them?

A physical cure is only temporary, but the knowledge of God is a permanent lifestyle. We all call for Jesus when we’re sick or in trouble, but do we know to praise him when we’re well fed and healthy?

You just have to admire Jesus in this lesson. I mean, he’s really being pretty classy, and I think we can learn something from the way he operates. After all, what really matters? Doing the righteous work of God, or being praised for doing it?

God be with you, my friends. Keep proclaiming the Kingdom!