July 26, 2015 “ 9 Pentecost B, Proper 12
2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; Mark 6:1-21
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Jesus is the new Passover. That old, formerly life-giving celebration of God’s great act of salvation in rescuing the people of Israel from oppression and slavery in Egypt has lost its meaning. Jesus comes to renew the people’s experience of salvation. The religious institution of the day, the temple, has taken that old notion of God’s saving act and turned it into nothing more than a means of control and condemnation. The great message of freedom has turned back into oppression and Jesus comes to put things right, to be the new Passover, the new Temple.
Imagine what it would be like to go to the holy temple, the place that stands for God and all that is good, and to hear over and over again that you’re no good, that you’ve got to be different, you’ve got to work harder or you’re going to spend eternity separated from God. Imagine going to the holy temple, the place that stands for God and all that is good, and to be turned away, to be told you’re not even worthy to enter this place. Imagine standing outside trying to figure out who you are and who God is. Imagine thinking your very being has been rejected by God and the place you associate with all things holy and good.
Today we read about the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water and the context for those miracles is Jesus up on top of the mountain with a large crowd coming to him. That crowd is supposed to be going to the temple for the Passover. But instead of going to the temple, they go up on the mountain to listen to Jesus, to get a glimpse and maybe a touch, to hear a message very different from what they’re used to hearing in the temple. This Jesus is welcoming all people, all sinners, all those who have been told they are unworthy and unclean. Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.
The people are tired of hearing condemnation and control. They’re tired of hearing the story of rescue and salvation as something that only happened long ago. They yearn for healing and freedom and so they turn away from the temple and they go to Jesus. Jesus becomes the new Passover, the new Temple.
There’s an old story of a fellow who woke up on a Sunday morning and didn’t want to go to church. His mother found him sitting in the kitchen with his head down. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for church, son? I’m not going today. Why not? Everybody there acts like they’re dead; it’s so boring. Well, son you know you have to go. Why, why do I have to go? Because you’re the rector and that’s your job.
Imagine going to the temple seeking life and health and just finding condemnation and control, seeking life and finding only death. Jesus calls to the crowd, Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. And the crowd comes. The temple is dead. Jesus is alive and gives life.
Are we alive here in our temple or are we dead? Can people come here and find the good news of Christ or do they have to go somewhere else? Are we hearing and proclaiming a message of life and health or are we hearing and proclaiming a message of condemnation and control? What about your own heart? Dead or alive? Is your notion of the resurrection just something that happened long ago to Jesus or only happens later on to certain ones who qualify or is it something real and operative right now?
What about miracles? Are they things that used to happen but don’t happen anymore? Are they just fabrications or are they real for you? Can you see the great abundance of grace all around you? Or are you so focused on what you don’t have that you can’t be fed and loved? Are you so frightened of the storms in your life that you can’t see the calming presence of Jesus walking toward you?
Grace abounds. Daily you and I face situations where we just don’t have enough to make it all turn out okay. But we do what we can and somehow grace gets us through and we learn and grow. Just like with the feeding of the 5000, there’s more grace for us after the struggle than there was before the struggle. That doesn’t add up. Grace doesn’t add up. Grace multiplies.
Peace is given to us. We row and row against the wind with the waves lapping up over the sides of our boats. It wears us down. We do what we can and somehow peace enters. The storms subside and we come to know more peace than we ever knew before the storm started.
The resurrection isn’t way back when. It’s not just in the future. It’s right now. Grace and hope and peace are all right here. To say that Jesus is alive is simply to say that God is alive. Are we alive? Sometimes we treat God and his message as something that died way back when. When we do that our temple is dead, we are dead. Will we be alive for those who come to us in this generation and the next?
Jesus is the new Passover, the new temple. And Jesus invites us to embrace the life-changing hope of that old, old message. God comes to us to save us, to heal, to welcome us. Jesus invites us to become a new temple, individually and together.
Be fed this day. Let peace come into your hearts. Become a new temple where grace and peace allow you to see the great goodness of life all around you.