Not So with You
Jan 22, 2017
Brothers and sisters, we must engage the thrones and confront the thrones–because the thrones are important– but we must never worship the thrones.
This isn’t Judas or Simon the Zealot. This is James and John. These are the ones who followed Jesus into the room when he revived a twelve year old. This is james and John. They, along with Peter, saw Jesus transfigured. This is James and John. They are a part of Jesus inner circle. They are his closest disciples and yet somehow they don’t understand. They don’t know what they’re asking. Somehow, they don’t get it.
They still confuse God’s ways with our ways. They still think that authority means the power to dominate and that greatness means that we must look down on others. They, in a nutshell, are like us. Or they at leas represent how we can be sometimes. This text reminds us that even those who walk closest to Jesus don’t always understand and don’t always get it right.
I’m not going to get into the intricacies of this story. That’s for another sermon. But in a time when folks are despairing and are worried about our president–in a time where some folk who voted for the president are having buyer’s remorse; in a time where some Christians are celebrating and equating a man in the White House with the return of Christ to America; in a time where nation and identity are held as the standards of allegiance; in a time where telling the truth seems to be at a minimum… the Holy Spirit put this sermon in my head and spirit and persuaded me to speak.
I’m only going to focus on three things.
1. You do not know what you are saying. (Your outlook is off and you need a new one) we just don’t get it)
Jesus is telling James and John, “I am about to be killed by the very same power that you want. I am about to be killed by those who sit at the left and right hand of power. The chief priests and elders on the left and Pontius Pilate and Rome on the right. You all think that the Messiah will simply reverse roles. You want to be on top and want me to be on top. And you want them to be on the bottom.”
But as long as we think that way, the Kingdom of God will be nothing more than what we’ve always done as human beings. And brothers and sisters, God is trying to do a new thing with us. A different thing than what we’ve always done. God gave us Jesus to show us that a different way is possible.
Ultimately, God is not into role reversals; God is into redemption. God’s trying to change the roles altogether. This is what a new heaven and earth point to.
But oftentimes, we are like James and John. We don’t know what we are saying.
And Jesus says: “You are requesting glory, but I just told you three times that those in power will kill me. You want greatness and you believe greatness is to be above, to be ahead, to be first, what MLK called the Drum Major Instinct. You don’t know what you’re asking.”
2. Can you drink and be baptized? (Can we confront and expose this madness?)
It’s like Jesus is telling those brothers, “You want to be on top and want me to be on top. And you want them to be on the bottom. And as long as you think like that you can’t see me as I am. This cup I drink is the cup of suffering. This cup will make known to the world that this kind of power that lords over everybody, this kind of power that seeks glory and adulation, this kind of power that separates and makes social winners and losers–this power is demonic.”
Jesus shows us that to follow him is not to check out on the worlds issues. And neither does following him mean that we try to map Jesus and God onto the world’s institutions, governments, nations, presidents, and creations.
Are we mad? Are we mad that our guy isn’t in office and the other guy is? That’s the never ending story of this country. “Not so with you,” says Jesus. Can you drink this cup? Can we expose that this way of living life, this way of organizing ourselves is not God’s will? Can we be baptized into a ministry and way of life that risks suffering for this cause? Are we willing to put our lives and livelihoods on the line to show that this way of living is ugly and will kill innocent people, even the Son of God? Can we go the way of the cross? This way is a way that risks suffering and death. But we risk suffering and death not because we have a death wish. Suffering and death is risked precisely because we die to our old ways of looking at the world and try to live in newness of God’s Beloved Community. And unfortunately when you try to live in a new holistic way, you will often face persecution from those who benefit from separation.
Or do we just want to put our person in office and make sure that our enemies are taken out of the picture? Are we outsourcing our social and spiritual call by completely outsourcing our agency through voting? Are we happy as long as our Pharaoh is sitting on the throne, or are we trying to get rid of the throne?
Lawd, help. I’m asking too many questions.
Jesus shows us that to follow him is not to check out on the worlds issues. And neither does following him mean that we try to map Jesus and God onto the world’s institutions, governments, nations, presidents, and creations. No. Jesus asks us to do something radically different. He asks us to be holy. He asks us to be different. Jesus gives us a third option; one that doesn’t have us being so heavenly bound that we’re no earthly good. Jesus’ third option won’t allow us to equate or conflate human persons and institutions with God or God’s will. This is Jesus’ third option. We are to confront and challenge the powers of our day because these owners are important, but we confront and challenge these powers with the understanding that the presidents, chief priests, governments, nations, institutions are not God. That’s Jesus third way. We don’t check out of our political and economic and social responsibilities and wait for heaven to come. And we don’t try to make our institutions or people into God. We shouldn’t look for God’s will in the thrones of the world. We are to practice a third way. We are to reveal and confront the sinfulness and injustice of the day, by engaging the powers of the day and reminding the world that these powers are not God. Jesus protested in front of the chief priests and elders. He was crucified and was seen as an enemy of Rome. The third way is a risk.
This is Jesus’ third option. We are to confront and challenge the powers of our day because these owners are important, but we confront and challenge these powers with the understanding that the presidents, chief priests, governments, nations, institutions are not God.
Can we do this? God says we can. We can live lives that proclaim like MLK once said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We can hold folks accountable even as we pray and understand that our officials are not God. We can love God enough to love one another even as we call out the ugly things we do. This is the third way.
Can we drink this cup?
Yes. Yes we can. And we can be baptized as well.
John and James said that they could. They just didn’t know what that meant. They abandoned Jesus when the thrones of this world came for him. Brothers and sisters, we must engage the thrones and confront the thrones–because the thrones are important– but we must never worship the thrones.
Let me say it plainly: vote and hold your elected officials accountable. Organize and create strategies for shedding a light on injustice and hatred. But don’t ever worship an elected office. Let us never worship an elected official. And let us never worship a political process. Even though these things can be helpful, they should never be worshipped. Our lives should never be completely centered around them.
As I’ve often said, worshipping God is an act of protest just as much as it’s an act of faith, hope, and love.
3. Not so with you! (Show the World the Alternative!)
There’s more to following Christ than exposing the sin of this world. Drinking the cup and being baptized means risking your comfort and life for the sake of exposing the ungodly, hateful things of this world. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Jesus can’t won’t don’t stop there. He said some good news.
NOT SO WITH YOU.
NOT SO WITH YOU.
NOT SO WITH YOU.
You know the Gentiles think that having authority means lording it over everybody? You know that those who are great in this world are actually those who are tyrants? You know that in this world, we think being on top means that you’re great and being on bottom means that you’re less than? You know in this world some folk think that whoever is in the White House has more power than those outside the White House? You know there were some people who thought that electing Obama healed all wounds cause being elected in the White House meant that racism was eliminated? You know there were some folk who would never speak ill of Obama because being in the White House meant you are on top and untouchable? You know some people think that Trump’s election means that all hope is lost? You know some people think making America great again means making some people first and other people last? You know some folk think that unless they are an officer of a church or have a title by their name, they can’t and won’t serve? You know…. you know there are some folks in our families that won’t participate unless they can run the show? Y’all know that, right?
BUT NOT SO WITH YOU.
You know a lot of folks complain about the way the world is and don’t do anything, or wait for others to change it.
NOT SO WITH YOU
Last week, we heard Jesus say, “you give them something to eat.” This week, Jesus is saying, “you show the world there is a different way of living.” We don’t have to live like this. You want to be great? That’s good! That’s excellent! IF you want to be great, then be of service. Treat each other with dignity and respect. Love somebody like I love you. Model to others what’s missing in this world. You want to be great. Be a waiter. That is what that word servant or minister means. Literally, in Greek, it means 0to wait on tables.” Don’t be the cook, don’t be the hostess, and don’t be the owner. Be the waiter. Serve one another.
BEcause I came to to serve. I came to give myself for others. And if we have a community like that–a community where people give of themselves to one another–then we show the world that the other ways of living are not only harmful and death-dealing… we also show them that another way of living is possible. And Jesus shows that we need a critique and an alternative. Our faith calls us to speak out. But it doesn’t stop there, we must live in a way that shows an alternative is possible. The kingdom of God is at hand. That’s what Jesus was saying. Something else is here.
This does not mean we have it all together. But are we trying? Jesus says it’s not enough to show how bad things are; he said, “not so with you,” show the world that we can live another way. It doesn’t mean we disengage from the world; it means we let our light shine. I’m glad folk are marching and that’s important, but marches are only a tactic; not a movement. Jesus says be a movement. Shake up the world. Show the world what’s possible as my disciple. The Holy Spirit can empower us to serve and love one another. Everybody won’t be the president, but anybody can serve. Everybody can’t be a billionaire, but anybody can serve. Everybody won’t have their names written down in history, but anybody can love and serve. And creating an atmosphere of love and service–that’s the best way to live our lives.
And Jesus says, I’ll be with you! Though the journey be long, I’m with you. When it’s hard to go on; he’ll be with you!
Others may lose hope, but not so with you. I’m with you, even to the end of the age!
Others may feel like the president determines everything in this world, but not so with you. The Lord is our shepherd we shall not want!
Others may feel that war and violence are the order of the day, but not so with you. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God!
Some may feel that rich have it all and the poor are nothing. But not so with you. Blessed are the poor for yours is the kingdom of God and woe to the rich for you have received your consolation.
Some may feel forgotten, unloved, and forsaken, but not so. Not so with you. Not so. God says I’ll never leave you, I love you, I won’t forsake you… Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus
So get on up, get on up, get on up, brothers and sisters, homeboys and homegirls, children of God… show these jokers a new definition of greatness.
Get on up, get on up, get on up, and show these folks that all things are possible with God
Let’s Get on up and love somebody like God loves us…
I saw the lightning flashing. I heard the thunder roll. I felt sins’ breakers dashing, I felt hopelessness, I felt the haters, I felt world closing in, trying to conquer my soul… but then I heard the voice of Jesus… bidding me to still fight on, saying not so with you, say get up and go on, he promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone…
Faith, hope, & love.
©2017 M. J. Sales