Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"Well of course you would say that you are a pastor."

It happens every once and a while.
Someone will say something like, “Well of course you would say/think that you are a pastor.”
I remember the first time it happened.
I was having a conversation with a couple of people in the Church I was pastoring in Long Island.
We were talking about stewardship.
I was sharing how joyful I was to be able to give some of what the Lord had given me to the Church.
And one of the people sitting in this conversation said, “Well of course you would say that you are a pastor.”
It happened another time when we I was talking to some people about loving our enemies.
It was shortly after 9/11.
People were upset, rightfully, about what happened.
I mentioned that Jesus taught us to “love our enemies. Pray for those that persecute us.”
Someone in the group said, “Well of course you would think that you are a pastor.”
Here are some the problems with people saying that to me.
One, it implies that I am somehow a better disciple of Jesus than other people.
I will tell you the truth.
I find Jesus just as annoying as the rest of you.
I would rather not hear it.
I would rather not have to think about others before myself.
I would rather not love people I find annoying.
I would rather not give up 10% of my income.
I would rather not have Jesus bugging me all the time.
Recently I have been struggling with something happening within the life of the larger church.
It has nothing to do with anything happening at Concordia Lutheran.
I don’t want to go into all the details.
But I am angry, frustrated, and hurt over it.
My instinct is to lash out in anger, to get revenge.
But Jesus keeps pulling me back, asking me to find a better way.
Jesus keeps telling me to look for the best in the people who did this.
I am trying, but it is not easy.

The second thing wrong with this is that it degrades all of you.-
It says that you are not expected to be a good disciple of Jesus Christ.
That your pastor lives the type of discipleship you are supposed to have, but since he does it than you don’t have to.
And here is the thing; Jesus demands all of us to be his disciples.
He asked all of us to pick up our cross and follow him.
He asks all of us to lose our life for the sake of the Gospel.
He doesn’t anywhere in the Bible say, “Well this stuff I am saying is just for pastors. They are the only ones who have to do any of this.”
Jesus teachings are for all of his disciples.
It is for all those who follow him.
Just like those from our Gospel this morning.

Today’s Gospel is familiar to all of us because it is the story of Palm Sunday.
But it is also unfamiliar to us because the story we have in our head is really a combination of all the Gospel stories.
In Luke’s telling of Jesus ride into Jerusalem it is interesting to note that it is not the anonymous large crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Passover that cheer Jesus on.
It is only “the whole multitude of disciples.”
Meaning that there are a lot of people, but all of them are disciples of Jesus.
They are the people that have been following Jesus on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.
They are the people who have seen him cure the lame, give sight to the blind.
They have heard him preach good news to the poor.
They experienced him feed 5,000 people.
They are the people who know him best.
That is us.
We are Jesus’ disciples we are the people that know him best.
What do we believe that Jesus means to us?
How do we live out our own discipleship?

We are about to enter Holy Week and experience again the ancient story that gives our faith its deepest meaning and value.
And the question that Palm Sunday raises is where will we be?
We know that most of Jesus disciples will desert him.
They will flee in fear.
One will betray him.
One will deny him.
And a couple, all women will follow him to the cross.
They will watch in horror as Jesus is killed.
They will be the first to go to the tomb Easter Sunday.
Are we willing to go to the tomb with Jesus?
That is what our discipleship demands of us to give our life away for the sake of the Gospel for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Within that context even 10% of our income, our talent, and our time would not be enough.
Jesus really demands all of it.

When people say to me, “Well of course you would say that you are a pastor.” what I want to say back is that it is not me saying these things.
It is Jesus!
Jesus is asking you to love your enemies not me.
Jesus is asking you to pick up your cross, not me.
Jesus is asking you to bring good news to the poor, not me.
Jesus is telling you not to make money more important than God, not me.
I am merely the spokes person.
And even if I didn’t tell you these things God’s truth would come out anyway.
Even if you had a rock for a pastor that Word would get spoken.
Somehow God would find a way.
That is what I always rest my hope on.
Because there are lots of times when I don’t say what I should because of fear.
Fear that it would offend; fear that it will drive people away.
But God’s truth comes out anyway.
God’s love wins.

The good news is that our discipleship is lived out by sharing the love God has given us with those around us.
We live out our discipleship by loving our Families, friends, and the people we encounter every day.
We live our discipleship by giving ourselves so others can have a better life.

The problem is that we are also called to care for other families too.
We are called to love the unlovable people.
And we must face the facts that even being a disciple within the flow of everyday life is really hard.
We are not always a good spouse.
We are not always a good friend.
We are not always a good boss, or worker.
We struggle sometimes to love the people that love us.
How can we love those that don’t?

Well the good news is that it really doesn’t depend on us at all, because even if we are silent the stones will cry out.
Even if we totally mess this up God will find a way.
The resurrection did not depend upon the disciples’ willingness to give up their own lives.
God will make happen what we cannot.
And that is our ultimate hope.

On this Palm Sunday let us all think about what it means for us to be disciples of Jesus.
What does it mean for us to follow him to the cross?
What does it mean for us to love our neighbors, our enemies, as ourselves?
What does it mean to give away our lives for the sake of the Gospel?
What does it mean to shout, “Bless is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”?

You are called to live fully into God’s love so that everyone may know the good news we experience on Easter.
But of course I think that I am a pastor.
True but we are all disciples of Jesus Christ.

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