Sermon – January 19, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin
2nd Sunday after Ephiphany
“We have found the Messiah…” John 1:41
Please be seated
We have found the Messiah…. Can you imagine any person who would compel you to leave everything you know… to abandon your job, your family and all of your worldly goods to walk the land with this person? But that’s what we hear about in our Gospel reading today (and also next week.) “We have found the Messiah,” Andrew says, and he and his brother Peter follow.
During those times the Messiah was going to restore Israel and the faith in God. In many ways, the Messiah was understood as the most righteous and perfect ruler…someone with political, as well as, physical strength. The land and people would be protected from their many enemies – you see Israel was the land between many great powers to the north, south and east. And during Jesus’ time, the Roman Empire was oppressing the people. They wanted relief.
So here is Jesus and something about him makes John the Baptist, and Andrew and then Peter hope that the new ruler has come. The perfect King, the powerful political ruler. That is the only way they understood restoration…that Israel would become powerful as a nation…that no one would be able defeat the nation and in so doing, the people would have a good life and God would be glorified. People would see the nation of Israel and its power and want to follow and worship its God.
They wanted saved from the wars by the powerful nations around them by becoming the most powerful themselves. But God understood the world differently and Jesus came to give us a new way to live and to think about our lives, a new paradigm of the world and of our relationship to God.
A few years ago after reading the passage in Matthew about Jesus riding into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna and palms and cloaks strewn on the path, I wrote the following poem:
After reading Matthew 21:1-11
By Rebecca S. Myers
We are always looking for a
Savior to save us from other people
When what we need
Is a savior
Who saves us from ourselves.
It is so easy to point the finger at things external to us as being “what’s wrong.” So we work to change our external circumstances.
“Well, Corbin hasn’t worked out so well, maybe I should move,” we say, and off we go. In 12-step circles, this is called a geographic cure. We think a new job will make the difference or maybe different friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these things can be good. It’s not the actions so much, it’s our interior state in pursuing those changes that is the difference.
Because as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” In other words, we need to do the interior work on ourselves. Changing our external conditions without doing the internal work doesn’t really change much in the end.
What are the things about you that Jesus comes to liberate you from?
Here are some of mine. I call them “lies I tell myself:”
I have to do this all by myself. Yes, being responsible and taking care of myself is important, but I can take self reliance too far. I can fail to ask for help or suggestions because after all, I am the Executive Director…I am the priest. My ability to accomplish a lot is why people chose me for this position, isn’t it? Doesn’t it mean I’m weak or incompetent if I need to ask for help?
What a dangerous trap that is! Even Jesus had twelve Apostles and many more followers. We don’t see that he necessarily asked them for help, more often he taught them, but he still had people around him AND he created that community so that when he was no longer with them, they had each other. We were made for relationship. We each have different ideas and perspectives. No one of us has the ONLY line to God. Reaching out and including others, makes for a better discussion and ultimately a better path.
I must remind myself I do not have to do this all by myself and then, who can help. Once I open up, in my experience, God has led me to the people who can help.
Another one for me, that is part of the previous one, is I can be perfect. Yes, I need to continue to grow and change, but honestly, there are some things that are never going to happen for me. For instance, I make snap judgments, and as a board president of mine observed, I don’t suffer fools gladly. The look I make when I think you’ve said about the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard has been caught on camera, even.
My former husband and I had an outdoor wedding in a field at my parents’ home at the time. We had jazz music playing and we picked a number that would be the “entrance” number – it was “Night and Day” by Dave Brubeck. My husband and I were walking down the aisle together. He panicked, believing we’d missed our cue and started walking in front of me slightly. I gave him that “look” and said in my sternest voice, “Don’t you walk in front of me!” And the photographer caught that moment! So, I know that look! The World According to Rebecca.
Rather than beating myself up about my judgmentalism, I can accept it is part of my nature. In my experience, acceptance brings many benefits. Once I accept myself as I am, then the way to lessen those harmful traits appears. Knowing I’ve been judgmental in a situation, thinking what another person is doing is foolish, for instance, I can explore that. I can ask questions about why I’m feeling my way is the only way. Does that come from fear, for instance?
Ultimately, I know I need God. Only God is perfect and I’m not God and never will be. Only with God’s help can I be the best God needs me to be. Also, because I accept that I am imperfect, I can also accept other people’s imperfections. When I can forgive myself for being judgmental in a situation, I can forgive others.
My way is the only way to do things, gets me into trouble too. My mother came to help me when my daughter was about a month old. My son was under 2 years of age, so things were pretty hectic. One day my mother was washing the dishes. Now, I’ve never really liked washing dishes, so this was a great gift. Yet, I remember standing in the kitchen doorway with this little baby in my arms, going nuts inside. My mother was not washing the dishes correctly. The water she was using was not hot enough!
Unfortunately, this is something handed down to me. One time I was visiting my grandmother. She had heart trouble and was not supposed to be doing any housework. I washed her sheets, which she always hung out to dry in good weather. I hung clothes out to dry. I knew how to do it. I was hanging the sheets on the line and she was standing at the back door, telling me what to hang next to each other and how to do it.
Yes, it can be so difficult to let someone else do something for us. It can be so difficult to accept a way that in the end accomplishes the goal, just not exactly how we would have done it. When we think our way is the only way, we close ourselves off to the gifts of others. We don’t allow them to share their gifts with us. Ultimately, we become tired and overwhelmed trying to do everything. On top of taking care of two little ones, doing the dishes probably would have done me in. Doing laundry and hanging those sheets up could have made my grandmother much sicker.
Jesus comes not to save us from some external power. Jesus comes to save us from ourselves – from our illusions of perfection and total self reliance. Jesus comes to save us, because in saving us, we are open to God’s dream and vision of our world. We are willing to accept God’s guidance. We are willing to do God’s Will.
“We have found the Messiah,” we shout! Thanks Be To God!