Sunday, January 29, 2012

The intersection of Elvis and Capernaum...Sermon for Year B Epiphany 4


What have you to do with us?

If you go to Memphis, Tennessee
and you go to visit Graceland,
(and I can’t imagine why anyone would go to Memphis
and NOT visit Graceland),
in the Visitors’ Center you will see a film clip of Elvis Presley
right after he was drafted into the Army
and had arrived in Germany
where he was stationed.

A reporter asks Elvis,
“So what do you miss, Elvis?”
And Elvis says, “Memphis.”

“What is it you miss about Memphis?”asks the reporter.

“Everything.
Absolutely everything,” replies Elvis.


I thought about that question and Elvis’ answer
when I thought about that day in the synagogue in Capernaum.

I imagine you remember that day
as well as I do.
It seems like only yesterday.

Jesus walked in with his backpack slung over his shoulder.
He was wearing a pair of bluejeans
a faded purple polo shirt,
and his usual pair of Chaco sandals.
Who is this man a few of us pondered?
What’s he up to?

That was so early in Jesus’ ministry.
Most people didn’t know about him yet.
We had seen him and his friends around Capernaum
but we certainly didn’t know what we would know later.
No one had a clue about what was coming, who he really was.

But as soon as he started to speak,
we knew we were in the presence of someone unlike anyone
we had ever met before.

An undercurrent of whispering went around the crowd--
Who IS this man?
He speaks with such authority.

Authority.
Many of us grew up in the era where the buzz phrase was
Don’t trust anyone over 30.

Jesus was over thirty.
(Just barely, but still...)
Could we trust this stranger?

Authority is not always a comfortable word for many of us.
We hear that word and we think bossy, judgemental, pompous, threatening.

But his authority was different.
Jesus didn’t seem interested in power or politics or success or position...
the only thing he ever seemed interested in was God.
He talked a lot about God (but so did a lot of other religious people).

But Jesus always brought everything--his words, his actions--
he brought everything back to love.
Love was everything.
Absolutely everything.

Not just loving God,
but how we are to love one another.
How we are called to see the “beloved” in each one of us.

Actually, most of us
don’t really remember exactly what he said
that day in the synagogue.
It was more how he said it.

There is another reason we remember that day in the synagogue.
The interruption.
That man who came bursting in, shouting,
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?

Us?
There was only one of him.
Who is this us?

He was so loud.
I saw mothers clutching their children tightly.
I saw the faces of others hardening into a grimace.
If we hadn’t been so startled by his sudden arrival,
I am sure some would have tackled him and thrown him out--
it was so out of line to interrupt worship like that.

But Jesus was so calm.
I remember how he looked directly at that man.
It was as if he saw something
that none of the rest of us could see.

There was talk about unclean spirits, demons, evil.
What Luke Skywalker might call “the dark side of the Force.”

That day it was hard to tell if the man WANTED Jesus
to destroy his demons
or if he was afraid Jesus would destroy them--
and then what would he do without them?
We can get so dependent even on the negative and destructive.

But Jesus was having none of his fear or excuses--or were they threats?
Remember how the entire crowd just went completely silent
when Jesus said, “Be silent, and come out of him!”
Be silent.
We were.
We all were.
I think we were afraid to make a peep.

Maybe we were afraid that Jesus was talking to more of us
than that one possessed man.
Maybe we are all a little possessed of demons,
of unclean spirits.

I remember how the man convulsed
and the deep primal sound that erupted from his throat--
as he was freed from all that had been strangling him--
inside and out.

Freed.
A peace came over that man that I have never seen before.
And suddenly we were silent no longer--
everyone was amazed and everyone began to talk at once,
“Who is this man? Who is this Jesus?”
This faithful Jew who came into the synagogue on the sabbath--
and spoke and taught and healed.
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?



We were all so busy talking that day
I don’t remember seeing Jesus leave the synagogue.
But when I turned around he was gone.

We remember that day.
Something happened that we can’t really explain.
It didn't make rational sense
yet we understood that something amazing had happened.

The question that stays with me, that haunts me,
is what that frantic man said when he entered the synagogue.
Sometimes the most tortured people
are the most profound and honest truth tellers.

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?

We need to keep asking ourselves that question.

We cannot keep Jesus trapped as our Christian poster boy--
nice, neat, well-scrubbed.
Jesus refuses to be kept at arms-length.

Jesus is often in our face.
Jesus stands before us to stare us down
just as he did with the unclean spirits that day.
Sometimes we do not like that one bit.
We hide.
We run.
We lie.
We make excuses.

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?

What I have to do with you, says Jesus,
is to love you.
What I have to do with you, says Jesus,
is to shine the love of God so brightly upon you
that you are freed you from all that binds you.

Because God so loved the world
so that Jesus could come and so love us,
that we might go and love others,

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?

Everything.
Absolutely everything.

1 comment:

Joolie said...

ooh, nice. Really good.