Sermon 2/1/2015: What Jesus has to do with us

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

The man with the unclean spirit in the Gospel yells this question and challenge at Jesus in the middle of Jesus’ teaching at the synagogue.

This must have put all the congregation on edge.

They were already astonished and disturbed at what Jesus was saying and doing. 

The came to synagogue on Saturday, expecting to sit in their seats.

Maybe they came to the synagogue hoping for a little comfort.

Maybe they came to the synagogue for a little inspiration.

Maybe they came thinking about whatever the first century equivalent of brunch was, hoping this new Jesus teacher was not going to go on to long.

But Jesus surprised them.

Jesus did not teach them the same old same old.

Jesus did not footnote his teachings like the scribes did.

Jesus did not support his points with things that Moses said, or things that Isaiah said, or things that Amos said.

No, Jesus astonished the congregation because he taught with authority and power--his own authority and power.

While the Gospel does not tell us what Jesus taught with his words that day in the synagogue, we know Jesus’s teachings.

Love God with all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love your enemy.

If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer them your other cheek as well.

Blessed are the poor, the peacemakers, and those who mourn.

Astonishing teachings.

Astonishing teaching full of Jesus’ power and authority.

And while the congregation does not seem to understand who is teaching them, ironically the unclean spirit that had enslaved that poor man does know who is teaching.

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

What have you to do with us in this congregation?

I know who you are Jesus, you are the holy one of God.

You are the holy one of God, are you here to destroy our congregation?

Are you here to destroy Israel, and perhaps the world, in your righteous judgment as God’s holy one?

Are you trying to get us all nailed to Roman crosses by commanding us to follow your teachings of justice, love, and forgiveness?

The demon speaks fear to the congregation.

Fear that God is against us.

Fear that these new powerful teachings of Jesus will make the powers of domination in the world take notice of us and kill us

But Jesus then really gets down to teaching -- this time through action.

Jesus rebukes the demon with the congregation watching.

 Demon, you are full of it.

 Be silent.

 We are not going to listen to your voice of fear any more.

 The holy one of God has not come to destroy the congregation, Israel, or the world.

 And Jesus commands the unclean spirit of fear to “get out of that man.”

 And Jesus forces the unclean spirit to let go of the man.

 Screaming in frustration.

 Beaten by Jesus.

 Beaten by Jesus’ teaching with authority.

 Jesus liberated the man from his enslavement.

 Fear loses.

 By freeing the man from the unclean spirit, Jesus actually answers the unclean spirit’s question.

 What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth, the holy one of God?

 Jesus has come to set us free.

 Jesus has come to liberate us from fear and every kind of enslavement.

 Jesus has come to set us free as individuals, and Jesus has also come to set free our businesses, organizations, churches, and communities.

 Jesus has come to set us free from our fear that we do not have enough money to be secure, happy, or do what we are called to do in God’s world.

 Our fear of scarcity that prevents us from giving money to help the poor live with dignity they are entitled to as Jesus’ brothers and sisters.

 Jesus teaches us with authority, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 Jesus has come to set us free from our fear that we are missing out on our lives if we do not do and know more, more, and more.

 Our fear that we are missing out if we do not see every email, tweet, Instagram, and Facebook update.

 Our fear that we are missing out if we do not sign up for every event, sport, musical instrument, project, and job.

Our fear that we do not have time to volunteer to help our neighbors or gather together in community with our brothers and sisters and with God.

But Jesus teaches us with authority, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Jesus has come to set us free from our fear that that we will stand out and be unpopular if we really follow Jesus’ teachings.

Our fear that inviting the poor, the marginalized, addicts, minorities, and undocumented immigrants into our hearts, lives, schools and churches will make us uncomfortable, unpopular and outcast ourselves.

But Jesus teaches us with authority, Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus has come to set us free.

And that’s what Jesus has do with us.

Amen.


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