Rev. Donna Brown is the pastor of Village Church.
***warning, this is written as an oral piece–do not correct my grammar–also what I write isn’t always exactly what gets preached.
Why can’t we all just get along?
I don’t know about you, but I can easily imagine Jesus thinking and maybe even muttering this under his breath.
I can so picture this with my, as Dr. Wil Gaffney calls it, my sanctified imagination. Maybe jesus was standing there, the crowd all around, and this guy comes making his wasy, perhaps pushing past all the others, maybe with an “excuse me”as he fishes past other, other men, women, children trying to get close to Jesus—this guy is a man with a mission.
Jesus – tell my brother (most likely an older brother) to share with me the inheritance. Tell him to give me my fair share.
That’s where I imagine my sub-scriptural, “why can’t we just all get along?”.
I don’t think you have to be a parent called in to tv, toy, snack mediation—to get tired of this kind of triangulation. It happens all the time, as Jesus, notes in just a moment—there’s all kinds of greed. We are greedy for people to agree with us, do what we want, give us what what we think is our due.
But then he responds, — Jesus, Christ the King (who we the church have declared will come to judge the quick (living) and the dead) and Jesus states:“Man, who set me a judge or a divider over you?”
But before we quickly answer, “um, you did?”. Let us perhaps not easily dismiss Jesus’ response, chalking it up to exhaustion/frustration, let’s actually listen and stay with Jesus’ question.
Because perhaps there’s more going on here, than just a quick surface reading.
Maybe the answer is not —you Jesus, or God. Maybe it’s us? You see, for some reason we prefer it when others do the heavy lifting, make the difficult decisions, others take responsibility.
As a kid, I just wanted my mom to divide up all the goodies. I think I’ve shared with some of you before, how she taught us to share—and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and suggest that she was just not deflecting or shirking her parental role—and that in her attempt to teach us to share, she also wanted us to take responsibility and. My mother would give us say the cookie, the extra pierogi or the last of the ice cream and either my sister or I would be assigned the divider and the other the chooser. This gave both of us a role in the sharing and in the faring.
What if Jesus sees God’s world in somewhat the same way? Instead of a divine cake cuter slicing up resources, a holy hander outerer— giving big and “biggerer” pieces to some. Jesus is giving us a different picture of God, because if we believe that God is up there dishing out intelligence, wealth, etc. —- I don’t know all that stuff we like to call blessings. a than doesn’t that kind of mean or follow (you know logically) implying that God is shorting others— Causing divisions.
Now sit with that a minute.
Now of course, that works for some people—especially those who wanted to believe that there’s only so much good stuff in the world (limited good) so God gives some people more, you know because they know how to manage God’s good resources, and others just aren’t capable. That was a favorite Christian defense of slavery and colonialism. Because Africans were inferior (able to enslave and then a more modern version of course not able to appreciate and utilize all the natural resources of that continent—the gold, diamond, minerals, the stuff that goes into our cell phones—according to that “christian” idea, apparently, God’s the great big racist in the sky.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit well with me. And while you can find some places in the bible where it says that the righteous are rewarded with wealth and success, that’s not what we see in the gospels or how the first followers of Jesus.
No, in the gospels the division between haves and have-nots is the result of sin/greed and as Gwen points out in this liturgy—a sense of scarcity.
When the bible is clear—God creates this world with everything we need for everyone—that’s what we believe. And I think the good news that Jesus about, can be found/heard in that question and in his story is— the land fertile, the weather was favorable and the crops grew and grew. It was the land, and maybe even his neighbors land, or the farm he bought, you know when the neighbor ran into some tough times—the whole land was productive.
So the owner thinks (mistakenly) that he’s earned all that food for himself—he’s greedy (not just for money) he’s greedy for himself (his estimation of his self— you know he earned it, deserves it), Greedy for security that big ol barns represent. This man has cut himself off from all those around him. His self-centeredness and greed let’s him even divide his thinking and speech. He thinks he’s so important—his head has gotten so big, Not only is he talking to himself—he’s apparently just listening to himself. His greed has not “literally”, but practically for all intents and purposes cut him divided him.
And again, as Jesus says—that’s all on us.
But you know what that means. It means we can do something about it. If the divisions in our world are not divinely decreed with the only remedy up to a feeling of generosity or pity, that means we can actually do something.
And that’s why Jesus had crowds following him around. Jesus gives us hope—and hope doesn’t disappoint. Jesus isn’t preaching some big piece of heavenly pie in the sky. He is saying God’s kingdom—God’s world—way is “near”. It’s here. Long before people started using words like socialists or communists, Jesus was talking about turning this broken world upside down—an equalization — the rich becoming poor, the poor becoming rich—first and last switching places. Now if that doesn’t sound like good news, you might want to ask why, and you might want to ask someone who doesn’t sound, live, or look like yourself.
The thing is it’s not just the result that is good news. It’s that we actually get to do this. The early church did it, and they grew like all get out. People would seriously die for a faith like this—the faith that says God gives all of this amazing world as a gift to absolutely all of us—and God wants, thinks we are responsible enough to even put us in charge of putting it right—not according to this world, but to God’s world—God’s kingdom come, where we all work together, everyone gets their daily bread, we all get enough, to all get along. Amen.
Sermons manuscripts can be found at: revdonna.wordpress.com
I’m supposed to write about who I am, and I always do what I’m supposed to do. (snark)
Actually, it’s important to me that church, religion, faith, etc. and so forth is not about just “doing what we’re supposed to”. God’s love frees us. I am passionate about experiencing and sharing that love with the people in and outside of the church. I’ve even tried to show love as I’ve run several marathons. I’m just a little funny that way; actually I’m a little funny quite a bit. Humor is a gift of God.
mailing: 130 East Juneau Ave Milwaukee, WI 53202