Vulnerability

2021-09-26 – Year B – Proper 21 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Numbers 11:4-6,10-17, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 4:7-12; Mark 9:38-48

Lord Jesus come be with us and help us to grow towards you. Come be with us and meet us in our broken minds, faulty thinking, and desire to give up doing the right thing. Come, show us your power over our broken minds and your gentleness in how you long to heal us. In your name we pray. Amen

Our scripture passages today are full of humanity. They are full of human beings feeling passionately, desiring to follow God, and yet missing the point as they do what God has for them. For those of us who love the Lord and long to do the things that He calls us to do we can find great hope in the readings of scripture today. The Old Testament passage today is of Moses’ leading God’s people in the wilderness. It is said the people were becoming discontent and crying out in front of their tents. Can you imagine what this must have sounded like? The group that followed Moses was thousands upon thousands or potentially even millions of people. A spirit of discontent or the rabble started up amongst the people. Have you ever been in a crowd at a protest or perhaps listening to a speaker talk and they begin to speak passionately in a disapproving way or in a way that demeans other people? What happens in the crowd? What kind of energy spreads throughout the group of people? Riots and violence spread with just a small spark of hostility, one spark of discontent, one small opening of hatred. When you really think about it, it only takes one push to begin a huge mosh of people hurting one another. This is where Moses finds himself, in the midst of hatred and discontent. 

Moses is in charge of an enormous group of people who do not like the conditions they find themselves in. They remember the food they had access to, they look around at where they are and grow discontent. They can only see what is wrong and what is lacking. They do not have the right thinking. They are not thinking about the whole situation or what God has done or is doing in their midst. They have tunnel vision about the situation. This is common to our human existence. God wants His people to live in community with each other so that we share our lives with each other and receive counsel from others as to whether or not our thinking is correct or not. It is far too easy to listen to the dominant discontent person and blatantly follow. But if we do so that can have very grave consequences in our lives and the lives of others. \

I am reading a book right now by Brene Brown called Braving the Wilderness. In this book she is quoted as saying, “But rather than coming together and sharing our experiences through song and story, we’re screaming at one another from further and further away. Rather than dancing and praying together, we’re running from one another. Rather than pitching wild and innovative ideas that could potentially change everything, we’re staying quiet and small in our bunkers and loud in our echo chambers.” She and her team have collected hundreds of thousands of pieces of data that show that the current human experience is one of spiritual crisis. We are no longer seeing each other as interconnected but rather hiving off into the same camp of ideas and viewing the other as subhuman. If you listen to someone who refers to human beings as animals, subhuman, spawn of the devil, or evil then you are setting yourself up for wrong thinking. A Christian can not view others as subhuman because God has made all human life in his image whether they are black, white, or brown. Whether they have the same socio-economic status or not. Whether they believe what you believe or not. Whether they are democrat, republican, southern, northern, Christian, non-christian, liberal, or conservative they are made in the image of God. This is a huge tenant of the Christian faith and without it we will lose our way. 

Discontentment is easy to come by. Discontentment can creep in and take over our lives so easily. Does this sound familiar to us? How often do we grow discontent at the things in our lives? That house you were once thankful for becomes not enough, not big enough, not nice enough, not what you want anymore. How many times do we grow discontent with our marriages, our spouses who do not meet our expectations? They have grown bored of us, nagging us, or lacking in connection. How many times do we look at our kids and think they do not meet our unfair ideas of how they should be turning out. How often do you long to have things different in your lives and forget to look into the face of Jesus in what He wants for us. Most of our human existence becomes about wanting the next thing, whether it is the next adventure or the next pair of shoes, toys, or whatever object excites you and makes you want to have more. We, like the people of God, miss the point of our lives, discontentment can take hold of our minds and make it hard for us to focus on those things that God wants us to be about. 

Moses goes to the Lord after all the complaining of the people of God and dramatically dialogues with God. I think it is good for us to see that people in the Bible are just like you and me. Moses asks God, “Why have you mistreated me. Why are you putting the burden of all of these people upon me?” He goes on to inquire if he was the one who gave birth to all of them. Moses is seriously exhausted and at a breaking point in his work and ministry. No one person can possibly handle the discontent of thousands upon thousands of people. Moses then goes on to ask God to kill Him if he has to continue on alone at this work. Moses is not sugar coating his circumstances or running away from what God has for him but he is seeing an end to his capability without the Lord. Moses is serious and honest about his level of exhaustion and need for real help and a solution to his problem.

What does Moses’ dialogue with the Lord teach us? That we too can speak honestly with God. We too can come to the Lord with all of our hurt, exhaustion, and brokenness and speak frankly with God. He does not turn and hide from you and He does not want you to keep on keeping on without Him. It is so easy in our lives to forget God and think we have to do it all on our own, all without help from anyone. Some of us are naturally drawn to self sufficiency and want to be independent and self reliant. Others of us are looking around waiting for someone else to be in charge or to take care of what needs to be done. Each of us needs to follow the example of Moses today. Moses shows us a better way to go. Moses chooses vulnerability with the maker of heaven and earth. Moses chooses open dialogue and trusts that God will commune with Him. Vulnerability is trusting that God wants the best for you and wants to provide what you need. Take it all to the Lord, not just the cleaned up version but the hard core nitty gritty side of your life. He knows it all already, keeping things from God is like trying to keep things from a good godly parent who knows you better than you know yourself. You are important to God and He wants to hear your real heart and real circumstances. The Lord longs to be there for you and to be a part of your solution and the Lord is not afraid of your drama and extreme feelings or emotions. 

How do you practically come to the Lord and share your heart? A few of us live alone or have large amounts of time alone in our home. Coming to the Lord may be easier as all you need to do is find a comfortable place in your home to be quiet and still. Some people choose a place such as a quiet chair or a place that faces outside. In my younger years I had a rocking chair that swiveled and allowed me to look out the window and it became my prayer chair. Others of us live with others and it can be more difficult to find space to be alone. I have children at home so when I am at a Moses place of needing the heart of God for my extreme emotions I wait until my kids are in bed, sometimes they even go to bed early. I go into my bedroom because it has a door that I can close. Some people who are in the throes of caregiving find a quiet closet or even simply throw their apron above their head to draw near to the heart of the Lord. Then you just wait for the Lord, quiet your mind and heart by either offering up your cares and concerns and waiting quietly to hear what the Lord would say. I also find it helpful to have beautiful worship music like the HouseFires CD. Sue Polsely has played some of their music in church. I would highly recommend you get a CD and linger in the music. The worship songs are long and repetitive and can give you a place to rest your heart and to hear the Lord. I also recommend going on Youtube and finding Soaking Prayer music which typically lasts for hours and hours of soft peaceful music that you can use to enter into the throne room of the Lord. You do not have to only be in church to find Jesus in worship. All Christians need to find time throughout the week to go to Jesus and experience His love and mercy and healing in their lives. 

In Moses’ anguish the Lord responds and hears his cry and comes up with a plan. He tells him to call seventy men of Israel who are already leaders among the people and that God will transfer some of the power and authority from him to the other men. God would spread the load of listening, hearing, and responding between the different leaders. God would not forget Moses or leave him in his difficult situation. When God comes down in a cloud to fill the other leaders with his spirit they begin to prophesy. God heard a cry of one man and provided for him. If you love and obey the Lord and long to become like Him and live a life that is shaped in His image then He will always hear you, always see you, and always come to your time of need. God provided for Moses and gave him a plan to divide the labor. During the blessing of the new leaders two men who were supposed to be in the tent to meet God but did not go and yet God came and rested his spirit upon them and they prophesied in the camp. Others ran to get Moses and wanted him to shut it down, however Moses answered back with a hope for others to prophecy. 

In both the Old Testament passage and the Gospel passage we have followers of the Way or the faithful ones getting confused as to “Who” should be doing the stuff. The followers of Moses think the two random guys in the camp should not be prophesing but rather remaining quiet and letting the elected ones do the hearing and speaking of God. Moses however knows that it is only God who can inspire one to prophecy and it is only God who can give someone the zeal to speak out for the people of Israel. Moses has come close enough to God over and over again that he knows it has more to do with God’s power and less to do with our own. If God is calling someone to speak then it is God’s business. 

The Gospel passage today has the disciple John speaking out against someone seeking to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name. John is trying to make sure only the “right” people are doing the stuff or the kingdom of God work. Jesus however shows John and us the right way of thinking. No one can do something in the name of Jesus unless he or she believes in him. Jesus knows that power comes from Him and the Father no one can conjure that up on their own. In the Anglican church there are things that Bishops, priests, and deacons can do that lay people can not. However healing, praying for others, deliverance, and the casting out of demons can and should be done by everyone. Jesus shows us that He wants faithful people to be a part of his kingdom work. Jesus shows us that all of us can do the stuff of prayer and casting out of the devil. The followers of God sometimes miss the point. Sometimes we get all focused on who does what and who should get the credit or have the glory that we miss what is really supposed to be happening. God is in the business of setting His people free from bondage and brokenness. God is in the business of empowering His people to reach others for the love of God. If we all wait around for someone more qualified to come along and do the work of the kingdom then we will miss out on what God wants to do in our midst. God wants to bring restoration to our lives. God wants to heal those places within us that feel dark, devoid of him, and very scary in our lives. God wants to use mere mortals to pray for each other and to watch Him work in their lives and our own.

I am taking the Christian Healing Ministry Level 2 Class and I am once again being reminded that God longs to heal us so that we can bring healing to others. I am taking this class because it is a great reminder to what I studied in seminary 16 years ago. I am longing to see people healed, people restored from their broken minds and set about in right thinking. I am longing to see the church changing for the better. I am longing to see people in the church overcome their addictions, sorrow, and broken pasts. Who has had hard things happen in their life? Who has been hurt, mistreated, maligned, or abused? According to statistics and research this includes about all of us in the world. You can not walk through this world without experiencing brokenness. All of us need prayer for areas in our hearts and minds that have been affected. All of us need the healing touch of God the Father to help us overcome sin and brokenness. One of the things I love about Christian Healing Ministry classes is hearing story after story of people being healed from very difficult circumstances. I love hearing the stories of restoration and I love that they carefully protect the identity of others to allow them to have their own personal story.  

In the Gospel Jesus goes on to say that whoever offers a cup of water to one in the name of Christ will not have his reward taken from him. In the arid desert environment that Jesus was ministering in, water was a very scarce and precious resource. To offer someone the substance that you needed to stay alive and for your family to stay alive was a profound act of hospitality and love. Jesus shows us the importance of our lives looking out for caring for others and offering others the profound gift of hospitality. I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over. I can’t wait to have people in our home and to offer hospitality to others. No matter how hard and difficult our financial situation has been we have always opened our home to others. No matter how many children we have or lack of sleeping space we have always welcomed people into our home and shared what we have. And God has always provided for us and made food miraculously stretch through the week. It boggles my counting, measuring, mind to see how God stretches resources and provides for us through hospitality. 

In the Gospel passage today Jesus then moves into a serious teaching on causing other people to sin, and the ramifications for our own hearts and lives. Jesus’ words are harsh and meant to drive home the point of how we are not to harm one another.  He says it is better for us to have a millstone tied around our neck and to be tossed into the sea instead of causing little ones to sin. In case there is confusion a millstone is a gigantic stone used for grinding that upon being thrown into the water would instantly and rapidly sink to the bottom of the sea dragging that which is attached to it to the bottom of the sea. Jesus means serious business in the harming of others. The harming of other people can involve touch, voice or the things you say, or the showing of visual sinful material or the lack of providing that which someone needs who is in your care. If you are harming someone or neglecting them you need to stop immediately and get help. We have all been hard wired within ourselves to know the difference between right and wrong. God has given us an internal sense of what is right and wrong and this can be seen in even very young children. It is through being mistreated that we begin to lose our way and think something is really not wrong or really “not that bad”. But if we take that action, words, or thought process to Jesus we will see instantly by the light of Christ what is true, lovely, and pure, and what is sinful and wrong. 

Jesus goes on to say that if our hands cause us to sin, cut it off. If our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. He says it is better for us to live without these things then to go into fires of hell because of them. Jesus was always teaching Jews and Gentiles wherever He went. The Jews among Him would have totally understood what He was saying. Jewish custom is that you are not supposed to ever harm your body. You are never supposed to cut, pierce, or tattoo your body. You are never supposed to cause bodily harm because you are made in the image of God and are never to desecrate that which is the Lord’s. Jesus was trying to drive home the point that His Father in Heaven finds sin to be abhorrent. Jesus was trying to teach the people then and today that God wants you and I to turn away from sin and run to Him to get clean and to get holy. Jesus wants us to experience freedom from sin, freedom from wrong thinking, and freedom from the chains of the enemy that keeps us hiding and not fully living as His people. Do not believe the enemy when he tells you that you can not ever stop doing that which you hate. Do not believe the enemy that no one can help. Jesus has the power to set us free from your sin. Jesus has the power to change, heal, and restore. You just have to take the step towards a safe, healthy person to help you find healing. The clergy here at Good Samaritan are here to pray for you and provide counsel. The Christian Healing Ministry is here in Jacksonville for you to find safe people to pray with you and to release you from addictions, brokenness, and to help you find healing and wholeness. 

It is my prayer that as you go about your week God might show you things in your life that He longs to change in you. It is my prayer that you would let Him convict you and let him free you of your sinful heart or mind, or body. For if you let Him move in your life you will find more freedom and more hope. You will find yourself being a calmer, peaceful, and more holy person. May the Lord bless you, convict you of the wrong in your life, and may the Lord bring your deliverance of your sin. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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