Sunday, June 02, 2013

Oh the places we'll go with Donald Miller, Dr. Seuss and Jesus

Luke 7:1-10
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant

"After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health."

There are 4 very important parts to every story. Without them, a story would not be worth telling. Can you guess what these parts are? 

A story needs a beginning, middle and an end. This is true. But a good story needs something else. Every story that is worth telling needs a problem to solve and a person to solve it. Every good story needs conflict. In his book, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, Donald Miller spends 300 pages wrestling with the importance of story and why conflict is necessary for the development of the characters within that story. 

He states, “If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home a put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember the movie a week later, except that you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, of what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.” (Miller, 2009, Pg. xxiii )

In the reading of the ‘Healing of the Centurion’s Servant’ from Luke 7:1-10 all the characters want something and are willing to engage in conflict to get it. The Centurion wants his servant healed. The Temple Rulers want to keep the funder of the Temple happy and Jesus wants to invite all people, including the Jewish people, into a relationship with God the Father. Jesus, out of his compassion, wants to offer healing to those in need, unite the Temple rulers, the centurion and the servant to become a part of the kingdom of God.  Jesus is the one person that touches the lives of all people in this account. He crosses all social, economic, and religious boundaries in order to send the message that ALL ARE WELCOME in the kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus, we too are called to go to all people and places and share the good news.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” These words may be familiar to you. They are hanging over the door to my office as a reminder to always keep learning, growing and moving. They come from the book, ‘Oh the places you’ll go.’ By: Dr. Seuss. This book is often given to recent graduates as a means of affirming their place in the world. This popular book encourages the reader to do their best, go into the world and make a difference. One reason I think this book is so popular is that while it encourages the reader to action, it does not soft sell the challenges of “going”. 

‘I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you…And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place…for people just waiting. Everyone is just waiting. NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. You mountain is waiting. So…get on you way!”

 Our gospel lesson today mirrors Seuss’,  ‘middle places of waiting, those slumps that seem impossible to move past, and the grind on for miles across weirdish wild spaces’

In our humanity we know that it is impossible to go to the places that are hard and to the people that are different from us. We are flawed and unsure of what to do. This problem – much like the healing of the sick servant – is one we can’t do alone. It is only by Jesus power that we can “go” anywhere at all. If Jesus had not been called by the centurion, there is no way his servant would have been healed. Jesus was much more than a teacher and rabbi. Jesus was and is the son of God and his word alone had the power to accomplish amazing things. “The Lord we worship is mighty in word, responsive to our needs, and compassionate to heal. (New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, pg. 156)” We, like the centurion and servant, have not seen Jesus face to face – but this does not erase his presence from our lives. It is because of Jesus power, his life – sacrifice and resurrection - that we begin to understand and live out faith, hope and love. 

In this lesson and many others, Jesus works in all intersections of life and society: free, enslaved, religious, irreligious, wealthy and poor. As followers of Jesus it is important to remember that he is with us in all stations of life. Jesus presence with us is wonderful news, but this message can’t stop here. Just like the centurion speaks up for his servant who had no voice – we also are called to speak up for and share God’s good news to all. Jesus interacts with people in all social and economic states – we are called to go too. 

Dr. Seuss says, “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes – you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” While I think Dr. Seuss has a great way of encouraging readers to get up and go out into the world, I’d like to take his advice and change it a bit. 

“You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes. You can go in any direction – with God or you steering - choose.”

Who do we think should be doing the steering in life - us or God? There are many people and places that need faith, hope and love. It is only by God’s power that we move beyond our comfort zones to share them with the world. Our lives can have more meaning than we ever dreamed if God is steering the way. If it’s true that people desire life to have meaning like a bestselling novel, then let’s not live good stories, but gospel stories! There are people, mountains and challenges that God is calling us to go to. Remember that Jesus, God’s son, is our constant traveling companion, no matter the challenge or how rough the road gets. At the beginning, the middle, the end and the conflicts of our life - God is with us!

 In the words of Dr. Seuss – “Our Mountain is waiting. So…let’s get on our way!”
With God, with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit – to the people and places - we’ll go.  

1 comment:

Libby Crowe said...

Great post, Tara! Daniel memorized and recited this book with three other Seniors last year for his high school's Poetry Live event. I have always loved it. Great tie-in to the Donald Miller book too.