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Jesus

Preacher: 
Rev. Nancy S. Taylor
Date: 
Mar 13 2011
Scripture: 

Transcript

Old South Church has a long association with Japan. A young Japanese samurai came to America as a stowaway in the 1860’s. He was taken under the wing of Old South members. He converted to Christianity, studied theology at Andover Newton Theological School, gave up his samurai sword and was ordained to Christian ministry. Supported both with prayer and money, the Rev. Joseph Neesima Hardy returned to Japan and founded Doshisha University. Today, Doshisha serves 24,000 students on three campuses.

Old South member Mike Shimo studied at Doshisha. Mike, will you please stand?

Nick Carter, President of Andover Newton Theological School, would you please stand?

Anyone else here today from Japan, or who has friends or relatives in Japan? Please rise.

Church, will all who are able please rise? Mike and others, we stand with and for you, and all who grieve over the devastation that has been visited upon the island and people of Japan.

Hear these words from the Apostle Paul:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
[not earthquake, not tsunami, not nuclear radiation] will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38)

Please say Amen.

You’ve heard of the Vision Quest. An American Indian leaves family, community, and the comforts of home. He ventures into the wilderness for a period of days, up to a week. Alone, vulnerable, he fasts and prays and learns to fend for his or her self.

The Vision Quest is a personal, spiritual pursuit … an expedition into one’s self and soul. The Vision Questor asks: Who am I? What am I made of? What am I made for? What is my purpose?

Good stuff. A worthy endeavor. We should all embark upon such an expedition. But—hear me, please—that is not what Lent is for.

You’ve heard of a Walkabout: the Australian Aboriginal journey into the outback. Unlike a Vision Quest, a Walkabout lasts as long as six months. The one who enters this wilderness experience explores the contours of vast stretches of land, learns the navigable routes, studies the ways of the creatures and the ways of the seasons with whom his people live in symbiotic relationship.

Good stuff. A maturing, strengthening, transforming endeavor. Would that we all undertook such an expedition to study the earth and its ways. God would be well-pleased. But that is not what Lent is for.

Lent is not a spiritual boot camp. Lent is not a Vision Quest or a Walkabout. Because—this is hard for me to say; please, don’t take this personally—Lent is not about you or me.

Lent is a journey, to be sure. Lent is a grand expedition. But Lent is fundamentally a quest, a treasure hunt. Lent is all about the treasure. There are tried and true techniques to assist us in this undertaking. There are clues, maps, sign posts. But the object of this quest? Lent’s Holy Grail? The treasure we are after? Jesus.

You have forty days to find him.

Why forty days? Well there are lots of biblical stories about 40 years and 40 days and 40 nights. But I think it has more to do with this: humans are prone to procrastination. Most of us work to deadlines. Consider Easter your deadline. You have 36 days left to find Jesus. The clock is running.

During this season of Lent it is your calling, Christian, to keep your eyes on the prize, on the church’s treasure, on Jesus. We will help you, if you let us. We can help each other, if we are willing. We can share venerable practices, tried and true techniques. We can coach and teach each other, pointing out the clues, deciphering the ancient maps, and working out the meaning of the markings on the signposts.

Jesus is the Holy Grail, the treasure we are after. He is our pearl of great price.

Why Jesus?

Jesus is the one by whose dying and rising, time is divided. Jesus is the one whose life was so magnificent, so utterly, surprisingly generous that every head turned.

Jesus is the one who gave to the Early Church, such uncommon courage, that they would sooner die, sooner suffer martyrdom, than betray him by taking up weapons.

Jesus is the one who inspired the Early Church to give up their possessions, hold things in common. Why? So, they could better look after each other, and care for the lost and the least.

Jesus is the one in whose name his followers challenged slavery, the oppression of women, the demonization and isolation of lepers, the separation of Jew and Gentile.

Jesus is the one who defeated death …

Jesus is the reason Paul could write these words to the Christians in Rome:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
[not earthquake, not tsunami, not nuclear radiation] will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38)

Jesus is the Holy Grail, the treasure we are after. Follow him into the wilderness. There embark upon the practices of Sabbath, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, acts of kindness not to find yourself, but to find Jesus.

In Jesus the lost are found, the broken are mended, the ill healed, the oppressed freed, and the dying rise.

It’s hard to believe, I know. But we have it on good authority. If you don’t believe me, ask Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Ask Paul, Peter the Marys and ask Lazarus. Ask Francis, Michelangelo and Bach. Ask Sojourner, Dietrich and Desmond.Ask Tolstoy, Theresa and Martin.

Last week I spoke at a class at Andover Newton Theological School … a class on Christian financial stewardship. I told them about you, Old South Church. I told them how this church has grown in financial generosity. I showed them charts, colorful pie charts … charts that reveal that your financial generosity has deepened and grown over the years … charts that reveal stunning liberality … even through the recent financial downturn.

I told them about how our ministries have grown, the good we have been able to do … because such generosity fuels our ministries.

This class of seminary students, some of them working clergy, were amazed, stunned, dumbfounded, confused. Not one of them appeared to be familiar with such generosity. Scratching their heads, they asked: “To what do you attribute it?”

“Jesus,” I said. “If you follow him, Jesus will do that to you. He turns heads. He melts hearts. He opens our hands. He makes you want what he has: freedom. Freedom from things. Freedom from our divers addictions. Freedom from fear. Freedom from death and the fear of death. Freedom for God. Freedom to be generous. To be brave. To be kind. Freedom to be the selves God made us to be.

Jesus is the Holy Grail, the treasure we are after. He is the pearl of great price. Follow him into the wilderness, not to find yourself, but to find him.

Our Church Moderator, Vard Johnson, challenges each member of Council each year to share aloud with all the other members of Council, the biblical text, or poem or quotation that gets at the heart of our own lives of faith.

This past Tuesday, Vard shared what speaks deeply to him. Written by Albert Schweitzer, it goes like this:

He [Jesus] comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side;
He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: ‘Follow thou me!’
and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those
who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the
conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable
mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.

This is what Lent is for. Let’s get on with it. The clock is running. We have a deadline to meet.