After we have pruned away all that is dead and damaged and diseased, after we have thinned out all that we don’t need so that we can breathe, we can finally head back to Jesus. Because what is left after all that pruning is done is nothing but our true and truly beloved selves. And what is our true self but Christ who lives in us? That’s what it means to get to know Jesus. We don’t go out to meet a stranger. We go in to meet someone we’ve always known. When we find ourselves, we will find him. That’s what it means to abide in him as he abides in us.
As I pondered these questions, I looked out at the still water in the percolation pond just a few feet away from the labyrinth. It’s part of a system of ponds that was built decades ago to recharge the groundwater and keep the valley from sinking. It struck me that what the valley needs, our spirits also need right now. In order to be good shepherds of the Creation, we need to let Jesus be the Good Shepherd of our souls. We need to let the living water of his love percolate deep down into our dried up aquifers. You know what happens when you drain an aquifer? It collapses on itself and can no longer hold water. The same thing will happen to our spirits. So we need to let Jesus recharge our groundwater, refresh our commitment to life in all of its amazing forms and variety so that we can obey his command to love, not just in word and speech, but in truth and action, and by the grace of God restore the Creation.
They thought the women were fools and so they were. They were fools for love. There is no good reason to believe in the resurrection. It has no rational explanation. I tried to give it one a few years back. In 2012, I preached a sermon that laid out a case for Easter for engineers. But this year, Easter is for lovers. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century: “The heart has reasons that reason knows not of.” Though I like to think that I’m a rational human being, I know that it isn’t a rational act to fall in love. And when we are talking about whether or not we believe in the resurrection what we are really talking about is whether or not we are ready to fall in love. The cross is the proof that Christ fell in love with us. What we make of the resurrection determines whether we are willing to fall in love with Christ.
So, in my mind, while walking on water or feeding the 5,000 is pretty impressive, the miracle that truly amazes me is when Jesus climbed on that untrained donkey and went riding off down the road. All I can say is, he must have been a donkey whisperer, because somehow the colt knew that he could trust Jesus and that he would be safe with him even when the crowd started jumping and shouting and waving branches around. Somehow the donkey knew that it was ok to go with Jesus even though he didn’t know where Jesus was going. If only we could be less like those fearful disciples and more like that little donkey.
For a moment, I came to my true self. And then I was able to catch just a glimpse of a truer God. Not the gimme God that we like to pray to, but the take-me God that we come home to, the God who takes us out of our false self and into our true self, out of our pretend life and into real life, out of our sin and suffering and self pity and into forgiveness and healing and glory. The God I find on the labyrinth is always a surprise to me, always a mercy. This is the only God who has ever given me any hope for my journey.
The Bible is the best-selling guidebook of all time, better than Frommers or Lonely Planet or any of the others. The Bible tells stories of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and these men were always on the move. Take Jesus. Not only did he travel all over Galilee and Judea, but he was, in essence, a tour director for his disciples. He told them the same thing he tells each one of us: "Follow me." In other words, "Join me on the journey."
So this is what it all means to me: Lose this life that doesn't really know life, deny this self that doesn't know how to love itself, take up this cross and carry it until it teaches you that your weaknesses can become the source of others' strength and the story of your getting lost can lead others to being found.
Last year, Hurricane Harvey dumped over 40 inches of rain in many parts of Texas. The flooding in Houston overwhelmed the capacity of first responders to rescue everyone who needed to be rescued. Enter the "Cajun Navy," an all-volunteer force of people with bass boats, jet skis, canoes, trucks and even dune buggies, who jumped in to rescue the folks that the fire fighters, police and national guard couldn't get to. And the video footage of their rescue efforts says it all: Americans are more united than we think we are. No one paid any attention to race or class, gender or religion. No one asked any questions about political persuasion or sexual orientation or country of origin. They just acted on the belief that we are one human family and we are all in this together.
Here's what I like about today's Gospel reading. It's refreshing to think that the disciples were embarrassed into silence when they got caught arguing about who was the greatest. I'm afraid boasting about how great you are doesn't cause much embarrassment these days. Here in Silicon Valley, it's almost a requirement.
So we're right back to the question: how do we get in to see a soul specialist? And will our insurance cover it? The only insurance that the man in Capernaum has is an ambulance policy in the shape of four faithful friends. Even when we're sick, some of us would never go to a doctor if it weren't for people who love us enough to force us to go. If it's hard to get us to take care of our physical ailments, think how hard it is for us ever to admit that we have spiritual ones? There are times in our lives when we are only dimly aware that we are heading down the wrong path, that everything is out of joint and starting to spiral out of control. That's when we could use four faithful friends to stage an intervention. How many addicts do you think get into treatment by themselves? That's about how many sinners find their own way to salvation.