Pharisees approach Jesus and tell him to leave – to turn away from Jerusalem because Herod is out to kill Jesus. Jesus, however, already knows what is ahead. He knows that death awaits him in Jerusalem. He also knows that he must go to Jerusalem sooner or later. Still – I would think he went at least through some type of inner conflict – life or death? Jerusalem or not? Choose the easy way out or the road of suffering? Turn away or turn toward?
At the end, even though the Pharisees warn him, he disregards their warning. Jesus is determined. He tells them that he must be on his way. He has to cast out demons and heal and then finish his work, even when faced with death.
This reminds me of a TV show Peg and I watched – New Amsterdam. The main characters is Dr. Max Goodwin, the brilliant, charming new medical director of America’s oldest public hospital. His head is set on tearing down the bureaucracy to provide exceptional care. Nothing can stop him, not even his own diagnosis of cancer. In the show this week, ambulances were stuck due to a ast night, there was a snowstorm and ambulances were stuck because of a snowstorm; and so, even with his immune system compromised, he and one of his colleagues ventured outside and walked a few blocks to help a woman that had called for emergency services. To save lives, that is Dr. Goodwin’s mission even above and beyond his own well-being.
Our text gives us a glimpse at what Jesus saw as his mission here on earth – to cast out demons and to heal – to bring wholeness into broken lives. Nothing could make him stray from his purpose. Likewise, we should not stray from ours. If we know what God has called us to do, then nothing ought to keep us from that narrow path either.
“What am I called to do?” you may ask yourself.
We are the body of Christ. The body of the RISEN CHRIST. And Christ saw it as his mission to cast out demons and to heal people. As the body of Christ, this is our mission, too. But let’s not be trapped by images of casting out legions of demons from people or to have people healed by merely touching the fringe or edge of your garments (and really, who would want people to randomly walk up and touch our clothing?). No, this was Jesus’s way, not ours.
Nobody else can do what Jesus did or how he did it.
And nobody else can do exactly what you can do.
Our demons are plenty – racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, violence, hate, injustice of any kind, poverty, hunger – and so one. And just as Jesus had his unique way bringing wholeness into a hurting word, so does every one of us.
In the TV show New Amsterdam, the doctor, and a colleague, answered an emergency call. They found a woman lying on the floor, unresponsive, and they were able to revive her. Had they not been there, she would have died. Had Dr. Goodwin not stubbornly insisted to go and do what he is called to do, she would have died. And yes, this is a TV show, but still…
Had Rosa Parks not sat in the middle of that bus, blacks might still not be able to sit wherever they want. Had Miep van Giess not hidden Anne Frank, we may never know about the life of a young girl hiding behind a bookcase. Without Mikhail Gorbachev the Cold War may still be ongoing. Without every day heroes, many lives would not be saved. Without every day people, much would be left undone.
Someone somewhere needs you to do what God has called you to do.
Because nobody else has your live experiences, your gifts, your talents, your graces. There are things I can talk about and that I have experienced that you have not – and the other way around as well. And even when we have gone through experiences that are similar – they each still shaped us differently, gave us different talking points, different ways of walking with and supporting others going through something similar. Because no two situations are the same and no two people are. We each have a unique set of gifts and graces.
You are fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made by God for a very specific place and time.
And someone somewhere needs you to do what God has called you to do.
Think about a time that you helped another person or comforted another person - you were there, in the right time and right place - no one else but you. No other person to say the words you said. No other person to walk with the other or listen to the other. Only you. Or think of a time where you somehow made a difference. Were able to teach someone a skill they needed. Were able to keep someone from being bulled. Were able to help make working conditions better or living conditions. Were able to give money or time or talent to improve a life or many lives. It was you who made that difference. Nobody else. You! With your skills. With your gifts and graces.
Just as Jesus was the only one, so are you the only one.
I envision all of creation, all of us, like a big puzzle or a mosaic – each piece has a specific place. Yes, sometimes a piece can be put in the wrong place and the result may not look totally wrong, but it isn’t as good as when every piece is in its place. And when a piece is lost, when we don’t show up, then the puzzle or mosaic is never quite complete.
Sadly, we often don’t really grasp the purpose we play in the story of God, because we are so busy looking out for ourselves. As human beings, we tend to be self-centered. Our survival instinct kicks in the moment our life or our livelihood is threatened and so we do what we can do come out on top. Walking into clear death – like Jesus walking into Jerusalem – goes against our very nature. And when faced with opposition or danger – if the Pharisees walked up to us and told us that someone wants to kills us or that we will lose our job or our reputation or friends or family – would we really blame anybody for running the other way? Including ourselves?
We read about Jesus. We hear about Jesus week after week. We sing songs about Jesus and we sing songs about wanting to be like Jesus. But, let’s be honest, being like Jesus is far from our minds many times. Who really wants to wander the streets preaching the Kin-dom of God instead of sitting in cozy homes and stable 9 to 5 jobs or retirements? Who really wants to live at odds with the powers that be and loudly and firmly stand with the least of these not only by signing an online petition but by really showing up day after day even when nobody else does? Who really wants to live the way Jesus did? I could settle for being able to turn water into wine or healing people by nothing but saying that they are healed or forgiven or feeding 4000 or 5000 on a hillside with magically multiplying loaves and fishes…but the rest? And death? On a cross? “We squirm under the very thought of facing opposition, rejection, ridicule.
Nevertheless, someone somewhere needs you to do what God has called you to do.
Somewhere someone or some people need you to not turn away but to turn toward God and your purpose.
And, just as in our reading, there will be voices that try to keep us from doing what we are called to do, voice that keeps us from living out being part of the body of Christ, and voices that try to tell us that we are fools. Some will tell us not to waist our time or that we can’t change the word, some will tell us that peace for all of creation is a fantasy. Some will think our love is foolish; that loving all is foolish. And sometimes it is our own voice that tells us that we are fools - not good enough, not young enough, not strong enough, not clever enough, not enough. And unlike Jesus, we sometimes find ourselves swayed by the voices that tell us to turn away and walk away. But our reading makes it clear: Don’t turn away but turn toward! Turn toward Jesus, turn toward God, turn toward the Kingdom of God - no matter what is ahead. Do what you are called to do. Be who you are called to be. Love as you are called to love. Heal as you are called to heal. Cast out demons in whatever way you are called to cast them out.
This Lent - don ‘t turn away but be turned around. Be changed. Be transformed.
Answer your call.
In Christ, each of us can.