Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Mercy Hobbs Jesus "in your face." Most of us prefer to think of Jesus as the good shepherd, the pastoral one who is gentle, loving and kind to the members of his flock, especially us. The majority of paintings of Jesus show him clean and a nice-looking fellow. He looks just like us, even though he is the son of God.

Most shepherds, then and now are hardly so scrubbed and glowing. They are pragmatic people who are able to protect their flock as well as nurture it. These down-to-earth folks are wise in the ways of the world, and accustomed to getting the job done despite hardships great and small.

The Jesus in some gospel readings can be more in our faces than in the faces of the usual antagonists in the stories: the Pharisees and others in leadership positions who are in need of a little instruction. This Jesus has been confronting us, and now we are the ones who are doing the wiggling, the squirming, under his intense gaze.

Jesus meets us in these situations. He is in our faces at times because that is where he needs (and we need him) to be. Henri Nouwen once rued life's interruptions � they got in the way of his ministry. One day, he realized that life's interruptions were his ministry.

In these "interruptions" we may feel impatience, anger and "the rub." The journey we are taking with Jesus is not always what we expect. For instance the first "rub" is in the luggage allotment. We sometimes think airline restrictions are too tough. Jesus is tougher: "He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag and no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics." (MK 6:8-9) Without baggage we are totally dependent on God. Without baggage, we can completely focus on our ministry. Who can be expected to work under such conditions?

The second "rub" is continuing to operate with depleted and diminishing resources: "And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, 'This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; send them away, to go into that country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.' But He answered them, 'You give them something to eat.' " (MK 6:35-36) He took what little was available and used it to feed the multitude. When we are out of energy, out of material and out of time, are we really expected to keep going on? At the end of the day, when the cupboard is bare, we get to close up too, don't we?

Each of these "rubs" takes place in the midst of mission and ministry. Each contains more than a kernel of wisdom for us in our world today. Corporate worship occurs at prescribed times and places. Mission and ministry occur at all times and places. Corporate worship renews us and reminds us of our empowerment for, and responsibility to, mission and ministry beyond the formal setting.

Being "in church" does not fulfill our Christian duty for the week. It is merely the beginning of that duty. It is where we come to be re-charged for mission and ministry, then are sent forth until we can return to be recharged again: Sunday is the first day of the week, not the last.

We are constantly being sent. We are constantly being asked to serve. We are never left unsupported. This is nothing more, and nothing less, than faithfully witnessing Jesus Christ, the one who was sent to serve. Sometimes Jesus needs to be in "our face." He always needs to be reflected there.

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