Rev. George Miller
“Holy Humanity ”
Aug 15, 2010
There is a man I love. A man in which I’m in debt for some of the best things in my life. A man who has undergone great joys and great sorrow.[i]
I have never heard his voice, seen his face or the clothes he wears. Yet he teaches me to love. To forgive. To question and to journey.
He has asked me to leave everything behind. He has promised to never desert me. And he invites me to his table so that I can be fed. And yet...
...just when I think I know him, just when I think I can pigeonhole him to fit my ideal, he says and does something that shakes up my view, making me wonder if I can every truly know him at all.
There is a man I love. His name is Jesus...
Today’s reading has one of those scenes that shows the complexity of Jesus and of being a Christian.
To get an idea of what’s going on, we go to the beginning of the chapter. Jesus is speaking to the disciples, a crowd gathers, trampling each other.
Jesus teaches: do not fear those who harm your body; God’s eye is on the sparrow; it’s better to be rich towards God then in worldly items; don’t worry about the food you eat or clothes you wear.
It’s all so wonderfully pastoral of Jesus. He calls the disciples “little flock” and tells them that worrying will not add an hour to their life.
But then he seems to go on this tangent. “What stress I am under! I did not come to bring peace! I brought fire and division and will not stop till its completed.”
What happened to just a few moments ago when he said “Don’t be afraid little flock, don’t worry about food or clothes, God won’t forget about you”?
Is Jesus wishy-washy? A hypocrite? Bi-polar?
Or is Jesus simply human, like you and I?
One of the mysteries of our faith is just who Jesus is. It is proclaimed that Jesus is fully human and fully divine; fully like us and fully God.
But how can this be, and how human is human?
We see this wrestling in the Gospels. For instance Mark and John don’t bother telling about Jesus’ birth or childhood. He just appears, fully formed.
Matthew tells us a bit of Jesus’s birth, but Luke tells us the most: Jesus had a family with an aunt, an uncle and a cousin; Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no place to stay. He was circumcised, dedicated in the Temple. As a pre-teen he was lost and sassed his parents.
Luke tells us that Jesus was tempted, rejected and was aware of his own mortality at an early age.
All of this can seem inconsequential until you put them together and realize how much Luke does to make Jesus seem human, that Jesus didn’t fall from the sky or was impervious to economics, rituals or teenage rebellion like you and I.
But Jesus had very, very human traits, which we see in today’s reading. For almost 12 chapters things appear to be going very well.
Jesus heals, preaches and leads. He fields questions, encourages loving one’s enemies, reaches out to women and outsiders. He forgives, calms a storm and brings a family back together.
He feeds folk, sends people out, demonstrates how to pray, attracts large crowds, stands up to the Pharisees and lawyers...
...and then it seems as if he begins to crack, even if just a little bit, under the pressure. As one writer stated, it’s a rare glimpse into the heart and mind of Jesus as he approaches Jerusalem.[ii]
Jesus is impatient, wanting to kindle the fire now. He talks of feeling stressed and trapped. Forget about sparrows and lilies of the field, his motor’s running and he wants things to start now, this instant, this time and place!
He disregards peace and talks about causing sons and daughters to fight against fathers and mothers.
This is Jesus on a roll, and I wonder if afterwards
he felt as if he may have put his foot in his mouth or if he had been a little rash and quick to judge.
Can you imagine Jesus processing the event with Peter over a drink: “Umm, Peter, do you think I may have been a little rough back there?”
Or Peter replying “You know, that thing about not worrying? You may want to think about following your own teaching from time to time.”
For me, this scripture reminds me about the humanity of Christ, and if Jesus could be this human, if Jesus could admit to feeling a bit stressed out, what does it mean for us?
...There is a man I love. A man in which I’m in debt for some of the best things in my life. I’ve never heard his voice, seen his face or the clothes he wears.
He teaches me to love. Yet at times he got angry.
He teaches me to forgive. Yet he spoke about unrest.
He teaches me to question and to journey. Yet he could be impatient and feel trapped in.
There is a man I love because he refuses to let me put him on a pedestal.
Yet we try, don’t we? We imagine Jesus as this perfect person who said all the right things, always spoke in a calm voice and had perfectly quaffed hair.
But what happens when we put people on a pedestal? We always, without fail, find a way to knock them off and lose our faith in them.
What is your image of Jesus? What do you think about him? Do you ever get tired of those perfect images of Jesus?
Because perfect isn’t human, and if Jesus wasn’t human, then his time on earth, his journey to Jerusalem, his suffering on the cross means nothing.
I love Jesus, and because I do, I want to know that he had a bad hair day. I want to know that after a rich meal he was bloated and gassy. I want to know that when ate pasta he sometimes got spaghetti sauce on his white tunic.
I may not be entirely comfortable with what Jesus says in today’s reading, but I do like knowing that he could feel anxious. It makes me feel...at peace.
I like knowing he could be impatient. I like knowing he may not have been the complete pacifist people try to make him out to be.
I like knowing that without lifting a fist or brandishing a gun Jesus could talk tough and from time to time he felt the need to light a fire under people’s backsides.
Because that is what it means to be human.
And guess what: if Jesus could be human, and express human traits, well what does that mean for us?
It means that we are human too.
And if we are human, then it certainly means our spouse is human, our friends, our children, our neighbors, are all human as well.
And what does it mean to be human? To be imperfect. To not know all the answers, to not get it all done at once, to make mistakes.
But it also works the other way. To be human means that sometimes our man doesn’t put the lid down. To be human means our wife may sound as if she’s sawing lumber when she sleeps.
To be human means our children may not get the perfect grades or be the perfect golfer. And to be human means we can’t expect golfers to be perfect role models.
Cause guess what? We are human. We are flawed, fragile, broken, incomplete, finite.
And yet, and yet, we are wonderful, we are complex, we are unique.
We may not be perfect, but we are strong.
We each carry the mark of our Maker and when we open ourselves up to Christ we invite the Spirit to enter in. And through the Spirit’s heavenly fire we become polished, refined and shaped into better version of ourselves.
In Christ we remain wholly human and a holy human, aware of our flaws, and more accepting of others’.
Because no matter what, we will never be perfect; that is what we were never meant to be...
...There is a man I love. A man in which I’m in debt for some of the best things of my life. A man who has undergone great joys and sorrow.
I have never heard his voice, seen his face or the clothes he wears.
Yet he teaches me to love. To forgive. To question and to journey.
He has asked me to leave everything behind. He has promised to never desert me. And he invites me to his table so that I can be fed.
And yet...just when I think I know him, just when I think I can pigeonhole him to fit my ideal, he says and does something that shakes up my view, making me wonder if I can every truly know him at all.
There is a man I love. His name is Jesus. His humanity teaches me to accept my own, his humanity teaches me to accept others.
All thanks be to God in who’s image we were created, for Jesus who reminds us of what it means to be human and the Spirit who’s fire burns bright.
Amen and amen.
[i].This intro is greatly inspired from The Clowns of God by Morris West, 1981, pg 171.
[ii].Homiletics magazine, July/August 2010, pg. 57