Faith: When You Come to the Corner

Everybody comes to the corner. The place where it looks like you're done. Sometimes it's glorious. This month we got two words for it. Graduation: from preschool, kindergarten, 5th grade. The eighth grade, complete with dance. (So Kristen, did you have a good time?) High School Commencement. (Tad and Andrea can't wait.) College! Grad School: go Kelly; go Vicki! Whew! Finished. Until you turn the corner the next day, only to see there's a long way to go. The other June word for the corner is this one: wedding. Erin Owen just got married last weekend. Congrats to all. But the couple will turn the corner. Marriage will stare them in the face. Now, not all corners are so lovely. The boss comes with an empty box to the side of your desk. Not a good sign. Finished. The doctor looks concerned before he gives the test results. You're done.

I learned about the corner at age 16. Our high school band was marching in the Apple Blossom Parade over in Winchester, Va. Our first really big parade. We were psyched. We got off the busses and into uniform in a little diner, closed for renovation. To the sheetrock, sawdust and sawhorses, we added tubas, clarinets and trumpets. And all the raging hormones and hopes of 100 teens! We formed up outside and marched off. 'Great parade. Folks in clusters on the curb to watch, families to a-score-or-more at a time. Like the Odenton Fire Company Parade, just longer. Lots longer, on a hot, humid day. Finally, the drum major called us to a halt a few yards from the corner. We were exhausted; 'fell out after about a four mile parade. Water!! All of a sudden, the whistle blew again. What's this?! Form up! Step off. Up to and around the corner. Whoa! Grandstands… filled with literally thousands, both sides of the street, as far as we could see. And miles to go before we were done. It turned out that corner wasn't the end; it was where the parade really began! (By the way, when we reached the real reviewing stand at the end, it was only two blocks from that little diner. We'd marched full circle round the town, ½, just to get to the starting line.)

Jesus knows about our corners, good and bad. He helps us to see what comes next in a new way. Corners teach us we don't know as much as we think we do. Frankly, we don't always know where we are, much less how far we're goin' before we get home. At 16, I coulda told you that. But, oh how much more can Jesus! There's Matthew sitting in the tax office, minding his own business, we presume. 'Like us, figuring he knows just where he is, what's he's doing, maybe just a few yards from the corner. 'End of the day. (After all, it's not long 'til supper according to the story.) But God has something in store and in view that Matthew cannot see. A longer march, a new parade entirely. Neither Matthew's life nor his eternity will be anything like what he expected. Jesus saw. He knew. He called this tax collector out of his office, out of his chair, out of his life and into another. He does the same for graduates, newly weds, folks who aren't well, folks who aren't young anymore, folks who are mad at the world and can't get over it, folks who are up against it and can't get around it. If you can see a corner in your life today, take note. Things may look quite different 'round that corner in ways you can't imagine. You may not be at the end of the parade like you thought. 'Could be a new beginning 'round the bend. Jesus already sees it. And he's waiting to lead you through it.

Twelve years the sister had been sick, the Gospel says. Her life's-blood flowing out of her. She'd had it. 'Come to the crossroad, the corner, 'felt like she just couldn't go another step. She couldn't see any way out of this sometimes miserable, just debilitating, drag-you-down life. There are folks around here like this. Marriages hemorrhaging. Bleeding in relationships with sisters or brothers or kids. Dead-tired and ready to drop folks, who just can't see what tomorrow has to hold. We're not told whether this woman sought out our Lord and his own, or whether he and the crowd all 'round him overtook her on the road. I like to think it was the latter. What we know is: they got ahead of her. (Isn't that the way with Jesus, always moving on ahead of us?) Anyhow, at this very corner, there appeared only one hope: just the mere hem of his robe. Maybe that would be enough. More in a minute, but 'could be his hem's enough for you!

Now, every mourner knows death is the final corner. The pipers and the mourners laughed at Jesus on the way to that tragic little girl. Only, Jesus had the last laugh. What comes next looks different in the company of Jesus. Will you walk with him?

Oh, at the corner friends, Jesus offers us choices. They mean everything. So, you and I have decisions ahead. There's no Gospel of Matthew if that tax collector doesn't get up out of his chair. 'Doesn't recognize that once Jesus says, "Follow me," there's a corner to be turned. Matthew decides for Jesus. 'More than that, he invites Jesus to his table. (Jesus will return the favor later, with forgiveness unto eternal life on the menu!) Matthew will be intimate with Jesus. He will decide to change his life around completely for Jesus' sake. Maybe this reviled taxman (some things never change) could relate to that desperate woman. Illness bespoke sin back then. "Sick? Whadja do wrong?" was the usual attitude. And her kind of sickness was especially defiling. When she stepped up to reach out for Jesus she'd reached the "I can't go another step" point in her soul. Surely she'd already chased every doctor, romanced every cure. Nothing! Every one a disappointment. What's the use of trying one more time? To herself she said, "If only I could… touch just his hem." But she did more. She decided. Risked. Reached!… O, she was gone alright, that little girl. The one Christ-interrupted went to see. He got there late, you know. Damage done. Death dominating the scene. The parents could have cried, "Too late!" as parents so often do. They did not. They decided to open the door to Jesus in the face of everything and everyone who insisted, "There is no use!" It was a life/death decision. Thank God they trusted Christ enough to open the door.

Well, that was then and that was them. Not us. Not now. NOT! In moments we'll come to table. You'll have to make the same decision Matthew did. You'll have to get out of your chair! Jesus is gonna say, "Follow." And you'll have to decide. Like Matthew, you just might have to lay some stuff aside. Sin stuff. Lying stuff. Maybe cheating stuff. Oh, and the notion that you're in charge and know what's around the next corner. And how many of us have said to ourselves, "All I have to do is… touch his hem, take his hand, take his word; all I have to do is go this way, do that thing, offer this confession to God, or to someone I love, live or work with," and then have done nothing?! Today, this table offers you the chance to turn the corner and see what God still has in store for you. Like pipers at a funeral, professional mourners at the grave, you and I are altogether too sure we know when dead is dead. We
The teacher who's sure the kid can't learn. The teen who's sure the parents won't understand. The spouse who knows the partner won't change. The worker who knows the boss won't listen. The church that knows the effort won't succeed. But when we come to the corner and Jesus leads us 'round the bend, wonder of wonders, the song's just right. "In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity. In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see." Today we decide, you and me: to look or not, at what God in Christ can make to be.

Jesus calls us past the corners of our lives. And he will not have us go empty on our way. That drum major sent us past that corner years ago, already empty. He led us off with nothing left in our tanks but our youth. 'No end in sight. And no refreshment promised on our way. Jesus does just the opposite. By sunset, Matthew ends up at table with Jesus. We really don't know what comes next with that woman whom he healed. But we do know some act of hospitality, likely at the table, was one of the first signs she was fully healed. Somebody welcomed her as she had not been for years! Matthew doesn't tell us much about the child whom Jesus healed. But when Jesus raises Jairus' daughter he commands, "Get this child something to eat!" (Jesus knows teenagers and Methodists are happiest when eating!) 'No accident, the last major sharing of Jesus and the twelve is at table. He will not send us past the turning points in our lives without first filling us with his love. The cup is the vessel that holds him. The bread is the host that expresses him. The cross is the sign that lifts him up for us and all the world to see.

So often, we are so sure we know where we are. And how far we have to go. We are so certain we know just how far we've come. Like graduates and newly weds, and maybe even marching bands, at the corner moments of our lives, we think we know. But then we turn the corner. And the sight of what lies ahead drops our jaw and challenges our very souls. Well… it's alright. Christ has seen what we could not. And he knows the way to lead us home. He calls us to decide to follow him. And he feeds us, feeds us manna from heaven: bread of life, cup of salvation, all along our way!

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