On the CHRISTwatch, in the CROSSwalk THUNDERSTRUCK

Thunderstruck! That’s how Christ would have us. Awestruck! Amazed! ‘Contradicted by Christ in much we’ve felt, believed, understood, practiced! ‘Like James and John. It’s how they walked with Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross. It’s how we can, too. “Are you able?” asks Jesus, now as then. Don’t be too quick to answer. ‘Say yes, and thunder and lightning lie ahead. Crosses, crises, and a clarity of spirit now unknown to us. When you’re not in church, what are you sure of? ‘Talk about all the time. How about, “They’ll never change.” Or, “It’s goin’ this way; I can just tell.” Or, “Better to just get on with it!” Or, “That’s where I wanna be!” Or, “If only….” Imagine it all got changed around? How would you feel? I can tell you this. When this very thing happened to the sons of Zebedee and Salome, James and John came away THUNDERSTRUCK!

James and John were alot like us. And alot like each other (but also different).  They knew what they knew when they knew it. (Us too.) They knew about people and things in advance. So they could pre-judge. (Today we call this prejudiced. ‘For good or ill!)  Oh, they could be patient. (Fishing.) But too quick, too. ‘Kinda knee-jerk. Who here's never been that? Oh, they tried to be good, right, true, faithful. But they wanted their own way, their own place, even in the heart of Jesus. Ambitious, we’d say. We oughta know. ‘Been there. ‘Done that. But in the company of Christ, all of this got changed around, converted, transformed. Lightning struck. Thunder rolled. So much so, Jesus changed they’re name, Zebedee to BOANERGES, Sons of Thunder. And – they – were – thunderstruck! How I hope our day’s comin’, too. And just like this. Consider…

JAMES. The elder. That was his place. Jesus gave him a new one. He was never the same! Walk with Jesus and we won’t be either. O, James wasn’t poverty–stricken, any more than we. Papa had a good FISH business. The Bible tells us he hired managers. He had 2 houses, 1 on the water, 1 at Jerusalem. James learned his Bible & tradition. He knew: my people, the chosen! Others are the less. So when Jesus heads for Jerusalem through Samaria, hated of the Jews, and they refuse, James notes: ‘Told ya. They’ll never change!

Pre-justice, prejudice! It’s like that time when some fella, not 1 of the 12 got to casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The 12 freaked! James also. Jesus had to rebuke them and remind, “Those not against us are for us!” Knee-jerk! (‘You ever write that hot email, hit send, then think 2ce? Or say the mean thing to the slow store clerk? ‘Blast the teacher, then learn the dog didn’t eat Johnny’s homework? Ever zing your beloved, belittle the boss, and want it back?) Well then you might get the scene when James and his brother thunder, “Lord, since these Samaritans have put you down, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” Jesus has to give them THE LOOK! (I know you know the look. Your mamma likely borrowed it from Jesus. You ‘been rebuked!) Ah, dear elder brother James, accustomed to his place. To this day, a certain privilege applies. And an ambition to keep and extend it! It’s tough to turn from. So despite 3 years with Jesus, even near the end, it’s not hard to see. ‘James, egging on little brother John, to go to Jesus and ask, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” This time, the look’s not enough. Jesus lifts the cup. [@ hand] “Can you drink this?” He asks, “Do you wanna be bathed/baptized with me in the (blood)bath/baptism that’s comin?”

Here’s a shocker. He’s still askin’. ‘Still askin’ even us. Be careful how you answer. You might get your way. James and John did. It cost them everything (more about that shortly). And it gave them the only thing that really matters. Are you able? …Are you able?

Thunderstruck by Jesus! That was John, the brother of James. Now everyone knows: nothing follows lightning so closely as thunder. That was John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” If Peter was the thunder off one hill when the Christlight flashed lightning, John was the answering thunder from the neighboring hillside! John. Yes, he shared the flaws of his brother, James (and added his own). But there was so much to love about John. (James too, in fairness.) And Jesus loved them both dearly. John: convert of the Baptist, disciple of Jesus, witness from the calling of the 12 to the mount where Moses and Elijah point Jesus to the cross. John: in the Garden, invited to pray with Jesus. ‘At the cross, witness to suffering, racer to the Easter tomb with Peter. Evangelist, too humble to write his own name in his own Gospel. 70 yrs., apostle of Christ. ‘Seer of Jesus in majesty, the church in reality, the world lost in hostility, God’s eternity wrapped in Christ’s glory. But once upon a time, John was willing to wrestle with Jesus over going to the cross. And bar the little ones and the seekers from tired Jesus’ side. And light up the hillside with the ashes of Jesus’ rejecters, and connive for advantage, even his mom had to do his bidding. Ooo, this disciple whom Jesus loved was as wrapped in contradiction and enveloped in potential as, well, you and me! You know what redeemed him, with Jesus, with God? HIS STEADFASTNESS. His in-it-to-the-end heart. His NEVERTHELESS love. His let-me-try-this-like-Jesus-does-it spirit. His sheer capacity to absorb what he witnessed and felt of Jesus, then reflect it without getting in his own way. These two capacities, for frailty and faithfulness not only stand in the light of Jesus, they shine his light on us. They call out for our answer, like a flashing sky scours the hills for a thunderstruck reply. Are you able to drink from my cup. bathe in my baptism?

Friends, be anything but quick with your answer. Neither inflate your self by your yes, nor deflate God’s-power-and-grace in Christ Jesus with your no. You might just be astonished, should you walk with Jesus, upward toward Jerusalem. Afterall, the Zebedee boys turned out thunderstruck, because of themselves, and in spite of themselves. Once they were certain of everything, but at last, they became certain of only one thing. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten.” Once, they would act on sheer instinct. But Christ taught them the mercy of “on second thought” and the grace of the second of second of second chances. (They learned to give as they received.) They achieved the grace that stops asking for God to make a place for them at the top. They learned that nothing can top the place God has made for each of us at the side… the side of Jesus. Are you able? they were asked. Hmmm. Are YOU able? Am I? James would end up the second great martyr of the church, behind only Stephen. At the flash of the Herod [Agrippa]’s Sword, he would shine Jesus’ light and thunder his name. John’s was a different thunder, not a clap, but a rolling… the longest of any of the 12. A Gospel, great letters, a Revelation bear his name. All because the Lord who set his face toward Jerusalem, set his heart on these, and the likes of these, even down to us. He still invites us to walk uphill with him. And he still listens, waiting to hear thunder in his name.

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