GO, Search Diligently for Him… Then Bring Me Word – Look Where the Walls Are Crumbling

Remember this.  The Magi were looking for Jesus. Really looking. Herod wasn’t.  What he wanted was power, self-importance, the status quo.  Herod instructed: search diligently for Jesus.  All who are wise have been doing so ever since. I hope that includes us.  So where shall we look? Last week we counseled: up.  And that is true. There are other places. Among the least expected/practiced:  where our walls are crumbling. ‘Where it’s hard. ‘Where things are broken and seem impossible to restore.

We don’t deal well, you and I, with either spilled or broken. Ever notice? Three oz.s of milk in a 4 year old’s glass, when spilled, can cover the Chesapeake! Drop a juice glass. The shattered pieces seem enough for a stained window in a great cathedral.  In either case, our instincts are three. 1)  unholy word. 2)  A mop/broom and a pail/dust pan. 3)  Sop the spill/pick up the little pieces, cast them away.  Not so with God! And that’s what links Herod, the ancient wise, ourselves, and God in Jesus Christ. Look for Jesus in the crumbling, spilled, broken places and you’ll find God himself. ‘Not just cleaning up and casting out, but repairing. Making new.  That includes me. And that includes you.

To our west, walls are rising. Our Welcome Ctr. is a welcome sight for sore eyes. But in the news, among our households and around our town, walls are crumbling, hearts are spilling, and spirits lie in pieces at our feet. Hard times.  Since January 1 four funerals.  A community family about to lose their home. We’ll help today.  We have an unofficial missing person to locate. And yesterday I learned that the Amtrak victim on Friday’s news was Jim Clemons, dad to Rev. Margaret Clemons of Severn UMC. And my NT Prof at WTS.  O, spills and pieces all around. No wonder I get messages now and then like this. “How do we nurture our faith when we need to be strong? How do we truly give up/over grief, loss, doubt, fear to God?  And why DO bad things to good people? Where is God in it all, through it all?”

I wish I knew it all, ‘could tell it all. But sometimes only a story will do. And then, with the best of faith, you and I have to fill in the ending. Maybe that’s because our faith and life have a part in how it all comes out. Confronted with similar times and at-a-loss moments, Jesus just tells a story. We’ve read one of them today.

Jesus’ story responds to the ancient evening news.  Pontius Pilate has slaughtered some rebel Galileans. Bad news! Worse, he’s mingled their blood with the blood sacrifice offered God at temple! (This is like hearing of a church shoot-out during communion. Or like the Arizona Safeway scene a few days ago.) Everyone’s aghast.  “What is God thinking?  What can this possibly mean?”  Then there’s the word of the construction accident and all those workers falling off the wall. “Was it their own fault? ‘Punishment for their (unknown) sins? How can we pick up and go on? Do we just get a sweeper and dustpan, pick up the pieces and throw them away or is there something more?” Says Jesus, “Give it up! Don’t keep trying to see every cause or assess every blame for bad news. You cannot know what only God knows. All you can do is get right what’s wrong in your soul, lest you be separated from God, now or forever, or both.” 2 big lessons. Simple. Straight. And then he told this story. “A man had a fig tree. It had no fruit for him when he hungered for it. He said to his nurseryman, ‘This makes 3 years of this! Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ His man replied, ‘Let it alone, this year too. I’ll tend it in every way. If it bears fruit next year, great; if not, then you can cut it down.’”  Well, there stands the tree. Sentenced and spared… at the same time. 1st, living in real danger, but also 2nd with real hope. ‘Word of its own redeeming. And 3rd thing: time. Real, usable time to be made new and to make good. But not unlimited time. How will it all come out? Jesus doesn’t say. Sorry. In the face of bad news: national, in-town, deep within ourselves… you and I are living just like that fig tree. In danger, and yet in hope and at home in the hand of the Master. We too have a friend, an advocate, Jesus himself. And he says to Heaven, let me tend and water this soul (yours/mine) awhile longer. And then we shall see. Shall it bear fruits: faith, a good life, kind-deeds-in-a-cruel-world, other trees (i.e. believers)? OR NOT. When we wilt or wither, our Master will stand beside us as our stake. ‘Hold us up. And the stake shall be in the shape of a cross. We may never understand the wind, or drought, or flood of good or ill, we need only lean on the stake of the cross, reach into the saving soil beside the crumbling wall, and bear all the fruit we can!

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