08 October 2008

The Wednesday Reflection: "The Rebel Jesus"

Text: John 11.45-57

I’m going to go home tonight to a warm house, where my wife and daughters will be safely asleep in their beds. I’ll get a beer out of the fridge, go downstairs to my chair, and sip that beer while I read for a bit before heading off to bed. I like living in this house. I’m comfortable here. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to it – and with the economy going the way it is right now, that’s not just an idle worry for many of us.

Maybe you’ve got your comfort level arranged here, too. After seven or eight weeks of classes your dorm room or your apartment is as set up as it’s going to be. The loan money hasn’t run out yet, so you’re still eating more than just ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. You know where to go in Ames for good pizza, and where to go for cheap movies. This is something we all do: we build a life that brings enjoyment and comfort, adding in established rituals like “Wednesday Night Pizza” or “Sunday Night Supper.” No one likes to be uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing, though: following Jesus brings about some tough challenges to our comfort. The Pharisees knew it: it was the reason they plotted to kill Jesus, so that his rebellious nature wouldn’t upset the apple cart of religious comfort the church had built around the Temple. Following Jesus was what led the Orthodox to split from Rome and Luther to post the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church. Following Jesus was what brought the Puritans to America, Bonhoeffer to plot against Hitler and Dr. King to lay his life on the line for a people hungry for justice. It seems to me that Jesus is rarely interested in maintaining the status quo, because it is so easy for us to stop growing and changing and falling victim to the idolatry of “we’ve always done it that way.”

Someone once said, “When you say ‘Yes’ to Jesus, you say ‘No’ to everything else.” It’s not easy, following Jesus, because saying “No” to everything else includes saying “No” to my house, my car, my Cornhuskers, even my wife and my kids. To all these things, which are indeed good, Jesus says, “Wonderful, but let’s keep them in their place, shall we? I am the One who saves you, and I tell you your comforts are far less important than the mission into which I am sending you.”

This reading from John’s gospel brought to mind the song “The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne. True, it’s a Christmas song, but the message of comfort overshadowing Jesus is true today, also. As you listen, may the rebel Jesus reveal to you the love he bears for all of us, and the call to seek first the kingdom of heaven, in which we find the greatest comfort of all: the love and mercy of God the Father, Jesus the cherished Son, and the Spirit who calls us together tonight. Amen.

“The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus


  1. I needed to read this today.

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you, My reverend friend. I, too, needed to read this.