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Jesus’ works show us how to live in, change the world, McLaren says

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“We are accustomed to leaders who proclaim themselves to be the greatest leader who ever lived,” the Rev. Brian D. McLaren told the virtual congregation at the 9:15 a.m. EDT morning devotional service Friday, Aug. 21, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform

He continued, “I want to try to show that Jesus is a different kind of leader, and we can do his works.”

The title of McLaren’s homily was “Joining God,” and the scripture text was John 14:8-12 (NRSV) —

“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.’”

McLaren said that people do not pay much attention to verse 14, which reads: “‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.’” 

He named some of the works that Jesus did, and how those works might be accomplished today.

Whether you take the stories of the healings Jesus performed literally or figuratively, McLaren told the congregation, the outcome is the same. “Jesus saw sick people and cared about them. He could not let the sickness go unchallenged.”

He continued, “What about us? We have to join Jesus and God in healing the sick, rich or poor, to show that everyone is a neighbor.”

Jesus cast out evil spirits. Jesus knew that people were possessed by mindsets and paradigms that made them behave worse than they normally would.

“White supremacy, authoritarianism, sexual harassment of others, explotation of workers are just some of these evil spirits,” McLaren said. “Jesus saw these spirits, exposed them, named them and set people free of them. Jesus calls us to the same work.”

Jesus reconciled people. “He got the Antifa zealot to sit with the Tea Party tax collector at the same table. What about us?” McLaren asked the congregation.

Jesus also performed miracles with the physical world. Whether calming storms on the sea or turning water into wine, he modeled a different relationship with the physical world.

“What about us? How about purifying polluted water or cleaning up a plastic dump in the middle of the Pacific and turning it back into pure ocean water? How about restoring verdant coral reefs and a sustainable climate?” McLaren said.

He added, “Once we see the stories of Jesus in that light, we can be inspired by him and empowered by the Spirit to go and do likewise.”

Jesus raised people from the dead. After all hope was gone, when the pulse stopped, Jesus saw hope. Even if the hope of renewal is gone, there is still the hope of resurrection. 

“Can you still participate in a movement that seems to have a death certificate? If you believe in the resurrection, not all hope is gone. Maybe our calling is to have a future,” McLaren said.

The powers that be kill people and would let people die from sickness, destroy the earth to extract wealth, steal wealth from the future or waste the wealth of the past, or provide ideologies to manipulate people’s minds. 

McLaren said, “The power of God comes to confront and undo those powers. Jesus believed it was possible to enter into God’s power and that we could extend that power beyond him.”

Politics are involved. It is essential for faith communities to see social healing as holy work. Politics get reframed when our inner ecology is healed and it is expressed outwardly to deal with the powers of the outer world.

“We become loving people inwardly and express that love outwardly and create the Beloved Community,” McLaren told the virtual congregation.

McLaren recalled the words of the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, who ended his farewell letter with these words. “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself. … So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

Democracy is an act, a work; not a state. 

McLaren said, “Democracy is something each generation has to do. Lewis inspired future generations to continue his good and holy work. These words should serve as a benediction for us, that the wind of peace, power and everlasting love catch us up so we flow with it.”

He concluded, “Let us join God to cast out evil ideologies and, in a nonviolent spirit of love, have deep communion with the earth in a new and reverent way. From every setback we can rise again, and may we join God in the healing, liberating and greening of the world.”

Jane McCarthy, leader of the daily Service for Blessing and Healing and a leader of the Women in Ministry program at Chautauqua Institution, presided from the Hall of Christ. Joshua Stafford, interim organist for Chautauqua Institution, played the Tallman Tracker Organ. Michael Miller, a Chautauqua Opera Apprentice Artist, served as vocal soloist. The organ prelude, performed by Stafford, was “Menuet Gothique,” by Léon Boëllman. Miller sang the hymn, “Come Down, O Love Divine.” The anthem was “Prière à Notre Dame,” by Boëllman. Stafford played “Toccata,” by Boëllman, for the postlude. This program was made possible by the Edmond E. Robb – Walter C. Shaw Fund and the Randall-Hall Memorial Chaplaincy.

Tags : AntifaBeloved CommunityBrian D. McLarenJohn LewisJoining Godmorning worshipreligionTea Party
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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the morning worship column, a recap of the morning worship service. She is a Presbyterian minister, an author or editor of five books on Chautauqua, and just finished six years of service on the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her dog Sammi, a Stabyhoun — a breed no one has ever heard of.

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