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“I thought you would be mad at me.”
The vase lay broken on the kitchen floor, the roses that Father had brought home to Mother strewn about. Ruined, it was all ruined. But little Timmy wanted to make up for his mistake, so he tried to clean up.
He hadn’t meant to bump the vase with the flowers. But he had, reaching across the table for something he had bumped the vase and it had gone crashing to the floor. The glass shattered into a gazillion pieces, the flowers were shredded by the flying glass. Timmy went to get the broom to clean up.
But he forgot to put on shoes, so as he started to clean up the glass lodged in his feet and blood began to flow causing an even bigger mess and pain for Timmy. After a few minutes Mother walked in – broken vase, ruined flowers, and most important crying and bloody Timmy. Mother reached down for her son, “Are you okay?”
“Why didn’t you tell me the vase was broken? I would have helped you fix it.”
“I broke the vase, and I wanted to clean it up. I didn’t tell you because I thought you would be mad at me.”
In the time of Jesus and even today there is a sense that those who are in misery are there at least partly because of their own doing. God may be punishing them for a sin committed or a sacrifice forgotten. You can imagine the man with leprosy coming forward to Jesus here in Luke 5. He has nothing to give to Jesus. He can only ask. And like little Timmy, there is an undercurrent of fear here. What if Jesus says no? What if God doesn’t want to heal the leper?
“If you choose, you can make me clean.” I think God might be mad at me, but God has the power to heal this disease. Will you do it, Lord?
“I do choose, be made clean.”
God chooses healing and wholeness over disease and brokenness. I do not write this easily, because the evidence to the contrary seems overwhelming. There is so much suffering, so many who are not healed, so much broken like a vase bumped from the table turned into shattered glass.
And so Luke 5:13 is also a statement of faith. This is what we believe: that God chooses to make people whole again. That God wants to bring the broken pieces of life together again. That Christ on the cross is the ultimate choice of God to bring his children into His arms and hug them and tell them. “It’s okay, Daddy’s here,” after we have cut ourselves up.
We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean God is forever angry. Instead God chooses to heal. And for that we give thanks.
I believe in the God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth…
We say it every week in worship, right after the hymn after the sermon. We know where it falls every week, and we know when it is our turn to begin the ritual.
“Let us say what we believe.” So we begin saying that we believe in God and somewhere about the time we mouth “creator of heaven and earth” our brains are moving on. Like the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed is one of those sets of words that we say a lot but in reality don’t pay much attention to, despite the awesome power those words convey. Do we realize what we are saying here?
Do we realize that we are placing our belief in one God in three persons, whatever that means?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord…
Do we realize that with these words we are declaring that we follow Jesus and Jesus only, not any powers of this world nor any powers in the spiritual world other than the one who died on a cross in Palestine in the first century?
Do we realize that we are saying that we believe in the virgin birth, the movement of Jesus from Earth to the place of the dead (“sheol” in Hebrew and “Hades” or “hell” in Greek) on his way to rising from the dead, and that he will come again?
Do we realize that we are saying this with Christians from every time and place, those who say it openly and those who whisper it behind closed doors?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,…
Do we realize that believing in the Holy Spirit means the Spirit might actually act in and through us to transform the church and the world? Do we want that, really?
Do we realize the covenant we are making here? Do we realize the awesome responsibility we are undertaking, to commune with the saints and to actually forgive those who hurt us?
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Do we realize just how radical this statement of faith truly is? Just how hopeful this truly is? Just how faithful?
Do we realize that we are committing to live differently, to live as if there is more here than what we know here or see here or feel here?
Do we believe this?
Which one is it? If the church is the ends, then the goal is to bring people into the church, where they will be “saved” from the world. If the church is the means, then the goal is for the people of God to show God’s intention to redeem the world.
If the church is the end, then we can be content with waiting for everyone to come to us. If the church is the means, then we are called to go and make disciples.
If the church is the end, then we can the goal is the building up of the church. If the church is the means, then the church is willing to die to itself so that we might live for Christ and God’s mission in and for the world.
What else happens when we change from thinking of the church as the end to thinking of the church as the means by which God proclaims good news to the world?