This is the second of a four-part sermon series preached at Ellendale UMC about our new vision statement: “…to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus Christ.” Here are links to the other sermons in the series:
Part 1: “…to be the hands of Jesus…”
Part 3: “…to be the voice of Jesus…”
Part 4: “…to be the body of Christ…”
Confession: There are a handful of movies that, while conjuring up lovely memories in the minds of many people my age and older, give me nightmares and I envision them not as fantasy and wonder but horror. I include among these: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, and The Wizard of Oz. I mean for real…those flying monkeys with their zombie-like expressions and movement… *shudders*. I’m no fan of horror movies, and neither is my wife, Carrie, but she loves all things Oz – the books, the movies, she has a collection of Christmas tree ornaments from the movie, and on and on. (I only knew of one Wizard of Oz growing up and his last name was Smith and he played shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. But I digress…) Now there’s this new TV series called The Emerald City, which is putting a new twist on the story. And I have to admit, I’ve gotten into this last one…intriguing. No flying monkeys yet, but I am drawn in by the story telling. It’s been pretty suspenseful so far.
Now the thing about suspense is that it makes us want to get to the resolution. It is symptomatic of our way of living in the Western world that we long for closure. While we hate to see our favorite TV shows or series come to an end, we do, nonetheless, long for that closure. And so relative to that baneful movie from 1939, to avoid all the mess and heartache that Dorothy experienced along the road, I would like to tell her as soon as she got to Oz, “Hey, Dorothy, click those red ruby shoes together three times and say, ‘There’s no place like home!’!” You can avoid all the nonsense and the horror along the yellow brick road. To be immediately brought to the resolution. What must that experience be like? Or to speak to more recent cultural expressions than the old Wizard, what it would be like to be “Beamed up, Scotty!’? But isn’t this what we’re obsessed with – getting where we need to go…and quickly…no delay…no detours…minimal pit-stops or layovers… are… we… there… yet?
C. S. Lewis once said that “The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it ‘annihilates space.’ It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten.”
I think sometimes even in the church we get caught up in this seeming light speed pace of the world and we get impatient when things don’t move fast enough to get done what we know needs to be done. It may help us to remember that Jesus didn’t save the world traveling at the speed of a NASCAR, but at a simple walking pace. Jesus saved the world at a pace of about 3 miles per hour. Even in emergency situations, Jesus remained calm – he was deliberative, yes – but he was never in a hurry as far as we can tell.
And this is what brought me to the Gospel passage this morning. Perhaps there could have been better or more detailed stories or examples of Jesus’ feet and what we see them doing elsewhere in the gospels. Like we learned last week about Jesus’ hands, his feet can be found in many other modes – in some passages, they are found to be on the receiving end of being anointed and/or kissed by a woman, they can be found walking upon the water in a shocking miracle displaying his authority over the created order, there are the instructions Jesus gives to the seventy disciples he sent out with preparations for their feet, the way in which he washes the feet of his disciples, and of course, the fact that his feet, like his hands, were pierced by nails, shedding his blood. This last one in particular is potent just as we saw the hands of Jesus at the cross display the vast, immeasurable expanse of God’s love. So also the feet, shedding blood, are the means by which Jesus makes peace through the blood of the cross.
But there is something more vital about Jesus’ feet that is subtler and can be seen underneath the surface in what takes place in this passage from Mark. And I believe it is this quality that speaks to what is central to our new vision at Ellendale – to be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ – and that is this: about Jesus’ pace, or the way he moves his feet, and how this speaks to the manner in which Jesus carries out his mission. That is, Jesus’ feet are the vehicle of carrying his grace to the hurting world. Whenever you see a reference to Jesus going or coming, always think this – his feet got him there – and its always on purpose. Jesus walks with resolve to do his Father’s will…and that means, like what we see in our text today, that he takes unexpected (and undesired) detours even when they’re puzzling to his followers.
A synagogue leader asks Jesus to heal his dying daughter. And Jesus responds by going…not by asking, “Hey, you need to bring her to the synagogue” or “to the church”…no. Jesus goes. Now it doesn’t say that Jesus was walking with a particularly slow pace, but I imagine if I’m the synagogue leader and Jesus is walking with me to heal my daughter who is on the brink of death and I don’t have an ambulance, yes, I’m probably doing my best to rush him. Perhaps he was walking briskly, but this was stifled at least to some degree by the crowd pressing in on him, when all of a sudden, Jesus pauses…and takes a detour.
“Who touched me?” His followers said, “Who touched you? More like, who didn’t touch you? Ugh. Somebody needs to go to Sam’s to get some Lysol and hand sanitizer.”
But there’s more to what Jesus is saying…he felt healing power going out from him when a particular person touched him. And he goes…off the path…off the script…his feet veer away, momentarily, off of the way we think he should go. But instead Jesus goes aside, he kneels, he speaks, he makes whole. Jesus took the time to walk to this woman and make her whole before he resumed his course to the young girl. By then it seemed too late for her. But allow this One to be fully present with her, too, and she will be made well – and that is what happened. The feet of Jesus walked to enable him to be fully present and minister wherever he went. And here’s the kicker—no pun intended—his feet took him outside the walls of the worshiping community because the world outside the walls was where the hurt was.
And that’s why this vision of being the body of Christ, including being his feet, is not ultimately about what we want to take place inside the walls of this building, but more importantly about what we desire to take place in the community – in the lives of the people who come here and the people with whom we come in contact as we walk, and run, and jog, and drive, and fly, through life. It’s taking each step on purpose and being fully present in every circumstance. Only we should let God’s grace shine with us wherever we are. It’s not about mere engagement here on Sunday morning. It’s about taking the mission out there, about sharing God and grace as we go.
This is why we also heard from Ephesians 6:15 earlier – feet fitted with readiness to share the gospel of peace. John Wesley commented about this passage:
Let this be always ready to direct and confirm you in every step. This part of the armor, for the feet, is needful, considering what a journey we have to go; what a race to run. Our feet must be so shod, that our footsteps slip not. To order our life and conversation aright, we are prepared by the gospel blessing, the peace and love of God ruling in the heart. By this only can we tread the rough ways, surmount our difficulties, and hold out to the end.
Feet then, in Wesleyan terms, serve as prevenient grace – that which goes before and enables us to share the gospel of peace – of God’s reconciling love through deed (expressed with the hands) and word (expressed through our voice). When we are serving as the feet of Christ, we are expressing that God’s grace comes to us on its way to another and we are invited to hop on board and follow – not clicking our heels together, not getting beamed up, but walking in step with the Spirit at the pace of Jesus.
The prophet Isaiah speaks about the feet of the messenger – how beautiful they are in bringing the good news that God is King and our good God reigns!
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them
Who bring good news, good news,
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness,
Our God reigns, our God reigns…
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.