By Mark Kurowski
#Turnaround is the reflection for January 25, 2015. How do we be nice, interact with the homeless, just be all around better? Find out more by listening to the reflection. It may change your priorities. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Priorities #KingdomofGod
(A free stock photo of a homeless person was used above. The photo was chosen specifically because the face of the individual is not shown.)
For listener supported MySpiritualAdvisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/25/2015 The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 1:14-20.
I want you to take a moment and think of what the New Heaven and the New Earth will be like when Jesus Christ comes again. We will return to this later.
Who wants a boss that will treat them with respect, deal honestly with them, and be fair? Who wants a spouse that is kind and generous, asking what you want before insisting on their own way? Who wants love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control for themselves and those around them? Who wants healing and forgiveness always available and offered?
We all want these things. They are everything that we want. That is, they are everything we want for ourselves. We all want a boss who is fair for us, but do we want to put in the work necessary for us to be the good boss. We all want to have a great spouse for ourselves, but do we want to be the great spouse. We all want others to be loving to us, joyful around us, peaceful toward us, kind with us, generous to us, faithful in their dealings with us, gentle with us, and have self-control around us. Somehow, when it comes to us returning the favor there are any number of reasons why it is that we just can’t do it.
We may have just been fired, divorced, rejected for our application for a graduate program, hurt by the words of our children. We could be exhausted. We could be angry at what someone else did to us. Any number of these things could be the reasons why we cannot be what we want others to be for us. So, what can change that? What can change our inward focus and turn us toward others? What can make us the person we want others to be for us?
The answer is simple, but difficult. It is the “aha” moment. It is the change within us that reorients our thinking, our goals, our focus of what is good, just, and worthy to be achieved. It is a word that we hate to hear because it sounds so “religious”. It is the word “repentance.” It is one of the cornerstones of Jesus’ preaching. In fact, when he starts to preach, it is the first thing he says. “Repentance”, literally translated, means “to turn around.” It is a refocus of our thoughts. In its simplest form, it is just a turn around. It is to decide to do something different: “I repent from drinking this horrible coffee I made today.”
We all know, though, that this is not what Jesus wants us to do. What Jesus wants us to do is to have an entire re-orientation of life. My daughter Ruth went on a retreat. At the retreat a speaker asked a simple question, “Is God your first priority?” It totally changed her life. It caused her to question everything that she had ever thought. It even, according to her recollection, caused her to question whether she was being really real about her faith. She even told me, “It made all the difference in the world. My whole life changed. I now have someone I can rely on for even the smallest things.” That “someone” is Jesus. Don’t these “aha” moments throughout the journey of faith bring peace? Don’t they take a load off of us? Yes, they do.
There is tremendous peace when we know that Jesus urges us and gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to be more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle and in control of our self. We are God’s, so we don’t have to jump through every silly evil hoop that our boss puts in front of us. We are God’s, so we don’t have to respond to the nasty comment our loved one sent our way. We are God’s, so we don’t have to, well, do what anyone else wants us to do. We are held to a higher standard, but a standard that lets us sleep at night. Because I am God’s I can say, “Sure, I was fired, but I did the right thing and I will do it again. God will take care of me.”
Ironically, when we are God’s, we do more for others than we would do when we are not. I had a student who was moved by the heart of God to interact with a homeless person. During her prayer time, she was move to ask for a relationship with a homeless person. Very soon afterward, my student got a traffic ticket. As she was stopped, she saw the homeless woman and knew it was a sign from God.
She approached the woman and ended up spending the day with her. Not only did she meet her, she talked to her. She took the woman shopping and out to eat. She never refers to the homeless woman as “the homeless woman”, but refers to her by her name. From that day forward, homeless people were just people to my student. The love my student experienced and gave was transformational of her view of homeless people.
Who wakes up in the morning thinking, “I want to meet a homeless person today?” Don’t we wake up thinking, “I DON’T want to run into a homeless person today”? We don’t want to feel awkward that all we have is a $10 bill in our wallet. Who wants to spend a day with a homeless person? Only someone whose life has been reoriented to care for the poor, the sick, the lonely and dispossessed; only someone who has repented of their former life, their secretly disconnected life, and loves others on behalf of God.
Sure, there are people who do good things without God, but those who love Jesus, those who have made him their top priority, they repent of what they want to do that is selfish and self-serving. A person who has God as their first priority is said to have God as their “king”. He directs them to pray to meet a homeless person. He directs their heart to listen to the harsh words they just doled out to their employee, their spouse, their children, their friend, the barrista at Starbucks who was late with their coffee. He directs them to be loving in the face of hatred. He directs them to an act of love in response to someone being beheaded. He directs them to be self-controlled when facing injustice so that the judgment can be heard and not dismissed. The March on Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge was such an egregious act of violence against people who were walking and carrying signs that the sin of racism could no longer be ignored.
People who have reoriented their lives to make Jesus their first priority live their lives like the Kingdom of God has already come. It has. The Kingdom of God has come in their hearts. The Kingdom of God is lived out in their lives. The Kingdom of God is their state of reality and everything else and everyone else is foolishness.
Think of the power of living in the Kingdom of God. No matter how evil or foolish the world is to us, we do not have to let our soul, our psyche—our person—be damaged. We can choose to be the child of God and not the victim. We can choose to know who is the true reality. We can choose to love in the face of hate because we know whose we are and who we are.
Think of heaven again. It will be just. It will be kind. It will be good. It will be loving. It will be painless. It will be a daily transformation beyond our wildest expectations and dreams. It will be. Yet, until that day, when Jesus comes to wipe every tear from every eye, we have heaven within and heaven amongst those who have made God the priority of their lives. Is God the first priority of your life? Amen.
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