Let’s start with four hand gestures followed by three snapshots with captions underneath. The hand gestures are, and you can try this with me, Take, Bless, Break and Share. The three pictures are of three types of people at a specific time in their life, a particular intersection, crisis, or dangerous opportunity, a moment of choice, reconnecting with the past, the future or the present moment. Let’s see.
The first picture is of those people who knew Jesus from way-back-when and know all about him already. The second snap are these brand-new apostles who see themselves beginning something that really seems almost beyond belief, and the third is, well, actually it’s every-one of us as our lives present themselves here and now. So I guess that the third picture is kind of a group selfie!
So in the first picture Jesus goes back to his own home town with his disciples and begins to teach in the synagogue, and the people who always knew him don’t know what to think anymore: and they’re saying,“We know this guy, the carpenter, son of Mary, brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and those unnamed sisters.” And they say, “Where’s he get all this wisdom, these deeds of power done by his hands! Is not this with us?” And they take offence at him. Then Jesus could do no deed of power there… And he’s amazed at their unbelief.
But maybe their unbelief’s not that amazing. It is a stretch to follow what St. Paul writes, that in Jesus we see the fulness of God in human form: we see the Creator’s full, eternal love joining with us in the middle of the human journey. So in looking at this snapshot of Jesus on the way we see something amazing, almost unbelievable, maybe like what we used to call a double exposure, remember that, with two photos on the same bit of film. Here’s one picture of eternal love in the middle of this unfinished journey that can be seen in two ways: God’s glory shining out of some guy you thought you had figured out years ago. And it might seem unbelievable and almost safer to say, “I know this guy, I know where he’s coming from, there are no surprises here.”
So Jesus could do no deeds of power there. They didn’t give him the room! And what they missed in their lack of openness, their lack of faith, is being open to the fact that the past doesn’t determine the future, that everyone and every moment is a kind of open question, widening unto larger life, and that, if God is love and love can live here, then maybe everyone is also a kind of snapshot of holiness here and now, a particular moving picture that exposes the truth that love lives anew.
And my question is this, are we like these old friends of Jesus? Are we letting past ideas and impressions and experiences determine where we do and don’t allow love to live in the present? Do we overlook the surprise of God in family, friends, neighbours, enemies? What if each and every one of them could be open questions calling us to know God’s presence anew ? As one twentieth century saint, Katherine of Hepburn, said in The Philadelphia Story, “The time to make up your mind about people is never!” And maybe the time to let the past determine the present in never as well. So that’s the first picture.
Then the second snapshot comes when Jesus calls the twelve, sends them out, gives them authority and tells them to take almost nothing for their journey; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; dress simple and be sincere, stay steady… So they go out and proclaim that all should repent (meaning turn around to see and live life a new way, with a new mind in a new direction. And they come back amazed, as well they should be!
And that’s the second snapshot. See the difference? These disciples are not unlike the old friends of Jesus or unlike us either. They’re simple, wonderful, sometimes raucous, they’re reckless, stupid, dense, dumb — and in that they’re tremendously encouraging. They’re preoccupied, worried about the wrong thing, looking in the wrong direction, concerned with power, and prestige, and who’s on top, and how you win — and that gives me some real courage sometimes, because, in spite of all that, they learn life changes. And I figure if these folks, particularly St Peter, can make it, then there’s hope for me too! Because they keep letting Jesus get larger and lead them to larger life, and that’s how they grow up! They let Jesus show them a future that’s bigger than their past. That’s the Gospel truth. They learn to focus at life at the precise place where the Good News waits to make all things new. So that’s the second picture.
I think they’re living through a four part process there. They take Jesus seriously (that’s ONE), they let themselves be blessed by his faith, hope, love for them, with them, in them, and let it bloom (TWO). They let it break through old ideas of what life can offer into a new vision of what the future may bring (THREE), and they take that infusion of faith and hope and love and they share it wherever they can (FOUR). So we’re back to the hand gestures: Take, Bless, Break, Share.
So, finally the last picture, the selfie of you and me and here and now. And it’s not unlike the first two, Like Jesus’ old and newer friends and family, we’re here to learn something new about ourselves and Jesus in this mysterious journey and where where we’re going together as a new family in this new way, new truth, ever enlarging life, in what we’re doing right now. We join with them in confessing our sins, listening to the family stories, praying for ourselves and the world, wishing one another peace, And we do those same four things: take, bless, break, share! ONE We take who and where and why we are right now: our duties, and our density and our dreams, the good and bad and all the rest and (TWO) we let God bless them with a future that’s larger than the past, and in so doing (Three) we let God break open our lives like the biggest Christmas present ever with the presence of love, the embrace of compassion, the intimacy of inspiration, and we take all that in and (FOUR) we share it all out, again, and again and again.
This is nothing new, it is our communion, our Eucharist, the Greek word that translates as thanksgiving. We know we do this every Sunday, but I’m convinced that if we really look we can see that it is what we are called to do every day, every moment, every instant of our life. Like St Augustine says, “We behold what are, we become what we see!” Take, bless, break, share, because, by God’s grace, “We are the Body of Christ”