Trust Issues

 Inspired by Luke 9:28-45

There’s nothing worse than disappointing a family member or friend. Getting into a curse-laden argument is often much preferred than them telling you just how disappointed in you they are. And sometimes that disappointment isn’t even given in words, just a look, an expression is all it can take. An expression that hits right in your heart. Heck, I’d rather get into an all-out fistfight than be looked at with those disappointed eyes! I have a feeling most of you know that look. There’s just nothing worse than disappointing a family member or friend. It’s gotta be one of the worst feelings in the world. I’m sure I have disappointed my parents more times than I realize. I had a tendency of trying their patience. But you know, I never felt that they loved me any less for it, and I certainly wasn’t any less spoiled by them. Thankfully, there was no correlation between my bad behavior and their love for me or their willingness to do good for me.

As we speed through the Gospel of Luke, we find ourselves in chapter nine already this week, and Jesus is really struggling here. We’re not even halfway through this book and Jesus is running low on patience, which is starting to cause some angry outbursts, and though Luke doesn’t use this word, I’m thinking that Jesus was throwing quite a few of those disappointed eyes at people. But before we get into Jesus’ moodiness, Luke shares this fantastical story of the Transfiguration. The Bible is full of lots of amazing stories but then there are some that seem they were written for the big screen and this is one of them. This scene feels like it was written more by a C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien kind of author!

This story represents a major turning point in the narrative that Luke is sharing with us. From here on out, Jesus’ focus will become more and more set on Jerusalem and what is eventually going to happen there, him being handed over to his enemies. This is going to be a permanent fixture in his mind from here on out, and so it is no wonder that his temperament is going to change as well. He can’t even get a break from this during this mountain top experience with Moses and Elijah. Did you notice what they talk to him about? His departure, as Luke puts it! Can you imagine, getting to speak to Moses and Elijah, two giants of their faith, and all they want to talk to him about is his death! That would be like one of us, getting to meet Jesus, while we’re still alive, not on our death bed, and we say, “Jesus, I have so many questions for you, so many things I want to talk about!” And Jesus says, “I’m just here to talk about your funeral arrangements.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, while Moses and Elijah are talking to him about his death in Jerusalem, Jesus looks over and sees his three closest companions, Peter, John, and James, fighting sleep! Some support team they turned out to be! Jesus just can’t get a break. Luckily, they’re able to stay awake long enough to hear a voice from the cloud say, “This is my son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” After witnessing this spectacular event, the four of them go back down the mountain and resume the road that they had been on, with the destination of Jerusalem now being set firmly.

Now, let me pause here and ask you, if you had been one of the three that went up that mountain with Jesus, and witnessed all that they had, what would your faith be like as you now came down that mountain? What would your thoughts be surrounding this Jesus whose mission you have committed your life to? I know, it’s difficult to know what we would do in a situation like this but humor me and be thinking about that as we continue.

A day later, Jesus is confronted by a father with a sick son. His father thinks it’s a demon but any modern reader would read this and see that this was probably seizures that the son was suffering from, probably in the form of epilepsy. Regardless, it doesn’t matter what the son was ailing from as that doesn’t change the story at all either way. What’s important here is that the father was not just there to ask Jesus for help but to also let Jesus know that his own disciples had already been asked and were unable to heal the boy. Jesus flips out! Not on the father, not on the crowds, no, on the disciples. Now, we might read this and think Jesus is just in a bad mood and is therefore overreacting. However, we only read a portion of this chapter. If we had read from the beginning we would have read this very first line from chapter nine where Luke shares this with us, “Jesus called the Twelve together and he gave them power and authority over all demons and to heal sicknesses.”

He gave them the power to take care of that father’s son, from whatever that ailed him, and they could not do it. And we have to ask ourselves, why? Jesus gave us a clue in his little rant. He called them “faithless.” And I’m sure he had that disappointed look on his face that probably felt like a dagger to their hearts. Ugh, there’s just nothing worse than disappointing someone. I’ve mentioned this to you before but it’s worth a reminder. The Greek word that we usually translate as “faith” can equally be translated as trust. I actually like that word better. Mostly because we have a very westernized view of faith. When we think of the word faith we think of a certain set of beliefs that a person has. It’s a very doctrinal way of thinking of faith. However, that’s not what a first-century, Middle-Eastern view would be. For them, it was more of a sense of trust. Jesus was continually frustrated at their lack of trust, not in their inability to subscribe to a particular set of beliefs.

So, with that in mind, Jesus is actually calling them “trustless”, not “faithless.” Trustless. After everything that they had seen and heard, with their own eyes and ears, they were still having trust issues. And that was why they couldn’t help that father’s son. But these trust issues ran two ways. First and foremost, they didn’t trust Jesus. And without trust in Jesus, we end up trying to follow Jesus in the clouds like birds with their wings clipped. It just doesn’t work. So, there’s that, lack of trust in Jesus. But I also think there’s another lack of trust that Jesus is concerned about. And that’s a lack of trust in ourselves, in our own God-given abilities, in our own God-given gifts, given to us to carry out the mission set out for us two thousand years ago—to bring healing to the world, wherever and whenever we can, to whatever ailments that come our way. And so, beneath Jesus’ frustration and harsh words—which by the way, I find so endearing and full of grace, especially when I lose patience and grace myself—beneath Jesus’ frustration and harshness, we hear a call from Jesus, a plea from Jesus, “Trust me”, Jesus says, “And trust yourselves.” And more importantly, I hear Jesus saying to us, “I trust you. You got this. I have faith in you.”

Now, if that isn’t enough grace for you, it gets even better. When Jesus learns of the failure of the disciples to help that father, what does he do? Does he quit? Of course not. Does he fire the disciples? No. Does he throw a tantrum? Well, a little. What does he do next? He healed that boy. Because Christ would never allow our failures, our shortcomings, our lack of trust, to get in the way of God’s goodness breaking through our world. Never. Thankfully, there is no correlation between our behavior and Christ’s love or willingness to do good, to bring healing, to bring life, to bring wholeness, into our world. Nothing can get in the way of that. Not even us. Thanks be to God. Amen.



 Inspired by Luke 7:1-15

“After Jesus finished presenting all his words among the people, he entered Capernaum.” That’s how Luke begins our passage for today, which comes from chapter seven. It’s easy to miss but Luke spells out in this one seemingly simple opening line, what the next few stories are all about. Words. More specifically, the power of words. Luke had a habit of stringing stories together in order to make a singular point, and this chapter is one of many that exemplifies that. I don’t have to tell you, but I will anyway because that’s my job, of how powerful words can be. They have the power to both heal and destroy, to both bring life and death into this world, figuratively and literally. Jesus surely wasn’t the first to introduce this. The Hebrew scriptures are full of stories, proverbs, songs, and poetry that express the power of words. But when Jesus, the Word made flesh demonstrates it, well, it makes stand at attention, if not altogether gasp in awe.

In the first story that Luke shares, we have a centurion, a high-ranking Roman military commander, who had a servant who was on her death bed. He is apparently in good standing with the Jewish community there and asks them to send for Jesus to heal his servant. They do as he asks and Jesus goes with them to tend to this dying servant. But just before he reaches the centurion’s home, Jesus is stopped. Jesus is then given another message from the centurion saying that he doesn’t want Jesus to physically come to his home, claiming that he is not worthy. Instead, he says that all Jesus has to do is say, with words, that his servant is healed and she will be healed. Because you see, as someone who knows the power of words, the weight of giving orders and having those orders followed, the centurion has complete confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal his servant from right where he is standing. Jesus is gobsmacked, he is astonished, amazed, impressed as our translation puts it, at the trust that this centurion has, and lo and behold, when the messengers return the servant is healed.

Luke then shares another little story. This time he is in the little town of Nain, about a full day’s journey from Capernaum. There he meets a widow who’s only son has just died, whose body is being carried out of town to be buried. Luke shares that Jesus had compassion for the widow and motioned for the people to stop moving the body. Jesus, using his words once again, tells the young man to “get up.” The young man does just that, and Jesus returns him to his mother.

In both of these stories, words are everything. Words are the only thing that pass between Jesus and the ones in need. Words are the only thing that connect the healer and the healed. Words are how Jesus knew of the trust that the centurion had in him, even though he didn’t hear it directly from him but through messengers. Words are what astonished Jesus so, words are what moved him to heal that dying servant. And it was with mere words that Jesus raised the widow’s only son back to life, back to her. Words are everything in these stories, and they are for us too. In this day and age when so much of our lives are recorded. Every social media post, bank transaction, driving violation, not to mention never knowing when you’re being video recorded, whether it be on someone’s cell phone, door bell, or a street cam! It goes without saying that our words can come back to bite us if we’re not careful.

Words have so many healing properties though too, whether those words are spoken or words that you choose to not let out. Words can heal so much of what’s wrong in our world. Could that be what Jesus and Luke were trying to get across to us? I mean, sure, they were also flexing Jesus’ power too, right! Luke wanted us to know that Jesus was the real deal, the ruler of the cosmos, with power over death. I get that, and we need that too. But I also believe that we can’t stop there. What good is it to have an all-powerful Jesus if it’s not going to make a difference in our lives? In fact, right before these stories, at the end of chapter six, Jesus asks his followers in frustration, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” Which is why I believe Luke is pushing us to ponder the power of our words, and not just Jesus’ words.

I was watching the news the other day, something I do way too much of these days, and I came across some powerful words by a politician, representative Dean Phillips from Minnesota. He was speaking on the floor of the house about his experience during the insurrection attempt at the capitol. It was quite an eye-opening experience for him and before I share with you my final takeaway from this passage from Luke, I’d like to share his words with you now.

Now, depending on your perspective, you will have different reactions to his words. And many might think, they’re just words, what good can words do. I can only share with you what my reaction was. As a person of color in this country, I bounce between being invisible and sticking out like a sore thumb. I’m often not seen for who I really am, not seen in ways I wish people would see me, to the other extreme of being seen in all the wrong ways, in unfair ways with unfair presumptions. And when representative Dean Phillips shared his a ha moment, when he first understood privilege, really understood it, because of how his colleagues of color could not blend in like him, when he shared that, I felt seen, I felt understood, more specifically, seen by a white person, understood by a white person. His words brought life to me, from so far away, through a TV screen, from someone I don’t even know. Words are everything, in Jesus’ day, and today.

Which brings me to my final takeaway from these stories. There’s a detail common in both of these little stories that Luke shares with us that, if overlooked, we lose a powerful point that Luke was trying to make. The centurion that Jesus helped, was an outsider, a gentile, not who Jesus’ fellow Jews had traditionally considered to be part of God’s people, and likewise, not someone that they would normally feel any sense of duty towards or responsibility for. A Roman centurion just wouldn’t be someone that they thought was their problem to help out, and would have been seen as more Roman soldier and less human being. Likewise, a widow, without anyone to care for her, meaning, without a male to take responsibility for her, was a huge group of people that easily fell through the cracks of society. And even though she was from the Jewish community, there weren’t exactly people standing in line to take care of widows, to take responsibility of widows. And so, even a Jewish widow, who was supposed to be considered part of God’s people, would fall into obscurity, practically invisible.

And Jesus says no to all of that. Jesus sees the centurion and his slave alike, as children of God. Jesus sees the soon to be forgotten widow and her only son alike, as children of God. And just like Jesus, he saw a need and responded. Period. He didn’t ask for qualifications, didn’t ask for a statement of faith, didn’t ask for anything, he saw a need, saw a person, saw a child of God, and responded with powerful words of healing grace. We too have the power to heal with our words, to see people with our words, to acknowledge people with our words, to confess our wrongs, our privilege, our ignorance, with our words. All these powers, just from our words, to heal, to bring life, from the source of all goodness: Jesus the Christ. Amen.