A Communion Meditation delivered by The Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens, Senior Minister, The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, Epiphany 4, February 2, 2003, dedicated to the seven men and women who lost their lives aboard The Columbia Space Shuttle on February 1st, 2003 always to the glory of God!
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Mark 1:21-28
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each one of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our salvation. Amen.
With sighs too deep for words and the burden of prayers unattended, he set off for work one day. He was a teacher. He taught law. They were amazed by his words and the authority by which he delivered his teachings. People came from all around those parts to hear him, for he was different. There was a qualitative difference in his words. One man came, possessed by many. Speaking a singular voice with a plural tongue, he asked of the teacher, "What have we to do with you? Have you come to destroy us?" And then the one man, possessed by many, turned his questions into a statement. He said, now speaking with a singular voice, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
Neither the questions, nor the statement stopped the teacher. Rather, the teacher became a healer. He said to the many voices, "Be silent!" He said to the many voices, "Come out of him." And they did. They became silent. They came out of him. But they have not left us. They echo still with their questions and the singular statement. They still cry out, these voices of many from a single man's being - "What Have We To Do With You?"
I hear the voices, don't you?
I hear the voices in those who will not believe that the teacher and healer is the Holy One of God. I hear the voices in those who cannot believe that he is one who teaches with authority. I hear the voices from faithful disciples and disbelieving, unbelieving critics and skeptics. I hear the voices in the church and in the society. I hear the voices from pews filled with pain and pulpits too often filled with loneliness. I hear the voices of the many in the one. In word and in deed, in pew and in pulpit, in church and society, I hear the voices ask, "What have we to do with you?"
With sighs too deep for words, the teacher and healer, now Savior and Lord, continues to teach and heal. He continues, as is his practice, to go on the Sabbath to church and synagogue. He continues to respond to skeptics and critics that they should be silent until the time when they are ready to be graceful, to be forgiving, to be loving, to be reconciling, to walk in his ways and follow his will. He continues to call the faithful, the believing, the often silent, to speak and to live into the answer of the question - "What have we to do with you?"
The answer as you already know, is within each of you. Each one of you already knows the answer of what you have to do with him. The answer is "EVERYTHING." We have everything to do with him. Our lying down and our rising up have to do with him. Our breathing and our praying have to do with him. Our healing, our hoping; our forgiving, our living; our loving and our faithing have to do with him. Our moving on past-the-past, our living fully in the present, our dreaming long into the future have to do with him. When he is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, everything has to do with him.
There are times in our lives when the voices of the many coming from the single man or woman may seem to challenge or threaten our very existence. But, I encourage you to hear those voices in a new way. They may, in fact, be the voices which are calling you to come to know who you really are and whose you really are.
Such voices as this spoke from one man to one of my friends some years ago. My friend, who is a pastor, was once visiting the unbelieving husband of one of his members. The man was in the hospital with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. He was known by all to be unkind to many. But he especially detested "clergy-types" because, in the man's words, "I don't believe any of that crap that comes out of their mouths about God."
Braced and prepared for rejection, my friend entered the hospital room. The man greeted him with "Get the hell out of here!" Catching the full force of this verbal fastball high and tight, my friend responded quietly but clearly, "That's why I have come, to help get "the hell" out of here. So tell me, where is the hell I have come to help get out?" Then gesturing to his own heart and lungs, my friend asked, "Is it in here for you?" The man, overcome with emotion, put his own hand on his own chest and asked, "Can you help me get the hell out of here?" In that moment, they began a journey together which continues to this day, a journey of getting the hell out and allowing the light of heaven in.
"What have we to do with you?" the many voices coming from the one man asked the teacher in the synagogue. The Gospel of John answers the first question the teacher left unanswered this way, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). In other words, I have EVERYTHING to do with you.
"Have you come to destroy us?" the many voices continue. Again, John's Gospel answers the second question which Mark's gospel leaves unanswered with these words: "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). In other words, "I am not the destroyer, but the creator and the giver of life and the nature of the life I give is full, eternal, abundant."
With sighs too deep for words and the burden of prayers unattended, he set off for work one day. He was a teacher of the law whose teachings were of grace, forgiveness, love, and reconciliation. When he broke bread and poured out wine near the end of his last semester of teaching, his students, who were gathered around him, had only captured a glimpse of his wisdom. Nevertheless, he gave them all he had, and he gave so that they might have abundant life.
In word and in deed, in pew and in pulpit, in church and in society, in skeptics and in believers, the question still echoes, "What have we to do with you?" His words, carved into our table say, "Remember me." When we have absorbed this power and the meaning of his spirit into our bodies and souls, we will know how to answer the voices of the many from the single man's being no matter how or when or where they may seem to threaten us. Amen.
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