More Than Cheesemakers

CrossOver reflection for Week Nine • Beginning January 27, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 22

Rev. Dan Wilcox

In a memorable scene from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian,’ several individuals are so far back during the Sermon on the Mount that when Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” they mishear him, hearing instead, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” One woman responds, “Ah, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?” Another responds, “Well, obviously, this is not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.” While I would only recommend this movie if you happen to be comfortable both with cursing and sacrilegious humor, it offers uncomfortable truths to people of faith.

As we worked through McClaren’s chapter on Jesus the Teacher, this scene came to mind because of how easy it is to misunderstand Jesus’ teaching. Sometimes, it is not Jesus’ teaching that we miss but rather it is a cacophony of tradition that makes hearing and understanding Jesus’ story and life more difficult. Voices from across millennia have interpreted, commented, sermonized, and reflected on Jesus’ words and life so much that it can be difficult to hear Jesus the Teacher through all the noise.

Sunday School teachers, pastors, church leaders and parents have taught us, mentored us, and strengthened us in our faith journeys. What we hear and learn about Jesus comes through the filters of their experiences, expectations, prejudices, and hopes. If we try to work past these voices and hear Jesus on our own, it can feel like a betrayal of these to whom we owe so much.

This moment, for me, was the first time I heard someone suggesting that the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus kept talking about was not just a place where we go when we die. Rather, it is the reality that Jesus desired to see happen here and now; one that we are invited to both be part of and work towards in this life. The parables, teachings, and even the declarative actions in the miracles and healings were Jesus pointing to a world that could be different than the world that is.

For me this ‘discovery,’ came after college, seminary, and even several years of ministry. Reading the Gospels again, I wondered how I had ever missed this. Even more so, how had all of my teachers and mentors missed this? Or, had they been saying it all along, and I was not hearing?

And then one Sunday I was leading the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It was right there! This wasn’t safely sequestering God in heaven and making certain we live right so we can be there in the end. This was inviting God into the messiness and chaos of our lives and desiring to see something new happen.

Beginning to hear and see Jesus more clearly leads to other fresh and exciting discoveries that were there all along.

Jesus the Teacher quoting Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus the Teacher inviting us to see others,

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

These are grit and grime missional callings, not a metaphysical goal for the afterlife. We don’t care for others to get another notch in the belt of eternity, but rather because we desire to see God’s kingdom here and now. Jesus the Teacher offers grace as we are invited into the world that his stories, life and ministry begin to reveal.

Pastor Dan Wilcox is serving with the congregation of Christ First UMC, in Wasilla, AK, his third congregation in Alaska over the past 12 years.  He lives in Wasilla with his wife, Kris-Ann, and their four children.

Comments (2)

  • Dan, I certainly agree about what we heard in our childhood and maybe even adult Sunday school class. Seems there has always been a lot of confusion about God’s Word in the canned lesson plans. Thank the Lord God on High that the Holy Spirit is the only teacher we need in order to comprehend God’s Word as He reveals it to us. Of course that is assuming that we actually read the Bible and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Then no filter is necessary. Christ did not come to bring peace on earth but peace between God and man; that is, should man choose to receive it through faith. Christ’s teaching on agape love exemplifies His intended relations among all mankind.

    Now, back to Chapter 22

    McLaren continues to attach his version of 1960’s civil unrest and rebellion to Christ’s earthly ministry without first reminding readers of the divine significance of Jesus’ actions.

    Christ cast out demons, raised the dead and healed all manner of sickness to make it clear that He was God incarnate and as such, has complete authority over all. Jesus never stated that He would free us from the cruelty of men; rather He clearly stated that His followers would suffer at the hands of men. He further said that believers would suffer at the hands of our family, brethren and civil authorities.

    Christ preached no earthly prosperity gospel. Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood ( governments made up of men), but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. Not Earthly Places!

    Jesus did not “stage an act of Civil disobedience in the Temple” since He violated no Roman law. The Jews were under Roman law. Jesus reacted to sinful use of God’s Temple. Christ was judging righteously, as was His divine right.

    Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem as Lord of all was just that; not a “protest” but His announcement that He had come to Jerusalem to perform the most selfless and mighty act in all human history.

    Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to demonstrate His compassion for those hungry people and to show that He is able to meet all our needs. Christ never preached about any equitable economy. He even paid His tax and encouraged us to obey the civil authorities.

    Lastly, Jesus crucifixion, burial and resurrection fulfilled all God’s requirements for the redemption of mankind, Any human martyr could have brought attention to ” the heartless violence and illegitimacy of the whole top-down, fear-based dictatorship that everyone assumed was humanity’s best or only option”. Fact was, “everyone” was already aware, since crucifixions were not unknown to those under Roman rule.

    McLaren’s above statement might be OK if it were preceded by the truth of God’s plan. The truth is that Christ died for our sins, not to protest man’s cruelty to man. Anything less is vain humanism.

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2023, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: