September 27, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 21:37-38.
During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives. And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the temple area.
Why was it important to Luke to tell us this? Was it just his writing style to provide a bookend to chapter 19 when he first entered the temple, drove out the sellers, and proceeded to teach the crowds of people? Maybe, but it reminds me when I was a senior in high school and Kansas City. I had read of this pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lawrence who was drawing large crowds to his worship services. For some reason I decided to check it out for myself. I don’t know why. I didn’t go to church, never had really. I thought of myself as an agnostic. All was good in my life, no emptiness that I was conscious of anyway.
Reverend Ron Sundbye packed people in. The first time I had to sit in the basement and watch him on closed circuit television. It wasn’t his personality that mesmerized me; it was his message. He used the fabric of our culture, the times we were living in, to deliver Jesus’ good news. He drew upon comic strips, song lyrics, movies, books — all the things we were exposed to everyday — to make us question how we were leading our lives and to apply Jesus’ teachings to how he calls us to live differently. He didn’t just challenge us, though. He offered hope — the hope of being accepted, forgiven, loved, and saved. People loved it. More and more came to hear the good news proclaimed in a way they hadn’t heard.
Maybe Luke was trying to convey the power of this man Jesus to engage crowds of common people, to call them to the kingdom, to offer them hope when there was precious little to be hopeful about in their lives. People got up early every morning to flock to the temple to devour every word that passed his lips. He told them stories from their everyday lives to show them how much God loved them and the kind of life He wanted for them if they would build His kingdom together. They had never heard anything like this. No wonder the religious authorities were fearful of being turned on by these throngs of devoted followers.
I can see myself in these crowds, spellbound with my heart soaring as I imagined the world as it could be. I’ve had that experience during my life listening to Reverend Sundbye, or sitting in Allen Fieldhouse nodding my head in agreement with every word that Robert Kennedy had to say. Others I’ve watched on television or listened to on the radio like John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Pope Francis. It’s not the man, it’s the message — the message of hope for a better world, a world possible if we allow our better natures, our inspirited natures, to build a world in which we live in harmony and in service to one another. I’m a sucker for the good news; I always have been and I’m glad of it. It’s what keeps me optimistic and hopeful. I would have been getting up early in the morning to be in the crowd in the temple eager to hear the good news. I’m eager to hear it today. I hope you are, too.