A citizen of the city of God

Updated: Jan 30

When I try to let people know how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I enjoy using fictitious characters from movies.


The common theme there is: slow-brained, not Big Brained; simpleton, not whiz kid; and overly trusting, not always on guard.


down syndrome

This man is a “real-life” business owner.


You could even say this characteristic means people who are filled with the Holy Spirit are more easily used and abused – (if for nothing else) due to a perceived lack of protective senses and defensive skills in them.   The Holy Spirit makes them come across more like children, not the adults they are.


They project like lambs, not the wolves the world turns so many people into.


This nature of naiveté leads me to compare Biblical figures and parable roles to characters like Chance Gardener (Being There), Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump), Navin R. Johnson (The Jerk), John Coffey (“like the drink, only not spelled the same” – The Green Mile),  (Dumb & Dumber) and even, to some extent, Karl Childers (Sling Blade).


Still, those fictitious characters are just that – FICTITIOUS.


They are not real.  The characters are not the actors who portray human beings who possess those characteristics of innocence.  Neither are the authors who created the characters portrayed as innocent and pure.  Presumably, the characters come from their imaginations of how easily the weak are abused.  The characters are lovable because they fall down, but bounce back without lasting anger.


They, like the stories of the Holy Bible, project how universal justice always triumphs over injustice.  They reflect how God is the power that holds such pure fools up, into places of honor, while they themselves have no concept of their position.


The characters strike a nerve in each of us because of their childlike innocence; and we were all once children.  We have since grown and matured; but we all have histories where we were taught lessons about how cruel the world can be.


We identify with those characters because they represent the innocent child in each of us; and it is the children who are closer to God, and under the watchful eye of Jesus.


The reality of life, however, is real life does not always have a happy ending.  That is the difference between fiction and non-fiction, between fairy tales and history.


real endings

In the reading choices for today, the Episcopal Lectionary presents options – as far as the Old Testament and Psalms are concerned.  This occurs regularly, in particular each week during the Ordinary Time season.  One option is read aloud in church, along with the fixed Epistle and Gospel passages, while the others are set aside for some other time in the spotlight.


It is important to realize that all reading choices have been selected by purpose.  The choices reflect how the Gospel’s lesson can often be found reflected in more than one lesson from the Old Testament.  The Epistle is the New Testament’s compliment, as support to the Gospel.


Today is read aloud the story of David being chosen by the elders of the Twelve Tribes, to replace Saul as the King of Israel.  David’s history as the King of Israel is then summed up as lasting 40 years, telling how he build the City of David, made Jerusalem the capital, and how Israel thrived because God was with David.


The reading not read aloud is from Ezekiel, where God told the prophet, “Mortal, Stand up on your feet, and I will talk with you.”  God spoke to Ezekiel at a time when Israel was in the throes of utter collapse and pending ruin.


Therefore, the 2nd Samuel reading focuses on the beginning – when all was well and fine with Israel – while the Ezekiel reading focuses on the end – when God said, “They and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.  The descendants are impudent and stubborn.  I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”  Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”


This reading more loudly proclaims the message of the Gospel from Mark today, where Jesus preached in the synagogue of his hometown – Nazareth – and then called his disciples to “Stand up,” so God could speak through them, just as God spoke through Ezekiel.


The disciples were instructed to be seen ONLY as simple characters, as they went in pairs through Galilee; and it is not hard to see, throughout the Gospels, just how much the pairs headed out like Lloyd Christmas & Harry Dunne … sans the carpeted dog truck.


mutt truck

Still, the message of 2nd Samuel echoes why those simple agents of God were sent to tell the people “a prophet has been among you.”  The simplicity of appearance – their lack of grandeur – reflects how David did not elbow his way to the throne of Israel.


David did not proclaim a right to rule because of his own personal feats, or his own powers of significance.  He did not boast of his “exceptional character,” saying, “Look at me and see how blessed I am!”


We heard it read, “All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron,” not the other way around.  David was sought out because of his devotion to the God of Israel.  It was his faith in God and God’s recognition of that faith that had made David readily known to the Israelites.


With the death of Saul, Samuel had the power of king, as the prophet of Israel.  Samuel was the Mortal who regularly “Stood up so that God could talk with him.”  Samuel had ruled like a Judge prior to Saul; so after Saul died, Samuel again rose to that same role.


David, meanwhile, had been leading the troops of Israel out to defend the nation and back, time and again.  He was seen as one who was fearless, because he also “Stood up,” so God could talk with him.


When the elders went to David and convinced him to be their king, he did not rest on his laurels.  He began the work of building the city of David.  That work never stopped being required, for as long as David ruled.


The work never stops.


home repair

There is always more to do.  Ask Queen Elizabeth.  She knows.  Buckingham Palace has not been updated since she took the throne in 1952.  The news recently says it needs $270-million in repairs, just to remain livable.


Relative to this constant need for work in order to avoid collapse, we heard read how Paul prayed, asking God to repair his weaknesses, due to “the messenger of Satan” tormenting him.


Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth and told them, “Three times I appealed to the Lord about that thorn in my flesh, that it would leave me.”


Paul prayed to God, “Make it stop, please.  Let the work be finished.”


But, God spoke with Paul, because he had “Stood up.”  God talked with him and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”


If you think you have built a perfect home, one that will never need repairs, and will never need maintenance … then think again.


Your “citadels” can only provide “sure refuge” when God is in them.  The city of the LORD of hosts … the city of our God, where God is established forever … is not some buildings made of stone and filler.  The City of David – which is still being sought archaeologically, uncovering evidence of ancient ruins – might have been more a work in progress within David himself … more than things he built in Hebron and Jerusalem.


The true city of God is made of bone and flesh, just as the Israelites told David they were the bone and flesh surrounding their king.  The City of David would then be built so God’s throne within that “city” would be in the heart of that place, where the constant pumping of life blood circulated.  From within David’s heart, every inch of all Israel could be revitalized with Spirit.


High atop the watchtower of that city now sits Christ, who not only is vigilant of that which is outside the city, but who also is constantly at work sending orders to all that is within.  The Christ Mind constantly sends out repair and maintenance orders, to the systems built within the body that houses God … its bones and flesh.


That is where the childish mentality of fictitious characters symbolizes how ineffective the “bone and flesh” city of God becomes, when an adult brain replaces Christ as the overseer.


1972 --- Tony Randall and Burt Reynolds operate the body's control room during the sperm scene in Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. --- Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis

If it was up to us to control all our body functions, life would be as farcical as an old Woody Allen movie.


The work of David was left to Solomon, but Solomon’s wisdom was not enough to keep the body of Israel whole.  Israel split in two after Solomon’s death; and following a series of Big Brained rulers, none of which had God in the heart of any city once overseen by David, Israel and Judah fell upon ruin.


God sent Jesus to the valley of dried bones, which had lost all flesh.  God had Jesus “Stand up” and spread His word, much like Ezekiel had.  It was time to tear down the old stone and fill [Millo] structures and rebuild Israel with flesh and bone.  The bodies of the new faithful would each surround God and His new King, who had descended from the House of David – the stump of Jesse.


In Mark, we read of Jesus being rejected by the Nazarenes.  The people of the village where Jesus was raised saw Jesus as “the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother” to brothers and sisters … all of whom were common human beings and not gifts from God.


That was their Big Brains speaking, which was similar to the reaction Ezekiel heard.  The same rejection would be repeated when the disciples were sent out in pairs, to enter villages looking purposefully as common Jews … not wearing the tunics of rabbis, much less anything that could hint at their needing the accompaniment of a procession like that was suitable for holy prophets.


The “hometown” of all Jews was Israel … that land which had collapsed and was then under Roman occupation and domination.  Therefore, Jesus … and later his Apostles … would find rejection throughout the lands they traveled, wherever they found other Jews … their brothers and sisters in faith.


Still, there were many who listened and heard their message … “The kingdom of God has come near.”  Some had demons cast out and illnesses cured … because they listened AND because they believed.


“The City of the LORD of hosts was in your presence.”  “It is now in you, so your faith has healed you … so God may have a good home in which to reside.”


Now, as much as we can sit on the bus stop bench today and shake our heads at how stupid, blind, and terrible THOSE JEWS were back then … the Big Brain keeps us from realizing the same presence of the City of God needs to be built and maintained within US.


Homer Simpson

Ezekiel comes to us all the time with a message to do better, to try harder.  We are too impudent and stubborn to listen.


Paul comes to us frequently telling us, “be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ.”  We rebel from such advice.


Evangelists come to our door regularly and we tell them, “I’m sorry, but all I have is excuses why I cannot listen to you.”


Too often, the Kingdom of God comes near to us, and we don’t even suggest, “Please, as you leave at my request, would you at least keep the dust of my doorstep on your sandals … to remember me by?”


The untold blessing in today’s Gospel is that Mark recounted Jesus’ second rejection by the people of Nazareth.  Luke told how Jesus spoke in the synagogue there previously, before he chose his disciples.  After that event, the people of Nazareth wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff.


Instead of Jesus getting mad, he simply walked through them and went on his way.


BUT … he came back, only to be rejected again.


The moral of that story is: Only a fool would come back for seconds of punishment.


bush fool

That is, unless the REAL fool is the one who keeps thinking he or she is smarter than God, continually refusing to hear a message sent … if it does not tell one what one wants to hear.


After all, we are descendant of those impudent and stubborn … those from a rebellious house.


God believes in second chances, however.  Heck … God even believes in third chances.


<pause>


But, don’t tell anyone that.


Perhaps, that was the secret kept by the person who Paul knew, who was in Christ, and who told Paul he “was caught up in the third heaven”?


Ssssssshhhhh.


shhhhhhh

“Refrain from [telling that secret], so that no one may think better than what is seen or heard [openly], even considering the exceptional character of the revelations.”


Instead, “boast all the more gladly of [your] weaknesses, so the power of Christ may dwell in [you].”


Let Christ do the thinking for you and let God sit on His throne in your heart.  God placed that throne there, but work has to be done before God can be seated.


Offer yourself up to be rebuilt into the city of the God.


The less you THINK you know, the better you are, because God knows how much more you need His help … when you play the simpleton.


If you want to “Stand up on your feet, so God will speak with you” in the third heaven – the Heaven of Heaven – then you have to keep it a secret that you are filled with God’s Holy Spirit … until you have led others to realize their own secret.


Amen

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