Sermon: Believe in Me
A member of one of my mom’s old Sunday School classes once asked why we don’t have more pictures of Jesus as a kid. My mother, of course, said it was because they didn’t have cameras when Jesus was a kid, but the classmates told her it was because nobody thought he was anything special, just another kid. Jesus was once a kid, although we know little about his childhood… From the books that made it into the Bible. There… Other books. Books that didn’t make the cut.
I can’t preach from these books because they technically are not scripture. But these books were well-known both to early Christians and to Christians of the middle ages. Technically these books are infancy narratives and gnostic: a kind of religious literature that seeks to reveal secret knowledge. The downside is that this literature has a really bizarre worldview that was eventually dismissed as heretical. The good news: funny stories.
Like the one where Jesus’ dad makes a throne for the king in Jerusalem, but it came back because it is too small for the emperor’s…seat. Joseph is distraught until Jesus the kid picks up the throne and stretches it to fit the king. The wooden throne.
Or there’s the one where a kid falls off a roof and dies. Jesus is accused of pushing him. Mary makes him bring the kid back to life. The neighbors loved that one.
Or the one where Jesus teacher raises his hand to whip him for talking back, and the guy falls down dead.
Or the one where Jesus is sitting by a pond making sparrows out of clay. A Jewish leaders kid comes and tells him to quit breaking the sabbath. Jesus gives the birds life, and they fly away. No evidence. Then the kid jumps in the little fish pond and starts messing it up. Jesus curses him… Dead kid.
Can you imagine what happened when he lost the school talent show?
Yeah, these are like magically kinda creepy Jesus. These infancy narratives portray a kid more comfortable with his powers than the people around him and less responsible with them than we would hope the son of God would be. Someone asked me recently, after hearing some of these stories… What would it be like to be Jesus’ parents?
Mary, at least, knows he is the son of God. if Joseph had any doubts, they are probably long gone. They believe in him like no one else, but… He’s kinda scary. Keeps causing problems with the neighbors. I mean… How do you discipline the Son of God? How do you guide the one who will be the guide for billions?
Now I don’t like weepy movies, but I watched the Blindside, and I cried. Oh. My. Goodness. Like I did when I first saw ET. That movie… Ugh. Tearfest.
Its a 2009 Semi-biographical film about NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher. In the film, Michael, an absolutely huge black kid who runs from every foster home, ends up meeting a rich white family, the Touhys, that loves football. He becomes a part of their family and an excellent football player, and is recruited by several colleges. He picks Ole Miss, where the Touhy’s and his tutor went to college, and an NCAA investigation is launched that raises the question of whether the Touhy’s only helped him to recruit him for their college’s football team. Even the question crushes Michael, and he rushes back to the projects to think and look for his long-lost mom. Eventually, he able to tell the NCAA that he chose Ole Miss because its where all of his family went.
Touching movie. great story. Oh, the power that is unleashed when you believe in a kid.
Another kid story struck me this week. Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba, sent a letter to his hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when he was just a boy. He told him he admired him, that he’d be a leader of his country when he grew up, and he asked for a US ten dollar bill because he didn’t have one. Franklin’s staff didn’t believe him. They sent him a nice letter, but there was no $10 bill. Over the years, feelings of resentment grew in Castro when people didn’t believe in him. He left the church, he left political parties, he left any group that didn’t believe in his passion or his abilities. And resentment over his fallen hero and his country grew until Castro became a thorn in the side of the US not for a few years, but for generations. Oh, the power that is unleashed when you don’t believe in a kid.
Jesus tells us to believe in him. The scholars in the temple did in today’s reading. The people on the streets often did. His parents did. his disciples did, and, because he asks us to, and because we have managed to wrap our minds around enough of him, many of us believe in him.
But you know what? He also believes in us. Thats why he doesn’t dismiss us as servants but calls us friends. Thats why he empowers us to do his work. Thats why he gives us gifts. Thats why sometimes he carries us and sometimes he lets us walk on our own, thats why he lets us choose him. Because he believes in us.
And oh, the power that is unleashed when you accept that Christ isn’t constantly disappointed in your sin, but believes in your value and your abilities.
Michael Oher went on to have career in professional football. Fidel Castro went on to lead a country that believed in him, and stood against a country who dismissed him. Jesus went on to teach and heal and preach and grow. These semi-biographical stories, and the scripture stories tell us little, but they do show the power of his parents’ belief in him.
What power would be unleashed if you believed that he believed in you? Amen.