So, the religious leaders gather around Jesus, and say to him: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Tell us plainly.
How much we all prefer “plain-talkers” – people who just tell it straight, to tell it like it is, not to beat around the bush, but just say it clearly, simply and plainly!
We want this of our co-workers, our spouses, our friends, our politicians.
We typically criticize our politicians in their media scrums, public announcements, debates or speeches for being too “fuzzy” or vague or ambiguous, lacking concrete specifics and factual detail.
“He’s just talking out of the two sides of his mouth…”
“She’s just saying whatever we want to hear.”
No! Just tell us plainly!
Just this past week, in light of the difficult realities of pernicious poverty, isolation, despair and suicide among First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, MP Charlie Angus in the House of Commons criticized past politicians of just giving “lip service”, vague “declarations of emergency” in response to these very real problems, and called for the government finally to “get past the talk… get past the rhetoric” and clearly and plainly say that they “will commit and put the money” into the mental health services needed… and just finally do it.
How we yearn for plain-talk clarity and specifics!
The religious leaders of the day had been hearing all kinds of things about Jesus, this teacher, this rabbi and healer from Galilee who had been creating quite a stir, quite a following.
Just cut to the chase, Jesus, tell us, and be plain: Are you really the Messiah? God’s Chosen One? Are you the One from God?
Interesting that Jesus responds, not by pointing to his past words, his verbal declarations or pronouncements, but rather to his “works”, to his visible actions, to what he had been doing, as evidence, proof, of his Messiahship.
Jesus says (v.25), “The works [the actions] that I do in my Father’s name testify to me.”
Giving sight to blind Bartimaeous.
Healing the skin diseases of the “ten lepers.”
Providing bread and fish to five thousand hungry people.
Forgiving Peter and the other disciples for their betrayal and lack of courage.
Now, getting back to “talk”:
While we may rightly expect and want our politicians to speak to us as plainly and specifically as possible, the fact is not everything can be talked about in rational, definitive and plain terms.
Talking about God, is one example. God: inherently complex, beyond human understanding, and to a great extent, a mystery.
The things of God are anything but plain.
Whereas one can speak with some degree of certainty about mathematical calculations or micro-economical formulas, one can’t do so when talking about the nature of God, and God’s ways … whether we like that or not.
God is always greater than we are, always beyond our own human, limited brains and abilities to fully understand.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use our brains as best as we can to learn something new about God, spirituality, bible and theology.
But it does put a check on pride and ego, and on our tendency to think that being a follower of Jesus, is merely and only about getting it `right’ in our minds, about thinking and believing the `right’ doctrine, the ‘right’ theology … and then speaking to others as if God can be spoken about in plain, unambiguous, certain terms.
Whenever we might hear some talk about God in “plain”, definitive, or certain terms, we know they’re not talking about God.
So it’s not about `getting it right in our minds’ about God.
Rather it’s about experiencing God in the doing, in the visible actions of loving and caring between people.
In the reading from the Book of Acts, we meet Dorcas, a woman who had just died, and also a woman who was famous, admired, and remembered … not for her exquisite eloquence in articulating belief, or persuading others of the veracity of the Christian faith … but for sewing tunics and making clothing for people in need.
The text says Dorcas was “devoted to good works and acts of charity” (v.36).
For this she had earned the admiration and affection of so many people… so much so that Luke the author of the Book of Acts thought to include her story as part of the remembered history of the Early Church.
We read how so many of the widows she had helped, and many others from the faith community in Joppa, packed the room where she had just died, weeping and grieving and consoling one another.
You can tell just from that scene described in the passage that Dorcas was well beloved and remembered by her friends, family, and community.
And all because of her expression of love through tangible, concrete action: making clothes for others needing them.
What are you and I going to be remembered for?
You’ve heard the line: “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
So it’s not “Tell us plainly”, but rather “Show us plainly.” Show us God through your loving actions.
As the ancient hymn title puts it: “Where Charity and Love Prevail, there God Is.”
And as we know, the world all around needs ever more concrete, plain works of love and charity, no more than here at home, in Canada, in places like Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, and other First Nations communities where isolation, despair and poverty are so visible and apparent.
Just over a year ago was the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King’s famous march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama.
In 1965, Martin Luther King had called for everybody and anybody across North America to join this huge march.
And they came: white and black, Christian and Jew, young and old, American and Canadian.
To march against racism and civil inequality experienced by African Americans in the U.S.
As you know there’s a rich tradition of great singing, harmonizing and spiritual songs in African American churches.
And of course on this march there was plenty of singing as people made their way to Montgomery.
One journalist covering the march, Bill Plante, quipped in a humorous way: “The growing number of white people joining the march lowered the quality of the singing.”
Picking up on this comment last year, President Barack Obama in commemorating the anniversary of the march, said this:
“The sweetness of all those people singing together never sounded so sweet, even though the quality of singing had gone down.”
“The sweetness of all the people singing together…”
How sweet indeed.
Show us plainly. Show us plainly … Jesus … where love and unity prevail, there God is!