December 30, 2018: Grace on Grace in New Shoes

Pastor Steve Mechem

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1 John 2:5-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

The year is 1979. I am the youth minister at Cherokee Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Tennessee. During the summer, we hold a Vacation Bible School for the community. A favorite song that the kids sing that summer is
“I’m gonna put on might be like Jesus shoes”

“I’m gonna put on my be like Jesus shoes
I’ll go running everywhere
telling of his care
spreading joy all-around
gonna put on my be like Jesus shoes”

Catchy little tune. The kids love it.

But what exactly are “be like Jesus shoes?’

We have been told over and over again that with the right kind of shoes we can do almost anything.

In the 1940s and 50s, Keds sneakers were marketed as the “shoe of champions.” If l just had a pair of Keds I could run faster and jump higher and hit farther – I will be on my way to being a champion with a pair of Keds.

In 1951 Marilyn Monroe’s image appeared in a newspaper ad for city club shoes. Under her picture where the words “They’re the shoes women like men in!” If only I have a pair of those shoes… I’d be something.

In 1968, the U.S. basketball team wore Chuck Taylors in the Olympics. Soon, Converse advertised it’s all-star sneaker with the taglines “When you’re out the beat the world, you wear all-stars,” and “Just because the US Olympic basketball team wears converse basketball shoes should you? You betcha.” Imagine how much better I will be if I were to wear Converse All-Stars.

Nike advertised it’s a vintage running shoe with the slogan “Eat our dust.” If you are to slip on the Nike brand shoe you will run faster and leave everybody in your wake. With these shoes, you might just be the next Steve Prefontaine.

In the mid-1970s earth shoes were all the craze. If you wanted to be cool, you had to wear earth shoes. Their slogan “Earth. Different. Like you.” All the cool kids wore earth shoes.

The famous television ad shows Michael Jordan flying high from the free-throw line and dunking the ball with authority- while wearing his red and black air Jordan high-tops. The slogan flashes on the screen “Just do it.” Yeah boy, I could just do it if I had those shoes on my feet.

Here’s the reality of advertising.

I had a pair of Michael Jordans original air Jordans. I didn’t come any closer to dunking a basketball with them on then with them off.

I had earth shoes in the 1970s. Got a tell ya, they didn’t make me cool.

I was wearing Nike running shoes when I ran a marathon in the 1990s. My 4:41 time is not considered a record breaking speed by any measure.

There is an old saying, “the shoes make the man.” Not buying it.

So, what is meant by “Be like Jesus shoes?

Well, the scripture that was read this morning says that if we follow Jesus then we should walk as Jesus walked.

Ok, I think Jesus wore sandals, and today I am wearing sandals, I don’t think that means I am walking more like Jesus walked than if I were wearing another kind of shoe.

To walk like Jesus walked has nothing to do with footwear. To walk like Jesus walked is to act like Jesus acted, to care like Jesus cared, to have the attitude that Jesus had.

One of the problems with this is that different ones of us define who Jesus is very differently so when we say we should act like Jesus acted and care like Jesus cared and have the attitude that Jesus had, that means something very different to some of us.

It strikes me that the only real way we have to define Jesus is to look at Jesus as he is defined in the scripture. There isn’t a lot of extraneous material, so we are left with the stories told in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

In the gospels we learn a lot about Jesus.

We learn that the coming of Jesus itself was an act of sacrifice, of emptying self of the glory of God, so that Jesus might reveal to human beings what God is truly like and how much they are loved by the divine.

We learn that Jesus cared desperately about people. They didn’t need to look like him, or believe the same stuff he believed, or hold his political views, or be successful, or religious for Jesus to care about them.

We are going to, over the next few weeks, look at the healing stories in the Gospel of Mark.
demon possessed people (Whatever that means)
A mother-in-law
The disabled and disfigured
A foreign woman’s daughter
A man who could not hear
A man who could not see
A roman soldiers servant
A suffering woman declared unclean by her religion.

All kinds of people in all kinds of messes, and Jesus reaches out and touches them, heals them.

Now you are I may not be able to heal by touch, but we can help bring healing with our words and we can assist healing with our resources and we can intercede for the hurting with our prayers.

We learn that Jesus welcomed anybody and everybody who was open to the message of a burgeoning kingdom of inclusivity, of love, of grace.

He welcomed tax collectors, and former Terrorists, and sex slaves, and religious types and the rich and scholars and those who had been alienated by religion and the poor and the uneducated and foreigners and the lonely and the left behind. As far as I can tell from the gospels, the only people that Jesus rejects are those who reject other people.
Jesus sought to be deeply connected to God the Creator, and implored his followers to do likewise.

He taught his followers to reach out, to care, to respect, to sacrifice, to live for others.

He taught grace and mercy and truth.

Jesus encouraged his followers to listen and to respond in kindness.

Jesus taught that we should turn the other cheek, and walk a 2nd mile, and give to the poor, and to love unconditionally,

Jesus taught us to forgive, to refuse to judge what we do not know, and to seek justice in our world.

Back in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, after his baptism, and soon after his time in the desert, Jesus returns to Nazareth. There in the synagogue, in front of the congregation. from the book of Isaiah he reads these words

“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 jubilee.”

And then he said to a stunned congregation, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your Hearing.” It was as if Jesus were saying, this is my life‘s mission.

And Jesus would go on to say over and over and over again “come follow me.”

To put on Jesus’ shoes isn’t to pick a brand or style of footwear, it is to listen to the voice of Jesus and act as Jesus has taught you to act.