A Sermon Preached at Christ the King March 15, 2009
WWJT… What Would Jesus Tweet?
What would Jesus do… a phrase often abbreviated to WWJD, was popular in the 1890’s following Social Gospel leader Charles Sheldon’s Book In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? In the 1990’s it again was popularized on bracelets and bumper stickers as thousands used the phrase as a reminder of Jesus example applied to daily life. I wonder… what our Lord would do and say today?
In 2009 in a world of live, real time communication, we wouldn’t have to “wonder” what Jesus would do. He could tell us through any of the interconnected social media tools available today. No I’m not talking about receiving a land line phone call, fax or e-mail from our Lord and Savior… I think he might connect using the latest technology tools. I’m wondering about what Jesus would IM, text, tweet, or say in his status update.
Okay, I realize that some of you are with me, and some think I’m speaking a foreign language. So some basic definitions:
IM or instant messaging is typing messages that are immediately sent by primarily using a computer (preferably wireless laptop);
Texting is basically the same thing using a cell phone or handheld device (like a Blackberry);
Tweeting is the use of Twitter, an online platform for updating what you are thinking and doing throughout the day in 140 written characters or less;
Status Updates are written postings on web based social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook (and can also be linked via Twitter).
Confusing, for some but these tools are how more and more in our information age stay connected and communicate both personally and professionally.
My latest favorite is Twitter, the platform where your posts are called tweets and you follow others who tweet and where others can follow you. This real-time format was used by 6.1 million people last month (up from 1.4 million in September according to Quantcast.com). I think Jesus would definitely tweet to stay in touch with his peeps (ah—that would be you, me and other Christ followers) leading me to wonder WWJT (What Would Jesus Tweet)?
In our Gospel reading from John, there are a number of points in the story Jesus may have tweeted…
- In verse 13 + Headed to Jerusalem for the Passover, the celebration remembering our Exodus history.
- Verses 14-17 + Arrived at Temple, really mad about all the distractions… money changers and animals in my Father’s house.
- Verses 18-19 + Darn religious leaders demand a sign for my actions… told them about my future death and resurrection by the destruction and raising up of the temple in three days—they just don’t get that I am the true sign.
- Verses 20-21 + Those clueless religious leader’s took me literally, pointing out that the temple took 46 years to build!
- And verse 22 + All of this may make no sense to you now… but you will remember my Word and the see meaning of this when I am gone.
In The Word on the Street, a dangerously real retelling of Scripture, Rob Lacey titles this “Jesus as vandal.”
Jesus walks into the religious headquarters at Jerusalem and thinks he’s in a market: animal stench, sale signs with ‘You’ll go coo at our dove deals!’ on them, traders shouting, ‘Spotless sheep here!’ For those who can’t stretch to the rip-off prices, an aquarium of loan sharks. Jesus takes his time creating a rope whip, then makes like a demented cowboy driving the animals into stampede. He vandalizes every cash kiosk out of business, creates total havoc. He’s screaming, ‘Vamoose! Get this filth out of here. My Father’s place is no shopping mall!’ One of his team quietly starts singing David’s song ‘Passion for your place pumps me up’; the rest get the reference.
Sometimes we hear this story and get caught-up with cleansing of the temple of things that are unnecessary. Things that get in the way of what is important, connecting us to God. In other words “churchy stuff” that doesn’t really matter, things we call adiaphora \ah-dee-AH-fuh-ruh\n. In Greek, an adiaphoron is an “indifferent thing”—something of so little consequence that it’s not worth fighting about.
For us as Lutheran Christians, traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by people, should focus on the essentials. We should remember that Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day and not get hung-up on things that don’t matter, like worship details for example. (Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms, Rolf Jacobson, editor. Augsburg Books, 2008)
Sometimes we hear this story and get caught-up with how angry Jesus is. For me it is good to remember Jesus as fully God and fully human. I find comfort in his “loosing it” in the temple, knowing that he experiences true human pain, anger and frustration.
The important thing Jesus point to with his whip in hand, is not the clearing of the money changers and animals in the temple. Jesus clears the adiaphora away so that we can see that the presence of God in the world is no longer to be identified with a place, but with a person. Paul also helps us to look beyond the adiaphora, remembering that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than our human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than our human strength.
We take in what is important by eating and drinking the body of Christ. In doing so we are gathered together as the Body of Christ, reminded that this place and all other houses of worship are not the presence of God in the world. Rather, we remember that wherever two or more are gathered, God is there and we who gather are the presence of God in the world.
As the Body of Christ in the world, what do the people of God tweet? In the past couple of weeks, people in this community of faith have shared the following through social media…
- I’m happy the patient is settling down after a large dose of Disney. Now I just hope the coughing stops, poor bug.
- I’m sure that volunteering at church should be joyful.
- Grieving yet again—what a horrible week. My best friend’s dad just died.
- Off to Heifer International Learning Center at Overlook Farm in Rutland, MA.
- Wishing you birthday blessings.
- I’m feeling a lot better, thanks for the prayers.
In fact as I wrote this, my vicarbill status was “sermonating and wondering what would Jesus tweet as he ‘cleansed’ the temple with whip in hand in John 2:13-22”
Jesus does not come as a law enforcement officer or judge.
Jesus does not come saying “come on now people, be nice!”
Jesus does not come easily into society’s understanding of religious systems or practices.
Jesus comes only to die. Not to please, bribe or pay off God, he comes to die.
Executed as a thug, despised more than the Sadam Hussein’s or Bernie Madoff’s of the world. Death, the dark nothingness of fear.
The cross is nothing more than an instrument of death, a hangman’s noose, an electric chair, a lethal injection without the resurrection. God through the cross turns our worldview upside down and provides a world to come. Death looses its sting, as we are given hope through an instrument of torture and finality. The cross of death is the last place we would look or expect life to come from. But it does.
(Where God Meets Man: Luther’s Down to Earth Approach to the Gospel, Gerhard O. Forde. Augsburg Publishing, 1972)
In this long often dreary walk toward the cross and Three Days of Holy Week, we struggle to see God. What is God like? Where is God? We wonder what would Jesus say, do, or tweet during the Lenten journey? How can I get to know and please God? What do I need to do this Lent? Friends our answer IS the Cross, look to the Cross.
For the reality is that Lenten disciplines are in many ways adiaphora, unimportant things that draw us away from the reality of the Cross. They can become things we do to please God, when the reality is that during Lent or anytime, WE do not need to do anything! It has been done for us, on and through the Cross.
The Cross gets in the way for those who seek a God of miracles, power and greed. Those who try to find God through what they do. But it is in and through the Cross that we learn who God is and what God is like. The passion of God for us is so profound that we can never fully understand the depth of love that leads to the important thing, the only thing, death, God on a Cross.
What would Jesus tweet…? Remember, this is my body given for you—on the Cross; Remember this is my blood shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin—on the Cross… Remember, Remember. Amen.