Outcast – The Push Back

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A few years ago social media audience invented a new way of being cool. Because of the instant nature of the communication people could create events where all participants would gather together in a place and participate in a synchronous moment. Many of these events are arranged on social media – and people just showed up and participated.

Being in with the crowd promises to give you social capital. World Bank defines – Social capital as  “the relationships… that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions.”

Being in with the crowd gives you social capital, it affects the way you relate with others and promises to improve the quality of your interactions. It promises to give you more social currency, make you more attractive to others, make you more connected, make you more acceptable. After all you never want to be called a social misfit, an outcast. You want to be “in.” Popular people in office, school or the neighbourhood are “in” with the crowd!

Social capital of being “in” makes us do everything we can to be popular and to be in the trend with others.

What are trending things that people are buying these days?

Being in with the crowd, feels good. Its exciting especially when you are among those who are first with the trend within the crowd. It also meets my desire for belonging. I am created to belong to a family and to a community. Being in with the crowd addresses that desire. It also keeps me safe from attack from others; there is safety in numbers and it promises me some measure of significance, at least among the people I am with

I do not want to be an outcast. I want to be included and to amount to something. I want people to take note of me.

This year we are keen on stepping out. Last week we talked about going with the flow. We took out key lessons about going against the flow from the repentant criminal who was at the cross with Jesus. I learnt from him the fact that before we go with the flow we must ask ourselves whether – it honors God, inspires humility in me and whether it points me to God’s hope.

Today we are talking about “being in” with the crowd, and asking what the crowd promises and whether it delivers. Does “being in” with the crowd lead me to the greatness that God promises?

Being in the trend with the crowd promises me some measure of significance, at least among the people I am with. I do not want to be an outcast. I want to be included and to amount to something. I want people to take note of me.

None of these things are in themselves bad. In fact these are useful things to do, to have and to be. Some of these things are also good things that God gives for us to enjoy – as individuals and even as communities.

Today I would like to suggest that there are times when you are called to step beyond what everyone else is doing so that you can find real significance. I would like to draw lessons from the story of the resurrection of Jesus.

Last week we celebrated Easter, which is the climax of the life story of Jesus. The Easter story is about the death and resurrection of Jesus. It narrates God’s love for us and how this love is demonstrated such that Jesus died a cruel death so that through his resurrection we all can find hope and purpose in life.

Background: Jesus had been jeered, mocked and crucified. He died the most shameful, demeaning death that anyone could have had at the time. We also saw that even at that time, Jesus was reflecting His nature as God to bring hope through forgiveness and relationship to that guy who was also on his cross.

After their death, a religious leader, Joseph from Arimathea stepped out from other religious leaders, and offered his own grave so that Jesus could be buried. The body was brought down and taken into this tomb that evening.

We pick up the story at the beginning of the week to see some people who stepped beyond the crowd into a place of significance.

Luke 24:1-12

The Crowd Moved On: I notice a couple of things about this crowd. After the death of Jesus, when the spectacle was over the crowd beat their breast, that is to say they acknowledged that they were mistaken, and went away perhaps to the next most trending thing. Jesus had died, they went away didn’t do anything about it. They moved on. Luke 24:48

People tended to do that those days – Luke 17:11-19. 10 lepers called out to Jesus who was trending at the time. Jesus healed them, and 9 out of the 10 moved on, presumably with their lives and all other things.  A very critically significant event had happened but they just moved on.

Before I can be too harsh on them, I reflect on us today, and I realize that we also very easily move on. We are a culture that can move on pretty quickly after something major has occurred.

It baffles me that after such an important event, the people did not do anything about their reality. It is sad how many times I have walked away after something significant;

After God has answered a fervent prayer for provision I just move on

After I get this amazing experience that I didn’t deserve, like everyone else I move on to the next trending thing,

After I learn this life changing lesson, or have this life transforming opportunity I simply move on

After something happens that makes me appreciate my family, I move on – like every one else

After a major trend on twitter; after messing so many people on facebook – people move on

So, the first thing I noticed was that the crowd moved on.

The Crowd Was Forgotten: The other thing I notice about this crowd is that they are not mentioned again. We don’t hear of the crowd again after this. We don’t see any names, no references – nothing. That crowd that was yelling crucify, baying for Jesus’ blood – it all seemingly disappears into thin air.

Yes, sometimes it seems like we do trending things to gain social capital with the crowd, but in the end it all amounts to nothing.

It is often the people who are willing to probe beyond what is known who then become the trend setters. It is those who are willing to step beyond the crowd, and do something about their reality that are remembered. Step Beyond the Crowd, Make it Count.

I see in this story several ladies who stepped beyond themselves, beyond the crowd and made it count. The women were ordinary people. Mary Magdalene would not have been the person you would expect to make a difference. She was a woman with personal issues. Mary the mother of James, Joanna and Salome [from Mark 15] were some of the others.

I learn from these ladies that their reality was God’s opportunity to reveal himself. When the rest of the crowd went away to the next thing these ladies decided to do something about their reality. This is what ends up distinguishing them and giving them a place in history and in our faith as significant women.

Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.

It is not the fact that these ladies were sure that Jesus had risen, it is the fact that they chose to do something about what had happened the day before. Rather than be inactive, they chose to be proactive. They could have been silent for a number of reasons;

they were probably with the crowd and went away

they were probably silenced as ladies within their culture

Whatever their issue was, they overcame huge odds to go back to the grave and do something about the reality that Jesus had died.

Some of the odds against them included;

they were women, women were not allowed to take any prominence. It should have been the men who would have attended to this death.

Jesus was a criminal yet they went to the grave to attend to his body

The kind of death Jesus died was very messy. It would have been a difficult thing for them to even think about going to attend to such a body.

Religiously touching a dead thing made a person ceremonially unclean. A dead human being was even worse. Jesus had not been cleaned after that messy death. They would have had to touch blood, this would also have compounded the religious taboo.

In spite of all these odds, the women chose not to stay at home but to do something about it. They did not have status, money, sophistication [they were from Galilee, for crying out loud, what good can come out of Galilee], they were simple people – with the reality that the one they believed was the messiah had died.

Sometimes when we look at ourselves we don’t see much that can come out. Perhaps that is why we need to find some comfort in the crowd. I learn from these ladies that sometimes, all I need is to do something about my reality and then God will do something about me. I do not need the safety of the crowd for God to reveal himself.

It is those who do something about the current realities that end up being significant.

Jesus had died and so Mary Magdalene, Joanna and the other ladies chose to do something about it.

It was while they were doing this that Jesus revealed to them the most significant thing about himself. That he had resurrected. That the power of God was at work in him just as he had said.

God wants to step into your life. He wants to provide, encourage, strengthen, grow, reveal himself in your life. It is when you do something about your own circumstance, in faith, that He will step in and act.

You have a reality in your life. It is possible you may have two choices – go with the crowd and do nothing; or do something about your reality and then God will reveal himself in a powerful way. Your reality is God’s opportunity.

This is what I found interesting about these women. When their reality changed, they found that Jesus had risen, they didn’t stop there they did something about it. They went back and told the others.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.

It was the pattern of their life. When faced with a reality they acted on it.

I learn from these ladies that each time they acted in faith about their reality God responded by doing something significant through them. These women are remembered because they didn’t simply move on with the rest of the crowd, they chose to act on their reality and God chose to make them significant.

They were named and remembered; 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.

Please note it is not always easy to act especially where our situation is bleak, painful, uncertain, inconvenient or hopeless. Sometimes we are not strong enough, or confident enough of the outcome. In those moments of weakness is where God shows himself strong.

Paul says that when I am weak then I am strong because God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]

God is waiting for you to act with faith and obedience in your reality and he will step into your situation. Your reality is the raw material God uses to manufacture greatness. It is not the crowds, but your situation.

Moses put his staff in the water and it parted

Joshua put his foot in the water and the river parted

Hebrews 11 is a hall of fame for heroes whose real life realities God used as opportunities to make greatness.

What is your reality? Is it a difficult reality? Is it a messy,bloody, gory reality? Is it inconvenient? Is it painful? What situation do you have in your life right now which is God’s opportunity to turn around and bring out greatness, purpose and significance? Go beyond the crowd, beyond the trend, start doing something about that reality because  – Your reality is God’s opportunity.

Start doing something about your reality. You may not have all the answers, Mary, Joanna, Salome and the others didn’t.  Take that opportunity to go beyond the crowd and allow your reality to be God’s opportunity. God could be waiting to make you significant, to give you some grace and strength to get through, to provide for you. Start doing something about your reality at home, at work or in your relationships.

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