Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
The late Maya Angelou showed real insight into people when she said, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way(s) he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” Hopefully she never observed me in any of those situations.
In the Bible there are all kinds of stories about people not handling life well. The grumbling in the wilderness, the disciples arguing over who is first, and Paul fussing at Peter for picking the wrong lunch table are just a few examples. My favorite example is found in Luke 9.
The chapter starts out with such promise. The disciples are given the power to heal and are sent out in twos into the villages. So many people follow the disciples back that the disciples are overwhelmed with the thought of feeding them. Jesus steps into that mess and feeds them with abundance. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus picks Peter, John, and James, and heads for a mountain retreat. The disciples see Jesus transfigured along with what appears to be Moses and Elijah. No doubt identified by their Facebook page.
Down from this spiritual high they enter into a nice mess. A father has brought his child to be healed by the remaining disciples. The disciples have tried everything they know to do. Nothing has worked. A crowd has gathered and the embarrassment meter is rising by the minute. Jesus reacts with some strong emotions about the disciples, the crowd, and humanity in general. He proceeds to heal the boy “and all were astounded at the greatness of God” (v. 43).
Jesus expresses frustration and he untangles the mess. This insight into Jesus’ character, and through him God’s character, is consistent with all we read in scripture. Yes God laments over our messes and yes God works through the Holy Spirit to untangle them.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.