“Jesus is the great disruptor,” Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, said in his sermon during morning worship Tuesday at the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
He told the story of a man of great wealth, power and success who asked Labberton for some bullet-points about Jesus so he could have better dinner conversation with his church-going wife. Labberton told the man, “I’m not very good at bullet points. And if I gave you some, you might have to rethink everything. Jesus might make his way into your life. He might overturn it.”
“Jesus wants to change every relationship, to reorder every life circumstance to point toward the Kingdom of God,” he said. What Jesus cares about is not whether people affirm his words, but whether people act upon them, Labberton said.
He told the story of Max Dupree, who every day went to the hospital to visit his granddaughter who had been born prematurely and was clinging to life. A nurse told him, “You need to come every day. … Tell her you love her. What she needs is to connect your voice and your touch.”
It is this connection between voice and touch that is key to all Christian leadership, Labberton claimed. The call is to bring voice and touch together when encountering people like the leper who knelt before Jesus and asked to be made clean, he said.
But this call to a convergence of voice and action is not only towards those who are far down on the chain of power, Labberton said. Immediately after Jesus encounters the leper, he meets a centurion, a representative of Roman power and tyranny, he said.
Jesus redefines life in both directions: a new power, a new authority, a new holiness, a new righteousness, a new goodness, Labberton said. When disrupted and redirected by Jesus, neither lepers nor centurions will be excluded, he said.
“We will look at each person, and bring our voice and our touch together to tell them they are beloved of God,” Labberton said.