He came to us, half man half God. Welcomed by all creation but we could not find room for him at the inn. On his father’s side, he was a descendant of Jewish royalty. On his mother’s side, no pedigree at all. His mother said “yes” to the announcement of his conception, his father sought to end the marriage “quietly.” Joseph’s love chose not to disgrace. Both were counseled by an angel. Both were told not to let fear rule the moment. Both were counseled to trust God. It was an average night when he was born, shepherds were doing their job in the field. That’s when glory intervened, bright and sequined like an Elton John concert outfit! Glory bright enough to make fearful souls “…crawl out from their hiding places.” Glory bright enough to send folks out into a dark night singing a new song convinced that they have God’s favor.
For People with Bishop Rob Wright
The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.
Read the Transcript:
Whenever God shows up, it is a disruption. Whenever God shows up it is not all sort of kittens and yarn balls. Whenever God shows up, because God is mighty and truth, and mighty in love, which is to say that the opposite of those things are going to be offended whenever God shows up. So, oppression is always going to be offended when we show up. And so, God has to do some amazing you know, yoga moves just to be in our presence, because God is God.
Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.
Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host, Melissa Rau. And this is a conversation inspired by Bishop writes For Faith weekly devotions sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description.
Rob: Hey, Melissa.
Melissa: So, this week’s devotion is called Intervened. And it’s talking all about the fact, it’s Luke 2, right? We are in the Christmas season right now. I’m curious about how you matched up intervened, with glory, and the angel pushing in to both Mary and Joseph?
Rob: Well, I mean, I guess intervened is what happens. That’s just another way to think about Christmas, right? That God intervened in human history? That God is not the unmoved mover of our academic teaching. God is not the one that wound up the universe like a clock and then let it run but remained disinterested in its outcome. We believe that God, as some people say, sits high and looks low. But more than that, we believe that God not only sits high, and is the ruler of all the worlds, but cared enough, as we say in the south to come see about us. But not only that came in a particular form so that all will get a very clear message. There is none beneath the reach of God. None outside and beyond the reach of God. So, when Jesus shows up, God himself shows up in a nowhere town among some nobodies who have nothing. The message is really stunning. The message is it is not about what you have or your pedigree, your achievement. The message is there is some kind of inherent dignity in humanity that God would want to just come and be alongside and live as one of us. I mean, if I was God, wanted some advice, I would have given him some advice. Come among us, but come to the 4 Seasons. Come to the Ritz Carleton. But God comes among us to nowhere, a nowhere town. Such that even in Scripture, they say, you know, can anything good come out of Nazareth? In other words, that place? Not that place. You are telling me that God is that tacky that he would come from a place that no one is from and where nobody has done anything? That kind of back water town.
And so, that’s a word of grace, to people who live in Appalachia, to the holler. That’s a word of grace to public housing. That’s a word of grace to people who don’t have houses. That’s a word of grace to all of us, right? That somehow God cares about us, and that not only send a tweet or text or TikTok but sent himself.
Melissa: So, I’m struck by the way God intervened. You know, because when we talk about intervention, it’s pretty bold. It’s offensive. It’s provocative. It’s jarring and jolting. And yet, it was an interruption, we weren’t expecting it. God, in God’s grace came and did what God did through the way that Jesus lived. But honestly, recently I had this conversation with someone who– It was a beautiful debate. We were discussing love. What is love?
And I was talking about how Jesus, he was talking about how love, if Jesus were here today, he’d be political. And I said, but he was political even when he was here. He said, yeah, but no, he would be more like a Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, people who really fought and spoke truth to power. I said, I feel like Jesus did do that but in different ways. I don’t know that Jesus sought out power. He didn’t march to the Capitol and speak on a hill. But he he witnessed and encountered the belovedness in anybody who sought him out. Yes, he spoke truth to power when he was confronted, but I don’t know that he actively went against. And so, this person pushed back and he said, yes, but love is action. And I said, yes, and action takes many forms. You’ve got the Martin Luther King’s, which are great. And you also have the Mother Teresa’s.
I feel like I wonder about what Christmas means? And how many people put parameters around how God might live today? And what that means for us? And what does it actually mean to do what Jesus did?
Rob: Well, let me just say that you mentioned Malcolm X, but him aside, you named all these sort of sweet people that we now celebrate. Mother Therea’s, Dr. King’s, etc., even the Desmond Tutu’s. We forget that these people were jailed, or excluded, posed a real threat to the established order. Because we have a couple of decades between their active ministry and where we sit right now, you know, we throw a layer of icing over the cake making it all sweet and buttery. But that’s not the truth.
And the truth about Christmas is it is a disruption. I mean, we sit here and we say, we welcome the baby Jesus, manger and night glow and look at the cow he’s kneeling.
Melissa: Silent Night, Holy Night.
Rob: Yeah. For whom? For the established order, they were trying to manipulate that circumstance. Later on when the wise men and no doubt wise women trying to find the baby, follow the star, etc. They were the political of the day who were trying to find them because he represented a threat to the established order.
I like the lawyers. The lawyers say the facts of the case. The facts of the case are these whenever God shows up, it is a disruption. Whenever God shows up it is not all sort of kittens and yarn balls. Whenever God shows up, because God is mighty and truth, and mighty in love, which is to say that the opposite of those things are going to be offended whenever God shows up. So, oppression is always going to be offended when we show up. And so, God has to do some amazing you know, yoga moves just to be in our presence, because God is God.
God has kind of got to dampen it down a little bit. So, the fact that God comes among us, as a colonized child, as a child of a day laborer, is an extraordinary yoga move for God. So, God has to really want to set God’s godness aside for a second to be with us and live like us. So, I want to say that.
Look, Martin Luther King was shot in the head on a balcony on his way to dinner, you don’t do that to sweet people. You do that to threatening people. Jesus was lynched on a hill, outside of the city wall in front of his mom. You don’t do that to sweet people. So, I think we’ve got to cast that notion out, right? I think what we’ve gotten to decide is, is that you can live out love in particular ways, but if you’re going to live out God’s love in the world, you’re going to offend the world. That’s just the bottom line. You just are.
And the way we write people off nowadays is that we call them political. Well, the gospel is I’ve said a thousand times is political, because the gospel is about people. And that’s what politics is about. But God is not partisan. So, God doesn’t give a flip about red or blue. What God cares about his justice and truth. That is the measurement for all of us, whether we are a Republican, Democrat, in a political party in another country. That is where the measurement taking is happening.
And so yeah, Jesus comes among us. We make it all sweet and cuddly. And you know, I suppose to one degree it is. But let me tell you, this kid is a threat. And this kid is going to grow up. And this kid is going to learn his Jewish Torah. And this kid is going to ask dangerous questions like, why doesn’t the real world look like what the prophets said? And why do we stand up in the synagogue and say all these words on Sabbath day and then on the next day we live completely the opposite? And then we find ourselves back in the sanctuary, acting like we just did all of those good things in the week, you know, behind us. And so, this is why we had to kill Jesus. And this is why we have to kill all of the prophets, because their unrelenting nature to truth offends us.
Look, I’m no better if I dare say, you’re no better. We are no better because what would you have said when Jesus grows up and is 33 and asks, shall we let Barabbas go? Or shall we let Jesus go? They say, give us Barabbas. Otherwise, crucified is guy. Would we be any different? I know we are jumping seasons here, but would we have been different to say Hosanna in one breath and crucify him in the next breath, no not really. You’re a high flying administrator, you got things to do this, nobody from nowhere comes in saying that he’s God. You don’t want any part of this, you got a high power lunch coming up. You wash your hands of this thing and keep it moving.
So, the truth of the matter is, we got more in common with Pontius Pilate than we’d like to admit, all of us do. But that’s not a condemnation for us. Let’s get down to the facts of the case. So, we need this baby. If we are ever going to be anything really deep and good and beautiful, we need this body. We need to keep this baby alive. We need to keep this baby at the center of ourselves. And ourselves. We need this baby. We need to keep this baby alive. We need to keep this baby at the center of ourselves.
Melissa: Well, we’re gonna keep talking about this baby after a short break.
Easton: Hi, listeners, thank you for listening to For People, a space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. And now, back to For People.
Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, I’m wondering about the word intervene. And I’m wondering about the concept of how we, as Jesus followers are meant to live a life as Jesus did. So, I’m trying to reconcile the idea of being an intervener with the outright disrespectful and often judgmental and critical interventions that so many people do “in the name of the Lord.” And so, I’m trying to reconcile how we might live into intervening while also not being jerks?
Rob: Well, that’s a great question. You know, let’s pump our brakes here a bit. I think we will have better results. I know personally, I have had better results. I read that other people have had better results, when I don’t race to intervention to somebody else. Even Jesus cautioned this. You can’t see the thing in your eye, you are so busy looking at everyone else.
I think what steadies us and gives us the peace we were talking about with Mia, if I stay centered on how God has intervened in my life. So, one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is what Scripture says that, that God is gentle in correction. That God is gentle and correction. And I don’t know, maybe the Holy Spirit brought that to me because I need to spend some time with that. But when I think about the ways in which God has been gentle with me, and you know, through correction, inviting me to think about the gaps between what I say and what I do, I think about the way that I discern through the Spirit, that God has done that to me, a word here and encouragement there, some piece of scripture there, a song there, to help me understand that I’ve got to make a change. I’ve got to make a reversal. I’ve got to apologize, something like that.
I think that for me, at least, gives me more fodder to be with other people, then, you know, I’ve got my little thus saith the Lord and I’m going out with my hammer and chisel changing the world. Because I think that’s what happens. I think I want to stay steady on the ways in which God has gently corrected me in my life, the patience that God has shown to me in my own life, and then that gives me something reliable to go out and try to replicate. You know, the truth of the matter is, is all of us have our blind spots and biases.
So, the intervention that I’m thinking about it Is the intervention that has happened to me over my life. It’s almost like that story that Jesus tells, the master forgives one man who owes a lot. And then he receives that grace. He goes right out and grabs somebody by the throat and says, give me the money that you owe me. And then, the King gets word of that and throws him in jail. Look, extend to people the grace that has been extended to you. That’s the intervention here.
I want to think a lot about that. I think that’s how I steady myself. And then I think, I’ve become a little bit more, maybe a little bit more, understanding about just how big a driver fear is for people. And so, when I get a better sense, that fear is really driving a lot of bad behavior. It gives me a little bit of elasticity in being with people that are committed to vitriol and committed to condemnation and shaming other people. And so, that that gives me a little bit more elasticity. Because I’m spending more time thinking a little bit more about, what is the driver here? What is the wounded piece? What is the broken piece? This is how Jesus gets alongside lots of people that he meets walking around Galilee and beyond. He sees the woman caught in adultery, who’s about to be stoned, for someone who has had a moral misstep in her life. But he doesn’t see that is all defining for her life. He sees that as a step, he invites her to go and sin no more. And at the same time, to know that there’s life beyond that behavior. And maybe even those that are about to stone her walked away having learned an incredible lesson that this intervention that happened by this wandering rabbi was really a grace to them. Because they were about to be murderers. And they themselves had a long list of their own missteps. It’s just that there’s were not public that day. I think this keeps us going.
Melissa: It’s striking to me how Jesus did it, at least in the way that I interpret Scripture. Jesus did intervene on so many people’s lives. But Jesus did it in a way that that reflected the belovedness and the dignity that the person across from him has. And transformed them because of the ways that Jesus interacted with them. It wasn’t, Jesus wasn’t a jerk. And I know a lot of people will like dwell on the fact that Jesus, you know, overturned tables, and this tirade, and anger about what people were doing in the temple. And yet, that’s one story. One story of Jesus losing his temper in three years of active ministry. So, I don’t know that Jesus was a jerk.
Rob: Dr. King said, there can be no great disappointment without first there being great love. I see Jesus’s stern words for the religious community of his day as really being born out of deep disappointment. I think he was seeing the gap. He was seeing the Temple of his day, paid too much attention to the civil authorities. And sympathy to them, they are trying to keep people alive in this colonized state.
But I think that Jesus is oftentimes disappointed. You know, in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King uses the word disappointment, like 10 or 11 times. And then, he connects disappointment to love. Because if you don’t care, then you can’t be disappointed. But if you care deeply, you can be disappointed. So I think about those being his stern words, being sort of, and I’m not trying to be too cute here, but I think he’s trying to let them know, you’re not even being who you are called to be. Turn around, be who you are called to be, you are more than just sort of transactional folks here. And God is more than just this transactional thing you’re trying to do.
Here at the temple, we have our own transactions we do in the Christian church, right? So, rather than throwing the doors of our hearts open and receiving the intervention of Christ, you know, we try to play transactional with God. You know, if I give a certain amount of money than I’m buying fire insurance, right? All those sorts of ways to buy of God. I’m going to keep this behavior. But I’m going to do some stuff over here. And then you know, it’ll all come out in the wash. God is a lot smarter than that.
What I really want to say about this intervention piece, and I can’t believe you didn’t say it. You didn’t catch it. I said that glory intervened.
Melissa: Yeah, the sequenced Elton John.
Rob: Like a sequenced Elton John’s concert outfit. I can’t believe you didn’t start there.
Melissa: I know, right? I almost did. But I thought, well maybe Elton John shouldn’t lead.
Rob: You know, I mean, I guess we should end with this. Like, you know what I think about that night, the night that Christ was born. I don’t get caught up in all the details. But I try to imagine the glory of that night. And the glory of that night comes in a couple ways.
Number one, heavenly host. So, number one, glory comes as innumerable beings, ancestors, saints, showing up somehow. And then, the glory comes in light. This new light and the only image I could find in my little brain was an Elton John sparkling concert jacket. I thought that’s an image. But there’s light, right? So, there’s light.
And the last thing is, is that glory breaks in with singing. So, we have these movements that are all somehow greater or lesser degrees part of how we make Christmas celebration. I just want people to sort of behold that. That is the intervention. Just to try and take it in what the church continues to say to the world. God has come among us. And for no good reason, except that God has loved us and wanted to walk with us, as one of us, so that we would know the space we occupy in God’s heart. This is an extraordinary intervention. If you want to talk about an intervention that’s an extraordinary intervention. Demanding nothing. Demanding nothing. Demanding nothing.
Melissa: Well, thank God for that. And Bishop Merry Christmas.
Rob: Merry Christmas to you. Holy Christmas to you.
Melissa: Yes, Happy Christmas to our listeners as well. We’re so grateful for you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.
Él vino a nosotros, mitad hombre mitad Dios. Recibido por toda la creación, pero no pudimos encontrar espacio para él en el hotel. Por parte de su padre era un descendiente de la realeza judía por parte de su madre, no tenía pedigrí en lo absoluto; su madre dijo “sí” al anuncio de su concepción y su padre trató de terminar el matrimonio “silenciosamente”. El amor de José eligió no deshonrar. Ambos fueron aconsejados por un ángel. A ambos se les dijo que no dejaran que el miedo gobernara el momento. Ambos fueron aconsejados a confiar en Dios. Era una noche promedio cuando nació, los pastores estaban haciendo su trabajo en el campo. ¡Fue entonces cuando la Gloria intervino, brillante y con lentejuelas como un traje de concierto de Elton John! Gloria lo suficientemente brillante como para hacer almas temerosas “… salir de sus escondites”. La gloria es lo suficientemente brillante como para enviar a la gente a una noche oscura cantando una nueva canción convencida de que participan del favor de Dios.