Sermon 4: Does He Turn Your Crank, Or Grind Your Gears? (Matthew 2:9-18)

Religious and political structures govern a good deal of our lives, wouldn’t you agree? I mean if the prevailing religion of Canada is humanism all social structures will follow those lines and all Canadians will be coerced towards agreement with them. Or, if the Muslims take over, again, we will be aggressively pressured toward the Islamic world view. We are pressured constantly by religious forces. So also with political forces. Political forces invade our laws, our taxes, our garbage collection rules, how we deal with criminals, what wars our military engages in, etc. They put pressures, backed by laws, to conform to the way they want to run things. Religion and politics.

So what happens when something comes into those structures that threatens them. I noticed an article decrying Margaret Atwood in the newspaper. She is in the US, lobbying against a new news station that is applying for a broadcast license. It is a conservative news station. So, it, according to Atwood, is a promoter of “hate” commentary on life and events. And some billionaire she is in cahoots with is backing a movement to refuse the license. Coercive pressure to conform.

I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with the licensing. My point is that when there is a status quo, in this case a liberal biased media, and something oppositional threatens that status quo, it is opposed radically, decisively and often violently. It is no longer an “opinion” or “point of view.” It now becomes “hate media.”

So here comes Jesus. Not a son of Mary or Joseph. That would have been OK. Not a child of Bethlehem. That would have been OK. Not a future carpenter. That would have been OK. Not a good religious Jewish boy. That would have been OK. Not one who would grow up to be a Pharisee, Sadducee, Herodian or Zealot. Any of those would have been OK. No. The problem with Jesus was, and still is, that He was born a King. He lived as a King. He died a King. He lives again as a King. And His kingdom opposes all the kingdoms of earth. So Jesus is a real, imminent threat to them all.

So here’s the issue. Three wise guys come to town to find this king of the Jews. To give gifts. To worship him. Why? Really....why? [Think about it...] We really don’t know from the text. All we know is that after probably being shocked a little that instead of getting a, “Oh you’ve heard about him way over there too. Amazing. Yes He was born a year ago and he’s living in Bethelehem and we’re all waiting to see what is going to become of him,” they get, “What king? What have you heard that we haven’t? How did you find out about this?” Then they move on toward Bethlehem because that’s where the prophecy says he supposed to be. And as they go, there’s the star again. When they see it, it really turns their crank. I mean they get a party going on route and have a great time knowing they are on track to discover something and someone really special.

Meanwhile back in Jerusalem, the same news is grinding the gears of all the religious and political leaders. They don’t want a star. They don’t want a king. Or they are ticked, if they are religious leaders, that some pagans spiritualists from some place that’s never seen a good Jewish teacher of the prophecies, has discovered something they know nothing about - that God is unfolding His plan, revealing His King, and they are on the outs. Any way you slice it, Jesus grinds the gears of most of the power people in Jerusalem - religious and political.

Does Jesus turn your crank? Or grind your gears? I’m not talking about the nice little baby in the manger. That would be nothing. I’m not talking about your Saviour who died on the cross for your sins. That doesn’t bother many people, especially Christians. We really appreciate Him for that. I’m not talking about Jesus’ provisions of finance. We really like him when we have a financial miracle. Who wouldn’t? I’m really talking about the Jesus the three Magi came to worship. You see they didn’t come to worship Him for any of those reasons. They came to worship him because He was a King. And it was His Kingship that caused the trouble. And it is Jesus the King who is still causing trouble. He still turning a very few people’s cranks and grinding a lot of people’s gears. Which does He do for you - as KING?!

Kings are kind of tough to deal with you know. They have power. They rule. They say what’s right and what’s wrong and what goes. They punish rule breakers. They demand service and sacrifice - often without reward. Their position forces us to bow and pay homage to them or pay a price if we don’t. They are intimidating because of the power they wield. They have power to make our lives wonderful and power to make them miserable. Jesus was, is and always will be a King. And it was a king that turned the Magi’s crank. And it was a king that ground the gears of the religious and the political. Which does He do for you?

I was coming off Arthur Street the other day onto Daniel. I was talking and let my foot off the clutch in the Civic just a fraction early. It was the worst sound. The grinding of the gears between first and second made me cringe. I thought (because it wasn’t the first time I’ve done that), “How many times can I do that before there is serious damage.” And then I thought of this message. And I thought, “Ya know, Jesus - the King - can really grind my gears at times.” Here’ my Top Ten reasons why:

10. He’ll equip and provide, but He won’t fight my battles against sin and Satan for me.

9. He refuses to give me what I want until what I want is aligned with what He wants.

8. He insists He knows what is better for me than I do.

7. He let’s me suffer and often doesn’t intervene.

6. He let’s me sin and loves me without condemnation. (I’d so much rather He’d slap me when I do something wrong and I know it’s wrong.)

5. He refuses to be manipulated or controlled.

4. He’s as loving, kind and merciful with people who offend me as He is with me.

3. He ignores my pleas to fix everybody else, but insists on changing me.

2. He refuses to justify His actions (or lack of action) to me.

1. He won’t fix other drivers for me.

[manual meat grinder] Remember these? My mom used to have one and I loved it. I always got to turn the crank and mush the roast beef up. But I always was a little ambivalent because when the grinder came out, it meant that week we were going to have Shepherd’s Pie. And I hated Shepherd’s Pie. Yuck. Turning the crank I loved! The meat going through the gears I hated. I was a kid. I’m not now. Now I like Shepherd’s Pie. And I’ve come to appreciate the gears and what they produce.

Isn’t Jesus like that? As a King? Sometimes He turns our crank. Sometimes He blesses and loves and creates joy and celebration and excitement and hope and all kinds of good stuff. We love King Jesus for that. He’s our victory! He’s our hope of eternal life! He forgives us and cleanses us and it overwhelms me sometimes with joy. But sometimes that same Jesus who is turning our crank is coming against our religious pretensions and our “political” flesh that wants power and control and to have things our way. Sometimes he grinds our gears. As King. Sometimes - often times - the two are going on together. The main difference for us can be, if we will allow it, that instead of the grinding, stripping or breaking the gears, it can be making Shepherd’s Pie. It doesn’t have to wreck the gears. It can, instead, turn something of our flesh into something we enjoy - not the process - but the product!

The call is always to see the contrast - to see the Pharisee or the Herod in ourselves - and let His putting us through the gears produce the heart of the Magi in us; the ones who came purely in wonder and discovery to worship and to give gifts, to be open to angels and dreams for direction; to have a heart that rejoices when we see the star.