Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

People who change the world aren’t always who you expect. They are housewives, repairmen, teachers, and the military to name a few. Ordinary people who believe in a better world.
Readers’ Digest magazine recently chose what they called “15 people who changed history.” Among them were Rosa Parks, who wouldn’t give up her seat on a Montgomery Alabama bus on December 1, 1955. Todd Beamer and the passengers on Flight 93 who fought back against the 9/11 terrorists and crashed into a field in Shanksville, PA instead of slamming into our nation’s capital. And then there was Candy Lightner, who stood up against drunk driving after her 13 year old daughter was killed by a repeat DWI offender. She founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in her home on March 7, 1980.

Yes, such people aren’t always who you expect. Such of course is the case of God’s only Son, that most extraordinary Person of all, who made Himself ordinary when He came to visit this planet in person some twenty plus centuries ago. He did that to save all of us from being forever locked out of His high heaven. Jesus was a handsome man for sure, a bit taller than the males of His time if the Shroud of Turin is authentic. Attractive to all whom He met in His travels not only by His appearance but also by His demeanor, which sprang from His hidden divinity. He demanded that people change their way of living. He wanted them to shun sin.

People of every age are much the same, and sin can be such an attractive proposition at times even for the best of us. So because of His demands about avoiding sin, Jesus was never universally popular. He even puzzled His closest friends. But He knew, and tried to get them to know also, that if their human weakness held them down, His strength would lift them up. If asked, they would agree that He was truly a “man on fire.” We agree, do we not?

We His present day followers would also have to admit that Jesus was not what we would expect of a Divine Redeemer. He really was the prophet’s “sign of contradiction.” He began His public life as a young man amid a culture that thought wisdom was only in the old. His enemies mocked Him with saying “Thou art not yet fifty years old…” He was uneducated in the formal sense, having had only the usual synagogue syllabus. “Where did He get all this? Is He not the carpenter’s son?” His was born into poverty when only the rich were greatly esteemed. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” He hailed from a dusty nearly forgotten village named Nazareth when the sophisticated people only came from
the great cities. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Despite this, Jesus was also magnetic and majestic in His preaching and example. An unusually confident Person, only angry when He had to be, especially when He clashed with those in authority. “You hypocrites! He shouted.” But in the end, He suffered the usual fate of the prophets like Jeremiah. “’Crucify Him!’ they shouted.”

There are some conclusions we can draw from this brief recall, if we want to be authentic followers of the Nazarene. First of all, we have to remember our general ordinariness. This despite the fact that in God’s eyes each of us is special.

We also must recognize that belief in Jesus always implies a call to action. And then, in this society of ours, with it’s warped sense of priorities and its tendency to discount God’s very existence, we must realize that we will remain unpopular for our beliefs. Mocked sometimes by our own families. But we can lean on that great consolation we have that God is always with us, no matter what. That’s how we know for sure that we each have the power to change the world.

Not by putting it down, but by lifting it up.