Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Monday, September 06, 2004

Sermon from Sunday

As we all know after a brief period of religiousrebellion in his thirties (youthful indiscretions helater called them) the good man Jesus settled down,became a Pharisee, married Mary Magdaline, had threenice kids, a dog named Scooter, and lived in a nicesuburb of Jerusalem. Eventually, he gained his Romancitizenship, ran, and won a Roman Senate electioncampaign stressing family values and uninterruptedprosperity, and he lived to the ripe old age of 102.XXX No. Wait. He DIDN'T.Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the very Son of God,lived, preached a message of uplifting the poor andsalvation for all. He pointed out the hypocrisy of thereligious authorities of his day, he was betrayed by afriend, was crucified by the Roman occupiers, died,and was buried. It would seem when it was said, "See,I have set before you today life and prosperity, deathand adversity," he chose death and adversity.When we look at the scriptures, we do not see God'speople, God's disciples, as living an easy life.Abraham was called to leave the land of theChaldeans, the land of his ancestors, the land of his family. He was called to leave everyone he knew andloved.During the Exodus God's people had to bear up thecapstones of misery in Egypt.The Israelites were scattered, separated, anddispersed during their exile in BabylonIn the midst of his ministries John the Baptist wasimprisoned by King Herod, and beheaded.Stephan was martyred in the streets of Jerusalem,stoned to death.While proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ Paulwas imprisoned, suffered, and died.As Christians let's not kid ourselves, let's enterinto our faith with no illusions, let's keep our eyeswide open. Living out Christianity isn't an, if you doX you'll be rewarded with Y, kind of religion, insteadit is like completing a tower, it's like going into abattle with 2:1 odds stacked against you. When we putour God before all thing; before our family, beforeour possessions, and yes, even before our life, thereis going to be adversity.Jesus says to us today, "Whoever comes to me and doesnot HATE father and mother, wife and children,brothers and sisters. Can not be my disciple." HATEour family! Hate Valerie, Hate Jerry, Hate my littleDog Baby! It's not quite as vicious as that. It turns out whenone looks at the Greek the actual word is acomparative word. In this case we are weighing Jesusup against our family. In comparison to how much youlove Jesus, the love you have for your family is hate.Still, this isn't easy. Look at how the Phariseesfumed when Jesus disregarded his connections with hispeople, the Jewish family, by hanging out withnon-Jews in Sumeria and elsewhere. And think of theanger he invoked when he would berate the Phariseeswith parables like the one about the good Samaritan.Think of the heartbreak he must have felt when he saidthat his mother and brother were not his relatives,but instead those who followed him were. Think of theanguish he felt when he left Galilee to preach hismessage, and when he left even his disciples to comebefore Pontious Pilate.Think about when Abraham left those he loved. Thinkabout the defining moment when you left your family.It could be going to a sleepover at a friends. Itcould be college. It could be going off to war orgetting married. For me it was about two years ago when I went off toEugene to college for the first time. I remember thatfirst night in the dorms. It was kind of scary.Outside my room were a horde of very. hyper track boysthat just realized the dorm was co-ed by room. Insidemy room was my roommate. All I knew about him was thathe was from Alaska, was more introverted than I was,had a strange obsession with maps, and didn't take offhis blue baseball cap even to go to sleep. I think ofthose first few weeks on campus, trying to find anitch for myself. I remember the riot that took placeafter a basketball game, they lit a portion of themain street on fire and drove a metermaid cart intothe flames. In short, leaving your family, being adisciple of Jesus, pulls you out of your comfort zone.Still, what is the good news in that? The good newsis that when we love Jesus to the point that our loveof family is likened to hate we may close our eyes toour biological family, and open them up to see all ofhumanity. We can look at anyone and everyone andremember that we all contain the breath of God wereceived through God's breathing into that clay manAdam. We are all redeemed through that last dyingbreath Jesus took on the cross, and that gloriousbreath of resurrection he took inside the tomb. And weare all united in that blast of Holy Breath that wasPentecost.In the movie "A Beautiful Mind" there is a scene thatcatches at least a pinch of this idea. John Nash, thefamous mathematician, is at a bar drinking with someof his friends. A group of women enter, one of thewomen is a stunning blonde. Nash and his friends allplan to ask out the blonde. At that point he realizesit would be in all their best interests if they askedout the other girls, so all of them would have a date,instead of all of them competing against one anotherfor that one girl and none of them having a date. Inshort, he realized it is better to give one anothermutual aid than to compete. As I said, an incompleteexample at best. Still, the point is well made thatinstead of looking out only for the best interest ofthe few, disciples of Christ look out for the wellbeing of everyone. We are able to shed our baseconnections of clan and country, kith and kin, to loveall and be loved by all.For a more biblical example look at today's letter ofPaul. Through loving Christ more than family thisrunaway slave, Onemus becomes family and is changedinto a son of the apostle Paul and a brother, no evenmore than that, a beloved brother, of Philemon. Whenwe throw out our attachment to family then people areno longer property, but fellow children of God.Jesus says to us today, "None of you can become mydisciple if you do not give up your possessions." Giveup our daily Starbucks coffee? Give up our nice shinycar? Give up our bed? Give up the roof over our head?Give up the food we eat? This is tough, every daycommercials tell us if we only buy Crest White stripswe will be loved. If we only eat at Chile's we'll behip. If we only get a new car a band will follow usaround and all our problems will be solved. Yet, to beDisciples of Christ Jesus we love him to the pointthat our love of our possessions is like hate. Thisundermines the message of this world and leads us toexamine our needs, and recognize that a lot of thestuff we strive for is not necessary, and, not onlythat, they may be unhealthy and unhelpful.Again, what is the good news in that? First, it meanswe are able to stand in solidarity with the poor,since, without our precious possessions where do westand? Where does economic prestige go? All of asudden we are all buck naked hominids without fancyclothing or a shiny white smile. Just like when wedisregard our biological connections, when we ax oureconomic reputation, our differences evaporate. Werealize people are more than their possessions orjobs, a tax collector decked out in gold is just ashuman as a prostitute in a cheep hotel room or apriest with a nicely pressed roman collar. A homelessperson looking for food and a job is just as human asa CEO in a private jet or a sales clerk eating atWendy's.As proof of this miracle of love let's look again atPaul's letter to Philemon. Paul, a man imprisoned,shackled in chains/ a dude in jail/ is able to effectthe status of Onemus. Think about that, a prisoner hasthe ability to make a man free. When we stop lookingat Paul, as a man with no home, wandering the worldpreaching, making and mending tents for a living, andstuck in the slammer, then we can see him for who andwhat he really is, a messenger of God preaching withthe authority of God.Secondly, being a Lutheran, and believing we aresaved by grace, through faith, for works, I can'tleave the question of possessions at that, I'm goingto push things a little farther. What if we don't justabandon our earthly possessions, but also abandon ouridea of earning heavenly possessions? What if we putChrist at the center of our life to such an extentthat we truly humble ourselves before him, and realizethat nothing we do can earn the kingdom of God? Whatif we trust in Christ so much that we admit that thegates of Hell have already been stormed, and salvationis already ours? Then all the actions we commit, allthe good things we do, all the love and kindness weshare with the world is done of our own free will, notbecause we have been bribed with a room in heaven, orthreatened with a thundering God of judgment. Then,like our brother and fellow disciple Philemon, ourgood deeds can be voluntary.Jesus says to us today, "Whoever comes to me and doesnot hate. even life itself, cannot be my disciple.Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannotbe my disciple." Let us love Jesus to the point thatour love of life is like hate. Let us live life not tofurther our family name, nor for our own prosperity,but for the love of God.The good news is that Christ has bought our life withhis. The good news is that we have been freed from theslavery of sin to become servants of all. The goodnews is that Christ bore his cross, and calls us tobear ours. The good news is that Christ rose from hisgrave, and calls us to rise from ours. The good newsis that we can live a life in faith that theresurrection will happen.The good news is that Abraham went to the promisedland and through him came a people to be a blessingand bring a blessing to the whole world.The good news is that God heard his people's criesand called them out, led by Moses through the desertto the promised land.The good news is that the Israelites heard the voiceand made a path through the wilderness back to theHoly land.The good news is that John the Baptist was a voicecrying out in the wilderness, "make straight the pathof the Lord."The good news is that Stephan testified to the Son ofMan sitting at the right hand of God. The good news is that Paul preached the blessing ofAbraham to the whole world.Brothers and sisters in Christ, disciples of Christ,there are things we give up. There are things thatshall lessen in importance, but only so that Christ isamplified. A+A