Monday, April 4, 2011

Grace or Karma?

I recently read an interview with Bono the lead singer from the Rock group U2.
He basically said that most religions, including lots of things we hear in Christianity, work on the premise of Karma.
We believe in a system where we get what we deserve.
We believe in the system that tells us that bad things happen to bad people, and good people who follow the rules and do the right thing get rewarded.
It is clear from this morning’s Gospel that the disciples also believe in Karma.
They see a man blind and assume that it is because of something he did.
“Who sinned this man or his parents?” they ask Jesus.
Jesus once again surprises with his answer.
Jesus does not worry about who is to blame only what needs to be done now.
Jesus only wants to show God’s glory.
Jesus is not worried about Karma he is about grace.
God is about grace and that is so hard for us to accept.
We like Karma better it is easier.
We come up with a system of laws, of good things and bad things.
Anyone on the good side wins.
Anyone on the bad side looses.
The problem is that life does not work that way.
Life is more about grace, because we are often given a second chance.
Often times we are given something when we really have not earned it.
For us as people of faith this is not merely life it is God showing us his love in unexpected places.
As Bono went on to say, “Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.”

Grace is hard to deal with.
It is hard to believe that God loves some of the people in the world.
That God would forgive some of the horrible things that people do.
Or that life is not as cut and dry as we would like to make it.
That the things we believe to be sin are not really sin.

We all have things that we believe to be true.
We all have theories, philosophies, and things that we believe to absolutely true about God.
We have all have a certain moral compass that guides and helps us order the world.
All of that is good.
But what happens when God shows up and upends those things that we think or even know to be true.
What happens when grace appears and it does not fit into the boxes we have constructed.

We become like the Pharisees in our Gospel story this morning.
We become blind to the wonder and amazing grace of God.
We begin to shout that we already know everything there is to know in this world.
“We have Moses!”
We have been taught by this authority or that authority.
Instead of letting God set the rules and move in the world, we come to believe that we do.
The religious people of Jesus day are so blind that they don’t even see the Son of God right there in front of them.
They don’t realize that God is moving and working in their midst.
They don’t see it because they are too busy defending what they know.
They like Karma much better then grace.
In the story the blind man sees because he sees grace.

I know that I have been surprised on many occasions by God.
That something has happened that made me rethink all of what I thought before.
Something that showed me how stubborn I was, or how uncompromising I can be.

In our current times I think that we do not allow enough for grace.
We are always predicting that whatever is happening will be the end of the world.
This week someone came to see me and said they were going to move to Sweden because there they could get the services they needed after all the budget cuts.
They went on to say that the budget about to be passed by our legislature was the end of the world.
(Just to be clear I don’t like the budget that passed the house, I don’t like Governor Lynch’s budget.
I was right there protesting the passage of the house budget.
I too think it will hurt the most vulnerable, I think it is irresponsible, and morally wrong.)
However, what do I know?
What do any of us really know?
Is it possible that this could lead to an economic recovery and the creation of lots and lots of jobs?
I have to leave room for grace.
I have to leave room for God to do God’s work.
Perhaps out of all of this mess, all of this tearing down God will find a way for people to grow and change.
I know this for sure it will mean more people will be coming to our church looking for help.
Last week I received 10 phone calls from people looking for help in some way shape or form.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for more outreach.
Perhaps God’s grace will move in a whole new way?

I have my boxes too.
This week I was working on letting in space for God to work in a different way.
We have been trying to start a worship service for the people experiencing homelessness.
And we have been doing it with other churches that have a different theological bent then we do.
It has been good for me to open up to another view, to see another side of God.
We can all get stuck in our ruts, become programmed into a certain way of thinking.
When this happens we become blind to what God is up to in our world.
We become blind to the ways that God is using other people to be a blessing.

I say that because my stubbornness and prejudice is not about seeing people who are poor in different light.
For me it is about seeing the rich, the religious, and the powerful in a different light.
All of us are subject to God’s grace.
That is my point that we can never rule out anything when it comes to God.
Because in ruling it out we try and confine God to our rules, or philosophies.
We simply have to live, to love, to share ourselves with others, and be on the look out to what God is up to in the world and in our lives.

For a short time in my life I worked as a waiter in a pizzeria.
It was a crazy place because it was filled with crazy people.
There was the owner’s daughter who was aspiring to be a writer.
She was educated, liberal, and always pushing buttons.
There was her boyfriend who was an aspiring camera man.
There was the guy who made the pizza who was really street wise, but never went to college.
There was the manager who was an atheist and a right wing conspiracy theorist.
He believed that the FBI was staked in the drive way next to his house because he owned a couple of guns.
No lie one day he asked me if I wanted to go to Pennsylvania with him to sell guns because they were legal in NH but illegal in Pennsylvania.
“It will only take us a day and we will make tons of money.”
There was the kid who dropped out of high school so he could travel the country with the band FISH selling sandwiches.
There was the high school kid who lived his whole life in North Conway but tried to act like he came from Brooklyn.
It was a very human place.
It was filled with grace.
At the end of the day, especially after a hard day, we would sit and drink beer together.
We would tell stories, argue about religion and politics, and laugh.
Each one of those people in some way taught me about God’s grace.
Each one of them was different and unique, and each one was loved by God.
I went back after I had been in Seminary for a while and I saw my old boss.
He told me that he had become a Christian, and he said that I had helped him see that Christ was just about being himself and accepting God’s grace.
It was a place that was not about Karma but Grace.

There is a great quote, "Love isn’t finding a perfect person. It’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly."
That is what Jesus does for all of us.
We are not perfect, but we are loved perfectly by Jesus.
That is the essence of grace.

This morning let us leave here believing in Grace instead of Karma, and being open to seeing it all around us.

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