Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Cleaning!

It is that time of year again.
It is time for spring cleaning.
It is that time when we clean out all the clutter and dirt that has accumulated over the winter.
I spent most of my day off cleaning out our garage.
It had accumulated lots of stuff over this winter.
Mostly things that we didn’t know what to do with and said, “just put it in the garage.”
It is a satisfying thing to get rid of unnecessary things and to start again with a clean slate.
I am happy that we will be able to bring our garbage to the curb without having to move a bunch of things in our way.
Or that our kid’s bikes can now be safely kept in the garage without being lost in a pile of other stuff.
While I was cleaning out the garage I was thinking about the disciples and their reactions during Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I was thinking about all the things that they had to clear out to make room to believe the resurrection.

This morning we hear from the Gospel of Luke the same story we heard last week from the Gospel of John.
Luke of course changes some of the details to fit his own story.
Instead of Jesus telling the disciples to touch his wounds to prove that he is not a Ghost, he sits and has a piece of fish with them.
After all being resurrected is hard work and would make someone hungry.
But the essentials of the story are the same.
The disciples are in a room hiding out, Jesus appears, and they don’t know what to make of it.
“They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost.”
What they were seeing and experiencing did not go along with what they had known before.
Dead people don’t eat fish!
There is lots of disbelief and wondering going on for the disciples.
What they needed was a spring cleaning.
Not a physical one, but a spiritual one.
They needed to throw out the things that had accumulated in their hearts and minds from their life before the resurrection.
In the words of Yoda, the great Jedi master from Star Wars, they needed to “Unlearn what they had learned.”

What convinces them that they are actually seeing Jesus in the flesh is not just that Jesus eats some fish, but that Jesus then goes on to open their hearts and minds to “understand” the scripture.
Perhaps now that it is spring, and we are celebrating Easter, it is good time for us too to clear out the old things that clutter our hearts and minds.
Today is a good day to hear with fresh ears what it is that Jesus has to tell us about scripture.

Scripture gets a bad rap in the world.
It is used in all kinds of ways.
It is used as a political tool to win over people to our side of the issue.
It is used as a religious tool to keep out unwanted people.
It is used as a way to see our own self righteousness.

But what Jesus does for us and his disciples is show us that all scripture really points to fulfillment of a promise.
It points to a Messiah and his death and resurrection.
Without this lens scripture looses it meaning and value.

In Bible study a couple of years ago we were talking about how scripture gets corrupted by people.
I was showing my annoyance at this fact and asked the group how come scripture gets used as a tool of exclusion and division instead of as a way to unify and bring together.
One of the people in the study said, “Pastor I learned it at Church”.
That statement hit me like a ton of bricks.
It made me realize that we have to unlearn what we have learned.
The church too has heaped a lot of stuff on to Jesus and we have to clean it out so that we can see Jesus raised for us.
We need some spring cleaning, so that we can hear again the scripture.
So that we can believe in more than just a set of rules or principles, more importantly so that we can believe that Jesus is alive.
So that we can believe that Jesus is alive in our lives.

Lately I have been thinking about how I make decisions in my life.
I have to tell you a lot of times I don’t make decisions based on what is in scripture.
When I go to the supermarket for example, I don’t decide if I am going to have chicken or steak based on what is in the scripture.
When I want to decide what type of refrigerator to buy I don’t think about scripture.
In fact, refrigerators are not used in the scriptures at all and yet I still use one on a daily basis.
These are some silly examples but the point is that not every decision I make in my life is based on scripture.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I am saying.
It is not that scripture is unimportant.
Quite the contrary it will save your life.
What John and Peter preached this morning, in our reading from acts, that faith in Jesus wipes away our sins is true.
What we read in first John, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,” is true.
And those truths will save your life, they will lead your life, give you comfort in hard times, joy in living.
The scripture gives us spiritual strength and understanding beyond anything else.

When you leave here on Sunday mornings I hope that you carry God with you.
I hope that what we hear from scripture is with you in all things in your life, because every day is really a spiritual battle.
Are you going to believe that Jesus is risen?
Are you going to know that Jesus offers you forgiveness and love?
We have so many messages in our lives that tell us different.
Message that say that the world is not worth it, that we are not worth it, that there is no mystery in everyday life.
The scriptures point us to a Messiah that saved us from ourselves.
I get upset when the message becomes that scripture somehow tells us a way to become better than other people.

There was a study done about why some places have hate groups researchers found that the number of hate groups in a community coincided with the number of big box stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target.
One of the theories as to why was because these stores sell a life style of hard work equaling a happy life.
Along with this is a scriptural teaching that says that Christians are good, thrifty, hard working, and everyone else is bad adds fuel to the fire.
I was skeptical about the Wal-Mart part.
But I think there is something to their findings.
If we as religious people believe that our hard work, our moral fortitude, our religious nature somehow makes us better than other people I think that is a problem.
It leads to scripture being equated with an us, who are good, versus them, who are bad, mentality.

John and Peter in their sermon are trying to convince people that their healing of a crippled man who was begging for money had nothing to do with them, but was because of God.
Scripture always points us to God, and when interpreted at its best points us away from ourselves towards a loving God with the mission of saving the world through his son.

Perhaps one of the things we need to clean out this spring is the idea that our lives are dependent on us.
The resurrection was not about the disciples it was about God’s plan for salvation being plan being played out.
Once they realized this they could accept the reality of the situation.
Once they realized that they were in the presence of something beyond human control and imagination then they could rejoice that the risen Lord was with them.
In our lives when we die to ourselves, our need for control and easy explanation, we can rise again with Jesus.

It is time for spring cleaning.
It is time to unlearn what we have learned.
It is time to live in the glory, joy, and mystery of the risen Christ.
So that we might have our sins forgiven, and see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God.

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