Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Damned if you do....Damned if you don't

“You’re damned if you do; you’re damned if you don’t.”
We all know this expression, and at some point in our lives have felt this way.
We have come upon a situation that is really a no win.
We all know that making a decision comes with someone who will disagree.
It is impossible to make everyone happy all the time.
I had to learn this lesson early in my ministry, and it is one that I have to constantly relearn.
There is no decision that we make that everyone will agree with.
Just as one small example.
I know that there are people who want worship to change-to have it be more “modern”.
I also know that there are people who never want it to change, who want to do the same thing all the time.
As a pastor I am always caught between those two groups, and any decision that is made in regards to worship will make someone unhappy.
What are we to do?

Well this morning’s Gospel Jesus tells us that God feels this same way.
That no matter what mode God chooses to get our attention someone rejects it.
John the Baptist came as a prophet, he came as an aesthetic, giving up worldly pleasures, living in the desert, eating only locusts and wild honey, preaching repentance.
He came to show people that God wants for them to return to God.
And people said he was crazy.
That is what we do with people who are “too religious”.
We call them nuts.

Jesus comes among the people.
He doesn’t go off into the desert to live by himself.
He goes into the world, enters into people’s broken lives.
He eats and drinks with everyone who will have him.
He makes friends; he lives as everyday people live.
And people call him a “drunkard and a glutton.”
This is how we react to people who are too worldly.
They can’t possibly be religious because they act and look like everyone else.
God can’t win.
So no matter what form God comes in people seem to miss the point.
What does God have to do to get people’s attention?
What does God have to do to get your attention?

This is an important spiritual question for us to ask.
It goes to the heart of what do we expect God to be like, to act like.
And in that answer we find much of our own spiritual life.

I think that what we have done is over complicate things.
We have loaded God with a bunch of nonsense a lot of unnecessary rules and regulations.
Instead I want to suggest it is simpler than we think.
Jesus tells us this very truth.
That God reveals things not to the wise and intelligent but to the simple folk who understand the Gospel at its simplest form.

What God revealed in Jesus Christ is that God loves us no matter what.
That is the Gospel in a nut shell.
No matter what we do God loves us.
All who are carrying burdens Jesus takes in and releases those burdens.
Those who want us to follow unnecessary rules will never understand the freedom and simplicity of the Gospel.

I have tried in my ministry (sometimes I am better at this than others.) to clarify always with simplicity.
Worship is not about the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the candles we light, the colors of the altar.
It is about having God give us the good news of Jesus Christ.
For an hour a week it is about being released from our burdens as we hear God remind us of God’s love for us.
I have tried to remind people of this.
That anything else we do in worship serves that sole purpose.
Nothing else matters.
And to think it does matter is to miss the point of worship.

Pastors are often the worst offenders of this.
We have been trained in seminary, and in some cases it is a problem to know too much.
I belong to a Facebook group where pastors from across the country post questions to each other.
During advent someone asked about the meaning of the advent candles.
And this started a long discussion about what colors they should be, and what the meaning should be.
At some point it became utterly absurd.
Finally, a friend of mine posted, “Who cares about the color of the candles. God took on human flesh. Mind blown.”
You see in the middle of some obscure debate we had lost the real power and wonder of that time of year.
We lost the central thing that was really important.
That God choose to dwell among us, and show us what loved really looked like in the flesh.

This is what happened with Jesus.
Instead of focusing on what Jesus was saying.
The way Jesus lived out the kingdom of God; people were focused on how much wine he had with his dinner.
It is really absurd.

But it goes back to our expectations of how we think God should show up, and what God should look like when God arrives.
Jesus suggests that God is not found in those presuming to know it all.
But the infants, the simple minded.
God is found with those at the margins who know only of their need for God’s grace, those not screaming from the top of their lungs that they are right and the rest of us just don’t get it.
We see a lot of this in our world today.
We see people taking sides against others, and telling us that they know best.
We see those trying to divide us because we come from a different place, different perspective.
Most of us are sick of all of it.
We are tired of the bickering and the yelling.
We are tired of being divided.
And in the Kingdom of God we are invited by Jesus to lay it all down.
To put it aside and to act, and speak like Jesus teaches us.
To be people who try to find peace among the screaming, and to bring people together.
To invite others to rest with us, pull up a chair share some food and wine.

What Jesus invites us into this morning is to find God in our lives.
To know God not through our own intellect, but through the wisdom of God taught to us through Jesus Christ.
If we can rely on that then we have a chance of finding our way through the clutter.
We have a chance of seeing God in each other, in our world, in Jesus.
We have a chance at seeing what really matters.

Because I think the world needs the people of God to stop arguing about the color of the advent candles and to start sharing the good news.
The world needs the message that we are able to lay down the things that divide us and come together.
The world needs the message that there is another way to be in the world.
There is a way to find love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

So let us go to Jesus, and find rest.
Let us dance with Jesus, let us mourn with each other.
Most of all let us never forget that God has come and lived among us, and shown us the way.

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