Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Machine!

The truth is that we are all part of the machine.
We all are caught up in the systems of the world.
The economic system consumes us.
The social system defines us.
The political system overwhelms us.
We like to think of ourselves as individuals as people who make their own destiny.
But the truth is that we are all part of the machine.

I realized this on Christmas eve day.
I was at Rite Aid buying some last minute stocking stuffers.
I had picked out all I wanted.
I had a very full basket.
I was standing in line waiting to pay when the clerk announced that the computer system was down and they would only take a check or cash.
Just so you know I don't carry cash, and I almost never write a check.
All of my financial transactions are done with a bank card, or on the computer.
I stood in line thinking about what was I going to do.
I was running out of time for the day.
I needed to get home and get ready for my family to show up.
I didn't have time to abandon my shopping cart and go to another store.
It made me realize how caught up I am in the machine.
How much of my life is dictated by other things.
If for some reason all the machines went down in the world, I would have nothing.
I would be lost.

This is the world that the wise men find themselves.
It is a world where most people are caught up in the machine.
Herod rules, Rome dictates what is to happen.
And as long as nobody ever disturbs anything Rome is happy.
This new thing that the wise people say is about to happen is disturbing to people.
It is disturbing to Herod who doesn't want anyone to take what little perceived power he has away.
Historically speaking this was Herod's biggest fear.
There was  saying about Herod.
"It was better to be Herod's pig than one of his relatives."
People said this because Herod kept having his relatives killed in fear that they were after his thrown.
So Herod is caught up in the machine.
The system benefits him, it suits his needs.
But it also benefits the people around him.
Because at least there is peace.
Herod might be a tyrant, but at least Rome leaves us alone while he is in charge.
Herod might not be a Jew but he is refurbishing the temple in Jerusalem.
The status quo works for us.

I think it works for most of us here this morning.
We would rather not make too many waves.
And yet we all still have this sense that something is not right.
It is why this time of year we make resolutions.
We make them maybe because we perceive that our lives are out of whack.
We have over consumed for the past month, and now we need a course correction.
We have bought too much, ate too much, and drank too much.
So we make resolutions to make us feel in control of things.
I see resolutions as a way for us to try and get out of the system.
We will try to make different choices this year.
I don't know if it is possible.
I speak for myself when I say that.
Because I find myself repeating the patterns all the time.
The same patterns that lead me back into the machine.

Today I think about the wise men.
I think about the visitors from another country, making a dangerous journey, following a star.
Coming upon a different system that maybe they didn't fully understand.
Not knowing who Herod was, or why he was important.
Not knowing the prophecies of old, told in ancient days, when others dreamed of a different time.
Wise men who came to bring gifts to an infant king.
They knew something that others didn't.
And then they left to return home.
They realizing the dangers of this system went home a different road.
That story gives me hope today.
It gives me hope in this new year.
A new year filled with promise and possibility.
A new year where we just might be able to get out of the system.
A new year where we just might go a different way.

I read one commentary this week about us being like the wise ones.
Being able to discern better the systems that we think are working for us but are really hurting us.
I want to say this morning that I have no hope in that.
I know that I am not wise enough to break free of those systems.
I will remain dominated by them.
In this story we see the hand of God.
It is God who puts in the star in the sky.
It is God who warns the wise ones to go home a different way.
It is God who has come to be with us in Jesus Christ that is the hope of the wise ones.
That is our hope this new year.
It is that God has set out on the horizon a star for us to follow.
And when we get to the end what we will find is Jesus Christ shining for us.
We will find Jesus who is our king.
Jesus who is worthy of all of our riches.
Jesus who is worthy of all of our time and energy.
Jesus who is worthy of our journey.
Jesus who is worthy of our faith.

Herod is only a mirage of a king.
It is Herod who wants you to spend too much.
It is Herod who wants to keep making false promises to yourself you can't keep.
It is Herod who wants you to be afraid of the future.
It is Herod who wants you to remain part of the machine.

God on the other hand is calling us forth.
God is asking us to move ahead.
God is calling us to Jesus Christ.
And there we find the opposite.
We find a God who gives instead of takes, a God who keeps promise, a God calling us into the future, and a God who frees us from bondage.

I don't know if we can ever escape the system in the world that we depend on.
I will need this year to use my bank card to pay for things.
I may not keep any of those new year's resolutions.
Next year we will show up again and be ourselves still.

What I am holding out for is a sign from above.
A star in the distance that calls us forth.
I am still looking for another way.
A way that that is filled with grace and light.
A way that is filled with love and joy.

I hope for you this year that way.
And that God may shine his grace on you all your days.
That your faith may lead you to follow the star so you too may come and worship Jesus Christ.

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