Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Men Being Men!

At the gym I saw a man on CNN talking about the anniversary of the #metoo movement.
I didn’t catch all of what he said but he did say, “We have to let men be men”.
This seemed curious to me.
When I heard it I wondered what he meant.
I spent Friday night and most of yesterday at Camp Calumet as the Speaker for the Men’s retreat.
At meals we took some time to talk about what it means to be a man.
There are of course lots of images that come to mind about what it is to be manly.
These are perpetuated by Hollywood, and popular culture.
They are mostly images of men with big muscles shooting guns, yelling, fighting wars, or acting detached and cool.
We see this in the Rambo movies, the James bond movies, and war films that over glorify what actually happens in war.

It got me thinking about the men in our congregation.
What is it that we know about being a man?
I want to show you images of men in our congregation being men.
(If you didn’t make any of these pictures take no offense.)
You can see that the images of what men in our congregation do is really different then what we are told in Hollywood movies we should be doing.
We can see men serving their families, loving their partners, giving of themselves.
They are pictures of men being tender, caring, and loving.
Like that person on CNN know many people that would say that men have been stripped of their manliness.

What does Jesus tell us about being a man?
Jesus this morning reminds his disciples that being a man is not about having power over others.
It is not about being domineering.
It is not about being controlling.
It is not about getting our own way.
It is not about using violence to get what we want.
It is about giving our lives for others.
It is about serving the people around us.
Because Jesus didn’t come to dominate us.
Jesus didn’t come to force us to love God through violence or corrosion.
Jesus came to serve us, to show us what love looks like.
Jesus came to be non-violent.
Jesus came show us how to be vulnerable and caring.
Christians follow Jesus.
And it should not be among us the way it is in the world.
The way that it is in our politics or in the movies.
It is the way of love.
It should look like the pictures I showed you of the men in our congregation.

Here is one of the big problems is that we are even trying to decide what a man should do.
The question shouldn’t be about men and women.
It should be about our humanity.
What does it mean to be a good human being?

One of the things that is so disturbing to me about the way that women are treated in our society is the way that we try to dehumanize women by making them sex objects.
Or by fitting them into previously constructed boxes of what we think a women should do, or be.
We have lost our way as we try to take away what it means to be a human being, and instead insisted that, “Men should be men, and women should be women.”
What if Jesus way would be the better way?
What if we saw each other not as objects to be ruled over and pushed around, but fellow humans who needed us to serve and love?

Because ultimately this is how God thinks about us.
God doesn’t see our gender, our race, our religion, our politics, and our economic status.
Those are all superficial categories.
God sees the person we are deep in our souls.
Underneath our skin God see our fears, hopes, dreams, our scares, our abilities, and our short comings.
God sees us as complete human beings complex and Wonderful.

The disciples themselves are good example of this.
We have been having almost four weeks of the disciples not getting what Jesus is trying to teach them.
Even though Jesus keeps giving the same lesson over and over.
Even though right before our Gospel this morning Jesus tells them that he will die for the sake of the world.
They still don’t get it.
They still want to rule over others.
They still want it to be like it is in their minds.
And yet, Jesus doesn’t give up on them.
He doesn’t yell and scream.
He just keeps teaching.
He knows them deeply.
He knows their flaws, and what they want this all to mean.
I sometimes wonder, why he picked these twelve at the beginning.
When he came down to the sea of Galilee and he saw James and John tending their nets.
He must have known that they were not the smartest.
He must have known that they would be hard headed.
He must have known that they wanted to go from the bottom to the top.
And yet, he choose them anyway.

He looked through who they were on the surface, to understand them on a deeper level.
God does the same with all of us.
God looks into our humanity.
God looks into our souls.
God asks us to see other people as human, as loveable, as children of God.
What a great thing to know.
That I am not tied to the world’s thoughts on what it means to be a man or woman.
I am not tied to what others think I should be or not.
Instead I can be me.
I can be a tender man.
I can be a fierce woman.
I can be who God made me to be.

Finally, we have to look to Jesus.
And we have to think about the ways that his death and resurrection changed the world.
How does it change us?
How does it make us more than what people see, what the world tells us?
Jesus didn’t die so we would be trapped as a man or woman, but so we can live free as God’s child.
Jesus put to death any system that tries to dehumanize us, tries to dominate and control us, and rises in its place a system based on love and service.
Like the disciples we are not always ready for those old systems to die.
We try to sneak in and still think we can rule and control others.
Through God’s grace Jesus comes to us again and again to put the old systems to death, and rise in us new things.

I hope for all of us the dying of the old systems so that we may live.
If you are man I hope you have the freedom to live as loving, gentle, caring people.
If you are a woman I hope that you are able to live as God has empowered you to.
Mostly I hope we all live as God’s children serving each other, as Christ has served us.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It Is Better!

"It would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea."
A millstone looks like this.
It was a tool used to grind grain, nuts, or corn.
An animal would pull the millstone as it ground what was needed.
You can see from this picture that it was a good size.
So if you were to tie this around someone's neck and throw them into the sea there would be no way to escape.
And we know that this was actually a use of capital punishment.
I can only imagine that this was a horrific way to die.

What are we to do with verses like this in the Bible?
This is a pretty harsh way for Jesus to talk.
It doesn't seem to fit into the Jesus we know.
The Jesus who loves us and forgives us.

If you are somebody who believes in taking the Bible literally then you would have to believe that Jesus is describing a use of capital punishment.
But nobody that I know of is actually suggesting that stopping little ones from having faith deserves this kind of death.
What Jesus is doing is using Hyperbole to make a point.
If you remember last week's Gospel Jesus had placed a small child among the disciples and told them that to live in the kingdom is to welcome a little child.
This week our Gospel is still in that moment.
Jesus is still sitting there with a little child among them.
And one of his disciples says this non sequitur about other people casting out demons.
As a way of saying that the disciples are better than other people.
Again, they don't get what Jesus is trying to say.
Jesus realizes that he has to get them to listen.
So he uses hyperbole to show them how serious this issue is.
They shouldn't stop a "little one" from having faith.

I have been thinking all week about this.
And I don't know if Jesus words here are too harsh.
Because when I think about Priests sexually molesting kids I get really angry.
And I would say it would have been better for them to have a millstone placed around their necks and thrown into the sea then what they did!
Or for that matter any person who commits crimes of sexual aggression.
I have no patience for it.
We can see how much it ruins lives, how much it takes away someone's spirit and life.
So Jesus is on to something.
It is better to have no life than to have a life that ruins and does damage to other lives.

But something else about Jesus saying kept coming up for me.
I have met so many people that are weighed down by so many things.
I have met people that seem like they have a millstone around their neck.
Sometimes people do say, "That is like a millstone around your neck."
And I can see in people's story that they have these things that they are struggling with that are so heavy.

This week I was about to leave my office.
And this women called from Riverbend wanting some help with gas.
She was on the phone crying.
I have become a little too accustomed to people crying and telling me their stories.
I told her I was about to leave but if she came right now I could get her some gas.
It took her longer than I thought to get here, and then she had trouble following me to the gas station.
So I was a little annoyed, because I was late for my next appointment.
I paid for her gas and was about to get in my car.
She came and shook my hand and told me that she would do something to help the church to pay us back.
I told her, "That she didn't have to do that, because this is a free gift."
For the first time I stopped being in a hurry and looked at her.
She started crying.
I could see the millstone, the heaviness of her life in that moment.
And that a free gift was overwhelming.

What if Jesus frees us from the millstone?
We all have the burdens of life upon us.
We all are weighed down by so much.
By death of those we love.
By trying to keep up with the world around us.
By the shame of our sin.
By just trying to live.

Jesus says, "It would be better..."
Isn't it better to live with Jesus than without.
Isn't it better to live with grace.
Isn't it better to live with the free gift.

Jesus words seem harsh, because we read them as punitive.
But I think they more likely explain our lives.
To live in a world as the disciples see it is so burdensome.
Because that world is filled with competition.
Who is the best?
Who has done the best?
Instead Jesus invites us into a better world.
It is a world without competing with each other, or with the world around us.
It is a world where we are who we are.
We are flawed and imperfect.
We are the woman at the gas station so weighed down by life that at the first sign of compassion or freedom we cry.

That is all Jesus is expressing to his disciples.
They have been freed with good news!
And it is better to live with the freedom of that good news then to put stumbling blocks in our lives or in the lives of others.
We often suffer unnecessarily.
Because we can't seem to live knowing that we are loved beyond the universe.
We don't know that sins are forgiven, that this isn't about being perfect, or having it all together.
Jesus is there telling us that we don't have to carry the millstone.

I hesitated to say this next thing, because it might be misunderstood.
And it is politically a fire ball right now.
But One of my friends on Facebook wrote this about Judge Kavanaugh.
"Some further reflection on the painful train-wreck of this week:
As I watched the SCOTUS hearings, watched Brett Kavanaugh clamor and claw his way through his testimony to prove his cleanliness, I thought: Wow.
Now there is some poverty.
That man is full of shame. He doesn’t trust his own worthiness.
He must work towards being (seen) as good and a god, rather than trusting his humanness, his inherent goodness and withness.
And, I felt sorry for him and, gasp -- some twinge of compassion -- because I can hustle for my belonging with the best of them. Because what would happen if he admitted his own fallibility and culpability and need?
Would he not discover grace?
Would there not be the opportunity to participate in God’s energy and momentum of redemption?
(I'm gonna sit in this for myself. As the mother of a white boy who will become a white man, as a white woman, and as a human being. Where am I missing the opportunities for grace and redemption and healing and new life for me, my neighbor and the world? And, don't think for a second that I don't think he should accountable for his actions or that I think he should be allowed to sit on the SCOTUS. I just think Love is up to something...and he is missing it. Where are we missing it?)"
My friend said what I was thinking.
In trying to defend ourselves, and trying to keep up appearances we are losing the free gift that Jesus has given us, not being perfect, and being broken people.
We miss out on the kingdom of God, and we keep the millstone around our necks.
I hope for all of you this week to experience the beauty of being broken.
And that you may experience the free gift of God's grace in your lives.
I hope that you can experience the free gift so that Jesus can take away the millstone from your neck, because it is better to live in God's grace.