Thursday, August 26, 2010

Will that be the beef or the chicken?

There once was a couple who were making wedding plans. They went and hired a coordinator who took them to an expensive hotel to plan their reception: a dinner of finest food, using the best china, plants, big band, and the works! The couple was asked to pay out $30,000. Then, shortly before day of the wedding, the groom got cold feet, and called the wedding off. The would-be bride was furious! She went to cancel the party only to be consoled but told, "You signed a contract. You can either give up the money or go ahead or have a party." The woman thought about it, and decided, having once been homeless and down on her luck, to have that party. She sent her invitations to all the homeless shelters and mission places in city where she lived. The Bride and her invited guests – the least the last and the lost - they partied with the tuxedoed waiters and everything. There was only one change made for the festivities: the bride changed the meat for the meal from roast beef to boneless chicken in honor of the groom.

We worry about our status, personal and corporate all the time. We worry about what we will wear and how that will make people respond to us and what they will think of us. We concern ourselves with where we live and what our homes look like, especially making certain that we keep up with those who around us and what they are doing and when we cannot we become envious of them and want what they have. We live, because of our culture, in a constant state of comparison and flux. How many of you would, if Pepsi™ were the most expensive pop on sale at the local store still buy it because it is Pepsi™ instead of buying something cheaper? How many of you would not be satisfied or your thirst quenched after drink something less expensive? We not only buy into the idea that one product is best and the rest are not, we are conditioned to pursue that which the world says can satisfy: to go ahead and break the rules and live the way we want to and have brighter clothes and whiter teeth. Yet we find ourselves feeling empty at the end of the day. Have you ever wondered why?

Is it possible that we are looking in all the wrong places for things that cannot satisfy us; that cannot fill the hole we need to fill? The Gospel calls us to see things differently. We are challenged to not give into the automatic assumptions of our age, “that this is the way things are and that they have always been this way” and “We have always done things this way and there is no hope for change.” We need to recognize that we are seated with and found with Christ in the heavenly realms. We need to know that we can see things as he sees them. We can see our priorities and how they lead to the cross and the death of life. We can also see that there is a path away from the grave and into new life and new creation if we are only willing to walk it.

The thing is, we don’t like to hear that what we want, what we think is ours, what we believe is right is not enough to satisfy God. We like to celebrate our limitations and complain that we always seem to be at them. We moreover, seem to think that by confessing our limits that God will forgive us for having our priorities in mind and not thinking or doing anything about His work. We lull ourselves into thinking that mediocrity is not merely acceptable but that it is normal. The cross rises above this weakness to break us out of the ruts that we have put ourselves in and it is why some wanted Jesus dead in the first place.

Jesus came to establish the new creation and the new life through his own. He did not come to create committees or to agree with us in our thoughts and opinions. He came to confer a dignity upon us that we cannot gain for ourselves so that we in turn might offer it to others. He lived life in such a way that others were thought of first and as better than self. He taught so that others would learn to follow him to seats of honour and learn to come to table. And he died that we might become the kingdom people, regardless of who we are and he rose again that we might the strength to live that kingdom filled life.

So what kind of church do you want to be? We rush for our favourite spots in the pews. We like to be at the back of the Church, the head of the line and the center of attention. And so long as things remain the same, everything is okay and we are safe. The threat comes when we cannot do that and that one poor Sunday in terms of congregation and in terms of what is given is going to be the ruination of the church. Ought we not to ask ourselves who it is we believe in and who we really trust? We are called by Scripture to love each as family and to be hospitable even to those we do not know. We are expected to care for those who are in prison and for those who are suffering, imagining that we are in their places. We are asked to respect all relationships, marriage in particular, and in doing so to keep one’s self holy. We are to free ourselves from the love of money while learning to be content with what we have. And we need to imitate the faith of those who taught the faith to us so that we might deepen our own. We do these things not because of any list or order; we do it because we see and know that Jesus is faithful and just. We do it because we see Jesus and we see him do it. We compare ourselves to him, instead of each other.

There is a feast and it is about ready to begin. You have been invited and there is beef on the menu. The Groom calls you to come and join his happiness and his family. Will you come?

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