Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sacred Cows make great Hamburgers

Maybe you have heard the expression, “Sacred cows make gourmet hamburgers”? This week’s Gospel Lesson (Mark 7:1-8; 14-15; 21-23) got me thinking about the things we hold sacred and what exactly is it that we, that I hold to be sacrosanct? What are the sacred cows that each of us holds on to and makes “untouchable”? We all live our lives and we like to think that we have everything in hand and under control. If we want something we go out and get it. All it takes is making the payments on the Visa or the loan or whatever, right? It’s good for the economy and it is good for us, right? It’s our house, our car, our kids, our city and our church... there for it must ours... right?

The challenge that I perceive being made by Jesus in the Gospel to those to whom he was speaking (including and in particular his disciples) is a simple and yet hard one in our North American culture. He is asking us to come out from behind the culture and its traditions and be people who are going to listen and follow God according to what God calls us to do. Which would you rather do love and do what God commands or make up a rule that, in your own mid at least gets you around having to do what needs to be done.

We have our rules and our laws. We live in a society where such rules and laws are made by the lawmakers and we are to obey the rules set down for us. But how faithful are we really at obeying them? How many times have you gotten into a car or other such vehicle and broke the law by speeding?
And I am not just talking about on the highway, what about in town? Do we think we get away with such behaviour because we are not stopped and ticketed by the police?

The reason I pick on this is that I think that is the way most of us, including me, like to live. It is okay if we can get away with it. It is not really breaking the rules; just making them bend and stretch a bit. Therein lays the problem. We have made our own rules and decided what is right and safe for us and have disregarded what it could and does do to other people. Such thinking and doing is where Jesus steps in and says, no way, no thanks. Why, because we become like the rabbi who was so determined to honour God by washing his hands properly before he ate out in the wilderness, his friends who came to join him found the rabbi nearly dead of thirst from not drinking enough water which he had in ample supply.

Maybe I can get what I am trying to say better this way, through the verses of a favourite psalm of mine, “Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:3-7) Christianity is about the relationships we maintain long before we worry about the traditions we keep. We need to trust in God and wait for God to act.

And in the meantime maybe we could start considering those things that need to be let go of so that they can find their ways to the BBQ... Ah, hamburgers! Can you smell the sizzle?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Have you found zoe?

There is a story about a young soldier who, late on a Friday afternoon took his girlfriend to a local clergy and asked if he would marry them. “Have you got a license?” the solider waggled his head, saying, “No sir, we were too late getting to the court house.” the clergy apologised and said to the young couple, “I am sorry but I cannot marry you without the license.” In desperation, the young couple pleaded with the clergy and said, “Please sir, couldn’t you say a few words to get us through the weekend?”

I have a two or three words for you. Important words. Greek words. And they are crucial to understanding what we have heard in the last few weeks through the bread of life series in the Gospel of John. The first word is logos or word. You remember! In the beginning was the Word... God’s logos is the source of his power and his life. God’s logos was active part of the acts of creation. But more than that, God’s Word became flesh and blood. The logos became sarx as one of us with flesh and blood. The Word made his dwelling amongst us so that we could see his glory. His presence was as real. The flesh and blood Word showed us who God is through the signs that he offered. The Word offered the opportunity for us to find life, zoe. This is why John at the end of his gospel tells us plainly that there are many other things that he could have written to show that Jesus is the Christ, but he recounted these this that we might believe, that is trust and participate (pisteou) in Jesus and find that we have both a life and a lifetime in him. After all where else can you go and get a meal that will last you an entire week?

Many of us don’t mind that we are dependent upon daily bread. But there is a very real and very important challenge that is presented to us by Jesus in the Gospel: are you staying or are you leaving? You are not called to suffering but to love and to compassion for those around you who do not have life, the kind of life that God has offered to you in Jesus. You are called to stay and to remain in Christ so that others might experience Christ in the flesh through you. They need to experience the quality of your life in Jesus Christ not just hear about the length of an unattainable life in some distant, unattainable place. They need to know that the life that is offered and lived from this holy table is something worth having and something worth sharing.

There are many who think they know the Christian message, the Gospel, and they are scandalized by the demands that the Christian life makes upon them. They want their ways and their things, their rights and their life. You can be a good person and not go to church, right? Certainly. One can be a good and moral person without ever darkening the doorway of church building. However, zoe the abundant, eternal life that God offers is only possible through the person of Jesus Christ who is God’s way, God’s truth and God’s life for us. Faith and believe are far more the intellectual assent to doctrines and teaching. When you stop and examine what is written about Jesus in the Gospels, what you will find is a man who came from God who chose to love and have compassion for those who need life, to tell the truth about God to people who have been lied to and told that their life belongs themselves and for their own possession instead of in service first to God and then to neighbour. People need to discover again that their life can be sustained in Christ through their submission to the divine life and Word of God.

It will not be an easy road. There will be suffering, pain, and loss. You will lose things you treasure and people whom you love will misunderstand and turn their backs on you. Jesus showed us this.

So it comes down to a simple question... have you found the words that will give you life? Where will you go and what will you do with that life? Do you want more than just a weekend? Are you willing to stay when others are not? Come and participate in Christ’s life that you might truly live and bring that same abundant life to others in his name.