Monday, April 23, 2007

The Jesus Way: your life isn’t about you!

Seinfeld, The Invitation, Chapter 2 7:57-9:01; Chapter 3, 18:32-19:15

"I could never be a saint, but perhaps maybe a martyr if they killed me quickly."

"Man wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success." There is something bigger than us and we are drawn towards it.

Today is Earth Day.

Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

From the beginning of the Bible we have human history intertwined with cosmic history.

God said that what He had created was good. Very good! Even in the New Testament, this is how John writes history:

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

And everything was good, really good. There’s even a Cathedral in Laon France that symbolizes this beautifully- cows near the top of the tower!

Fellowship in some cultures is even defined by ‘sharing a cow’! There’s a cosmic drama going on, a Theodrama, and even cows have a part. St Francis used to speak of ‘Brother sun and sister moon’ as having their parts.

Are we in it? Yes. Are we the only thing? No.

We have been likened to God’s army in a cosmic battle against evil. Now just imagine if during the Normandy invasion, Operation Overlord, that you as a buck private said you’re not going to do your part on Juno Beach. “I don’t understand the plan”, you say. So what. You do your part.

God is also an artist.

God is a sculptor. Ever walk through a sculptor’s studio? The universe is like God’s studio. If you did go to one, you’d see some completed beautiful pieces. Some unfinished, some things that don’t make sense, some areas of complete mess and rubble. Papers with crude drawings.

God is an artist a sculptor and we don’t understand it all. But most certainly there is a point to life and to our own particular life.

In many cultures there is a rite of passage into manhood, or the greater meaning of the culture, tribe, etc. These times are where young people are lifted out of self-centeredness and self-preoccupation to see that there is a bigger perspective for their own existence.

1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

Many years ago, well over a century in fact, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It’s 7x10 work that hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. It was the first large-scale pointillist painting. Seurat sat on a tall stool with a very long brush and created little dabs.

Only he saw the whole.

This picture makes no sense!

We often say that to God. I’ve said it, you’ve said it, and some of us are probably thinking it right now.

Job thought that. Remember Job? He had it all, and then he lost it all, through no fault of his own. His friends tried to comfort him, but ultimately they became angry with God and then so did God. “This picture makes no sense!”

After much complaining God answers in Job 38:1
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said

Basically God was saying, “You see nothing. Now let me ask you some questions. Where were you when I created the world?”

Job 40:15
Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.

"Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?”

I Babbled On About Things Far Beyond Me
Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'
I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

Meeting last week with Irv at Starbucks. God had outsmarted me once again. And I was in awe and sang to Him about that on the drive home, with the windows shut to prevent noise pollution!

Acts 17:24-27
"The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! One of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud. Carl Sandberg

The question is never “Is God speaking?” But rather, “What is God saying?”

When Rachel was two she fell off of a chair while being watched by her grandpa. He called me at work as she was bleeding. I raced home and took her to the hospital where she was given some stitches on her head. She couldn’t see the wound; she only knew her head hurt; she also knew that I was there but the pain was still strong and she was being hurt even as I held her! She didn’t grasp fully that the pain of the doctors was different than the other pain of the fall.

Now imagine if you will two dogs. One is on the outskirts of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. He sees a flash of light and is knocked to the ground by a blast of heat. Struggling to his feet a few minutes after and now unable to see out of one eye. The dog is suffering, but within his framework of canine consciousness, he ‘grasps’ his suffering. But never could he begin to understand that his suffering is the result of a terrible war among beings of a higher existence. The higher plane impinged on his world, but he remains oblivious to it. (C. S. Lewis)

Now think of another dog wandering into your library, your den at home. He sees everything there, the globe, the newspapers, the shelves of books, the computer, but he grasps none of it. That’s what we are like in the cosmos, says William James. We see it all, the joys and the sorrows, the colors that are so bright and so dark, but we have little or no insight into the higher world that it represents.

Let’s compare these ideas to a popular book called The Secret:

The Secret
You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet (p. 164).

The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret (p. 183).

Colossians 2:2-4
I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we've been shown the mystery! I'm telling you this because I don't want anyone leading you after other so-called mysteries, or "the Secret."

Your life isn’t about you!

You’re in the picture but it’s not about you!

The comforting thought, though, is the fact that we’re not alone. We are initiated into the great work of God, the Theodrama, with all of these other people!

"Good Friday and Easter Sunday have earned names on the church calendar. Yet in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. What the disciples experienced in small scale—three days in grief over one man who had died on a cross—we now live through on cosmic scale. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that includes Bosnia and Rwanda [the Virginia Tech Massacre] and inner-city ghettos and jammed prisons in the richest nation on earth? It's Saturday on planet earth. Will Sunday ever come?

That dark, Golgothan Friday can only be called Good because of what happened on Easter Sunday, a day which gives a tantalizing clue to the riddle of the universe. Easter opened up a
crack in a universe winding down toward entropy and decay, sealing the promise that someday God will enlarge the miracle of Easter to cosmic scale.

It is a good thing to remember that in the cosmic drama, we live out our days on Saturday, the in-between day with no name. I know a woman whose grandmother lies buried under 150 year old live oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with the grandmother's instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: "Waiting."

Though Jesus cast a vision for a better kingdom now and in the future, as long as it is Saturday, the fulfillment of that vision still awaits until Sunday dawns.”
Philip Yancey

Dog the Bounty Hunter and his little son: “I stopped praying for me and started praying for him.”

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Bad religion is about not trusting God, trying to avoid God or even outwitting him. Rowan Williams

We can trust the power, obey God, and follow Him even when we don’t see clearly. Imitate God.

Since we’ve been in some ways talking about suffering and evil and perspective we need to consider a particular response as a form of discipleship, of a faithful rendering of the Jesus Way.

Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

Usually in confrontation with evil we have two options: fight or flight. Both are dysfunctional. If we fight fire with fire it just makes the world hotter. Gandhi said “an eye for an eye and soon the whole world is blind.”

Jesus offers us a third way.

In ancient Israel you didn’t use your left hand as it was considered unclean. To hit with the back of the hand was to be in contempt. When Jesus says turn the other cheek He is saying to refuse to cooperate.

Apartheid South Africa- Bishop Desmond Tutu is walking by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. Tutu is at the beginning of the sidewalk.
A white man appears at the other end and recognizes Tutu:

“So it’s you, Bishop Tutu. Get off of the sidewalk. I don’t make way for gorillas.”

At which Bishop Tutu steps aside, makes a sweeping gesture, and says, “Ah, yes, but I do.”

"Where are you, God? It's something I have often asked myself. But I have learned that the real question is whether I have the courage to look for God in the midst of violence". Tom Barnet, pastor in Sierra Leone

Pope John Paul II's 1979 trip to Poland was the fulcrum of a revolution, which led to the collapse of Communism. Timothy Garton Ash put it this way, "Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism." Gorbachev himself gave the Kremlin's long-term enemy this due, "It would have been impossible without the Pope."

When the Pope met General Jaruzelski, the General was shaking as he read his speech. The Pope took his speech out and held it in front of him as if to say, “I’m not shaking.” Over a million people gathered to hear the Pope’s speech. He rode no tanks. People chanted, “We want God” for 17 minutes. General Jaruzelski said, "That was the detonator."

It changed everything. Turn the other cheek- it makes a difference!

1-1-1 principle: I hour of worship, 1 hour of spiritual growth and 1 hour of service. Not that much given a 168-hour week.

When being is divorced from doing, pious thoughts become a substitute for washing dirty feet. Brennan Manning

Mother Teresa referred to serving as reaching out to Christ "in all his distressing disguises."

..if one of us is chained…none of us are free!

We can’t se all the details when we’re on this path of the Jesus Way. But if we are centred, and being healed and sent, then even though we don’t understand it all we know what it means to be God’s friend, a saint.


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