Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We Are Not Squirrels

A true treasure of grace in Scripture comes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel.  "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing (5:25)?"  Life is more than food and more than clothing. 

Jesus uses examples from nature to make his point.  The birds don't worry and they are provided for.  The fields don't worry and flowers still grow to give amazing beauty.  If God will do that for them, how much more is God going to do for you... you created in the image of God? 

But nature also ends up being the example of worry to the extreme.  Look at the squirrels.  There whole existence is moving about looking for food, getting ready for winter, finding a mate from time to time I'm sure as well.  Their life is all about about.  Their existence is essential survival.  God provides for them giving them all kinds of trees to hop into, but there doesn't seem to be much else.

For us though, created in the image of God, life is so much more than food and clothing... so much more than searching for the essentials.  God provides us for those needs and provides enough for all of us.  I saw a tweet today from Bread for the World that states that "most hungry people now live in middle income countries."  God provides for our needs.  We are the ones who fail to distribute those necessity in a way that is just.

God gives us permission to stop acting like squirrels.  Stop hording.  Life is more than food and more than clothing.  Life is more than stuff.  Life is more than securing your future. 

Christ has secured our future for us through the cross.  We have received forgiveness of sins through his generous love and been promised eternal life, spiritual life through baptism.  God provides for our needs to day and promises us a future for tomorrow.

So how do we occupy our time if we are not spending it hording for a rainy day, preparing for the worst that life can dish out to us.  Oh life can sure dish it out.  Taking an image from Revelation: The dragon is on the lose and he hurts.  There is much to be worried about.  But through Christ we have been given permission to let it go.  Give it to God.  Christ has beaten the dragon, who is on his last breath.  Don't let worry control your life.  Stop being a squirrel.

Instead: "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (5:33)."  God gives you what you need.  Striving for righteousness and living in faith now opens you up to live the kingdom now and live in righteous light of Christ.  Squirrels don't live in that light.  We do.  Living faith frees us from worry and fear.  Living faith moves us to act on behalf of others, justly sharing with those in need.     

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Where Have You Gone Twinkies?

"The future of the Twinkie remains uncertain..." so says a newspaper article today.  A couple days ago the bakery that makes the world famous Twinkie shut down in the midst of a labor dispute.  Since that announcement the nation has had to come to grips with the very real possibility that there will be no more Twinkies. 

I have not been surprised by the national response.  People everywhere are talking about it.  The Twinkie represents America in many ways and on many levels and the idea that these soft, spongy twin yellow cakes filled with delicious cream filling might be gone forever has struck a pretty strong cord.  The Twinkie that we have taken for granted might be no more. 

Is there any snack cake quite like the Twinkie?  It can withstand a nuclear blast.  Its convenient and cheap.  Its has a unique taste that we loved as kids but grew to think otherwise as adults.  The Twinkie represents our society's unhealthy eating habits and yet is ingenious: an easy snack for any time and place.  It represents American ingenuity and a simpler time when we didn't care about what we fed our kids.  It was the first purchase many kids made as young consumers.  Where have you gone Twinkies?

As much as anything the Twinkie touches our very sensitive nostalgia button: A button that is lit bright red (and green) this time of year.  "O the way things used to be."  We mourn our childhood and lost loved ones.  We miss at least the ideas of what life used be like and those Twinkies, just like Christmas, play an important role in those memories of the mind.

No spot is so dear to my childhood...
Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?  Where have you gone Twinkies?  Where have you gone the happy Christmases of the past?  Where have you gone O church in the wildwood?

Nostalgia is to faith as Twinkies are to Holy Communion.  It is a phony, sugary substitute that is bad for our health physically and spiritually.  Jesus is Lord today and calls you to follow today.  When we do consider the past, we do it through the eyes of faith... thanking God for the great cloud of witnesses that sowed the seeds of faith in us and our community.

We will begin our Jubilee Year, Fiftieth Anniversary celebration this month at Resurrection with our Christmas Tapestry concert on Sunday, December 16.  We thank God for the many ways we have been Making Christ Known to All through the years and we will look back, not through the cloudy sticky nostalgic lens we use when we look at the Twinkie, but through the lens of truth based on faith in Christ.  God is on the loose right now and will be doing great things through all of you today and tomorrow because of the Spirit's unending power.

Personally, I think we're going to have Twinkies for a long time to come.  But if we don't I suppose we can hold on the memories of those delicious cakes and that cream filling unlike any other...  We will be fine.  We will also have Christ from now till everlasting.  Christ is King and his Kingdom will stand forever.  Having been bathed in the waters of baptism this future is assured.        

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Everything You Got

Open to abundant joy... and overflowing generosity.
There is a story in Mark's Gospel where Jesus does some observing.  He already has observed the scribes.  He sees their long robes.  He sees how much they enjoy the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  He also is watching how rich people are putting money into the temple treasury.  Many are putting in large sums.  It's the widow he points out to others.  He sees that she is poor.  We can imagine what he saw.  Jesus also sees that she puts into the treasury a couple pennies.  He knows it's everything she has.  "She out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on (Mark 12:44b)." 

Jesus leaves it at that.  He doesn't tell us to go and do likewise.  He is just stating what he sees.  But we are moved by his observations.  Don't we like the best seats as well, nice clothes and the like?  Maybe we given, even large sums.  But have we given everything we've got?  Is this really what Jesus expects?  He doesn't say. 

The Spirit says, however.  We know Jesus loves us completely and we know that Jesus wants our hearts.  We have heard Jesus teach us that "where your heart is, there your treasure will be also."  Living in the light of Christ's love means living with your hands wide open... open to receive from God... open to give back.  A heart that belongs to Jesus is a heart that is filled with abundant joy, thankful for all the ways that God has provided for our needs.  It also is a heart that overflows with generosity.  We cheerfully give back while our heart sings out of gratitude and love.

Jesus doesn't say whether the poor widow was singing.  He didn't see that.  But we can be sure she was not giving out of obligation, nor out of guilt.  May she not be an example of the scribes devouring widow's houses as we hear in Mark 12:40. 

Instead she is a living example of living hope.  Completely dependent on God, she gives everything she has away.  The Lord, is it the source of hope for everyone and is her source of hope as well.  She is living that hope and can now live with the abundant joy Jesus offers to us all. 

By living with your hands wide open you are giving faith everything you got.  You are open to God's love and his blessing to be showered on you.  You are free to overflow with generosity.  Where's your heart when you live this way?  What's your heart singing?  As you live with your hands wide open may it be free to sing a song of praise and thanksgiving... experiencing the abundant joy that only comes through faith. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Electoral College

One of my favorite computer games.
The game of presidential politics fascinates me.  It always has.  When I was a kid in the 1980's I would play the old PC game "President Elect" over and over again on our family's Apple IIe (the first and last Apple Computer I ever used regularly).  There were no graphics on that game.  Just lines of questions and choices about where to campaign and what issues to focus on and what type of advertising to use.  I would re-create the 1980 and 1976 races over and over again.  Rarely would Ford beat Carter in '76 and Reagan always triumphed over President Carter in '80 but it was fun anyhow.  You could even try running the races with different candidates.  How would Kennedy have fared in 1980?  I loved that stuff.

I take that back about the graphics... there was one screen with graphics in "President Elect": the big map of the US indicating which candidate was winning in each state and which states were too-close-to-call.  It's a map you are familiar with.  Back in the 80's though it was the Republicans indicated by blue and the Democrat states were red.  That's the way they were displayed in President Elect and there's a story that Nancy Reagan (always known for loving to wear red) wore blue at President Reagan's second inauguration because the whole map was colored blue for her husband on election day.
A blue Nancy Reagan

I loved pouring all my resources into states that were too-close-to-call.  What a great feeling it was when you could pull a state to your favor that way, but also how frustrating it was when, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't get a state to budge.   

In a lot of ways following the polls in our presidential election campaign the past month has felt like my old "President Elect" game.  Those polls just are not budging.  No matter how much President Obama and Gov. Romney put into those swing states the polls have pretty much remained just as they have been. 

I will be voting tomorrow and I hope every American eligible to vote will do the same.  I will also be riveted to the election results tomorrow night.  Thanks to my faith, I am able to look at the results with a whole lot more grains of salt than I used to when I was younger.  I see good in both candidates and understand human nature enough to know that no one party or candidate represents total good or wickedness.  God is the source of our hope and I pray God guides us to have leaders that will help us be a just and prosperous nation. 

I am fascinated to know if these unwavering polls are going to turn our right.  Will the President, who is no where near as popular as he was in 2008, really only going to lose a couple of percentage points nationally?  Are conservative Christians really going to come out in full force to vote for a Mormon to be president?  Will the President really win Ohio by 3 or 4 points?  Did Sandy have an impact of solidifying support for the President?  Do the polls actually short-change Republicans as some are claiming? 

I'm going to enjoy tomorrow night... and I'm sure I'll be up late.