September 27, 2015

 

We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 3

“By What Logic Do You Live? “

       

Rev. Pam Serdar

 

 

Children’s time: If I say 11223344, what comes next? 55

If a say 135, what comes next? 7

If I say ZYX, what comes next? W

If I say Apple, Broccoli, Cotton Candy, what comes next?

One of the ways we learn is to figure out patterns and learn the rules of the systems—like math, and language, and even foods we eat or not.

In this culture, we probably would not say durian for D in the list we just talked about. Durian is a favorite in Asian countries, but most folks who are not in Asian countries don’t like it. I’ve had Durian Ice Cream, and I thought it tasted like motor oil, but my friend from Africa finished the dish. We do have to be careful with our patterns, and remember that they may not be universal—not wrong, but not the same for everyone. Another example: Tall people often get asked where they play basketball. That’s because we have noticed a pattern that basketball players are often tall (but not always, and not all tall people play, either). Patterns when it comes to people are generally not a good idea—each of us is unique, and you can’t tell much of anything about a person by looking at them. Tall, short, light or dark skinned, wearing pants or wearing dresses, all kinds of hair colors or types, we might think there is a pattern there, but really, the only thing we can be sure of is that they are a child of God. That’s the pattern of people—we are all children of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon

 

We’re continuing with our sermon series on We Make the Road by Walking, by Brian McLaren. This week we are on Chapter 3, and next week will be Chapter 4. We meet on Wednesday evenings at 6:15 to discuss the next week’s chapter. Join us any time.

 

In the Gospel attributed to John, we read those poetic words that are essentially John’s understanding of Jesus’ birth story. There are no angels or magi or shepherds or stars; there is just the pre-existent Logos: the Word. The scripture is familiar and romantic and beautiful, but we’re going a bit deeper today. Let’s start with the Word. We often think of the Word as another name for Jesus, and it is, kind of, but I think of the Word as more appropriately the Christ, the redeeming power of God, rather than the Word-made-Flesh, or Jesus. Logos is also  the principle of divine reason and creative order (Oxford Dictionary). Logos then is identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate (in flesh) in Jesus Christ.

Logos is where we get the term Logic. The first definition of Logic is the reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity as in

§  a particular system or codification of the principles of proof and inference (inductive or deductive reasoning)

§  the systematic use of symbolic and mathematical techniques to determine the forms of valid deductive argument. (language, math)

§  the quality of being justifiable by reason; there is a logic to it; it is reasonable:

No wonder  we use the word logic to speak about the system or set of principles underlying the arrangements of elements in a computer or electronic device so as to perform a specified task. (Oxford)

So Jesus, as the Logos in John, is the principle of divine reason and creative order made flesh. In other words, Jesus is the lived pattern for God’s divine reason and creative order in a human life.

            What does that tell us about God? What is the pattern we discern, and therefore are also called to make flesh?

·        We are patterned to be human, with skin and bones. This human body, with all of its perceived “flaws” is beautiful, functional and appropriate. It isn’t dirty, or ugly in its endless variety, it was all of humanity that is pronounced “good” at creation. We don’t know what Jesus looked like, but as a fully human being, he may or may not have lived up to ancient or current standards of beauty. Humanity is important in the pattern. Conforming to a cultural standard of beauty is not. God creates us in God’s image, and that means that the human, body, mind, and spirit, are considered good by God. We are called to respect and honor other bodies just as God honors ours.

·        We are patterned to feel deeply for our companions on our life’s journey. Jesus weeps for Lazarus and his family at his death, even though we are told the story of Lazarus’ resuscitation. Jesus mourns over Jerusalem. God, in the second story of creation, replaces Adam and Eve’s hastily assembled fig leaf clothing with clothing of skins as God’s heart breaks at their loss of innocence. God then, weeps with and for us, in the midst of our pain and suffering.

·        We are patterned to work for the healing of individuals. There are multiple stories of Jesus healing; the blind man, the woman with the hemorrhage, the ten lepers, the man possessed by a legion of demons (about 6,000), just to name a few. God then, desires and works for our healing. Note that in this life, we are still human, and we still eventually die. Healing is not just physical, but also spiritual. We are also called to work for healing, whether it is corporately, working for healthcare for all people, or individually, walking alongside folks who are suffering with dis-ease of any kind.

·        We are patterned to feed those who are hungry. Jesus feeds the multitude, one of the only stories included in all of the gospels. We get a glimpse of this pattern all through the older testament too, when God provides food in the garden, manna and water in the desert, for example. We are also called to work for justice in changing the systems that allow for some people to hungry. The UN says that 21,000 people die every day from hunger and hunger-related diseases. That’s one every 4 seconds. That’s 900 lives lost, most of them children, in the hour we will spend in worship today.  In the meantime, other folks, like those in the US, collectively throw away $165 billion worth of food every year (about 40% of it). It isn’t that there isn’t enough food in the world, it is that we have ignored the holy pattern of feeding people, and choose not to develop the culture and means to distribute it.

·        We are patterned to work for transformation through peaceful means and not violent means. Jesus does not raise, or threaten to raise, a sword against anyone. In fact, he heals the servant’s ear that Peter cuts off and calls Peter out in the story of Jesus’ arrest. We might be tempted to say that God is incredibly violent in the older testament—drowning everyone in the story of Noah, commanding the Israelites to kill everything that moves as they take over the Promised Land, using the image of rape for the people of Israel when they are unfaithful. When I read these, and then contemplate the pattern of Jesus, my heart says that the stories of a violent God are more likely the projections of a violent humanity on God—the way they want God to be, rather than the way that God is.   

·        We are patterned to confront the systems of injustice around us. The story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple model for us that confrontation and civil disobedience are sometimes necessary to move the culture towards justice. For those who claim this is a model of Jesus being violent, if we go back to the text, we see that nowhere does it say that Jesus struck anyone or any animal. In addition, only John’s gospel includes a whip. If you have ever been around animals, you know that the sound of a whip cracking alone is enough to spook animals into moving. In addition,  the story about if a person asks you to carry a pack one mile, we should carry it two is deceptively simple. The Roman military could conscript anyone, without warning, to carry a back for them for one mile. However, the legal limit was one mile. For a person to carry it two miles would get the soldier in trouble, and this was a form of non-violent protest. We learn by Jesus’ action that God advocates for confronting systems of injustice around us in all kinds of non-violent ways.

·        We are patterned to break unjust rules. Jesus gleaned on the Sabbath, because it was the only way the poor could get enough to eat. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, because healing is a sacred act that knows no day or time or season. Jesus touched dead bodies, women’s work that by human rules left a woman ritually unclean. Jesus and his disciples ate without washing, because the poor were excluded by the purity laws. God then, is a breaker of unjust rules, particularly those ascribed to God by humans that exclude people from grace.

·        We are patterned to be in community, not a community of those we consider only our equals or better, but all people, especially those who are the least, the lost, and the left out. Jesus hung out with lepers, tax collectors, and untouchables of all kinds. God then is patterned to be in community—the Trinity of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit is the traditional way to demonstrate this. We too are called to be in community, not just thinking holy thoughts in the comfort of our own homes, but getting our hands and feet dirty out and about in the world. It isn’t always pleasant, it doesn’t always go the way we want, be we too are called to be in community.

·        We are patterned to pray for our enemies and to forgive them. Even on the cross, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Another really difficult one, but as God reconciles with Israel and humanity every time they mess up, we too are called to forgive those who wrong us.

·        We are patterned to be humble. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Humble doesn’t mean we are to be doormats, but that we know who and whose we are. Patterned after Jesus, we are to be fully human. We are not called to be God, a mistake we make in our hubris.

·        We are patterned to give our own lives for the sake of others. This one is really, really difficult, and I struggle with the most. Jesus is willing to set aside his own life for the sake of the world—to take his teaching and actions to their logical, but horrifying conclusion when he stands up to power. Not because God requires it, but because anyone who does all of these other things we are patterned to do will result in the a backlash from those who prefer the status quo. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example of the pattern. Mahatma Gandhi follows the pattern. Gandhi, also said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He  doesn’t like Christians but likes Christ, I’m guessing, because he knows that those of us who call ourselves Christians have not patterned ourselves after the example of Christ.

There are other logic patterns for the living of our lives, of course. The most prevalent of all in our culture is consumerism. “We are what we own” or “the one who dies with the most toys wins” is the consumer logic’s key mantra. It is the one that is pushed at us as the norm on billboards, on pop up adds, on television, in magazines, all over every website we access. Its high holy days are the Christmas season, starting with Black Friday. It tells us we can never have enough, and we are so special that we need to treat ourselves over and over again.

Another prevalent logic pattern is might makes right. The most powerful, the most brutal, the most intimidating person or neighborhood or nation wins. McLaren calls this rivalry, and describes it well as “the cosmos is a huge battlefield or coliseum in which participants can survive only by competing, defeating, deceiving, displacing, or killing their rivals. In this universe, the strongest survive, the ruthless are rewarded, the kind are killed, and the meek are crushed. You’d better fight, or you’ll be trampled.” (p. 23) It’s a Gordon Gekko pattern of “Greed is good.”

McLaren names compliance, and meaninglessness (universe as machine) as other patterns. You can probably name more.

This week, consider who you have patterned yourself after. Consider who this nation has patterned itself after. Like baby ducks or monkeys, we look to those around us and pattern our behavior on them. Jesus gives us a logical system of patterns that, in our world, just as it was in his world, seems to be very illogical or even downright crazy. Isn’t it grand!?! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·        John 1:1-17

In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
    and without the Word
    nothing came into being.
What came into being
    through the Word was life,
    and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.

The true light that shines on all people
    was coming into the world.
10 The light was in the world,
    and the world came into being through the light,
        but the world didn’t recognize the light.
11 The light came to his own people,
    and his own people didn’t welcome him.
12 But those who did welcome him,
        those who believed in his name,
    he authorized to become God’s children,
13         born not from blood
        nor from human desire or passion,
        but born from God.
14 The Word became flesh
    and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
    glory like that of a father’s only son,
        full of grace and truth.

15 John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’”

16 From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
17     as the Law was given through Moses,
    so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.

 

Proverbs 8 Doesn’t Wisdom cry out
    and Understanding shout?
Atop the heights along the path,
    at the crossroads she takes her stand.
By the gate before the city,
    at the entrances she shouts:

I cry out to you, people;
    my voice goes out to all of humanity.
Understand skill, you who are naive.
    Take this to heart, you fools.
Listen, for I speak things that are correct;
    from my lips comes what is right.
My mouth utters the truth;
    my lips despise wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
    nothing in them is twisted or crooked.
All of them are straightforward to those who understand,
    and upright for the knowledgeable.
10 Take my instruction rather than silver,
    knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 Wisdom is better than pearls;
    nothing is more delightful than she.

12 I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence;
    I have found knowledge and discretion.
13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil.
    I hate pride and arrogance,
        the path of evil and corrupt speech.
14 I have advice and ability,
    as well as understanding and strength.
15 By me kings rule,
    and princes issue righteous decrees.
16 By me rulers govern,
    and officials judge righteously.
17 I love those who love me;
    those who seek me will find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me,
    as well as enduring wealth and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold;
    my crops are better than choice silver.
20 I walk on the way of righteousness,
    on the paths of justice,
21     to provide for those who love me
        and to fill up their treasuries.

22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his way,
    before his deeds long in the past.
23 I was formed in ancient times,
    at the beginning, before the earth was.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs flowing with water.
25 Before the mountains were settled,
    before the hills, I was brought forth;
26     before God made the earth and the fields
    or the first of the dry land.
27 I was there when he established the heavens,
    when he marked out the horizon on the deep sea,
28     when he thickened the clouds above,
    when he secured the fountains of the deep,
29     when he set a limit for the sea,
        so the water couldn’t go beyond his command,
    when he marked out the earth’s foundations.
30 I was beside him as a master of crafts.
    I was having fun,
    smiling before him all the time,
31     frolicking with his inhabited earth
    and delighting in the human race.

32 Now children, listen to me:
    Happy are those who keep to my ways!
33 Listen to instruction, and be wise;
    don’t avoid it.
34 Happy are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorposts.
35 Those who find me find life;
    they gain favor from the Lord.
36 Those who offend me
injure themselves; all those who hate me love death.

Footnotes:

a.     Proverbs 8:16 Heb uncertain

b.     Proverbs 8:26 Heb lacks God.

c.      Proverbs 8:30 Heb uncertain

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Psalm 145:1-16

Psalm 145

Praise. Of David.

145 I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.
One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
They will talk all about the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments.
They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness:
    “The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.
    The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends, to all his handiwork!”
10 All that you have made gives thanks to you, Lord;
    all your faithful ones bless you!
11 They speak of the glory of your kingdom;
    they talk all about your power,
12     to inform all human beings about God’s power
    and the majestic glory of God’s kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever;
    your rule endures for all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says,
    faithful in all that he does.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.