Sermon

February 16, 2020-The Rev. Deacon Maryann Younger

By February 19, 2020March 3rd, 2020No Comments

For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power and sees everything.
I speak to you in the name of the one God, who creates, redeems and sustains us.

I’m a visual learner.
Things just make more sense to me
if I can see them and not just read
or hear about them.
Whenever I move to a new place,
or even want to rearrange a single room,
I make a scale model of the space
and all of the furniture.
I get out my quarter inch to the foot graph paper,
my tape measure, markers for color coding things,
scissors, the works.
Then I sit and rearrange the room
to my heart’s content
without ever once hurting my back.

I’ve thought that it might be cool
to use one of the programs
where I can do this is 3-D on my computer,
but I’ve never taken the time
to figure out how to do that.
And graph paper works just fine for rearranging things.
It helps me to see the bigger picture.

Sometimes, it is hard to see the big picture in our own lives.
Times when the future seems murky.
It might feel like we are being
pulled in a new direction or
pushed away from an old way of doing things.
When the path we’ve been following
just doesn’t make as much sense as it used to.
For me, those times are troubling.

Over the last 15 years of my life,
I have learned why these times are unsettling…
Those insistent feelings mean that God is about to rearrange my life.

My call to ordained ministry
was not a straight path by any means.
I was living a perfectly lovely life
running a Montessori School,
active in my church,
serving the community
on a couple of non-profit boards,
my two kids were in early adolescence…
Heck, I was a girl scout leader!
Why in the world was God calling me
to set it all aside everything I knew
and follow a path to ordained ministry?

To drop everything
and completely rearrange my life?
And on top of it all, Kris Younger,
my husband of twenty something years at the time,
reminded me that he did not in fact, marry a priest.

So, I went back to God,
and I explained all this,
and told her that I had another way
where we could accomplish the very same goals.
I had some other suggestions of how things could go
that I wanted God to consider.
Yes, I actually thought I could open a negotiation with God.

Fifteen years later and
you can see how that negotiation turned out.
(And no worries, Kris is ok now…
Those intervening years were full of
grace-filled moments for both of us!)

So I speak from experience
when I tell you that God
has a way of flipping our perspectives,
asking us to do things
that we think are out of our reach,
impossible in the
current context of our lives.
Rearranging what we know by asking us to go deeper,
to get to the heart of what is true.

And frankly, that is hard to hear,
because most of us like things
to be stable and predictable.
We like to know that there are rules,
laws that keep us on the straight and narrow.

I can think of several simple ones
on my way to church this morning:
The oncoming cars will stay in their lane;
we will let passengers off the train before we board it;
we wait until [what my family calls] the “walking man” light blinks on before crossing the street.
Rules that are there to keep us safe.

Both the reading from Sirach and our Psalm
speak to the law that God gave to the Israelites.
These are known as the Decalogue,
or more commonly the Ten Commandments,
or what I like to think of as God’s Top Ten.

Much more important than simple traffic rules,
these are a solid list of moral and ethical rules.

The first four are about our relationship with God,
1.God is the only God,
2. don’t worship any idol or thing instead of God,
(and that includes wealth, or fame)
3. no taking the name of God in vain, and
4. to remember the Sabbath as a day of rest
and keep it holy.

The last six are about our relationship with each other, so
Honor your parents,
no murdering,
no adultery,
no stealing,
no lying.
Don’t envy what other people have.

I think we all would agree,
this is a pretty good list, right?
Truly, if everyone stuck to honoring these commandments,
these laws,
the world would be a better place. A safer place.

Our Psalm says
Happy (or Blessed) are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!
Who never do any wrong
but always walk in his ways!

And I want to know, who are these people??
And where do they live?
They are certainly not us, are they…

But then here comes Jesus
bringing new meaning to these laws.
Stretching them and reinterpreting them.
Remember what Julie preached about last week:
Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but fulfill it.

And he goes deeper pointing not just to actions,
but the intentions behind those actions.
He is calling out what I think of
as the slippery slope
of unchecked emotions that get us in trouble.

Murder is still very wrong,
but it is more about the anger
that led to that kind of violence
that Jesus wants to talk about.
It is the underlying causes of what divides
us from one another.
When we insult or diminish others, making them an “other”
that creates barriers and obstacles
to seeing them as children of God.
Those are the things we need to address.
They are at the heart of the problem.

Adultery is still very wrong,
but it starts with looking lustily
at another person.
In wanting what it not ours to have.

And then Jesus says all this outrageous stuff
about tearing our eye out,
or cutting our hands off if they cause us to sin,
tossing various parts of our body away to save the rest of it …
and he’s being metaphorical here
these teachings are hardly literal,
I mean, we’d all be a bunch of mangled bodies…
but you get his point, right?

We can’t blame or punish our bodies
for doing what our hearts and minds know to be wrong.

The bottom line is that
Knowing what we know,
we need to take drastic action
to avoid situations where temptation is likely.

As followers of Christ, we must now live up
to a higher standard.
One where we have an awareness
of our inward state and not just our outward impulses.
There are higher expectations for our behavior.

It calls us to reflect and align
our behaviors with the teachings of Jesus.
Not only recognize where we have hurt others,
but to make amends and reconcile
with those we have harmed.
To forgive one another.

I’m wondering, (pause)
if we took Jesus up on his instructions today
to not come to this altar before reconciling
with our brothers or sisters,
or any broken relationship for that matter,
where would you go?
Who would you make peace with?
Or, who would you allow back into your own life,
someone who has hurt you,
so that they can reconcile with you?

(Big Pause.)

To love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Jesus teaches us that a Godly life
is one that requires new perspectives
on what we know.

This is a big love that Jesus is talking about.
It requires allowing God into our hearts unabashedly.

But here’s the thing:
that kind of space in our hearts is so big,
that you might need to rearrange your life
and your priorities to fit it all in.
Clearing out the things that don’t fit
with what the gospels are teaching.
Making lots of room in your heart for God.

CS Lewis tells the following story:
“Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house.
At first, perhaps, you can understand
what is happening.
The drains are getting reconfigured
and the leaks in the roof are stopped, and so on;
you knew that those jobs needed doing
and so you are not surprised.

But presently God starts knocking the house about
in a way that hurts immensely
and does not seem to make any sense.
What on earth is God up to?

The explanation is that God
is building quite a different house
from the one you thought of –

throwing out a new wing here,
putting on an extra floor there,
running up towers,
making courtyards.
You thought you were being made
into a decent little cottage:
but God is building a palace.
God intends to come and live in it
with you.”

My friends,
God intends to live with us,
so our houses needs some expansion.
Some rearranging.
Seeing things from a different perspective.

This new construction will not be a comfortable thing.
But be assured, it will be a good thing.
A Godly thing.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power and sees everything.
AMEN

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