Monthly Archives: May 2017

Who Do We Worship?

22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor[a] he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God[b] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  (Acts 17:22-31 NRSV)

He wandered through the streets of Athens gazing upon one statue after another.  He was amazed and distressed.  These weren’t simply works of art.  They were idols.  They represented the gods that the Athenians proudly worshiped.  Some of them represented the best in humanity.  Others the very worst.

Perhaps he saw Aphrodite’s likeness, goddess of love, desire and beauty.  She represented sex, affection and the kind of attraction that binds people together.  Or Apollo, god of music, healing, light and truth.  Then there was Ares, the god war represented by raw violence.  His companions were fear and terror.

These gods that were worshiped came from dysfunctional families.  They did harmful, even disgusting, things to each other.  They were more human than divine.  They cared only for themselves.

Paul had had enough.  Wandering from one statue to another, he felt disgusted.  Daily he argued in the synagogue and the marketplace.  He talked to anyone who would listen.  When he stumbled across some highly respected philosophers, they took him to the Council of Aeropagus, also known as Mars Hill.

How should he defend himself?  No.  He won’t defend himself.  Instead, he’ll share what he knows about the one true living God of heaven and earth.

How should he begin?  By meeting the people where they are.  They are polytheistic, worshiping many gods.  Start there.  And he begins by noting how religious the people are.  Why they even have an altar dedicated ‘to an unknown god.’  Great place to begin.  And he shares with them who this god is.

Who do we worship?  Strolling through our culture, we see worshipers of sex and desire and beauty.  We meet up with raw violence and terror and fear.  There are gods and idols wherever we go.  Ever felt fear that you might run out of  money despite a bulging bank book?  Welcome to the god of the fear of scarcity.  Rooting for someone’s demise?  You could be flirting with the god of power.

Who we worship is the one true living God.  Paul describes God in a way no earthly god could ever come close to emulating.  God is God of not just earth but also heaven.  This is our creator.  Not content to recline in temples and holy structures, God accompanies us wherever we are.  This isn’t the God who demands to be taken care of.  Rather, God takes care of us.

This God is inclusive, creating all of humanity.  We are the ones who can search, even grope around, and find God right there.

We worship the God of love who packed a suitcase and moved out Eden behind Adam and Eve; who marked the murderer Cain so that he wouldn’t be killed; who accompanied Judeans in exile to Babylon; who sent his only son to be with us and die for us.

We worship the God of justice who stands tall and announces that he loves us so much, that he won’t stand for our misbehavior any longer; who tests us like iron; who allows us to fail so that we can eventually succeed; who yearns for our repentance; who creates in us a clean heart for life made new.

We worship the God of power.  Power greater than any human could dream of.

We worship the God of healing and peace.

Our God isn’t involved in some dysfunctional life, thinking only of himself.  Our God is waiting for us to grope around and discover that he’s been there all along.  God isn’t our cosmic bell hop but God provides for our needs.

You can’t run from our God, but you can ignore him.  You can’t hide, but you are free to make your own decisions.  And this God is waiting for you.  Loving arms ready to enfold and provide.

If you haven’t tried it lately, go ahead.  Grope around.  You’ll bump into all kinds of grace.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

 

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Living Eternally Today

14 1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do. (John 14:1-14 The Message)

How do you say goodbye? Perhaps with a hug or a handshake and a few words like, “See you later,” or “Good seeing you again.”

How do you say goodbye for the last time? The feelings run a whole lot deeper. Memories with the dying loved one sweep across your eyes. You feel the pain, perhaps anger, because you haven’t had enough time. There’s never enough time.

How do you say goodbye?

Jesus sat at the Passover meal with his disciples, knowing it was his last meal; his last time alone with his friends. According to the writer of John’s Gospel, he washed their feet. Like a servant or a slave, he took their dirty, ugly feet into his hands and washed them clean.

“Wash each other’s feet from now on,” he told them. “Love one another just as I’ve loved you.”

It must have been an awe inspiring moment for them. Until the bad news arrived. He’s going to betrayed. Not by an outsider, but by one of his own. Peter announces that he’ll follow him into death.  “No, Peter.  You can’t come with me.  Yet.  And don’t get ahead of yourself.  You’ll deny me three times before the cock crows.”

Oh my.  This is bad news indeed.  The air is somber; filled with grief and confusion.  Jesus has given the disciples TMI: Too Much Information.

Their situation is no better than any other Messiah wandering the hills of Galilee and Judea.  He’ll be betrayed just as others have been betrayed.  He’ll be killed as others have been killed.  This wasn’t supposed to happen!  Not to Jesus!  He was different.  His ministry was different.

Betrayal and denying and death weren’t supposed to happen to Jesus.  This news is a crushing blow.  Jesus’ next words are important, because they are words of comfort.

“Don’t let this throw you.” (John 14:1 The Message)  It’s going to be okay.  You see, there’s hope. We’ll meet again.  Not just in three days, but in eternity.  There’s a place for you there and I’m going to prepare that place for you.  I’ll be back to take you there.

Thomas, the inquisitive one, asks a good question.  “We don’t know where you’re going.  How are we supposed to get there?”

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6 NRSV)

These words have been used to comfort and to guide.  They’ve also been used as a reason to hurt, even to kill.  But, look at the context.  Would Jesus share bad news and then tell his disciples that some people are “out” while they are “in”?  Or was he trying to comfort them with words they could hang onto through the ordeal to come?

What is Jesus’ “way?”  To find it, we must look at the broader view.  Jesus healed the sick, ministered to the ill at heart.  He built relationships, met people where they were.  He taught and he listened.

And so shall we.  We heal the sick by the miracle of conversation and connection in the presence of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  We minister to the ill at heart when we sit and listen and offer prayer.  We build relationships wherever we go.  We teach and are taught.

We learn about those who aren’t like us: the poor, the wealthy, the middle class; people of color, Asians, Anglo; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu.  We offer peace when we build bridges instead of walls.

Are we in and everyone else out?

One answer to is to look at the end of the Gospel of John.  Peter turns and sees the beloved disciple whom Jesus loved.  He asks Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come what is that to you?  Follow me!” (John 21:21-22 NRSV)

In other words, “that’s none of your business.”

The other answer I offer is later in our reading.  Jesus concludes this part of his farewell, by advising the disciples that, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12 NRSV)

In other words, “there’s work to be done.  Get moving!”

For Christians, we call our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  For Christians, the only way to the father is through him.  Jesus says that he has other sheep.  It not up to us to judge.  Our only possible way, is to follow the way of Jesus and keep working for the kingdom.

The rest of it is none of our business.

I find that statement restful.  I don’t have to worry about others.  That’s God’s job.  Mine is to follow in the way that Jesus walked, praying constantly for guidance and the right words to speak.

That’s how we live eternally, today.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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