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Sermon: Engage in the “impossible possibility” (July 4, 2010)

September 13, 2010

(This is a sermon I gave on July 4, 2010, at the Treasure Valley Metropolitan Community Church in Boise, Idaho.)

Today we read three stories

  1. Namaan going to Elisha to be healed of leprosy
  2. Luke telling of the sending of the 70 to be apostles – sending out lambs among the wolves.
  3. Paul exhorting the people of Galatia to treat those who transgress with gentleness.

How do these work together? What are we to learn?

Well, there is some “good news” in these stories, and some “bad news” –

THE BAD NEWS:

Butt Prints in the Sand

One night I had a wondrous dream.

One set of foot prints there were seen.

The foot prints of my precious Lord

but mine were not along the shore.

But then some stranger prints appeared.

I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”

These prints are large and round and neat

but Lord, they are too big for feet.

My child he said in somber tones.

For miles I carried you alone.

I challenged you to walk in faith

but you refused and made me wait.

You disobeyed, you would not grow;

the walk of faith you would not know.

So I got tired, I got fed up

and there I dropped you on your butt.

Because in life there comes a time

when one must fight and one must climb.

When one must rise and take a stand

or leave your butt prints in the sand.

1.  Namaan: –

  • King of Aram’s request was seen as his trying to pick a fight
  • Namaan refusing to follow Elisha’s message.  “I thought that for me (since I’m such an important person and a foreigner) that he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would (himself) wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Afterall, aren’t our rivers better than these here in Israel?” He wanted a spectacular healing – not just a run-of-the-mill healing.

2.  In Luke, the Lord sent out the 70 –

  • Jesus recognizes that there will be a lot of butt-dropping on this mission. He even warns the apostles: as lambs into the midst of wolves.
  • The apostles are “privileged” to be taking out the message.  They are tempted to think it’s “their doing” that gets them successes, AND
  • When they come back, they’re happy (proud of) at their achievement. Jesus reminds them to not rejoice that spirits are subjected to them. “Even an apostle or an evangelist is a justified sinner.”

3.  In Galatians Paul criticizes the people who preach circumcision, not for the good of the uncircumcised, (although that was the original intent of the law of circumcision), but these guys seemed to be boasting about their faith. – (“Nanny nanny nanny – I’m circumcised, and I know! I’m here to teach you since I know! Be like me and get yourself circumcised!”)

I think we were born butts – or with the propensity for buttiness.

STORY: Marcy, my daughter, and I were at Vacation Bible school:  We were trying to teach loving responses to unloving ones – We asked the kids, “What would you do if . . .” Unquestionably, the primary answer was, “I’d flatten him!”

One child answered the question, “Do you love God?”:  “NO!”

Well, we’re not really any different after we grow up.

  • Those Muslims, they’re killers, ignorant, unchristian, scary. . .
  • Those Mexicans, they’re just stealing our social services. . .
  • Those straights, they’re so intolerant of us. . .
  • That store clerk was sooo rude . . .
  • Blah de blah de blah.

We may not say it out loud, but we think unkind, ungentle, uncomplimentary things

AND – we really want to get even . . .

  • Let’s blow them all up
  • Let’s send them back or throw them in jail
  • Let’s ship everyone with HIV to an island and nuke it
  • I’ll get even with you

We are even  sanctimonious in our thoughts and responses:

  • What goes around comes around
  • You’ll get yours – after all it says in the Bible, (in today’s reading in fact) – you reap what you sow – Ha Ha Ha

The picture I’m getting is that we are all butts in some way or another. And there are many times a day that we leave our butt prints in the sand.

We all transgress. We all act like butts at one time or another.  Some of us more than others!  And we’re quick to notice and point it out!. “You transgressor you,” and in so doing transgress ourselves.  We are so missing the point.

The point is: We are always, everywhere, anytime, anyhow, being called, like Paul said, to restore anyone who “is detected in a transgression” in a spirit of gentleness.  But at the same time he warns us, “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”  He knows we’re just as capable as he is of being a butt.  And he also knows that we are just as capable as he is of restoring others in a spirit of gentleness.

Why do we have to keep getting dropped on our butts?  Why do we keep being so butt-headed?

Here’s my answer to those questions:   Because we reap what we sow!  (Sound sanctimonious?)  If we point our fingers at others in criticism and judgment, who is the transgressor?

THE GOOD NEWS:

Our first job today, is to recognize our buttiness, deal gently with ourselves, and if and when we recognize another’s buttiness,  we do as Paul suggests:  “You who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”  Sow gentleness. Reap gentleness.

Second, Paul goes on to say, “Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all . . .”

For the good of all . . .

Today is Independence day.

You know, patriotism can be a dangerous thing if it leads to amnesia about the dark patches of our nation’s history.

And it can leave us shortsighted if our nationalism prevents us from seeing pain or hope beyond our borders.

As an American, and especially as a Christian, I am convinced that a love for our own people is not a bad thing,

but love doesn’t stop at borders.

One spiritual teacher said, “Love is infinitely boundless and all about holy trespassing and offensive friendships.” (parens mine)

I read “offensive” two ways:

  • taking the offense and
  • learning to deal with friendships that are offensive to us

Here in America, we are taught to celebrate Independence:

But independence and individualism have come at a great price.

  • Among the wealthy and industrialized countries we have become the richest people in the world,
  • But, we also have some of the highest rates of loneliness, depression, and suicide. We are rich, sad, and lonely.
  • We are living into patterns that not only leave much of the world hungry for bread and starved for justice
  • But,  also leave us longing for the good life and for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves.

The good news is that we are not alone in the world.

The good news is that today, and every day, we can celebrate INTER-DEPENDENCE DAY!

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.”

He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. (Think of the countless people that worked to provide our clothes, toothbrushes and paste, coffee, cups, cereal, etc. etc. etc.)

STORY: Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that there is a whole  world in a piece of paper (the paper producer, the pulp maker, the logger, the tree, the birds that nest in the tree, the soil, the sunshine, the clouds that produce the rain that waters the tree, the ocean or lake that evaporates, etc., etc., etc.)

So today, we can celebrate Interdependence day, recognizing the fact that we are part of a global neighborhood.  Let’s appreciate all the invisible people in our lives.

Rather than lamenting the fact that we, as part of the human family, are so terribly dysfunctional, let’s recognize that in this world, there are no godless zones.

In spite of our turning away from God, our stubborn independence,  our buttiness, God still moves through our lives, calling us to a larger vision of ourselves and our communities.

We are, called to be God’s partners in– spreading gentleness, i.e. healing the earth.

Important to remember, though, are our Lord’s words:  “I am calling you to be lambs, amidst the wolves.”

There be wolves, friends! But don’t forget: we is them!

Christ sends us out to inaugurate an era of peace and reconciliation in which “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together.” (Is 65:25)

There seems to always be a misunderstanding when people like us are invited to go out and spread the Good News.  It always sounds like we’re supposed to go preach and tell everybody “Go tell it on the Mountain.” “Shout it from the roof tops, Jesus is Lord!”

I don’t think that’s what the Good News is today:

Rather, we are to go out there and live the values of gentleness, compassion, acceptance, not condemning nor rejecting anyone.

That how the teaching and preaching takes place:   With our lives, within our hearts and minds.

Becoming, like Namaan, new creatures –

  • washed 7 times and coming out squeaky clean,
  • healed of the leprous meddling, self-deceiving, judging buttiness  that we have practiced, that has decayed us and made us yucky and smelly to others and to ourselves.

That’s how we heal our world, by becoming new creatures.

I invite you to engage in the “impossible possibility”:

  • imagine a larger, better world and
  • work to achieve it –
  • become the solution you want to see everywhere
  • model your newness and gentleness
  • and  give others something to imitate

Peace be to your house as peace resides in your heart.  Tear away the veil and show others that peace dwells in them, just as it dwells in you.  Like the apostles in Luke, show them how close the kingdom already is to them.

Amen.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heidi smith permalink
    September 13, 2010 8:23 am

    Nancy what a great sermon. Your right we r all butts. I loved it and I will have lots to ponder today. Thanks

    • September 13, 2010 9:24 am

      Hey Heidi! So glad you stopped by. How’s my friend? Curt tells me Brady doesn’t wear a seatbelt! Tsk! Tsk!
      Hope you visit often.

      Love
      Nancy

      • Heidi smith permalink
        October 10, 2010 11:45 pm

        Lol we got a kick out of giving him a hard time for honking at us. I’m making him wear it some times in the old truck he’s kinda sneaky.

      • nancy permalink*
        October 11, 2010 6:32 am

        How about getting him to wear it ALL the time. He’s too precious to NOT wear it. PLEASE! Tell him Grannancy said it’s A MUST. (i.e. NOT AN OPTION!!!!) She wants to see him grow up beautiful and whole!!!

        Love you guys.
        Nancy

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