Sunday, June 12, 2011

The power of words / the words of power

One of things that I love about our summer devotional book, An Altar in the World, is its strive towards simplicity. The author Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them.” When I read this, I cannot help but think of sunrises. I remember as a youth staying up at an all-nighter that ended with watching the sunrise on the beach in Santa Cruz. It was a beautiful sight. Shafts of light mixed with shots of color. It was static and yet it was ever changing. Concepts like Awareness. The presence of God. Being filled with the Spirit, Concepts that always seemed a bit abstract, started to much sense. You could almost hear singer Nina Simone singing in the background. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life, for me and I’m feeling good. It was truly an altar in my world.

And to think, this happens every day. Every day the sun creeps over the ocean’s horizon. And it has been doing this for years bringing it with it new dawns and new days. Today I want to talk to you about two very specific sunrises.

Our first sunrise begins long ago in the time of Noah. A few years after the flood the people of the land had settled in a place called Shinar. But God, who in this story is called Yahweh did not want them settling. Yahweh told them to branch out and repopulate the earth.

But they did not listen to Yahweh. Instead they had the brilliant idea to build a tower. “Why go out when we can go up,” they thought. “Why rest here on the land like lowly servants, when we can live like gods. Let us build a tower to the heavens.” They sought power. They sought for their own individual satisfaction, their personal gratification. And so they built bricks. And mortor. And more bricks. And more mortar. Days of labor went into the tower. Countless resources used to build brick after brick. Higher and higher, more and more, bigger and bigger. It could never get large enough. Billions and billions. Trillions and trillions.

Where was Yahweh? Perhaps Yahweh figured that they would grow tired of the endeavor. Maybe they would look around and see all that they were neglecting in building this opulent tower. But finally Yahweh could bear it no longer, and in the dark of night Yahweh made a move.

The sunrise that next morning was probably very similar to the one before it. The sun making its sleepy slow crawl over the horizon shooting burst of awake into the eyes of the sleeping workers. Now, imagine you are one of these tower workers. You get to the job site and begin working. You are making bricks or mixing up mortar and doing your thing. One of your fellow workers walks by and greets you in friendly tone, but you can’t quite make out what they are saying. It seems a bit strange but you think nothing of it and go back to work. Making bricks, mixing mortar. A bit off in the distance you can hear some commotion. Again it is a bit concerning, but you keep working. The commotion seems to be getting louder and happening from multiple directions. Then the foreman comes over frantically pointing and shouting at you. That is nothing new, but what is odd is the words coming out of his mouth. You can’t understand any of them. It all sounds like gibberish. You try to tell him to calm down. You are having trouble understanding him. You speak very slowly and calmly, but this only seems to infuriate him even more. He grabs one of the bricks you just made and smashes it right in front of you. Well, now he has gone too far. You stand up and try to talk some sense into him, but it is no use. The whole situation is senseless. Finally he gives up on you and walks away.

You look around at other stations and see the same thing happening all over. People are arguing. Bricks are being smashed. People are storming off. They don’t even care where they go. They’re just scattering. You can’t say that you blame them. Everyone seems crazy. Well you are certainly not going to sit here and build by yourself. And since there is nothing else going on in Shinar, you head home, find some people that you can understand, get your stuff and leave. As you head off to a foreign land, you and your friends talk about what a bunch of babblers everyone is back there. And that dumb tower. The tower of babblers, you call it. Later people would call it the Tower of Babel and even later Babylon.....Here ends the story of our first sunrise.

The second sunrise story comes many years after the first. There has been great progression. The earth has been filled, cities have sprung up, kings and prophets have come and gone, but the sunrise remains the same. It brings with it signs of new beginnings, new light, and new days. On this particular day, the day of Pentecost, it brings with it something else, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. For on this sunrise, on this day, a promise made by Jesus to his followers was about to be fulfilled.

The scripture starts in the upper room. Acts chapter one gives a roll call which includes the disciples, certain women including Mary, Jesus’ mother, his brothers, and other followers. The scripture does not say why they were there or what they were doing but whatever it is, it does not last long. As promised the heavens begin to rumble. There is a brief moment of anticipation as the rumbling builds. Pretty soon the sound fills the entire room. And with the sound comes fire. Fire that fills the followers with so much passion that it appears as tongues on their heads. This is the Holy Spirit that was promised. And the Spirit brought with it a gift. They begin speaking in other languages. At that moment, it all clicked for Jesus’ followers. They were not meant to sit up in the room. They were meant to go out into the four corners of the world. They were meant to spread good news to all that would hear it. That is why the Spirit blessed them with language.

So they go downstairs and do just that. Some in the crowd recognized this gift. They were amazed. They saw the power of God in these people. Others sneered saying, “They are drunk with wine.” And then Peter gives what is one of my favorite lines in the whole Bible. He stands up in front of the crowds and says, “People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” He might have then said, “The bars are not even open yet. We cannot even get mimosas until brunch which does not start until 11:00. So no, we are not drunk.” No one could argue with his iron clad logic.

Answering the drunk question, Peter continues and tells them what their true mission is his morning. He tells them of the prophet Joel and how Joel spoke of a time when both young and old, man and woman, slave and free would rise up with prophetic voices and proclaim the Lord’s glorious day. This new day has come. They are there to tell them good news. They are there to tell them about Jesus, about resurrection, about new life. They are there to usher in a new kingdom where earthly power has no place. He speaks the words of David who says, “You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” Peter cannot stop talking. And people cannot stop listening. The crowd gathers and multiplies. It grows ever larger and ever stronger. Three thousand people came to believe that day. They put their old selfish and sinful ways behind them and followed a new path, a path that changed the course of history. Thus ends the second sunrise story.

Here we have two sunrise stories. It is no accident that there are distinct similarities. The author of Acts is clearly making allusions to the well known Tower of Babel story. But the goal of the Pentecost story is not to retell the Tower of Babel story but to reverse it. To tell a new story. For example in the Tower of Babel story, language is a source of confusion. But at Pentecost language leads to miraculous understanding. In Babel Yahweh is on high. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit dwells among the people. In Babel the focus was on the individual. How powerful can I get? At Pentecost the focus was on others. How can we serve our world? At Babel the people are scattered. At Pentecost people come together. Overall what I think that the author of Luke is trying to tell us is that the good news of Jesus is a story that transcends the division of language. Furthermore it transcends many divisions. Since the days of Babel, we have done a good job at dividing and populating the earth. In fact we have gone a bit too far. We have built walls, formed countries, made dividing lines and raised armies to keep those lines divided. Peter’s message about the life of Jesus was given to bring people back together. To break down divisions. The chapter ends with the followers selling their possessions and sharing bread and fellowship with one another.

This is a lesson that speaks to us today as much as it did to the people back then. We still have walls, divisions, and even Towers of Babel. Is not the recent financial crisis an example of a group of individuals building a tower of wealth for themselves no matter the cost to others?

When there is tower building, when there is a desire for power, words become very important. The power that one seeks is directly affected by the words that one speaks. Words are used to control and manipulate. Financial deals are carefully constructed amalgamations of words and legal contracts. Political careers are made and lost on the words that are used in speeches. Leaders rise up by the words that they use to inspire and incite their followers.

By contrast when empathy is sought ahead of power then language becomes less necessary. There is still a need for understanding but intention and care take the place of having the right words. I offer the testimony of Sarah Oughton of the Red Cross. After devastating floods in Pakistan, she went to help. Even though she did not speak the language, she was still able to offer first aid training to many of the local volunteers. As she puts it, first aid transcends any language barrier.

I offer the testimony of Mexico Mission people. On ten different occasions this church has gone to Mexico to aid in the building of a house for a family. Though there are some language difficulties, there is still a great intention to help. That intention is felt by the families. It is greater than any words that we could speak.

I offer one last testimony and that is of the hospital chaplains. I have many friends (Nancy Smith is one of them) who are serving as chaplains doing the very difficult work of meeting people in times of sickness and great weakness. Often there is a language barrier but sometimes they find that words are not even necessary. If there is a sincerity of purpose, a willingness to be present, and genuine empathy, then care can be given. People will feel it. That is the power of the Spirit.

Where does that leave us? As I see it we have two options. We can be Babblers, people that constantly drive for higher and higher places. Better pay grades, more expensive cars, power, control, and the greatest satisfaction of all: to be right. We can fight about words and what they mean. Or we can be people of the Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit. If we choose the latter, if we choose to be people of the Pentecost then our intention is not to go up but to go out. To go out into the world to mend what is broken. To give care where there is suffering. To bring hope where there is despair. To find altars in our world. As people of the Pentecost we focus on sharing not accumulation. Words will take a back seat to intentions, which are on the needs of others and not the desires of ourselves.

People of Shell Ridge, today brings a new sunrise. Today brings the power of the Spirit. The fire that cannot be quenched. May it fill you so that you can go out and make the world a better place. Because this world needs outward bound people. This world needs the care and compassion that you can bring. Simply put this world needs a Pentecost people. This world needs you. Amen?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Left to God

1 Corinthians 13: The Gift of Love

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Some 18 years ago, Katy, you were a babe in your parents’ arms and ... I was a young pastor, still quite new at Shell Ridge. We hadn’t met yet, but we would before long. And now jump into that marvelous and terrifying time machine and zoom forward nearly two decades and ... shazaaam, kaboom ... here we are. You’re a beautiful young woman—an adult ... and tomorrow you’ll complete this first enormous stage of your journey of becoming.

Graduation from High School is something we pay a lot of attention to, but it isn’t only because you’ve completed a baker’s dozen years of schooling—which in itself is an accomplishment worth celebrating. High school graduation symbolizes your transition into early adulthood. Up until this point we could get away with calling you a child or a youth. Now that way of thinking is reserved for only your mom ... and maybe your dad. And your grandma, of course. For everyone else, you have served notice that your childhood is in your rear-view mirror ... though don’t forget that “objects in your rear-view mirror are closer than they appear.” You’ve reached a time in your life when you can begin to make the Apostle Paul’s words your own: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

This is not to say, and I hope Paul would agree, that you bid farewell to the child within. I’ve joked with Corinne Mason as long as I’ve known her that she is a 16 year old dwelling in a gracefully aging body. (A recent tumble has Corinne wondering about the “gracefully” part.) Keep the child within alive ... your sense of wonder and hope and possibility. Even as you consider what it means to put an end to childish ways, don’t become too cynical, don’t give up too easily on the world or those around you, don’t forget what was like to ride your first bike or kick your first soccer ball. Don’t forget what it felt like to be safe and secure in mom’s or dad’s arms or what it feels like to lie on your back in the grass and watch the clouds drift by. Don’t forget what it felt like when in your young heart you really believed that love could conquer all ... that God’s love and human love really could create a world where peace and justice and harmony could be achieved and all of earth’s people could live “happily ever after”. Don’t forget these “childish” things ... keep that child and its hope and dreams and ideals alive ... somewhere.

But putting an end to childish ways.

First thing: There’s two things you need to do as you enter adulthood: learn to drink coffee if you don’t already—Peets coffee, preferably ... and learn to read the New York Times as you drink your coffee. That pretty much sums up my advice to you, Katy.

If you’re already reading the Times, you’ll have noticed a column by David Brooks, one of the New York Times’ regular columnists and a pretty wise guy. Now admittedly, David Brooks’ column was about college graduates getting ready to enter the world—which is to say, getting ready to move back in with mom and dad and spend the next several years looking for a job. But I think Brooks has some important things to say that may be even better heard as you prepare to enter college.

Brooks says that the lives of young folk of your age and generation have been “perversely structured.” He says: “This year's graduates are members of the most supervised generation in American history. Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree.” Katy, can I hear an “Amen.” But, he goes on to say—and better to hear and understand these words before you enter St. Mary’s than as you leave: Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured.

Even as you learn to replace your loving parents and supervise yourself, it is, I think, good to become early aware that your best laid plans will only be partly adequate for the future you will enter some four or five years from now. Being well-grounded as a human being and flexible as you enter the future will serve you well in the midst of this rapidly changing world to which we must all continue to creatively adapt.

Brooks also says that as much as we have been nurtured to think that we are at the center of the universe—that it’s all about YOU ... and all about ME ... as we emerge from childhood, we do well to early learn the simple truth that in most of the ways that matter, it’s NOT all about you or me. In the midst of all of the mantras of “expressive individualism” that tell us to “follow our bliss” and “march to our own drummer”, there are “sacred commitments” that are demanded of us: relationships to which we are called to commit, communities that call us to become responsible members, needs of a world that are well beyond our own inner cloistered worlds of self and self-fulfillment.

Brooks says that real truth that is nearly hidden by the gospel of self-fulfillment is that our real, deepest, truest selves are most often called out and expressed in the response to some demand from beyond us that has been placed upon us ... he says: Most people don't form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by a calling.

Think of Moses wandering aimlessly in the desert herding sheep until God calls from a burning bush. God calls Moses to leave the leave the sheep behind and lead God’s people out of slavery—which had not been on Moses’ “I just want to find myself” agenda. And is that call that defines Moses for the remainder of his days ... it makes Moses MOSES.

David Brooks, closes his column saying: Today's grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they'll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can't be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it's nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some [greater] task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It's to lose yourself.

Who does David Brooks think he is ... Jesus? Remember Jesus saying: “... those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

OK, Katy ... it’s fair for you to say to me: “Hey, enough already ... I haven’t even flunked my first class in college, yet. Preach that sermon to me in four years ... or maybe five!” Fair enough. But let me say that a part of your emergence into adulthood and putting away the ways of childhood is for you to let us go and for us to let you go. And this is no easy task for there have been nearly two decades of creating ties that bind, being directed where you should go, told what you should think and value and how you should view the world. And to be sure, these are not bad things ... these are the loving lessons and relationships of childhood. And now it is time to take the training wheels off of your bicycle of your self and your soul, and peddle off into the world. It is time to begin to snip away at the many, many gossamer threads that bind you to this time and place and the many people you love—and who love you. It’s time for us all to begin to practice a little “benign neglect”.

You should know by now, Katy, that my favorite poet is Robert Frost. Robert Frost takes a lot of the imagery for his poems from the natural world of field and farm—but he applies what he observes to the human being and the challenges of being human. This is a poem entitled: “Goodbye and Keep Cold”. It’s about an orchard of fruit saplings that fare best with a little “benign neglect”. That too much care and concern, and too protective of instincts might actually be harmful to the orchard and their latent fruitfulness. And as I read the poem, I not only think of you and your need to separate in whole and healthy ways from your family of upbringing and your faith family, but I also think of my relationship to this church and it to me as I prepare to depart for several months.

This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark

And cold to an orchard so young in the bark

Reminds me of all that can happen to harm

An orchard away at the end of the farm

All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.

I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,

I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse

By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.

(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call

I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall

And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)

I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.

(We made it secure against being, I hope,

By setting it out on a northerly slope.)

No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;

But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.

"How often already you've had to be told,

Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.

Dread fifty above more than fifty below."

I have to be gone for a season or so.

My business awhile is with different trees,

Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,

And such as is done to their wood with an axe--

Maples and birches and tamaracks.

I wish I could promise to lie in the night

And think of an orchard's arboreal plight

When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)

Its heart sinks lower under the sod.

But something has to be left to God.

Katy, did you ever raise butterflies in school? ... you know, where your teacher brings in the chrysalis where the monarch caterpillar has seemingly created a tomb for itself ... and then, wonder of wonders, it breaks forth from the tomb and is released as a beautiful butterfly? It’s a real Easter moment, in some ways, and it’s the kind of transformation we hope for every child that we have been privileged to love and nurture and watch as she and he has grown wings and prepares to fly ... away ... but not far away we naturally hope.

If you observed the emergence of the butterfly from its cocoon carefully, you’ll remember that there’s a time when the butterfly seems to get stuck and you fear that is has gotten trapped and needs your help to emerge from its cocoon—that it can’t do it on its own. One person, observing the struggles of the emerging butterfly, did reach in and helped the butterfly from its cocoon and then noticed that the butterfly’s wings remained shrunken and misshapen and it was unable to fly. What the kindly person didn’t know ... couldn’t know ... was that it is precisely the struggle to free itself from its cocoon that pumps the fluids into the butterfly’s wings to help make them full and strong and capable of flight. It was assisting when assistance wasn’t needed or helpful that doomed the butterfly to flightlessness.

The author, Alan Paton, was wiser than the kindly soul who would help butterflies. He writes:

I see my son wearing long trousers; I tremble at this. I see he goes forward confidently, he does not know so fully his own gentleness. Go forward, eager and reverent child. See here, I begin to take my hands away from you. I shall see you walk carelessly on the edge of the precipice, but if you wish, you shall hear no word come out of me. My whole soul will be sick with apprehension, but I shall not disobey you. Life sees you coming, she sees you come with assurance toward her. She lies in wait for you. She cannot but hurt you. Yet go forward. Go forward. I hold the bandages and the ointment ready. And if you would go elsewhere and lie alone with your wounds, I shall not intrude upon you. If you would seek the help of some other person, I will not come forcing myself upon you. If you should fall into sin, innocent one, that is the way of this pilgrimage. Struggle against it, not for one fraction of a moment concede its dominion. It will occasion you grief and sorrow, it will torment you. But hate not God, nor turn from Him in shame or self-reproach. He has seen many such, and His compassion is as great as His creation. Be tempted and fall and return. Return and be tempted and fall, a thousand times a thousand, even to a thousand thousand. For out of this tribulation there comes a peace, deep in the soul and surer than any dream.

This, is, I think is clear, not just a graduation sermon to Katy, but a graduation sermon of life to us all. The need to let go in so many ways, at so many stages of our lives. Letting go of childhood so adulthood can come. Letting go of our children so they may emerge into adulthood as whole, capable beings ... and themselves. Letting go of certain of life’s illusions that we can seen life and ourselves more clearly, more helpfully. Letting of the need to “not struggle”, but it is often the struggles that most clearly define us and, in the end, the bring us the peace and the joy and the happiness that are so elusive when we pursue them.

So ... Katie ... so Shell Ridge ... “goodbye and keep cold” ... a little benign neglect might be just what we all need. Something has to be left to God. And out of any tribulations that might be ahead, as surely as those we’ve already known, I pray that there will come to you and to us all, a peace, deep in the soul and surer than any dream.

Let us pray:

God it is so hard to let our children go,

To life ... to suffering ... to you.

It’s hard to leave our friends alone

To work out their own problems.

Help us to trust more, and interfere less.

And so we give them and each other over to you, God.

Bend down to them, take care of them, give good things to them.

And in your time and in the uniqueness of their being, bring to them meaning and joy, wholeness and peace.


--Adapted from a prayer by Robert Raines in “Creative Brooding”

Thursday, June 02, 2011

House rules

What does it mean to be a Christian? This is a very good question. What does it mean to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus? I believe that is what Jesus was trying to answer on his sermon on the mount. What does it mean to be a Christian?

Before I get into that, I want to talk about Monopoly...the board game. How many of you are familiar with this game, the original. Answer me this: “What happens when you land on Free Parking?” “It depends”, right? If you are playing by the written rules, nothing. But we played different. We used to put $500 in the middle of the board, the Free Parking Fund, and add to that all of the fines, taxes and fees that would usually go in the bank. Then if you landed on Free Parking, jackpot. How many other people played this way? A few? Many? Most of you? When I was growing up, this was so common that if I went to a friend’s house and we broke out Monopoly, it would always have to warrant a discussion about Free Parking. What were the house rules?

What does it mean to be a Christian? Maybe it is as simple as following the house rules. Jesus lays out a bunch of them, but today we are going to focus on two. The first is a two parter: turn the other cheek and love your enemies. Easy right? Sure. I don’t think that we will have any problem keeping that one. Right? Riiiiight.

Jesus starts this off by saying that “You have heard, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I tell you to turn the other cheek,” which if you think about it gives access to your other eye and more teeth. This is interesting because Jesus is reciting rules and making a change. Kinda changing the rules about Free Parking. Jesus wanted to make his own house rules. See, way way back in the time of Moses and the lawmakers, this rule (an eye for an eye) was intended as a deterrent for just doing whatever you wanted without consequence. It was intended to create order and justice. But by the time of Jesus, he saw it as justifying an endless cycle of animosity. You attacked me so I will attack you which makes you feel justified in attacking me again. On and on it goes. Jesus offers a way to break that cycle.

Breaking the cycle. Loving enemies. At first brush it may seem completely unnatural. After all they are enemies, right? It reminds me of a scene in Finding Nemo. Have any of you seen this movie? It is about a clown fish named Marlin who loses his son, Nemo, and traverses the ocean to find him. Along the way he encounters a group of sharks: mortal enemies in the truest sense of the term. Large terrifying enemies with sharp teeth. But these are not any old sharks. No, these sharks are in an abstinence group wherein they have agreed not to eat any other fish. “Fish are friends, not food,” they chant. We laugh because of the absurdity of the situation. It is so unnatural. It makes me wonder how many people laughed at Jesus when he told them that they were to love their enemies.

Who are the sharks in our lives? What would it mean to love our enemies, to see them differently? To see them as vegetarian sharks? What would it mean to look at the richest of the rich, not with scorn and disdain, but with love? What would it mean for the rich to look at the poor with care and sympathy.

What would love look like to love our domestic enemies, our criminal population? Instead of building more prisons and packing them to capacity, what would it look like to approach that cycle with care, and true compassion? What if we took our eye for an eye justice system and looked deeper? Looked for root causes. We may be able to create true justice with opportunities for education, equality and development.

What would it mean to turn the other cheek if we were attacked as a country? To not respond with retaliation and violence but with attempt at understanding. Perhaps even aid. Could we break the cycle of war? Even justified war. Next week we will hear from a whole group of peacemakers who are looking to break that cycle. Those who have the courage and willingness to turn the other cheek.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Maybe a crazy idea, but then Jesus then goes on to talk about some other crazy ideas. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” What the what?!? Okay I can understand going the extra mile to help someone, but the cloak thing? That is like saying if someone sues you for the shirt off of your back, toss in your pants as well. Craziness! It is tempting here to talk about the legal system and Jesus’ issues with the establishment, but what I really think that he was talking about was attachment, particularly our attachment to stuff. The youth and I have been talking about stuff a lot lately. This week in particular we have been talking about why we are so covetous towards stuff, why we feel we need it for happiness.

It reminds me of Mr. Mom. How many of you remember the movie, Mr. Mom? It was an 80’s movie where a husband and wife that reverse roles. She goes to work. He manages the house. One of his kids, the 3 year old has a blanket that he loves, his wubbie. He carries it around everywhere. It is literally a security blanket. Maybe you had one of these when you were a kid, or had a kid with something like this. It is old, stained, has holes. You try to clean it, but it always just looks ratty. And yet the kid cannot give it up. After a heart to heart with the dad the kids realizes that his attachment to the blanket is holding him back. He is not going to be able to grow up as long as he is dragging his wubbie around. It takes great strength and courage, but he finally lets it go.

What are you holding onto? To be clear, I am not talking about stuff that we need. I am talking about attachment. Not so much as economics as MEconomics What are you holding onto that is keeping you from growing? Is some thing that you value getting in the way of connecting with another? Let it go. Many of you know Srini who comes used to visit us and now lives in LA. He had this detachment mentality. He said that when he goes shopping, he sees everything as just one more thing that you have to clean.

Jesus had a similar mentality. He said give it up. Don’t worry about it. Let attachment be someone else’s problem. What if we really followed this rule? I mean, wars are fought both in the home and beyond over stuff. I want it so you cannot have it. This is my stuff, not your stuff. Imagine how different our economic structure would be if we bought what we needed and gave to those in need. Abandoned houses for the homeless. Abundant food going to the hungry.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Follow the house rules. Love your enemies. Lose your attachment. There are plenty of others. A whole book in fact. But instead of talking about more of the rules, I want to spend a bit of time talking about the house. Paul, gives the Corinthians a great metaphor. He writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Paul is writing to the early church at Corinth, a church that was in turmoil. It was full of bickering and one-upmanship. And Paul writes them to try and create some reconciliation. He is trying to tell them that they have a great opportunity here. They have a remarkable starting point, a foundation laid in Jesus. This same Jesus that said all of these revolutionary things, that came up with all of these remarkable rules. They had the opportunity to create something great. But it was up to them to build it. Using all of their talents and gifts, brick by brick they were building a temple. They were at the threshold of changing the world and creating something anew.

Paul’s words still resound with us today. Though 2000 years removed, we are, I believe at another threshold of change. We are still building that temple. Recently I know that we have felt some setbacks with the Ministry Center not being able to be built. There was disappointment. Perhaps hurt. We are still recovering from that. But let us not forget the words of Paul that we are God’s temple and God dwells in us. Each of us is a center of ministry with the bold charge to go into the world and build something.

And why do Jesus’ and Paul’s words still ring true? Because we still live in a world that is full of war and injustice, bickering and disjointedness. Full of the same cycles that they were trying to break all those years ago. You can almost hear them saying...

Break the cycle of answering violence with more violence. Build a cycle of peace. Break the cycle of buying stuff for happiness only to see that happiness dwindle. Build a cycle of detachment. Break the cycle of taking from one another. Build a cycle of giving to one another. Break the cycle of endlessly worrying about yourselves. Build a cycle of lifting each other up.

Like the church of Corinth before us, we are at a verge of change, a threshold of potential. But we do not enter this change empty handed. We have rules to live by. Guidance to a better world. You ask me what does it mean to be a Christian, what it means to be a temple of God? I ask you what are your house rules?