Sermon For Easter 6, 27 April 2008 St. Georgeâ€™s Cambridge Bay, NU
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you foreverâ€¦.â€ť
We live in an age where incredible scientific advancements take place everyday. Take GRIN, the acronym for (G) genetic engineering, (R) robotics, (I) information technology and (N) nanotechnology. The human genome has been mapped. Nanotechnology is constructing miniscule machines that can deliver inter-cellular messages or make molecular level repairs. Astrophysicists have mapped the curvature of the universe, delved into black holes, listened to the echoes of the Big Bang. Scientific inquiry and experiment have revealed the â€śhowsâ€ť and â€śwhysâ€ť and â€śwhatsâ€ť never before known.
We think weâ€™re so smart. We think we have a handle on how the universe works.
So why then did the builders of the new Yankee Stadium spend five hours and $50,000 digging through two feet of concrete? They did this to extract a Red Sox jersey that had been secretly buried in the concrete floor of the visiting teamâ€™s dug out. A construction worker, an unrepentant Red Sox fan, had slipped the jersey into the concrete in order to permanently â€śjinxâ€ť the new Yankee stadium. The story of the jersey finally came to light because another construction worker who had seen the shirt go into the slab got worried and confessed: â€śI donâ€™t want to be responsible for sinking the franchise,â€ť he said. The stadium, a 1.3 billion dollar project, was brought to a screeching halt; the glowing new future for the Yankees was endangered; immediate, expensive action was taken: why? Because everyone believed in the
jinxing power of a piece of cloth submerged down in a concrete floor in a locker room. That was one high-powered hex!
No one can completely escape what some people are now calling â€śmagical thinkingâ€ť Quite frankly that is just a euphemism for superstition. We â€śknock on wood,â€ť throw spilled salt over our shoulders, canâ€™t resist reading our horoscopes, always take notice of a â€śFriday the 13th.â€ť Or, if you think youâ€™re immune to â€śmagical thinking,â€ť answer me this: how many of you here this morning wouldnâ€™t think twice about wearing the jacket of a murderer?
Little children have that special â€śblankieâ€ť or stuffed animal that magically imparts peace and serenity. But big corporations hire specialists to organize the â€śfeng shuiâ€ť in their work spaces. Musician George Michael bought the Steinway piano that John Lennon composed his best know work on: â€śImagine.â€ť Michael ships this piano off to places that are in need of some kind of spiritual support: to New Orleans after Katrina; to Virginia Tech after the shootings. The piano is put on public display, with its pedigree, open for any and all to sit down and plunk out a few notes, to seek out a bit of solace in its noteworthy presence.
No matter how much scientific knowledge we acquire about the world we live in, physical reality is never enough. The human spirit knows there is always more to be revealed, that there is something more out there if we could only lift the veil.
Paulâ€™s speech to the Athenians gathered at the elite Court of the Areopagus was designed to get his audience thinking about that inner yearning for â€śsomething more,â€ť that â€śgropingâ€ť for the â€śunknown God.â€ť But Paul also warned them that there was a difference between religiosity and righteousness. The God who created the universe, who gave life to human beings, â€śdoes not live in shrines made by human handsâ€ť (v.24) and is not â€śan image formed by the art and imagination of mortalsâ€ť (v.29). Idols of gold, silver, or stone will never contain God, and can never move beyond the â€śmagicalâ€ť to real faithfulnessâ€¦
In fact being a Christian does carry with it some responsibilities. Jesus said â€śIf you love me, you will keep my commandments.â€ť Remember the first commandment is to love God and have no other gods but the one true God. The second is to love each other as God has loved us. Now I know there are managers in this town who are bullies. Is that Christian behaviour? I know there are people who will not speak to another person even though they work together. I know there are those who wish evil upon their boss or their underlings. I know there are managers who have such poor personnel skills that they would discipline or criticize a manager under them in front of both their employees and their higher ups. I know there are people who think that because they say it is so, it is so. I know there are
people who take advantage of those with introverted and subservient personalities. Is that being obedient to the will of God? No!
None of these things should be the behaviour of a Christian. None of those things is loving, or kind, or mirrors the love of Christ to the world. Yet sadly it happens.
We should not wish these people harm. We should pray for them that Christ will soften their hearts and show them the error of their ways.
As I said, some people unfortunately dabble in astrology â€“ a totally false and nonsensical effort which will only divert you from Christ. Some adopt false religions in the search for inner peace and tranquility and the meaning of life, when they have failed to search in the faith of Jesus Christ that offers all these things and more. In Christ there is always more. Those people indeed are worshipping false and unknown gods.
C. S. Lewis wrote this about love, the type of love that God demands of us:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers...of love is Hell.
Now all that does not mean you are to let all things happen and not set any boundaries or not take good managerial action whether it is in your business or in your family. In fact, you have a duty to set boundaries and to give guidance, especially to the young. Loving your neighbour as yourself and as Christ has loved you implies obedience to God and setting the boundaries just a Jesus did.
Some years ago, Erma Bombeck printed a piece about having the meanest parents in all the world. It went something like this:
I had the meanest parents in all the world. When I was seven years old they dared to spank me just because I told them I would not do what they asked me to do to help around the house. My friend next door never got spanked. He didn't have to help at home. He had nice parents.
I had the meanest parents. I had to eat all my broccoli and carrots before they would ever let me have dessert. My friend next door never had to eat vegetables. He had fast food brought in with burgers and shakes and brownies with all kinds of ice cream.
I had the meanest parents. They made me go to church every Sunday as long as I lived under their roof, sit there in that boring worship service. My friend next door could do as he pleased. He never went to church. Sunday was a fun day for him. (Oh, I really like her parents)
I had the meanest parents. They made me work for my allowance. I had to get a job helping an elderly old man with chores around his house. My friend next door never had to do anything and he was given four times as much allowance as I could ever earn. He had nice parents.
I had the meanest parents. When I turned sixteen, they made me earn points before I could drive the family car. My friend next door was given a brand new luxury automobile. My folks had bought an old jalopy for me to get back and forth to school, but you think I'd drive that hunk of junk and park it beside those Jeep Wagoneers, BMWs, Buicks and Mercedes? My friend had it made.
Or so I once thought, but, when we reached age thirty, I had a change in perspective. I had learned that my parents were not so mean after all. I was experiencing: the pleasure of work, the reward of recreation, the strength of a healthy body, the bonds of a strong marriage, the inward confidence that comes from faith and the wonderful supportive fellowship that comes from the Church as a community of believers.
As for my friend, things were not going so well: he was not finding his niche in the workplace, nothing seemed to satisfy him, he was having difficulty getting along with people who were not willing to do everything just as he thought he knew it ought to be done, his marriage had not lasted even two years, his body was getting out of shape, and he evidenced a cynical outlook without any under-girding that comes from the assurance of faith.
Erma came to understand that obedience to her parentsâ€™ ways instilled in her lasting, life giving values. "If you love me, obey my commandments." Obedience.
Let me leave this with one little story told by a very renowned Anglican theologian, Michael Green:
A little boy was riding his tricycle furiously around the block, over and over again. Finally a policeman stopped and asked him why he was going around and around. The boy said that he was running away form home. The policeman asked why he kept going around the block. The boy responded, "Because my mom said that I'm not allowed to cross the street."
The point is clear--obedience will keep you close to those you love.
Jesus said, â€śThey who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.â€ť