May 27, 2018
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
This past week I spoke to two of Lothar Konietzko’s classes at Everett High School. He has had rabbis, mams, and priests come in, and I was privileged to join the list. The students were assigned to write own questions they wanted to ask me. Of course, he did not let me see them. So it was a rousing round of “stump the preacher.…” They asked things like “how can a loving God send people to hell?” “Why do Christians stress suffering so much?” “Why is it wrong to be proud?” “Do you believe God heals?”
One young man asked, “What do you think makes a perfect life?” I said, “Cappuccino and jazz.”
I then said my real answer. My idea of a perfect life comes from Christian theology. If we have any idea of what a perfect life looks like, I believe it is in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus got hungry, got thirsty, got tired, got disappointed, got angry, experienced love, experienced loss, experienced struggles with his faith, and yet, Jesus never was disconnected from God.
But that alone is not the perfection we see in Jesus. There was another element. Jesus never used his connection with God for his own benefit. Jesus never used his oneness with God for his own gain. It was always put into the service of others.
This is a perfect life: to have no disconnection from God, and to always be put into the service of others.
But we do not have perfect lives do we? I am not perfect. You are not perfect. We are not perfect. We experience disconnection from God all the time. We look for better strategies and advantages for ourselves all the time.
Nicodemus is not perfect.
He is a leader in his community, religious, respectable and respected.
Nicodemus knows Jesus is of God and from God, for no one else could be doing what he is doing. He wants to be like Jesus, but he is afraid his life will be changed beyond his control.
I do not know about you, but I find Nicodemus to be familiar. We want enough Jesus to be healed, to be whole, to be understood, to be loved, to be welcomed.
But aren’t we afraid that if we get enough Jesus for ourselves that we will have to offer healing to others who are hurting, wholeness to the broken, understanding to the people on the other side of our politics, love to the unloving and the unlovely, welcome to the outcast?
And the world does not welcome such a change. Nicodemus shows up at night. He’s afraid of the world.
· The world is a place of looking out for number one.
· The world is a zero-sum game.
· The world has no place for religion that is not trying to shore up the status quo and get people elected and promote law and order.
· The world has no love for the children of undocumented immigrants who are separated from their parents by ICE, and then lost in the system, some of them even turned over by the US government to human traffickers.
· The world loves giving Nestle a sweetheart deal on water that they sells for a profit, while Flint and Detroit deal with lead in the pipes and boil water orders and the need for all new filters.
· The world celebrates when discrimination is practiced at every level of government in the land.
· The world sees no disparity when people with my skin color shoot up schools and get brought into custody alive, while unarmed people of darker skin colors get shot for holding a cell phone in their own back yard.
And I will confess that the world scares me. It angers me. The world disappoints me, frustrates me, makes me want to charge to halls of power, makes me want to curl up under a blanket.
What keeps me going is the fact that the world, and the church, and you, and I, and Nicodemus, are involved in a love story that is bigger than the world.
For God so loved the world.
Not the correct and upright world, whatever that might be.
· The broken world.
· The addicted world.
· The racist world.
· The not giving a damn about education or the environment or the foreigner world.
· The world that lives on telling lies.
God does not love the brokenness, the addiction, the racism, the way we treat our teachers, or the environment, or those who are different from us. God does not love the lies we tell at every level of society and politics.
But God still loves the world.
God so loves the world that God sends Jesus, connecting with the pain and the suffering and the hurt we go through.
· the people who are broken.
· the people who live with addiction.
· those who are trapped in racism.
· Those who grieve for all of this and those who grieve for the loss fo their loved ones.
And so God sends Jesus.
Check this out: however maddening the world is to us, how much more angry must God be!
But God does not send Jesus to condemn the world. But because we are a part of the love story of God for all people.
God did not send Jesus to condemn the world. But that this messed up, addicted, stuck, lying, unloving world might be redeemed. That we might experience the love of God that transforms our world into a place of hope, of forgiveness, of welcome, of neighborliness, of sacrificial love, and finally, in God’s own shalom, of peace.
We are loved by a love so big that the world, in all its difficulties and pain and troubles, is part of the love we know in Jesus.
Yes, we have enough Jesus to be healed, to be whole, to be understood, to be loved, to be welcomed.
Which means we have enough love to offer
· healing to the hurting,
· wholeness to the broken,
· understanding to the people on the other side of our politics,
· love to the unloving and the unlovely,
· truth to the liars,
· recovery for the addict,
· and welcome to the outcast!
Because this is the love story of God. And we are a part of God’s love story for the world.
And it will not let us go.
Thanks be to God.