Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sermon on the Rules

Special thanks to Matt G. for the dinner party imagery in this sermon. Check his sermon here:

2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:10
Psalm 32
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36 - 8:3

I like rules. I can understand rules. I can predict rules. Rules make my life safe - I can go whole days without hurting other people because in many situations it is quiet clear what is expected of me. Rules - and playing by the rules, seems to be a safe way for a Canadian to live in the world.
Our own rules around the dinner table are deeply ingrained into us from birth. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t talk with your mouth full. My friends favorite, “Don’t put your elbows on the table this is not a horsey stable.” All of these rules have a good reason for existing, and it would be hard to imagine life without them. Rules have a stabilizing effect, they are predictable, but can also prevent the right thing from being done.
Simon is having an uncomfortable moments where the rules of proper conduct and proper order are being broken… well, shattered really - he’s having a nice dinner party, and right in the middle of his nice dinner party, this sinning woman enters into his party and she breaking all the rules. She is a woman who has let her hair down like a prostitute, and we’re told she’s somehow obviously unclean as she is spotted as untouchable right away - and in touching Jesus she is making him unclean and the whole party is being ruined - ruined by this filthy sinner! Jesus, the guest of honor is being touched and molested by this outcast - this nobody. What are Simon’s guests going to think? Why can’t this annoying woman leave them alone to have a nice meal in peace?
“Uriah the Hittite is Dead.” These words come to King David’s ears with such a mix of pain, joy, and relief. Pain because deep down he knows that he has had this man killed unjustly - knows that this was a good and honest man who David had to have killed to protect his own dirty little secrets. There was no other way to cover the truth.
But David also feels Joy, because David has gotten away with murder. Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, is pregnant with David’s child - the product of David’s selfish pleasure and amusement. Uriah had to be killed because David has committed Adultery, Bathsheba is pregnant, and if Uriah is now dead, there is no one to accuse David… maybe the child did belong to Uriah? Who knows? Who will question the king? - joyfully he has gotten away with murder and he gets to keep the girl - she becomes one of his many wives - what a hero.
David feels Relief - David is relieved because he thinks this whole mess is over. He is a King and looking back we can see that this is the point in his career where he turns the corner away from being the rising star anointed wonder boy king of Israel - It is here that we quickly forget that it is this David who defeats lions and bears and Goliath with just rocks and a sling, we forget that it is this David that God chose to be King of Israel. It is this David who played that harp and wrote so many of our psalms.
We now remember him as the man who committed adultery, and has lied and killed to cover it up. He feels above the law. Rules mean nothing to him anymore.

Lets take a moment to think about this ‘sinner’ woman who is kissing Jesus feet. Who do you see? The art work of the church has tended to portray her as a young harlot type of woman, one who has let her hair down and is looking like the kind of deceitful person who is easy to look down on. But this assumption needs to be challenged.
Simon took one look at her and in disgust and quick judgement he labels her a sinner. I’m thinking that perhaps she wasn’t the cocky young beautiful harlot that she is sometimes made out to be. I’m thinking that perhaps she was not that nice to look at. I’m thinking that perhaps she is a quiet, and broken woman - one of those broken people who are hard to be around because you can tell just how much they are suffering. I think she is one of those people you pass on the street who is hard to make eye contact with. One of those people who are a little scary - one of those people you assume is going to ask you for money and that will be awkward.
This woman (whose name we don’t learn in this story) wears her pain and suffering visible - and she is unacceptable. Simon, embarrassed, starts to look for ways to remove this woman from his nice Party. Her mere presence causes discomfort in the guests as the toxic pain that fills her life pours out onto everyone in the room. In his head, Simon is righteously trying to figure out how Jesus can let this woman touch him. For the sake of his dinner party, Simon’s looking for a reason to get her out.
Rules go far beyond our dinner table. There are many sets of rules that govern our actions in every area of our lives. For the most part, these rules are comfortable (which is why we Canadians claim to be some of the happiest people on earth - we’re mostly well fed and mostly happy and have mostly justified our place in the world, we are satisfied… for the the most part.) We’ve looked at the rules of life and figured out how to play them so we can mostly feel happy and think we’re safe safe and attempt to live in comfort.
Which feels good… sort-of… We feel alright… except for the discomfort we feel when the TV shows us how much more we have than the majority of the world.
We feel alright except for the discomfort we feel when the many justice oriented non-profit groups show us where we are actually contributing to the poverty of others through the clothes and food we buy, were we invest our money, how much energy and resources we consume.
We’re feeling alright, except for that discomfort we feel when the suffering is happening to someone very close to us.
We’re feeling alright here, except for those few awkward moments when our Garden parties are ruined by people who don’t live by the rules, who look different, who smell different - you know who I mean - the sinners. All these exceptions grate against the rules of life, and like Simon’s dinner party with a crying sinful woman in the middle of it, we are made uncomfortable by the injustice we know we live in.
King David has three pivotal moments in this phase of his life. The first moment is when Bathsheba returns to him - returns to the man who ordered her to his bedroom - and says two just little words, “I’m Pregnant.” This sends a panicked David down a road of lies and murder - This leads to the second pivotal moment as the prophet Nathan tells the parable of the man with one little sheep who is taken by the powerful man. David judges rightly and justly condemns the thieving rich man. “You are the man!” Nathan boldly throws in his face. Nathan’s words show clearly that whatever justification David has used to act the way he has - God does not agree. What David thought was done in secret, is not a secret to Yahweh. The God who drew near to David to give him an anointing with oil, to proclaim him King, who has guided him to victory over Goliath - all the way to the throne, is now on the move - God knows and sees what has happened and God knows the rules have been broken. David is broken. Davids last pivital moment is admitting that he has sinned - repentant, he falls to the ground begging for forgiveness. He has moved from a King who thinks himself to be above the law - to again being a servant of the Lord. He is no longer trying to be God in God’s place. He has been reminded of who God is, and humbly he begs for forgiveness.

God speaks through the prophet Nathan and the rules are restore. There are really two sets of rules here. First there are the rules that we all know and have established as cultural norms and laws.
The Second set of rules is God’s rule of love. Jesus, when asked what was the greatest commandment said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul. And Love your Neighbor.” David fails on both counts - regular laws and the God’s rule of Love.
Simons ruined Dinner Party is about to become more awkward as Simon is thinking rapidly of something to do to fix this uncomfortable situation - he wants to hold on to the rules that say that some people are welcome and some people are not.
And in the midst of this socially awkward situation, Jesus suddenly breaks even more rules. He admits that he knows that this woman is unclean and a sinner. He admits that he knows that she has many sins - but he does it by stating that all her sins have been forgiven - her faith - the faith that was a gift from God to trust that Jesus could in fact forgive her - the faith that emboldened her to trust God has saved her - now, at this moment, her faith is a fountain of life - she is made whole and complete by the lavish love of Jesus saturating her fully and completely. God’s rule of love trumps all the rules of exclusion - God’s love trumps the rules of the dinner party, and this woman celebrates her inclusion by lavishing praise and kisses all that is in her power back onto Jesus.
The discomfort we feel around the rules we live by is the grinding clash of the rules that govern our lives, and God’s rule of love.
This friction between the rules is where we will live our lives. The world will pull one way, love will pull another. David gets a dose of God’s Justice and returns to a love relationship with God as God and himself as human. Simon’s dinner party goes from being socially awkward, to a firm lesson in God’s rule breaking love, They all taste what it is to come into contact with the God who is on the move, breaking down walls of injustice so that healing and forgiveness and love can be fully expressed by all and to all.
So here we are… lavishly washed in the waters of baptism. Invited as friends to the Lords table to join intimately as family around that table. Empowered by the Spirit to stand up for love and challenged to let go of judgement. God’s rule of love - so different from our rules is the uninhibited relationship of acceptance and peace which sets us free - free to love God, free to love others, free to love, even when it means breaking the rules.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Mechanical Goodness...

The car just quit... then I boosted it and got over to a mechanical place - the battery was dead. Replaced that ($120). Then the charge light came on. This = alternator so... went to NAPA and got one of them... didn't fit... took it back ($250 saving) and went to an auto wrecker and bought one one there ($85). And now... it works!!!! How exciting to take the dremel and grind the rust off all the contact points - to spray the contact cleaner - to be dirty!!!

Battery $210
Alternator $85
Sense of Mechanical Godness! PRICELESS...