Being The Change - with Candy
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
A sermon based upon
Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Have you ever thought you had done everything for a project that was asked, and even perhaps went above and beyond the requests to deliver exceptional quality for a customer? Did you get to the customer looking for payment and your customer points out that a task was missed. The customer won’t show praise for missing an apparently important element.
Let me give a couple examples of this.
My parents would catch me on this a bunch when I was younger. (You can tell can’t you?) When we thought we had chores done, there were a couple times when Mom or Dad would review and realize the work was half done or something important not done (say folding the clothes) - Oh, the grief that would ensue. Dad would remind us of this error in very elegant ways thereafter even when would do great things by saying something like “half-‘done’ work is not done work…” You are going to have to do the work at some point.
Ever wrote a great paper for a class, but the grammar for the paper made it difficult to read? No matter how good your work was before that, papers from that point would be more seriously scrutinized.
The bowl of M&M’s
Rock legends, Van Halen had a way of writing contracts for their shows. A rider in the contracts would spell out that catering by the promoter would remove brown M&Ms from the candy bowls or forfeit the cost of the show. Instead of thinking about this like a punk-rocker request, there was a serious reason for the rider. Van Halen promoters would be getting serious money for setting up these large, heavy rock and roll concert stages and large lighting displays. The idea was that if you had the foresight to seriously read the requirements and deliver the quality of stage for Van Halen, the payout and prestige for this operation would be enormous. Otherwise, the damage could be substantial, as was the case for a couple promoters.
How does God do this? He gave us commandments and a covenant.
The story in Hosea is a condemnation and warning.
Jehu has caused a lot of blood, partially at God’s command (2 Kings), but the Lord means to teach a lesson for some things (the brown M&Ms of the Old Testament). Jehu may have thought he did everything God asked. Perhaps Jehu’s bloodthirstiness is a reason, but Jehu’s continued break of covenant has God concerned. Perhaps Jehu didn't ask for or want God’s forgiveness.
Turn to Hosea, the prophet is instructed to marry a prostitute and to bear children. The first with a name for a very fertile valley in Israel, Jezreel (meaning something along the lines of “God sows”). Lo-ruhamah (meaning “not pitied” - not happy), and then Lo-ammi, (meaning “not my people” - abandonment.) With each “child”, God becomes less patient with the continued break of covenant and is warning that forgiveness has limits - then walks.
Showing Our Work.
When I was in algebra class, I was instructed to show my work not just the answer. The answer was far less important than how you achieved it.
When we read Paul’s remarks, Paul again is talking about marks of faith (i.e. circumcision) but he is talking about being the faith instead of showing faith. Whatever we do to show our religion is not the same as actually living the faith. To truly have love for God and for neighbor, we must be the love. Also we must be respectful of the sacrifices that have come before us that got us to where we are today. All the good work you can do today is because someone provided the opportunity. In this case, Jesus, through mission and crucifixion, liberated us from the hallow hypocrisy of one dimensional religion and politic that devalues and excludes people from community.
Further, if we are to be true of faith and to be followers of Jesus, we have to be mindful of the gifts given, and to be willing to be love. We have to remember from where the gifts have been provided; that God has forgiven us so many times; and that we must also forgive.
This is what we are reminded in the Lord’s prayer.
Then, we hear the Gospel lesson about asking for “help” with a persistent nature. Jesus tells us that when we search, we will find if we are willing to persevere - knock and a door will open eventually. Jesus doesn't tell us what we will find; what we will see or hear on the other side of the door. Jesus reminds us that searching does not guarantee instantaneous returns but returns that require more diligence. Again, faith is not about flesh marks, poetic sayings and grand churches, but about how we do things - everyday .
Patience, persistence and neighborly gifts are important to our faith and life. How is that possible in today’s world of instantaneous action, 140-character, off-cuff remarks, and empty prayers or gifts?
If we do not take the time to consider what we do and how that impacts people, our love of neighbor is mere shallow words. If we only read the easy, how are we to understand the elements that are required for us to build a real foundation? Diligent effort and respect will get you results.
We will miss the brown M&M rider from God when we do not truly consider what we do. This is part of what God is saying to Hosea (and Amos) in the scriptures: that pain and suffering will happen for things like:
a slight-of-hand remark about Muslims or immigrants,
a racist joke,
trespassing on a neighbors property,
that one lie you told to…,
a greedy deal you sold,
or disrespecting someone else’s need to be heard.
Whether you realize the fault, of all of the things you do with good heart, those events when you do something disrespectful will be how you are viewed now, especially if you keep doing them. If you are not attentive of what you do and how it impacts the people and world around you, that disfavor will catch up with you. (Karma)
Again, Even God has limits. God gave Israel three strikes (according to Hosea represented by the children and diminishing names) before proverbially throwing hands up and saying you are on your own until you are ready. Yet, the pain of punishment may yield good favors if we persevere to make our path good. Yet, Jesus reminds us that God forgives if we are willing to ask for it.
How to receive requests
Jesus does however suggest that if people are asking from us, that we should be honorable in our gifts. If you want things in your life, you must be prepared to give in kind. Any Child of God deserves to be treated with the respect of another. If you deceive a Child of God, how could God trust you? Again, according to the lesson from the prophets, if you are deceitful and disrespectful, that is how you will be remembered.
What is the snake and scorpion that Jesus refers? Think of the last couple readings we had from Amos. Deceit, mistreatment of the poor, greed, gluttony, and idolatry are causes for punishment. There are a few politicians that could better realize this.
Jesus reminds us that every deed we do comes with this inherent requirement of fairness and scrutiny from God. We are to treat our neighbors as good dutiful friends regardless of how they look (e.g. black/Hispanic, LGBTQ, feminine/masculine, rich/poor), what they believe or how they speak. Jesus and Paul tell us that our actions on a day-to-day basis are more important in representing our faith than empty gestures of marking, boasting or yelling. When your actions are full of compassion and grace, then God will continue to bless you with forgiveness.
In this world of turmoil and pain, a fellow Stephen minister reminded us of the wise Gandhi who said to be the change you wish to see in the world.
If you wish to see compassion, be compassionate.
If you wish to see help in the community, be the help.
If you wish to see generosity, be generous with your heart and hugs.
To see love, be the love.
To see laughter, be real laughter.
To see Peace, be the peace.
To see good health, be healthy.
To see thankfulness, be thankful.
To see forgiveness, be forgiving.
Forgive our debtors and our debts will be forgiven.
Thanks Be to God.