March 7, 2010

Sermon 3/7/2010


SERMON FOR Lent 3 C
March 7, 2010
MICHAEL COFFEY

Texts: Isaiah 55:1-9, Luke13:1-9



We are still hungry and thirsty.
The texts won’t let us forget it.
This season of Lent won’t let us forget it.
We are still hungry and thirsty.
When you hike into the Grand Canyon,
you see signs along the way that say:
Drink more water. You are already thirsty.
Those signs remind hikers of something that is obvious
but if ignored will lead to all kinds of problems.
Isaiah and Jesus and our Lenten tradition
remind us for good reason: We are still hungry and thirsty.
Don’t forget to eat and drink.
If you ignore it, it leads to all kinds of problems.

Isaiah does one more trick on us:
Isaiah not only reminds us that we are hungry and thirsty
but also that we keep going after the wrong food and drink.
Why do you eat and drink that which does not satisfy?
Why do you work so hard t get so little life out of life?
If you were hiking in the Grand Canyon
would you drink sea water?
If you were starving in the desert
would you eat thorns?

The key word for the season of Lent is repent.
They rhyme, you know, just so we can’t forget it.
It isn’t that we have Lent so we can repent
during a couple of downer months
before the bluebonnets finally bloom.
We have a season like Lent to remind us
that all of life includes a constant need for repentance.
Repent, Isaiah says.
Change your mind about God.
Repent, Jesus says.
Change your mind about God.
That’s what repent means.
Change your mind.
What were you thinking about God
and our lives lived in God and with each other?
Whatever it was, change your mind.
It’s not what you thought it was.

The key message in these texts today
is that if we think we know the mind of God
then it is time to change our minds.
Not change God’s mind!
Change our minds.

It was a terminal diagnosis.
Tim was a 45 year old married man and father of three.
He sat in the doctor’s office.
She was an old college friend.
She came in with the clipboard and pen in hand.
She had that excessively pleasant look doctors only give you
when they are about to give you bad news.
“Tim,” the doctor said.
“It’s terminal.
I’m afraid you’ve only got 43 years to live.”
Tim smiled at his good friend the doctor.
Well, Tim said, I guess it’s time to take that trip to Disney World.
And I should patch up my estranged relationships,
And maybe I’ll start figuring out what my legacy is going to be
on this earth.

Jesus looked at them all and said, more or less,
and I think perhaps with a bit of a wink in his eye like that doctor:
It’s terminal you know.
You might have a year to work on things,
you might have an hour left
because the earthquake
might make that tower fall down on you, too.
You might have 43 years.
But what does it matter?
Now is the time to take your life seriously
and live whatever it is God gave you to live.

Jesus was confronting some bad theological conversation
about whether this or that event
was caused because people had sinned.
With the recent major earthquakes and horrific suffering and death,
not a few people have been tempted to think and even speak:
There must be some human cause.
They must have done something,
and God must be doing something about it.

Jesus more or less replies:
Change your mind about God!
They weren’t any worse sinners than you.
Maybe you outta stop worrying about them
and figure you out, and get to it today.
God has plans for your life.
What are you waiting for?

An elderly woman had to bury her husband.
Just before the funeral services,
the undertaker came up to the widow and asked,
'How old was your husband?'
'98,' she replied, 'Two years older than me'
'Wow, so you're 96,' the undertaker commented.
Yes, she replied. She smiled at the young mortician and said,
'Hardly worth going home, is it?


So here’s the thing:
In our short time,
we try to do things,
we try to help others,
we try to accomplish and create and love,
we try to make up for what we mess up,
we try to pass on something of our selves
through sex and mentoring and building.
But all along the way,
we never quite figure it all out, do we?
We never quite see the big picture for what it is.
And we really, really want to.
We want the answers.
We want to know it all.
We want to know the mind of God.

Christianity has wrestled with this desire
to know and understand and master this life, and God.
We have come up with grand, complex theologies
that claim to explain so much,
so much of God and creation and humanity.
We keep assuming that since we know God in Jesus
that we must have somehow really got it,
somehow in this short life, and in our smallness,
we grabbed hold of the mystery.
And God just smiles like the Cheshire cat, and slips away.

God says to our human attempts to rise above our limited life:
My thoughts are not your thoughts.
My ways are not your ways.
As the stars and planets and galaxies are so far beyond your grasp,
so are my thoughts beyond your thoughts,
and my ways beyond your ways,
oh my beautiful, beloved people.
Change your mind, and stop trying to change mine.


This life is short and small
and filled with grace and confusion,
love and dejection,
pain and healing,
sorrow and abundant joy.
Because it is so baffling to us,
we look for ways to get it under wraps,
so we can feel like we have mastered it.
Sometimes our religion and theology do that for us.
Sometimes our economics and institutions do that for us.
We can be so sure that our way of doing things must be God’s way,
that in the end, we are eating and drinking all the wrong things,
and our hunger and thirst are never satisfied.

So the prophet Isaiah confronts us with this when he says:
Listen! Everyone who hungers and thirsts
Come, buy and eat!
It’s the biggest darn buffet you’ve ever seen!
There’s steak and falafel and soup.
There’s salad and cake and wine.
And get this:
Your money is no good here.
You can’t buy this stuff.
You don’t need credit, and there is no interest charged.
The greatest thing about it is:
it has no price.
Your life in God and with each other
is pure abundant gift.
So eat up , drink up, take into yourself
the good things of God,
which are always free, and always satisfy:
mercy, love, beauty.

Perhaps the greatest symbol of our consumption habits today
is that ubiquitous non-food food substance
called high fructose corn syrup.
It is cheap, empty calories
that do not satisfy in any real way,
whether we eat it or drink it.
And so much of our lives beyond our food diet
is a diet of high fructose corn syrup:
hungry for God, we eat up easy religion;
thirsty for relationship, we drink up shallow love.

Lent is our time to remind ourselves
that we are hungry, and we are thirsty,
and we can’t keep hiking through this canyon
without nourishment and hydration.
But don’t miss out:
it is also time to hear, even before Easter
that God’s will and work is to quench our thirst
and nourish our lives,
give us every good thing we need
to live this life we have been given.
And what is that food and drink?
it is the good news that God is God
and we aren’t,
and we aren’t even very good at faking it.
In our short span of life
we strive to get control of it,
set up systems and rules and economies that let us run the show,
create religion and ritual and theology that fool us with certitude.
But none of that matters,
neither our inability to know it all,
nor our false and misguided ways.
God makes everything we need so abundantly
that all there is to do
is eat up and drink up love and mercy and beauty.

Lent is our time to hear what we need to hear every day of our lives:
Now is the time.
Why waste any more time trying to figure it out?
Your life is a gift to live.
Why wait for some Easter to finally do it?
Today is the day of God’s goodness
coming to feed and sustain you.
Change your mind about you and God and this world:
God’s thoughts and ways are so much better
than we can ever imagine.

We also prepare during this Lenten time
to hear and see and taste and feel
how it is that Jesus lived this life
wasting no time,
spending nothing on empty calories,
living his short time on earth, shorter than most of ours,
with such a condensed love and care and commitment to God
that we are all renewed because of his life and his death.

What about you, Jesus is saying to us in the Gospel reading.
How will you live the life you have left to live?
It may be short,
it may be long,
but why assume that there is any time to be wasted
on all that does not satisfy and give life and bless others?
Why not feast today on the sumptuousness that is God,
and the delicacy that is life lived knowing mercy, love, and beauty.

We’re only going to figure out about 1/10 of 1% of anything anyway,
especially God’s thoughts and ways.
But we still get to live the ineffable mystery,
live in it, live with it, live by it,
and run up and down its streets
and join in its parade,
and sing its song.
Right now, this life, this God:
it’s all a great, mysterious gift to savor.
It’s not yours to control or understand or master:
It’s simply yours to enjoy: mercy, love, beauty.
Life is short! Eat well!

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