Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reflection on Proverbs 9:1-6

“Come over to my house. It is perfect. It is beautiful. It is a place of rest. It is my home…the home of me, Wisdom.

I have sent my girls out to find you; yes you. You desire wisdom don’t you? You desire me, right? Then come and have dinner with me. I will give you a rich feast. It is a feast of fine red wisdom wine, and perfectly grilled wisdom steak. It is a meal that even the foolish cannot pass up. In fact, it is a meal grilled perfectly for those who stumble through life. And, the wine quenches the thirst of those who seek to do good to their neighbor.

Here let me give you a sample of the succulent meal I will provide.

‘Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.’

Here, try this little morsel,

‘The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.’

And I love this one, it will wet your appetite for more,

‘Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.’

Come and eat my meal. Eat your fill of wisdom. Partake of me. Eat my flesh, drink my blood. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Do not just look at wisdom as one stands back and admires a nice mountain lake painting, but does not wish to enter into the painting’s waters. Enter into the waters of wisdom. Enter into the waters of life.

Wisdom is woven into the fabric of life. Without it, our world would fall apart and we would know nothing but argument and war. Enter in, and allow yourself to be a strand in the fabric that hold’s God’s creation together, peace, goodness, care of neighbor; Wisdom.

On your way in, beware of foolishness. She is across the street, hanging herself over her rod iron balcony.”

“Hey boys! Hi ya girls. Why are you listening to that old windbag? Where are you going, come over here. Everyone knows all of the fun is on this side of the street.

Don’t worry about anyone else, they will take care of themselves. It is time for you to worry about the most important person in the universe, you. It is time that you get some pleasure. I’ve got plenty to spare.

You want a good meal? Just take it…you deserve it. No need to work. No need to look out for anyone. Let everyone serve you. I’ve got some very pleasing bread for you, eat it in secret…keep it for yourself.

Step in the door, I’ve got lots of visitors. We love people who are struggling, it is so easy to get you in the door…I mean so good to set you into the lap of luxury.

Here smoke this. Here drink this. Why are you hesitating? Come on in. Take a peek in, look at all the dead…I mean formerly active people. Come, get your pleasure…get your rest. God has nothing for you. Wisdom has nothing to offer.”

“Foolishness, you cannot win. Wisdom holds creation together, you are nothing but broken pieces and broken promises. You fall away into nothing. You are not able to win. You are not able to hold creation close just as God holds creation close to God’s heart.

Come back over to this side of the street. Yes you. It is OK. I does not matter that you have paid a short visit to foolishness. You are always welcome over here at my table. Sit and eat the goodness of the Lord.

Yes, those are wounds on my hands. I got them for you. You are worth it. I want to the best for you. I hope that you will want the best for those around you also. That is the way of wisdom. Lay aside immaturity and live. Walk in the way of insight. Walk in ways that shows love to all. Walk in God's Wisdom.

Reflection on Ephesians 4:25-5:2

I hardly ever start out a reflection with a cheesy joke from the internet...but this one fits so I will fit into terrible pastor cliche for this one time. So, here it goes:

"My Dad was a taxi driver and he died peacefully in his sleep......Unlike his passengers, who died screaming."

Of course, you don't have to search for a joke to discover people asleep at the wheel. Just open the local newspaper and read an article like this one:

"Police have caught an alleged car thief after he fell asleep at the wheel.
Officers were called to a service station in Adelaide by an attendant at about 3:00am because a black Audi convertible had been sitting in the automatic car wash for over an hour.
When officers approached the vehicle, they found a Campbelltown man, 30, asleep. The man had stolen the vehicle, taken it to be cleaned, and soon after fell asleep. The man has been charged and will face court in September."

I have never titled my reflections before. I am not sure why, other than the fact that I was never taught to. I never expected that anyone would want to bind them into a library for later reference, therefore needing chapter titles. But, I do want to title this one: “Asleep at the wheel.”

That car thief was certainly asleep at the wheel. Who in there right, fully awake mind would steal an Audi, and then promptly fall asleep in it for over an hour, in an automatic car wash. As my dad would say, "That guy is one French fry short of a happy meal." That man is certainly asleep at the wheel, in more ways than one. He is at the wheel, but no one is upstairs looking at the road.

How many of you know people like that? Driving through life, with a glazed look on their faces, oblivious to all around? They are definitely asleep at the wheel.

I stayed the night with a friend in elementary school who was like that. As we walked around town, going into stores, the kid would just grab stuff. If he wanted a candy bar, he would grab a candy bar, open it, start to chew away at it, and walk right out of the store with the candy bar in hand. He would do the same with sodas. I was certain that at age eight I was going to be put away for life as an accessory to theft if he did not stop immediately. I stood right in front of him and said, “You got to stop doing this, it is wrong.”

“Stop doing what?” he said back with chocolate smeared across the side of his face.

He was clueless. He was never caught though, because he never looked like he was trying to do something wrong. The world was his. He had never been taught otherwise.

“Stealing is wrong,” I said.

He just looked at me like I had just gotten off a ship from Neptune. He was asleep at the wheel.

To this condition, Paul quotes, “Sleeper awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Wake up! You are saved. Christ has died for you. Live a life that makes it look like you were worth saving. Wake up! Do not remain asleep at the wheel.

Of course, stories like I told above makes being asleep at the wheel fun and lighthearted, but most of the time it is not. When an insurance companies denies covering urgent breast cancer surgery for a young mother because the company needs to make a little more money for their stock holders, being asleep at the wheel is not funny. The practice of recision (finding in her medical records that she came in for acne treatment, claiming that acne is a precancerous condition, and therefore claiming she has a fraudulent account that they will not cover) is not a funny example of being asleep at the wheel. And stock holders who do not care about their company’s ethics, as long as they make money, is not a funny example of being asleep at the wheel either. Christ has died for those insurance executives and those stock holders. Unfortunately for some reason their actions do not make them look like someone worth saving. Wake up! Do you not see that your sleepiness is actually affecting people’s lives? Wake up!

Give up your stealing. Instead, work hard for the sake of those who are desperate, in need, and do not have the time or luxury of driving asleep at the wheel.

It is not funny when idle chatter about someone spills around the entire restaurant, drifting throughout the entire town, making the person who was gossiped about unable to get a job and support their children. Leaky mouths are not funny. Wake up. Listen to what is coming out of your mouth. Does it build up or tear down? Talking while asleep at the wheel is dangerous. Wake up. You have been saved. Act like someone who has seen the face of grace. May the words of your mouth be ones of grace and truth. May they build up just as Christ lifts you up out of the pit and out of the fire of sin.

Listen, I know this is easier to say than it is to do. The problem with being asleep at the wheel is that it just comes up on you. One minute you are driving fine down the road, and the next minute you are off in another world with eyes closed. It is hard to stay awake.

While on the road, I've tried to slap myself, pinch myself, stick my head out of the widow into the rush of air and even literally pry open my eyes. But, you know how it is. None of these things work and sleepiness overtakes us. That is why Christians do not and cannot exist alone. I think that God had a good idea when God created a helper for Adam. Randele, my wife, reads to me while I drive and now I can keep awake. I could not possibly do it on my own. But, I do not have to. Christ puts us into a community of faith for a reason, because we cannot keep awake on our own.

We need others to help us stay awake to God's love and to our own expressions of love. We dare not be silent to one another because driving asleep at the wheel is not a funny matter. For the sake of our world in need, we rely on one another to keep awake.

Only as a community can we follow the instructions found in Ephesians to be imitators of God.

Read the words once again, but this time read them with the idea of community living out the words rather than individuals.

"So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

All Scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyrighted, 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and is used by permission. All rights reserved.