Sunday, January 26, 2014

Troubling Thoughts

I’ve been thinking about Jesus lately.  Not a bad thing for a preacher to be thinking about, right?  I’ve also been thinking about what it means for a person of our time to be a follower of Jesus.  Also, not a bad thing for a preacher to be thinking about, right?

Well, I’m not real pleased with where my thoughts have led me.  Thinking about Jesus and what it means to be his follower, at the same time, has not left me feeling so kindly toward Jesus or myself.  Jesus wants us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, share our stuff and ourselves with others, forgive others, be a blessing to others, turn the other cheek, and . . . well, he just never quits. 

Were Jesus and his chroniclers around today, his teachings and expectations would surely be different—different as in more fitting to our time.  Surely, the things he said to a poor people in ancient Palestine have nothing really to say to us.  He would understand that without the things we have today, we just can’t make it . . . and not even Jesus could love some of the people with whom we have to deal.

Surely those extremely liberal scholars are right and not all this stuff in the Gospels really comes from Jesus.  Jesus, who loves me and saves me and wants the best for me, really wouldn’t expect me to sacrifice.  After all, he has already paid the price, made the ultimate sacrifice.  I’ve been bought with a price and the rest of life is free.  Hallelujah and Amen!

Listen up.  Do not read Matthew 5-7.  It will mess with your mind.  There is just no way that Jesus could or would have said all that is written in those chapters.  Matthew must have been writing an April Fool’s gospel.

On the other hand, if Jesus really said what Matthew said he said, we “got trouble, my friends, right here, I say trouble, right here in river city.”  When there is trouble, there are a couple of options.  One can take actions to end the trouble, or one can get rid of the troublemaker. The latter is easier. 

Oh, I’m not ready to get rid of Jesus.  I need a savior.  Let’s just do some helpful editing of Matthew’s Gospel—cut out and burn chapters 5-7.  It’s the only sane thing to do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Final Exam . . . Oh No!

It happened again this past Saturday night. I thought I was past this. It had been a long, long time since it had happened.  I dreamed I was in school and suddenly faced with a final exam in a class I had forgotten that I had.

There were three essay questions.  From the questions, it was obvious this was an American history class.  In my college days, that was the course that was used to weed out those who “didn’t belong in college.”  I can still remember my horror when we covered the entire War Between the States and Reconstruction in the last five minutes of the last class period before the final exam.  The professor, smiled as he said, “This material will be on the final.”  All of this took place in the fall of 1967.

In real life, I was saved by another history class and teacher.  Mr. Deweese, my high school American history teacher, thought he had a responsibility to cover all the course material in the time allotted.  So, we had actually studied the War Between the States, and I had written a paper on the “Reconstruction of the South.”  I passed that college history class because someone else had provided the means for doing so.

In my dream last night, I finally woke up.  It was too early, and I thought about going back to sleep. I can do that.  I chose not to do so because I can also reenter dreams from which I have momentarily awaken.  This was not a dream I wanted to revisit.  So, I got up, had my morning coffee, and said a silent, “Thank you, Mr. Deweese.”

Many of us come to look at life, particularly our lives in relationship to God, in the same manner we look at school.  We see God as the exam-giver, and we keep hoping that by some means we will score high enough to squeeze by with a passing grade.  Perhaps life is a bit like school; but if it is, it is school with a teacher like Mr. Deweese but more so.  Mr. Deweese was not a dynamic teacher, but he was a good teacher.  He was with us each day, and he cared about us, actually wanting us to get what he was teaching us. While he took pride in those students who excelled, he never shied from walking alongside those who were struggling, whose life situations made learning hard.

It dawned on me this morning, that the “Christmas story,” as told in the Gospel of John, is the story of the Teacher who has come to make sure we pass the final exam.  In Christ, we have all we need: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory. . . .  It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

This Teacher who has come from God is our hope.  “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

Should I dream of having to take God's final, I will not fear.  The Teacher, who has come to dwell among us, and I are mastering the course of Life.