Thursday, May 28, 2009

Giving Yourself Heart And Soul

Easter 4b.Christ Church.Pioche
In our lesson from Acts, Peter says that Jesus
is the stone that the builders rejected;
but he has become the cornerstone.
The cornerstone is the starting point, the foundation,
the stone that holds the others together.
You can imagine it better if you think of the capstone
at the top of an arch.
Without the capstone, the others collapse.
Peter calls Jesus the cornerstone.

I want to look at how that plays out for us.
We are pretty disillusioned with our institutions these days.
Church people have abused children.
The military commits torture.

The government has lied to us too many times.
The Red Cross misappropriates donations.
Even the Boy Scouts have had sex and money scandals.
None of the institutions that order our community lives
command our faith and loyalty like they once did.
But we can’t avoid them entirely.
We have to live with each other,
and that takes organized groups.

So we participate in groups we don’t really trust,
but we do it with a divided mind.
We sort of believe in what the group is doing,
but we don’t trust groups.
We don’t completely trust each other.

We participate in groups,
but only for the moment.
We participate, but we don’t really belong.
And so they all compete for how much of our lives
they can claim.

We are inundated with appeals for money.
Give to Public Radio, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, abused women,
the Church, United Way, Sierra Club, and the PTA.
And we might give our money if it would just buy us out
of all the demands on our time.

Because we don’t belong heart and soul to anything in particular,
everyone is after a little piece of us.
There are two problems that make this so hard.
One is the problem of drawing our boundaries.
The second is finding a center of the circle
to draw the boundary around.

What is it that we are trying to protect
from all the demands.
If we have no other center,
then it is likely to be ourselves.
I draw the boundary around myself to protect myself.

But a self that is always being protected
feels cramped and stingy.
It feels like one more character
staking its claim – saying “no,
this is my time, my money, my choice.”

The thing is it just doesn’t work to live
and work with people
when there is no central value
we uphold,
no great truth we still trust in,
no ultimate beauty before which
we kneel in awe and wonder.

It isn’t possible to really live
except by giving ourselves to something heart and soul.
We have to give ourselves to something on someone
who is good enough, true enough,
to live for and to die for.
You know the old adage – it’s an old adage because it’s true –
you haven’t found anything worth living for
until you find something worth dying for.
That’s why we are so lost in this disillusioned age.
John Lennon said, “Nothing is worth dying for.”
That’s why he never gave us a vision of anything
to truly live for.

It isn’t so much a matter of literally dying for someone or something.
It’s a matter of living for it all the way.It’s a matter of giving ourselves away to someone or something
- because that’s what life is – self-giving.

It’s a sky dive.
It’s a bungee jump.
It’s shooting the rapids in a kayak of faith.
Life isn’t holding back but pouring forth.

We need one thing or one person
to belong to heart and soul.
Then when all the other demands come along,
we put set them up in the light
of what our life is truly about.

That’s what Peter means when he calls Jesus the cornerstone.
Everything comes together in him.
If we give our lives to Jesus,
then if we work for this group or that group,
we do it as a way to give ourselves to Christ.
If we say “no” to this group or that group,
it isn’t to protect ourselves.
It’s because we can glorify Christ better another way.

But the question is: why should we give ourselves to Jesus?
It is quite simply because he gives his life for us.

In the Gospel lesson, Jesus says,
“I am the Good Shepherd . . . . (who) lays down his life
for the sheep.”
In the Epistle John says,
“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us . . . . .”

Now it’s easy to read this wrong.
Jesus doesn’t give himself for us to put us in his debt.
He doesn’t give himself to make us feel guilty and bound.
If that was the deal, I’d tell him to keep himself
and let me keep myself, thank you.

But it isn’t like this.
Jesus gives himself for us because he thinks we’re worth it.
Jesus doesn’t love us in spite of who we are.
He loves us because of who we are,
even if we can’t see ourselves the way he sees us.

Being loved like that isn’t coercive.
He isn’t demand our lives or else.
Being loved isn’t coercive, but it is attractive.

And the greatest thing about Jesus
is his ability to enjoy us, to laugh about us,
to cry for us, to bleed when we bleed.
Jesus is the human face of love
and that’s what makes him God.
That’s what makes him worthy of our adoration.
That’s what makes him the cornerstone
of a life that makes sense.

No, Jesus doesn’t demand our lives.
But he invites us to give them to him.
He invites us to follow him,
because he knows that we are lost without him.

So how do we follow him.
It’s all in the Baptismal Covenant.
We’ll say it today.
It’s about prayer and study.
It’s about fellowship and sacraments.
It’s about standing for peace and justice,
respecting the dignity of every human being,
and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

If you want a prayer that will ease your way into this,
the 23rd Psalm is a pretty good one.
Commit it to memory and say it each morning and each night.
If you want an outline for a life that makes sense
even in this crazy world and this crazy time,
take the Baptismal Covenant home with you.
Read it. Ponder it. Apply it to ever choice you make.
And all the jumble of life’s demands will begin to fall into place.