An economist was known to have a horseshoe prominently displayed above the door frame of his office. Asked what it was for, he replied that it was a good luck charm that helped his forecasts. But do you believe in that superstition? he was asked, he said, “Of course not!” But then why do you keep it? “Well,” he said, “it works whether you believe in it or not.”
I was at the hospital for my pre-op sign-in last week (I’m having double hernias fixed) and I met Christina Marie. She was the young woman who took my information and my credit card. She asked me what I did and I told her I’m a pastor. She looked happy about that so I asked her if she goes to church. She ended up telling me her dad is a minister.
She also said growing up as the pastor’s daughter was tough because people watched her a lot at church. She couldn’t have fun colored hair, and her skirt had to be below her knees, which in today’s fashion world among teenage girls is almost a crime. She couldn’t wear dark nail polish.
I told her I had a daughter who had also grown up going to church. I added that it wasn’t tough for her. She looked at me to explain and I said, “Because we don’t really care about those things.” She said that was nice with a big smile on her face, telling me she wish that would have been how it was for her, too.
I felt good about that response. But then I thought about it a little later. She may not like the way her church watches over such little things like nail polish color but, and this was my question: Which one of these two women will end up going to church later on when they’re grown up?
Now I’m not really asking about my daughter and this other minister’s daughter. They’ll both go to church—or else! My question is which kind of Christian faith is more likely to keep someone going in their walk with the Lord and life in the church—the faith and church that worries about little things and thinks this stuff is religiously important, or the one that believes such little things aren’t what God cares about? I wish I could say for sure the second one but I’m not sure that’s true.
Are you religious? I know we say we are Christian but that can often be merely a title, an identification label we wear. So the more important question is, especially since we are Christian, are you religious?
Is there even time any longer for religion? Don’t you have too many more important things to be doing than worrying about whether you get a
little religion in you this week, or month, or year? People today, even those who think positively about Christian faith still think there are some even more seriously important things going on in their life. This God stuff will just have to wait or move farther down the line.
The thing is few people realize how much they’ve sped up their lives to keep up. It’s like when you go to the beach and you go in the water straight in from where you set down your blanket or chair. You’re in the water for ten or fifteen minutes and you look up at your stuff and you can’t find it. That’s when you realize you’re down current 25 to 50 yards. You never knew how far and fast you were being carried away from your original starting point.
We keep running faster and faster to keep up and in order to keep up you’ve got to throw off some extra weight, some unnecessary time-hoggers, such as your religious life.
Just think about how this happens. It’s easier to see it if we think of how fast technology-speed time is. Go ahead and Google anything and you will receive a gazillion results in half a second. Actually, I Googled Miami Heat and got about 48,800,000 results in 0.35 seconds. How unbelievable is that? That ability has affected how we see life. We depend on technology and it changes us.
This isn’t a one-way street; we aren’t the total masters of our creations.
We do something to technology and then technology does something back to us. We adapt to its power and influence. If the world has gotten faster because of technologies then we move faster to keep up with them.
The current has just moved us downstream 25 yards.
Did you know Americans work now on average an hour more a week than they did just a few years ago. Business America keeps requiring more production out of the same person, so that person has to work faster, harder, longer. Something is going to lose out if you’ve just lost an hour a week to the boss.
This is something you can rarely help. Most of the time, you’ve got to pay the price, and that’s the cost of life today.
The current has just moved you downstream 25 yards.
Speaking of bosses, how about our children. We also live at the speed of our children, or at least too often the speed of what our children think their lives should be filled with. For sure, sometimes their requests are legitimate and important and parents ought to fulfill them. And at those times, yeah, it’s time to make a choice between possible choices for time.
But other times parents seem to be dragged around by their kids, their wants, and their view of what life’s supposed to be about–fast food, Chuck E Cheese, TV, activities, etc. It’s not good to give up that responsibility and even the weight of being the one to decide what’s best. It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it, right?
We just been moved downstream 25 yards. How difficult it is to getting back to where you belong?
In our scripture this morning we hear Jesus at his full-throated protest best. If you think Jesus was the type of person who was always carefree and never had a tough word to say to anybody, then you haven’t read this passage before, or you didn’t comprehend what’s happening here.
“It will be bad for you teachers of the law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites. You wash clean the outside of your cups and dishes. But inside they are full of things that you got by cheating other people and pleasing yourselves. Pharisees, you are blind! First make the inside of the cup clean and good. Then the outside of the cup can be truly clean.” (ERV)
He’s furious with the Pharisees’ preoccupation with exterior religious acts while ignoring the interior world of the heart, motives, intentions, unrestrained desires, and what they do or don’t do for and with others.
He’s furious with them pretending to be religious with meaningless acts of religion and then go and cheat people and be in it for themselves.
You see, no amount of preoccupation with doing things little “religiousy” properly will make one’s interior clean and good. Greed (things you got by cheating others) and self-indulgence (pleasing only yourselves) are the seeds of all sorts of unclean thoughts, motives, and actions. They can’t be cleaned up by anything other than a real desire to live a different way and actions that follow through on that desire, along with a huge dose of God’s grace and help.
The truth is there are a lot of people who look pretty good on the outside but who seriously don’t have it together on the inside. Sometimes people look so good on the outside they even convince themselves.
A fellow who owned a restaurant that sold ice cream, hot dogs, and deep fried food said one day a man came and asked whether or not he had seen his brother in a while. He had been a regular for some time. The owner said, no, and asked where he had been. The brother said he went to the doctor and the doctor told him he needed to stay away from food like this. The
owner asked him why he was there and he said, “Oh, I can still come and eat here. I haven’t been to the doctor.”
So many people are worried about everyone else and whether they’re doing things right. We ought to look at ourselves and worry about how things are doing inside of us.
I don’t know if you know this but the word religion comes from the same word as the word ligament. They both come from the verb ligare. Ligare means to connect, which makes sense when you think of a ligament. A ligament connects bone to bone and is there to keep things stable. So what does the word religion mean? It means to reconnect things.
And in a world that often seems crazy, being religious is reconnecting to sanity, returning to home base.
I have a friend that I used to play basketball with. He was a good guy. Now I don’t understand him. He talks about how he and others have been needlessly provoked in America and the time is coming when they may have to fight. He tells me he has zero respect for me because he disagrees with one view I have on something.
Or how about the family in Bradenton, Florida, that received several code compliance warnings and decided to paint their whole house the American flag as a protest to having to comply with codes such as no chipped paint. Their point is this is still America, which I guess means we shouldn’t have to comply with common sense codes. The flag thing is cool but doing it as a protest against code compliance…?
Did you hear about the father who was teaching his seven-year-old daughter how to ride a bike in their neighborhood when an older guy comes out of his house and starts to tell him he’s doing it wrong. The dad listened a little bit and finally said, “I’ve got this.” The guy says if don’t like my advice then get off my street. He got angrier when his advice was still not taken, went back into his house and came out with a shotgun. He was ready to aim it at the father but his wife, who had come out after him, grabbed it out of his hands.
There is such an overreaction today. People are so uptight. Americans get upset so easily, shooting someone in a theater for texting?! We need to reconnect to some sanity.
I don’t want to get pulled into the current that’s flowing all around us these days. I want to keep my head on straight and my heart in the right
place. This is the place that keeps me sane, kind, strong, believing, hopeful, peaceful, joyful.
I know God is the one who is to be thanked, praised, and worshiped. I believe in our Christian faith that tells us God is the power in our lives for new beginnings, for grace after failing, forgiveness from sin, for the strength to love others; God is the one who keeps our head and heart at home and at peace. I take Jesus at his word when he told the Pharisees and he tells us that real religion is to take on weightier issues such as justice and mercy. If you want to be religious, a religious Christian and not just any old Christian, then justice and mercy are essential to your walk with the Lord and your ability to keep sane in a tough, tough world and not be taken downstream with so many others.
Worship the Lord, practice compassion and grace, be empowered to hope again in good things, and be on the side of those who need God’s people to stand with them. Can anybody say Amen?