Here are some examples of what new job lingo really means. When you hear, “join our fast-paced company” what you ought to hear is “We have no time to train you.” “Casual work atmosphere” really means we don’t pay enough to be able to expect you to dress up. “Some overtime required” means some time each night and some time each weekend. And when you come across, “Duties will vary” translate that into “Anyone in the office can boss you around.”
Words can mean a lot but most of the time what is real is what is real—words or no words.
Now of course that doesn’t stop us from trying to spin things the way we wish they would be. Our desire for things to be a certain way can be so powerful that we simply refuse to see what’s really happening or what’s really true. At times this is delusion; other times it’s hope or faith. Wisdom is the ability to know which is the one you’re dealing in.
I mean take New Year’s resolutions. We all want to start off the new year heading in the right direction, doing something good that we haven’t done quite yet. Is this a matter of hope or a matter of some delusion? If you’ve done twenty resolutions and never kept one longer than a week, it may be a matter of some delusion. But if you’ve been able to keep an improvement going for some time, then by all means keep the faith and live by hope.
As your pastor, I made a New Year’s resolution for this Sunday. I am resolved to teach you what I consider to be the most fundamental truth in scripture and Christian faith. I want to get bottom-line basic, super fundamental about our faith, the cornerstone upon which everything else is built.
The truth is this: We are human, or even more truthful, we are earthlings, and here’s the kicker—this is a good thing. Not much but it actually packs a punch.
There are two creation stories in our Bible. Genesis one emphasizes two things: God’s word alone creates the universe and the earth and us and everything; the second is all this stuff, all this material physical stuff is actually good, which comes from God’s famous declaration/proclamation, “and God saw that it was good.”
The proclamation that all created stuff is good is one half of the fundamental truth of our faith. The second half comes from the second creation story: God made Adam out of the earth.
When we put the two truths together it tells us that we belong to this good stuff. We are earthlings, in other words. Or as one person said, we are mud-babies, and that’s a good thing.
Now it’s quite alright if you don’t quite see how this fundamental truth really matters for us and our faith. But think of this. Why does Moses have to take off his shoes when he stands in front of the burning bush? Which of course is ironic because most high priests and other such people close to God get all dressed up in their fancy clothes and perhaps even shoes. Moses had to take off his shoes as he stood before God because he was in his truest condition when his feet are touching the earth. God doesn’t need us any other way than how we were created, designed, and made to be.
Now stay with me. From this fundamental biblical truth comes the most important Christian truth: the belief or proclamation of the resurrection of the body. Christian faith continues the very first profession of God’s relationship to creation, to matter, to the earth, to our bodies, by saying death doesn’t overrule God’s love of all of this earthy stuff, and that includes our bodies.
And the connection and consistency of the fundamental truth that God created all things good, including us as physically, humanly, bodily continues beyond the resurrection into the last book of the Bible: Revelation.
You may or may not know this but Revelation doesn’t really talk about heaven. It talks about a new heaven and a new earth, with the second earth and heaven replacing the first one. In other words, God will recreate this creation right here but in a future time. This isn’t the normal idea of a heaven that exists right now.
How fundamental is the idea that God created all things good and we as bodily humans are also good? So important that no book in the Bible, no author, no scriptural expression or profession of our faith, is willing to overturn it by creating a perfect heaven outside of and opposite to this creation. If there is going to be anything recreated, it’s going to be just like what God did the first time only better in some ways.
No author in scripture is willing to tell God he got it wrong the first time. Neither should we by how we live.
Have faith in God. Believe in what God created in you. Keep faith with who you are and what you’re about.
John Stephen Akhwari was the marathon runner from Tanzania who fell at the halfway point during the 26 mile race in the 1968 Mexico City games when other runners were jockeying for position. Despite dislocating his knee and injuring his shoulder, he continued to run and finished last. Completing the race in a nearly empty stadium after sunset, Akhwari said, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
The problem isn’t that we’re imperfect. The problem is trying to hide or deny we’re imperfect. The problem comes when we falsify who we are, when we hide who we are, when we’ve got no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed by who we are or what has happened to us or what we’ve done, and yet we still are.
Take your biblical faith seriously as the truth: You are good even though you’re made of mud, of earth. Don’t deny you’re human, and mortal, and you don’t have it all together. You are worthy of love, goodness, and kindness.
I know the quote “The miracle is not to walk on water but on the earth,” sounds almost irreverent. It appears to deny the importance of one of Jesus’ miracles, when he walked on water to meet the disciples in their boat while being swamped by a storm on the Sea of Galilee. But it doesn’t because it really refers only to us.
It’s trying to point out too often we’re looking for a divine miracle of biblical proportions in our lives, some type of walking on water experience when we should be looking to live the more human miracle of earthly proportions, of truly walking on the earth, of living in our skin, accepting our humanity.
When Thich Nhat Hanb (pronounced Tik N’yat Hawn) says the miracle is to walk on the earth he means the miracle is to live not trying to escape exactly who God made you as.
I believe today more than ever so many people want to be able to walk on water. If we could just walk on water, we could walk over all of the problems we’re having because all these problems are tied to our very earthly, very physical, very human existence. If we could just walk on water, we could escape all the painful predicaments we experience and feel. We think earth gets in our way, in the way of whatever it is we’re still seeking and hoping to find.
Let me put it this way: There ain’t nobody leaving planet earth without being every bit as human on the last day as she or he was on the first.
What’s amazing is the birth, life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ proclaims the same thing time and again. To see our faith as professing anything other than God’s love for us in our flesh, in our faults, even in our sin is to miss the entire point of God’s gift of our Lord and Savior. Christ doesn’t fix us by getting rid of our humanity. We’re saved and fixed by claiming it fully, by becoming fully human.
Whether we see it or not, our Christian story is all about Christ Jesus’ refusal to deny even the smallest aspect of his complete and total humanity—even while remaining divine—from the beginning of his life to its end in his death.
There is no denial in Jesus of what we live and who we are. In Jesus’ life we see no turning away by meditating his way out of life’s pains as did Buddha. He refused to live a life simply as a teacher who died full of years, like a philosopher. Nor did he escape by ascending before death had taken its full grim grip upon his body, mind, and even spirit, such as Elijah.
There is no other religious faith that embraces completely the utter reality of being fully human, its total physicality, its true earthliness, as does Christian faith—faith in Jesus Christ. This most divine person, the most holy one, was the one who went through the most human of trials, tribulations, and temptations, even death. It was because he was faithful to all of them and through all of them that he was victorious.
When someone asks me where I want to be in my life, I have to admit I haven’t always given the best answer. I believe the best answer, the healthiest answer, the most spiritual answer, the most faithful and Christian answer to the question where I want to be in life is: Here. Here, since this is where I am. Here, since all of this is a gift. Here, since this is where I am, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Any other answer emphasizes remorse, misgivings, or unworthiness much more than gratitude, acceptance, or reality.
Only when we claim our God-created humanity, in all its truth of being made from good but finite and imperfect stuff, will we be able to live the Christian faith that Christ taught, that he lived and he died for.
So if you don’t have a new year’s resolution or if you’ve already shot yours down, try this one: I’m going to accept I’m never going to be perfect—nor is anyone else. I’m going to accept I’m always going to be merely but
wonderfully human. And I’m going to accept I’m loved and lovable here, now, as I am with all my imperfections, mistakes, faults, sin and weaknesses.