Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Feb. 13 Sermon: Higher Path
Sermon Texts: Deuteronomy and Matthew
We’ve all been at those forks in the road haven’t we? Before the days of GPS, when you come to a fork in the road and you just don’t know
deut. 30: Same obstacles lie ahead of either path you take through them. One gives us life, the other one death.
Pretty drastic language—as with the discussion on lust. Wow—I’m sure most churches would look like a zombie movie if we were to take this prescription literally.
What’s at the root of that? Lust objectifies people, and to Jesus, objectification is the ultimate sin. It is taking a person, a Spirit-bearer, and reducing her to what you find particularly delightful. Perhaps our bodies age and become less “lust inducing” can be a reminder to us that what grips us with lust is very, very temporary. But the light inside us never dies. And it is the light inside us that Christ is trying to get us to see in one another. That light can be overshadowed by lust, especially if we feed our lust. And lust is something that can be trained.
Tackle divorce issue? It’s probably going to be what they key in on the most there—social issue that churches approach in a variety of ways.
Obviously Jesus speaks against divorce, not only here, but elsewhere in each of the gospels, and even later in Matt 19, when he says So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." /7/ They said to him, "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" /8/ He said to them, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. /9/ And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery." /10/ His disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." /11/ But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.
May sound like Jesus is pinning the blame on the women—only the women are committing adultery? But viewed throught the lens of his contemporary culture, Jesus is actually speaking about the value of the women who are rejected in divorce. Though it was accepted in his culture, Jesus pointed to the significance of what divorce did to the women in question—Though the men who decided to divorce their wives thought it was appropriate just to think of themselves, Jesus reminds them what their actions mean for the lives of others. He tightens the bonds of covenant by including not only our actions, but the intent behind our actions.
Matthew speaks of a pathway of personal integrity, which joins the inner and outer life. What we think about and our emotional lives shape how we act. Small things – like anger – are in a continuum with dangerous actions such as murder. Jesus is not denying our emotional life or personal attractions, or asking us to repress our feelings, but reminding us that we need to educate our emotions and thoughts – that what we feel and think has an impact on our overall well-being. Integrity involves the integration of the inner and outer life in ways that are life-giving for us and others. We can experience a healing of memories, emotions, and thoughts that enable us to move from alienation to reconciliation and learn to live by love and not fear.
Steep pathway up a mountain Karate Kid. At the top of the mountain are Kung Fu masters, one of whom the Karate Kid sees on a cliff ledge face to face with a cobra, seemingly dancing with it as it bobs and weaves its head. He at first mistakes her for mimicking the motions of the cobra, then Jackie Chan, the new Mr. Miogi, tells him that she is actually controlling the snake with her intentionality. Choosing life is that high steep path to the mountaintop—and what Jesus tells us, whether we are ready to hear it or not, is that at the top of that mountain, our intentions are of primary importance. They are the place where true worship and love of God, or where murder and adultery begin.
Choosing life or choosing other gods is the follow through on momentum. That momentum can be trained and honed—but it takes diligence and committement.
cause the sayings of Jesus, especially in Matthew's text, go beyond a 'code' of ethics into a 'psychology' of ethics, they stimulate our "imaginations" so we go deeper into all that motivates us, the impact of even our most mundane actions on ourselves and others
It does bring to
mind something from the movie Eat Pray Love in
which someone talks about the importance of
controlling your thoughts. I believe what he said
was we should choose our thoughts the same way we
choose our clothes in the morning. Unfortunately
the way I choose my clothes is to reach in to a
dark closet without the light so that I don't wake
my wife and grab whatever pants and shirt my hand
falls upon; which is also the exact same way I
seem to do with my thoughts, groping around in a
dim mind trying to catch hold of something that
feels right. Most times this can lead to some
strange and foolish combinations, but once in a
while the results are interesting.