A bit tongue in cheek this morning.
At least for a part of what I would like to say.
My hope is that maybe it will help us think about that wonderful and complicated and sometime challenging relationship between life and faith. So, here goes.
Let’s be honest.
Don’t you sometimes find all this God stuff just a little bit annoying?
Think about it for a moment.
Let’s start with Jesus in the passage (John 21) I just read.
How many times does he really have to ask Peter if Peter loves him?
After all they had been through together – water into wine and walking on water and feeding the 5000. And how about with how well they knew each other and how much time they had spent together, wouldn’t asking one time have been enough? And really, why did he even need to ask in the first place? He is Jesus, after all.
Or, what about this.
Remember that Garden of Eden story.
No evil. Only good.
No Republicans or Democrats. No Presidents or protesters.
Everything was just perfect.
In the center of this perfect Garden God plants this beautiful tree with the most fragrant blossoms and most delicious looking fruit. Then God tells Adam and Eve not to touch it. What’s up with that? That is like putting a plate full of brownies in front of ten year old and saying, “You can look at them. You can smell them. You can imagine how good they must taste. But don’t you dare, under any circumstances, eat one of them.” And, then you leave the house.
And, what about Moses and those 10 Commandments.
You have seen the pictures, right?
Those all important words carefully carved into those two stone tablets. I have a couple of questions. First of all, how did Moses ever get those tablets down off the mountain in the first place. Do you know how hard it is to carry something that big and that heavy down a mountain? Once he did get it down it took four men and a huge box to carry those tablets around.
And then, how did God ever expect the people to remember all them. If I need more than three things from the grocery store I need to make a list and put it in my pocket. God gave them 10 commandments to remember. A bit more important than my coffee, cookies and cereal. 10 commandments. Carved into a stone. How was that ever going to work?
Need another example?
Then how about this.
Remember that story of Jonah?
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and to tell the people there how bad they are and that God is going to destroy them and their city. That’s a sure way to win friends and influence people. Jonah tells God he doesn’t want to do it and then gets on a boat and heads in the opposite direction. God, who is not one to give up easily, then conjures up a storm which threatens to swamp the boat and kill everyone on board. Talk about going to extremes to make your point. Jonah knowing it is God who doing this and tells sailors to toss him overboard to save the ship and everyone on it. So, splash. Into the water goes Jonah. The storm subsides and the ship is saved. But instead of drowning, Jonah gets swallowed by this huge fish which instead of eating him spits him out on the shore right in front of Nineveh. Lesson One. Unless you can conjure up your own storm or fish, It is not easy to go toe to toe with God.
But, there is more.
Brushing himself off, Jonah finally relents, walks to the center of Nineveh and with all the enthusiasm of a child saying “I’m sorry.” when he really isn’t, Jonah tells the people of Nineveh how bad they are and that God is going to destroy them and their city. Rather than ignoring Jonah or laughing at him or chasing him out of town, the people listen to his mumbling speech and repent. And God spares them. After all that, go figure.
But seriously, all this God stuff sometimes is a bit annoying, isn’t it? In the same way a parent is annoying when you remind your children to brush their teeth or to say please and thank you or to put their dirty dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher. The truth is our basic instincts are to be selfish and self centered and protective and fearful.
Survival of the fittest is hardwired into our DNA.
Strangers are considered first as enemies that is how our ancestors survived.
Those who are different are those who are to be avoided or shunned or turned away.
Don’t you sense all of that somewhere in yourself?
I know it is in me.
Then along comes this annoying God who is not content to leave well enough alone. Instead of letting us be, God tells us to forget all that which is hardwired into our lives.
And tells us instead, we are fundamentally good and not bad.
They are fundamentally good and not evil.
That the differences which we see and which keep us apart and makes us suspicious and fearful of one another are only different reflections of the God’s own self.
And, that it is not us first and them last or my needs first and their needs if there is something left over, but that we are to love others the way we love ourselves and the way we love those closest to us. That we are to treat others the way we would like to be treated. And, like that parent reminding us over and over again to say please and thank you, God tells us that we are to pray for our enemies when we would rather shout at them. That we are to include the forgotten when we are busy enough as it is. That we are to feed the hungry even if it means we don’t get a second helping or dessert with dinner.
Maybe you are far better at this than I am.
I am forgetful.
I get distracted.
I get wrapped up in my own way of seeing life and world.
The only way I figure out this God stuff is by being reminded over and over and over again.