From the Bible:
In the world out there, the candy has been eaten and the baskets put away, but here it is still Easter.
At least for one more week.
And before we turn away or move on to what comes next, one more time we stand face to face with the promise of resurrection and are left to discern what it means for our lives and for these days in which we live. So, this morning, these verses from John’s Gospel as he seeks to convey his understanding of the meaning of resurrection.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Simon said to him, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon replied, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
– John 21: 15-17
Many of us grew up reading or, at least, knowing about Newsweek or Time magazine. Both magazines represented respected journalism that was relied on to bring expanded information about the headlines in the news. In 2011, Newsweek had a weekly circulation of roughly 1.5 million. That means last week, at least, 1.5 million people saw this cover and read this headline:
“Forget the Church. Follow Jesus.”
Maybe you saw it or heard about it, as well.
And, if that was not challenging enough the title of the lead article to which the headline referred was this:
The Forgotten Jesus: Christianity Has Been Destroyed by Politics, Priests and Get-Rich Evangelists. Ignore Them and Embrace Jesus.
Enough to give one pause, don’t you think?
At least for those of us who carve out precious time on a Sunday morning to be in a place like this.
And who are involved in the church…
And who take our place in the tradition of Jesus.
1.5 million people seeing the headline and reading the article.
But, it gets worse.
That respected weekly magazine, which so many relied on for so long, is three months late and 19 million people short.
What do I mean?
You may remember, in early January Jeff Bethke release a video on You Tube entitled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” When I checked on Thursday, Mr. Bethke’s video had been viewed 21.5 million times. Leaving Newsweek in the dust.
For those of us on the inside our initial reaction to both the Newsweek article and to the video is a stammered “But…” followed by all the reasons we think all of those out there are mistaken or wrong or don’t understand.
“What is going on in the world out there?” We ask.
“Why do they hate us so much?”
So, here is the tension.
On one side is forget the church.
On the other side is the witness of the Bible.
Yes, misused and abused by some.
But also preserved and protected and passed on by that church we are told to forget. Verses, stories, reminders, admonitions which you and I turn to for inspiration, and as a reminder of who we are called to be and what we are called to do. How do we begin to bridge that divide between where so many of them are and what we know and treasure and value about the church as we experience it?
Through recapturing the message of verses like the ones we heard this morning from John’s gospel.
There we might begin to find some common ground.
Or, at least a signpost that might point the way.
For, it seems that what continues to touch people out there…
Those who want to forget the church…
Is when we…
When the church…
When those of us who find meaning and hope in a place like this…
When what we do matches what we say.
When Christians practice what we preach without necessarily “preaching” at others.
When, in the words of John’s gospel, we feed and tend and take care of and protect.
When we practice resurrection.
Here is something I wrote on my blog this past week that seemed to strike a responsive chord both among those who know me and regularly read what I write, but also among some whom I have never met and have no idea who they are.
Here is what I think…
I care more about what you do and how you act, than about what you tell me you believe.
I care more about the language you use when you talk about and to other people, than whether you went to a church or a synagogue or a mosque last week.
I care more about whether you treat others the way you would like to be treated and whether you are grateful and generous, than whether your belief in God or Allah matches my belief in God.
I think how you behave is more important than what you believe.
Maybe that is why I find more common ground with those whose faith tradition is different than mine, and even with those who ask thoughtful and thought-provoking and challenging questions about my faith, but who I see, day-in and day-out, treating others with respect, spending their money thoughtfully, and doing their part to make the communities in which we live better, than those who demand some form of “correct belief” and are dismissive of me and others when we disagree with them.
Is that something of what is needed?
Of who we are called to be in the world?
In an article I read recently it said that research shows that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft. At four hours a day, seven days a week that translates into nearly seven years.
If it takes that long…
And we are to practice what we preach…
If we are to practice resurrection…
Maybe we better get started.