again

God,
You wait—
poised to enter our living,
again—
to ride into our being
inverting our expectations
of what’s impressive and successful,
and what’s ludicrous and ridiculous.

You’re ready, again,
to enter the fullness of our living—
all the stories unfolding simultaneously,
and in the turmoil thus generated,
we ask, who is this?
Who is this so unrelenting in loving?
Who is this so persistent in grace?
Who is this so other than any other?

And, in calling into question
our assumptions and presuppositions—
our priorities and norms,
who will You be to and for us?
Enemy?
Or savior?
One invited to stay with us and rearrange our being?
Or one dragged outside our being—
and left hanging there
again?

And yet,
here You are, God,
ready to enter our living—
again—

in Jesus’ name,
amen.

we often feel helpless

We often feel helpless, God,
in light of the hard circumstances of loved ones,
You know?
Not feeling like there’s anything we can do.
Not feeling like what we can do is enough—
wanting to do so much more—

feeling like our loved ones are all alone
in their hurt,
and that we’re separated from them
in that hurt—

feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.

And so we pray,
wondering if You know that feeling—

of being with people in the freedom they have—
in the freedom that is creation—
extending presence and love—
all that we have to offer too.

It doesn’t seem enough, God
from You or from us.

We want to change circumstances,
and all we can do is be with people
in and through circumstances—
in Jesus’ name.

And that is our prayer,
and, maybe, that is answer to prayer.

Amen?

protecting the stranger

Leviticus 19:33-34
Deuteronomy 10:12-22

One of the things we work on at home—
as a family—
try and work on at home as a family—
on a fairly regular basis, actually,
is the tendency for deflection
of blame and responsibility.

Because in cases of misbehavior,
disrespect, loss of temper and control,
in cases of things said that shouldn’t have been said,
or things done that shouldn’t have been done,
it is, more often than not “someone else’s fault!”
Even when that makes no sense whatsoever!
Or in cases of chores or requests for help,
“That’s someone else’s job!”
“It’s someone else’s turn!”
It’s not my responsibility.

It drives everyone in the house crazy
when I do all that!

And I’m hoping we all continue the process—
suspect we will need to all continue the process
of growing out of what is essentially immature—
in order to grow up—
and accept responsibility.

Is that a familiar refrain to you too?
To parents, I’m sure—
anyone around children on a regular basis, really—
or anyone who needs to mature, regardless of age, right?
But more generally?

Read the newspaper much?
Listen to talk radio?
Follow politics?
Listen to much preaching?
Take a moment to think of just how much blame
gets thrown around
in the apparently usually validated hope
that it will not be recognized
as the blatant abdication of responsibility it is.
Whether that’s you know, because the 1% are buying our country,
or the poor are milking it,
or illegal aliens are exploiting it.
Whether that’s because of the current administration
or the previous one,
or because the devil made me do it, don’t you know?

And it’s not always people who are blamed.
Big business is often blamed—
though darn it! I keep forgetting they’re people now too.
It’s still not always people.
How often do we say “I just don’t have time for that right now.”
I have a friend who gets particularly irritated with that excuse.
“You choose not to make time for that,” she’s quick to correct.

And I’m guessing she might have an equal disdain
for sayings such as “Well the deck was just stacked against me.”
Or “now just isn’t the time,” or “the stars just weren’t aligned”—
any abrogation, really, of personal responsibility and initiative.

How much more we could accomplish,
just imagine,
if our conversation were modeled more along the lines of:
here’s the problem—
or maybe it’s not a problem—here’s the issue.
(That’s usually the easy part—
usually pretty obvious),
but what if the next part of the conversation were then,
and here’s how I contribute to it—the problem—the circumstances.
Here’s what I can do differently within my circumstances.
And here’s what I commit to doing differently.

Now that’s the mature language of having grown up.
“Don’t want to blame the rich for what they got.
Don’t point a finger at the poor for what they have not”
(Amos Lee, “Freedom,” Blue Note Records, 2006).
Where do you think we’re supposed to get that these days?
Where is that modeled and taught?
In the home? Sure, hopefully.
Though it assumes a level of health and maturity
we certainly can’t take for granted, right?
In school?
Sure, again, hopefully.
Though it sure is easy to blame the teachers,
the parents, the principal, the system, the curriculum.
In music?!
Our culture, in general though,
does not acknowledge responsibility
as much as it seeks to avoid responsibility.

Maybe we can learn it in church.
That is the model of our faith liturgy, you see.
Because in the faith language of our liturgy,
we look to ourselves, not others
(as often as the church has gotten that wrong).
We talk about the awareness of sin
(the problem—the circumstances),
followed by confession
(here’s how I contribute to the problem—the circumstances),
repentance (here’s what I commit to doing differently—
to work toward different circumstances).
and you know what follows that—
in the liturgy?
Words of assurance.

And in our Old Testament texts this morning
that come from the books of the law—
fundamental writings to the Jewish and Christian faith traditions—
fundamental to an understanding of God,
and fundamental to an understanding
of God’s expectations of God’s followers,
we are explicitly told those we’re most likely to blame
we are to protect and love and value.
Love the stranger. Love the alien.
Protect them, it reads in our psalm.

The Leviticus text is embedded in a section
that begins with God telling Moses to tell the people
“Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1).
And the Deuteronomy passage on seeking justice
for widows and orphans and loving the stranger
follows the rhetorical question: what does God require of us?
To fear God, to walk in the ways of God, to love God
and to serve God with all your hear and all your soul
keeping God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 10:12-13a).

It’s a big deal.
One scholar identified 36 separate warnings
throughout the Old Testament of the obligation
of the people of God to aliens, widows, and orphans
(Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The Book of Leviticus:
Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections

in The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary
in Twelve Volumes: Volume I
[Nashville: Abingdon, 1994] 1135).

So amidst life, we’re to be as God.
Amidst the problems of life—
all the various circumstances,
we’re to be as God.

Here’s the thing.
I think we’re generally pretty good at recognizing problems.
We sure have enough of them!
And we know we need more words of assurance
in our lives and in our culture.
What we’ve lost is the middle part.
The confession and the repentance.
The work.
The taking responsibility.
Which is the being as God part, right?
And why have we lost the middle part?
Well, it’s the hard part—
the hard part that requires so much of us.

And that’s the crux of it, I do believe.
For our culture’s such a big fan of easy.
Oh, we talk in terms of convenience or freedom—
potential,
but it’s all too often, really, about easy—
about not hard—
not challenging.

And, as a matter of fact, it is true,
in difficult circumstances—
challenging, dangerous circumstances,
it’s far easier to blame someone else—
to shift the responsibility to someone else
(or to something else).

It’s easier to blame the alien
and the stranger—
the ones not like us (whoever they be).
It’s their fault.
The violence in our culture, their fault,
they import it—
along with the drugs and all the other crime
and the weird music.
Our economic woes—
their fault.
They exploit our health system.
They take our jobs—
we’re educating their children
which leads to lower educational standards
because they won’t learn English,
or keeps our kids from their rightful place
because they’re too focused on discipline or study—
or meet some quota, right?
They drive property values down—
or keep us from the property we’d have if they didn’t—
make the roads dangerous—
driving their overloaded bad cars in convoys across the country.

How much easier to blame,
than to admit we’ve completely messed things up.
But if we think there’s something to our faith,
to our sacred texts, to our understanding of God,
then don’t we have to pay attention to that?

Throughout Lent, we’ve been identifying killing sin—
deadly sin.
And have you noticed that a good bit of that deadly sin
is pretty thoroughly integrated into our culture?

There’s a fairly explicit contrast set up in God’s word.
And it’s really so much less
a contrast between what we should and shouldn’t do,
than it is between
the way things are and the way God is.

We have a culture that trusts in violence,
and a faith that calls us to trust in God.
Who you going to listen to?
We have a Supreme Court that says “Listen to the money
and treat it as a person,”
while we have a God who says,
“Listen to the poor and disadvantaged.”
Who you going to listen to?
We have a culture that values stuff,
and a God who says not to worship anything made with hands.
A culture that says it’s all about the individual self,
that it’s all about winners and losers,
and a God who says we’re all in this together.
Who you going to listen to?
We have a church that to great extent prioritizes condemnation,
and a God who is grace.
Who you going to listen to?

For in just such a culture, we say,
we’re called to be about redeeming the world—
transforming it not being conformed to it.
We’re to be about reshaping the story of culture
by clinging to a story—a truth—that reshapes us.
And it’s not easy.
It’s hard.
But it’s fulfilling.
It makes for a rich and abundant life.
It makes for love.

Winning the blame game, you see,
has nothing whatsoever
to do with addressing, let alone fixing our problems.
And until we stop playing the blame game—
and allowing others to play the blame game,
no one will grow up—no one will mature,
and nothing will get fixed—
whether that’s in our homes with our kids,
whether that’s us,
whether that’s our leaders.
“Freedom is seldom found
by beating someone [else] to the ground”
(Amos Lee).

To be faithful—and healthy
and mature (growing), we must acknowledge,
that we are responsible for our problems,
and we are responsible for fixing them.
And that in order to do that, we need to change.
We need to change whatever it is about what we take for granted—
whatever it is that is creating—
whatever it is that is sustaining our problems.

Worship and community are there to sustain us—
to challenge us—to encourage us.
Not trying to figure out who we can blame
to whom we can shift responsibility
while thus continuing to ignore the fact
that the real problems goes unaddressed.

Now none of that is easy.
But it’s healthy.

Religion that makes of following God something easy
isn’t healthy.
Because life isn’t easy,
and if you think it is,
then someone’s footing your bill.
And that’s not right. And if it’s not right,
you have to put it right.”
(Tim Minchin, “Naughty” from Matilda
RSC: Matilda [Stratford, 2010]).

Southern writer Flannery O’Connor,
in one of her letters, noted that
“All human nature vigorously resists grace
because grace changes us,
and the change is painful.”
And grace is the change, to which we’re most often called.
Grace is the repentance most needed—
grace the reality that will most make a redemptive difference
in our lives and in our world.

This is the language of maturing—of growing up.
It’s the language of health.
And I believe, at the heart of our faith
is a mature health—
the recognition and affirmation
of the difficult work of taking responsibility
and making the personal commitment required
for a different tomorrow—a better tomorrow—
a more grace-filled tomorrow.

We partake regularly in our worship of a symbolic meal.
It is, in part, recognition of the need for sustenance—
a different kind of sustenance.
For the way we need to be—are called to be—
is sustained by nurture other than our culture’s.
It’s not an easy meal—
it cost Jesus a lot.

He asks for it to cost us something too.
Because the commitment to live love
is the hard way to grow up—
to not blame—
to take responsibility.
The rich, abundant way,
but the hard way.

So hear his voice this morning at our table:
“Eat this to remember—
not just how I lived but how to live.
Eat this for sustenance in thus living—
symbolic of the sustaining worship and community
we consistently need.
Eat this to remember what I paid, yes,
but not to dwell on that as much as you too often do,
but to ask yourself
is such a living—
and the reality such a living begins to shape—
is it worth your life too?”

do we know enough?

Daniel 1:8-17
1 Corinthians 6:12; 9:24-27

Throughout Lent
and our consideration of deadly sins,
we’ve been referencing Scripture
as we consider what sins remain deadly
to us and to our world.
I hope and I pray
that as we’ve touched on such issues as
how much death our culture fosters—
as we’ve touched on consumerism and materialism
and our hyper-individualism,
the ever growing disparity between rich and poor,
you have some sense—
you do have some sense of their deadliness.

In our culture and our theology, sin is too often personal—
part of that hyper-individualism.
Sin’s not about the norms and values of our culture
that seek to shape us and our children
in images not so much like God.
No, sin is what we confess to in private,
and thus, too often, never have to deal with in public.
Sin is not the way things are,
it’s the things we do we shouldn’t—
which makes of sin entirely too small—
too inconsequential a truth.

So as we’ve touched on these cultural realities,
I hope and pray you have had some sense
of their deadliness as sin,
and I hope and pray as well,
that in the ongoing conversation of our worship,
you’ve been given cause to consider
how our faith might offer an antidote to what’s so deadly—
how our faith offers such an important resource
for living in our world—
truth that is relevant, powerful, timely,
and potentially redemptive—
this can save us.

This morning, in our Old Testament text,
we read about Daniel refusing the rich foods and wines
of the royal Babylonian court in order to remain
healthy and alert.
We can only imagine what all he would refuse
driving down our neon-lit streets!
He then proposes to the worried palace master
whom the king had made responsible for the exiled Jews’ welfare—
responsible for the royal rations allocated them,
that his health and that of his companions
be compared after ten days of eating vegetables and drinking water
to the health of those who indulged in the richer diet.

At a very practical level, we know,
beyond any shadow of doubt—
we know, supported by scientific evidence and research—
we know that a diet heavy on fruits and vegetables
with lots of water to drink
is healthy.
We know that eating locally grown—
we know that eating less sugar and less salt,
less saturated fat, less of that corn syrup that’s in just about everything,
fewer processed foods,
eating out less,
eating smaller portions of carbohydrates, meats and sweets,
is healthier.
We know all this. We all know this.

Do we know enough?
Evidently not.
Or knowing isn’t enough.
Even supported by scientific evidence and research—
even knowing the stakes.

The Bible advocates the cultivation of a discipline
that promotes health—
physical, biological health,
but it’s a discipline,
in our culture of indulgence and extravagance,
that promotes health at a deeper level as well.
Our need for—expectation of—assumption of—
defense of—hope for—investment in—
abundance masks the more profound truth
of a fundamental fear—
the fear of not having enough—
the fear of scarcity—
a fear stoked in just about every advertisement we see
that itself masks the fear of not being enough.

I checked.
According to The New York Times,
the average person is exposed up to 5,000 ads a day.
This was back in 2007,
and it’s gotten nothing but worse since then.
There are, of course, some that dispute that figure,
suggesting it’s much much lower.
More conservative estimates range through the hundreds.
But I don’t doubt the thousands.
Buy this and be well.
And the consistency of the repetitive claim belies the promise.

In our Epistle texts, Paul notes
that we should not do everything we can do.
In his words, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial.”
We should not do everything we can.
That’s about as close to sacrilege in our culture as you can get.
And it’s back to that idea of some kind of discipline
that promotes health.
Again, more than just physical, biological health—
some kind of cultural health.

We should not eat all we can.
Should not drink all we can.
Should not buy all we can.
Should not do all we can.
There’s more that’s legal than that’s right.
There’s more we’re free to do than we should do.
But in our vigorous defense of freedoms,
we don’t want to talk about the need for limits
(or we’re selective in that to which we’re willing to apply limits).

I am often critical of business—particularly big business.
Have you noticed?
I’m really not anti-business.
I’m anti obscene greed.
I’m anti profit over any and everything else.
And business lacks the same disciplines we all do.
They’re people too, after all, right? According to our Supreme Court.

That’s not to say there aren’t some businesses
(as there are some people)
who have the perspective and the strength of will
to cultivate this kind of discipline we’re talking about today.
“In October 1994, … a consortium of semi-conductor companies
volunteered to give up (return, relinquish, give back)
a $90 million-a-year federal subsidy.
The consortium, Sematech, was created seven years earlier
to encourage U.S. production of semiconductors.
As a result, it began to produce them,
and by 1994 the future of the industry was assured.
So Semtatech decided to stop the subsidy
on the principle that they did not need it anymore”
(Michael Schut, editor, Money & Faith: the search for enough
[Denver: Morehouse Education Resources, 2008] 39).

Do we know enough?
Not always.
Or knowing isn’t enough.
But sometimes it is. Sometimes it is.

Paul goes on in his letter to the Corinthians
to later reference the discipline of the athlete—
the self-control required to excel.

And to some extent we understand the need to sacrifice
in order to succeed—
at least we say we do,
and maybe intellectually we do

Many of us followed the Olympics this past winter.
Many of us follow the Ravens or the Orioles,
the Blast or some other team,
and we have some sense of the regimen
elite athletes have to follow—
what they go through in order to excel.
Right?
The strict diet.
The hours of exercise.
The physical drills.
And the right balance of food and exercise and rest and practice.

We read horror stories of those who try and take short cuts.
Steroids.
Eating disorders.
Injuries.
Surgeries.
But we also know that short cuts are dreadfully tempting, don’t we?
And athletes, like businesses, are just people,
like you and like me,
some with healthy discipline. Some not.

And it’s not just sports, of course.
We know what it takes to succeed in music, don’t we?
Practice, right?
Lots and lots of practice.
To succeed in school—
work, right?
Study.
It’s not just going to happen.
To succeed at work?
Put in the hours—
maintaining—this is tricky—
some sense of of a healthy balance.

I think I’ve suggested before
the value of considering
the discipline of becoming me—of becoming you—
the danger of assuming it just happens.
Something does.
Something just happens,
But is the me who just happens
the me I want to be?
Or is the me I want to be
one carefully considered?
Shaped with self-control and discipline?

And there are some people
who have the perspective and the strength of will
to cultivate this kind of discipline we’re talking about today.
But what about the many more who don’t?
After all, how many elite athletes are there
compared to the population as a whole?
How many superb musicians?
Is it legitimate—
is it appropriate to talk about limits
within our freedoms
for those who don’t know how to live within them?

Herman Daly, an economist with years of service at the World Bank,
talks as many others do of ratios in earning,
what is sometimes called “limited inequality.”
Daly points out that “the military and the civil service in this country
both earn at a ratio of around ten to one:
the highest paid member of the military makes no more
than ten times the lowest paid member.
In academic circles the ratio is around seven to one ….
These ratios are in sharp contrast to CEO’s salaries—
the chair of General Motors versus the assembly line auto worker ….”
(Schut, 144)
To say nothing of Hollywood and professional sports.

We protect the freedom of people to make as much as they can.
Joe Flacco makes more than he needs or deserves.
But he makes what the market gave him, right?
And how dare we propose even the idea of imposing limits?
That’s the question, isn’t it?
Though I think our question, as followers of God,
as respecters of Scripture as teacher and guide,
ought be, how dare we not?

“Money is one of the most common subjects in the entire Bible.
Jesus spoke about it frequently. Opinions differ
as to the number of parables in the Bible.
In one count of 43 parables, 23 (or 62%) refer to money and possessions.
One of every seven verses in the Synoptic Gospels,
and one out of 10 in the four Gospels deals with money and/or possessions.
In the Bible there are 500 references to prayer,
slightly fewer than 500 dealing with faith,
but more than 2000 verses deal with money and possessions”
(Eugene Grimm, quoted in Schut, 39).

We are doing such a good job,
as the church in general,
of making peripheral to our living
what was central to Jesus’,
and of making central to our faith,
what was peripheral to Jesus’.

And the more we make what was central to Jesus
peripheral to our lives as individuals and as churches,
the more peripheral becomes our witness
as christians and as church in the world.

I’m always simultaneously tickled and embarrassed
when someone other than a follower of God
in the way of Jesus
articulates what I believe the church should be saying
so much more clearly and directly than the church tends to.
The English rock and new wave band, the Fixx
released a song in 1991 called “How Much Is Enough?”
that included these lyrics:
“Good enough’s not good enough
Don’t complain that you’ve got it tough
With all you have your life’s a bore
Can’t relax you want so much more
Blind needs won’t set you free
Can’t you see that
Time is slipping away?
But I got to say
How much is enough when your soul is empty?
How much is enough in the land of plenty?
When you have all you want and you still feel nothing
How much is enough?
(“How Much Is Enough?”
written by Ashley Woodman Hall, Cy Curnin, Scott Cutler
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing)

Now please hear this carefully,
I don’t know how to tell anyone when enough’s enough.
I don’t think that’s anyone’s place.
Because we don’t know, do we,
who’s supporting parents, for example.
Who has medical bills.
We don’t know what all goes into meeting the needs of children—
of providing for our childrens’ futures—
how much is enough.
Can there ever be enough to feel like enough—
to feel like we’ve provided them the security we want to?
But that’s not the best gift we have to give them, is it?
That’s not a gift we can give them—security.
More important is the assurance—
a confidence in their sufficiency—their blessedness—
our love for them.

So it’s not my place to say this is enough for anyone else,
but I think it is my place, as minister, as preacher,
to suggest that our faith promotes a discipline
that requires an ongoing assessment
do I know enough?

Novelist, poet, essayist, cultural critic,
environmental activist, farmer,
Wendell Berry, who said in an interview:
“I’m not a Baptist in any formal way.
I go to the Baptist church ….
I am a person who takes the Gospel seriously,
but I have had trouble conforming my thoughts to a denomination.”
Wendell Berry writes, “The great obstacle is simply this:
the conviction that we cannot change
because we are dependent upon what is wrong.”
Now I’ve heard that before.
I’ve thought that before.
But here’s what makes Wendell Berry Wendell Berry.
He goes on to state:
“But that is the addict’s excuse,
and we know that it will not do”
(Wendell Berry, quoted in Schut, 11).

Part of our faith is supposed to be about helping each other
cultivate the discipline of recognizing enough—
knowing it’s a moving, changing target,
and then help each other cultivate the discipline
of, once having recognized enough,
to then say (and mean) enough.
Because just knowing is not enough!
It starts by saying this is what we talk about.
This is appropriately on the table.
It continues with us deliberately modeling the discipline of enough
in various realms of life.
Steve Nichols was telling me about the healthier snacks
he keeps in his office, and I can learn from him.
The WEE committee has had off and on conversation
about healthier snacks.
But it’s also about enough screen time,
and that’s not just kids and TV and video games,
but parents and iPads and phones and computers.
Enough stuff, enough work.
And healthy is more involved—more complicated—
requires more of us—
isn’t as easy.
But we’re not called to the easy life.
We’re called to reject a good life defined by easy—
to reject an abundant life defined by stuff.
We’re called to a good life—an abundant life
defined by the presence of God with us along the way.

We confessed earlier
to not knowing the truth, the depth and possibility of enough.
Hear now words of assurance.
Yesterday at Margie’s memorial service,
I was struck in both Joanne’s words (Gerri’s sister)
and Dennis’ (Joanne’s husband’s)
how little they spoke of stuff and even events,
and so much more about conversations
and a way of relating—a way of loving.
Margie knew enough.
That’s why we gather in community.

So my name is John. And I’m an addict—
part of an addicted society—
addicted to stuff and to more,
and I need your help
to live healthier—
to make the better decisions I can’t make on my own.

And that’s enough
from me.

we gather in worship

Our God,

we gather
in worship—
in Your presence,
and in each other’s,
to be reminded—
amidst all the trials and temptations of living—
and amidst all that makes life just sometimes so hard—
to be reminded to keep choosing
to live in Your way,
to be reminded of the richness and the wonder
of life in Your way,
the abundance and the joy—

to be led in that way,
through example of biblical story
and shared witness,

and to be sustained in that way
in word and liturgy,
in prayer—
in the comfort we receive in the midst of it all—
the comfort and the reassurance—
in and through all the love—
Your love and the love of those around us—

making a new tomorrow possible—
a different tomorrow—
a more grace-filled tomorrow

in Jesus’ name,
amen.

braided

Our experience, God,
is a confusing braiding together
of wonder and horror,
hope and fear,
pride and regret,
gratitude and anger—
all woven seamlessly into our praying.

And so we image You
so carefully tracing the strands of our praying—
some with wonder, some with horror,
some with hope, some with fear,
some with pride, some with regret,
some with gratitude, some with anger—
all woven seamlessly into Your loving.

You know us as we truly are;
we seek to ever know You as You are

in Jesus’ name,
amen.

naughty Jesus

We went up to New York City
and took the girls to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s
Broadway presentation of its multi award winning musical
“Matilda,” based on the book by Roald Dahl.
I was particularly struck by the lyrics
to the song “Naughty” by Tim Minchin.

It’s Matilda herself, a young girl,
trapped in a rather terrible set of circumstances,
who sings:

“Jack and Jill, went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water, so they say.
Their subsequent fall was inevitable.
They never stood a chance, they were written that way—
innocent victims of their story!

Like Romeo and Juliet,
t’ was written in the stars before they even met,
that love and fate, and a touch of stupidity,
would rob them of their hope of living happily.
The endings are often a little bit gory.
I wonder why they didn’t just change their story?
We’re told we have to do as we are told but surely
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.

Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
nothing will change.

Even if you’re little, you can do a lot, you
mustn’t let a little thing like, ‘little’ stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
might as well be saying
you think that it’s ok,
and that’s not right!
And if it’s not right,
you have to put it right….

If you’re stuck in your story and want to get out,
you don’t have to cry, you don’t have to shout ….
but nobody else is gonna put it right for me.
Nobody but me is going to change my story.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty!”

Love the idea of changing your story—
of not accepting it as a given.
Love the idea of children claiming that power.
It is, after all, incumbent upon us
to carefully—prayerfully—discern when to be naughty not nice.
That’s a hard lesson to teach our children.
It’s a hard lesson to learn.
You have to be so very, very careful.

And I have wondered, as we prepare to enter the month of Easter,
about endings that are a little bit gory
and temptations to change the story.
And it seems to me that more important to Jesus
than his own story,
was the story of God,
unfolding in such stark contrast
to the stories of culture and institution
that pressured Jesus (as they do us)
to conform to their plots.

So Jesus’ strong commitment to changing the story—
to not accepting it as a given—
to being naughty,
was not a commitment to changing his own story,
but the stories of his time and place—
the stories of the institutional religion of his day.

Two things to ponder
as we continue moving through Lent
heading to Easter:
the confession that we tend to change God’s story
to better fit ours,
than to change ours to better fit God’s,
and, nonetheless, the hope—the faith—the affirmation
that it is God’s story that continues to unfold.

For as much as we consistently choose our own stories,
ours is the naughty God
ever busily rewriting—changing the story again.
Thank God.