Rev. George Miller
March 11, 2012
Earlier this week I reread a book called “Love Wins” by Rev. Rob Bell which explores the notion of heaven.
In it, Rev. Bell states that the message of Jesus was not about where we go when we die, but about how we can best enter into life and live now.
In other words, heaven is not far away in the cosmos, but heaven exists here on earth when God’s will is done; where peace, justice and generosity occur.
According to Rev. Bell, the more we participate in these actions, the more we participate in heaven right now.
On another note, this week I also attended Disaster Preparedness training hosted by the UCC.
Though the topics we covered were scary, the class was not meant to intimidate, but to empower us for the next time a disaster strikes the area.
They want us to be prepared because it’s not “if” a disaster will strike; it’s “when” a disaster will strike.
The part of the class that most interested me was when a representative from the Sarasota Long-Term Recovery Team spoke.
She shared with us their guidelines of action when a disaster occurs. She said it is good to have someone in the church that knows them and can be in charge.
BUT, she stated, it should not be someone who follows things word for word, step by step and is the kind of person that when a disaster strikes, will first take out the guidelines, looking for the exact line of information before they do anything.
In others words, when it comes to overseeing a disaster response team, we want someone who knows the guidelines but also knows how to work within the guidelines, who can find the wiggle room, is flexible and can adapt to a situation.
This caught my attention, so she directed us to the booklet’s second page, which clearly states “These guidelines are a working document, and are adapted as new information…become available.”
People have clearly worked hard to put these instructions into place and yet they realize that sometimes in order to preserve life, one also has to be able to adjust and adopt.
I thought of how this fits into Rob Bell’s book and today’s reading from Psalm 19.
Now, if you were in Tuesday’s class or received this week’s K.I.T., you already know there are various views of Psalm 19.
C. S. Lewis, called this “The greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest (songs) in the world”, while theologian James Mays calls this a “problem” child and a left-over; pretty harsh words for a song
Is any one view point wrong? I don’t think so, but personally, I do think Psalm 19 has a flow. It begins with creation, goes into a celebration of the law and ends with an announcement of the forgiveness of sins.
In other words, it’s like a tiny encapsulation of Genesis, Exodus and the Gospels: creation, instruction, and forgiveness.
And if we were to boil it all down to one word, what would it be? Love.
And love wins.
In Psalm 19 we hear how the God who loves is the one who creates. The God who lovingly creates gives the law. The God who lovingly gives the law also lovingly forgives.
I think that sometimes we hear the word “law” or “torah” and think they are supposed to be a horrible thing, meant to restrain and prevent life.
But that was not their intent.
The laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai were not meant to be a burden or a chore, but as a source of joy. They were designed to create boundaries that would enable freedom and abundant life.
In fact, if we were to go back to the original Hebrew used for Psalm 19, we’d discover the word is not “law” but it is “instruction.”
Instruction, like guidance, meant to be pliable.
As Psalm 19 states, these guidelines by God were designed to evoke various responses: to revive our soul, make us wise, allow our hearts to rejoice and enlighten our eyes.
If you think about it, aren’t these emotions what people feel when they fall in love?
We feel refreshed and renewed, we think differently, we act differently: we hum, we whistle, we glow and our eyes sparkle to the point that people stop and say “There’s something different about you today.”
That’s what the guidelines of God are meant to do, to let us see and experience the world in a new way.
A way that realizes that God has given us instructions so that we can live.
And in essence, we discover that the laws of God boil down to two things:
Love our neighbor
That’s basically it; that’s a majority of what the Bible is trying to teach us.
And, as Christians, we would say the ultimate fulfillment of this is in Jesus Christ.
You want to know who God is and what God wants? Simply look towards Christ: everything he did, everything he said, everything he taught, shows us God.
Read the Gospels and you’ll discover that as much as Jesus was a follower of the law, he was flexible, he was adaptable, and he did what he believed was right for the situation at hand.
Jesus understood that there is a difference between following the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.
Because of this he got into trouble with those who did not like wiggle-room and with those who believed in checking out the rule book before responding to a situation.
Jesus may certainly have known the guidelines, but he wasn’t enslaved by them.
This is why he was able to reach out and touch the man with leprosy. This is why he had no qualms with healing on the Sabbath.
This is why he could offer praise to a Roman soldier, have dinner with a tax collector, or let a female student sit at his feet.
Jesus, in his very essence, in his very being, embodied the true spirit of the the Law, and in doing so, Jesus embodied love.
Love for God, love for neighbor, love for self.
And love wins.
The Good News is that the God who created us, the God who gave us instructions, the God who gave us his son and raised him up on Easter morn, did so not out of anger or a need to punish, but out of love.
And out of that love, God’s gifts of creation, instruction and forgiveness are meant to enhance and revive, guide and free, embrace and redeem.
In conclusion, the earth was meant to be a garden, where disappointment, sadness and guilt are best left behind; a place where peace and love prevail.
It is Christ we can look too and it is Christ who shows us just what love can do.
Yes, storms will enter our lives, disasters will strike, and the unexpected usually happens. But our dependence on God lessens the burdens we face.
And though it’s impossible to follow every letter of the law, if we simply remember to love God and to love our neighbor, the rest will all come naturally.
For as Rev. Rob Bell wrote, “Love wins.”
For that, we can say “Hallelujah” and we can say “Amen.”