Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sermon for July 28, 2013 Genesis 18:20-32

Rev. George Miller
Genesis 18:20-32
“What’s In Your House?”
July 28, 2013

A few weeks ago I made reference to the TV show “Bones” in which the main character was told by her mother that “It’s not about surviving anymore- it’s about flourishing.”

Since then I have referenced the concept of flourishing quite a bit, both at church and in my own personal life.

As an active pop culture consumer, there are other shows that have left a lasting mark.

One is an episode of “Cougar Town” in which a character realizes she has reached the age where going out to the clubs and dancing until dawn is no longer appealing. Instead she’d rather share a glass of wine with a good friend and be home by 10.

Another is an episode from “Designing Women” in which they are called to redecorate the home of a woman who has recently died.

They go in and are immediately taken aback by what they see: odd collectables and an over-abundance of tchotckes which make them question the sanity of their dearly departed client.

Then they began to realize what would happen if they were to suddenly die and someone went into their house and judged them strictly on what they saw.

Suzanne, the former beauty queen, admits that she has sheep placenta in her fridge; something she uses as part of her beauty regime.

Mary Jo admits that she put some text books in the freezer after spilling water on them. Anthony admits he’s using his bathtub to store his hockey equipment.

What would people say about them if they were to find sheep placenta in the fridge, books in the freezer and a hockey stick in the shower?

I think about this episode often. For those of you who are “Marys” you may not fully understand what I mean, but for those of you who are “Marthas”- you certainly do.

I’m a relatively clean person, but it’s not always easy to get all my tasks done. So when I leave my house less then perfect I think about this episode and what would happen if I was to die in some freakish accident and people had to come in to my home to clean it. What would they think?

Often times there are dirty dishes on my counter even though the dishwasher is empty. It’s not because I’m lazy- I just prefer to wash my dishes by hand and sometimes it’s a day or two before I can get to them.

Last week I had a disturbing horror film in my DVD player. It was a film a friend recommended and I enjoy a good scare.

And in my fridge there is a 16 oz bottle of chocolate milk, except it’s not really chocolate milk anymore. I had finished it most of it then thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to mix in some Bailey’s and Frangelico and shake it up?”

So I worry that if I was to die in a freakish accident and someone came to my house they’d think I was a sociopathic slob who has a secret drinking problem.

Of course, if I really was to die, I hope that people would not focus on the dishes but instead would say “Oh crap! He’s dead!”

For the past two months we’ve been talking a lot about the concepts of being justified, of forgiveness and grace. This is so important because it seems like our culture is so quick to judge others.

As people we are so quick to judge others.

But at what part of someone’s life can we judge them? When can we take a snapshot of someone and say “That’s it! That’s who they truly are! That’s all they will ever be!”

Is it in their teens when their brains have not caught up with their bodies? Is it in their 20’s when they’re struggling to figure out who they are and trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents?

Is it in their 30s when things are supposed to begin settling down? In their 40’s when things have settled, slowed and drooped down?

Is it when a person has reached the age when they no longer care what others think so they dress as they choose and say what they please?

Is there any age or part of our life’s journey in which we have it all together and our house is completely clean off all blemishes and idiosyncrasies?

I think that is part of what is going on in today’s reading as we find ourselves immersed in the Abraham and Sarah saga.

If you recall, though they are childless and far along in years, God has called Abraham and Sarah to journey forward, to bring forth new life and to be a blessing to all the families of the world.

While on their journey, God pays them a unique visit and while their time together winds down, the Lord says “I’ve heard about how sinful the people of Sodom and Gomorrah have been. I must go down there myself to find out.”

Abraham fully understands what God is implying, so he says “Do you mean to tell me you plan on punishing the righteous with the wicked? What if you find 50 honest, decent folk in the city? Will you still destroy it? That doesn’t sound like the God I know.”

Abraham has been called by God to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, and already he is acting the part.

The Lord says “Ok Abraham, if I find 50 I will forgive the whole city.”

What an amazing story we have. Boldly, Abraham has stepped out on faith, reminding God what it means to be God; that the very essence of God is to bring forth life not death; to bring forth grace, not devestation.

Here we encounter a man, a mere mortal, like you, like I, who dares to change God’s mind.

And Abraham does not stop there. He has journeyed too long and understands his calling too well. “Pardon me God, but what if there are 45 people deemed righteous?”

“What if there’s 40? What if there’s 30? What if there’s 20?”

“What if there’s just 10 righteous people? Will you still find the whole city unworthy and destroy it? Huh? Huh?”

And God says “For the sake of 10 I will not destroy it.”

What if…what if we are not just talking about a city here? What if this story is a metaphor, talking about us, as people, as individuals?

What if this story is saying, in a symbolic way, that we are not to be seen as the world sees us: either all good or all bad, as either on the pedestal or in the curb?

What if this story dares to make the claim that we should be seen in a complete, realistic way?

Meaning we are to be viewed from where we have come from, what we have experienced, what we’ve needed to do to survive and what we’ve done in a moment of non-clarity.

Are we to be deemed completely as unworthy; wiped out because of a transgression or impurity?

Is God to judge and treat us as the world would care to have us judged and treated?

Abraham doesn’t view God this way. He grasps the idea that God is one who forgives; that God is not one who goes into our homes and immediately judges us based on sheep placenta or bottles of Bailey’s.

Today’s story of city-wide grace is one that can also speak to us as individuals.

Because the truth of the matter is that none of us are perfect. We have all done foolish things, sinful things, things that have deserved to be punished.

Some of us have closets full of skeletons; some of us have whole houses full; just rattling away.

It would be so easy to be judged by others; it would be so easy for others to come into our “home” and say we are unworthy to live.

So I ask: at what point of someone’s journey do we judge them? At what part of their journey do we condemn?

And what about ourselves?

Are we forever to be found guilty for our own past transgressions?

Or are we allowed another chance to flourish and do what’s right; to do the best that we can?

What percentage of sin makes us candidates for annihilation?

What percentage of righteousness makes us worthy of grace?

I can’t answer that, because I do not know.

But here is the thing that I do know; that which gives us hope: it is not the job of others to judge nor the role of others to condemn.

It is God’s. And in this book, in the Bible which we hold dear, there is an overarching story it tells, an overarching story I believe.

A story that says God came to us in the form of a child called Emmanuel, and that Emmanuel grew to become our Savior.

A Savior who came across an angry crowd ready to stone a woman for committing a crime, and drew a line in the sand saying “Let those who have not sinned cast the first stone.”

A Savior who heard a despised tax collector call his name from atop a tree and said to him “Let’s have supper together.”

A Savior who allowed a woman with a questionable reputation to wash his feet with her own tears and hair and said to her “Your sins are forgiven.”

A Savior who said to a convicted thief hanging beside him on a cross “Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus Christ, our Savior, who though deserted by his followers and left alone to die, was resurrected and came to them saying “Peace be with you” and “I will be with you always until the end of time.”

None of them had clean or tidy homes but they were all deemed worthy and deserving of God’s abundant love…

…We have trials-sometimes we fail.

We have temptations-sometimes we give in.

We become discouraged, we become weary.

But Jesus is our refuge. He knows how far we have wandered. He knows our burdens;

Like the woman at his feet, like the thief on the cross, we take them to Jesus, to release them, to let go, to find the assurance that we are justified and we are worthy of grace.

We are all worthy of flourishing...

…No one’s home is perfect. We all have our own sheep placenta in the fridge, books in the freezer and hockey equipment in the bathtub.

But we are also descendants of Abraham, on our very own journey, called to bring forth blessings to all the families of the world.

We were created to flourish and part of that is reminding God of just what it means to be God and to do what we can to bring forth life, not to celebrate the ways of death.

May God not only continue to hear our voices, but may Jesus continue to lead us forward and the Holy Spirit continue to use us as needed.

Amen and amen.

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