Monday, August 22, 2016

Stay Stuck in the Past or Move Forward in Christ? Hebrews 12:18-29 sermon

Rev. George Miller
Hebrews 12:18-29
August 21, 2016

Wednesday is the day I clean my home; it’s something I like to do.

Sweep the floors, vacuum the carpets, scrub the stovetop, wash the clothes.

This Wednesday was different. With the news that I’ve been accepted into the 8-week adoption class, I am now one step closer to being a Daddy.

I knew I had to begin preparing.

First, the closet in the guest bedroom needs to be emptied with the hopes of schoolbags, Legos and Pokémon taking the place of suits, luggage and 20 years worth of LPs.

But where to put the stuff?

Sure-some can go into my bedroom closet, but there’s limited space.

I have a shed, but vinyl records won’t do well in Florida’s heat.

There is a hallway linen closet. It’s tall, with lot of shelves, and it’s deep.

Trouble is, the hall closet is filled with lots of linens, towels and blankets.

It also has the smell of an enclosed space that was built in 1960 and is 56 years old.

So I got to work.

Now truth be told- I like to clean. Not clean as in washing the windows or wiping the dust off of ceiling fans.

But clean as in getting stuff the heck out.

I love throwing things away or donating them. Yet, no matter how much I’ve moved over the past 6 years, no much how much I have condensed, condensed, condensed, I still have too much stuff.

Talk about 1st World Problems!

Some of this is not my fault; it’s my Mom’s fault. It’s the fault of my generous friends. It’s the people from my past.

They unselfishly gave me things. Some of the things I liked. Some I never, ever needed. Some were never really me.

But I held onto them because of the sentiment behind them.

Some things are items I bought, items I purchased at another era or stage of my life.

These items have an emotional energy attached to them- of when I felt lost, or felt lonely, or couldn’t afford anything else.

So like many people, I held onto these items, even if I never used them.

There was always that “what if?”

What if I lose the ability to buy more things? What if the giver of the gift came over and asked to see it?

What if all of a sudden I need the 6 bath towels, 8 face towels, 10 washcloths, 2 sets of unused bed linen, the pink pillowcases and the numerous blankets I have?

Almost all of them I never use.

Like most bachelors, I can make a bath towel last a week, and who really uses hand towels and washcloths anyway?

So not only does the hallway linen closet smell of 56 years, so does the unused towels, cloths, sheets and blankets that sit in there.

What to do?

Step 1- everything came out of the closet.

Step 2- everything went through the “Happiness Test.”

The “Happiness Test” is when you hold an item to your chest and if it doesn’t make you feel completely happy, you get rid of it.

So there was the “keep” pile, the “rag” pile, and the “donate” pile.

After all, why hold onto things that make you sad? Or items that remind you of struggle, shame, loss or heartbreak?

Why hold onto things that were never really me, or never really mine?

Brown washcloths are not me. Orange blankets are not me. Pink pillowcases are not me, not matter how cheap they were.

But a deep blue extra extra large super comfy towel- that’s me.

The 20 year old Cookie Monster blanket that’s been used by my brother, my niece and Cornelius at various beaches throughout the years? That’s me.

Step 3- spray the closet shelves with all-purpose cleaner, wipe them down, Febreeze the heck out of the floor rug, then light a coconut-vanilla candle and coconut incense to burn away the closet’s smell.

Why? To cleanse and to create a physical, symbolic divide between the old and the new, the past and the hoped-for-future.

So instead of smelling like 56 years of someone else and their family, it can start to smell more like me, and my family to be…

This reminds of today’s reading. A reading about 2 ways of living; 2 eras symbolized by two mountains- Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion.

Mt. Sinai is the mountain where Moses and the Israelites experienced God.

Mt. Sinai represents the people’s time in the wilderness, wandering, feeling lost, lonely, confused, fearful, feeling both disappointed by and scared of God.

On the other hand, Mt. Zion represents the glorious moment in Israel’s history when King David and Solomon were their rulers.

They were safe, protected, unified, happy and feeling blessed by God.

Mt. Zion was the place where the Temple sat, a stunning building that seemed to shimmer when the sun hit it just right.

In today’s reading, Mt. Zion represents more than that- it represents the possible future; it represents the eternal Kingdom of God.

Mt. Zion represents paradise, roots, community, clarity, peace, feeling the grace of God, and knowing that God is indeed well pleased.

Thus, for the author of Hebrews, Mt. Zion is the result of a life lived in Christ. A life in which one is content. A life in which one does not need much to be satisfied.

A life in which mutual love exists, money doesn’t have the most say, hospitality is extended to those we don’t know.

Mt. Zion is the place where relationships are honored, the hurting and imprisoned are cared for, and no one feels forsaken.

A life in which one can say “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

In today’s reading the author is stating that we have choices. In life we always have choices.

Now that you have Jesus Christ in your life, do you want to go back?

Do you want to go back to Mt. Sinai?

Do you want to go back to feeling homeless, lost, lonely, confused, fearful, and scared that you are not pleasing to God?

Or do you want to press forward to Mt. Zion?

Do you want to experience what it’s like to have roots, to feel you’re part of something bigger than yourself, to feel enlightened, to feel at peace?

Do you want to feel that you are home because you have the love of Christ in your heart?

If Mt. Zion is what you desire- clean out your closets.

Let go of what you no longer need.

Let got that which makes you feel sad, bad.

Let go of what other people have placed upon you.

Let go of holding onto other people’s stuff.

Burn away the negativity and the mildew that you inherited or lingers on.

Shine a light in the places you’ve kept closed off or hidden.

Open the door of your heart so the breath of the Holy Spirit can do what Febreeze cannot.

Wash clean that which you have.

Know that in Jesus Christ you have enough.

This doesn’t mean you won’t face persecution. Doesn’t mean there won’t be trials.

Doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel lost, lonely, sad or scared again.

But this time when those emotions occur, you won’t be so alone.

This time you will know that Christ is with you.

This time you’ll look around and realize you have a company of living angels around you.

This time you are moving into a better, brighter, fresher reality and a glorious future.

This time, instead of being stifled by an unfortunate fear of a punishing God, you are thriving in the grace of a living and loving Lord.

For that, we can say amen and amen.

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