Thursday, April 21, 2016

Put Out the Mat. Don't BE the Mat!

A Reading from the Book of Acts, the 11th Chapter

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 

At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Here’s the whole take home message for today’s sermon.  Are you ready?  Here it comes… God is calling us to roll out the red carpet, not to BECOME the carpet.  God is calling us to put out the welcome mat, not BE a door mat.  

This is really, really important to understand.   On the night in which Jesus was betrayed… the night of the Last Supper… Jesus gave all his disciples a mandate.  (That’s what "Maundy" means in Maundy Thursday… it means mandate.) That mandate was to love one another, as Jesus first loved us, we also should love one another.  

A little later, after the resurrection, Peter had this vision of a giant sheet filled with pulled pork barbeque, lobster and shrimp cocktail dropping out of the sky.  With that vision, and God’s insistence… not once, not twice, but three times to get it through Peter’s thick skull, Peter finally understood that God’s love, God’s grace, God’s radical gift of an abundant life that is meant to begin now and never end...  That Gift of God’s love that Jesus first shared with the disciples wasn’t just meant to be shared with only the other JEWISH people but with ALL people and ALL of creation.  

Now stop for a second.  Take a deep breath before you move forward from here, because much, much, much too often when we hear that we should love one another and hear that it should reach all people, we forget an equally important part of Jesus’s mandate.  He said, “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, so also you should love one another.”  This love we are called to is a particular kind of love.  It’s the particular kind of love Jesus first had for us!  Much, much, MUCH too often we hear that we are to love one another and somehow that gets twisted in our minds to believe that we are to sacrifice all of who we are… to give the OTHER whatever they want.  Too often we say, “Well, Jesus sacrificed completely on the cross, so we need to sacrifice ourselves completely.”  But take a good look at that crucifixion scene.  Remember, Jesus was crucified between two others.  They both had something to say to Jesus, if you’ll remember.  The one said, “GET ME DOWN!”  The other said, “Jesus, remember me.”  Notice this!  Jesus didn’t give one of those two what he demanded.  Does that mean Jesus didn’t love him?  No!  Does that mean that Jesus didn’t treat him with Christian love?  Of course not!  The difference is that one accepted Jesus's invitation to share in that particular, mutual kind of loving relationship, while the other simply wanted to use Jesus to get what he wanted… to get down from that cross!  

The love that we are mandated to pass on to the world is a particular kind of love… it’s Christ’s love, and Christ’s love has absolutely nothing to do with manipulation, guilt or allowing yourself to be abused, taken advantage of or used.  God is calling us to roll out the red carpet, not to BECOME the carpet.  God is calling us to put out the welcome mat, not BE a door mat.  Christ’s love certainly transforms us, changes us… but it doesn’t demean us.  Christ’s love does not blackmail, give ultimatums, use tears or guilt to get what it wants.  Christ’s love doesn’t twist words or facts or play the victim.  Christ’s love… the love we are mandated to pass on, calls us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.  It calls us to DO what is in the other’s best interest, even when that means telling someone NO, they can’t have what they want.  

Look, if a meth addict came into the church and wanted to start cooking meth in the kitchen, would saying NO to them be an un-Christian thing to do?  After all, it’s what they REALLY want to do!  We’ve said we are welcoming and inclusive of all people.  Aren’t we supposed to sacrifice to give others what they say they need, and Meth addicts really, really, REALLY NEED meth, right?  So, it’s not just a “want” it’s a NEED!  

But we wouldn’t let that happen, would we?  We’d say NO, right?  So if saying NO to something like that, which is destructive to that person AND to our community is alright, then why is saying no to other destructive behaviors un-Christian?  The bottom line is it isn’t un-Christian.  Just as Jesus himself said “no” to the thief on the cross that wanted to manipulate Jesus into magic-ing him down, we too are allowed to say “no” when people try to manipulate us as well, because Christ’s love does not manipulate.  God is calling us to roll out the red carpet, not to BECOME the carpet.  God is calling us to put out the welcome mat, not BE a door mat.  

Christ’s love has healthy boundaries.  Christ’s love WOULD sacrifice time and money and mercy to help that Meth addict find treatment and Christ’s love WOULD stay with them through their ups and downs, but if that person was not ready to be healthy, if they insisted on cooking meth in our kitchen, Christ’s love would say, NO!  

Christ’s love also calls us to love kindness.  Just like we are called to do what is in the other’s best interest, we are also called to gracefully accept the kindness of others.  In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit wasn’t creating a Faith Filling Station where some only gave and others only received.  The Spirit was creating and is still creating communities of God’s children who give and receive from one another as they have need.  Sometimes we give and sometimes we receive.  Christ’s love isn’t one sided.   

I know we don’t like it.  We don’t want to admit we need help and we’re often stubborn about receiving it, but Christ’s love is mutual.  We take our turns giving and receiving… giving kindness, help and love at one moment and then genuinely appreciating and humbly accepting all of it back in the next.  The Holy Spirit is creating a community of mutuality where we all give of ourselves and we all receive the gifts of others.  We can’t have one without the other.  God is calling us to roll out the red carpet, not to BECOME the carpet.  God is calling us to put out the welcome mat, not BE a door mat.

Finally, Christ’s love calls us to walk humbly.  To be so damn sure of ourselves that it would take God’s booming voice reverberating in your ears from heaven THREE whole times to get us to open our hearts and mind to God doing a new thing is not somewhere we are called to be.  

We are indeed called to love one another and “one another” is clearly all of creation, but that love that God first gave did not ask Jesus to blink out of existence for the benefit of the world.  God’s love… Christ’s love… the love we are called to pass on… is a love that invites all people and all of creation into a deeper, mutual, respectful, relationship built on the genuine give and take of a Spirit created community.  That love doesn’t replace the Body of Christ, it gathers all of creation INTO the Body of Christ!  

Christ’s love is an invitation to be in community with one another and with God.  We celebrate and participate in that each and every week around that rail!  So remember, as you drink and eat, God is filling you again with that very particular kind of love and is calling us to pass it on by rolling out the red carpet, not BECOMING the carpet… and by putting out the welcome mat, not becoming that mat. Amen. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

No Snatching

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 10th Chapter

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. 

The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

On Monday I got an email that Dave’s health had taken a turn for the worse.  I knew Dave from my church in Albuquerque and a year ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He was never a smoker, so that wasn’t how he got cancer.  What he was, was a nuclear engineer, both for the Air Force and for Sandia National Labs and although nobody really knows what he did, it’s likely that a nuclear scientist working in the desert Southwest in the 60’s, might have picked something up along the way.    

I always joked when I was a pastor there that between the Sandia National Labs folks and the folks that had retired to Albuquerque from Los Alamos, it would probably be easier for me to pull together a chuch committee that could build a nuclear missle that it would be to pull together a stewardship committee!  But when I think about it, Dave was one of the few who would have been comfortable and good at both. 

On Monday night I got another message that if I wanted to come and say goodbye, I should come right away.   I tell you about Dave, because even though Dave understood to the molecular level the most powerful weapons on the planet, I think Dave, unlike the religious leaders who cornered Jesus in the Portico of Solomon, understood THAT kind of power had limits.  Those leaders wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah, and clearly they didn’t think that healing the sick, giving sight to the blind or feeding the hungry were things that showed a Messiah sort of power.  I’m sure they were looking for the sort of Messiah power that would raise an army, train the troops, give patriotic speeches, drive the Romans out of the country and make Israel great again!  

Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah that got his way through force or fights.  Jesus embraced a different kind of power.  Jesus knew… and I think Dave knew too… that while military, strong-arm kind of might can be very powerful… God’s love, grace, and compassion is an unlimited kind of power that has the power change the world more completely than megatons of anything ever could.  

Dave believed that.  The thing is, I know Dave believed that not because he told me he believed it or wrote a paper on it or signed a statement of faith about it.  I know Dave believed it because Dave filled his life by doing Jesus things, walking a Jesus walk and following a Jesus sort of path through life.  In last week’s Gospel we were reminded again… and this week we’re reminded again-again… that believing isn’t what happens between our ears, it’s something that happens at the end of our hands and at the end of our legs and that pours out of our hearts.  You can quote scripture all day long with chapter and verse, but I’ll really KNOW you believe when you do something like spend hours making sure that Habitat House isn’t just good enough, but is it’s very best.  You can argue doctrine and quote St. Augustine in Latin if you want, but I’ll really know you believe when you sit with a kid who’s away from home at camp for the first time and make them understand that they are the one child there who makes that mountain so very, very special.  

Faith isn’t about what we think so much as it is the path we walk in this life.  And as we walk that Jesus kind of path of love, grace, generosity and compassion we do more than just fall in step behind the Messiah.  As we walk in our lives with that Jesus kind of walk and fall in step on a Jesus kind of path, what we’re doing in the process is continually unwrapping the gift of eternal life we have been given.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.  I know them.  They follow me.  I give them eternal life.”  The gift of eternal life isn’t just living forever.  After all, living a terrible life for all of eternity wouldn’t be that wonderful of a gift, would it?  No, eternal life is an abundant, joy filled, life filled with meaning, purpose, self worth and grace that is meant for us to live RIGHT NOW and then continue to the end of our lives and beyond.

When we walk that Jesus walk and put one foot in front of the other on that Jesus path, we unwrap a tiny bit more of that gift with every step we take.  That gift of eternal life… the gift of God’s presence... was given to us all in our Baptisms; walking like Jesus helps us with each step to become more and more aware of the gift we’ve already been given! 

I got to Albuquerque late Tuesday night and in the morning Dave’s daughter Kris picked me up and we went to the hospital.  Dave was very weak.  I managed to provoke a smile when I told him we now had the same hair style!  That’s all the energy he had.  At noon, his granddaughter Carly was married in his room.  He was going to walk her down the aisle this summer, but things got moved up and the location changed and after we all went home to let Dave rest, his breathing changed and later that afternoon, Dave died.  

Dave’s daughter Kris and I talked that evening.  She said he was what they used to call “A Churchman,” those sorts of men who were the cornerstones of their church and Dave was that for sure.  But as I flew home Thursday night I began to think, “Churchman” just wasn’t the right word, because for him, church was not a destination.  For Dave, faith was no destination.  Faith was a path and he was a walker of The Way.  He heard the Good Shepherd’s voice and hit the road, following Jesus out into the world, not stuck just contemplating the Gospel, but out DOING the Gospel… passing on the power of God’s love, to his family, to his friends, around the Lazy Susan at camp and through a chopsaw at a Habitat build, all in each of those steps he changed the world with God's love.  

Dave was a remarkable man, but he had nothing more remarkable than you or me.  He was named and claimed by God and given eternal life in the Waters of Baptism just like you and me.  He was fed at God’s Table and sent into the world, just like you and me.  But what he did with those gifts was something those religious leaders in the Portico of Solomon just couldn’t seem to manage.  With those gifts in hand, he walked the path Jesus called him to travel, and with every step, he found that he could unwrap more and more of the splendor of the gift of eternal life he had been given.

Listen to the Shepherd’s voice.  Hear again that you ARE God’s beloved child, named and claimed and given eternal life in the Waters of Baptism and fed with the abundance of God’s Table.  And then when you get up from the Table, start walking.  Put one foot in front of the other and share God’s love with whomever you meet along the way.  With each step you will find that the power of God’s love flows without end through everything and everyone you touch and that love is something that can never, never be snatched away, not even by death.  Amen.

Friday, April 8, 2016

When In Doubt, Go Fishing

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 21st Chapter

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the 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 him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

When you don’t know what to do, go fishing!  If there has EVER been a better piece of biblical wisdom, I have not yet been able to find it!  When the entire world seems to be out of control… when nothing seems to make any sense… when it’s hard to tell which way is up and which way is down… GO FISHING!  AMEN! And AMEN!!!  

Jesus was dead, the disciples knew they were next and they were terrified.  Into that, Jesus shows up.  Which, you’d like to think would be comforting but really, it’s got to just be a different kind of terrifying!  How do you make sense of it!  Peter couldn’t!  So, when you don’t know what to do next, you do what you know and Peter knew fishing!  So he went fishing!  The other disciples didn’t have any better ideas, so the whole bunch jumped into the boat and went fishing.  

Now, don’t panic, but I’m about to mix my Gospels.  GASP!  I know!  But I think it’s worth it because the first time Jesus found Peter in Luke’s Gospel, he was out on the lake in a boat after a night of catching what?  NOTHING… not one fish.  NOW, here in John’s Gospel Jesus finds Peter out on the lake in a boat after a night of catching what?  NOTHING… not one fish!  In that story from the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, Peter rowed toward shore and this mysterious man told them to put their nets back in the water and, BAM!  They caught a ton of fish.  That man turned out to be Jesus.

And now, on the other end of a different Gospel, Peter rows toward shore and this man standing on the beach (with what I imagine to be a smirk on his face) said to the disciples, “Children!  You don’t seem to have any fish.”  The smirking man on the shore tells them to try on the other side of the boat and, BAM!  They caught a ton of fish.  

When Peter first met Jesus he didn’t have any luck fishing until Jesus came and told him where to fish and NOW three years later Peter STILL has no luck fishing… UNTIL… Until Jesus comes and tells them where to fish.  In a lot of the most ancient art, carved in places like the catacombs under Rome, the Christian church is portrayed as a boat, but not any boat… a fishing boat.  That’s important!  Church is not a Carnival Cruise… It’s a working boat and demands all hands on deck!  

You and me, along with Peter and the disciples, we’ve all been put in the boat in our Baptisms and we’ve all been called to do the hard work of fishing… casting God’s love like a net and doing God’s work in the world… transforming the world with God’s love… from dark to light, from emptiness to abundance, from death to life.  But as we haul on those nets we need to remember both Luke and John’s fishing stories. Without Jesus we’ll be skunked.  Jesus is the key.  Jesus is the one that sets our hearts and minds on the right side of the boat.  Without Jesus it’s night, it’s dark, and we’ll just row around in circles catching not one fish.  BUT, with Jesus, the Son shines, the darkness retreats, the Spirit blows, the sails fill, the boat goes where there are fish and the nets come up full.

As the disciples came to shore hauling in all those fish, in a no-so-subtle nod to the feeding of the 5000, Jesus invites them to a meal of fish and bread.  But there’s more to this story than just another miraculous meal.  Take a look at that net.  It didn’t break.  It didn’t let ANY… NOT ONE… get away.  It collected all 153 fish, which seems like an odd number except that’s how many different species of fish they knew about back then.  This was more than breakfast, this is yet another in your face reminder that Jesus’s death and resurrection sweeps up ALL of creation!  There’s a place in that net for EVERY kind of fish and Jesus makes sure not one is lost.  Not one!

And now, they eat together and in a sort of reverse Holy Communion, Jesus eats the catch.  Jesus, the Body of Christ, makes you and me and every other fish in the sea, part of himself.  Again, hammering it into our often too thick skulls, that Jesus comes to US, not the other way around.  Through locked doors, onto beach, into our lives, Jesus comes to us wherever we might be.  We don’t find Jesus, Jesus finds us, directs us, sweeps us up and we are made One with God in Christ.  

So, we’ve come full circle.  We’re back to the beginning and we see again that this death and resurrection thing isn’t just a one-time deal.  Death and resurrection is God's continual method for transforming creation.  Night is always raised into daylight, emptiness always becomes abundance, despair always becomes hope and death always becomes life and when we feel old and sore and tired and scared and don’t know what to do next we’re reminded that PRECISELY when we have NO EARTHLY IDEA what to do next, THAT is when we need to go fishing, because  Jesus always shows up on the shore, directs our nets, feeds us and we find time and time again that we are constantly being made alive together in Christ! 

And THAT is where I’d really love this story to end.  Found, fed and full on the beach.  But that’s not the end of the story is it?  Jesus doesn’t leave the disciples lying on the beach in a food coma.  Because now that we’ve been found, fed and are full… Now that God’s love FOR US in Christ has been made abundantly and completely clear, Jesus asks Peter, and every one of us disciples, that frightening, terrible question.  Do you love me?  And Peter and you and me and all the disciples know that loving Jesus isn’t something that's done in our heads or in theory.  Loving Jesus is done in practice, actively out in the world feeding his lambs… caring for the most vulnerable.  

Do you love me?  And again we know that loving Jesus doesn’t happen between our ears but with our hands.  Loving Jesus is done putting by sacrificing ourselves, tending his sheep… protecting God’s people from the wolves of injustice.

Do you love me?  And we know that because God has first met us, directed us, fed us and loves us without end and without condition we have been called to pass on that same love and feed God’s sheep, caring for the world with the same kindness, compassion, humility and justice we have first been given!   

From the beginning to the end and beyond the end… Christ’s Resurrection pulls in all of creation… every shape and color and kind.  We’re found and fed and made full no matter how lost and hungry and empty we might have been.  So remember, when the world seems to not make as much sense as you’d like it to make… When the world changes around you so fast that you can’t even keep track of how fast it makes your head spin… When you take a leap of faith and find yourself face first, flat on the floor that is the time to go fishing.  And there in the boat with all your fellow disciples remind each other to look around, because precisely in that moment Christ is with us… standing there with a smirk on his face saying to us, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”  “Cast the net on the other side of the boat and then come ashore and I’ll feed you once again.”  Amen. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Maine's Most Holy Shrine

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 20th Chapter
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Ah, the Holy Remnant!  The ones who come on what is affectionately known as “Low” Sunday, this Sunday, the Sunday following Easter when clergy and people alike, most often vacation from the church and church attendance is therefore… LOW.  When I thought about this Sunday, I thought that I’d love to surprise you all by packing everyone who came today into the church bus and taking a field trip to visit one of Maine’s Holy Shrines.  

In Maine we are blessed with a number of holy shrines.  Many, unfortunately, are only open seasonally.  However, one of the holiest of these seasonal shrines just opened for the season!  But, since we don’t actually have a church bus, the best I could do is get a few passes.  So I've put some passes in the front cover of a few of the Bibles in the chairs in front of you.  So, take a second and look and see if you got one.  Hey!  There you go!  You’ve found one!  Can you tell us all the name of the Holy Shrine you will be visiting?  YES!  Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream.  

So my question for you is this; even though you can’t see it from here, do you believe in Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream?  You do?  Good!  In your mind, do you believe that it is a real place and is now open for the season?  Deep down in your heart, do you believe that the serving sizes are enormous and the “baby” size cone is as big as an actual human baby’s whole face?  Do not doubt, but believe!  So you believe?  Yes?  That’s GREAT!  Because, since you believe, that means just hearing about it and believing it is good enough, right?  You can give me back that gift card and just stay here and get Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream clear in your mind’s eye and in your heart of hearts and develop an inerrantly precise doctrine of dangerously large ice cream cones and you never have to GO!  Right?  Not quite.  Huh?

So if talking about and studying and meditating and even theologizing on Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream in your head isn’t the same as physically, bodily, leaving this room and GOING there and enjoying a cone, then why have we come to think that simply studying and meditating and theologizing about Jesus is all there is?  Why don't we want to GO and walk as Jesus walks?  

I’m not sure how it happened, but it most certainly happened.  Christianity has taken the word “believe” and made it only about what goes on between our ears, when in reality it’s infinitely more about what happens at the end of our legs.  “Believing” for Jesus was not getting your thinking right.  Believing for Jesus meant falling in line behind him on the path he was walking.  Believing, in Jesus’ day, meant walking the Jesus walk, doing Jesus things and living a Jesus life, sacrificing like Jesus sacrificed and being transformed so that "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."  Believing was not a “head” exercise but a heart, feet and hands exercise that begins with things like feeding the hungry, healing the sick, including the outcast and fighting injustice and becomes a transformed, new, abundant and never ending life!  

So, if we've messed up “Believing” you might wonder if we've messed up “Sin” as well.  I think we have.  Sin is not so much a moral issue as it is walking/living/acting in the opposite direction of Jesus.  Now sin, I think we can agree, isn’t a good direction to walk, to be sure, but to be honest, I’m not sure it’s the worst thing either!  I think that’s what Martin Luther was getting at when he told us all to, “Sin Boldly”… he meant it's better to try and DO SOMETHING… TAKE A STEP… ANY STEP than to do nothing at all.  Remember, Jesus is big on forgiveness.  So there’s no shame it trying and learning you we're going in
the wrong direction and Jesus is also big on repentance, which means we all have an infinite number of chances to get turned around and start going the Jesus way.  

So if sin isn't the WORST thing, what is?  Reading this lesson, I wonder if “Doubt” might be worse.  But not "doubt" like we've come to think about it.  Because just like we get “believing” and “sin” wrong, I also think we get “doubt” wrong too.   Jesus didn’t have a problem with the disciples then or us now having questions or being confused or even being skeptical… let’s face it, the disciples back then NEVER really “got it” but they ended up as Saints!  No, I think what Jesus called “doubt” was more like living in a horrible place of indecision, paralyzed and afraid to move forward because you’re so worried you might go in reverse by mistake.  Doubt is the disciples seeing Jesus resurrected from the dead and a week later STILL being locked in that upper room!  Doubt is being stuck... endlessly grinding our gears, never moving forward or back but all the time wearing the teeth off the gears of this life we’ve been given.  

In that upper room, Jesus wasn’t just getting after Thomas.  He was getting after ALL the disciples… ALL of them… and all of us disciples too.  He was telling them (and us) that it’s time to move!  It’s time to unlock the door and put one foot in front of the other and start walking a Jesus kind of life... out there!  Start walking the way Jesus is calling us to walk and when inevitably we discover we’re off course, when things don't quite go as hoped or planned... then let God turn us around and KEEP MOVING!!!  No more grinding gears going nowhere fast, stuck in a stuffy, locked, fear filled room.  We'll be MOVING!

Folks, it is fun to think of the Holy Shrine of Fielder’s Choice and in the middle of January, when it’s dark and cold and the people who run it are in Florida... let's face it... in January THINKING about it is the only option we have… thinking about it then, simply has to be enough.  But when Fielder’s Choice is actually open, why would you just keep thinking about it?  Why wouldn't you wash up the kids, gas up the car, pile in your friends and family and GO!  
The sweetness of THIS life, a life lived connected to God in Christ is better than any ice cream cone, so let’s not just stay stuck in THIS locked room settling for a faith that lives in our heads alone.  Let’s not just grind our gears moving neither forward nor back any longer.  Let’s wash up in the Font, remembering we're all God's kids.  Let’s come to the Table and get fueled up for the journey.  Let's pile in our friends and family and step out Boldly in faith… Let's Sin Boldly!  Let's GO!  Let's walk the Jesus Way!  Amen.