Friday, July 15, 2011

Blackberry Bliss

Ever been to Jamba Juice? My favorite is Blackberry Bliss. And there's all kinds of add-ons – protein powder, vitamins – I usually get one - it's free! - and it makes me think my drink is healthier.

Now, I’m going to make a really awful comparison – so please don’t boo at me too much – but - Jesus is not protein powder – He’s not an add-on to an already full life. He’s the Blackberry Bliss itself.

Because the biggest thing about Jesus is Resurrection. The biggest thing about Jesus is what God can do - The biggest thing about Jesus is that there is nothing that sin can do to us or through us or with us that God cannot redeem and raise up to new life. There is no barrier to new life in the Spirit – and by that I mean, and Paul means, new life through and through – in your body, in your mind, in your spirit, in your soul. God can, and does – all the time - create something out of nothing - create in you and in gatherings of believers, an entirely new order of being. At the baptismal font, an Ontologically new order of being is created – grafted into the eternal vine that is Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that never leaves, regardless of what life brings.

This is happening now. It’s happening to you and to me and it’s happening in the world around us. The Lord of Life is free and on the move – and there is no power in hell or on earth, or above the earth or below the earth, or in the halls of the greatest powers of the nations or the multi-nationals or the militaries or the police states or at the heart of gang violence or in war plagued places, where the Son of Man, the Lord of Life, is not raised up by the Eternal and Everlasting and Almighty Power of Life and Love. God claimed Jesus as his own Son and there is nothing that can undo that and no power that can sever that connection and flow of energy and life.

And you and I belong to that same Source. That same Eternal and Everlasting and Almighty Power. The biggest thing about Jesus is Resurrection – and it’s the biggest thing about you and me as well. We are Resurrected and Resurrecting people.

We do not belong to the powers of death and sin – sin being that orientation of mind and life towards self over and above all others, preservation of self over everyone else. Sin destroys community and it eats up soul spirit. And it is a fact of life. You cannot escape it because it is woven into you – there is no moral judgment about that – it just is – it just is as surely as your feet are below your head. When I say there is no judgment about that, I mean that there is no God pointing his finger at you because of it. You are born into it – you cannot help it.

Let me tell you a story about this...

When my daughter was five, she was invited to a birthday party. She knew about birthdays and she was very excited. When her daddy picked her up, she got into the car and burst out crying. When he asked her what happened, she said, between sobs, that there were lots of presents – but none of them were for her. We explained that the presents were for the birthday girl and that when it was her birthday again, she would be the one getting presents. She said, “I don’t want that other girl to get presents. I want all the presents.”

We learn, of course, that it isn’t nice to want all or most of the presents – and that we need to share. But deep down – when we’re not getting presents and other people are – there is that little voice in us all that refuses to believe – believe in the sense of trusting- that we are one body in Christ – and that if you get something good – it is just as good as if I got something good. That when Jesus said to love others as yourself – he surely meant others as yourself – that we are that fundamentally related. This desire to consume more than we need and almost always at someone else’s expense is built into us – until we enter a new way of being – a new order of being.

And that new order of being that we are born into through the action of the Holy Spirit in us – it changes our orientation – it changes our mindset – it changes who we are from the inside out and from the outside in.

We begin to see differently. Not all at once of course …. We still live in a world that sees things as separate and some people as lesser than and others as greater than but gradually we notice that we are more and more content with whatever our lives have brought to us, and more and more at peace with our bodies and our neighbors and our spouses and our lives. More and more at peace.

As we are working through this letter to the Romans, I have to say - it's really growing on me. This letter is a practical working out of the resurrected life in a community of real people who are beginning to come apart over matters of race and class and gender –just like we find ourselves in our own culture. This letter is about the practical working out of what it means to be a forgiven, healed, renewed, restored, resurrected people who belong to God and who are “in” Christ – and our reading today begins with this astonishing amazing truth about this new order of being –

There is, Now, in Christ, No Condemnation. Take that in..... No condemnation for those in Christ....

Yes – you want all the presents - or at least more of the presents. Yes – you lied on your taxes. Yes – you cheated your brother when you were older and were supposed to be taking care of him. Yes – you don’t know what you think about Jesus, and you doubt his resurrection. Yes – you took the shortcut the wrong way down a one way street.

But you can turn yourself in, and feel the full relief of it – you can know intimacy with God again. Even though there most likely are consequences - there is no condemnation - no secret burden that needs to be carried. No torment from which you cannot be free, no corner of guilt or shame that needs to remain in the shadows, sucking away at your energy and your joy.

Now if you can delve down into your mind and into your soul – and find no shade of guilt or shame that you’ve covered over and hoped would just disappear eventually – you are truly an Enlightened Being or just terribly unconscious – but for most of us –well – the news that there is No Condemnation – well, it knocks me over.

It’s more than astounding, really. It is terribly, terribly freeing – and that may be, in fact, why we prefer to run back to imposing rules and breaking rules – because it is a terrifying gift to be really and truly free. It is a huge responsibility. I mean, now what! What are you going to do with this freedom? This awesome freedom that is yours, in Christ.

Mary Oliver asks the question this way – "tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" This one wild and precious life that has been given to you by God, redeemed for you by Jesus – and the central truth about this precious life of unbounded freedom is that the Holy Spirit dwells in you – abides in you. So you don’t have to retreat into fear about making mistakes or not making the perfect choices – God has already forgiven you – you are already free – and you can go down a different road, or continue on the course you are on – either way, and always, you have the Holy Spirit of God within you and within this community to guide you and to listen to you and to love you – eternally.

When you came in - you were given two pieces of paper. One is there to write some hindrance, some burden, some condemnation that you have secreted away, that is in like a thorn in your heart – and destructive to your joy - write it down – and if you’re brave enough to claim your freedom in Christ, you can throw it away in this trash can. During the Confession, during the Absolution – or during the Peace that follows – you can throw it away. There is Now NO Condemnation in Christ – that is the truth - it can be your truth.

The second piece of paper is to imagine what you might do with your one wild and precious life – with your Freedom in Christ . That paper is to keep – put it in your pocket or in your purse and bring it out from time to time – to remind yourself that the biggest thing about you is resurrection and freedom.

And all of this is in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver - one of my favorite poems!
Romans 8: 1 - 11

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