Rev. Dr. John Judson
August 31, 2014
Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Romans 12:9-21
This morning I want to begin with a question, when you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Second, how many of you have hopes and dreams for the children around you? What are those hopes and dreams? As I suspected two of the key answers that come through is that you want them to be happy and healthy.
In some ways your answers mirror the answers of humanity across the centuries and in this book (the Bible). People wanted their children to be blessed and filled with joy. But there was one hope and dream that towered above even these two. They wanted their children to be God followers. When I say God followers I don’t just mean God believers I mean God followers; those who walk in the path that God has set before them. For the people of Israel this path was well marked. It was marked by the Torah; by the Law of God, meaning all 613 laws that had been given to Moses. Now many of us may think of this as being very legalistic, but I want to think of these laws as road signs that kept God’s people on the path to a blessed and joy filled life. Everyone knew where the dangerous curves were. Everyone knew where the bumps in the road were. Everyone knew what the safe speed limit was. The laws guided them in being God followers.
We can sense the importance of these laws in the Shema, or our Old Testament lesson from this morning. “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul and with all of your might. Listen again. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the door posts of your house.” The words” referred to in the statement are the 613 laws of Moses which are the road signs that allowed the people to love and follow God. They were to always be in front of the people directing them into the life and blessing God offered.
Those were the laws which the Apostle Paul grew up with. He knew all 613 of them and strived to follow them every day of his life. Yet when he was encountered by Jesus on the road to Damascus, something happened. He understood that Jesus was the completion or fulfillment of all of these laws, so that a life of blessing and joy was no longer to be guided by the law but by something else. The question before him then was if those laws were not present as road signs guiding him in being a God follower; guiding him to a life of blessing and joy, how was he to know the way? Though Paul refers to being led by the Spirit, which at times can seem a bit vague, he also offers to us a more detailed look at the signs that are to guide us, as he does in the Romans passage that we read this morning. In fact he sums the road signs up in one verse. “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”
Let love be genuine. Over my career as a pastor I have been asked numerous times how can I genuinely love those who whom I do not like; such as those who have harmed me? My answer has been that the love Pal is describing is not about feeling but doing; not about liking but serving. Love, in the manner that Paul is using it here, means to be actively serving others, even when we don’t feel “loving” towards them. Love then is a choice to act, and Paul calls upon us to choose to love by serving even our enemies. That love becomes genuine, again not by feeling better about it, but when it is true service in which the other is first and we are second. Genuine here means “the real thing”, real service and sacrifice. We see Paul using this concept when he tells the Romans to love one another with mutual affection, contribute to the needs of the saints and extend hospitality to strangers. This is the first mark of a God follower, loving genuinely.
Hate Evil. Before we look at this one we need to understand what Paul means by hate. There are two kinds of hate; the kind of hate that is filled with anger and rage, “I hate you!” The second kind of hate is one where we are repulsed by something, “I hate beets!” Though you may love beets, I want to stay as far away as I can from them. This is how Paul uses the term hate. He tells us that we are to be repulsed by evil, again evil being anything that diminishes the image of God in any person, or anything that diminishes the humanity of any person. This means evil can be as simple as gossiping about someone in a way that tears them down, to the horrors of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The reason that we are to be consciously repulsed by evil is that it masquerades as good. It pretends that it can make us better than others; that we are the center of the universe; that we deserve more than others. Thus we are to see evil for what it is, destructive and stay as far away from it as we can. This is the heart of Paul’s warning that we are not to repay anyone evil for evil or be overcome by evil. Paul wants us to see evil clearly, be repulsed by it so that we can stay on the path of blessing and joy.
Hold fast to what is good. What is the good? The good is whatever builds up the image of God in another human being; it is whatever assists another person in becoming the human beings God designed them to be. For Paul the ultimate example of “the good” is the life and work of Jesus Christ. We are to bless those who persecute us, live in harmony with one another, associate with the lowly, live peaceably with all persons, feed our enemies and give them something to drink and overcome evil not with evil, but with good; meaning love and forgiveness. In a way we can see Jesus standing behind all of these road signs. They were the ones that Jesus gave his disciples. By so doing we stay on the road following the way of God and the way of blessing and joy.
How many of you have Jewish friends? When you have gone to their house have you seen a small scroll-like item tacked to the front door post? If you have, that is a mezuzah. Inside that case is a copy of the Shema. It is intended to be touched by everyone coming into and leaving the house as a reminder to love God and be obedient to God’s words. With that in mind, I have a bit of a different challenge for you this morning…and this is something that the children can help with. I would challenge everyone here to create their own Christian mezuzah. You can do this by writing down these three road signs, let love be genuine, hate evil and hold fast to what is good, and posting them in a place where you can see and touch them, every day when you leave and return to your home. I do this because there is something powerful about touching what is important. By seeing and touching these words my hope is that they will affect how we live our lives on a daily basis. And when you do that, I would also like you to take a picture of the mezuzah and email it to me. I will create a page on our website to show people what we are up to; how we are allowing ourselves to be guided down the path as God-followers toward a life of blessing and joy.
Rev. Amy Morgan
Printable View (PDF)
Genesis 24:34-52; Matthew 16:13-20
The church has a marketing crisis.
Not our church in particular. In fact, as Protestant churches go, we’re doing pretty well in the marketing department.
But the Christian church as a whole, particularly in Western society, has a major marketing problem. According to a number of surveys conducted in the last decade, people in the 40 and younger crowd overwhelming testify that the church is homophobic, judgmental, hypocritical, overly political, irrelevant, insensitive, boring, chauvinistic, arrogant, anti-intellectual, and confusing.
Now, this may not sound like the church you know. Hopefully it doesn’t match up with your experience here. But if you ask the average non-churchgoing person what they think about Christianity, you’re likely to hear several of these adjectives used.
If the church were a name-brand product, we’d be in serious trouble. The executives would be firing the entire marketing department, and the board would be calling for the executives’ resignations.
But we’re the church. What do we care what people think about us? We know we’re awesome. We’ve got Jesus on our side. We know who we are, what we’re about. In fact, we’re Everybody’s Church. That’s awesome, right?
Right. What’s not awesome is that we’re in the same sinking ship as the rest of Western Christianity. Our church is called the same names as all the others. I’ve talked with many youth and adults in this church who are frustrated by experiences of being misunderstood, mislabeled, and misinterpreted because of their Christian identity. Many of us don’t even bother identifying ourselves as Christians in mixed social situations anymore because we don’t want to deal with the hassle of defending the church against name-calling and misrepresentation.
Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church (USA) loses thousands of members a year. Protestant Christianity hemorrhages membership in the U.S. and Europe. Western Christianity as a whole is in massive decline.
We’ve got a major marketing crisis on our hands, and no one seems quite able to figure out what to do about it.
In our story from Matthew today, Jesus seems to have encountered a marketing crisis of his own. He asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” It would be similar to the CEO of Coca-Cola asking the market research department, “what are people saying about the Cokes with the names on them?” Jesus is doing market research with his disciples.
And just like executive yes-men, the disciples are quick to devise flattering responses. John the Baptist returned from the dead. Elijah, Jeremiah, or whatever prophet Jesus might fancy himself as embodying.
The truth is, most people are saying that Jesus is a dangerous zealot or a delusional wanna-be.
Sure, maybe some people who have heard Jesus preach or experienced his healing power are proposing more positive possibilities for his identity. But that is more akin to people trying to peek under Batman’s mask or match Superman to the bespectacled Clark Kent. The miraculous teacher and healer might have a secret identity as a resurrected past prophet and hero of Israel.
What people are really saying about Jesus, for the most part, is highly unflattering.
Jesus, however, sees right through the disciples’ flattery. And so he puts the question to them directly. The disciples have travelled with Jesus for three years. They have witnessed his miracles, heard his teaching, and experienced the challenge and rejection that has overshadowed his entire ministry. They know him better than anyone else. They see behind the mask, they receive special instruction and interpretation. And so, Jesus asks them, “who do you say that I am?”
And wouldn’t you know it, Simon Peter hits the nail on the head with the first try. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Way to go, Peter. For all of his mistakes and misunderstandings, his denials and difficulties, we see here that Peter at least gets something right along the way. Like a cracker-jack marketing director, he is right on message.
Peter is rewarded for his prompt and sincere response. Jesus calls him blessed.
But Jesus also reveals something about the nature of Peter’s response. It isn’t the product of hard work, study, devotion, or market research. Jesus asserts that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” Peter’s answer is not based on Jesus’ reputation but on God’s revelation.
Even so, Jesus is willing to build his church on this “rock.” Peter is rewarded for something he allegedly didn’t even do.
Following this victory, Peter then goes on to object to Jesus’ plans and misunderstand what kind of Messiah Jesus will be and to deny Jesus after his arrest. But because he gets one right answer, the church is really going to be built upon a guy who, a few verses later, Jesus refers to as “Satan”? Seems like a bad move, Jesus.
That is, unless we take a closer look at the meaning of revelation.
I don’t know about you, but my picture of revelation has always been this beam of light that suddenly shines down on me as I’m puzzling over the mysteries of the universe with the clarity of insight that I’m seeking at the moment.
Revelation comes in a number of shapes and sizes throughout the Bible, ranging from encounters with divine messengers to the very presence of God. The prophets receive messages from God, and the apostles see visions while waking and sleeping.
But in today’s story, we don’t hear about God’s activity until after it happens. Peter doesn’t even realize that his insight is divinely inspired until Jesus points it out. The nature of this revelation is entirely different from Elijah’s encounter with God in a desolate silence or Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet. It looks nothing like Peter’s later vision of unclean animals leading to the inclusion of Gentiles in the church or Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
This revelation is an insight that is only discerned to be the work of God in retrospect. It is a revelation that results from Peter’s experience of Jesus. He has experienced Jesus to be one who is uniquely anointed, one gifted with divine power and blessed in a way only the Son of the living God could be. And this is the revelation, the testimony, the rock upon which the church is built.
Lest we think this is a new kind of revelation inaugurated by Jesus, we have our story from Genesis this morning to remind us that human experience of everyday encounters and relationships has always been a form of revelation for God’s people. Abraham’s servant is charged with finding a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s tribal people, the Arameans. Abraham expresses trust that God will provide a wife for his son. The servant prays for a sign as to which woman is the right one. And the servant worships and thanks God when he meets Rebekah and when Rebekah is free to go with him.
Notice that there are no visions, no heavenly agents, no divine words. Just the very human experience of tribal and family relationships, the struggle to find a suitable life partner, the business-like transaction of a marriage contract in the ancient world. And yet, God is acknowledged as the orchestrator of these events and the source of all positive outcomes. This story, like many others in the Bible, is, as Walter Bruggeman says, a testimony to “a world-view in which there are no parts of life experience which lie beyond the purpose of God.” All of life is interpreted in relationship to the character of God.
This is Peter’s revelation, Peter’s testimony. His experience of life in relationship to Jesus leads him to the conclusion that he is no one other than the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. This is not whispered in his ear by the Holy Spirit or given to him in a flashy vision, at least not from what we’re told in the text. But rather, God has led Peter to this revelation through long walks on dusty roads, meals shared with sinners and outcasts, healing touches and harsh words, inspiring teaching and confounding questions. All of this somehow adds up for Peter to an experience of Jesus that reveals him as the Messiah.
And that revelation is the foundation of the church, a church so strong that even the “gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Now, the reference to Hades here is not the notion of hell – a place of punishment or evil. This is the Old Testament concept of Sheol, the place of the dead. In other words, the power of the church will be even stronger than the power of the greatest enemy of humankind – death itself.
When I read that, I wonder if this is consistent with our view of the church today. What if, instead of judgmental or hypocritical, the church was known as that place more powerful than death? What if, instead of trying to be warm and friendly, we saw ourselves as powerfully life-giving?
When Jesus tells Peter that “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” he is connecting his church and his kingdom. The church is to be the epicenter of “God’s kingdom come,” as Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. Is that the church that is being described as chauvinistic, overly political, and homophobic?
When Jesus tells Peter that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven," he is giving the church the authority to do as Peter has done, to interpret our lived experience as having sacred significance. And the church is where we remember that sacredness, where we discover that meaning. Is this the church that is being described as irrelevant, insensitive, and boring?
In the end, it would seem that Jesus is not concerned about his marketing crisis. Jesus tells his disciples to keep his identity a secret. People will continue to call him all kinds of names, including false prophet, blasphemer, and finally, sarcastically, King of the Jews.
Perhaps we could wish Jesus had had a better marketing department. If he had fired his disciples and hired some cracker-jack PR firm, maybe things would have gone another way for him.
But it is sometimes only in retrospect that we can see the activity and purpose of God in the events of our lives. If we accept “a world-view in which there are no parts of life experience which lie beyond the purpose of God,” we interpret Jesus’ life differently. We understand our own experiences differently. God’s revelation is all around us – in the work we do, the strangers we meet, the meals we share. The prayer imploring “God’s kingdom come” is being answered here and now in this time and place.
And so, I have a question for you all. A real question. We have heard the words that many people use to describe the church today. I want you to imagine that, just as Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, “who do you say that I am?” the church, the body of Christ, has turned to you and asked, “who do you say that I am?” Is the church judgmental, irrelevant, or confusing? What does your experience tell you? Are even the positive words we often have about the church really adequate to describe the locus of God’s power over death? What is sacred about our experience here, what experiences have lasting meaning, eternal reverberations? There are sheets of plain white paper in each of the pews. I’m going to ask you to pass those along to your neighbors, maybe share some pens. And I invite you to take a minute to choose a name, a word - maybe not the only word, maybe not even your best word – but a word that describes your experience of church, your reason for being here this morning. When you are done, if you feel comfortable sharing, I invite you to hold up your sheet of paper so we can hear one another’s responses.
Responses included: Hope, Love, Caring Community, Teacher, Peace, Working for Justice, Renewal, Support, Affirmation, Family.
Rev. Dr. John Judson
Print Version (PDF)
Genesis 22:1-14, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
It had to be a scam. That was the only conclusion they would draw when a nicely dressed stranger appeared at their door and told them that a Count had left them an inheritance. They wanted to know what the catch was, because all the people had to do was sign a piece of paper and they would receive a check. As it turned out, this was not a scam at all but a rather odd event. The place was Portugal. And what had happened was that seven years before his death, Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara, a Portuguese Count, had gone to a registry office in Lisbon, and in front of witnesses had chosen, at random, seventy people to whom to leave his money. This is odd enough in and of itself, but it was even odder in Portugal where people do not make wills. Instead the laws are very clear on who inherits, usually the family, and how the money is divided. So all in all this was one of those moments when both the family and the ultimate recipients were taken by surprise. I offer that story as a way of getting at the question Paul addresses in this part of his letter to the Romans; who will inherit God’s coming Kingdom? Will it be the “family” the biological children of Abraham or will it be those “chosen” by God outside of the family?
First we have the family, the Jewish community. Their claim to the inheritance is that they are the descendants of Abraham; the one to whom the promise of a renewed Kingdom was originally made. As a review for all of us who are here this morning, once upon a time, God came to Abraham and made a covenant, a contract, with him and his descendants that they would inherit land, children and blessing, as well as being a blessing to the world. This promise was one that was often tested, such as the time when God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. In the story Abraham upholds his end of the bargain by almost sacrificing his son, and God upholds God’s end of the bargain by providing a sacrifice, thus preserving the promise and the inheritance of the Kingdom. So Jews in the time of Jesus and Jews today see themselves as the family to whom the inheritance promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ought to come.
The second group consists of those who have been “chosen.” This group includes those who believe that they are the recipients of the inheritance of the Kingdom are followers of Jesus of Nazareth, including the Christians in Rome to whom Paul is writing. The Christians believe this because it is what Paul has taught them. Paul taught them that those who have faith in Jesus are those who will be saved. Paul has told them that they have been called, chosen, justified and glorified. Paul has told them that the true children of Abraham are those who have faith, just as did Abraham; the kind of faith that allowed Abraham to almost offer up Isaac. In a sense this is Paul’s great theological move that the promise of blessing that had come to Abraham and his descendants had now been made available to everyone through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a sense then Christians are those people who had been chosen at random to receive an inheritance.
The question thus arises, who ought to receive the inheritance? Is it Jews or Christians? The answer Paul gives us is that it is both. Evidently what was happening in the church at Rome was that the Christians were saying that they were the only ones who would inherit. Paul makes it clear that this is not so. Paul states that the Jews will also inherit. Earlier in Romans Paul stated that to the Jews, his people by the way, belonged “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5) Paul continues this argument in the passage we read this morning where he writes, “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew….for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Paul can do this because he is a good Jew, who understands that when God makes a promise, God keeps that promise. Even though, at the moment, his brother and sister Jews do not believe in Jesus, he trusts that in God’s infinite grace, God will grant them their inheritance.
At the same time Paul makes it clear that Christians will inherit as well. And as he does he wants them to be clear that their inheritance comes because they have been adopted, or grafted into Abraham’s family. This is how he puts it. “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.” (Romans 11:17-20) If Paul had our story of the Portuguese Count in front of him, he would probably remind the Christians in Rome that they had done nothing to receive their inheritance but instead, had been picked by God to receive something amazing. And, just as importantly, Paul had already told them that there was nothing that could separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus, meaning that when God makes a promise, God keeps it.
What then are the practical applications of this understanding? First it is that we are to see our Jewish brothers and sisters, as just that, our brothers and sisters. We are all part of the great Abrahamic family. This means that we ought not to push Jesus on them, for in fact not even Paul did that. He offered them his insights and teachings, felt badly when they did not accept, but did not try and either shame them or force them into converting. Second we are to be clear about what we believe as Jesus’ followers. Sometimes people want to pretend that all religions are basically the same. This is not so. We as Christians hold that we believe that in Jesus, God became incarnate, lived, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again. We believe that because of our faith in Jesus we have become new people, capable of living new lives. We are not to be afraid of making this claim, not as one that makes us superior, but as one that makes us grateful for having been chosen by God. Finally we are to take seriously our call to live a life that reflects the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ; a love that is offered to everyone we meet.
The challenge for us then is to, on the one hand be certain of who we are and what we believe, and on the other hand living a life of service and humility in which we treat every other human being we encounter as children of God. My challenge to you then for this week is to ask yourselves, how am I showing the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ to everyone I meet in order that they might see the love of God within me?
Rev. Dr. John Judson
Print Version (PDF)
Genesis 21:8-21, Romans 10:5-15
It was one of the great advertising images of all time; the Easy Button. How many of you remember the Easy Button? It was the center of Staples advertising for a considerable period of time. The commercials would run like this. A man would bemoan the fact that he had just run out of ink cartridges or toner. Someone else would say, here use my easy button. The man would press the button and suddenly the supplies would appear. Or it was someone who needed to have a presentation printed by the next day…and presto, hit the easy button and there it was. It was a great campaign then not only because it made us remember Staples but because we all wanted an easy button. The house is a mess, company is coming and you know there is not enough time to clean…Easy Button and it is spotless. Or you are trying to remove a rusted head bolt from your 67 Camaro…easy button and it just pops loose. Finally it was a great campaign because it was imitated thousands of times. One of my favorite YouTube knock off Easy Button videos had a kid who couldn’t get a date and even his mother tells him he needs a better body to do it…and as he hits the Easy Button he suddenly looks like a kid from a boy band.
Over the years one of the places that I have heard people desiring an easy button is with the Christian Faith. They have been very confused about many of the doctrines that the church has historically held and they come to me looking for easy answers. “John, what is this Trinity thing?” As I begin to explain the history of the development of the doctrine I can see them hitting the easy button and I say, “Just think of an egg; white, yoke and shell, three in one” Or they come to me asking, “John, listen will you please explain to me how Jesus can be both fully human and fully divine. That just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Does that mean he prays to himself?” Again as I draw on Biblical references they mentally hit the Easy Button and I saiy, “OK, think about an egg…” Finally they ask me about predestination. As the Reformed pastor I am, I begin to explain how Calvin used it and once again they hit the Easy Button. Whereupon I reply, “God chose you. You did not choose God.” The bottom line then is that Christians have always looked for an easy button and many have found it in verse 9 of our text from Romans.
Verse nine reads in this way. “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believer in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There it is, the Easy Button. All of Christianity can be boiled down to a simple formula. First one publically proclaims that Jesus is Lord. Then one believes that God raised him. There is nothing else that one needs to do. This understanding is at the heart of the entire revivalist movement, stretching from the Great Awakening to our current day. Revivals are held with one aim in mind, convincing people to profess and believe. This simple Easy Button formula is intended, as the preachers will tell you, to save you from hell and get you into heaven. Don’t do this and you belong to the guy with the pitch fork. Do it and you get to be beamed up to heaven and hang out with all of the true Christians who have preceded you by pushing the same Easy Button. This is why certain churches have altar calls at the end of each service. They want people to push the Easy Button.
All of that button pushing would be fine if that was what Paul actually had in mind when he wrote this letter. But what I want to offer you this morning is that I do not believe that Paul understood this profession and belief as an Easy Button; as a short cut out of hell and into heaven. Instead I think Paul would have seen this as the Difficult Button, and here is why; Paul wasa good messianic Jew.
Let me explain. Paul was a good Jew who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited messiah who had ushered God’s Kingdom into the world. As a good Jew, Paul understood clearly that a profession about God, or the messiah, was not an Easy Button. It was in fact an agreement to do whatever God asked of you. When Jews said the Schema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one…” they were not making an intellectual statement. They were saying that they would do whatever that one God asked of them. We can see this in our Old Testament lesson. Abraham finally got the son with Sarah that he had always been promised. Sarah, however was jealous of Abraham’s other son, Ishmael. She tries to force Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother Hagar into the desert to die. Abraham resists, or resists until God comes to him and reminds him of the covenant promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations. God tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael into the desert because God would not only take care of them, but bless them. So Abraham does as God asks and sends them out. He does so because this is what it meant to profess this one God…you were to do whatever that God asked.
So when Paul tells the Roman church that they are to profess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, Paul is asking them to act upon that profession. Paul is asking them to live as if those things were true. What he is asking them to do is to commit to forgiving as Jesus and God forgave them. He is asking them to take up their cross daily and suffer on behalf of Christ trusting that one day they would be raised as was Jesus. He is also asking them to share their worldly goods with other believers as Jesus had asked. He is also asking them to pray for and love their enemies just as Jesus did. He is asking them to risk their careers, their family ties, their place in society and everything else to be obedient to the one whom they have proclaimed as Lord, because by proclaiming Jesus as Lord, they were publically declaring that Caesar is not their Lord and master. That title belonged to a crucified and resurrected carpenter. This is no Easy Button allowing one to escape hell and enter into heaven. This is a Difficult Button calling them to lead a radically different and difficult way of life in the here and now. And if you do not believe me, ask those Iraqis who have lost everything because they refuse to convert to another faith, but instead steadfastly call Jesus, Lord.
I understand clearly that the Difficult Button is not nearly as attractive as the Easy Button. After all we are the people who invented paint by numbers so that we would not have to learn how to paint…and the player piano so we would not have to learn to play the piano. Yet I hope that we will listen to Paul as he concludes this section of his letter. He reminds us that the Difficult Button is good news and that we ought to be telling others about how they too can push it as well. He does so because by pushing the difficult button, anyone, any human being can become part of God’s in-breaking kingdom of love, grace and compassion. Anyone can find themselves drawn closer to the creator and redeemer of the world. Anyone can rediscover the fullness of what it means to be a child of God. It will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile. My challenge to each of us then is to ask, am I willing to push the difficult button and live as a child of God’s Kingdom by showing the love and grace of Jesus Christ to all that I meet?