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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Sunday sermon

Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 3:1-15
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Psalm 103
Luke 13:1-9

I went with the group from our parish yesterday to see The Passion of the Christ , and then came back to the church to discuss it. I was fascintated at hearing the different responses that we all had to that same event. One of the things that stuck out for me was brought up by a couple different people, who felt that the images of Christ's suffering and crucifixion portrayed on Gibson's movie, while incredibly vivid, did not make clear the saving grace that it offers to our sinful world; not only addressing the violent sin and evil shown in the film, but also in our culture, our minds and hearts today. So I want to address that a little bit-- to talk about that grace, and about our choices.

In today’s New Testament lesson, Paul is speaking to the new Christians in Corinth. He is warning them against the dangers of idolatry: cultic meals, and fertility rites, and other rituals and behavior that were not only part of the religious practice they were leaving behind, but also part of the prevailing culture of that time and place. It was part of their social structure; a bit like belonging to the bowling league, or a bunco club, if you will.

Now, those sorts of idols may be no longer part of our “prevailing culture,” in 21st century America; but we have others. So, think with me for a minute: what idols do you see? What are you tempted by?

Sex perhaps? Not just the doing, but the watching, on TV or in the movies; the listening, on the radio; the reading, in books and magazines.

Money? or maybe the kinds of things money can buy: Clothes, or cars, or fancy technology (this from the woman who lives and dies by her laptop!)

Overindulgence in food, or alcohol?

The illusions of power, or control, or self-reliance?

We all have things that pull at us, that test us, that snag our attention and “lead us into temptation.” As Paul says, they are common to everyone in this world; and though each of us has our own particular favorites, none of them are new. And so today, just as 2000 years ago, we are faced with choices.

Many of you know that I like music. I like lots of different kinds of music: classical, jazz, folk, country, rock... contemprary Christian and traditional hymnody. And I find the more I listen for it, the more often I can hear God’s word in the secular as well as sacred. So when I was thinking about the issues before us this morning, what came to mind for me was one of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s songs, called “In This World.” The chorus goes like this:

In this world, there’s a whole lot of trouble, baby.
In this world there's a whole lot of pain.
In this world, there’s a whole lot of trouble
and a whole lot of ground to gain.
Why take when you could be giving?
Why watch as the world goes by?
It's a hard enough life to be living;
Why walk when you can fly?

There’s the Good News: that God provides the way to fly. In fact, the journey toward Jerusalem that is Lent-- as well as the movie-- remind us to what lengths God will go, and has gone, to do just that. Through betrayal and abandonment; through 39 lashes with razor-tipped whips; through spikes driven through wrists and feet; through torture and death, to hell and back again. All this Jesus endured, to provide the way out. To offer us a choice. To give us, as the gardener suggests to the landowner in the Gospel parable, the opportunity of another year, another chance.

So, given that opportunity, what shall we choose? Shall we “sit down to eat and drink, and rise up to play?” Or shall we strive to bear fruit?


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