July 9, 2017: Snakes For Fish

Pastor Steve Mechem

Download this podcast.

Matthew 7:7-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.


I think this passage is so fun and so interesting. Interesting and necessary for understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I would divide the passage up into three sections. The final section I would label, “expectation.”

The second section I would name, “comparison.”

The very first section leaves me a little confused.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I don’t know if the best label for this section of the passage is “hope”, or “promise”, or “truth.”

The words of Jesus sound so great, but reality sometimes comes up a little short of expectation.

Honestly, The number of things I have asked God for over the years that haven’t been given to me would fill a book. I have searched and have not found, I have knocked and the door has remained closed.

I have, over the years, at various times, kept a prayer journal. When I look back in them I discover I am still seeking the same answers, praying the same prayers.

Now, If I am honest, I will admit that if many of my prayers were answered as I uttered them, the answers would certainly have worked toward my detriment.

Still- I have asked, and have not been given, I have sought, and have not found, I have knocked, and have still been shut out.

Even Jesus, in his ministry, experienced the reality of unanswered prayer. I see at least two unanswered prayers that came from the lips of Jesus.

First, in the garden, he prays, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” As we all know, Jesus drank fully from the cup of suffering as he died terrible and torturous death.

Second, on that last night of his life he prayed about his followers, his church, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

The church, from the first business meeting in Jerusalem on, has never ever been one, not in 2,000 years.

And so, I wonder, are Jesus’ words truth? Or are his words a promise of something to come? Or are his words just hopeful rhetoric, hoping that God will respond to our every need and want?

What do you think? Are these words, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you,” hope, or promise, or truth. What do you think?

Congregational conversation:

The second section of this passage is a comparison.

“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Here Jesus compares God to our earthly parents. Our earthly parents, as flawed as they may be, generally love us and do the best for us. Can’t we expect God, who by definition is love to be as faithful to us as our own parents.

Can you imagine the scene in which a family sits down to a meal and the mom and dad have a salmon steak on rice pilaf, with homemade bread and butter to eat while on the children’s plates are a pile of live snakes and a couple of rocks? Maybe I can imagine it on a episode of “Criminal Minds,” but it would certainly point to deranged and evil and sick parents.

God is not deranged or evil or sick, and God will certainly take care of God’s children.

The third section in this passage I am calling expectation.

If God watches out for us as a loving parent.
If God’s love seeks the best for us.
Then it only makes sense, that as children of God, we take care of each other by:
respecting each other
caring for each other
treating each other kindly

It is not rocket science, it is the simple reality of faith.

There is not room in our discipleship for
hate,
racism
bigotry,
sexism,
homophobia,
intolerance,
bullying,
meanness,
ugliness,
narcissism,
narrow mindedness,
or elitism.

So, how does it work, “doing unto others as you would have others do to you?”

It starts with each of us.
Internally, we make a decision to practice kindness. And not just to our family and friends and people like us, but to everyone we encounter.

The decision is not based on how others treat us, it is based on what God has called us to be!

So,

I am kind.
even when people are unkind to me.

I give people a break,
even if they would not give me a break.

I am generous,
even when people are not generous to me.

I am helpful,
even when people are not helpful to me.

I see the best in others,
even if they are bent on seeing the worst in me.

I don’t give up on people,
even if people have given up on me.

Why?

Because God is love and teaches each us to love as a response to that love. It is that simple.

We are taught that we can see Jesus in the people around us, in the people we encounter.

Therefore, we respond to people in kindness, if for no other reason, because in them we can see Jesus.

There is a Praise Chorus with extremely simple but profound lyrics:
“The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you,
The Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you,
So easy, so easy, so easy to love.”

I would disagree with the line that says its easy to love, and change the word “easy” to “simple.” Simple is not the same as easy. Simple can be very hard. Loving some people is not easy, but it is a simple task when we recognize Jesus in them.

Knowing the the spirit of God, the spirit of Jesus resides in each of us does not necessarily make it easy to love, but it makes it simple to love.

God is love.
God loves each of us.
In each person resides the spirit of God.
We see Jesus in each of them.
Therefore, we treat them with
kindness and respect,
as we would want to be treated.

It is as simple as that!

Amen.


Please enter your comment entry below. Press 'Preview' to see how it will look.

Name:
Sign In to Your Account
User Name:
Password:
Location:
Homepage:
E-mail:
Subject:
:mrgreen: :neutral: :twisted: :arrow: :shock: :smile: :???: :cool: :evil: :grin: :idea: :oops: :razz: :roll: :wink: :cry: :eek: :lol: :mad: :sad: :!: :?: