September 10, 2017: Let's Fix This Thing

Pastor Steve Mechem

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Micah 6:6-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

From an objective point of view, the world’s a mess. Sure, its been messier, but that doesn’t change the assertion that things are a mess.

Natural disasters.
Natural disasters helped along by human ignorance.

Let us be in prayer for people affected by the hurricanes in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, the Gulf Coast.
And Let’s be in prayer for people affected by fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana- The whole west.
And lets be in prayer for people whose lives are affected by massive flooding in Nigeria, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
And let’s be in Prayer for the continuing refugee crisis in Syria that and the human rights crisis in Burma.

Such a mess-
Wars and Rumors of War
Human Traffiking
Extreme Poverty
Water Security
Violence against women and children
Forced migration of people
Pollution
Global Warming
Government Corruption and incompetence
Religious intolerance
Religious led violence
Racism
Bigotry
Hate
Politics of Fear and Despair

Most religions say that the primary problem in the world is evil.

Evil that may be personified and which finds itself possessing evil people
Evil that visits all of us from time to time in our worst moments.
Evil that feeds on greed and fear and narcissism.
Evil that causes the strong, the wealthy, the powerful to use and abuse the weak, the poor, the powerless, the other.
Evil that turns human beings against one another, against creation, against the divine.

Some of us agree with the major religions that evil is present and real and at the source of many problems in our world. But we would also argue that religion itself is a significant part of the problem.

Blaise Pascal in his philosophical treatise, The Penses wrote, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Religious people of almost every religious persuasion have done monstrous things to fellow human beings in the name of their God.

Christianity, founded by the Prince of Peace who taught his followers to turn the other cheek, is guilty of persecutions, of tortures, of inquisitions, crusades, and greed and selfishness.

Christianity, along with other religions, has been a source of divisiveness and intolerance in our world, dividing people into camps of us and them.

Sadly, often religion has taught us to hate rather than love.

Now I must say, in its defense, religion has done tremendous good in our world. It is fair to say that the mess would be far worse without religions’ effort to confront injustices and inequities and bring comfort to the comfort less.

But sadly, the voices of hate and divisiveness within the religious experience tend to be heard over the voices of love and grace.

So, if religion is a part of the problem,
and we are religious people,
Then, it behooves us to be a part of the solution.

So, how do we fix this mess?

Not with more religion, that’s for sure.
Not with more dogma and religious values that separate people into groups
Not with more “us versus them” theology

To fix this mess, people of faith, must reject religion that encourages hate, that excludes, and must turn to the voice that speaks love and truth.

Jesus talking to his disciples (and all of us) asked,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

There is so much in these sentences to unpack, for this moment I am interested in the “walk with me” and “work with me” sentence.

The walking with and working part of Jesus words refer to following him.

And he makes clear what it means to follow him. His commands that we love one another and care for each other. His life right up to the point when they executed him, was lived loving for and caring for others.

Jesus said, (as do writings from every major and most minor religions) that we should treat people the way we want to be treated.

So simple. And world changing, if it happened. Imagine a world where people, strangers and friends, families and neighbors, governments, treated others the way they wanted to be treated. It would be amazing. Kum Ba Yah.

To treat others the way we want to be treated means to treat people with respect and kindness and good will.

The prophet Micah basically instructs us on how to live out the command of Jesus long before before Jesus ever said it (but about the same time Buddha said it).

“God has told you, O mortal one, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to act justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah writes to people who are wondering how to best honor God. The approach, for centuries, had been blood sacrifices. But Micah asks the question, does God want burned up cows or a thousand sheep killed to honor God?” The prophet answers the question with an surprising “No.”

What God wants is fairness, kindness and humility. God requires that we treat each other with respect as part of our spiritual walk with God.

We practice fairness, advocate for fairness, work for fair the treatment of our fellow human beings.

We practice kindness, we give others a break, we respond in a way that lifts people up, we are generous with encouragement.

We walk humbly, recognizing that it is God who works in us and through us.

Sounds simple.

The apostle Paul fleshes out Jesus’ command and Micah words in this beautiful bit of advice found in Romans 12.

“Love should be shown without pretending.

Reject evil, and hold on to what is good.

Love each other like the members of your family.

Be the best at showing honor to each other.

Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!

Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.

Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.

Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them.

Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying.

Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status.

Don’t think that you’re so smart.

Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.

Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.”

That’s how we fix this mess. Each of us, trusting God, living lives that make a difference for others.

One day at a time.

One interaction at a time.

One person at a time

practicing kindness
and generosity,
choosing to stand with the strugglers,
to welcome the strangers,
to encourage the discouraged,
to help whenever we can.
to love, because God is love and because Jesus modeled love.

Mahatma Ghandi summed it up this way,
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time, they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it— always.”

Love will always win. Eventually, and that is how this gets fixed!

Amen.