Realistic Christianity: Remember, No strings attached!! (except for the ones which are)- autonomy and non-autonomy
Rev. Vincent Gardner 08/05/16
Today we have another sermon in our Realistic Christianity series. An attempt to construct a systematic theology for parish life. If you remember so far I have begun to map out what it is to be a Realistic Christian and my suggestion that this could be a helpful way forward for many. Sermons so far:
1. We are now in the post-modern age, so we need new approaches while still holding on to the tradition. Only thing we believe as objective is Jesus Christ. (epistemology)
2. What do we mean by the ‘Word of God’? It is a living dynamic person. (hermeneutics)
3. A touch of the Benjamin Buttons:, there is a only the present, past and future (Apperception)
4. In this age one major contribution the church can make is to teach society how to enjoy being ‘bored’. To learn how to be truly present for ourselves and each other. (Actualized presence: precursor of situation ethics) Andrew: Boring conference,
5. We are not pigs! We are not too loose ourselves in analogies and metaphors we are human (intro to Theological anthropology)
Today I want to start by asking how many strings and toggles you have on your coats? It baffles me why in recent years there has been an explosion in strings, toggles. Baffles and hidden pockets. In the past if you did a manual job you wore a suitable coat, donkey jacket, a poachers pocket maybe, sowester. If you worked in middle management you might wear a trench coat or a dashing danimac. If you didn’t have to work for a living a becoming tweed hacking jacket on occasion or cape and plus fours.
But now all the rules have gone, if you are in middle management too wear a designer working man’s coat, tricked out as if deploying to Antarctic or heading up the nearest mountain pass. If you are in manual labour you don’t bother with a coat as a hoody will work or if going out a Burberry hacking jacket. And why all the strings and gadgets?
Jared and his dad were playing a game of catch one afternoon, when Jared asked, …….”Dad, is there a God?”
Joe his father had a string of trite answers racing through his mind. …… But in the end His Father opted for honesty, …..”I don’t know, Jared,” he replied.
Jared dug a little deeper, “If there is a God, how would you know him?”
“I really have no idea, Jared.
I only went to church a couple of times when I was a kid, so I don’t know a lot about those kinds of things.”
Jared seemed deep in thought for a few minutes as the game of catch continued.
Suddenly, he headed for the house.
“I’ll be right, back, dad” ……he yelled over his houlder.
“I have to get something.”
Jared soon returned with a mylar balloon fresh from the circus along with a pen and an index card.
“Jared, what in the world are you doing?” His father asked.
He earnestly replied. “I’m going to send a message to God ….. airmail.”
Before Joe could protest, Jared started writing on the index card,…… “Dear God, if you are real and if you are there,…… send people who know you ….. to my Dad and me.”
Joe kept his mouth shut, ……not wanting to dampen ……his son’s enthusiasm.
This is silly, he thought …….as he helped Jared fasten the card …..to the balloon’s string.
God, …..I hope you are watching, …..he added to his silent petition.
After Jared let go of the balloon, father and son stood with their faces to the sky and watched it sail away. (PAUSE)
Two days later, Joe and Jared pulled into a free car wash.
“How much?” Joe asked ……as he neared the line of buckets, sponges and hoses.
“It’s free,” the guy told him. “No strings attached.”
“Really!” Joe exclaimed.
He was intrigued by getting something for nothing. “But why are you doing this?”
“We just want to show you God’s love in a practical way.”
It was as if that simple statement …..opened a hidden door …..to Joe’s heart.
The look on his face was incredible, “Wait a minute,” he practically shouted. “Are you guys Christians?”
“Yeah, we’re Christians,” the man replied.
“Are you the kind of Christians …..who believe in God?”
The man could not help but smile, ……”Yes, we’re that kind of Christians.”
After directing a big grin at Jared, ……Joe proceeded to tell the story of releasing the helium balloon …..with its message ….only days earlier.
Joe said…..”I guess you’re the answer to one of the strangest prayers God’s ever received,”.
Beloved …..That is the story of a church in Ohio ……that is committed to what is called…… servant evangelism.
What is servant evangelism?
It is demonstrating the kindness of God ……The Love God….by offering to do some act of humble service
In popular culture the view of Christianity has changed radically over the past thirty years. Back in the sixties and seventies the view of Christianity was the sitcom vicar, it was all middle class and polite. Didn’t really believe in much, wishy washy, but advocated politeness and charity. God allowed us personally freedom to decide to behave in a pleasant way.
Now the caricature of Christianity is one which is more confident; the constantly smiling christen, who has a badge or a t-shirt or a bumper sticker just in case anyone was unaware that they loved Jesus. This in your face Christianity is very off putting to many people and also triggers a negative response because the assumption is that Christianity doesn’t think anymore and doesn’t have intelligent response to complicated issues. The third problem with this form of Christianity is that there is perceived to be a lot of strings attached.
You can smile like me if only you believed in Jesus in the way I do, attend the type of church I do, 100 % agree with an accepted view on social issues. Hence you are allowed to be happy if you accept this strings.
The issue has always been, if we believe in God to what extent is he in control of our life’s or we have freewill. On the one hand it is nice to be believe that God has seen everything and has a plan for our lives, predestination. (non-autonomy) on the other we like to think he loves us enough to allow us the freedom to make our own mistakes. A task for later look at today’s passage and count how many times May and I figure in the gospel text. (autonomy)
May would suggest we have a choice and I suggest Jesus is living example that we could choose to follow.
So how and what do we choose? Instead the epic, life changing, culture forming, large projects what about starting with the small things. Like tidying up a forecourt. These have the power to change at a deeper level. Do the small thing …. To show the main thing God’s Love.
Jesus challenges us to live out our purpose …….not only in the big moments of life, ……..but in the little ones as well, …… even a cup of cold water ……..given in his name.
For we do the small thing ……to show the main thing: ….. God’s Love.
Simple acts done in love ……seem so small, ……yet when you realize God is at work through them ……they become eternally large.
Remember our Lord’s words to us:
“Whatever you do for the least of these you do to me.”
Just Do It!
Beloved, …… Do The Small Thing ……To Show The Main Thing: …… God’s Love!