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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lies, Lies and the Damning Lie

Sunday I preached on Lent. Day 10. Lent's 40 Days are one fourth over and 25% is a signficant chunk of the time given us to do the holy work of spiritual preparation for the Passover of the Lord Jesus and His death, resurrection and glorification.

Church is like a movie. It can lull one into spectator status. You sort of hunker back and watch it all (word and sacrament are a performance after all). Most Christians tend to see Easter as the big event, so they are like folks who come into the movie and watch the last fifteen minutes. They see all the loose ends tied up, the hero emerge victorious, all's well that ends well. In many cases, already familiar with the story they feel no need for any more than the bright sunshine to end the day.

Lent is a time not only to watch and listen, but also participate. It is a movie in which we have a role. We incarnate in our (broken) lives the same story which Jesus recapitulates (He takes our life story into Himself; He is in us and we are in Him). In Lent we hear and we put into action. We eat and drink and are consumed by the Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood. And we do the works of the Kingdom (proclaim, teach, heal, exorcise--in myriad ways) until the Kingdom comes.

My associate in ministry, Fr. Rene, preached a wonderful sermon on the temptations of Christ. Using contemporary language, he said that there are three temptations which we struggle with. They are LIES! They are the words of The Liar (satan) and we are tested (the Greek word means both; tempt and test) by the demonic as it seduces with the lie, filled with half truths.

  • If it feels good, do it
  • look out for number one
  • live for the moment
Each of these lies, as I said, has some truth. The problem of lies is that is their nature. They are perversions, a deadly twisting of truth which takes something wholesome and helpful and makes it destructive. Today's Morning Prayer reading from Jeremiah sums it up well. We have left the true God to worship gods of our own making. It is good to worship God, but not all gods are God.  The result, to quote the prophet, is "they have forsaken Me (God), the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." There it is. Our replacement gods and our choices (living out the three lies above) result in our own damnation. Our own loss of everything. Our own sorry and broken condition.

  • It is good to do what feels good, except sometimes (many times) we have to do what is hard and difficult for a higher good.
  • It is good to look out for number one, but we have to have the right ranking system. If we put the wrong person (me) at number one, then we will not serve the true number one. As Brian Piccolo's story reminds us God is first, others second, I am third.
  • It is good to live for the moment, but it is vital to factor in the future. What other example to American's need beyond the pending financial collapse under the billions of dollars of debt. As politicians debate about "what we can afford to cut" they ignore the cold, hard facts of math. Eventually, debt is too great and it all collapses. Same for our sinful decisions.

Rene concluded that our willingness to embrace these three lies is fueled by the Mother of all Lies: Do not trust God and His pomises.

There it is. Jesus promises to die and rise again. His apostles fail to trust. They will betray and desert Him. If part of our discipleship is Sunday worship (and it is, in spite of what people say) then it is clear that on any given weekend some 50% to 70% of us are deserting Him. If prayer and study are the life breath of Christian faith, then each day we betray Him (and ourselves, those useless cisterns again). The Triune God offers us a share in His/Their Divine communal life. Jesus is the gateway to that. Incarnation, Life and Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Enthronement and Eternal Priesthood are all aspects of God's saving work. Eventually, The Kingdom will come. In the meantime, all we do and all we are is best spent in preparation for the Kingdom. Where it will feel good all the time, where we will be taken care of perfectly, where the moment is eternal and where the promise of God is fulfilled. That is the truth.

1 comment:

  1. I missed mass somewhat intentionally on Sunday -so first Let me say "Ouch!"

    I heard a priest opinesay that the greatest lie and/or temptation is believing that we are not good enough. In the garden, we are tempted to eat from the tree to become like God. We are led to believe that doing it if it feels good; looking out for number one; and living for the moment means that there is something wrong and something is missing - we could be better. The devil even tried to convince Jesus that he could be better - the devil tempted Jesus with the very things he already had. Us too.

    Sometimes we miss that the kingdom is here -"on earth as it is in heaven" - and that too may be a lie - that we just need to wait for something or somewhere better and in the meantime we miss God right now - we don't walk with him in the Garden.

    Wow, not sure where that came from! Thanks for sharing and allowing me to share.