Hate My Life

Sermon Delivered Sunday, March 25, 2012
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Everything is about social networking these days. Yoono you can Yelp a Tweet to your Facebook page about a place you found out about through FourSquare, but be sure to tell everyone about the deal you got through Groupon (which may or may not be as good as the one you found through LivingSocial). Now, chances are that many of you sitting in the pews have no idea what I am talking about; however, most of the folks that read my blog (yes, both of you) know exactly what I am talking about. In fact most savvy social networkers (a term itself that is becoming passé) would roll their eyes as though I have just proclaimed 2+2 to be a complex equation!

Even though Betty White rightfully proclaimed on Saturday Night Live (in one of the funniest opening monologues EVER) that these social networks (particularly Facebook - where the campaign to have her on was started) are a colossal waste of time, the fact is that there has been a tectonic shift in the way that we relate to one another as a society. People will now post to the internet the most intimate details of things that do not need to be known by anyone. I realized this when I saw a tweet from an acquaintance noting the action of cleaning up after his dog.

One of the more peculiar of these “microblogs” (running streams of short expressions of thought or events) is something I will call HML. I’ve change one of the letters for the context of preaching. “HML” stands for “Hate My Life,” and it is a variant of a tag that people will add to the end of a statement to express utter frustration. The original version has a more visceral word than “hate” to communicate absolute dissatisfaction with life. These statements are collected anonymously and published on a blog for others to vote on and be amused by. A few examples include:

Today, at my grandmother's funeral there was a fight about inheritance. It was my teenage daughters arguing about what they get when I die. HML

Today, I bought medical gloves to protect my hands from various chemicals at work since I have eczema. I had an allergic reaction to the gloves, and now my eczema is even worse. HML

Today, I spotted a $100 bill on the ground. Being a little strapped for cash, I excitedly picked it up. I discovered it was one of those religious tract papers made to look like a folded bill, with a message scolding me for being greedy. HML

Now, I have to say - as unfortunate as those situations may be - I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when he said that we must hate our lives. Jesus was not talking about the inconveniences or even the abject suffering we all face. Jesus was talking about a lifestyle of transformation. Jesus was talking about grain. Imagine the dialogue between two seeds of grain. [This skit is original content, if anyone wants to use it they are welcome. Modify as the Spirit moves.]

SEED 1: Hey, Bob - you over there?

SEED 2: Yes, Jim. Just like yesterday. I’ve been here all Winter.

SEED 1: OK. Just checking. Isn’t it great being roommates?

SEED 2: Um, yeah. About that - you know things are changing right?

SEED 1: It...it has gotten a little warmer.

SEED 2: Yeah. I’ve been wondering about what’s up there.

SEED 1: Up there? Why would we want to go up there? No, it’s better here.

SEED 2: Well...something inside of me has been reaching up there for a while. I...I think I’m changing. Actually, I’m almost to the surface.

SEED 1: WHAT?! Are you insane! What...what are you going to eat - air?! Get yourself together, Man!

SEED 2: LIGHT!

SEED 1: Um...Bob? Are you...OK?

SEED 2: It’s so DELICIOUS! And there is so much of it. I never knew it could be like this, and there is so much that we can do! I’m going up, Jim. I wish you would join me.

SEED 1: Bob? Bob? BOB! I’m scared. I want to stay where it’s safe. I don’t want things to change. Bob?

A good friend once told me that we are either green and growing or brown and rotting, and though he had a heart that was not supposed to be working anymore - he constantly chose to be green. And I believe that is why he is alive today.

Ultimately, I believe that God’s choice is what gives us life in abundance. Of course we still have a part to play. And we still make choices that are not in keeping with God’s will. And we still experience brokenness that results from the choices of others. And we still need a way to know that God loves us no matter what.

Sometimes it may feel like our lives are not worth loving. That is why we remember. That is why we remember that God stepped into the occupation of Israel and said, “I get it. I understand that you cannot keep this covenant, and I love you. I want you to know that the brokenness of your bodies, your relationships, and your very souls is not your fault - even if it seems like you deserve it. I will take the blame from your shoulders. I will still hold you accountable, but I am going to right this new agreement on your hearts, in your minds, and on your very souls. And the covenant is this - I love you.”

Of course God did not stop there. From the beginning God’s covenant with Abram was to bless all the people of the earth through his descendants. And just as Malchizedek - the king and priest - brokered a deal with the King of Sodom for Abram’s safe passage by breaking bread pouring wine and giving thanks and glory to God, so Jesus has done for us. By his submission to God, even in death, Jesus demonstrated the way to know of God’s love and be moved by it into action!

And what is the action we are being moved toward? What is the surface we are reaching for? Ultimately, we’ll know when we get there. Immediately, we know that getting from here to there means sacrifice. Getting from here to there means knowing that you can’t get to the resurrection without the cross!

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that here is earth and there is heaven. I don’t mean to suggest that we can earn our way from here to there by suffering. What I do mean to say is that nothing remains without change - nothing except for God’s love. What I do mean to say is that we can participate in the changes God has in store, but it will require us to love what God loves more than what we love. It will require us to value people that we would rather dismiss.

Participating in the changes that God has in mind will cause us to let go of prejudices we did not even know we had. In fact it will change our very orientation from asking God, “Why aren’t you here for me!” to, “How can I be there for you today?”

Opportunities to serve God are abundant - just look at all of the Christmas and Easter Baskets we have produced! Maybe that is not your niche, but it is one way that we can collectively tell families that they matter to God, no matter what. We have such a great history of mission and service in this congregation, and every time it comes up all I hear is lament over what we used to do. Well, I’m here to tell you right now - stop it! That is not what Jesus meant when he said to hate your life!

Jesus did not mean that we should wallow in self pity. In fact he meant just the opposite. He even said, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

The thing is, we do not need to worry about what we cannot do. We need to think about what God is doing - even through us! We need to realize that there are still Greeks out there saying, “We wish to see Jesus.”

Lyda and Brian are two such people. They wrote a beautiful blog post titled, “Open Letter to Churches Seeking New Members” that includes several suggestions from their experiences in seeking a home for faith. Their suggestions include things not to do like singling them out or chasing them to their car to say “Welcome! Please come back!” They also include things to do like stating clearly what you believe, including explicit instructions in worship materials, and maintaining a website that gives clear and helpful information (for the curious, ours will be up soon). Most importantly, they ask to be remembered. Names are not important, but remember that they came.

Finally, they close their letter this way:

Finding a new church home is not always easy, especially if the one you came from was such an important part of both your faith journey and your personal life. We were very, very close to our previous faith community and it’s hard to think of anywhere else coming close. Or maybe we’ve never been to church and we want to explore that spiritual side of ourselves for the first time, but it’s all so new and confusing. Or perhaps we’re broken and we need a place where we can be broken and it’s still okay. Any number of the things that might bring us to your doorstep can make it hard to do much more than show up, sit quietly in the back, and sneak out afterwards. But that’s the beautiful thing about church communities – they bring new people into your life, they can open your heart and mind to new experiences, they can mend those deepest of wounds, and affirm your relationship with God. With all that on the line, don’t let the little things mentioned above get in the way of connecting people to the Good News.

In Peace, Lyda & Brian

As the season of Lent draws to a close, let us continue to consider the love of God that will not let us go. Let us continue to be urged toward the cross of Christ. Let us continue to consider how we might let go of our very lives in order to experience transformation - even resurrection - in the here and now. May it be so with me. May it be so with you. And to God be the glory, both now and always. Amen.
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