May 19, 2014

Reblogged from: I'm Just Saying 

My daughter, Isabelle, doesn’t like to keep her feet on the floor, both physically and metaphorically. When she was a toddler we would often find her standing on the kitchen table. I would say in a stern voice, “Don’t stand on the table.” Later, as if nothing had happened, she would again be on the table. “Don’t stand on the table,” I’d say as I picked her up and put her down. Eventually it got out of hand. She was constantly on the table, we were always fussing, and we were scratching our heads wondering what we were supposed to do. One day, either my mom or Christie’s mom was at the house and she saw our frustration. She said, “Why don’t you say, ‘Keep your feet on the floor?’” Of course, my first reaction was, “Don’t tell me how to raise my kids,” because sometimes as a parent you get to that place. But eventually I said, “Keep your feet on the floor,” and it was as if I had chanted a magic spell. She began to stop climbing the table. Mom said, “Most of the words in your sentence were things you didn’t want her to do. You need to change your language to fill your sentence with what you want her to do.” Brilliant. Since then there was quite a dramatic shift in the way we communicated with our children. We don’t always get this right, but we found that it was much more effective and much easier to emphasize the positive than to speak out against the negative.
trivial pursuit
The author of Colossians is talking about a dramatic shift, a Resurrection shift. He writes, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is. One of the ways that Paul (footnote here. Colossians is probably written by one of Paul’s students rather than Paul himself, but we’ll save that for Bible study) thinks about salvation is to imagine a jail cell. Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a jail cell and Jesus comes to tell you that the door is open and you are free to leave. We get up and we start to move toward the door, but then we start thinking about how scary the world is outside of the door and how comfortable the jail cell is, we sit back down and eventually forget that the door is, in fact, unlocked. He writes, “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly,” and then he begins to list earthly things. Now, this is a window into the human condition.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was in my first years of ministry I would gather the youth for a lock-in and I would lay down the rules. Don’t sneak out at 1:00 am. Don’t hide vodka in water bottles. Don’t make-out with your significant other in the back of the bus . . . all I was doing was giving them ideas. The author of Colossians says, “Put to death earthly things, like fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire . . . and then you start to say things like, “what kind of fornication,” or “how evil does the desire have to be before being considered evil, and then we start thinking about what kind of punishment God will offer to those who follow such ways and we start preaching out against everything instead of preaching for anything and our church becomes a fortress to keep the outside world out and we find ourselves screaming over and over again, “Don’t climb the table,” and we forget how to say, “Keep your feet on the floor.” A constant message of “don’t” is one preached from a room you think is locked. Now, there are times to say, “Don’t.” There are times to shine a light into the darkness and the speak truth to power, but our “Don’t” can become consuming to the point where we forget how to say “Do this—do this in remembrance of me.”
The author of Colossians goes on to say, “In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised or uncircumsied, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all.” As I was driving to church the other day to bring Isabelle to girl scouts I noticed just how green everything has become and I thought to myself, “how many shades of green are there? Is color infinite?” Well, in a way, no, because there is a limit to what the eye can perceive, infrared and ultraviolet are the boundaries. Now we can perceive the difference between red and blue, but there is an infinite set of variation between the two. Where does red end and blue begin? How much red can be mixed with blue and the color still be considered blue. And what the heck do you do with purple? In other words, there is red and there is blue but it is impossible to put up a wall between the two, oh but we like to build them. There is Jew and there is Greek but the dividing wall between this is not what Jesus was raised to build.
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Surround yourself with these things. Clothe yourself with these things. A few years ago when I was in the holy land I noticed an interesting phenomenon. As I would walk through the market in Jerusalem, the vendors would call out to me in English. They weren’t calling out to everyone in English. How did they know to speak English to me? I asked our tour guide, and he chuckled a bit. He said, “You are wearing a baseball cap and baggy jeans. You’re American.” Am I clothed with compassion in such a way that others can “see” it on me? Do I clothe myself with humility and patience? A preacher once said in a sermon, “If Christianity was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
“Bear with one another, forgive each other. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body, and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Well, that preaches itself, don’t you think?
The trouble of trivial pursuit is that we end up sitting in a room we think is locked. We get so comfortable with the four surrounding walls that we forget that life exists outside of them. Put away those consuming things which ultimately are not life giving. Maybe for you it’s that thing you can’t stop worrying about. Maybe for you it’s that bottle you just can’t put down, or those pictures you can’t stop looking at, or that friend you just can’t forgive, or maybe for you it’s the perception of being the perfect parent. There is a difference between saying, “Don’t get on the table,” and “Keep your feet on the floor.” The door is unlocked. Christ is what it means to be alive, and it is love, which holds everything together. May you leave here knowing that you are loved and sharing that love with others. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.