Friday, August 20, 2021

Why Living with End in Mind is the Sanest Thing Anyone Can Do

It had to come out on a Monday?  Is anybody all that great on a Monday?  When my late great Uncle Frank had to go for surgery, the surgeon wanted to schedule it for a Monday.   Uncle Frank exclaimed, “Monday! I don’t even get my car worked on on a Monday!”   Needless to say, his surgery didn’t happen on Monday.   

But a few Mondays ago, here it came.  The IPCC report arrived, dropping enough bombshells to ruin anyone’s Monday.  In case that acronym escaped you, it stands for a group of 195 countries, including our own, who every 8 or so years gives us our report card on climate change.   And get this. Before it comes out, every country, all 195 of them, have to approve it.   That means, it’s about the most conservative report you can expect, no speculations here, just facts that no nation can dispute.

So, what are the facts?  Well, to find a time when things in our atmosphere changed this fast, you’d have to go back to when the dinosaurs got killed off.  That’s not so good.  It means that no matter what we do, the oceans are going to rise by 2 feet.  And that puts a lot of where we live, South Florida, well, underwater.   That’s a mite disturbing.  And on top of that, we’re going to get lots more of bad stuff like, fires, hurricanes, and droughts.   I could go on, but I don’t want to depress you more. 

And if the future wasn’t looking bad enough, the present ain’t looking so great either.  When I first shared this message in a worship service, I said that over 11,000 folks were in Florida hospitals with Covid.   That afternoon, I found out that the real number had gone to over 13,000 in just the few days since I last checked.  And now it is over 17,000!

And of course, the height of Hurricane season is hitting too.  And now Grace and Henri are roaming around with more on the way.  A week or so ago, I was in a meeting (on Zoom of course), and one of my colleagues, Fred asked.  “Hey, does anyone know when the locusts are coming?  Just checking.”  Does it feel that way some days, like what else is going to happen?

In times like these, how do you have hope?  How do you find peace in the face of the very real challenges we face?  How do you gain a bigger perspective that empowers you to a life filled with love and joy no matter what?  How do you live your life in the light no matter how dark things seem to be?  In these words, God shows you the way.   Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.

I Peter 4:7-11

With the Covid cases rising, dire predictions of our possible demise, and let’s not forget, hurricane season, how do you not freak out these days or just get a little down?  But, in the face of all that, you can move forward in strength, with hope, with love, with even joy.   Here God tells you.  You live your life with the end in mind.    

Those words that kick off our passage sound so ominous.  The end of all things is near.  Sheesh, you expect to see that on a picket sign carried by some hairy guy in a robe like in a cartoon or this pic from about ten years ago.  Isn’t that a bit crazy?   But hold on, thinking like that is actually the exact opposite of crazy.   Peter even explicitly tells you that.   This translation reads here “be serious and discipline yourselves.”  But that’s not exactly what Peter wrote.  Instead, he wrote this “Be sound of mind and be sober.”   And let’s be clear about what he meant by “sound of mind.”  He meant “being sane, being not crazy.”  

In fact, the other place you find a form of the word he uses, Sophron, is when Jesus heals this crazed demon possessed man in the gospel of Luke.  This man has become so out of control that when the attacks come, chains won’t even hold him.  So, he lives far out in the wild, naked and raving.   And after Jesus heals him, how does Luke describe him, clothed, and sophronounta – in his right mind – a version of the same exact word you find here.   And Peter is right, focusing on the end is the least crazy thing you can do.  And well, not focusing on it, that is a bit insane.

This past week, I heard an interview with a guy named Steve Carter.   About three years ago, Steve had gotten his dream job.  He had become the main preacher at one of the most famous churches in the nation, one where 20,000 plus worshipped each weekend.  Then all hell broke loose.  It turned out that his successor, Bill Hybels, the guy who had started the church, had some dirty secrets buried.  And one Sunday, the Chicago Tribune in a huge story unburied them.   Hybels, off and on for years, had engaged in serious sexual harassment and abuse of co-workers and subordinates.  When that broke, even from thousands of miles away, I felt the ripples.   For 20 years, I’ve attended the Leadership Summit Hybels created.  I’ve read his books.  I’ve listened to his talks.  His actions felt like a betrayal, even to me, who had never even met him.  I can’t even imagine the pain of the women whose trust he betrayed and abused, not to mention the pain of his wife and children, and the members of that church.   In the aftermath of the revelations, appalled and disheartened, Carter and all the senior leadership left the church.  

But when Hybels began that behavior, do you think something like this went through his mind?  Hmm, let me wound some of my closest co-workers by violating and abusing them.  And as a bonus, if I do that, I’ll get to betray my family, devastate the church I’ve served for decades, and destroy whatever legacy I might have ever had.  And on top of that, I get to discredit the name of the very Savior I’ve dedicated my life to.  No, he didn’t think of any of that.  He just acted without contemplating what the end would be for anyone, for the people he hurt, for the church he served, for the family he loved, even what the end would be for him.  And that’s not only awful. It’s crazy.  It’s insane.  And yet people live in this sort of insanity all the time.

Years ago, the psychologist Henry Cloud gave me a phrase that helped me keep my own sanity.  He called it, “playing the movie.”   He said that effective people before they do something learn to play the movie.   They think to themselves.   Before I do this action or make this decision, let me play the movie of where it will lead, where this movie will end so to speak.   And because they do that, they avoid making serious mistakes in their life.   But how often do folks play the movie?  Have you ever made a decision without playing the movie?  I have, and it has not been pretty. 

But playing the movie goes deeper than just one decision, it needs to encompass your entire life.  It’s why leadership guru Stephen Covey made the second habit in his famous book, 7 Habits of Effective People, this;  “Begin with the end in mind.”  And get this.  Do you know what Covey meant by the end?  He meant the end, as in the end of your life.   He asked.  “Think about what you hope the people closest to you will remember about you after you die.  Are you living your life now in such a way those will be their memories or not?   When you play out the life you’re living now, does your life end with those memories or not.”  And trust me, if you do that, you will discover how powerful asking those questions are.  Living with the end in mind, that’s the sanest thing you can do.

And yet we live in a world where again and again, people aren’t playing the movie at all.   They’re not living with the end in mind for themselves or their families or even as that IPCC report showed, for the entire planet.

But of course, Peter wasn’t just talking about the end of your life or the end of earth even, but the end of everything as when Jesus returns.  Isn’t contemplating that sort of end a bit crazy?   Not only is it not crazy? It’s, as Peter puts it, sobering, even empowering.

Think about it this way.   Let’s say, your best friend gives you the keys to his amazing house.  He tells you.  I’m going away for a while.  I don’t know when I’ll be back.   But while I’m gone, you can use the house, stay there as long as you want, enjoy the pool, everything.   Now, let’s say, after he’s been gone a while, you get a little lazy.  The house gets trashed, starts looking rough around the edges.  Then one day, you think.  “Oh my Lord, what if my friend comes home today, and sees what I’ve done with the place? And all of a sudden, you’re rushing through the place, cleaning the dishes, vacuuming the carpet, taking out the trash, making it all spic and span.  You get the point?

In the same way, Peter is saying to these friends of Jesus.   Hey, none of us knows when Jesus is coming back, but it could be any time.  And what if he finds us hating on each other or complaining about each other or not taking care of one another?   What if he comes and says to us?  “This is how you represent me, how you show my love to the world?”   We can’t have that happen.  So, let’s let our love cover a multitude of sins.   Let us welcome each other without complaint.  Let us serve graciously with the gifts God has given us.   Let us take our words as seriously as if God is speaking right through us, serve as if God’s power is flowing right through us.  Do you see how contemplating the end has power to change the present right now?

70 or so years ago, a famed management theorist at Harvard, Fritz Roethlisberger, put it this way.  He said: “Most people think of the future as the ends and the present as the means, whereas in fact, the present is the ends and the future the means.”    Do you get his point?  You want to change your present?  To do that, you’ve got to imagine your future.   Doing that empowers you to change your life right now.  

In fact, that’s exactly what the IPCC report is doing.  It is imagining the future that could be in order to empower us to do things right now, in the present.   Sure, we could continue on the path we’re on right now, and not change anything.  And if we do that, our grandkids will live in a far more miserable world than this, a world they may not even be able to survive.   Or we could start changing things right now.  We could make things different, and it will be so much better for them than it could be.   Do you see how the contemplating the end is, not only, not crazy?  It is the most powerful thing any of us can do. 

And isn’t that what God did for us?  When human beings stopped trusting in God’s love, God saw how it would end.   God saw our fear and distrust drawing us away not only from God but from one another, how it was literally destroying us, even before we died.   And God refused to make that our end.  So, in Jesus, God came and gave up everything to bring us home.  He suffered the betrayal of even his friends so we can know, God will never betray us.   He was abandoned so we can know we never will be.   He gave up his life to give us life.  And he returned to life to assure us that nothing will separate us from God’s love, not our failures or mistakes, not even death itself. 

And when you know God went to that end to give you a new beginning, it empowers you.  It empowers you to live in that same love with one another.  It empowers you to love and care in better ways for this world God gave us, this world of which we are a part.  It empowers you to work for a world where God’s Kingdom comes, where God’s will gets done everywhere, on earth like it is in heaven. 

And on the days when it feels dark, you know, even then, God’s light shines, and that nothing, not even our own blindness will put it out.   So, live in that light.  Live for the end for which God created you.  Live for the end for which Jesus gave his life.  Live as one ready to love, to love God, to love one another, to love this wounded world even as God has so loved you.   Let us pray. 


Friday, August 13, 2021

People's Thoughts are Killing them. Here's How to Make Sure That's Not You


I’m stunned.  No, I’m not so much stunned as I am shocked and saddened.  Right now, every day, by the hundreds, people’s thoughts are killing them.  What other conclusion can you draw?

Over 70% of our nation has gotten at least one of these amazing shots with, for the most part, minimal side effects   And, yet almost a hundred million, including about half of Florida, still haven’t gotten it.  Maybe they distrust the government or drug companies because of those institutions’ sins in the past.   Maybe they read an article online that led them to think something that isn’t true.   Maybe they don’t think that folks are even getting sick or that they could.

At least they don’t think that, until they get sick, until they are struggling for breath, until that breathing tube goes down their throat.  And yes, I know.  The virus caused that.  But it didn’t begin there.  It began with thoughts that literally disconnected folks from reality, a reality that as of this past week has put over 15,000 Floridians in the hospital, fighting for their life.  And their vulnerability to this virus began in their head.  It began with their thoughts, thoughts that prevented them from doing the one thing, vaccination, that almost certainly would have saved them from the suffering, even death that awaits them now.

But even if you’re vaccinated, even if you had the right thoughts there, has that always been the case?   How often in your life has messed up thinking messed up your life?   Maybe your thoughts led you to trust the wrong person or to distrust the right one.  Maybe it led you into fears that limited your life or into actions that crashed it.  There’s no end honestly to how wrong thinking can wreck your life.

But what if your thoughts are moving in the right direction?  What if your thinking doesn’t contradict reality, but lives in the flow of it?  How much more powerful and fulfilled would your life be with that thinking?  But how does that happen?  Where do you even begin?  In these words, God shows you the way.  Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.

I Peter 4:1-11 

Wrong thinking has the power to wreck your life.  Why?  Your thoughts power your life, even control it, in ways nothing else does.  The leadership guru John Maxwell put it well.  The thoughts in your mind will always be more important than the things in your life.   So how do you live in the flow of the right thoughts, the ones that will give you life rather than take it away.  In these words, in a way, in simply one word, God shows you the way.  For here God shows you, you more you live in the flow of the right why, the more you can survive any “how.”

In saying that, I’m adapting a quote from Nietzsche, a brilliant philosopher but one who hated Christianity a lot.   Why did Nietzsche hate it?  He thought it had the wrong why, but even so, he saw something that folks often miss.   Everyone has a why, and yet often they don’t even realize what it is.   And because they don’t, that why often wrecks them because they don’t even see that it’s there. 

Now before, you see how the why you don’t even know you have wreck you, you need to see how in Christianity, everything is based on knowing the why, everything.  What do I mean?  Well, just look at how this part of the letter begins.   Peter is getting now even more into the practical details, how Christians are called to order their life.   But do you see how he begins the section?  He begins it with the simple word, therefore.   And that word tells you a lot.

A Bible teacher once said that in the Bible when you see a therefore, you need to ask.   What is it there for?   And so, what is this particular “therefore”, there for?   Well, this one is pointing you to the why. 

Peter has just finished discussing how Jesus, the just one, suffered for the unjust (that is all of us), how that act of infinite self-giving love has defeated everything that disconnects us from God, even death itself.  Jesus gained a triumph so total, Peter says, he even delivered people from hell itself, that even now Jesus lives above every power in existence, including the powers oppressing them.

And Peter says that is your why.  Because you know that truth, because you have experienced that victory, you can live by God’s vision not the desires that used to drive you. You can love one another constantly.  You can open your hearts to each other without complaint.  You can use your gifts on behalf of each other.  And all these things, you can do, because you have the why.  

You love because God loved you to death and beyond.  You open your heart and give to each other because God opened his heart to you, even gave his life for you.   In other words, Peter is simply saying.  Living your life in this way is just what it means to live in the flow of the why.

And everyone lives in the flow of a why, everyone.  But too often, folks don’t even know what their why is.   And because they don’t know their why, their life, even if it isn’t wrecked, never becomes all it could be.  They don’t become all that they could be.  And I don’t know anyone who exposed the danger of not knowing your why, then the late, great writer, David Foster Wallace did in a joke and quote that I never tire of sharing.  In fact, it comes from an amazing commencement address, called This is Water, that I encourage all of you to read 

The joke from that address goes like this.   Two young fish were swimming along when an old fish called out.  “Howdy, young’ uns!  How’s the water?”  The young fish swam along a bit, until one turned to the other, and puzzled, asked:  “What the heck is water?”    And from that joke, Wallace shared the water for us is our why.  That’s the water you swim in.  And that why will either give you life or take it away.   

And Wallace, though not an explicitly religious man, understood that the way people live their why could be described as a way of worship.  Here is how he put it.   

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.  And the compelling reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough…worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly.  And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you…Worship power, you will up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear.  Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.  But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is…. they’re unconscious.  They are default settings.  They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

You see.  You’ve got to ask yourself.  What is your why?   What defines your identity?  How do you measure your value, your worth, your meaning?   And as Wallace points out pretty much any why but God will limit your life.   But if you ground your identity, if your why is in something that cannot be shaken, that doesn’t depend on your circumstances or your popularity or even how you are feeling that day, well, that’s an immensely powerful foundation.  

In fact, Peter even says that remembering this why is the very thing that empowers you to love and to serve one another.   After Peter say the “therefore”; after he reminds these folks of what Jesus has done for them, what does he say next?  He says “arm yourself with this same thought.”  Now the translation says “intention,” but that’s not the word.  The word ennoian literally means thought.  And do you see the verb that precedes that word?  Peter says, no Peter orders them, to “arm themselves with this thought.” 

Do you see what he is saying?   This thought, this why of God’s love for you, has power to protect you.  It gives you power to advance into the world in strength.  It arms you. Why?  It gives you a why that grounds you no matter what you face.   When you know that God loved you to death and beyond, you have a value nothing can shake.   You can face any sacrifice, endure any hardship, survive any “how.”  Why?  Because you are living in the flow of the one why, the one reality, the one truth, the one love that has conquered everything, even death.

But can a thought arm you like that?   How does that even work?

In the past ten days, Simone Biles showed you how it works.  Simone Biles has not had an easy life.   Her grandparents adopted her and her sister when their mother’s addiction prevented her from caring for them.   Even as she developed into the greatest gymnast of all time, the doctor who was tasked to care for her was molesting her and over a hundred other gymnasts as well.  And then, after all that, in this year’s Olympics, she came down with a terrifying mental block known in the world of gymnastics as the “twisties.”  When the twisties hit, you lose all sense of where you are in space as you fly through the air in your routine.  And a block like that, with the breathtaking moves she does, could have easily injured or paralyzed her.  

So, what did Simone Biles do?  She armed herself with the thought that affirmed where her value truly lay, not in her performance or her medals or the opinions of others, but in a God who loved her no matter what.  You see.  At the heart of Simone Biles’ life is this very why of God’s love, a God who as she put it in an interview, “you can go to for anything” a God who “directs your life.”  

And so, Simone Biles stepped back, first from the team competition so she wouldn’t prevent her teammates from getting a medal.   Then she stepped away from the individual competitions knowing she wasn’t yet ready to compete safely.   And as she did that, she showed up every day to cheer on her teammates, to encourage them, to rejoice with them in their victories.   And in the end, she confronted her own fears, and found a way through the twisties back into competition. 

And why did she have the courage to do all of that, to step back, and then to step forward even as she felt the pressure of the entire world looking at her?  She had the power of this why, this God who had given up everything for her.  Her value, her identity didn’t depend on the crowds or the medals or the opinions of others    Her value lay in a God who loved her no matter what.

And as you arm yourself with this thought, with this reality, with this truth, with this love, you will discover power nothing can shake.   For you know a God who gave up all power so you might live in power.   You know a God who gave up all love so you might know that love will never give up on you.   You know a God whose love has triumphed over everything, every disappointment, every failing, every dark and twisted why of this world.   You know a God whose love makes a way where there seems no way, through a virus, through injustice, through even death itself.  

So, live in the power of this why.  Arm yourself with it.   And let this “why” lead you, this love lead you into a life more wondrous, more beautiful, more fulfilling than anything you could imagine or dream.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Getting Upset at the Vaccine Resistant? Are You Resisting Yourself? Here is a Message We All Need to Hear.

I gotta admit. I’m losing patience.
   And now, knowing that we might have to go back to masks because of this?  Don’t get me started!

These folks resistant to the vaccine, they are driving me nuts.  Just get the shot and be done with it!   These folks are standing in the way of progress. It’s time, they got on board.  If they don’t, well, then we need to find a way to make them.   

Now as thoughts like that were flowing through my head this week, I remembered an uncomfortable quote from the preacher Bill Coffin.   Coffin said:

God knows it is emotionally satisfying to be righteous with that righteousness that nourishes itself in the blood of sinners.  But God also knows that what is emotionally satisfying can also be spiritually devastating.

Ouch, then it got worse.  Some of Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount popped into my head, words like:

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

You see.  I realized.   I might feel all self-satisfied with my vaccinated virtue, but I was missing so much.   What do I mean? 

I have a job that gave me the freedom to get the jab whenever I wanted.  Lots of folks didn’t. 

Beyond that, I’ve never had an adverse experience with a vaccine or even with the medical establishment.  Medical stuff doesn’t make me anxious at all.   Beyond that, I’ve got no history where doctors used people with my skin complexion as guinea pigs for gruesome experiments.  But black and brown folks do.      

And yes, those caught up in the conspiracy theories drive me nuts, but I get that too.   I had a brother-in-law who followed conspiracy theories, and I kinda understand why.   He worked in a big company where it seemed that the higher ups were doing a lot of things at his expense and their profit.   He had a keen sense of that injustice.  So, he figured if it was happening there, it could be happening elsewhere.   And lots of folks getting wrapped in those conspiracies probably had experiences like his. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still believe folks need to get the vaccine.  I just realized my self-righteousness didn’t have a lot of ground to stand on.  And well, when you’re judging someone, you can’t love them, and not loving someone, well, that’s a pretty big log. 

But it’s so easy to go there about well anything.   You can get judgy about folks who vote differently or believe differently or just like music or movies or shows you don’t.   And then, there’s the judginess we give ourselves.  We do something or fail to do something. And the judgment comes.  The burden hits, the regret, the embarrassment, the guilt.   How do you free yourself from that, especially in these day where folks seem to be getting more judgy about well, everything    Here, God shows you the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.

I Peter 2:23-25, 3:18

 It can get all too easy to get caught up in judgment.   And today, when everybody wants to cancel everybody else, all that judgi-ness can come more easily than ever.  And even if you’re not judging others, do you ever hear that voice of judgment coming for you?   Sometimes our worst enemies are the ones with outposts in our own heads.   How do you get free of all that?  Here, God tells you.  You remember the gift. 

These words that I just read from 1 Peter come as part of a longer conversation in the letter.  Peter is giving advice to his folks as they are being persecuted by the government or exploited by slavery or dealing with unfair relationships in their marriages.  And he knows how dangerously easy it would be for these folks to get caught up in judgment, how tempting it would be to react in self-righteous violence to the injustices they face.   So, in the middle of his advice to let that judgment go, he lays out the reason why.   He tells them.  Don’t forget.  In Jesus, God let go that judgment when it came to you.   He turned the other cheek.   He did not threaten or strike back.    But Peter is making a bigger point than guilting them with Jesus’ example.   Peter is reminding them.   Jesus’ way won.  It won so big that it healed them, that it even conquered death.

But why did Jesus’ way win?  Why does the way of Jesus, of non-judgment, of suffering for the sake of others triumph over judgment and revenge?

To understand that, you first need to understand what Jesus won, and how judgment always gets in the way of that victory.  And to see that, you need to get one word that Peter uses again and again here, a word that honestly isn’t translated all that well here – dikaiosene.

Wherever you see the word righteous or unrighteous in the New Testament, you are almost certainly seeing a version of that word.  And the problem isn’t that the translators got the word wrong.   No, the problem lies in that we get the idea of righteousness wrong.  What Peter meant by this word likely doesn’t mean what you think it does.   It’s why the same word also means justice.  You could just as easily say here, “free from sins, we might live for justice” or “Christ also suffered for sins once and for all, the just for the unjust.”    And that gets closer to the right meaning, but we’re not there yet.

When the Greeks talked about righteousness or justice, they were talking about a right relationship, a right relationship with others or say, with the state.  To be righteous or just simply meant you were living in a right relationship with those around you or with the laws of the land.   And if you weren’t doing that, you were wrecking those relationships. 

But for us, we too often miss that because we see righteousness as obeying some moral code or justice as having an ideological label.   We take the relationship part right out, but when you do that, you miss the whole point of why Jesus came.   Jesus came because human beings had gone so radically astray from what right relationship even looked like with God and with each other.    We had lost touch with how much God loves us, and the more we lost touch with that, the more we lost touch with how to relate and love each other.  And as a result, our world became filled with fear and judgment, with broken relationships between others.  Why do you think Jesus made the two primary commandments, love God, and love others as you love yourself?   Jesus was calling for the restoration of right relationship, of true, even just relationship.   And for that to happen, Jesus had to overturn the way of judgment and show it for the evil lie it was.       

Think about it.  When the snake showed up in the garden, and told Adam and Eve God didn’t really care about them, in restricting the tree he was holding out on them, what was he doing?  He was peddling the original conspiracy theory.  And the lie of that theory opened them to judgment, to first judging and distrusting God, and then doing the same to each other.  And even since, human beings have been trapped there.     

So, what does Jesus do?  How does Jesus free us? You can’t reason someone out of a conspiracy theory, but you can love them out.   So, Jesus does just that.   And n doing that, he exposes the lie, and show you the truth.  

So, what is the lie?  In these five words, “the just for the unjust” Peter tells you.  Who is the just one?   Jesus.  And the just one suffered.  He lost everything, his life, even the very love of God.  On the cross, the source of all love literally lost the love and for what?  Jesus did it for the unjust. Jesus did it for all those caught up in judgment and injustice. In other words, God did it for all of us.  

That’s the lie Jesus exposes.   No one has got it right.  Every one of us is broken.  None of us has the right to judge anyone.  Why?  We all fall short of relationship, of the love, of the justice.  And if you don’t see that, then you’re trapped in the lie.  As someone once put it. If you think you’re a saint, then you are so not one.  No saint thinks they’re a saint.  They know better.

And when you know that it frees you.  Why?  You don’t have to hide.  You don’t have to pose.   Because everyone has their ugly places.  All of us entertain dark thoughts.  Everyone carries baggage, everyone.   And when you face that, fully and completely, it frees you from judgment of others, and of yourself.

But exposing the lie gets you ready for the best part, the beautiful truth.  After all, Jesus became the only being in existence that chose to die.  Sure, people give their lives for a cause or to rescue someone.  But in the end, they were going to die anyway.   They just decided when, that’s all, But Jesus didn’t have to die.   Jesus lived in perfect communion, perfect relationship forever. 

But in Jesus, God left that relationship behind, even left life behind, even love itself.   And God freely chose to do that, even though it meant a suffering more infinite than we can imagine.   But why? 

To paraphrase Nietzsche, the one who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.  So, on the cross, what was Jesus’ why?   The Bible tells us.   In Hebrews, it says “for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame.”  And what was Jesus’ joy?   You were.  Jesus endured the cross for the joy of bringing you, his beloved sisters and brothers, home.   Jesus chose to be broken so that you might be healed.  He lost the love so you will never lose it.   He lost his life to give you life forever with God.  And Jesus did that, because well, he loves you no matter what.    So come to this love and leave the lie of your righteousness behind.   Savor the truth of the love, of the One who invites you, who welcomes you, who loves you, who loves each of us no matter what.  Amen.