Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20, 2010 - "Love Worthy of the Name

Audio link HERE.

Matthew 5:38-48

Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

That’s a mouthful, is it not?
What is Jesus saying?

The word “perfect” means complete.
Nothing missing.

We might say, of a fine vacation in the High Sierras, or a cruise to Hawaii, “It was perfect.”

Jesus is confident that you and I can love well.
As God loves.

Not on such a grand scale, of course.
God loves the whole wide world and everything in it.
All creatures, great and small.
God loves them all.
I can’t do that.
And you probably can’t do it, either.

Our love is a little bit smaller than God’s love!
But size doesn’t matter.

Think of a Redwood forest.
The tallest trees reach high into the sky, some of them exceeding 350 feet, longer than a football field.

And then consider a Redwood seedling.
A foot high, and a year old.

Are they both Redwoods?
Sure they are.
It’s their DNA.
Small or large, they’re both Redwoods.

And such is love.
God’s love, big enough for the universe.
Our love a bit smaller.
But love it is.
And where there’s love, there’s God!
Because all love is of God [1 John 4:7]!

But wait a minute.
If we say, “I love pistachio ice cream,” is that a God-thing?
Yes, it is.

If we say, “I love driving along the Pacific Coast Highway,” is that a God-thing?
Yes, it is.

Where there’s love, there’s God.
Pistachio ice cream, or the love that lays its life down for the sake of a better world.
Great or small.
Mother Teresa who makes the headlines, or the faithful husband who visits his wife in the nursing home every morning, even though she hasn’t recognized him for five years.
It’s all love.
And it’s all God.

From our text this morning, several things.
The first is pretty basic: don’t retaliate!
Don’t pass the pain on.
Harry Truman had a sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here.”
Jesus invites us to let the junk stop here.
Don’t pass it on.

Jesus alludes to a number of situations that could quickly escalate into violence.
Heck, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
Those moments in life when the fuse is lit and the powder is dry, and everything is ready to explode.

I think of the men and women who defuse bombs.
Everyone else backs away, but they go right to it.
With tools and with care.
And the bomb is defused.

Jesus says: If you can defuse a situation, do it.
Turn down the volume.
Be restrained and thoughtful and mature.
Walk away if you can.
And if you can’t walk away, turn the other cheek.
Give up the coat, and your shirt, too.
Go the extra mile.
Give, and give a lot, and keep on giving.

Are we supposed to be Patsys?
Play the doormat?
Did Jesus.
I don’t recall Jesus ever being a doormat.

Jesus spoke truth to power.
He challenge the status quo.
He turned over a few tables.
He refused to engage in conversation with Pilate.
On the cross, he says, “Father, forgive them.”

We are invited to speak the truth, but to do so in love.
Truth spoken without love is no truth at all.
But just a big mouth full of himself.

But even in love, truth will have a tough edge, now and then.
I’ll ask Donna in the morning “How do I look?”
And she’ll likely say, “Not very good. Go back upstairs and try it again.”

Love doesn’t shy away.
Love is no wallflower.
And to up the ante a little bit, Jesus speaks about enemies, as well.
Love them, too.

A Sunday School teacher was telling her students about love. She said to them, “What would you do if I offered you $1000 not to love your mother and father?”
There was silence.
Finally a small voice queried, “How much would you give me not to love my big sister?”

Much of the time, we love because someone is loveable.
That’s when love is easy.
And it’s still love, of course.
But Jesus pushes the envelope.
Love your enemies, too.
Do right by them, if you can.
Give to them as freely as God gives sunshine and rain.

Love in tough times and with tough people is a disciple of ethics, far and beyond mere feelings.
 Love is as love does!

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends [1 Corinthians 13].

We’ve all gone to bed at night kicking ourselves for bad behavior.
If we could only rewind the day, and live it all over again.
We’d think before we speak.
We’d walk away and defuse the moment.
We’d give instead of take.
We’d be kind rather than harsh.
We’d forgive and not be rude.

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way.
But we learn, don’t we?
We learn to love!

From Romans [chapter 12]:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. … “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” [you will stir their conscience].

Yesterday, I watched fire trucks storm by, engines roaring and sirens blaring … “rushing into danger,” I thought.
And what with the recent death of an LA fire fighter, we know that danger is close at hand for all of them.

But such is love.
In tough times and with tough people.

From the Letter to the Philippians, chapter 2:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

It’s possible to love well.
To love as the Father loves.
To love completely.

We have to remind ourselves how important this is – to love as God loves.
We have to remember the results of love – most of the time, love given away heals and makes things better. Not always, but most of the time.
Even in the worst of moments, it’s better to love and lose than to withhold love and damage our own spirit.
Love withheld always hurts us.
Love given away always makes us a better human being.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Tomorrow morning, or even this afternoon, our love will be tested.
We may not do so well.
But at least we’ll know it.
And we’ll try again.

And who knows?
We might succeed.
Because we abide in Jesus.
And his word lives in our hearts.

To God be the glory.
And may our love of God, and our love of one another, abound all the more.
To make this a better world!

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13, 2011 - "The Good Life"

Matthew 5:21-37

We have a purpose!

To hold up before the world the good life … something true and authentic and good and bold and worthwhile … something that can stand up to severe examination and endure the test of time …
The good life.

Something of great value.
Something important!
Something very important!

The word important shifts us from the craziness of trying to be better than everyone else …

Books and sermons and lectures, all devoted to one premise:
The Christian faith and its way of life is better … better, bigger, brighter, than all other religions and all other ways of life combined.
We are better.
We are superior.
No one can hold a candle to us.
We are second to none!
We are better than all the world.

I spent some of my life trying to believe that, trying to work that out.
I read missionary books and tracts and treatises in my quest to finally settle the matter – that Christ is better, that the Christian way is better, and we’re better, because we know Christ, and others don’t.

I have to come believe that the effort to PROVE our faith in Christ as BETTER is misguided and counterproductive …

How do we feel when someone gives the impression that they’re better than we are?
It doesn’t feel very good, does it?
And we’re likely to resent it.
Those who posture themselves as better win no friends for themselves.

Yet Christians regularly engage in one-upsmanship.
We’re bigger, better and brighter than you are.
I love to read church newsletters and websites.
We’re running out of words to describe how marvelous and wonderful and exciting and daring and incredible and life-changing and world-changing and amazing we are.
The church down the road is bigger and better and brighter than the church over there.

200 years of American missionary history!
Not always good.
Going out into the “heathen” world to enlighten “the lost,” save them, improve their lot, and, oh yes, by the way, turn them into little Americans …

British missionaries, to turn the heathen races into proper Brits.
Germans missionaries, to turn the blighted races of the world into proper Europeans, in dress and music and food and language, and, oh, by the way, it’s okay to put them in chains and enslave them.

And if the folks didn’t cooperate, we’d call up the troops … at the point of a bayonet, while singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” missionaries and Marines made their point: the Western powers are better, the Christian faith is better, our way of life is better!

No wonder the world doesn’t always welcome us with open arms.

It’s time for Christians to quit thinking in terms of better.
And time to begin thinking in terms of importance.

Religion is important to the wellbeing of the world.
Religion counts.
And our faith in Christ is vital.

Yet, if Christ be true, there’s no need to prove it.
If faith in Christ is real, that all we need to do is live it.
That’s what the good life is all about!

Our text this morning takes us deeply into the heart of the good life.

[I took a moment before each section to have people review the scripture]

Verses 21-22 are as basic as we can get: anger and abusive language are serious … and though we may not take a weapon and literally kill someone, words are powerful.
Watch your words, says Jesus.
Words count.
Which is why dogs have so many friends – they wag their tales instead of their tongues!

What with the attempted assassination of Representative Gabby Giffords in Tucson, some people raised the question about violent language.
Some responded: words don’t pull the trigger, people do.
True enough.
But Jesus doesn’t buy it.
Words are important, and part of the good life is being mindful of the tongue.

To build up, and not to tear down.
To encourage, and not to frighten.
To tell the truth and never the hype!

The good life is mindful of the tongue!

Verses 23-24: religion is no substitute for life.
Years ago, my father worked with a very successful man … he was proud of his religion, witnessed to others, attended church faithfully, and a sponsor of a Christian conference center on a beautiful lake in Michigan.
I remember my father telling me that those who worked for him called him a “Bible-totin’ Simon Legree” … the man was harsh and demanding and would fire an employee without blinking.
But, oh, what a Christian he was.
Jesus doesn’t buy it.
What we do here on Sunday cannot substitute for life out there.

When Jesus criticizes the folks in Jerusalem, he says, You’ve turned my father’s house into a den of thieves.
You come here with hymns and offerings, and think you can hide from God.
You’re no different than a bunch of thieves who hold up in their caves, thinking they’re safe.

Before you lay your offering on the altar, take a good long look at your life.
If there’s some hurt, try to heal it; if harm’s been done, apologize; if there’s something broken, try to fix it … then come and put your offering on the altar.

Verses 25-26 stress the urgency of doing it quickly … don’t delay; don’t drag your feet, don’t be slow.
Is there a letter that needs to be written? Do it today.
Is there a phone call that needs to be made? Do it this afternoon.

Verses 27-30 take us into the world of men.
Jesus addresses one of the key pieces of male culture – the easy manner in which men treat women as objects of desire.

Please note: Jesus is NOT speaking to women.
Jesus is speaking to men.
Men who had never broken the law of adultery, but looked upon women as objects … disregarding their humanity and personhood.
It’s still a problem in our world.
Advertising in America - endless images of women, in all sorts of dress and undress … reducing women to an image, a body - something to look at, something to want!

All around the world, women are abused and no one blinks.
Women are targets of sexual harassment and rape, and human trafficking, and neither the police nor the courts offer real help.
In America here, workplace harassment is still the top issue with women.
Not to mention pay.
And promotions.

Jesus is painfully aware of how women suffer at the hands of men.
All around the world, to this very day, women pay a hideous price for the callousness of men.

The next piece is divorce.
So badly abused by conservative preachers.
Who tell women to endure a hateful man, because divorce is wrong.
Who tell women to put up with hitting and verbal abuse, because divorce is wrong.
Because the man is the head of the house.
So, little woman, just pray.
Put on some pretty clothes, and dry those tears.
Bake a cake.
And maybe your man will stop hitting you.

Jesus understands that his world is filled with inequality.
Some have power, and some don’t.
Jesus speaks to those with power.
Use power well.
Use it constructively.
Especially for the sake of women.
Who had no safety net outside of marriage.
Divorce a woman, and you likely condemn her to a life of hardship and sorrow.

The issue here for Jesus: the ease with which a man could divorces a woman because he grew tired of her.

And all around the world, we still see it.
Women driven out into the streets.
Dragged into the international sex trade.
And their children, too.

Only recently, a t-shirt shop out East started selling a t-shirt that said, “Battered women taste better.”
Even Amazon was selling it.
A hue and a cry when up, and the t-shirt was withdrawn from the website and Amazon stopped selling it.
But I wondered, who dreamed this up?
And the company that printed it.
And Amazon that sold it.

On a website, some women even defended it, and I can only think that women who would defend this have lost their bearings, long victimized by rude and crude men who have lost their sensibilities.

Jesus treated women with great respect.
And especially women caught in difficult situations: the woman brought to Jesus for stoning, because she was an “adulterer” … and the woman at the well with her difficult and lonely life.
Unlike other rabbis, Jesus welcomed women as students.
And welcomed them as comrades.
And disciples.

Jesus says that divorce is possible only if the women has gone to another man … and, I wonder, what did Jesus really have in mind.
Did the woman find someone else who would love her?
Honor her?
Maybe that’s why she left in the first place.
If so, then let her go, says Jesus.
Let her find a home.
Some peace.
Some love.
Let a woman find her life.

To those who have power over others, use power only to help others – that’s the good life.

The last verses, 33-37: be truthful.

This is, in no way, a condemnation of oaths, as some Christian groups have taught.
In a courtroom, we swear to the tell the truth.
If we’re an elected official, we swear to uphold the Constitution.
If we’re in the military, we swear to defend the nation.
When someone becomes an American citizen, they swear to be loyal.

“Cross my heart and hope to die.”
And “on my mother’s grave.”
No,no, says Jesus.
We don’t need that.
Just tell the truth
It’s the good life.

Pretty basic things.
And not always the easiest.

Be mindful of our words.
Let religion reflect the way we live.
When something needs to be done, do it quickly.
Use power for good.
Tell the truth.

If we want the world to believe what we offer …
Let the world see the good life!

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6, 2010 - "Let Your Light Shine"

Matthew 5:13-20

The love of God is our light.

Let it shine, says Jesus.
Let your light shine … for all the world to see … so that the world will see your good works, and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Let it shine.
Bright and clear.
Pure and beautiful.

Let it shine.
Let it shine for all the world to see.

It’s your light …Covenant Presbyterian Church!
Let it shine.

Covenant, you stand tall for justice.
You have open the doors to all.
You welcome without question.
You are gracious and kindly.
You are loving and gentle.
You are forceful in righteousness.
Thoughtful in faith.
Positive in outlook.
Prejudice and discrimination have never found a home here.
Narrowness and fundamentalism have never taken root here.
You’ve are serious about the things of God.

If I may be personal for a moment, I can only express to you my gratitude … what a joy it’s been for me to be your interim pastor … and how good it’s been for my family – Rachel and Cy and Josh and Donna. We have all found a spiritual home here in Covenant on the Corner.

Your light shines bright and clear.

As for the future, who knows?
The future is not ours you see.
The future belongs to God.
What belongs to us right now is our light.
The light of our faith.
The light of our love.
The light of our hope - because Christ is risen from the dead!

The future is not ours.
What is ours, is here and now.
The present moment!
Right now.
Here and now, today!
And that’s enough.
That’s enough for God to get the job done.
That’s enough for the blessing.
That’s enough for the light.

Our light belongs to us.
Because it’s given to us by God.
And Cathy’s light, as well.
Cathy’s light will join your light in just a few more weeks.

Cathy brings a lot of experience, good credentials, good ideas and a good heart.

Her track record is clear: Cathy’s a hard worker!

But, please, please do me a favor.
Whatever you expect of Cathy, expect of yourself, as well.
Live with high expectations.
But don’t’ impose those on Cathy, all by herself.
Or on anyone else, for that matter.
Whatever you expect of another, expect it first, of yourself.

In the early 70s, when I was looking at moving to a new church, there was still a question in the church information form – “What do you expect of the minister’s wife?” …
One church said, “We want her to be an expert in Presbyterian polity, to lead the Women’s Association and be an extravert.”
Donna said to me, “If you go there, you’ll go without me!”
Well, that took care of that.
And then, one day, we read a church information form that answered the question well: “The ministers wife has the same responsibilities as any member of the church.”
Just like any member of the church.
I like that.
Because no one is more or less important than any one else.

We all have the same responsibilities … to be thoughtful and kind and wise and merciful, and to keep on learning and growing … you’ve heard me say it ten thousand times, we’re all in this together.

Cathy can only be Cathy.
True for any of us – we can only be who and what we are … as God has created us, as life has shaped us.
Colleen is Colleen.
Pam and Willie are Pam and Willie.
Dan and Ruth are Dan and Ruth.
Emily is Emily.

Some of us sing and some of us dance.
Some of us relate to God through our heads.
Some of us relate to God through our hearts.
Some of us relate to God through our hands.

Heads, hearts and hands.
We need all of it, and then some!

As you think about Covenant, think about yourself.
Everyone here is vital to the life of the church.

Be pro-active in you neighborhood.
Has your light been shining as of late?
What do people see when they see you?
What do people hear when you speak?
What do people see of God when they watch you?

Of course, no one is perfect.
But Jesus says, Let your light shine.
Be pro-active with your neighbors, families and friends.
Invite people to church.

It won’t work with everyone.
Some folks aren’t ready when you invite them.
But you can help them along the way.
Invite them to church every now and again.
And one of those days, they’ll say yes to you.
And then go out to lunch with them afterward.
And then do it again.
Invite them over to your home.
And do it again.

And, who knows, they may find Covenant to be a spiritual home … or maybe they won’t Covenant at all.

If someone is hyper-conservative, they won’t be comfortable here.
If someone is fearful of gays and lesbians, they won’t be comfortable here.
If someone wants a church that agrees with everything they already know and want, they won’t be comfortable here.
If someone wants a church that loves glamour and glitter, they won’t be comfortable here.
If someone wants a church to preach Jesus without justice, and a Christ without compassion, they won’t be comfortable here.
If someone wants a church that preaches hell-fire and damnation and eternal punishment, they won’t be comfortable here.

Covenant is a good and faithful church.

Covenant bears witness to the power of the gospel … and God is doing fine things in our midst, just as we are.
Who knows what the future holds?
But this much we know, we hold the light in our hands.
Let it shine, says Jesus.
Let it shine!

Somewhere along the line, as you keep inviting people, working with them, praying for them, you’ll find a connection growing …
You’ll see the light of faith emerge in someone’s life …
You’ll see the hand of God at work.
And that always takes time.
No one becomes a Christian in a moment.
Perhaps in a moment, we make the decision.
But it’s takes a life-time, and then some, to become a Christian – to grow up into the grace of God, and to learn how to carry our cross.

And always the mystery – the great mystery - God brings people TO the church.
From outta the blue.
Folks move here from Timbuktu …
They drive by the church one day.
They see a message title on the marquee.
A bell goes off in their mind.
Something goes “click” in their heart.
And the next Sunday they’re here.
God draws them here.
God fills their heart.
God says to them, Here is your spiritual home.

If someone is progressive, they’ll find a home here.
If someone looks for authentic Christians, they’ll find them here.
If someone wants good preaching, they will hear it here.
If someone seeks peace of mind and spiritual healing, they will find solace here.
If someone is looking for a place to get to work to make this a better world, they will find a spiritual at Covenant.

And more than that, we’re a connected church.
We’re Presbyterians.
We have the Presbytery of the Pacific on our campus.
And a whole denomination spread across the country and wrapped around the world.
We do a million great things because we’re connected.
Connected to a vast network of life and love.

Let your light shine, says Jesus.
And the world will see your good works.
And will give glory to your Father in heaven.

Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Covenant on the Corner.
You have much light.
It shines brightly.
The world see your good works.
And gives glory to your Father in heaven.

You have done well, dear friends.
You will continue doing well.
Let your light shine.

Amen and Amen

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January 30, 2011, "Theology 101" - the Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes are well known … their assurance is heartfelt … the cadence of the promise, blessed are those who … and you can fill in the blank, because the Beatitudes cover the waterfront of the human condition … from top to bottom, across the board, it’s all here: our sorrows and hopes, our struggles to live well and to live faithfully … to count for something and be worth someone’s time, so that when the day is done, we lay our heads down with some degree of dignity and satisfaction, that we have fought the good fight, and stood with Christ, in the best of it, and in the worst it.

And the promise of God, a promise for us all … blessing!
God’s hand bending the arc of time and space toward justice and righteousness and peace … and those who follow the bend of time, who heed the call of God, who bear the cross of Christ, who seek God’s kingdom, are blessed, indeed!

And what does it mean to be blessed?

At the core of all blessedness is God …
God’s goodness … God’s love … God’s purpose … God’s kingdom …

To be blessed is to have God.
To bear the mark of God upon the soul … 

Jesus appeals to our better selves.
Here’s God’s way, says Jesus.
You can do it.
It can be done.
And for the sake of the world, it must be done!
The way of the world, as it is, is war and poverty and pain and sorrow and death … is there no other way?
Jesus says, there is another way.
Dangerous, yes!
But real and good and rewarding!

Jesus invites Simon and Andrew and Peter and John and says to them, Come and follow me, and I’ll make you fish for people …
Jesus says to all the world: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.

The word yoke is code language, the language of a rabbi, the language of a teacher – take my yoke, accept my teaching, see the way I see things, live the way I live, receive the values I hold, welcome the love I give, take it upon you, take it all … and learn from me …

And in so learning from Christ, we are blessed.
God’s character takes up residence in our soul.
We become a little bit like God.

Jesus says, Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect [Mathew 5:48].

The Greek word for perfect is telios – it means complete; all that’s needed is here … the pieces of the puzzle are all on the table … waiting for us to put it together … nothing is missing.

Be complete, as your Heavenly Father is complete.
Jesus spells out.

A part of our spirit refuses the possibility … a part of our spirit says, “It can’t be done; I can’t do it; I’m not up to it; it’s too hard; it’s impossible; things are missing; my parents are crummy; my spouse doesn’t understand me; I’ve had bad breaks; I drink because I’m Irish; I’m stubborn because I’m German; I can’t cook because I’m English!”

But not so, says Jesus.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Near enough to grasp.

Jesus is not talking about the kind of perfection we see on TV, where the host guru always has all the answers, and always knows just what to do.
Nor are we talking about the kind of perfection offered by fundamentalist preachers and their hollow promises of health, wealth and happiness.
Or some kind of moralistic perfection – no drinking, no cussing, no smoking …  or some kind of religious perfection - saying our prayers and going to church.

To be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect, is to practice kindness and generosity toward all, without restraint, without second thoughts.
To be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect is to never be a respecter of persons … to never be influenced by good looks or expensive cars when it comes to seeing people.
The guy on the corner with a sign for food is just as precious in God’s eyes as the man in the backseat of the limousine … 

Listen to how Jesus puts it:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Everyone one of us is given the choice, a thousand times day … here it is, the high road of Christ.

It can be as simple as keeping a promise to a child:
Michael Josephson tells of a business trip he took, and his young daughter said, “Please don’t go Daddy.”
And when he said, “I have to.”
She said, “Well, then, take me along.”
And when that wasn’t possible, she offered her final deal: she asks her Dad to wear a handmade tie she’d made for him. It was a sweet thought, but he’d feel ridiculous speaking to serious business executives, but it was his only way out, so he promised to wear it.
And he did. He told the executives why he was wearing it, and he made the point: if ya’ want to be trusted, you have to keep your promises.
When he returned the next afternoon, he went right to the office, and his wife and daughter showed up for a surprise visit.
When his five-year old daughter saw that he had the tie on, she beamed and gave him the biggest hug: “I knew you would. You’re the best Daddy ever!”

It can be done.
We’ve all done it, and we’ll do it again, and we’ll go to bed with a sense of satisfaction, because we choose to do it right.
We choose to be like God.

To be like God!
Does that sound strange to you?

In our own way, of course, when we chose the right, when we follow through, when we keep a promise, when we take the high road.
When we love and forgive and make all things new.
Then we’re like God!

It’s not always easy.
But, guess what?

It’s not easy for God either.
Have you ever thought about that?
It isn’t easy for God to be God?
It’s not easy to love.
It’s not easy to forgive.

There are times in the Bible when God would rather smack the daylights out of us … when God would like to fold God’s arms and walk away in a huff and never see us again!

After the Golden Calf incident, God says to Moses, I have seen how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them, and I may consume them [Exodus 32:9-10].

Can’t ya’ just see God throwing a hissy fit?
Like Steve Martin in the movie, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” … one of the best hissy fits ever …

And that’s what God wanted to do.
God wanted to throw a hissy fit.
Stomp his feet and throw a few things around.
But it’s Moses who says to God, Whoa, wait a minute God. Didn’t ya’  promise to stay the course with us? Didn’t ya’ bring us out of Egypt, and now only to abandon us? What will Pharaoh think if your project fails? Remember Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. God, cool your jets!
And God cools down.

You think it’s easy being God?
I wouldn’t have the job in the all the world.
And neither would you.
Jim Carrey found that out in “Bruce Almighty.”

It’s not easy being God.
And it’s not easy being a human being.

If we’ve been wrong, we apologize.
If we blow it, we make amends.
If we fail a loved one, we work to make it up.
If we’ve been selfish, we change.
If we’re too quick to speak, we learn to listen a little more.
If we’re inclined to judge others, we learn how to be gracious.
If we carry an angry spirit within us, we learn how to manage it.
If we harbor jealousy, we let it go.
If we’re greedy, we learn to be generous.
If we’re self-centered, we learn how to be centered in Christ.

It’s done a millions times a day by millions of people who choose the light instead of the darkness.

I’ve been think a lot this week about a small pharmacy in Florida that has filed dozens of law suits against big drug companies who routinely overcharge Medicare and Medicade.

It’s called Ven-A-Care … created 23 years ago when a young Florida pharmacist named Luis Cobo and a nurse named T. Mark Jones went into the business of supplying intravenous drugs for AIDS and cancer patients.

The company conducts research, comparing the prices it paid for drugs with the prices reported by drug makers to the government for reimbursement. Ven-A-Care files suit, on behalf of the government, when it spots large discrepancies between the two sets of prices.

The spreads can be dramatic.

A 2005 California suit alleged that a 1-gram vial of the antibiotic vancomycin was sold to providers for $6.29, but billed to Medi-Cal for $58.37, while 50-milligram tablets of the blood pressure medication atenolol were billed to pharmacies at $3.04 and to Medi-Cal at $70.30.

Cabo and Jones are doing all of us favor … shining the light of truth on how the drug companies routinely defraud the state and Federal governments.
The Big Boys and Girls at the top have tried again and again to shut down Ven-A-Care, but without success.
Meanwhile, the little Florida Pharmacy has saved Medicare and Medicade hundreds of millions of dollars, and by the way, Ven-A-Care is doing just fine; they collect a portion of the recovered monies. Truth and right can be profitable!

A thousand times a day, in smaller ways, we have choices … to bring light to the darkness, to tell the truth, to keep a promise and be kind … 

We don’t always get it right.
But we do it right most of the time.
And that’s what counts.
Doing it right most of the time.
Improve the odds.
Increase the chances.
Choose the ways of God!

And blessed are they who make those choices:
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
They will be comforted.
They will inherit the earth, and they will be filled.
They will receive merc,y and they will see God.
They will be called children of God.

Amen and Amen!