Tuesday, October 2, 2012
September 30, 2012
Gospel: Mark 9:38-50 Psalm 19:7-14 1st Reading: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 2nd Reading: James 5:13-20 We read these lessons each week at Sewing for Others on Tuesday mornings and this week we found ourselves chuckling at this first reading. The complaining is all too familiar. The Israelites complain against God. They don’t seem to remember back to when they were slaves, because they were complaining then, too. Then Moses starts feeling overwhelmed and he starts whining and complaining, too. It is funny because we have heard similar complaining from children and grandchildren, spouses, parents, etc. Everyone seems to have a better way of doing things. I try to keep my mouth shut when my husband is driving. I always know a better way to get some place, but if he hasn’t asked for it, I really try to keep from complaining, unless he tries taking the freeway south to go to the airport! It is just so easy to complain. When things aren’t going our way, it is so easy to look back and imagine a better time, whether it was better or not, and complain. It is easy to pick another person apart or criticize their way of doing something, even when our way probably isn’t any better, even when they have to learn their own way. I grew up in Albany and the other day I read an article from the Albany Democrat Herald newspaper. The gist of it was this. Don’t waste all your time complaining about our healthcare system or Obamacare, whether you are for it or against. Instead, take control of what you can. Eat right. Exercise. Then you won’t have to use the system that you don’t have that much say about anyway. I thought it was an interesting argument. I don’t see why we can’t do both. But isn’t it true that it is easy to pick apart and complain about something we have little control over and we don’t often take control of our own lives and our own health, the thing we often have some control over. In the Gospel for this morning, it tells us to start cutting off our body parts, if they have sinned, which is not funny at all. Cutting is a very serious issue for young people. Some handle anxiety or depression by making cuts in their skin in a place they hope no one will see. It is supposed to be a way of releasing tension. It is really damaging and scary and it isn’t something that Jesus would ever advocate. Instead, I think he means that if there is something in our lives that is causing us to sin, then we should remove it because it is damaging to us and others. Some people feel that television leads them astray or gets in the way of time with family and have gotten rid of the TV. Others have found that smoking is bad for them and taken steps to remove cigarettes from their lives. Some people have found a friend to be a bad influence and so don’t see that person anymore. We all have things in our life that get in the way of our relationship to God and we are encouraged to consider that and decide whether that needs to be part of our life anymore. Martin Luther would say that everything in our life gets in the way of our relationship with God or God’s people, at some level. So it is a matter of making priorities and seeing what is getting in the way the most and removing that barrier as much as possible. When I think of TV, I know that sometimes it is a waste of my time and in that way, sinful. On the other hand that is where I get a lot of information from day to day, so in that way it keeps me connected. So we have a compromise in which we don’t watch much TV, but when we do we try to make it worthwhile as much as possible, even if it just means time together for me and my husband. In response to all the griping and complaining, God sends people to help. Moses has been overwhelmed. Now he’s got 70 elders and leaders to help him share the burden. The reading from James reminds us that we’re not alone. We can delegate. We need people to help us. We shouldn’t go it alone. Jesus’ disciples have help from outsiders who are casting out demons and healing. God helps us when we complain to God. God gives us people to help us when we’re overwhelmed, if we can accept help. Yet it becomes another opportunity for complaining. “They aren’t doing it right!” Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, not the tent, like they should. People are casting out demons who aren’t following Jesus and his disciples, God forbid. I complain that my husband doesn’t take the shortest route. My husband complains that I don’t chop the veggies the way he thinks I should. God gives us people to help us and we complain about it. And we complain when others don’t help us. Other people are going to do it differently, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Maybe we could actually learn from them new ways of doing things. At the very least we can learn to let go of what we can’t control and work on taking care of the things we can. The good news for us this morning is that God hears our complaining and loves us through it. God is a good father who listens to his children. God sends us help to those complaining children. And when we still complain, God shows us how to let go of the little stuff—the details that drive us crazy. God shows us how to accept help. When Jesus came, he had a teenage mom and probably an elderly dad. He accepted their help and even appreciated it. The disciples’ help left something to be desired. Jesus was surely frustrated with their inability to heal and cast out demons, the way they couldn’t understand who he was, and their petty arguments and distractions from what really mattered. Yet, Jesus accepted and appreciated their help and they went on to finally understand and spread the Gospel. Jesus had to let go of control and teaches us how to do that, too. The Gospel of God’s love can’t be contained in a church or in a tent or in a nation. It is out of our control and isn’t it better that way? There is no one right way to share it or show it. There are as many ways to worship God as there are people on the earth. There are as many expressions of God’s love as there are cells in our body or stars in the sky. There are no limits on God’s love. It is available to us, no matter who we are. So we get it all. We get this amazing world that God has made. We get to complain. We get to give thanks. We get to be heard. We get people to help us. We get to complain some more. And we get to do something about the things we can. We get to help God make this world better, which is God bringing justice and love through us and bringing in the Kingdom. Our help probably isn’t ideal for God, since we’re constantly making mistakes and complaining. Yet God chooses to work through that which isn’t perfect because God made us to be creatures who can be creative and make our own decisions rather than robots that God would control but wouldn’t be any fun to interact with. God is willing to work with our mistakes and forgive and continue the relationship because God values us for the beautiful, unique creatures that we are. Maybe God can inspire us to look at ourselves that way with forgiveness and hope and to look at each other way, so that instead of complaining about the help God sends us, we can be grateful for all the beauty and good that we have in this life.