Distractions: Jesus, Herod, and Amusements 3/7/2018
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 // Luke 23:8-11
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
On Ash Wednesday, we saw Jewish religious leaders distracted by their preconceived notions on how God should act, but we rejoiced in the very idea that God’s great desire is to have mercy on our souls. Two Wednesdays ago, we saw Judas distracted by a love for money and all of the social and political pressure on him, but we rejoiced that our God is never distracted from keeping us as the apple of his eye. Last week, we saw Peter distracted as he followed the train wreck at a distance, as he hug out with the wrong crowd, but we rejoiced to see Christ as the life of all the living, in the life of little Leona, whose absolute joy was how her God was visiting her in her trouble, making sure that her days of suffering and dying were the opposite of a train wreck.
Today/tonight, I want to begin with a story. One of my not-so-proud moments, in fact, one that I remember to this day as a lesson, though I didn’t think of it that way at the time…. Third grade… I wanted to go to McDonalds and perceived that I had extracted a commitment to do so from my parents…. Not sure that I actually did now that I think about it, and when the hour came we didn’t go, and I did what I still remember to this day. I remember hot tears running down my face. I remember running from the kitchen. I remember doing what I did when I got frustrated, crying into the corner of the living room couch.
I was – and here’s the point, the point that I have remembered for the rest of my life – I was crying over the wrong things. There are times to cry in life, and that was not one of them. There are times to spend your hours and your energy longing and desiring things, but McDonalds on a Wednesday night shouldn’t be at the top of the list.
Herod is seeking amusements. He is looking to consume media. He was looking for a tame lion to do tricks. He was looking at Jesus and loving Jesus for reasons that had nothing to do with Jesus. Instead of falling down in awe of the Living God in his midst, he pokes and prods him for a miracle. For some water into wine for him. For walking on the water of his pool. For multiplying his feast.
It may have looked like Jesus was on trial here. It may have looked like Herod held the power. But in the paradoxical and strange way that our God works, it was actually Herod who was on trial. Will he be ruled by his amusements, or will he be ruled by God?
And this isn’t new. Solomon in Ecclesiastes does the same thing. He says, I tried to satisfy myself with good food and good wine. I tried to satisfy myself with sex and the pleasures of the body. I tried to build gardens and great works, but after I built my empire, I found that in the end it is all vanity. It is all chasing a thing that cannot be caught. It is meaningful, but it only meaningful when it finds itself filled with a greater meaning.
If not, you are just indulging yourself.
One of my indulgences is running. If it came down to being healthy in the way that I choose to be healthy and being a father and a husband, I would absolutely choose to be fat and slow, or, what is more likely, I would absolutely choose to be healthy in different ways than I want, and be with my family.
So, let’s make this argument from the lesser to the greater. If this is true – and, of course, that’s debatable – if this is true, then does it logically follow that as we seek to focus on the highest good, loving the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, then we will have to see much of our lifestyle as our indulgence for the moment?
That there is a time when I can go snowmobiling and there will be a time when that is taken away. There is a time when I can go hunting, and there will be a time when that is taken away. There is a time when I can run and there will be a time when that is taken away. I will love them for the moment, but I will love them for what they are. Momentary pleasures that come and go in the face of eternal joy.
How much more should we love, should we look to, should we care about the greatest joys, weep over the deepest sorrows, laugh at the grandest ironies, care for the deepest hurts, because as any knee-replacement survivor knows, the more you flex, even if it hurts, the more flexible you become. The more you cast your eyes up, the larger your world will become.
Let us lift our eyes from all the media around us that consumes our attention and bids us sit and stay and be passive, and in this setting, in the setting of the church where you are listening and I am speaking, let this be a refuge, a sanctuary, a resting place, from which you go out and you do and you love and you learn and you act and act and act, so that you are absolutely exhausted not from consuming, not from staying passive, but from really and truly striving to love those who are around you, whether you like them or not, striving to serve those in your workplace, in the ways that make them communicate better, be more honest, let forgiveness flow in a way that heals our organizations.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther