Easter 4 April 25, 2010 John 10:22-30 The Rev. Benton QuestL
It seems that every year we hear the stories coming out of California. We hear the horrible stories about people losing their houses in landslides and forest fires. We hear about these multi-million dollar homes sliding down the sides of the mountains or getting burned to the ground.
Now, in the news reports, we are supposed to feel sorry for these people. We are supposed to have a soft spot in our hearts for the loss of possessions and mementos. These reports to supposed to jerk at our heartstrings. And for some of the people in these situations, I do truly feel sorry.
But then there are others, who seem to be the majority, who I have a little more difficulty showing sympathy. These people are the ones who lose their homes because they want the view. These are the people who build their homes on the edge of a cliff, even when to do so is obviously foolhardy. I am sorry if this sounds unchristian, but I have trouble feeling any kind of sympathy for these people. They know that the rains will fall but they take no precautions, or minimal precautions. They know that the fires will come near, but they do not cut back the underbrush. They know that the likelihood of disaster is near, but when disaster occurs, they begin to cry.
I am sure these people have seen what can happen if you build with most of the house hanging off the edge, but they choose to ignore what they saw. They have heard the stories of houses being burned to the ground but prefer to think that this will never happen to them. However, when it does happen, they are act totally surprised. The people are told that the rains are coming or that the flames approach. They have seen the destruction that has occurred before them. They have heard the stories. Yet, with all of this information, they still choose to build their houses in the danger zone.
Why would people do that? Why would they choose to place their houses where they will be in danger? Especially after all they have seen and heard? Part of the reason is that while the weather is nice, the view is wonderful! However, when things turn bad, when the rains pour down and the hillsides give way, they are seeking help. However, this is not a new problem. This is a problem that has been around for eons. In fact, it is the same problem that Jesus faces in today’s gospel.
In the gospel from John, Jesus is presented with a question: The people want to know if he is the messiah or not. And if he is, they want to see it plainly.
I can just hear Jesus answer to the people. He would roll his eyes and with just a hint of exasperation say, “I have told you but you don’t believe. I have shown you but you will not see.”
What Jesus trying to say to the people is, “I have shown you that I am the messiah but you just don’t get it! You don’t want to get it. If you got it, you would not need to ask. You would live in the truth and follow my example. But you have chosen to look elsewhere and cannot see the truth because it is not there. You have chosen the pretty view over the real view. The view is nice for a while, but you need to see the land around you.”
These people in the gospel are like those who build on the mountainside. They are shown the truth but they do not see it. They have heard the truth but do not want to believe it. They are not seeing the truth because are not looking for it. And because they are not aware of the truth, they will not be prepared and will be swept away by whatever comes along.
Quite often we are like the Jews in the gospel and like those people in California. We see the truth all around us but do not think it pertains to us. We do not want to believe what we hear and what we see. Our shepherd is in front of us but we do not hear his voice. We get so enthralled with the view of the world that we forget that we are in danger. We like what we have so much that we forget where it came from. We do not want to see.
Jesus has done so much for us. Jesus has shown himself to be the messiah in so many ways. He has died for our sins; he was raised from the dead to give us eternal life. He gave his body for us in the Eucharist to strengthen us and called us to the eternal reign of God in our baptism. All these things we have seen with our eyes, felt in our lives, heard from those who have come before us. All of these things point to the way of Christ as the way of life and the way of redemption. All of these things point to the gift of Grace poured upon us.
But so often we don’t look to Jesus for life and truth. So often we look to the world. The world is not there to take care of us. The world is not there to love us. Unfortunately, the world is there to take advantage of us. The world is there to use us and then discard us.
Think I am being overly melodramatic? Maybe so, but what is going on out there? Advertisements are designed to make us feel like we are not adequate. We are told that as long as we do not have the product that is for sale, we will be lacking, in some cases we are told that we may be totally ostracized. Let’s face it, for the longest time I lived in mortal fear of being found with ring-around-the-collar. According to the ads, that would be the end of life as I know it. I can go on; we need to drive a Lexus, wear Levi’s, own a Playstation, ride a Harley, and mow our lawns with a John Deere. If we don’t do these things, the world tells us that we are lacking. If we don’t follow the rules of the world, we are nothing.
So we go out and we try all of these things, hoping that they will bring us peace and satisfaction. But when we finally meet all the requirements of the world, we find that the requirements have changed. At one point, we just needed a Cadillac, now we need that Lexis. Once we just needed a cell phone, now we need to have an iPhone. Once we live up to the expectations of the world, the world NEEDS to change the expectations. We do not find the redemption we had hoped, all we find is another set of requirements. Suddenly the flood of life comes along and we are swept away. We were not looking in the right place to see the truth. It is not that it is bad to have these things, just like having a view off the side of a mountain is not bad. It is when we loose sight of what is important that things become serious.
Why is it so hard for us to accept Christ’s truth? Why do we find it so difficult to follow Jesus? In some ways I think it is because Christ’s ways seem too hard. They are too hard in many ways. Let’s face it, “love your enemy” pushes us, and love all people as Christ has loved us is pretty well impossible. To do this would mean that we have to be willing to go out of our way to help the nasty people in our lives. We have to be willing to help those whom we would rather avoid. This is not fun! We are not just supposed to be kind to the people who are kind to us, we have to be kind to the people that hurt us! But if we are to follow Christ, this is what we are to do.
And if it were to end here, it would be too hard. We cannot do this on our own. We cannot be this good, all the time, to all people. BUT this is where the gift of grace comes in. We don’t have to do it on our own. Christ has won our redemption for us so our redemption is not based on how “good” we are. Our redemption has already been won. We don’t need a Lexus, or Levi’s, or a Harley, or a John Deere. All we need we already have. Our place in the reign of God is secure. We will be part of the multitudes crying in a loud voice and singing the Lord’s praise!
(Commercial for the Choir: Since you are going to be spending eternity singing the praises of God, you should join choir and start to get some practice!)We have been given the gift of the Bible to show us the way. We have been given the gift of the faithful to tell us the stories. We are not in suspense; we have seen the messiah! We don’t need to go looking around; we know the truth! We will not get washed away in the landslides of life! We have the anchor of Christ to hold us strong!