Sunday, August 26, 2012

Drunk on the World (Proper 15 B)

Have you ever seen anyone who was drunk?  I would be willing to guess that we all have seen at least one person who was, as they say, “under the influence.”  There are a couple of things that I have noticed; for one, they are VERY sure they are right.  Arguing with a drunken person is an exercise in futility.    No amount of logic or reason seems to work.  The drunken person is absolutely sure that he or she has the truth and no one else is going to tell that person any different.
And if one drunken person isn’t bad enough, when you start putting drunken people together, it gets even worse.  It is kind like they develop telepathic skills.   Even though they could be totally wrong, they will continue to tell each other that they are right.
Eventually, the people sober up.  And when the influence wears off, the truth sinks in:  “Wow, what have I done?  Did I really just get married at a drive through chapel in Las Vegas?”  And with sobering up comes the reality that life has changed; what seemed like a good idea while intoxicated now doesn’t look so good.  What sounded good while under the influence now means you now have “Mother” written across your biceps for the whole world to see.
So if being drunk can lead to such problems, why do people go out and get drunk?  Well, I am sure if we asked, most would tell you that while being drunk, it is a lot of fun!  The feeling of invincibility.  The feeling of being all powerful.  The feeling of being almost a god.  That feeling can be very addicting.  And while it may feel real while the person is under the influence, eventually the truth will break in and the person will have to realize that he or she is not a god.  And quite often, what happens then is the person returns to being intoxicated to once again feel that power.
Now, you may be wondering why I am going into such depth on the subject of addiction; it may seem like a far shot from the gospel reading with Jesus saying he is the bread of life, and you might be right.  But I was captured by the Ephesians reading where the people are told not to get drunk with wine. 
The writer of Ephesians contrasts being drunk on wine to being filled with the Spirit.  I hope we do not take that contrast literally because there are many things that can get in our way of being filled with the Spirit.  We can become drunk on power.  We can become drunk on money.  We can become drunk on fame.  We can become addicted to religion.  Yep, you heard me right.  Religion can make us drunk and can prevent us from being filled with the Spirit.
Paul so often reminds the recipients of his letters to be in the world but not of the world.  He wants us to live in our world but not to be consumed by the world.  This has been a problem for a long time; obviously since Biblical times.  But I think it is even a bigger problem now since we can communicate around the world as easily as we communicate with our neighbors.  Actually, it may be easier to communicate with people on the other side of the globe.  Also, we may never need to hear another opinion other than the ones we agree with.  I have my computer set to send most of the political messages to a separate file that I can choose to look at or ignore.  If I want, I need never see what those who are opposed to my opinion think.  I can become quite drunk on my own thoughts and my own logic.  Without anything to counter my thoughts, I can begin to think myself quite godlike.
Paul knew that this was dangerous.  He knew that when we get intoxicated with our own worth, we begin to forget the way of God.  We become rigid.  We become less willing to look out for the good of others.  When we become intoxicated with life.  We think we are doing wonderful things, but in fact, we may be causing problems.  We are drunk on life.
But this is not how we are to live.  Paul tells us something different.  We are to live as wise people.  We are to be filled with the Spirit.  And, like we talked about last week, we are to be kind.  We are to be on the lookout for how we can be the hands, the heart, and the mouth of Christ in the world.  We are to be on the lookout for how we can bring Christ’s love into the world.  In effect, we are to be open to the leading of God, not only in our own lives, but in the life of the congregation.  And not only in the life of our congregation here, but the Church (with a capital “C”) throughout the world.
Striving to live life with wisdom and Spirit can be difficult!  When we surround ourselves only with people who think the same as we do, and speak the same as we do, and respond the same way we do, we can begin to think that OUR way MUST be the way of God.  Our way must be God’s way because it surrounds us!  When we see nothing else, we have nothing to compare our beliefs to.  We are not bad for thinking and feeling what we do, but when we are only surrounded by people like us, we can become limited.
But Christ calls us to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  He calls us to join him at the table.  But he does not call just us.  He does not just call the people who look like us or think like us.  He calls all people; he calls the whole Church (with a capital “C”), he calls all of creation.  He calls us to sit down with each other, to tell our stories, and to get to know each other.  He calls us to see beyond our own reality, and to experience the reality of those who are different than us.  To experience the reality of those who disagree with us.  To experience life larger than we thought possible.
The first way we do this is by realizing that we may, in fact, be intoxicated by the lies of the world.  We may have closed out so many of the other voices in the world that we really cannot see what is truly happening.  We may have settled on what we are going to believe and we are not going to budge.  We may say that this is faith, but it is not.  This is idolatry.  This is not the worship of what God has planned for us; it is the worship of our own ideals.
What we need to do is to trust in the Holy Spirit.  We need to trust that when we open our hearts and our minds to the leading of the Holy Spirit that we will find the guidance of God.  We need to trust that when we gather around Christ’s table, that the story of the person sitting across from us is as real and as IMPORTAT as our own.  And we need to be as ready to help that person as we are ready to have someone help us.  The table of Christ and all who are seated around us are the ones who fill us with the joy of the Spirit and keep us from being under the influence of the world.  This influence, the intoxication of our world can be very difficult to see, just as it is difficult to see logic while one is drunk.  But this is the place of worldly influence is where we need to trust in Jesus the most.  We need to trust that the one who came to save us will, in fact, SAVE US!
When we travel alone through the world, or travel with those who are drunk on the promises of power, wealth, or esteem, we can get drawn away from God’s plan for the world.  But when we gather together, when we share the table with our brothers and sisters from around the world, when we look into the eyes of those with a different story, when we gather to Eat the Bread of Life, it is then that we come to know, through Christ, the will of the Father.  It is when we are gathered together that we can break free of our own desires and discern what God has planned for us.
Are we drunk on the promises of wealth, power, and recognition?  Or are we living in the wisdom that we receive through Christ?  It is a question that is as old as Christianity and a question we each need to answer, as individuals and as a congregation.

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