Sunday, March 9th, 2014 Lent 1 Addition is better than Subtraction

Once in a while you can come in here and I will have this album on. It is something that Debbie had in her collection when we met. That’s the way of things, people bring things into your life and you cherish them and sometimes keep them, even if the relationship parts ways at some point. I can track my relationship status over the years before Debbie and I married by where various parts of my belongings ended up.

I play the album, On the wings of Faith by the King Jesus Disciples when I am allowing my anal repetitiveness to come out and I am straightening the pews in the sanctuary. About once a quarter I come in here, turn the music on and straighten the rows, Richard Seefeldt made a story stick for me to use so that the rows are equally spaced, and there is a set of pictures hanging in the sacristy of what the configuration of chairs is supposed to be.

And there is always a song on there that will catch my present mood, ecclesiastically speaking. When I am feeling low and in need of healing, the song “Hem of His Garment” finds its way into my head, and occasionally into a sermon. In times when I need a rest, physically and spiritually, I often think of the song “Shelter” and so on.

A problem with that is that the album is by some very Baptist thinkers and while some of the theology sings pretty well, but doesn’t comport with what I think of as the will and the way of God.

We are embarking on our “Walk to Jerusalem” and if you are not currently participating, I challenge you to think about doing so, much in the same way as I encourage you to spend a week tracking everything you put into your mouth; not so that you will or will feel compelled to change something in your behavior, but simply because in tracking the time you spend doing any particular thing you draw your own attention to that thing, that discipline, be it walking or praying or reading the Bible, and mindfulness is what’s really next to Godliness.

It makes you think about the small things, mindfulness does. When you walk to church, or take a walk to the deli on the corner for lunch, if it amounts to 15 minutes, then you get to count it and it doesn’t even matter if all you are going for is a big, sugary Bear Claw, count that fifteen minutes because by drawing attention to the thing you are doing, you give it weight, gravitas, meaning.

Fifteen minutes walking is one thing, fifteen minutes of walking where you are paying attention becomes an opportunity, a chance to make the most of that time and perhaps add a little prayer, or a little song because Augustine said, “The one who sings, prays twice” so Choir ought to count for double miles, right?

Fifteen minutes of prayer each day is a wonderful thing, but if you are mindful and intentional about it, you’ll soon realize that an extra fifteen probably won’t infringe too much on your day, and suddenly you are spending half an hour, thirty minutes just listening for the voice of the Spirit ion your life.

Anyway, the King Jesus Disciples have this song “Make a Step” and it doesn’t really fit into the whole “Pastor Tim’s mood” scheme I was creating earlier, it’s just very catchy. The essence is “if you make one step He’ll make two, ‘cause there ain’t no limit what God can do, He said ‘If you go, don’t worry about yourself, all you have to do is make a step,’” which is catchy like I said, but bad theology from a Lutheran perspective, which is, to my mind, the correct perspective.

“There ain’t no limit” to what God can do, the song goes, except reach out to you if you don’t move first apparently.

Seems a little iffy on the whole God concept to me, seems like if there is no limit to what God can do then God is less likely to wait around for us, confessed sinners, dirty, disobedient, fitful fretful children all, to get our act together enough to take that first step.

We could actually Walk all the way to Jerusalem and not take a step far enough to reach out to where God is, the gap is too wide, the gulf too terrifyingly deep. God outside of the context of Jesus Christ is just too darned remote, too Holy for us, a people of unclean lips, to reach, or even comprehend.

Maybe that’s my objection to the song; there is no Jesus in the song even though there is Jesus in the name of the group. There is no recognition in the song that Jesus didn’t just take two steps, Jesus made the leap from death to life, crossing the unfathomable depth of sin and heartbreak and death and judgment to bring not a demand for further steps, not more walking; but instead grace, and the faith to lead a transformed life.

So when we embark on a journey, a walk to Jerusalem during the season of Lent, we are not making a step toward God, Christ has already crossed to us and made us His own, we are walking toward a better recognition of that fact and using Jerusalem as the destination because Jesus used it as His destination.

Jesus walked too, and Paul. Walking is the original mode of transportation which we seem to have lost sight of, doing it now only for recreation or for exercise because we cannot conceive of actually using it to get anywhere.

I love the old movie “L.A. Story” with Steve Martin as a weatherman who gets messages from God via a freeway sign. In one scene he walk out of his house and down his sidewalk and gets into his car and doesn’t even start it, he just push rolls it down the street to his neighbor’s house where he gets out and goes inside.

It’s absurd but how many of us walk to visit each other, even if we live close enough to do so? No, for the sake of convenience or for the sake of being available for drive somewhere else afterwards, we drive, even around the block.

What if we really took the Walk to Jerusalem seriously and resolved to walk everywhere we could; some of us would walk to the grocery store when we needed food, or down to the drugstore when we needed Advil or some such. We couldn’t shop in bulk like we are used to, that’s for sure, but nobody has yet told me why that is a virtue anyway.

If you had to shop for only today and perhaps tomorrows meal, you’d have to think about it, you’d have to plan for it, you could get fresh ingredients and allow yourself to be inspired by what was on sale; you could go in with no plan and let the shopping itself make your plan for you.

Suddenly, one step, one mindful step in walking to the store becomes a thousand little mindful moments, little bursts of awareness as we depart from our usual rituals and embrace a step in a different direction.

Our walk to Jerusalem can be the very same kind of thing, only for our lives of faith, not a journey in itself, but the first step that leads to a thousand new possibilities once we start paying attention to the things that we do, finding God in them, even the smallest ones, and finding ourselves including God in more and more of them, more of the things we do every day.

That’s the thing for me, especially this Lent as we journey through the forty days and try and find out where we are going and where we began and how to live the journey faithfully.

The tradition has always been to give something up. Heck “giving it up for Lent” is a meme even outside of the church, something people say when they quit something. We give up indulgences and think that if we make this one step, then God will make two steps and draw nearer to us, announcing the divine presence and the whole thing will be worth it and we will come to the end of Lent holier and better people as we drop right back down into the same indulgences we gave up forty six days earlier.

How easy it is to get trapped into the mindset of waiting for God to make the next move, waiting for the other divine shoe to drop. I went to church, I did my part! I stopped eating Lobster for Lent, I did my part. I gave up chocolate, liquor, beer, smoking, swearing whatever, I did my part; now let God do the rest!

I’ll be going about my life as before with this one, tiny alteration (seriously, giving up chocolate for Lent? Do you eat so much chocolate that that actually matters?) and I expect God to do the rest? Is that all God is, a dog who comes when you call and fetches you your slippers, I mean salvation?

When God wanted to reach out to us, when we had fallen so far into sin and degradation that not even the scriptures were holding us together; when it became obvious that the relationship we have with God was falling apart God didn’t give something up, or start over again, this time with turtles instead of humans.

Christ came to heal the breach. God added a new way to reach us, built a new bridge in the fragile flesh of Jesus of Nazareth, the only son of God.

God added something new to the mix to bring us closer, to give us a shot at seeing the world through new eyes, of comprehending the message not as a set of rules to be followed, but a path to be walked.

Jesus’ journey ended in Jerusalem, the Holy City in the Holy Land where the son of the Most High was put to death for the sins of all.

Our journey, the faith journey we make and the devotional journey we have committed ourselves to his Lent also have Jerusalem as our goal so long as we remember that Jerusalem is not just a place in Israel, it is also a place in our hearts and I our lives where the Lord abides, where the will of God is not an abstract thing but an audible voice, a visible sign, a feeling you cannot avoid or hide from, urging you on, giving you strength.

Even if you are committed to giving something up for Lent, add a little something also. Add a moment where you walk and notice the walking. Take the ear buds out of your ears and listen to the birds chirping or the dogs barking or just the hissing and roaring of traffic and know that you occupy not just a place in God’s creation but also in God’s heart.

Seek that place, that Jerusalem, that knowledge and relationship with God during these forty days. Jot down the times and the places, count the miles but know that it is the journey itself that matters, the destination is sure and promised, but the living, the walking the praying the studying the worshipping, those are the things that build up the relationship that God has with us, begun when Jesus first walked, and walked and walked among us and ending in Jerusalem, where we will all abide someday, when the walking in through.

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