Sermon of the Week:
What Freedom Means When You Follow Jesus
Keywords: Empathy, Rule of Love, Food Sacrificed to Idols, Anne Lamott, Ethics. #pcusa
tw (trigger warning): ED (eating disorder)
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
Empathy matters to the person who follows God on the way of Jesus.
Empathy is when you care what another person thinks or feels.
Not that Empathy is the only thing that matters,
But it is essential.
I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately.
A lot of what I’ve seen in the news
About covid or politics or whatever
Has revealed an empathy-deficit of sorts going around right now.
Martin Buber, the Austrian Jewish philosopher
Wrote a moving book on the idea almost a century ago that he called Ich und Du, or I-Thou,
Where he argued that other people, just because they’re people
Command a respect and a dignity about them,
That we are forbidden from treating other people as an it, as an object,
As someone I don’t have to care about, have empathy for.
In our better moments, this is where we get our capacity for building
a legal system with due process
prisons with three square meals a day and exercise and access to books and the like.
It helps us find common ground with people of good will
Or at least to struggle against them for some higher purpose
In ways that still maintain their common humanity.
In our weaker moments, we decide that my freedom matters more than your wellbeing
That the point I need to make means I can totally crush you as I make it.
But Empathy matters, because empathy is an essential part of love,
And the scripture readings today ask us, once again,
to explore what Love means to those who follow Jesus.
But first, let’s talk about rules, and boundaries.
Let’s talk about ethics.
Sarah, a pastor friend of mine,
once opened a sermon
on that special tree that Genesis describes in the mythical garden of Eden
the one that Adam and Eve and the serpent all made apple pie from…
Sarah opened that sermon,
with a story about her daughter.
Sarah and her husband were out in their yard one day
when their daughter was, oh, around 5 years old.
Her house was in a tranquil part of suburban Denver,
and while it wasn’t a particularly busy street
she wanted to be CAREFUL.
So they told her: Look, you can play anywhere you want to in this yard.
you can run up and down the porch
you can dig in the garden with ma and pa
you can draw in chalk on the sidewalk.
the only thing you can’t do is go into the street.
They looked at her very closely and asked her if she understood.
Of course, she nodded,
in that very cute way that 5-year-olds have mastered.
And no sooner than they had turned their gaze away to gather their gardening tools
their daughter walked directly to the curb in front of that house
and stopped, turning to see that her parents were watching
and ever so gently tapped her toe on the asphalt of the street!
Does any of that sound familiar?
I have seen that in my own children, and other children,
More than a few adults, and when I’m honest,
I can see a lot of that in myself.
One of the things I love about the bible, when we read it with open eyes,
is the way that it reveals something about us, something human,
and tries to get us to reflect on how we might grow
more the way God wants us to be, created us to be
The bible reminds us that from our first days we have had trouble with
with rules and conventions that ought to govern human behavior.
And sometimes, the Bible tells us,
we can certainly swing too far the other way,
and become CONSUMED, and I mean consumed, with following rules
until legalism snuffs out our spirit and does real harm
and we make bad decisions
out of attempts to avoid the feeling of guilt
or we start applying those rules uncritically to others
often without knowing the full context of what they’re doing…. [Read more…]