Monday, June 8, 2015

#askingforafriend (this week's sermon)

June 7, 2015
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 
My guess is, that as long as people have been around and have wondered about things, they’ve been asking questions.  Now here’s the thing, I can take a guess that there are more than just a handful of us who have wanted to know the answer to something, but may have been embarrassed to ask for ourselves.  So at some point in time, we started phrasing questions with, I have a friend who….or a friend of mine was wondering…

Does this sound familiar? 
For example, many of you know I like to exercise and that I have a weakness for ice cream.  So I may say something like, a friend of mine wants to know if a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream counts as one serving.  You know, it’s an embarrassing question, and if I’m asking, you can better believe that I have already eaten a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in one sitting…but if I ask in reference to a friend, then it turns the attention away from me. 

Although, truth be told, whenever we start a question like that, we pretty much know that people will think we are talking about ourselves anyway. 
With the popularity of social media, the hashtag askingforafriend has become quite popular. 
Here are some questions that you are asking…not for yourself of course but for a friend. 

If no one actually sees you eat an entire bag of Twizzlers do the calories count? 
Just it "acceptable" to fall asleep in the dentist chair?
If one intended to make chocolate cake and ended up with brownies, is that considered a fail or a win?
How do you move on with life after Parks and Rec?
Is it wrong to want to be engaged just so that I can go to cake tastings? 
How many cats are too many cats? 
Hypothetically. How many calories do you burn if you sit on the treadmill WHILE eating a piece of red velvet cake?
Say you’re sitting alone in a coffee shop.....even the owner is away in a back room. "YMCA" comes on the sound system.  Do you make the motions? 

I know Jesus said, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemes they utter, but what about whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit?
Let’s hear that one again, I know Jesus said, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemes they utter, but what about whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit?
Because really, that’s the question of today’s gospel reading, isn’t it? 
While there are many different questions that may arise as we read through today’s passage, verse 29 seems to grab our attention, when Jesus says, “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of eternal sin.”
This is the verse that seems to make us wonder.  This is the verse that even allows us to forget about the verse that came just before it. 
Just before Jesus speaks these words he says, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.” 
That’s the good news, my friends.  That is the message to take away today, that people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.  Period.  End of sentence.  Full stop. 

But, our own human sinfulness leads us to wonder….or to want to ask for a friend….what about that one unforgivable sin….what if I (or rather) what if a friend of mine commits that unforgivable sin, what about them? 
Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that there is a slim to none chance of us ever committing that sin.  Because really, blaspheming the Holy Spirit?  That’s more than using the Lord’s name in vain.  That’s more than saying God I’m mad at your or shouting God, I hate you!  It’s truly coming to the point in your life and your faith that God is no longer a God of love, but all that you’ve reached the point in your life that you see God and all the work that God has done in this world and the gift that God has given us in Jesus is evil.  That’s pretty extreme. 
I pray that even if you are struggling through life and faith, you are still able to see God and the gift’s God has given to you through Jesus and this community of faith of love and support, that you see God at work in your life through love.  
Because here’s the thing, we all fall short. 

We are all in need of God’s grace. 
Heck, we’re reminded of it in our first lesson today.  It’s from Genesis where Adam and Eve had already eaten of the fruit, realized they were naked and they had hidden from God.
If there were social media back in the time of the Old Testament, I bet this would’ve popped up in your feed.
Do you think it is okay to eat this fruit that God commanded us not to eat? 
Okay, maybe not…
But the reality of original sin is here…the reality is…that each of us is imperfect. 

We all fall short. 
We are all in need of God’s grace. 
Sure it’s easy like Adam and like Eve to place the blame on someone else, but we all know that we are not perfect.  We all know and we all carry with us some form of self-hate. 
There is something, within all of us, that we are ashamed of, that we hide from others and try, too, to hid from God. 
No one is immune. 
Look at me….since I’ve been here, I’ve lost 20 pounds and am at a healthy weight…but it is still a struggle for me.  A daily struggle to look in a mirror, to step on a scale and to know what the good and healthy habits are that I should have….but the reality is, I don’t follow them. 

My self-hate is that I don’t like the relationship that I have with food and exercise. 
Maybe your self-hate is that you don’t like the relationship you have with your parents. 
Maybe your self-hate is that you don’t like the way you treat tour children.
Maybe it’s that you don’t like the way you depend on alcohol or cigarettes.
Maybe it’s that you don’t like the way you interact with your spouse.
Maybe you don’t like the way you see yourself in the mirror.
Maybe you don’t like the way you disrespect others.
Maybe you don’t like the way your take out your anger.
Maybe you don’t like the way you spend your money.
You name it…we all come before God…just like Adam and Eve….knowing that we do things that we are ashamed of, that we try to hide from others and from ourselves….and from God.  
So where does that leave us? 

I would say it’s like that show, Naked and Afraid, but it’s not. 
You see, even though we come before God knowing what we’ve done wrong, God has wrapped us in a new baptismal garment, and wraps us in his loving arms time and time again.
We are forgiven. 
We are loved.
We are most certainly NOT alone, because through the waters of baptism we are called into the community of Christ and the family of God.  
And because of this love and this grace, we are freed from trying to be perfect, freed from the sins and self-hatred that try to tear us apart, and we are freed to love and serve others. 
This may be a better question:
Freed from sin through the waters of baptism, how can that love be shared with others?
How would you answer that question for a friend? 
How can this love and grace that we receive be shared with others?
Though our words and actions…in the work of this place…as we love and support our graduates as they enter new phases of their lives…as we reach out to feed our neighbors at Opportunity House and City Light Minstries….as we pray for and support the 13 youth of trinity being confirmed this weekend…as we speak out against injustice in our community and nation…as we feed the hungry…shelter the homeless…heal the sick….comfort the sad and lonely….the opportunities are endless. 

Go from this place, freed from sin and death to love and serve others. 
And may the peace, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.