Sunday, June 3, 2012

Are you Friends with God on Facebook? NO you aren't! - A Sermon Preached by Ven. Mark Sluss on 6/3/2012

Facebook now lets you place the different people in your life into different categories. You can define people as friends or family, or whatever you choose. I myself have created categories for co-workers, and close friends. Close Friends is where I put those people I define as chosen family. We build relationships all around ourselves, and it seems that social media and the world would have us parse out the community around us into categories, denoting who is most important to each of us? I belong to a group on Facebook for my fraternity brothers, and I know within my fraternity brothers, that we were taught and espoused a brotherhood where we were to care and to defend those who would call upon us simply because of going through a ritual together. But even in that situation we parsed each other out. Were we in the same pledge class, were we initiated together? Were we big and little brothers; are we Alumni or Undergraduates? Laying claim to those categories that would give one relationship more prestige or specialness than another But how do we classify the humanity outside of our front doors? And how do I classify those friends and family who don’t have computers or who aren’t on Facebook, or who are known only to God. I come from a very large family, (Just ask my mom), when you count together the cousins and aunts and uncles on her side along with the cousins and aunts and uncles on dad’s side we really get up there. At my grandmother’s funeral this past January, the game amongst us cousins was “who is that? And how are we related?” Our little branch of the family moved to Missouri in 1979, and we seemed to lose track of some of our family we left behind. At the funeral it was of course great to reconnect and the old saying “it’s a shame we have to get back together under these circumstances, was constantly thrown back and forth”. Simply being related to someone is no longer an automatic in. In Facebook world, it will get you in the Family category, but I may block you, if you try to get me to play Farmville it doesn’t mean that I don’t love and support you, it just means I hate Farmville. But that’s the way it is in our modern world, people are on the move. Being born and raised and living and working and eventually dying in the same community as your family is very rare these days. For me at least, it seems that this disconnection from community relationships where the community is tied up in our successes and, we are our involved in their successes is lost. It has somehow lessened the experience of our living together.

Can you imagine for one second if God was on Facebook? How would God categorize God’s friends? How would we know where we fall in God’s profile? By the Way, I’ve checked, aside from a public figure group that someone created, God doesn’t have a Facebook timeline. But categorizing the people in our lives especially our community of faith is not what God has planned for us. If God had a Facebook page we wouldn’t be friends with God, we’d be God’s Sons and Daughters. And God wouldn’t use the block function on us. We are all called to be a part of God’s family. Not a blended family of steps and adopted children, but full members of the family of God, GOD’s Son’s and Daughters. See ever since the rebellion in Eden, God has longed to reconcile humanity back into relationship with God. But it is us, God’s children that refuse to act. God longs for the relationship the way it was. Where humans, walked with God and met with god and related with god. It was the rebellion, the fall that made us hide from god, made us change that relationship from what it was intended. But with the rebellion the damage was done, we had eaten from the tree of knowledge knowing good and evil, and we foolishly believed that we could take over our own lives from the direction that god would have us go. We refuse to let God be God and think we can bend God to us. THAT is sin Sin is that thing which separates us from god, I propose that it isn’t just some deed that we do, (though that is a symptom of sin).

Sin isn’t a laundry list of deeds done, but it is the attitude the personality, and behavior that we know better than god what is best for us. Or even that, we shouldn’t bother god with this matter, we should be able to handle it ourselves. This behavior of separating ourselves is SIN. God’s plans for us are amazing and it is not just the end state that is amazing it’s the path to get there, the learning. I am certain that God delights in watching us on the journey to become the type of person God wants us to be. Theologian Karl Barth said and I paraphrase “God doesn’t wish to be god without us”. I remember the day, I turned and watched my best friend from College’s face as he painstakingly attempted to teach me to water ski. Over and over he dragged me up and down Lake Pomme De Terre in Southwest Missouri, I remember drinking a lot of lake water. But eventually I got up on two skis, for all of maybe 2 minutes, but I was up! The look on his face of pride for my success and joy at seeing how much I was enjoying it, I will never forget the look on his face. Ultimately though water skiing was not for me, the deciding factor was that being pulled across that lake, removed all the sunscreen from my body and developed the worst case of sun poisoning I’ve ever had and spent the next day in our tent away from the sun, moaning in pain. I just decided, I didn’t need to do that again! That is one facet of the type of relationship I think God wants to be apart of our lives, celebrating and being a part of the successes in our lives, and supporting us in our failures. Helping us, and guiding us to achieve those things that would better us and our surrounding communities and loving us when we don’t succeed. God also calls us to be that type of person with each other. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminds the Christians there, that they are Children of God and if children of God, heirs and if heirs they are brothers and sisters of Christ. (On Christ’s Facebook we would all be brothers and sisters) How good of a pedigree is that? We are in the best family. And one isn’t above another; we are all brothers and sisters of Christ and children of God.

Christ paid the ransom for our sin in Eden we are reconciled to God, now the only thing holding us back from living up to that relationship is ourselves. When we slip back into that sin of thinking that we know better, when we can do it on our own, when we don’t hand our failures up to god, we need to turn and realize what it is we are doing and remind ourselves that THIS manner of being (on our own), is Sin and is not what God has in mind for us. We are to live together as brothers and sisters, celebrating the common good in our lives, helping each other to meet those successes, not tearing each other down when failures happen. That is what being a Christian is about, there are many factions now that seem to delight in dwindling attendance numbers, or schism in our ranks, or lawsuits lost, property handed over. What weird family dynamic is that? Where is the unconditional love of god in that dynamic?

Being a Christian today is all about relationships. But it takes an action of our own, to form those. Being reconciled to God, being a part of the family takes an action, on our part. We must be born again as Jesus tells Nicodemus, we must be baptized, to accept that reconciliation. Salvation requires action, (I am not being heretical here, Salvation doesn’t come from Actions), but salvation requires an action of turning to Christ, it requires a relationship. Just as the Israelites did with Moses, when they journeyed around the land of Edom, and they began their grumbling against God and Moses, (again thinking they knew better). Then God sent snakes in their midst to torment them. And Moses fashioned a bronze figure of a snake and put it on a pole and whenever the Israelites were bitten they had to look at the serpent on the pole and they were saved. As Jesus teaches Nicodemus, this is what we must do, when we are tormented and stuck thinking that we can do things on our own, we are to turn to the son of man, who is lifted up “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness”. We must turn to Jesus as a reminder of our renewed relationship with God, in order to reset ourselves with in that relationship with god and one another.

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