7 Epiphany: You are the data point!

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I am going to be brutally honest with you.
This sermon I am about to share
feels to me
like yelling into a stiff wind
standing over the Grand Canyon.

It is not that I think you do not care
or that you will be belligerent,
it is more that I know myself
and I know how frequently I turn my back
on what I know
even though I know it to be true.

It is like Marie Howe’s poem about the earnest intention to pray
and be a good pray-er:
”Help me (God).
Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.”

We know what we need to know
and we have the capacity we need to have
in order to act.
And yet
and yet
an yet we know
we have not and
we do not and
we will not.


It is like Climate Change.
We know what we are doing
and that we should change
but we are not
and likely will not
…in time.

But, here I go
because, well because,
it is my job.
I also happen to believe it is true
even if I turn my back on it regularly.

This passage from Luke
leads us to the very heart of the Christian dilemma
because it tells us what we know
even though we know
we won’t do it.

Will we really spend the currency of our lives
in the Economy of God
when what we know and trust
is the Economy of Self-Preservation?

The Economy of God
and the Economy of Self-Preservation.

There is our dilemma.
The central figure of our religion – an itinerant,
dispossessed Holy Man –
insists that we reverse
our long nurtured impulse toward Natural Selection.

This is a basic conflict of interest
between how we choose to live life
and how Jesus urged us to live life.

Do to others
what you want them to do to you.
In other words, love them
by doing good toward them — especially the ones
who hate you.

Loving them
is not just refraining
from smacking them
or spreading gossip about them.
No, restraint is not the loving Jesus is talking about.
Jesus says to be pro-active — do good,
do good to them. Do something you wish
someone would do for you.
That kind of loving.

Oh, and by the way lend your money and stuff
without expecting anything in return.

”Help me (God).
Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.”

Here is some more of the bitcoin
we are supposed to spend in the Economy of God.
God is kind
to both the ungrateful and the wicked,
so be merciful, just like God is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you.

”Help me (God).
Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.”

Just to be really clear about Jesus
and the Economy of God,
he concludes with this:
The measure you give will be the measure you get back.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you
that the Economy of God is a metaphor
for the Kingdom of God
that Jesus says we are to create on earth
as it is in heaven.
And that means, of course, its counter-part
is the Economy of Self-Preservation
which is the economic culture of consumerism
in which we live.

So the heart of Jesus’ wisdom
is in blaring dissonance
with what we believe is our self-interest.

Unlike our economy,
the benefits of spending our lives as currency
in the Economy of God
is not measurable in with a cost-benefit formula.

We measure benefit and reward
by productivity,
and the bottom line.
God’s economy trades on risk,
and abundance.

Now here is where I am going out on a limb.
While you and I
rarely exchange the currency of our lives
as if in the Economy of God,
I believe
that you and I know,
deep down in our bones,
that it is both better than ours
and doable.

Here is what I mean.

We know,
because we have experienced it, that love creates love.
We know it.
We have done it.
We have witnessed it and been healed by it.

The fact that love creates love
means there is no scarcity of love, only abundance.
Even more than that,
loving our enemy frees us
from the debilitating burden of hatred and resentment.
We know it
because we have experienced it.
It is a fact
and we are the data.

So the willful choice to love someone
who we could more easily hate
actually heals our woundedness
and generates greater capacity to love.
That is not pie-in-the-sky,
some nice sentiment.

It is a fact. Love creates more love
and loving an enemy liberates us.

Now in our economy of self-interest
a self-generating commodity
that had an ever-increasing capacity
to produce more —
a self-generating resource in other words —
would be more valuable than gold or bitcoin.

Then there is the fact
that forgiveness attracts forgiveness,
in the same way that cells attract other cells
in the process of forming new life.
Forgiving someone else
generates within the forgiver
a greater capacity to forgive him or herself.
So without any further self-improvement
the simple act of forgiving someone
improves how we feel about ourselves.
That is an amazing characteristic
and valuable beyond scale.
Like love, forgiveness is absolutely synergistic:
the willful choice to forgive someone
who it would seem more easy to resent,
conditions the spiritual muscles we need
to more deeply accept ourselves.

But it is kind of funny to think about this treasure
in our economy.
Such radical self-acceptance
would sound the death knell of whole industries
and marketing programs that prey upon and promote
self-doubt and self-hatred.

Again, looking down the denominations
of currency in the Economy of God,
we come upon mercy.
Jesus says mercy spawns mercy also.
The reason for this is that mercy melts away
our drive to be right
and it does so with the warmth of kindness.

By the willful choice to be merciful
when we could more easily demand fairness
or distributive justice,
we are freed to enjoy the sensation of kindness.

If we do not have to figure out
how the good guys and bad guys
are all going to get what’s coming to them,
then we get liberated from a ton of yucky gunk
that builds up on our heart and soul.

Lastly on our list, is generosity.

We know all about generosity
because we choose it sometimes.
We know that generosity ignites generosity
just like love creates more love
and forgiveness begets self-acceptance.

The risk to stop clutching what we own
empowers the dissolution of anxiety.

The willful choice to let go or give away
when we could more easily clutch and hoard,
actually increased our generosity
as it reduces our anxiety. Wow!

You have been there,
and you have experienced this, I know you have.
The impulse toward generosity — when we embrace it —
produces an almost miraculous affect
of igniting a sense of abundance
where only moments before there was scarcity.

In our economy, if unleashed,
the power of generosity would transform
the barren divide
between the have’s and have not’s
and turn it into a field of dreams.

”Help me (God).
Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.”

You see the dilemma as well as I do:
The central figure of our religion – an itinerant,
illiterate, dispossessed Holy Man –
talks as if you and I can
reverse the long nurtured impulse of Natural Selection.

We know that what he says is true
because small moments in our own experience
serve as the data points.

Jesus’ list of tough love,
is tough because it is to be aimed at our enemy
and those we hate
as well as those we love.
Do good.
Do not judge.
Do not condemn.
If we do, it will generate more riches for us.

That is a fact
and we are the data
that proves it
in those few times and occasions
when we have chosen it.

So why do I feel like
I am shouting into the wind
over the Grand Canyon?

”Help us(God). Even as we contemplate these words
we are reaching for reasons they are not true,
rationalizing our other choices
and along with the preacher,
finding ways to walk away before
Cam finishes the sentence.”

The crazy thing of course,
is that what Jesus told us is in fact true,
are in fact, facts
about the nature of a life we could live
and a kingdom we could create.

We know every one of these
crazy ideas is true,
is a fact,
because we have done them before
at least once.