Sermon- Sun. 2.28.16

There’s an old saying called Murphy’s Law and it goes like this. 1-Nothing is as easy as it looks. 2-Everything takes longer than expected. 3-If anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible time. That is Murphy’s Law. Unfortunately, it’s the way many people look at the world-they only see the bad things and blame them for ruining their lives.
Negativity is a real problem. I can tell you about it because I spent twenty years of my life thinking this way. Negative thinking lets you sit in your sorrows for 24 hours at a time, for as long as you want to sit there. Nothing changes, nothing gets better and you’re always the victim in every case. It’s easy to blame the world for making life so hard for you.
Isn’t that interesting? You remain a victim of circumstances-there is never enough of anything and you’re suffering. You are stuck there until the day you realize-the only person holding you back is you.
The only way out of this lifestyle is to take charge of your life and change your view. You need to look beyond the very simple lesson of Murphy’s Law and decide what path you’re going to take to move yourself in any direction. Because negative thinking doesn’t move you anywhere-you remain in exactly the same place as you started out. Only your ability to look beyond this moment will move you toward your own future. And that’s what we find in the first lesson from Isaiah, as God’s promises are made to God’s children.
If there was ever a group of people who experienced Murphy’s Law, it was the people of God in this first lesson. There was plenty of warning by the prophets, that God would pass judgment if the people didn’t start obeying God and caring for each other. In a land of social injustice, the people turned away from God and made deals and treaties with neighbors-yes, even in Bible times there were politics and people seeking power and wealth. As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, there is nothing new under the sun. It’s all been done before. But we know the outcome; as dark as it seems, God wins at the end.
In today’s lesson, God’s people get a reprieve as Isaiah paints a rosy picture of hope after years of exile.
Isaiah extends an invitation to this wonderful, free and lavish banquet that everyone is invited to attend. God pronounces forgiveness through the everlasting covenant made with David and tells the people to come in. God tells the people listen carefully and choose carefully, seek the Lord and call on him, returning to the Lord who is merciful.
Through the season of Lent, we hear a lot about returning to the Lord, who is merciful. In returning to the Lord, we talk about relationships between people and God and between people and people. The ultimate relationship on Good Friday will be the relationship that aligns Jesus’ will with God’s will. God gives Jesus the strength to endure crucifixion and death, then raises him from death, so we can live with him in eternity, under God’s care.
If you want the bottom line on salvation, it’s about believing and trusting that God really does love us and Jesus did die and rise, so we could have life together. This life together starts here on earth where we care for God and for other people-it’s all about relationship.
This is what Isaiah promises the people, as they return from exile. While God’s covenant of everlasting care for David’s descendants might have been bent, it was not broken. God pointed them to God’s hope and future promises in the visions Isaiah shared.
People have always had some odd ideas on why bad things happen in the world- your viewpoint has everything to do with what you believe. It’s a matter of religious preference or not. Some people believe everything happens for a reason or what goes around comes around. It might make us feel better to have an answer, but remember, our human minds can only come up with human answers. God’s mind will explain the mysteries of the universe one day when we see God face to face. But for now, we’re left with questions.
The people in the gospel lesson had serious questions. Some people were killed while making their offering at the temple. Wouldn’t you think that people would be safe in the temple? If they were there to worship, shouldn’t God protect them? If God didn’t protect them, then what did they do wrong? Were they immoral people or didn’t their sacrifice please God? Did God kill them or did Herod? We are left with a lot of unanswered questions.
Jesus tells them to repent, to turn from selfish ways and turn back to God’s ways-we know what they are. He explains that life and death are uncertain and nothing is guaranteed. We could die today or tomorrow. We could die as Christians or pagans. We could die in a church, in the middle of saying our prayers, or in a high rise office, swindling people out of their life savings. There are no guarantees or security when it comes to life and death.
So Jesus says, If we want to secure our future, it’s in following the way that God leads us. It’s about our relationship with God and our care for people besides ourselves. Remember when the Bible said if you don’t judge people, you won’t be judged? Think about that. If you’re busy judging or talking about other people, you bring God’s judgment on yourself. But if you’re busy serving people, you’re bringing God’s justice to the world and there’s no judgment necessary where justice lives.
Jesus says that the death of people in the temple is just as tragic as the people who died at work, building a tower. Bad things happen. Good people suffer. People live and people die and we celebrate life and mourn death. There is so much more to life than the three simple rules in Murphy’s Law-so very much more.
The great commandment Jesus will leave with us is to love other people as much as we love ourselves-this is the bottom line. We are wise enough to know that life doesn’t go on forever and whether people are good or bad, people die. Our security is in Jesus, whose life, death and resurrection bridges the gap between our limited life and God’s eternal love. Amen.

Rev. Dawn Richie

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