You are not what you eat!

We are what we don’t eat!

 Acts 11.1-18

Matthew 5.1-12

I have to say I have never watched it myself. But I am told that the programme – I’m a celebrity get me out of here- usually contains a scene where the contestants have to eat something disgusting. In a way I can sympathies with their reaction having once had to eat octopus tentacles on an official visit to Spain. Actually chopped into slices and deep-fried they are delicious. Yet such experiences raise the whole question what we like to eat and what we don’t, what we think we should eat for our health and not and, indeed, what we should and not eat for religious reasons. For such deliberations brings us to the heart of today’s lessons not just from Acts but Matthew as well.

 

 

So let’s start with Peter. Now he could be a black or white sort of guy. Moreover, he saw details as the foundation of the bigger picture. Even small things could either be seriously right or wrong for him. Thus, pre-Joppa, he knew exactly what he had to eat to be God fearing. He knew what all who obeyed God should eat if they were to be on the inside. In fact, he was trying to do religion then by paying attention to the little rules and hoping the bigger ones would take of themselves.

 

That’s why his vision that day at Joppa came to him as a huge surprise. Certainly, if he hadn’t had this revelation, Christianity would have faded out as a footnote in Jewish history. But that day he was given the keys to the Kingdom; he was made to see what the nub of every religion is all about. He was shown what the sacred must truly be founded on. He was made aware that what really matters to God is often not detail. Rather it is have a go at living the truly good life. It is having a bash at obeying God in a way that serves the big picture. Put directly, it is attempting no matter how unsuccessfully to live out not the minutae of religious observance but the beatitudes of faith.

 

Ah we say – but the beatitudes are not easy. Much easier to be concerned with what we can and cannot eat – what formula of rules we can obey to the letter – what boundary walls we can erect to keep people in or out. Since being poor in spirit and peacemakers and above all merciful are painful. Let’s not even start on being pure in heart! That’s just too hard! In the final analysis we say – the beatitudes are just impossible!

 

 

But, you know, the word ‘impossible’ is a strangely flexible sort of term. Since the famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three “laws” of prediction. These are known worldwide as “Clarke’s Three Laws.” Here they are:

Law 1- when a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Law 2 – The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Law 3 – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

 

If we say then that the beatitudes are impossible we are very probably wrong.

 

If we say trying to base our life rules on them will test us to the limit then we are right. But so is venturing beyond them. For then we will discover the possibilities of God.

 

If indeed we say the casting aside of our self imposed boundaries is impossible we forget Christ did magic – it’s just we call them – miracles.

 

And where do we need miracles today?

 

Oh there are a hundred and one such places!

 

Let me take the example I heard of only last week. For Cardinal Vincent Nicols has just returned from Iraq. He remarked that until recently that country was an intricate pattern of religions and faiths. Sadly, this relatively harmonious patchwork has been destroyed and the lives of Christians as well as other minorities are now at serious risk.

 

Here then in at least one place is where we need miracles. Miracles brought about not by obeying to the letter some rule or other. Instead miracles ushered in by living, offering and inviting others into the community of the beatitudes. Miracles opened up by casting barriers aside and embracing our common humanity under God. Because that is the only way to value all human beings no matter what they believe or where they come from.

 

Or as Maya Angelou wrote of the human family:

 

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

 

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

 

So, how do we sum up?

 

Well, I think we need to acknowledge we are less what we eat than who we eat with.

 

We are less Christian when we obey rules and ignore God’s vision.

 

We are less human when we stop believing in miracles – the beatitude miracles – the miracle of the vision of Joppa – the miracles we can make happen through Christ. Since that is the food of God and the very taste of heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s inside us?

There was a man who made living selling balloons at a fair. He had all colors of balloons Including red, yellow, green. Whenever business was slow, he would release a helium filled balloons into the air and when the children saw it go up, they all wanted to buy one. They would come up to him, buy a balloon and his sales would go up again. He continues this process all day.

One day, he felt something tugging his jacket. He turned around and saw a little boy who asked,” If you release a black balloon, would that also fly?” Moved by the boy’s concern, the man replied with empathy.” Son, it is not the Color of the balloon, it is what inside that makes it go up.”

The same thing applies to our lives. It is what is inside that counts. The thing inside of us that makes us go up is our attitude.

 

From ‘Morning with Dilbert’ blog

An Old Geezer

An old geezer, who had been a retired farmer for a long time, became very bored and decided to open a medical clinic. He put a sign up outside that said: Dr. Geezer’s clinic. “Get your treatment for $500, if not cured get back $1,000.”

Mister “Younger” who was positive that this old geezer didn’t know beans about medicine, thought this would be a great opportunity to get $1,000.

So he went to Dr. Geezer’s clinic.

This is what transpired.

Mr Younger: “Dr. Geezer, I have lost all taste in my mouth.” can you please help me ??
Dr. Geezer:  “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in Dr. Young’s mouth.”

Mr Younger: Aaagh !! — “This is Gasoline!”

Dr. Geezer: “Congratulations! You’ve got your taste back. That will be $500.”

Mr Younger gets annoyed and goes back after a couple of days figuring to recover his money.

Mr Younger: “I have lost my memory, I cannot remember anything.”

Dr. Geezer: “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”

Mr Younger: “Oh no you don’t,  —  that is Gasoline!”

Dr. Geezer: “Congratulations! You’ve got your memory back. That will be $500.”

Mr Younger (after having lost $1000) leaves angrily and comes back after several more days.

Mr Younger: “My eyesight has become weak  —  I can hardly see !!!!

Dr. Geezer: “Well, I don’t have any medicine for that so —  ”

Here’s your $1000 back.”

Mr Younger: “But this is only $500…”

Dr. Geezer: “Congratulations! You got your vision back! That will be $500.”

Moral of story  —  Just because you’re “Younger” doesn’t mean that you can outsmart an old “Geezer “

Doubting this Sunday?

John 20.24-30

 

Here are some useless facts for you! This Sunday is often known in the church as Low Sunday. Why it’s called that isn’t exactly agreed upon. It might be because the passion, drama and wonder of Easter are over. Or it might come from a corruption of the first word of a Latin liturgy that is Laudes.

 

This Sunday also takes its name after the first few words of the Roman Catholic introit for today. That starts with the words ‘As if as newborn babes, alleluia’. In fact, the Latin version of the words ‘as if as’ was to give the moniker to a foundling in Victor Hugo’s’ epic about Notre Dame in Paris. Because on this Sunday, a baby is deposited in the Cathedral’s hallowed portals and is then named – of course – Quasimodo.

 

But one name I don’t think we can give to this Sunday is expectant Sunday. The reason is that the disciples weren’t waiting or expecting anything. As far as they were concerned – it was over. They with their friend Jesus bin Joseph had played the game and lost. The vision that they had was well and truly over. All hope and faith had died with the crucifixion of their leader. Albeit, it has to be said, there were some pretty rum stories running around.

 

Therefore, possibly the most telling name for this day comes from the eastern church which calls it Saint Thomas’ Day; Thomas being the famous doubter. Since he is the patron saint of all who have said -I’ll believe it when I see it. He is the symbol of faith chasing facts. Moreover, he typifies so many who are Quasimodo’s in their beliefs. For Hugo writes in his 1831 novel:

 

 

Archdeacon Claude Frollo, Quasimodo’s adoptive father, baptized his adopted child and called him Quasimodo; whether it was that he chose thereby to commemorate the day when he had found him, or that he meant to mark by that name how incomplete and imperfectly moulded the poor little creature was. Indeed, Quasimodo, could hardly be considered as anything more than an almost.

 

 

It is therefore constructive to see how Thomas passed from his ‘almost’ faith state into the apostle credited with founding the church in the east possibly as far as India.

 

For, a farmer had a dog that used to sit by the roadside waiting for vehicles to come around. As soon as one came, he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake it. One day a neighbor asked the farmer “Do you think your dog is ever going to catch a car?” The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one.”

 

Here then is a dog chasing an almost unachievable goal in entirely the wrong way. A dog that was yet to learn that life is hard by the yard, but by the inch, it’s an cinch

 

 

 

Well certainly, Thomas did not try to live the life of a fully formed faith by the yard. Instead he inched towards it and that was the cinch. Put simply – he took little steps. Since he started by being honest with his fellow disciples, being honest with God and above all being honest with himself. Because it is all too easy when doubts set in to camouflage them with a multitude of distracting issues. Yet, instead of doing that, Thomas genuinely faced what was truly challenging him.

 

Next he did not stop looking for answers. He didn’t turn his back on the astounding truth of Christ risen. He did not close his mind to the Lord’s presence. And the outcome was he received the gift of renewed faith in abundance.

 

Finally, he accepted all that faith demands. He uttered up – My Lord and my God. And with those watchwords he then went forth and changed the world.

 

If then, on this Low Sunday, we feel we are ‘almost’ in our faith, let us feel our way forward in the same way. Let us not chase impossible goals lodged in the peaks of belief’s Himalayas. Let us not try to bolster our ill-formed beliefs by leaping yards. Rather let us rekindle its flame in small and simple steps. And so, may we each be honest with what is causing our doubt. May we keep our eyes open for the appearance of the living Lord in our everyday. Then may we use what we have been given to perfect ourselves and the headlines around us.

 

James Moore tells of a cartoon, run a few years ago, showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The seaman in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers. “Compliments of the Captain,” the sailor said. “He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you’d still like to be rescued!”

 

Well, sometimes the world’s and our personal headlines do indeed scare us. Sometimes we feel that hopelessness is winning. And so there are times when we have such doubts that Thomas is turned into the very model of blind faith.

 

Therefore, why not turn back to building faith – step wise? Why not turn your almost beliefs into the certainty by acknowledging that Christ is with us – here and now. And why not start by proclaiming without a shadow – My Lord and my God.

 

Since if we do these, we will give this Low Sunday its other name, which is renewal Sunday. Because, by these little paces, once more the resurrection is repeated, once more the resurrection reforms and once more the resurrection make us – perfectly expectant.