Today, Jesus is talking about what gives us security. What makes us feel safe…what makes us feel like we can cope with the storms of life.
And I don’t know about you…but I know I need to hear this. Because there are a lot of storms raging around us, aren’t there?
Sometimes those storms are global — like the staggering rate of global warming and ice melt or the threat of crazy leaders with nuclear weapons at their disposal. It’s terrifying to think about for any length of time, honestly…hard to even take in.
Sometimes those storms are national — a shaky economy, centuries of racial injustice, political unrest. And our 24 hour news cycle makes sure we are well versed on everything that is wrong or could go wrong…ramping up our fear and anger at full volume.
And sometimes those storms are intensely personal — addictions — ours or our loved ones. Trauma — from experiences of abuse or violence. Sicknesses that suck our life away – cancer that eats our bodies alive and depression that makes the world go dark. And grief that shakes our very sense of who we are when our people– the people who makes us “us” die. Oh yes…there are storms battering us from all directions. So where do we find peace? Where do we find a solid rock, solid ground to stand on?
Religion has so often found that solid ground in its “right-ness” I am okay because I have the right answer. Because I am one of God’s chosen ones. Because I am saved — I said the right prayers, I believe the right things, I act the right way — I’m not like “those people”. My solid ground comes from being better than someone else. That’s exactly the kind of religious experience Jesus was raised in. You obeyed the rules…followed the law and all the things the rabbis and religious leaders told you to do and that made you one of God’s chosen ones. And in a world where it felt like you were powerless…which would be exactly how ordinary poor Jews would feel living in the Roman Empire…being “right” gave you a sense of moral superiority. A “high ground” to stand on.
But Jesus didn’t think that high ground was very stable at all. A high ground that was based on looking down on others, judging them…building yourself up in comparison to them…was no high ground at all. A high ground built on tearing others down is worthless. It usually means we aren’t taking an honest look at ourselves and how we have hurt others…because it’s easier to focus on someone else. We’re looking at the speck in everyone else’s eye and ignoring the log in our own. Jesus calls that the wide road. The easy road. And we know it is….because it’s tthe way people so often make themseles feel better….by judging others.
But Jesus shows us another way. The narrow road that leads to life…and that’s the one that actually gives us solid ground to stand on. And we find it not by riding the righteous bandwagon…but instead by trusting in the goodness and love of God for everyone. For all creation. For you. Our solid ground is trusting in God who wants good things for us all…who loves us as a heavenly parent. Our solid ground is in trusting that God created you as God’s child and is crazy about you. Our solid ground is in trusting that nothing can take away who you are…nothing that happens to you…nothing anyone else does to you…nothing you have done….can undo who you truly are.
You …the you created by God, the core of you…will always be okay. Because you rest in God’s love. You belong to God. And nothing can take you out of God’s hand. That’s what Jesus showed us. That’s what Jesus taught ut.
And that is the solid ground…the narrow road we walk that leads to life.
And it’s a narrow road because it is absolutely not the way the world thinks or operates. The world thinks the “narrow road” is being right when everyone else is wrong. I’ve been taught that you better watch out…because the road is narrow and if you just veer off a little…God’s gonna reject you. But if that’s what Jesus meant….why does he talk about not judging just two sentences earlier? No…the narrow road Jesus means …the one that leads to life….is letting go of all of our “rightness” and trusting in the God who loves this world. Trusting in the God who is all around us, waiting to be found…in the diversity of our humanity…in the wonder of creation…in the kindness of everyday life.
The narrow road that leads to solid ground is not found in violence or hatred or rejection of others…it is not found in dominant cultures or nationalism or religious zealotry. The narrow road…the hard road to stay on… is the path of loving your neighbors on this planet of ours…even when they are different.. The narrow road…is Loving yourself. Sometimes that is hardest of all. And the narrow road is loving God because you truly, deeply understand that God loves you first and loves you best.
That’s the rock …the only rock that will withstand the pounding of life’s storms.
When my parents died, it was a weird experience of feeling like someone knocked the block out from under me…and I hadn’t even realized I was standing on it. It was mom and dad being in the world that made the world ok…a safe place. And when they weren’t….I had to reorient myself. Some of you have had that experience with grief….where the whole way you understood and made sense of your life was suddenly gone. The storm came and washed it away.
I had to find my footing again. And I could…because the rock underneath it all…was Jesus. Jesus who loved my mom and dad more than I did. Jesus who loves me and my husband and my kids more than I ever could. Jesus who so loves the world…this whole world that he lived among us and felt our pain and called us children of God….and showed us that who we are…who you truly are…that you that nobody can take away…is eternal. Death isn’t even the end. You are …now and forever…a child of God.
I have quoted Deb Allen often — she was a pastor at the UCC church when we first came to town…. A lot of you will remember her. Anyway — in one of her lenten sermons, she talked about what it is we hope for from God. What it is we hope for when we die. And she asked a question….what is it you most desire to hear God say when you get to heaven? Are you looking forward to a slap on the back — “You were right! Good job! Way to go!” Or are you waiting to run into God’s open arms and hear her say “I love you so much. I’ve always loved you, precious child”. Those arms…that love? That’s our rock. That’s the foundation that can never be washed away. Thanks be to God. Amen.
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