Sermon Lent 1 – March 13, 2011

March 14, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

It’s the bottom of the ninth.
Charlie Brown’s team has two men out, one run down,
with Snoopy, their best hitter at the plate,
and the Little League championship on the line.
Somehow Charlie Brown has managed to reach third base.
“We’ve got this in the bag,” Lucy says.
“As long as Charlie Brown doesn’t do something stupid, like try to steal home.”
Violet says, “Not even Charlie Brown is that stupid.”
Meanwhile, on third base,
Charlie Brown is thinking,
“I wonder if I should try to steal home?”

“Was I safe or out?” Charlie Brown asks.
“Out?” Lucy says, “You didn’t even get halfway home!”
Everybody walks away, leaving Charlie Brown to lie alone
in the basepath halfway between third base and home plate.
Night falls, and he is still there,
screaming at the heavens,
“Why did I have to try to steal home? Why? Why? Why?”
He thought that this time he could have been the hero.
Instead, he’s still just a blockhead.

For a comic strip,
Peanuts was, in its heyday, surprisingly deep.
Charlie Brown was not just a kid who couldn’t fly his kite,
who couldn’t win a ball game, who couldn’t kick a football,
who couldn’t get up the nerve to talk to the little red-haired girl.
He was Everyman.
He was Adam,
the man of the earth,
wanting to be the hero, but ending up lying on the ground, alone,
an exile from Paradise.
Adam and Eve wanted to be heroes, the stars of their own show,
the masters in their own garden.
The serpent tricked them into believing that they could be like God,.
and then when it is too late, whispers to them, “Oh, you blockheads!”

In reaching for the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil,
Eve and Adam do not reject God outright.
The serpent would have had no need to be subtle
if it was as simple as that.”.
To say, “You don’t need God, let’s rebel against him,”
Instead, the serpent enticed Adam and Eve
with the promise of God’s glory
that for some reason he had placed just beyond their reach,
but if they reached out and took it,
they would be more God-like.
In the story of the Garden of Eden,
Adam and Eve do not reject God outright –
they simply reject the idea of trusting him,
of living in relationship with him.
A relationship only exists if there are boundaries to it.

Much like Charlie Brown standing there on third base,
thinking that it was all up to him to win the game,
dreaming of accomplishing that great thing that would make him the hero,
Adam and Eve stand there at the tree of knowledge,
at the boundary which God has set in their relationship,
wondering what is there for them, what God has set just out of reach.
There have been some who have blamed God for forbidding the tree,
for planting the tree, for putting the tree in Adam and Eve’s path,
knowing that they would reach for the fruit.
But without a boundary, there is no relationship.
Every relationship that we have has boundaries,
and when they are violated, the relationship is compromised.

Without getting too tough on him,
Charlie Brown violates the relationship between him and his team.
By trying to steal home,
when there is absolutely no chance of him succeeding,
he shows that he doesn’t trust his team to get him home,
he shows that he thinks he has to be the one to get things done,
to be the hero, to be the man.
It has become all about him.

Adam and Eve violate the relationship between human beings and God
when they reach for what God has not given them,
when the serpent or that little voice in their head,
the evil power that wants us alone in the world with him,
says, “The possibilities are endless! It’s up to you!”
And truly, once the fruit is taken and the deed done, the possibilities are endless.
You can almost hear Adam and Eve saying to each other,
“Oh, you blockhead!”
And we violate the relationship between human beings and God
whenever we think it is up to us,
whenever we see something that promises life and freedom
if only we just reach out and take it,
if only we step just across a boundary.
Whether it is the boundary of anger, the boundary of desire for another,
the boundary of property and money, the boundary of truth,
or any other boundary;
crossing it marks the end-point of when we are in relationship with God and others
And crossing it even once marks a turning point in our existence.
If Charlie Brown is everyman, lying in the dust with his failed dreams,
if Adam and Eve is humanity, blaming each other, the serpent, and God,
then they point to the loneliness of our condition,
unable to trust God, unable to trust each other,
seeking glory and coming up empty.

But there is another everyman,
and Lent is his story as well as ours.
Three times the accuser, the serpent of the story,
the little voice comes to him and says,
You can reach out for what you want, for what you need,
you can be the hero, you can be the one who ends the suffering.
And this time Charlie Brown waits on third,
for whatever comes, whether a strikeout or a home run,
this time Adam and Eve speak not a word to the serpent,
accepting the boundary of their relationship to God as creatures,
this time Jesus gets God’s Word right.
“Worship the LORD your God, and serve only him.”
Christ does not reject the suffering,
he does not reject the relationship,
he will wait for his Father’s will
and listen to his Word.
And in doing so, the serpent must be vanquished,
for him and for us.
For he lays down in the dust with us,
he makes his home with the homeless and his friendship with the friendless,
and he raises us from the dust and gives us his Spirit,
his life of relationship with the Father.
Glory, not to us or from us, but to God and from God.

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Ash Wednesday Sermon, March 9, 2011 Sermon Lent 2 – March 20, 2011

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