Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Squash or Not to Squash: That is the Gospel

1 Kings 21: 1-21a
Rev Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield UMC
June 12, 2016

Well, isn’t this a pleasant story. Did you know that this story was even in the bible? Does it surprise you?
A wicked, selfish king and a commoner who pays the price for the King’s greed...
We shouldn’t be surprised. AT ALL. For this is what the prophets told the people of Israel would happen when they asked for a king.

This is what happens when people get power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Anyone in a place of power has to keep this in mind. You are going to be corrupted and you could possibly be corrupted absolutely.

We wonder how is it that a parent could harm a child. Well this is how. A parent has power. Power to shape and form a child into a person who is loving, caring and a good citizen. But if a parent isn’t aware of their power, or wants to misuse their power, it can turn out very, very badly.
For society as well as the child.

We wonder about priests and clergy and any public figure who have abused others. You know clergy in the UMC are required to take boundaries training every 5 years to remind us that we are in a place of power. And we have to be very careful about how we use this power.  Unfortunately, clergy have abused their powerful positions and ruined the lives of many, many people.

ANYONE in a place of power has the capacity to bring harm.

Maybe because I have just finished with VBS, maybe because it is summer, maybe just because a book came to me while I was preparing this sermon.

While it is tongue in cheek, it is still poses a provocative question about power and use of power.

Read: Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose. Illustrated by Debbie Tilley

I love these stories that leave us to make the final decision. Because that is what life is ultimately about, how will we decide.
Not about whether we will squish an ant or not, but will we use our power to squish another human being, another culture, race or tribal group?

This week in VBS I shared my story of being asked to leave a church because of my encouragement to love others as Jesus called us to love. The kids were shocked. Why would anyone be asked to leave a church because they were teaching about love?

I wish you could have seen their faces. But then I explained that I was teaching people to love those who people thought were their enemies. Then they began to understand.

When Steve and I put the Ramadan sign outside the parsonage we wondered what the reaction might be. It was teaching that Muslims were our neighbors and not our enemies that got me into trouble in more than one job.
As someone who has sat with Muslims in text study and diversity leadership training, it really saddens me when others clump all Muslims together into one big terrorist group.
It would be like people clumping all Christians into the same group as the KKK or the Branch Davidians. And saying that we were their enemies.

I am so thankful that the sign has stayed up in our yard, that we haven’t had negative messages because of it and that it has caused folks to ask questions. That is the point. We are called to ask the question: Why does our neighbor’s vineyard become a threat to us.
Particularly when we have a perfectly good vineyard of our own.

Why do we, who have the biggest footprint in the world, think we need to squash others?
Why don’t we instead use our power to learn about others, show others love and care, and be the people God called us to be: people who love all, even those whom others call enemy.

As I told the children this week, this is why Jesus died, because he called on us to love even those we perceive of as our enemies. Even those who are truly our enemy. We couldn’t stand that.

Our faces reflect the faces of the children when I told them that we are to love even those who we can’t even like.

And that it would be hard. It is much easier to squash our feelings for others than it is to face them and change them and make them to be like Christ.

But that is what we are called to do.

While God won’t threatened to spill our blood on the ground where dogs can lick it up; we will be no better than Ahab or anyone else who abuses power.

And you might even say that we are negating the death of Jesus on the cross. For while our sins might be forgiven, what good are forgiven sins when we grieve our Savior?

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