Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ARE YOU MISSING SOMETHING OR SOMEONE?

If there is no love for what is lost there is no rejoicing when the lost is found.
 

 This past week my wife Madelyn was part of a search party to recover the old dog owned by one of our neighbors. The dog just disappeared from our neighbor'...s front yard. Neighborhood children and adults have scoured the area, but the dog named Max has not be found.

The word "lost" is used to describe something or someone being destroyed. It is a terminal word which when finally pronounced marks the end of searching. Just so, we have many people in our world who have been labeled lost causes and placed in a category that means that they have ceased to exist or do not deserve further concern.

But in Jesus' view of reality, the word lost was not a terminal category, but a temporary state. He knew that in God no one is lost as human society thinks of lost. Love that overcomes being lost or dead is acted out in Jesus' stories and presses us to stop categorizing others as lost.

God is the Eternal Searcher for the lost. What we are asked to do is to rejoice when God reverses our sense of terminal loss, death, and destruction and join in
the party that celebrates the untiring, ongoing, undefeatable love that searches for all that is lost in us and in creation.

Or, would you rather grumble that God's way of searching-love has trumped our way of dismissing others and ourselves as "lost causes?" 
 

 Luke 15:1-10

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus.

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

So he told them this parable:

"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?


When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,

`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying,

`Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'

Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

 
Here is another passage from Genesis that speaks of one who is lost in a particular way. Is Cain the lost sheep who is found?

Genesis 4

The Message (MSG)
Adam slept with Eve his wife. She conceived and had Cain. She said, “I’ve gotten a man, with God’s help!”
Then she had another baby, Abel. Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer.
3-5 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
6-7 God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”
Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.
God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
He said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?”
10-12 God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. You’ll farm this ground, but it will no longer give you its best. You’ll be a homeless wanderer on Earth.”
13-14 Cain said to God, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 God told him, “No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over.” God put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.
16 Cain left the presence of God and lived in No-Man’s-Land, east of Eden.
17-18 Cain slept with his wife. She conceived and had Enoch. He then built a city and named it after his son, Enoch.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

HATING AND SURRENDERING

A large crowd following a person would suggest that the one being followed is some sort of a celebrity. Over the course of history Jesus has surely been followed by large crowds who tried to get close to him.

So, imagine Jesus turning to this throng of people eager to follow him and saying:

"'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'"?

Might the number of folks following him suddenly drop? If you think what Jesus says about hating family members as a necessary thing for following him is hard for those of us living in the United States in the 21st century, please know that his words were even more shocking and repulsive to those who surrounded him as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Hate is a very strong word, especially as we understand it today. We take hate to mean the strong negative emotion directed towards another person, but the term in Jesus' world meant something more like rejecting the object of hate, but doing so in a way that is not violent or filled with emotional loathing or contempt. It is more like turning away from family and turning to something or someone that is not altogether known and whose ways are strange and demanding, but never requiring violence towards others or self.

We actually use a word in the baptism service which may be closest to the meaning of the word "hate" as Jesus spoke it. That word is "renounce." Candidates for baptism are asked if they renounce Satan and all of the spiritual powers that rebel against God. And the candidates reply: "I renounce them."

Is it possible that hating as Jesus used the word actually allows us to love our families, our selves, and our world even more? Is such hating a way of living with and loving even those who are enemies or who we see as at least unpleasant?

Why would loving our families be a stumbling block for those who follow Jesus?

What does the cross we are asked to carry have to do with discipleship? Didn't Jesus carry the cross so we would not have to do so?

In the Twelves Steps of Alcholics Anonymous, we hear a very similar idea in the first three steps of recovery:

1.We admitted we were powerless over _____-that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3.Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

As you can see, the Gospel this week is challenging. If you consider the questions I have offered above and the wisdom expressed in the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, you may find ways of considering Jesus' words as an act of communication that will touch your soul and move you closer to a new God of your understanding.

See you on Sunday.