Shifting World Views
In the name of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
As we begin to consider the Word of God, let’s for a moment, consider the language we are using in our worship today. As is out of the ordinary for us, we are using the Rite One liturgy today. It is the first Sunday of Lent and also the first Sunday of March. On the first Sunday of April, while we are still in the season of Lent, we will worship according to the traditional language of Rite One again.
To compliment the traditional language of the rite, we are using the Revised Standard Version of the Bible today. This is a version which is a generation older than the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible we usually use, so it is probably two generations older than The Message which are using for a while. I mention this to point out that there are no limits on the way God can communicate with us. In fact, being as open as possible when listening to the Word of God is an important thing. We risk becoming formed by habit rather than inspiration if it never says anything new to us … we know God is still speaking and at work … never bound to a single way of understanding.
This morning, at the solemn start of the service and in the recitation of The Great Litany, we lamented and bewailed our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed. We heard the story from the book of Genesis about Adam and Eve committing what is called the first (or the original) sin, that of eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Let me suggest to you the possibility that it was something in the human personality which made it possible for the newly formed people (created by God) to disobey God. It was not the snake. It was not the devil. That part was the ego. The ego – or our pride – is a part of the personality all of us have, and the part from which all of us continually have the need to seek forgiveness for allowing it to convince us our own importance, our prerogative to eat the fruit we choose to eat, or our entitlement to sit in judgment.
Ego. Arrogance. This is the great fly in the ointment of the human condition.
The lesson we have to learn over and over again is that: Life is not about you. You are about life. This is so hard to learn and retain. The world doesn’t revolve around you. It is not all about you. We have to find a way to shift the way we see the world.
Galileo Galilei did this for us once in the 17th century. Galileo demonstrated the validity of what Copernicus’ heliocentric model suggested – that the earth revolved around the sun instead of the sun revolving around the earth. This truth was going to play a major role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. However, the matter of the orbit of the sun and the earth was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, where it was concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.” Galileo was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei).
Here we have the perfect example of how hard it is to change a world view. No wonder it is so hard to remember you’re not the center of it.
As a devout Catholic, Galileo often defended the heliocentric model of the universe using Scripture. In 1616, he wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, in which he argued for a non-literal interpretation of the Bible and espoused his belief in the heliocentric universe as a physical reality. He argued that the Bible is written in the language of the common person who was not an expert in astronomy. Scripture, he argued, teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go (http://www.universetoday.com/48756/galileo-facts/).
A shift in world view does not have to be contrary to Scripture, only how you think about what it says. The great shift in world view which we need now is this:
That religion is not about who you are for God, but who God is for you.
The beautiful Great Litany is not a list of all of our sins, the things we still have to fix in ourselves. The Great Litany (and all of the things we confess) is a catalogue of all of the things we are unable to fix and which only God can makes up for in us. We are unable to perfectly live up to the law. God does what we can not do. It is not about who we are, but about who God is. The litany is a practice of enumerating instances of God’s grace. It is an inventory of reasons to be grateful for who God is for us.
This is also what Paul is writes about in his letter to the Romans. In what we know as the fifth chapter, he says, “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”
Original sin. You were born with it. There is nothing you can do about it. You must rely on God to make up the difference.
Our traditional (or habitual) way of thinking about ‘these our misdoings’ has been making us feel bad about sin. About things we can’t fix on our own we have said, ‘the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable.’ Tallying up our demerits has told us repeatedly how we fell short. It has not told us about The One who made up for the shortcoming, who closed the gap. Only the grace of God can do this. Believing otherwise keeps us small and it keeps God small, too. God is bigger than what we can dream of or foul up.
So here is the truth. We were born forgiven. In life we have to learn how to manage our ego, how to let go of it, in order to let God manage/transform our lives from broken to beautiful.
We have to give up the idea that we can do anything about it. Surrender ego. Let go and let God.
There is absolutely nothing God can’t redeem. God did not create anything bigger or stronger than God. If you really know that, as only Jesus has really known it, then you know God is more powerful than anything.
When you are facing temptation in the desert, you can laugh in Satan’s face. There is nothing the evil one can offer or do to you that is greater than God. Jesus is in the position of knowing he has won the argument before it begins.
Most likely, Jesus, being God, had mercy on Satan – loved everything in creation, even the parts that did not understand God or were controlled by their own egos. As long as one kicks against the goads, one will suffer. Surrendering to the love of God takes care of suffering. Surrendering to the judgment of God frees us from the judgment of other people.
Hear this. The love of God is stronger than any temptation. God will be infinitely gentle, vulnerable and patient until you are able to accept God’s strength for yourself. God will never accomplish love, grace, mercy and forgiveness by force, coercion or use of power. God will wait as long as it takes for you to see that the love of God is with you and has been all along.
Remember, the earth orbits around the sun. Not the other way around.
Religion does not tell you who you are for God, religion tells you who God is for you.