May 25, 2014: Who Cares?

Posted on : May 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

On Monday, I sent out our weekly meditation which was inspired by Tara, the cat, who saved a four year old boy who very much loves her, from a potentially horrible attack by a neighbor’s dog. Psalm 121 is a great Psalm which images God as One who constantly protects us. That cat video is a great parable of the way God is there, always ready to protect us; in fact if the bible were being written today, any biblical writer would embed that video. Of course that is exactly the point of faith. The bible is still being written today. In the UCC we say, “God is Still Speaking.” Or as the great theologian Gracie Allen wrote in a letter to her beloved husband, George Burns, which was opened and read after her death, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.”

Then there was another “loveable animal video” that went viral this week. It was the story of a mother bear in Kootenay National Park, Canada. Her cub jumped a “K-rail” and ended up on the on-coming traffic side of a highway in the park (see the picture below). Momma bear reached over the rail and grabbed the little one by the scruff of his neck and brought him safely to the other side of the rail and back into the forest.

As I reflect on these two “animal stories” I’m somewhat perplexed by the fact that we can find such warmth and compassion in animals, but not in God or people. You do not have to be a social scientist to know that people’s value of other people is dropping at an alarming rate. Far more often, people expect others to be critical or judging of them than to be loving or kind.

The same attitudes hold true for God. I’m not sure how God went from being gracious, kind and loving, to being harsh, cruel and punishing, but those latter characteristics seem to be the dominant impression of God today.

The Gospel this Sunday is the story of “The Lost Sheep.” It’s an amazing story through which Jesus tells a group of religious leaders who just don’t want to give up on their harsh, cruel, punishing image of God, that God is not that way. Jesus tries to open their hearts and minds with a parable – a form of communication for his day, which is much like a you-tube video that goes viral for us today. In this story a shepherd realizes that one of his 100 sheep has gotten separated from the flock (lost). The shepherd leaves the other 99 behind and goes looking for the one lost sheep. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, s/he picks up the sheep and carries it back to the flock. Everyone rejoices that the lost sheep has been found.

Of course the parable isn’t about sheep; it’s about you and me!   It’s about how God loves and reaches out to include everyone in the flock – God’s gathered community.

As I reflect on the message of the cat and bear videos of the past week, I think most of us are more likely to believe that God is more like the attack dog than the cat or mamma bear. Why is that?

Blessings to you,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Matthew 18: 1-6, 10-14

The parable of the lost sheep

The disciples came up to Jesus with the question, “Who is the greatest in the kindom of heaven?” Jesus called for a little child to come and stand among them. Then Jesus said, “The truth is, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kindom of heaven. Those who make themselves as humble as this child are the greatest in the kindom of heaven.

Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But those who would cause any of these little ones who believe in me to stumble would be better off thrown into the sea with millstones around their necks.

Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! Stumbling blocks are inevitable, but woe to those through whom they come!

See to it that you never despise one of these little ones, for I swear that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of our Loving God.

What do you think? Suppose a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them strays away – won’t the shepherd leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? If the shepherd finds it, the truth is, there is more joy over the one found than over the ninety-nine that didn’t stray. In the same way, it is never the will of our Loving God in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

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