A week ago Friday, Deanne and I awoke at 3:30am in order to get to the airport for a 6:00am flight to California to see our daughter Meg. As you can imagine we were very excited. So, when we got to the counter and were told that our flight was cancelled due to weather in Chicago, we were, to put it mildly, disappointed. We were desperate enough to head down the concourse to another airline to price other flights. United’s $1,600 per seat, slapped us into reality!So we went home and tried the best we could to have a regular Friday “as if” nothing out of the ordinary had happened; we worked out, shopped, relaxed and got prepared for waking up again, on Saturday at 3:30am. We did indeed fly out on Saturday and had a lovely time – too short, but wonderful nevertheless.
Of course this very minor inconvenience pales in comparison to the many other disappointments, devastations, and horrors that occur that force us to change plans, re-calibrate, re-evaluate, and chose how to face the day.
The aftershocks of Newtown continue and now the 2nd Boston massacre. Once again the taken for granted joyful moments are shattered, lives are crushed, and we squint into the blinding opaqueness. You get tired and dulled. Tired and dulled of trying to be faithful, trying to work for justice, for sensible gun control, for food for the hungry, for education, health care for all; Tired that we ease the inconvenience of those who travel through airports but not mothers with hungry children. And perhaps you are on the other side of these issues – I know you get tired too, for working for what you believe in. And we all get tired of the rhetoric.
No wonder many feel edgy and unsure, suspicious. No wonder many lose a sense of wonder and become cynical and partisan. No wonder some hunker down in fear.
Each one of us chooses how to interpret the events of life. And we live “as if” we are on the slippery slope to destruction, or “as if” something else is stirring, despite the evidence.
There is a lovely scene in the Lord of the Rings where Frodo is weighed down by this ring that hold evil power. He says: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” But then Gandalf, the wise wizard responds: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”
Jesus calls you and me to a heroic life – one that is shaped by the “other forces at work in the world, besides the will of evil.” We must put on the whole armor of God and live “as if” we are more than conquerors through him who loves us; “AS IF” there is still a goal to be reached, a hope to be inspired by, a love to share, a reality that is beneath, and beyond any temporary reality that often stops us in our tracks. It is a heroic way that runs in defiance of temporal wisdom.
Jesus is to be killed. Judas had set the trap. With this reality hovering. Jesus gives a new commandment: “That you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciple.”(13:34-35)
Extraordinary! Think of one person you have a problem with and act “as if” you love them as dearly as your own friend.
Peter is up against the old ways: Jews v. Gentiles, circumcised v. uncircumcised, clean v. unclean. “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”(11:3)
Unbelievable! In coffee hour this morning, make sure a stranger feels welcomed. Break down some barrier.
The prayer of St. Francis is so powerful:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
You may receive no short term reward for your compassion. But living “as if” changes everything. You and I must choose to act this way, everyday.
In Revelation chapter 21 we read how it will be, can be, is (the tenses are all mixed up) – a new heaven and a new earth; God will dwell with us. God will wipe every tear, death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more…” To the thirsty I will give water…” (21:3,6)
We think that faith in Jesus gives us answers but the faith of Jesus gives us attitude, an orientation, we live ‘as if’ because we trust that God has the final word, and the final word is love.
It is not self-evident, until we experience it: community, forgiveness, fellowship, hospitality, food and drink. It is not self evident until you and I create what we envision based on this trust.
You know about the Greek mythological hero Prometheus. He was a Titan who was credited for creating humanity out of clay and stealing fire from the gods. He had faith in humans and trusted them with the power to create. Zeus, to punish him, binds Prometheus to a rock. Every day an eagle feeds on Prometheus’ liver.
Percy B. Shelly in his “Prometheus Unbound” has his hero defiant declaring to the gods that he will:
…suffer woes which hope thinks infinite
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night
To defy power, which seems omnipotent
To love and to bear
To hope ‘til hope creates from its own wreck
The thing it contemplates.
This my friends is our heroic, Christian task – to defy the odds, and defy the human gods and the minor deities. Living “as if” – not in denial – but in full clarity that God calls to us another way.
One of my heroes was my grandmother. I remember her often now that I am older. In her old age, she awoke, bathed and dressed beautifully. She said her prayers. She took her walk and greeted everyone. Grandmother didn’t have a choice about age and mortality. But she chose how to meet each day “as if” it were full of surprises and relationships and joys.
And it starts now for you and for me, at this table, with bread and cup. We do not give up. We live “as if” because we trust that God’s promises are true. And so we lean towards the glorious goal and create from our own wreck the things we most deeply contemplate.