February 22, 2009

god of not enough... go away! - sermon for last epiphany

Our lessons for today tell the story of two gods. The first is a god that most of us know too well. This is the god Paul calls, the god of this world that is very intentionally begun with a lowercase "g". This god a blogger friend of mine calls, ""The toughest meanest lower case god ... the "god of not good enough" who offers all sorts of [flattery, promises, and cures] to assist you in becoming "good enough" through his 12 disciples: Success! Fame! Popularity! McMansions! This year's model! Thin! Beauty! And of course Addiction! Alienation! Cynicism! Fear of failure! And, last but not least, Greed.
"The god of not good enough always needs one more tithe. One more drink. One more new car. ... He seems to have a pulpit on every corner, every magazine cover, and every TV show. Maybe your mother or father was a follower, a priest even, and laid the gospel of "not enough" at your bedside every single day.
"It is very hard to see the good news offered by the other God, capital G, when following the god of not good enough. ... Because if you are blind to your own worth and value, you cannot understand how God could love you. His high priests tell you that you are worthless but that there is a new drug/iPod/Mac/car/job/liquor that will help you to finally be good enough, smart enough, lovable enogh. But of course it doesn't, it won't and it can't. There is always one more thing you have to do to earn your worth in the Church of Not Enough."
I know the god of not enough. I've spent a lot of time seeking his approval. I spent three years serving him in the church, in particular. Not that the church I served pressured me for more, but I pressured myself; more kids, more programs, more fun, more, more, more. Then one evening, seven years ago, I finally figured out that the god I was serving was the god of not enough.
One of the weaknesses of my personality is that I am emotionally underdeveloped; rarely will you see me show my emotions, and even more rarely am I able to express them. So, in those moments when I am in tune with my emotions, I really have to pay attention to them to figure out what is different. One of those times where my emotions just would not stay hidden was during my last official act as youth minister at St. Thomas' Church in Lancaster. We had taken a dozen or so kids on a mission trip to North Carolina during my last week, and at the program that finished up our time together, I came unglued. All of a sudden these kids were transfigured before my eyes.
Next to creating the Those Who Serve list, the job most vulnerable to the god of not enough is youth minister. You work with kids while hormones are raging, while independence is being fought for, while life is literally changing by the minute. It is often easier to see progress in terms of numbers rather than depth of relationship. It is, at times, nearly impossible to see that they might actually be responding to the work you've put so much effort into. On that night, however, I saw the glory of God in each of those kids. I was blessed to see the face of Christ looking back at me, even in the most frustrating kid. I met the second God from our lessons that night. I met God, with a capitol "G".
Peter, James, and John walked up a hill with a guy they knew. They knew Jesus well. Peter had just six days earlier called him "The Messiah." They got that there was something special about this man. They had dropped everything they owned to follow him. They had heard his teaching. They had seen him cast out demons. They saw a little girl come back to life. They fed five thousand people with five loaves and a couple fish. Peter, James, and John walked up a hill with a guy they knew well, but the god they were following in their hearts was still the god of not enough. In an instant on top of that mountain, they met Jesus face-to-face and saw who he really was; God. God with a capital G.
Eight-hundred years earlier Elisha met the LORD - capital L, capital O, capital R, and capital D - face-to-face because he refused to let his mentor, Elijah, leave him behind. Elisha followed him from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan - in the neighborhood of 50 miles of walking - not a short walk - because he knew that something special was going to happen. He knew that Elijah's spirit was in tune with the LORD's, and wanted a double portion of it. Together they walked on dry land through the Jordan River. Elisha watched as his friend rose to heaven on the chariot of fire. Elisha desired to meet the real LORD face-to-face, and so he sought after him relentlessly.
Paul had met our capital G God face-to-face on the road to Damascus. A couple of decades later, in his second letter to the Church in Corinth , he made his case for the church to get out of its own way and so that the unknowing could come to know God. He knew the power of the god - lower case g - of this world. The god of deception who blinds the minds of unbelievers. Paul's message was, "let them meet God - capital G - face-to-face.
Which god have you met face-to-face? Have you met the god of not enough? Do you spend your days striving to meet somebody else's dream for you? Or, have you met the LORD - all caps - of Israel? Have you met God - capital G - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Have you had your transfiguration moment? Where the veil of deceit was lifted away and you were finally able to see the world as it really is - the way it was meant to be?
Maybe your epiphany hasn't come just yet. That's OK. We're here to help you find it. Maybe this Lent will be your chance to pick away at the veil of this world so that you can finally meet God - the God of freedom, release, redemption, and renewal - face-to-face.
Seven years ago, I told the god of not enough that it was time for him to leave. For the first time, I was able to see that the God of abundance was working through me, even when I couldn't see the progress. My eyes were opened that night and the world was, if only for a moment, the way God intended it to be. My prayer for you this day, and throughout the upcoming season of Lent, is that you might get a glimpse, however fleeting, of the world as God meant it for you. May your veil be lifted and your world transfigured. Amen.


Roshi Doshi said...


spankey said...

thank you! and thanks again for your great post that put it all together for me