July 5, 2011

Sermon on Proper 9A

You can listen here, or read below.

I don't understand my own actions - office equipment edition

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” With these words, Paul speaks a universal truth beyond something any preacher could dream to muster. He speaks the truth about himself, about the rest of the Apostles, about the early Church, and about you and me. Sometimes, we all do the very things we hate. Sometimes, I don't do what I want to do. Sometimes, I don't understand my own actions.
Take this week as an example. As the only one in the office this week, I had the distinct pleasure of being not just the Associate Rector while the big wheel was out of town, but I also had the dreaded task of filling in for the parish secretary. Keith being gone is one thing, but Karla leaving means at least a dozen extra items on my weekly to-do list. And that dozen multiplied at about 10:30 on Wednesday morning when the copier went down. Error Code C7300. So, I turned the machine off, per the instructions on the machine's screen, let it cool down and tried again. Ten copies later, Error Code C7300. And so, I bit the bullet and called our service contractor. “No problem,” they said, “we'll get someone out there shortly.” “Sounds good,” I responded, and twenty-nine hours later, a technician finally arrived.
“I don't know these machines very well,” is how the interaction between the tech and me began, and somehow things went downhill from there. Seems our friendly neighborhood copier service was bought out by a mega-office-soluitons company, and this nice man was from the big boys regional office because all of the techs from the old company were out servicing other machines. They assumed, I suppose, that I would be glad for the prompt and courteous service. A dubious assumption on their part. Anyway, the tech thought the C7300 code was a toner code, but t make sure he called on the the guys who was too busy to come out and see me. He was right, and thanks be to God, we actually had extra toner. With his phone tucked between his shoulder and his head, the nice man proceeded to fumble through figuring out how to removed the old toner cartridge, finding the power switch, and asking the guy on the other end if he had to shake the new cartridge.
Somewhere in there, I cam to realize that prompt courteous service, while nice (and in not actually a reality in this particular case) would be a whole lot more effective if it were simply knowledgeable service. Anyway, he made a few copies, instructed me to call the office to order more toner and headed off to his next service call at a place, quote “he'd never heard of before.”
I went back to attempting to print today's bulletin, when ten or so copies in... you guessed it... Error Code C7300. And here's where this rubber on this long, rambling story, hits the road. Here's where I did what I didn't want to do, the very thing I hate. Here's where the parts of my personality that I can't understand come to the fore. I called up the help desk again, calmly explained to them that the nice man they had sent clearly didn't have a clue what he was doing, and then sat behind Karla's desk a stewed over his incompetence for what felt like an hour.
“O God, you have taught us to keep your commandments by loving you and our neighbor...” That's the way our Prayer for Today begins. We know, O Lord, that we can live up to everything you expect of us if we could just love you and love our neighbor. It is that simple. The yoke is so easy. The burden is so light. And yet. And yet, over and over and over again I fail to love God and I fail at loving my neighbor and I find myself, metaphorically, sitting at Karla's desk, stewing in my own contempt over something that in the grand scheme of things, doesn't matter at all. It is in those moments that Paul's rhetorical question in verse twenty-four come to a head in my life, “who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Our prayer continues, “give us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection...” Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The burdens we carry are as different as each one of us. Grief, guilt, illness, fear, depression, contempt, anxiety, stress, addiction – the list goes on and on. The world continuously ties new weights upon our shoulders until we can barely stand under the strain, and then, we heap some more upon ourselves, just for good measure. We are told, even in Scripture, that suffering produces endurance, but most of the time, this sort of suffering only leads to broken relationships between us and God and us and our neighbors.
Jesus can take those self-imposed and world-imposed burdens from our shoulders. He longs to replace them with the easy yoke of his Gospel, if only we would let him. I know I want rest for my soul, but instead, for reasons I can't understand, I choose instead to sit at a desk and fume over some poor copier repair guy who got dropped into an unfortunate situation. I honestly don't understand my own actions.
What about you? What burdens have you heaped upon yourself? What loads have you allowed the world, your work, your family, your church to place upon your shoulders? What are you yoked to that is pulling you away from God and toward fear, contempt, guilt and sin? In Follow the Word this morning, the children are making mobile, just like this one. At the top is a cartoon Jesus, hand extended. He's carrying a barbell, a boulder, and an anchor. He's carrying a lot of weight, to be sure, but he words written next to him are all the weight we need to worry about. “Jesus carries my burdens for me.” No matter how much junk you've heaped upon yourself, Jesus is strong enough to carry it for you. Just hand it over to him. Lift it up one more time so that he can take it away. As Paul says, in response to his own rhetorical question, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Handing your weighty garbage over to Jesus doesn't mean it will all go away and life will be all hunky-dorry. There will still be stresses, struggles, and trials. What handing them over does mean, however, is that you won't have to go through it alone. You'll have the God of all Creation, the Son of Redemption, and the Spirit of Sanctification there to help. And, perhaps just as importantly, you'll have the community of the faithful there to walk wit you as well. Sure, we can't necessarily help carry anything for you, since we've all got our own loads to bear, but we can surely walk alongside, encouraging, praying, and being a friend and neighbor in the meantime.
Now to be sure, when you hand it all over to God today, new stuff will come down the pike tomorrow. Perhaps an adaptation of today's Collect might be fruitful as a prayer for when your feet his the floor in the morning. Almighty God, thank you for the gift of another day. Thank you for the promise of an easy yoke and light burdens. Grant us the grace of your Spirit, O God, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart (without any of the garbage there to get in the way). Grant us the grace of your Spirit, that we may be united to one another in pure affection (loving one another even in the midst of the messes we create). Grant us the grace of your Spirit to hand it over, to lift it up, to give it away so that we might find rest for our souls and serve you worthily to the honor and glory of your name. Amen.

No comments: