Sunday, March 3, 2013

Manure - Luke 13:1-9

HO! LO! We’ve got HO and LO in our out! We’ve got manure in our story: Watch out! Ready to get a little dirty! Stinky! I see two types of manure in our passage from Luke, horse manure and rabbit manure.
     The first type I’m saying is suggested by the text. This type of manure describes the approach, the attitude, people often have to the reality of tragedy in life. We’re going to call this type of manure, horse manure. Bob Marshall’s theory as to why horse manure gets such a bad wrap is because back when people and horses shared common routes, people would frequently step in horse manure and say, Awe Horse....Poooh. Good theory... to suggest a bad type of manure... Feel free to replace horse with bull. And you may even replace manure with.... pucky.. what did you think I was going to say?
    The second kind of manure is like a rabbit Manure. Urban Farmer Novella Carpenter points out that not only is rabbit manure really good stuff, but it can go straight from the rabbit onto edible plants without harmful side-effects... unlike most manure which has to decompose a bit.. good manure. Rabbit manure.. You may replace manure...with...another word...starts with an “s”... “scat” What did you think I was going to say? Rabbit scat.

Part 1: Horse Manure:
Our passage from Luke starts off by raising the classic existentialist question: Why do tragic things happen? The problem of evil. If God is all powerful and God is all loving - Why does God allow for tragedies? And even more to the point, tragedies happen, manure happens, and when it does often it is said that victims of tragic events have received God’s judgment. To this kind of thinking Jesus says (implies): "Horse Manure." In our passage, some people come to Jesus--point out that a certain group of people - Galileans--were done in by Pilate...and ..."they deserved it right Jesus, Right! It was because they had done this bad thing, right!"
What did Jesus said in response? "Awe, Horse Manure. Bull pucky! Do you think they deserved this because they were worse than others! That kind of wrong-headedness is a load of manure!" Jesus goes on to say: "So long as you think that way, judging people from the tragedies they suffer... when the day comes that tragedy befalls you...people are going to judge you, too."
"Ok Jesus, but what about the tower... you know the one that collapsed right on top of those 18 people... Surely they did something wrong...right! They had to have been bad people right?!"
"AWE Horse manure! You think they were worse than others? Bull pucky." Jesus goes on to say: "So long as you think that way, judging people from the tragedy they suffer... when the day comes that tragedy befalls you...people are going to judge you, too."
Here Jesus once again is talking about one of our favorite pass-times: Judging people.... Basically, Jesus is saying:
- we are not to parse who are the really bad sinners and the not so bad sinner--EVER.
- We are not to assume that tragedy befalls people because of particular faults or traits or decisions they’ve made...EVER!
- and the real nugget of wisdom: when we no longer judge, we no longer fear the judgment of others or even divine judgment.  Still, WE judge, God weeps....
Here we go: HO! A litany of horse manure... I say the event, and if you think it’s wrong-headed rationale, you may say or shout horse manure or some other variation of the concept ready:
- Judging tragedy as a cause and effect helps us to understand: Horse manure.
- Judging tragedy may relieve us of guilt in some strange way? Horse manure
- bad things happen to bad people because they deserve it; and bad things happen to good people because...well the world is just not fair.
- When bad stuff doesn’t happen to us it’s because we’re pretty good! Horse MANURE!
If I suffer a tragedy it’s because of a sin from my past. HORSE MANURE
If something terrible has happened to me it’s because of a sin of my father: HORSE MANURE
my mother? HORSE MANURE
An ancestor's sin? HORSE MANURE
My child was born with down syndrome: God’s judgement on some wrong thing the mother or the father did: HORSE MANURE
- A hurricane tears a city apart - surely it was because it is a sinful city - HORSE MANURE
- A homeless person... must have made some bad decisions in his life...he deserves it... HORSE MANURE
- A rape victim...what was she wearing? HORSE MANURE
- THe victims of Newtown.... no one even dares go there with this line of horse manure thinking...the rationale completely breaks down.
Tragically, there are so many examples of this. Do any of you remember who Viola Liuzzo was? Her story was retold this past week in light of the voting rights act that’s being challenged in the Supreme Court. A white woman who had spent some years growing up in the segregated south, who, when she was 39, went down to Selma, Alabama to participate in marches and a carpool program helping those in the movement get from place to place... One day she was driving a 19 yr old black man on a winding, isolated road outside Selma, they were ambushed, and Liuzzo was shot to death by a car of four Ku Klux Klansmen. Liuzzo's murder became international news. And, it turns out people had little sympathy for Liuzzo. Hate mail flooded her family's Detroit home, accusing her of being a deranged communist. C rosses were burned in front of the home. Her husband had to hire armed guards to protect his family. A Ladies' Home Journal magazine questioned right after Liuzzo's death its what kind of woman would leave her family for a civil rights demonstration? In the aftermath of this tragedy, the majority of people said she had brought death on herself. And the perpetrators were initially acquitted Turns out, one of the four in the car was an FBI informant, and the FBI had to cover itself-- so the FBI leaked misinformation to the press, which soon began writing stories questioning Liuzzo's mental health and her morality. “It was horrible,” Her adult daughter Penny recalled.
What do we say? Horse manure!
Jesus says stop it!
HO! My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts says the Lord! LO! Here we go! Part 2: Rabbit Manure.
If you’re looking for a way to respond to suffering... maybe instead of judge Jesus suggests we A parable. A fig tree is no longer producing.. but it’s not dead. “Pull it up, says the landowner, it’s just taking up space! “But, wait,” the sympathetic the farm worker says, “Don’t give up on it just yet.... It just needs a little diggin... and a little manure.. Rabbit manure and then, maybe then it will produce fruit.” A parable as simple as it is short. We only have a certain amount of time to live. DO we produce fruit while we live? Once life is over we can’t produce fruit anymore. Yes we can think fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as individuals and/or as a community... are we bearing fruit? In the context of this passage, when we are judgmental, we may have trouble producing fruit. During this season of lent, maybe we need to cover ourselves in a little rabbit manure... This may help to humble us - to repent --. I think, by calling us to repent of our judgmental ways, Jesus is calling us to achieve a higher consciousness... by taking a position of lowliness, humility, and compassion in the face of tragedy.
You may think you are right when in fact you are wrong.
You may think you know, when in fact you do not know repent.
Do not judge. Love. Rabbit manure wisdom.
Two rabbit manure stories:
The story of Reverend Carlson Pearson is fascinating, maybe controversial? Carlson Pearson calls himself Oral Robert’s black son, because he’s black and because Oral Roberts took Pearson under his wing as Pearson was up and coming in ministry. As a result Pearson became “a rising evangelical megastar. - A Republican activist who prayed in the Bush Sr. White House, - a guest on The 700 Club, - host of a national TV show, - he traveled all over the world in chartered jets lecturing to fundamentalist gatherings.” [from]: “he’s at the top of his game. but something didn't feel right. Carlton had always preached a pretty conventional evangelical theology, which centered in large part around Hell-- the ultimate tragedy that will happen to people, who deserve it-- Hell, a horrible place, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for eternity, and the only way to avoid it was to accept Jesus. But then, one evening in front of the television, in the late 90. Pearson recalls: “I was watching the evening news. The Hutus and Tutus were returning from Rwanda to Uganda. My nine month old little girl was in my lap. I'm eating, and I'm watching these little kids with swollen bellies. It looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeletal remains. Their hair is kind of red from malnutrition. The babies, they've got flies in the corners of their eyes and of their mouths. And they reach for their mother's breast, and there's no milk. And I’m sitting there, with my little fat-faced baby, a plate of food, and a big-screen television. I said God, I don't know how you can call yourself a loving, sovereign God and allow these people to suffer this way and just suck them right into Hell, which is what was my assumption. Here’s where we can interject...what kind of thinking is that: Horse Manure! But let’s try some rabbit manure wisdom: Pearson continues his story: I heard a voice say within me, "So that's what you think we're doing?" I said, "That's what I've been taught." "We're sucking them into Hell?" I said, "Yes." "And what would change that?" asked the voice. "Well, they need to get saved." "And how would that happen?" "Well, somebody needs to preach the Gospel to them and get them saved." "So,” the voice inside says, “if you think that's the only way they're going to get saved is for somebody to preach the Gospel to them and that we're sucking them into Hell, why don't you put your little baby down, turn your big-screen television off, push your plate away, get on the first thing smoking, and go get them saved?" And I remember I broke into tears. I remember thinking, God, don't put that guilt on me. You know I've given you the best 40 years of my life. Besides, I can't save the whole world. I'm doing the best I can. And that's where Pearson, believes God was saying to him, "Precisely. You can't save this world. That's what we did. Do you think we're sucking them into Hell? Can't you see they're already there? That's Hell. You keep creating and inventing that for yourselves [and then you judge them.] I'm taking them into My presence."
- See more on Pearson here.
Repentance...moving from judgment to humility From a position of horse manure thinking to rabbit manure, wisdom:
Last story: We go back to the story of Viola Liuzzo’s daughter, Penny.... people have smeared her mother’s memory, and tormented her family. Penny has become terribly bitter And she carries this bitterness with her for many years... ...producing little to no fruit of love. But a little rabbit manure wisdom: When Penny gave birth to her first son, she resolved not to let her anger infect her boys. "How can you be a good mom and be hateful?" she says. "Adults who grow up prejudiced -- how did they learn that? Their parents were role models. You have to be a living example.'' Penny got her chance to be a living example with an unexpected encounter in court. During her family's suit against the government, Penny was giving a deposition when she encountered Eugene Thomas, one of the men arrested for the murder of her mother. Penny was sitting in a waiting room when Thomas walked into the room. At first, he just stood there and said nothing as he looked at her, Then he asked her, "Can you forgive me?" Penny paused. Then she said, "Yeah, I do." Thomas' shoulders relaxed, and relief seemed to wash over his face. "Thank you," he said. Then he turned and walked out of the room. When asked why she would so readily forgive the man who participated in the killing of her mother. Penny said she felt sorry for Thomas. He looked like he was in agony. "I didn't hesitate. I could see the look on his face. I'm not out to crush people. Everybody lives with their own torture.'' Everybody lives with their own torture...
Rabbit manure wisdom... bringing health and nutrition... healing and wholeness.

Let us pray: God, enrich our lives...with some good manure... Cleanse us from that horse manure: guilt, judg, bitterness, anger, resentment, hatred... Cover us in that good manure so that we may produce fruit... love, compassion, now and always; in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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