When the "Have's" become the "Have-not's" - As Seen on Sunday
God our Father,
You created us, formed us, you gave us life.
We are your handiwork, you knit us together in our mother's womb.
You placed your Spirit in us, you made us in your image.
We respond in praise for what you have done for us
You are the potter and we are the clay. You make us and mold us.
We, your creation, long for Your grace and forgiveness.
You, our Creator, are gracious and have forgiven us. Amen.
The alarm wakes the sleeping family. In the semi-awake, adrenaline filled fuzz of a disturbed night’s sleep the smell of smoke is detected by a startled mother. Dad throws off the covers and blindly reaches for his glasses. Putting them on brings The truth bring into a heart-wrenching focus. Something is on fire!
Both parents immediately stumble toward the door - still trying to process the terabytes of information being absorbed in their semi-conscious state. Just as they reach for the door it opens to reveal tow terrified children who were also startled by the alarm and the smoke that was currently billowing into to the master bedroom.
Embracing her children the mother asks, the only logical question, “How do we get out of here?”
They hadn’t planned for this. There was no emergency evacuation route and they certainly didn’t have an extra ladder hiding in the closet. They would have to make a run for it, rather, they would have to make a crawl for it. On hands and knees, the huddled formation weaved its way through hallways and staircases until they reached the basement’s side exit.
With a liberating swoosh, the sliding door opened and the first gasping breaths of fresh air filled the 4 sets of lungs. Yes, it hurt to breathe, but the pain at least lets them know that they were still alive.
As emergency response vehicles made their way up the winding, inclined driveway the family sat on the lawn and watched as fire claimed everything they knew, everything they were.
Once they had a home, a safe haven, storage for their possessions, and a testament to their hard work. A home is more than just a shelter. It is a signal to the world of your identity.
And now it was all gone.
The Have’s, in just one night, became the have not’s.
How we determine our identity
We have been taught that our identity is wrapped up in three things:
- What we do (profession)
- What we have (possessions)
- What we strive for (passion)
And for most, not all, but most of us in America we have it pretty good. We are able to pursue pathways that will help us procure our personal vision of the optimal self-identity.
Simply stated we have more opportunities in this country to pursue becoming the best versions of ourselves - a definition that is fittingly supplied by ourselves.
Even if we strike out on one of these - not everyone can work their dream job, we can easily supplement our identity with surrounding ourselves with stuff we like and activities that we like to do.
As they say, two-out-of-three ain't bad.
Little do we realize, that this has a major effect on how we follow and worship Jesus.
A Theology of the "Have's"
If you have it all, or if you have enough and just want more, than it is our natural response to protect it.
Sean and I sat at lunch this week and scratched our heads over how some pastors can simultaneously claim to want to grow the kingdom of God but will fight tooth-and-nail to keep a church from the same denomination from opening up close by.
Christian turf wars are weird.
But, we concluded something that may be wiser than we realized at this juncture of our lives: we've got nothing to protect, so what temptations is it to keep away any "threats."
We are taught by our American culture to conquer, claim, and conserve. It seeps into our theology and our worship.
And because we have so much we have a reason to celebrate. We have a reason to feel secure. We are white Christians in America, after all. We are definitely "have's"
Walter Brueggemann teaches us about the Theology of the "Have's":
We should be in total agreement with his assessment. Churches who lean predominately white middle class lead the way in celebratory worship. Can we name more than a handful of popular church music leaders who aren't white?
But I digress...
Because we have benefitted from the pursuit of profession, possession, and passion we want to keep it that way. We eliminate honest discussion of sin and suffering, because - Ain't nobody got time for that.
Then tragedy strikes.
The Jews lost more than a place to live
The city of Jerusalem represented the identity of the Jews in much the same way that Washington DC represents Americans. How the world views the District is how the world views the people of the States.
Jerusalem was a powerful and wealthy city.
It had political clout.
Most of all it held the reputation for being the dwelling place of Jehovah God - the God of Gods. And this isn't a self-ascribed, Christian-centric opinion.
The surrounding nations had all lost battles to the Israelites. Each nation had their god whom they worshiped. Each nation looked to their god for victory in battle. Since the Israelite's continued to win their battles, it was assumed that Jehovah God reigned as God supreme.
Jerusalem was the embodiment of the Promise that God had made to His people. It had been established as God's Promised land - a gift that represented freedom, establishment, and abundant provision.
So when Jerusalem fell it symbolized the loss of freedom, establishment, and God's favor. The very things that set them apart from other nations - that made them unique - now was gone.
Today we claim that if we could just attain those three things then our lives would be full and complete.
The lesson from the Jews teach us something very different. They were victors with the spoils - both of which were provided by God's miraculous hand. They had it all and yet it was still not enough.
In our "uniqueness" as a "Christian" nation (a nomenclature I would call into question), we are walking the same path as the Jews. God is not enough for us. We pay it lip service, but our rat-raced, prejudice, anti-Kingdom of God actions scream otherwise.
Lord! Have mercy!
The Response of Losing it All
Through God's grace we have never gone through a devastation like the fall of Jerusalem. But we have each lost something that has dinged and dented our identity.
It happens when children are first introduced to lies and betrayals. When teenager's face rejection. When young couples face their first serious relationship roadblocks. When our parents get ill. When we grow old and begin to face our mortality.
Each "life event" chips away at the identity we have built for ourselves.
And that is the trap we must avoid - thinking we have built all this for ourselves.
We learn to exclude God from our triumphs. We break our covenant with him. Yet he still keeps his covenant with us. Even if that means destroying our sinful identities.