Saturday, March 21, 2009

They Were Me

I was reading in scripture last week and came across a familiar verse, Matthew 15:8, and it reminded me of a song I had written quite a few years ago. Even though I had not thought of that song in ages, the words and music came flooding back to me, and it sounded fresh and relevant to my mind's ears. Here are the lyrics:

They Were Me

I read their stories in the Book You wrote:
Teachers of the Law and Pharisees.
"These people honor Me with their lips,
but their hearts--their hearts are far from Me."

And I hated them,
'cause they shoulda knew.
Oh, I hated them
for what they did to You.
I hated them
with my self-righteous ire,
never knowing they were me--
they were me.

Hebrew children in the wilderness--
You showed mercy to them while they were slaves.
Moses led them to the Promised Land,
but they rebelled against You all the way.

And I hated them
For their idolatry
Oh, I hated them
'cause they did not believe.
I hated them
with what I thought was holy fire,
never knowing they were me--
they were me.

Jesus, for Your mercy now I plead,
like the Psalmist in his darkest day:
"Please create a clean heart within me,
please don't take Your Holy Spirit away."

I hated them,
because they brought You shame.
Oh, I hated them,
and then I did the same.
I looked down on them
from my point of pride,
until You showed me they were me--
they were me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Regarding Parables

(It would be helpful if, before you read the sermon that follows, you take a moment to read Matthew 13:1-17.)

Most of the time, when we gather to hear a sermon, what we receive generally falls into one of two categories. Either we receive instruction about how to make the principles of the gospel practical in our day-to-day lives, or we are given some kind of teaching designed to help us understand some of the more obscure points of doctrine or theology. On a good day we get both.

What our preachers and teachers do for us is take the tough, hard-to-swallow pieces of our religion, grind them up for us and spit them back out in little, easy-to-digest portions that we can more readily handle as our own spiritual food. (I know this doesn't sound too flattering or appealing.)

Think of a nest full of baby birds. The mother bird flies down to the earth and nabs a worm, partially digests it, and then flies back to the nest, where she regurgitates it into the throats of her children, and they receive the nourishment they need.

Don't get stalled by the analogy. The point is, when we hear a sermon, we are usually getting something that has been designed to help us understand the finer points of religion, something that has been carefully prepared to increase the understanding of all who hear.

That is not how Jesus preached.