April 27, 2020 “Escape to Reality”

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

An elderly man, who is quarantined because of the Pandemic, tries to distract himself by surfing the internet and watching television.  It does not take long to become fatigued by the news.  Old movies are a comfort while you watch them, but they leave you with a feeling of unreality.  After a while, the man tries to read a book while listening to music.  That can be good for a few hours, but his eyes get weary.  Fortunately, he gets a phone call from an old friend, but the friend is having the same sort of day.  It is good to hear a human voice and it is good to be heard, but they mostly commiserate until they move on to shared memories.  Then things get much better.  Their conversation doesn’t have much to do with anything but pleasant memories about people.  They are not like the stories that are told on the news or portrayed in movies.  They talk of fishing trips, their old neighborhood, and how different members of the family are doing.

By the end of the conversation, the elderly man is feeling better.  He has taken a step away from the world as it is presented to him in the news and TV shows.  This dose of reality takes him away from the anger and despair that “screens and boxes” give him.  He looks to his list of phone numbers to see who he might call.

The man wouldn’t put it this way, but he is trying to step outside of something bigger than “the media.”  He is trying to step out of our current culture where money is a god and everything is for sale.  Even though he is isolated, he has rediscovered his need and hunger for talk with regular people.  This is a value of fellowship.

Sadly, the man won’t turn to prayer or reading his dusty copy of the Bible because the culture has tried to redefine God and Jesus for its own purposes.   God seems to be on the side of all sorts of violence, anger, and fear.  On screens and boxes, people who talk about God usually want to sell you something.

But God is different than the gods of the media.  Jesus is different than the Jesus of our culture.

If you look at the ten commandments (listed in Exodus 20), you can easily draw a simple picture of a person who obeys all of them.  The person would be loyal to God, they would worship without idols, and they would use God’s name respectfully.   They would observe the Sabbath and honor their parents.  They would be non-violent, faithful in relationships, and they would be satisfied with their own possessions.   They would speak the truth and be free of envy.

This view of righteousness is often under attack in our culture.  Loyalties are often split and we are encouraged to worship money and the things it can buy.  We are encouraged to be busy seven days a week with work and play.  We belong to groups that misuse God’s name (as if they had his support).  We are often encouraged to resolve conflict with violence.  We are told “love stories” that make light of unfaithful behavior.  We avoid speaking the truth for fear of losing our jobs, our friends, or our status in the community.  But mostly we are encouraged to envy and to covet so we will support businesses and the Economy (another rival god).

If you only look so far as the Beatitudes (in Matthew 5) you see that Jesus is quite different than the Jesus who is usually advertised.

 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:   “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

We can see where Jesus’ sympathies rest.  He is on the side of the poor and those who have suffered loss.  Jesus is on the side of humble people and those who yearn for what is good and right.  Jesus is on the side of merciful people and people who are committed seekers of the truth.   Jesus is on the side of people who end war.  Jesus is on the side of people who are being persecuted.

This is not to say that we should be persecuted and poor, but if we are not those things, Jesus still wants us to be merciful people who work to end war, persecution, and all the other ills of the world.

The real world needs the real Jesus.

We need to step back to Jesus… who is the Lamb of God and the Prince of Peace.  We need to share the truth because there are people who are starving for it.

We need to step away from screens and boxes and talk to real people who can bring us away from the atmosphere of anger and despair.

Keep talking to real people, take a walk outside if you can, and consider the goodness of something real that you can hear, see, touch, taste, or smell.   Reality is better than the culture of boxes and screens.

Blessings,

Pastor Rick