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You Can Run…

FCC (DOC), Bellingham


October 10, 2018

Scripture: Hebrews 4:12-16

We’ve been greatly concerned, of late, about earthly judges. And

rightly so. Depending upon their nature, their personal moral code, they can

do a lot of good or they can do a lot of harm. But, today’s scripture takes us

beyond those people who sit on benches here on earth.

This scripture considers the one who judges, as the book of

Ecclesiastes says, the righteous and the wicked. (Ecc. 3:17) This judge

sees beyond the surface of our words and deeds and sees directly into the

whys and wherefores of what we do.

As children, we’re taught that God is always watching us. As adults,

we may be more likely to brush that off, as we go about our merry ways.

Sure, God’s watching, but I’m a pretty good person. I make some mistakes,

but, overall, I do okay.

We may not focus much on God as our judge, unless, of course,

we’re thinking about Judgement Day and that moment when we have to

face our final reckoning.

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And that thought may make us take a step back and look at how it is

that we are walking through this crazy world. What kind of footprints are we

leaving? What kind of impact are we making? And how does God view

these decisions we’re making as we go through our days, thinking, talking,

being, walking? What does God see when God looks right into the depths

of our souls?

And, this isn’t just a cursory glance God is giving us. The writer of

Hebrews is telling us that God’s taking this seriously.

We all have a myriad of relationships in our lives. Some are obviously

closer than others. We let some people skate on the hinky things they do,

just because we don’t really care that much about the impact it will have on

their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

You might not care if your neighbor lets his trash blow around the

neighborhood on trash night, because you know the lady next door to him

will pick it up. You might not care if the teller at the bank is taking a few

bucks out of the till, now and then, because, well, you’re not the bank

owner. But, if your spouse or your child or your sibling were to do

something like that, you might have a little something else to say about it.

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Or they you, should the roles be reversed. Because we are more

connected, more intricately woven into the lives of those we love.

God is more connected, more intricately woven into our lives. We are

beloved of God. And, so, God doesn’t let us skate — on much of anything.

Sure, we might think we’re getting by with that snarky comment we made to

the lady in the line at the bank or the way we didn’t help the man who

dropped his groceries in the parking lot, but God sees and knows why

we’re doing what we’re doing. And God cares. God knows we can be and

do better.

And how does God know that? Because God has known us from the

first moment of our being. In the beautiful, poetic language of Jeremiah,

God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you

were born I consecrated you.” Those words aren’t just meant for the great

prophet Jeremiah. Those words serve to remind all of us that we are known

and loved by God. We are also held accountable. Even for the inner

workings of our minds, such as when we’re pondering — should I let that

guy have that parking space or could I possibly get there first — if I really

hit the accelerator?

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And then there’s the bigger stuff. Because sometimes we have to

deal with things that are bigger than parking spaces and lines at the bank

and taking out the trash. Sometimes we have to deal with the big moral

dilemmas of life. Even bigger than how to treat Aunt Sally, who can’t get

through a family holiday meal without hurting everyone’s feelings.

• Big moral dilemmas such as how to vote in the upcoming election when

everything you think you’ve known is suddenly confusing and everyone

you know is telling you to vote this way and that way and your heart is

befuddled.

• Big moral dilemmas such as if and how you will use your time on this

earth to make it better for future generations.

• Big moral dilemmas such as if and how you will use your time on this

earth to make it better for the living beings that reside here now.

• Great, big moral dilemmas about life and death and community and the

earth and how it all fits together and should society be run as survival of

the fittest or all for one and one for all?

You can spend your whole life running from God, but there is no bush

big enough to hide behind. God would just start it on fire and start talking to

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you, anyway. You just can’t get away from God. And, truthfully, you can’t get

away from yourself. No matter what decisions you make in your life, you’re

the one who has to try to go to sleep each night.

Have you ever looked at someone and their choices in life and said, “I

wonder how they sleep at night?” Have you ever wondered if anyone has

thought that about you?

You might be interested to know that the children are learning the

story of Noah’s Ark, today. And the lectionary scripture from the Hebrew

Scriptures is taken from the book of Job.

Our Bible is full of stories of divine retribution. Humans mess up, God

takes action. And the action is never good. Adam and Eve choose to eat

the fruit from the wrong tree and are expelled from the garden. Humans sin

and forget God and the whole earth floods. And poor Job, he’s just minding

his own business, but ends up in some cosmic game and loses everything.

Meanwhile, his friends all accuse him of the worst crimes against humanity.

Because they know, humans mess up and God takes action.

So, this passage in Hebrews is no surprise to anyone. It’s just a

reminder — God sees all and knows all.

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This letter was probably written to a group of Jewish Christians living

in Rome. Jesus has been gone for several decades — scholars estimate it

was written between 60 C.E. and 95 C.E. This is a second generation of

Christians, they have experienced persecution, they’re disappointed that

God’s promised kingdom, as they understand it, hasn’t yet come, and some

members have begun to abandon the community. They’ve begun to

abandon their faith.1

We could take that description and overlay it on many Christians

today, couldn’t we? They’re a new generation of Christians, they feel as if

they’re being persecuted, they’re disappointed that God’s promised

kingdom, as they understand it, hasn’t yet come, and some members have

begun to abandon the community. They’ve begun to abandon their faith.

So, the writer of this letter reminds all those who find themselves in

this boat, of the Israelites, who wandered in the dessert for 40 years, who

turned their backs on their faith and their God, and who never saw the

Promised Land. The writer exhorts them to remain faithful to God and to

the community.

1
Harper Collins Study Bible, pp. 2250-2251

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Now, that may all seem pretty cut and dried; maybe boring or even

threatening. Believe in God or else…

But, that’s not the end of the story. There’s also that brilliant, beautiful

moment in both the scripture and in our lives when we realize “the more.”

When we read the rest of the passage and are reminded that Jesus walked

this lonesome valley, that he experienced so much of what we experience,

that he had to make difficult choices, that he most likely had those

moments when he sat back and thought, Ah, hindsight is 20/20 and wished

he’d chosen differently, that he knew just how extremely difficult it is to live

in this human skin and walk this human walk and live in this crazy world.

The rest of the story, the rest of this scripture reminds us that we follow the

one God sent into this world to live and to grow and to experience and to

know and even then, to lead us to a better way. Leading us by the example

of his kindness and compassion and love. Leading us by the example of his

faithful relationship with God.

No matter what we choose in life, no matter where we are, we can

still stop, look, and listen for wisdom, for love, for forgiveness, for grace, for

welcome. No matter where we’ve been in life, we can still return to God.

God may see into the deepest recesses of our souls. God may know the

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darkest thoughts that enter our wee, little brains, but God also saw Jesus

through it all. And, while we might like to think Jesus never had a wayward

thought or did anything untoward, I’m betting God knows differently.

Really, do you think Jesus never sneaked a treat from his Mama’s

pantry or a fig from the market or even told his disciples one fib just to keep

them going where and when they needed to go? We may never know, but

God does. And God knows the truth about us. We can run, but…

Well, you know the rest. You can run — straight into the loving,

understanding arms of God!

Amen.

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