Sunday, July 30, 2017

Acts 17 inspired by Dr. Seuss


The series on Acts opened us to the movement of the Spirit within us and around us.
Invited us to wonder.
Called us to keep drawing the circle wide.
Bringing all that to a close and conclusion...I have you a reflection on Acts 17, Paul's sermon at Mars Hill...as inspired by one of my heroes....Dr Seuss

Paul wasn’t there to preach;
He hadn’t been asked or invited to teach;
He wasn’t even there on some missional outreach.

He was just wandering around…waiting,
For what reason we don’t know, because the passage isn’t stating.

Like us stuck in delay at the airport sighing,
Paul starts to walk around the streets spying.

Now Paul was in Athens, which was once a great, grand, an amazing city;
Boasting Socrates, study, trade, but all that was gone, what a pity.

Athens was a shadow of its former self, trying to recapture the glory days.
But they were stuck in a daze and haze trying just to win Rome’s praise.

Some might suggest that Athens then is like the church in our time.
Trying to recapture, reclaim, or climb to our 1950s prime.

When there were a hundred kids in the Sunday School,
To be honest that numbers make me drool
Or sends me searching for an easy church growth tool
And occasionally wondering if I am just being a fool.

But bringing Scripture that close causes us all uncomfortably to shift,
We don’t like the light so bright on us today, we resist.
So we proclaim, focus on Paul and make it swift.

Paul was walking down the streets gawking and gazing
Endless temples to gods he was appraising
Which caused his temper to stir, anger raising.

His heart started to ache,
While his soul did break,
Causing his head and whole-body to shake.

So many temples scattered here and there, how could it be, he wondered.
It all seemed to him to be a miserable mistake and misleading blunder.

But, it’s not like Star bellied Sneetches we can gloat,
For there are temples today to which we devote.
Open our eyes so that we might see my friends,
When you drive down Fruitville Rd our world is hard to defend.

There are temples dedicated to Golden Arches;
And a store which sells everything we call Targets;
And countless places to buy food known as Markets;

The sound of spending, swiping credit cards is the drum to which we all march,
Even though we know stuffing our life with stuff just leaves our souls parch.

Like Paul seeing temples dedicated to idols we know,
And seeing how it is true still today is quite a blow.

So Paul deeply troubled in his gut//refuses to stay in a silent rut//knows what to do is clear cut.

Being a preacher, he does what he does and starts to speak out,
He shares what is deep in his heart, he doesn’t need to shout.

Whether you wanted to listen or not he rambles
So much so that some call his sermon a shamble,
I’ve been there and I’ve preached that drabble,
Some might say today's sermon is a bit of a scramble.

Epicureans were there that day in the congregation and crowd,
Enjoying material things to avoid pain was their solemn vow,
Dismissed religion because some god you’re always trying to wow.

Also standing there listening to Paul that day were some Stoics
They taught careful reason, harmony, solidarity were the heroics.
In fact, one of my favorite parts of this passage might come from us seeing
That it was Stoics who first said, in God we move and have our very being.

From a moment of idleness Paul preaches on idols,
It all right there if you look and open your Bibles.

But some that day after hearing Paul talk were in denial,
Others wanted to hear more, offered him another revival.

So what to make of and do with this odd story
Because it just doesn’t fit neatly in the usual category.

It calls us to open our eyes and truly see
Temples around us where we go with glee.
Or how in the church our success is not a guarantee,
But that doesn’t mean from the future we flee.

Because Paul is right the Good News is God is not distant or uncaring,
God is as close as our next breath, the very being who offers us our bearings.

But let’s dig deeper and do so with haste,
Before all this rhyming makes you a basket case.

You see, it isn’t just that the church is right while society is all wrong,
We don’t need to see the world as either/or as we’ve done for too long,
Rather can we accept the call to sing to our world a very different song?
One where everything and everyone can actually belong!
What we are offering people isn’t information or application,
It is an opportunity to be part of an amazing transformation.

A change like a seed deep within, slowly growing within our very soul,
But that doesn’t stop with us, it needs be shared with others in whole.

Good news of God’s presence, nearness, and strength;
Good news of peace, love, grace you don’t hold at arms-length.

This is about Spirit stirring, swirling, and soaring,
Why on earth do we sometimes make church sound boring?

The promise that individually and collectively we can take part
In something wonderful and life-giving and changing our heart.
How will you share with others and tend your one precious life?
Will we only see the problems, warts, brokenness and strife?
Or can live out of struggle to be par-takers with God and conspirers,
Can we hold no cherished outcomes, and name that makes us perspire?

Or can our realities today hear the truth from this Paul’s sermon of old,
Help inspire us to life up our voice, name and claim our story to be told.
A story that it’s not about the money we spend,
Or about the number of balls, banquets we attend,
Or the balance of our bank account at the end.

What matters is this moment, broken, blessed and new.
What matters is offering the world a different view.
Of wonder, of Spirit, and of a wide circle God drew.

So enough with the rhyming and this weird sermon given.
For much more sitting and your back might stiffen.
And wonder if my vacation is passed due or I’m sickened.

The invitation is not for me to tell you what to do.
It is to offer a few words, images, on which you can chew.
I pray there is something you’ve heard that will continue to stew.
So prayerfully ponder the call of the church today we need to be seeing;
Hold that in conversation many diverse voices for your own hearing;
Be open to the movement of the One who feeds and fuels our dreaming
For it truly is God’s grace in which we always move and find our deepest being.

Thanks be to God …this sermon so odd …is a endin’.  Amen.

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