The Selective Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Selective Gospel of Jesus Christ

February 14, 2010

So as many of you know, and probably hear me fondly recall during the dead of winter, I spent my formative years south of the Mason Dixon line.   Very south of it as a matter of fact.    I grew up in a small suburb of Orlando, Florida.   When I was maybe four or five, my parents moved me and my two sisters from a small town outside of Hartford, to the tourist Mecca of the free world.   It was for a kid, the best place in the world.   Walt Disney World, was a stone throw from our house.   Come On!   What kid doesn’t want to live next to Disney.  AND WE DID!!! IT WAS AWESOME!!

We went to Disney a half dozen times every year.  Each year on our birthday, Mom and Dad would decide to celebrate for the day at the Magic Kingdom.  I can remember bursting with impatience, as we would climb into the big wood paneled station wagon.  On many of those trips, I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if we only lived a little closer,…so the drive wouldn’t be so long…  Ten minutes was an eternity for a ten year old.

On every birthday or major occasion, the family would hop into their car, and celebrate at the Contemporary Resort Restaurant in Disney.   For those of you who have been there, that is the hotel that the monorail runs through.    That was the place we celebrated Mother’s Days, Father’s Day, Birthdays, you name it.     We’d dress up in our Sunday best, and celebrate all of life’s milestones at the happiest place on earth.   Who could ask for more?

It’s funny to think about it, now as an adult living 1,301 miles away from Disney, how many of our family memories are tied to that place.  Maybe this will be the same for my girls when they grow up and think back upon Olive Garden, the place we go to celebrate birthdays..    I think that they would probably say, that as far as birthdays go I had the better end of the bargain;  Disney or the Olive Garden?   Mickey Mouse or Breadsticks?  I win.

Anyways,…as I get older I find myself thinking about Florida more and more.    I really, really think about it on days when the thermometer drops to 5 degrees in the morning.   I think about it, when I wake shivering in the wee hours of the morning to put jeans and a sweatshirt on, and climb back into bed….Or when I make that hellacious walk at 7:00 from the warmth of the comforters, across our freezing bedroom, into the little icebox which is our bathroom.  I think about it as I sprinkle pound after pound of ice melt on my driveway, and look at my car whitened by road salt.

In these moments, I find myself saying…Right now…In Florida, there are flowers poking through the ground. 

On Evans Circle in Keene,…There are patches of lawn visible,…but the only thing poking its head through the snow are the little puppy bombs collected over the course of the winter.  

In Florida, people are wearing shorts today.    If I were to throw on a pair of shorts now, you would be blinded by the glare from my sun deprived, albinoed chicken legs.  

In Florida people are taking walks and hanging out on front porches,…I will drive an extra twenty minutes for a full serve gas station, so my fragile constitution isn’t shocked by pumping gas in the frozen morning… 

I think about Disney….I think about Florida…   And each February,…I start praying for April.  Enough is enough.

I should add the caveat, that on this whole anti-winter thing I have made some personal progress.   I learned a few years back, that if I take a different mental attitude I would fare much better.   I realized that winter is so much harder, because I choose to fight it, rather than roll with it.  Yet too often, that’s what I do…   I fight winter.    I fight the battle with snow in the driveway.   I fight the ice on the stoop.   And when I fight something as unstoppable as old man winter….I loose.    

This battle I fight with winter is of epic proportions.   Think I exaggerate come to my house any weekday at about 7:00am, you will see this great heroic battle waged in my driveway.  It is each and every morning.  There is your pastor, usually this fine upstanding man of character and temperance, muttering and stomping around his driveway because of the three inches of ice that have formed on his windshields.   I know how irrational it is to get so bewildered over scraping your windows,…but I just cannot escape the mental image of Old Man Winter hiding off somewhere,…Chuckling…Saying look what I did to him!

This year it has been made worse; worse because of my choice in new vehicles.    I drive a Nissan Versa I bought last May.  I chose the Versa because it has a great mileage rating and I commute quite a bit…I figured I could have a new car and embrace this wannabe green side.   But at my house we call it the clown car with cheerios for tires.   The Versa is a tiny car.   

Because of the combination of it being the tiniest of vehicles, and an apparent over abundance of hot air,…all I have to do is step foot in the car, and the windows fog over.   My defroster has been on nonstop since August…   And sadly, that fog on the window at 5:00PM because frost at 7:00AM.   Each morning, I scrape both the insides and the outside of my windows.

Now mind you, I don’t make this any easier on myself.   I refuse to go out and buy an ice scraper for my car.   I am positive that is a silent way of saying to the ice and old man winter, that I give up.   So there is no ice scraper in my car.   Yet silly me,…I don’t learn…I go out there each morning, see the ice on the window and then begin the act of rummaging through the seats of my car looking for any random piece of hard plastic.   Eventually I do stumble upon something, and proceed to scrape and cut my frozen knuckles when it shatters against the window.    I imagine that for $1.50 a good scraper could be had,…but I just can’t give up.  I WON’T!  OLD MAN WINTER…YOU GOT ANOTHER THING COMING!

Picture if you will, your Pastor, barely into the first sip of his morning coffee…taking those first tentative steps from his front door into the morning, with an air so cold that it’s like he was sucker punched.   I see the car, and the inches of ice on the windows, and I start mumbling.    The car has been idling for ten minutes…so much for my wannabe greenness,… But the car has been idling for ten minutes…There shouldn’t be any frost?  How could there be frost?

With a look and attitude of utter contempt and disgust, I start rummaging through my car, and come up with some old CD case,…or rather pieces of it…and proceed to start scrapping.   I scrape a six inch circle in the front windshield, a strip on both sides and leave the back alone.   Standing back and assessing the scrape job, I conclude that its good enough, and hit the road.   Now,…nowhere does it register that this might not be safe…Instead I peer forward through the few inches of visibility and give a mental laugh to Old Man Winter’s face.  I am driving with my face two inches from the windshield, but I showed him.

Before I go further, I hope no one here condemns me for this,…because when I am driving like this,…the one thing I can see from the little peep hole in front of me,…is the countless drivers doing the same thing.   Here we are;  a whole population of New England drivers, surrounded by windows 360 degrees all around…and we think it’s okay to drive through the winter with six inches of visibility.    As a matter of fact, USA Today reports that there are over 10,000 accidents in new England that result from fog or frost.

There are more than willing to admit, that tackle the frost on their windows in this way.   How many of you realize we have a tendency to do the same with our faith?

Our faith surrounds us 360 degrees.   Like glass…   At first our view is obstructed by confusion, or our lack of understanding.   It’s like there is a thick layer of frost in front of our eyes.    So how do we respond,…   we make small portions clearer,…and say that it’s enough.   We say that little strip which allows us to see just a small portion of what’s around us, is enough…and we head full force ahead.   And in the end we usually end up smack dab into a tree.

How do we do this with our faith?   It’s easy.   We do this by embracing and worshipping a selective Gospel.   We choose bits and pieces of our faith and we grab a hold with both hands and refuse to let go.   It’s all around us.

We embrace the truth that faith should lead us to a new and different life,…but refuse to allow others the same opportunity.   Too often churches have developed a hidden demographic.   If visitors don’t fit our ideal, this church isn’t for them.   That’s the selective Gospel of Jesus.

We embrace the truth that our faith should be centered on love,…yet we can’t seem to allow ourselves to love or even trust our neighbors.   We worry about being conned or being taken advantage of.   That’s the selective Gospel of Jesus.

We believe that we need to incorporate discipleship into our lives; but we can’t seem to find the time to read the bible.

We believe that we need to incorporate devotion into our lives, but we act as if church is only for Sundays.

We believe that we need to incorporate service into our faith, but we are afraid to stand up, speak out, or reach out to those who need our help the most.

This is the selective Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The selective Gospel is the Gospel that opens the Bible, and focuses on some passages and the spirit of the Gospel.   The Selective Gospel is the Gospel that says its easier to Gossip, Judge and condemn, rather than embrace, lift up, and forgive.

A selective Gospel is a gospel that loves what you love.   It’s a gospel that promotes your political party.   It’s a gospel that supports what you believe about abortion, marriage, and the economy.    A Selective Gospel is a Gospel that hates the same people you hate.   

Here is one rule for you…   If on your faith journey you discover a God who believes the same way you do….  A God that loves what and who you love,…and hates the same people you do…  You have got God wrong.  

God shakes things up.  He stirs things up. He will take your comfortable neatly boxed life and shake it all up.   When God comes into your life in a true and authentic way, you start to realize that your God is bigger than the box you have put him in.  If your life isn’t radically and completely transformed, by who God is…  Keep running after him.   If the love, grace, and forgiveness that is felt in your life is not something that humbles and shakes to the core,…don’t stop…because you are not there yet.  Don’t pretend.  Don’t try to convince yourself that this is all there is.   Don’t give up.

We might not be there yet,…but that doesn’t mean we stop.   It means we need to recommit.   We need to stop, and ask ourselves; what we are missing.   We need to take a new and different risk.   We need to step out in our service, our discipleship, or our giving.   We need to challenge ourselves to go further in our faith.   We need to turn to God.   We need to take moments to be in silence, in prayer, and in devotion…all in hopes of hearing what he has to say.

This I know…   If we are still enough for long enough…  He will call out to us.    If we are not careful,…we will miss it.    We will miss it, because our faces our squeezed up against the window,…hoping to catch a glimpse of the world through six inches.

Instead we need to look at our lives, and ask ourselves,…what is it that is causing our windows to freeze over…  What is keeping us from God…   Whatever it is…Get rid of it, it’s not worth keeping you from realizing the life you could,…and from being the person that is possible.

Don’t be afraid to realize that sometimes we see the world through frosty windows…    Its up to us to make sure they are not.

Thanks be to God Amen.


(When I first heard the illustration of the scraped glass,…I practically jumped out of my chair.   This is the story of my life between October and May, in the icebox that is Keene, New Hampshire.   Thank you to Preaching Today, for the pointing out the very real illustration)

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