July 24th, 2016 – How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Gospel According to Dr. Suess

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

 Colossians 2: 6-15 & Luke 11: 1-13

Call to Worship

Come! Let us join in worship, giving thanks to our God!

We joyfully and faithfully gather even knowing we are flawed.

Discover again, how deep is God’s loving grace.

For pastors and people- the whole human race.

And if we but let it, God’s love will take hold,

Within us, around us! God’s love is more valuable that gold!

Sermon

Great God above all compare!
Hear us now as we declare:
Thank you Lord for open hearts and creative minds Looking for ways to connect with people of all kinds. Help us, O Lord, to be brave as we examine our hearts. For we need help sometimes seeing the broken parts. Be with us in this grand worship space,
As we savor your amazing and steadfast grace.
In Jesus’ most precious name,
The One who is our heart’s only aim. Amen.

Sometimes I feel bad for the Grinch. I know I’m not suppose to… but I do anyway.
I myself justifying his behavior in my mind – thinking something like:
Here is a, clearly, traumatized giant green hairy Who with an actual medical condition that is resulting in his not-so-nice behavior. His heart is two sizes too small! Should he be blamed?… Truly?

It was his heart that made him unwilling (No! Unable!) to tolerate another Christmas in Whoville filled with all that annoying decorating and singing and gift-giving and feasting and warm/touching family moments. These things drove him to acting out.

And, can we/ should we shake our fingers at this poor creature, when the Whos were so relentless in their joy, relentless in their celebrating loving ways… And did they ever reach out to the Grinch? No!

The Grinch, he isn’t a bad Who. The Grinch is just a misunderstood Who, to whom bad things have clearly happened.

It can’t be, it can’t be… his fault that his heart is two sizes too small. …

I’ve always refused to give up on the Grinch! I knew he could change if only had a friend! A reason to celebrate! If someone might just involve him in all the joy and festivities! Then his heart – his poor shriveled up/ broken heart – would be healed!

Even as a child (perhaps since I first heard this tale…) I was always a believer in the Grinch’s potential rehabilitation!
But it sounds silly to me now. Does it to you? – that kind of innocence, naiveté, and unguarded trust and faith in people to actually want to change their ways… if only given a chance… the belief also (perhaps more importantly…) that we can inflict change upon uninterested people…

Having just read How the Grinch Stole Christmas yet again to the children, I see now that the Grinch wasn’t just acting out. He wasn’t just broken and greedy. But he truly wanted to destroy the Who’s spirit and claim some sort of dark devastation/ victory upon the day.

If you saw the movie version of the Grinch (the live-action one with Jim Carrey) little Cindy-Lou Who learned just this raw kind of lesson: Sometime we can’t love people into being better/ into wholeness… sometimes what is broken stays broken… sometimes we can’t fix it despite our attempts…

That’s a downer, isn’t it? And yet, we know it’s somehow true. We turn on the news, we open the paper, we scroll through Facebook for the 30th time this morning… and we see its stark truth. Sometimes the hurt is too big. The shooting are too often and too easy- hateful speech flows too freely- the hardship inflicted upon the Syrians runs too deep. Sometimes people can cause so much wreckage that it’s just too much. We don’t know were to start to bring healing/ bring understanding. We don’t know were to start to breath optimism or love or blessed innocence into world again… Sometimes we can’t fix it.

But, and this is a very important BUT, thankfully it is our God (not us/ certainly not me) that is the expert at resurrection!

Sometimes a shriveled up old heart, one two size too small, is best left to God.
As Frederick Buechner said, with Jesus “The worst things are never the last things…”
That which we can’t fix, that which we cannot love into wholeness and health, is never beyond the influencing/powerful/changefilled love of God.

It is our God- our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer- that is in the business of changing and healing hearts. Our God is the one that makes all things new.

As I scroll through Facebook for the 31st time today, encountering plenty of things that break my heart… I often only wish that I lived this truth forward. Most days I’m far to quick to criticize or offer commentary/ to quick to consider what I can do to influence change and peace. But in reality, if I want to see true healing and change in this world I must first look to God.

Perhaps if I did/ if I do… then I could rest assured that God’s got this- ALL of this.

As our passage in Colossians said: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Every week we pray together for God’s Kingdom to come – a Kingdom of the resurrection- And this is how were are to be as a waiting people: Thankful, trusting, and rooted in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m a worrier and I’m a fixer-I reactively offer suggestion and work towards solutions in the wake of problems. But this reminder in Colossians grants me a restfulness in my soul. It reminds me, to take a breath, and let God lead and simply be ready to follow.

Now, I ask you to consider this.

This past Friday at Groove dance in the fellowship hall, we stretched post-workout to Michael Jackson’s song “Man In The Mirror.” I think most of us know that one…

It talks about how true change in the world starts with us/ with what’s in us.

And this is true, in a very humanist kind of way. And yet as I was listening I found that the message translates pretty well to our Christian worldview.

While God is the bringer of the Kingdom, the one that truly can make all things new.

We are not to be passive observers in this world. Bearing forth the Gospel, breathing truth and peace and love into this world… starts with what’s in us. It starts with what’s in here.

And that is worth a great deal! …

Although none of us is a full on Grinch, I think if we looked deep into our hearts we might see some places that are shriveled and shrunk- two sizes too small.

Perhaps you struggle with insecurity and envy: becoming bitter when you thing others have it better. Perhaps you struggle with power: always reaching for ways to gain more control and influence… Perhaps you feel that shriveled part of your heart named pride or sin or cynicism or shame…
Perhaps you struggle with an overactive “fix it!” drive… having a hard time letting go and letting God.
What do we do about that?

A while back I saw a great meme pop up on Facebook (as I scrolled through it for the 32nd time that day… ) that said this “Once a man was asked, “What did you ever gain by regularly praying to God?” The man replied, “nothing… but let me tell you what I lost in prayer: Anger, ego, greed, depression, insecurity, and fear… Sometimes, the answer to our prayers is not the gaining but the losing; which ultimately is the gaining.”

In our Gospel passage today, Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer.

For Jesus, prayer was not a moment, a theatrical event, or even a ritual throughout the day… prayer was an existence. An existence that honored the constant presence of God in our midst/ in our lives. One that knows that “Our Father” will always respond to us with a goodness that is incomparably greater than that of any earthly parent. An existence that has an assurance that we can turn to God in all things, for God is merciful.

Søren Kierkegaard, said that: “Prayer does not change God, but it changes the one who prays.” Far too often I find that in prayer we beg God for stuff. We beg God to come and solve our problems, we beg God to give us what we desire. We try and change God’s mind.

These attempts pretty much confirm that we have heart shriveling control issues.

The whole point of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to shape our own. The point of prayer is to make us fit for the kingdom, ready to live the only life possible in God’s household: one of love.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

A life of prayer is one assured, and rested, and enlivened in a trust that God is already at work in this world. Prayer is a life of peace. It’s a kingdom life.

You know, I’ve lead many a worship service at a care facility. And usually those that gather for worship are eager to hear Scripture read and to sing. And we do so. But when I go to give a sermon, if it is longer than 4 minutes (which it always is) I end up losing 3⁄4 of my congregation to a nice nap. But at the close of the service, as we pray for each other, we will say together the Lord’s Prayer. And those who were deep asleep, and even those who are lost the frustrating fog of dementia… they always (without fail) snap to and recite nearly every word of that prayer.

It is beautiful to behold.

It reminds me, every time, that when we are weak, God is strong. When we are frustrated and confused and lost, God is strong. When we might beg and plead with God to bring us relief, to grant us answers, to provide for us… that God is there in the midst of that. Still. Making and remaking us again into beings of love. Somehow. Someway.

It is our God that is the expert at resurrection, not us.

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