September 3, 2017
How many of you remember this? (sing) “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce; special orders, don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way!” (invite them to finish-Have it your way at Burger King) This was the Burger King theme song from 1974 or so. Their point was that we could have our Whopper any way we liked; hold the pickles, extra ketchup, no onions. And it is a pretty well accepted practice at all the fast food places now. But it wasn't necessarily easy or common 40 years ago.
My title today, Fast-Food Christianity, is not original to me. I heard this expression years ago, but it stuck with me and it came back to me as I worked on this sermon. In our reading today, Peter wanted to treat his Christianity like a fast food order. He wanted to special order his Christianity.
“Let Jesus be Lord.” That is an audacious statement in itself. Like we have any say in making Jesus Lord or not. But the church has, in various ways, called on us to do just that. How often have you heard the Christian call to “make Jesus Lord of your life”? When we think about it, that's a bit audacious as well. We don't “make” Jesus Lord; Jesus IS Lord. It is part of the religious nature in us to find something we can do... we have a need to be a part of our salvation story. But Christianity is not a fast food, choose your own toppings, your own Christ, experience. Jesus IS Savior! Jesus IS Lord! We don't get to decide if he is going to be Lord or Savior. He just is. And it is a bit of semantics. But it does work its way into our Christian culture. When we start making salvation or even obedience about us, we are getting it backwards. Again, when we look at God's word, we see it spelled out again and again; Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent...He is Lord. We are welcomed into the the family of God as we recognize that truth. And I hope we are all here because we have recognized Jesus as Lord and Savior. But even if you haven't recognized him... he is still Savior and Lord.
Back to Peter and Jesus. Jesus has been teaching his disciples that his kingdom doesn't necessarily look like we'd think it would. In our Bible study on Wednesday afternoon, we discussed why some recognized Jesus as Messiah and some didn't. A big part of it was seeing Jesus in prophecy and allowing the Truth of what Jesus taught to work together for the true picture. For there were some good reasons people didn't recognize Jesus. An example from our study; one of Daniel's prophecy went like this, “ the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” Many...most looked for a Messiah that would “break and consume” the kingdom of Rome and stand forever as the nation of Israel. And when Jesus didn't do it...well, they decided he wasn't the kind of Messiah they wanted. The thing is, it wasn't up to them to decide what the Messiah would say and do. And it's not up to us to decide if we want to follow Jesus for his gift of forgiveness and salvation-- but ignore his calls for service and justice and grace and forgiveness. And when Peter heard that his Messiah was going to suffer and die...“God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” Or, “I'll have an order of earthly ruler but hold the suffering servant!” Fast food Christianity. Peter was picking his prophecies he wanted to believe. I read from Daniel, but listen to this from Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces; he was despised, and we held him of no account.” Prophesied ruler. Prophesied suffering servant....
One of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament was Moses, the Lawgiver and Deliverer. I find it interesting and a bit amusing to see that he reacted to God, Yahweh, the Great I Am, with his own special orders as well. When God told Moses he was going to go to the Pharaoh and free the Israelites, Moses responded, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh.” He was hesitant to throw himself fully into the Lord’s plan. But there's more to his reaction if we read ahead. In chapter 4, he continues his interaction with God in the burning bush. By interaction, I mean excuse-making: “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” And then, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” And finally, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” Moses had seen the suffering and the injustice in Egypt. He wanted it ended. God had a plan. But Moses wanted to special order it... not the way you have it planned God, listen to how I want to see it done.
Now it is easy to look back in a sermon and see where these two giants of the faith went wrong. God spoke to Moses! Jesus was with Peter! And still they wanted things done their way. But we all do it. It's easy to find an excuse for msot every command the Lord has given. “Forgive as you have been forgiven.” Oh but Lord, you don't understand how much they hurt me! Their words and their actions are beyond forgiveness!
“Love your neighbor as yourselves”—the Golden rule which is actually from next week's epistle lesson. But Lord, do you realize how unlovable my neighbor is? They are loud and rude and their dog barks at night and they borrow my tools and they don't keep their yard up and and and.
From today's reading, Deny yourselves, take up your cross. Oh, but this life is all about happiness and getting ahead and avoiding suffering. Can't we all just be happy?
Special orders: Give me a super sized order of peace and happiness...hold the suffering, hold the need to be good to my neighbor and hold the need to forgive those who hurt me. Fast food Christianity!
Our reading in Romans is a menu of what the Christian life should look like: Let love be genuine; hate evil, hold fast to the good; 10 love one another; show one another honor. 11 be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to needs; extend hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. This verse says a lot to our faith community—when we share our joy we increase it, when we share our sorrows, it is lessened. Going on, 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay evil for evil. 18 live peaceably with all. “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” This is what the “Whopper” with everything on it looks like in the life of a Christian! We don't have the option of picking and choosing.
Now for the question, how many of you are living fast-food Christianity?
I am... because I’m just not capable of handling a burger with that much stuff on it. I am because I am self centered and selfish and greedy... I haven't been fully sanctified yet. Which means I still fail to live the perfect Christian life. Which means I am still human. As you all are. And thanks be to God that God loves us anyways. Thanks be to God that we aren't loved and accepted because we are perfect but because we are created in God's image. After this week in Litchfield, with the deaths and grief, we can touch lives by remembering this truth and by living out the grace we've been given. Let us give others the grace to be less than perfect and love them anyways.
We are sharing a meal today, the bread and the grape juice which are reminders that Jesus did as he told Peter he would, to “go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”. When we share this meal, we remember. But more, we receive the true presence of Jesus. And as we receive the Savior, we also pledge to follow through, to remember that this is a full meal deal. Which means we don't just eat and run, but we eat and then live out the love we've been shown in Christ Jesus.
Let's determine to seek to avoid the temptation of fast food Christianity. Let's do our best to know God's will for our Christian walk and live out the full meal deal; the Christian life with everything on it and if some spills off, some gets dropped, God is faithful to forgive, faithful in love and grace. May we be filled with the Spirit of the living God and may we know the joy of living in the family of God.
Hymn: He Is King of Kings 153 PH