Sunday, November 2, 2014

“I Resent That” (Matthew 23:1-12)

I think that Calvin—of Calvin and Hobbes cartoon fame—speaks for all of us when he proclaims to his stuffed tiger, Hobbes: “I RESENT THAT!”

In the comic strip Calvin with his constant companion, Hobbes—a stuffed toy tiger—are having a conversation.  Calvin poses the question: “Hobbes, do you think our morality is defined by our actions, or by what’s in our hearts?”

In response, Hobbes states: “I think our actions show what’s in our hearts.”

Calvin, stunned, sits there and stares for a moment, and then with indignant anger he proclaims loudly: “I RESENT THAT!”

As I said, I think that Calvin probably speaks for many of us in the human race when it comes to our morality . . . probably speaks for many of us who call ourselves the followers of Jesus when it comes to living up to what Jesus asked us to live up to.  We resent the fact that our actions often betray our words.

That old phrase . . . “Do as I say, not as I do” . . . has come back throughout our lives to bite us in the rear . . . and, we do not like it.  We do not like it because it reveals our incongruency between our words and our actions.  We do not like it because it reveals our propensity and weakness to use the “easy way out” when our words are more difficult than we imagined them to be when living up to them.  And, it reveals that we haven’t quite gotten it “right” yet when it comes to being a true follower and faithful servant to Jesus.  Thus, we resent whenever we are reminded that we have fallen short of our goal of being a “faithful” person.

But . . . hey!  We are in good company!  We aren’t the only ones who seem to stumbled upon this incongruency.  In our scripture reading we hear Jesus teaching the crowds and disciples to “do as I say, not as I do” by using the example of the Pharisees.  In the Pharisees, Jesus hears all the right things being said . . . he hears them teaching the law and commandments . . . uttering the correct prayers . . . offering the prefect examples.  Jesus hears and sees it all . . . and, he has to admit, in what he first sees and hears he can find no fault . . . the Pharisees have the routine down and pat.

But . . . not everything that is seen with the naked eye is what is truly there.  Jesus watches the Pharisees beyond the temple, beyond the courtyards, beyond the public eye . . . he watches them as they live their lives.  What he sees does not jive with what he is hearing . . . the actions reveal the true heart . . . the true beliefs . . . the true faith.  What the Pharisees teach and preach—God’s word, is not what they are living.  No, it is a far cry from what God desires in action.  Thus Jesus tells those who are gathered that they should “obey them and do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Of course, just like us, the Pharisees resented what Jesus said.

It is okay to resent being caught in our incongruency of word and action . . . in our incongruency of faith.  It is okay because it shows us that we care . . . that we care about our faith and being faithful to Jesus and what he wants us to do.  It reveals to us that we understand that we have stumbled and fallen short of what we have been created and called to do as the followers of Jesus.  It shows that we care about our relationship with God through Jesus . . . shows that we care about our relationship with one another.  I shows that we care.

I would be disappointed if we did not show resentment towards that statement.  Disappointed because that would mean that we have moved beyond the realm of caring about God . . . about others . . . about ourselves in relationship to the world around us.  It would mean that we have moved beyond caring.  At least when there is resentment expressed, there is still a chance . . . a chance to get it right.

The truth of the matter is that the Pharisee’s did not resent the fact that they were caught in an incongruency of faith.  They were resentful because Jesus was exposing them as the frauds they had become, and because he was ruining a good thing that they had going on.  They did not really “care” whether or not their actions were congruent with their words; no, they were resentful because Jesus was exposing them to the people as frauds.

For most of us, our resentment to the knowledge that our actions reveal our hearts . . . that our actions reveal our faith . . . exposes us to the fact that we are still trying to get it right.  That we are still trying to be a faithful people.  And, that is a part of faith.  Thankfully we have a loving and patient God who waits . . . and, waits . . . for us to get it right.

Faith is never a “once and done” sort of thing.  Faith is a living and evolving entity within us that is constantly growing and changing, just as we are constantly growing and changing in our everyday lives.  To think that once we proclaim our love and faith to God through Jesus that we are done, is to fall into the category of the Pharisees.  None of us wants that.  Thus it is good that we recognize our resentment about such statements for what it really is . . . our disappointment in not quite having it right.  It is good that it makes us feel . . . yes, faith is just as much about feeling as it is about anything else . . . feel that we can do better.

Jesus’ words were important to listen to . . . and, he wanted us to listen closely to what he was teaching and preaching; but, what he did—his actions, were what he wanted us to live.  He wanted us to live lives of love . . . . loving God completely . . . loving others . . . allowing love to dictate our lives and actions.  Jesus did not want lip service . . . he wanted us to live love . . . to live faithfully.  He wanted our actions to reveal our true hearts.  Amen.

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