Sunday, May 17, 2009

Black & White? or Full Color Living?

May 17, 2009
Black & White? or Full Color Living?
Psalm 23; John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24

I don’t ask the following question to offend anyone. Does anyone remember the switch from Black & White to color TV? It happened in 1954 when the Rose Parade was the first broadcast in color TV. In anticipation of it, 200 color televisions were produced and distributed. Perhaps that color TV came into your life later – after your Black & White TV gave out
Do you remember what it was like to go from Black & White to Color TV?

A black & white television told a story and got a point across. It enabled you to see expressions on faces and gave you a sense of the landscape in the storyline.

With full-color television, the scenes came to life. Landscapes were lush and green or parched and brown, and you could tell the difference, The color of one’s coat could convey something it could not on the black & white TV.

Jesus lived in full-color. He spoke about love. He encouraged others to love. But eventually, he demonstrated love. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life. You have to understand that imagery a bit. A shepherd in Jesus’ day would have cared for the sheep at night by placing them into a “pen”. It was a space closed in by a wall of rocks or something like that. Each night the shepherd would lead the sheep through the one opening to this pen. After all the sheep were safely in, away from the danger of wolves or thieves or predators of any kind, the shepherd would literally lay down in front of the opening to the pen. The shepherd would act like a gat to the sheep pen. No one got in without going through the shepherd. If something threatened the sheep, they would literally have to kill the shepherd to get at them. The shepherd laid down his life like a gate in front of the sheep pen to protect those sheep. Like a gate in front of the sheep pen, Jesus was willing to give up his life to save the sheep. Jesus did that very thing.

The Good Shepherd imagery unfolds a post-resurrection understanding of the cross as a supreme act of love, a demonstration of what Jesus talked about and encouraged. It’s taking the Black & White world of knowing and believing, of intentions and passions, and turning it into the full-color living of acting and doing, of life laid down.

First letter of John calls us to the same full-color living. The writer tells us that we only know love by its action, such as an action as bold as laying down our very lives. Not just talking about it. Not just believing in it. Actually doing it. Actually demonstrating a self-giving kind of love. That’s full-color living! We are called to this kind of living as disciples of Jesus Christ

I was overwhelmed recently by love in action in a self-giving kind of way. Since 1977 Sea Shepherd as been an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. They have a love for animals that I, sadly, do not know. Their work in Antarctica is documented on an Animal Planet show called “Whale Wars,” a title I wished they would not have chosen.

In Antarctica they work to thwart the efforts of whaling fleets trying to catch whales. There is a debate whether or not the catch is for research or industry, depending on your perspective. Sea Shepherd members work diligently and creatively to do their work of thwarting the efforts of the whalers. The thing that impressed me the most, though, was their commitment. They are out on a large ship for a few months at a time. You only get on the ship if you are able to make a particular commitment to the cause. Of course you must believe in their work and having passion for the work is important, too. Some experience on a ship would be good. But you don’t even step foot on the ship if you are not willing to give your life to save the life of a whale. That’s full-color living!

You may not be passionate for whales or the work of Sea Shepherd. I’m mildly interested, but certainly not passionate.

What is it for which you feel passion? Feeding the hungry? Violence free neighborhoods? Clothing the naked? Clean water for African nations? Housing the homeless? Educating children? Homes free of domestic violence?

Jesus asks us to demonstrate our love, not just believe in it or talk about it. Jesus asks us to act on it, to act out of love for others by laying one’s life down, by actually doing something about the things for which we feel passionate. Jesus calls us to move from talking to action, to act in ways that cause you to sacrifice some of you in order to accomplish the mission.

Jesus invites us to full-color living. It’s taking the weekly on-call for the domestic violence hotline. It’s serving regularly at Noon Meals. It’s becoming educated and doing something about providing clean water to remote places in our world. It’s creating a peaceful presence by being in the more violent neighborhoods in peaceful ways, by providing meaningful activities for at risk kids. It’s taking a lesser paying teaching job in a neighborhood with little hope.

Jesus invites us to full-color living.

Can you turn your Black & White living of passions and causes into full-color living?

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead UMC, Rochester, MN

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