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Microsoft word - may 25th 2008.doc


I have heard that a low minor league baseball player in Texas was traded for
10 maple bats, each costing $69, discounted to $65.50 each, for 6 to 11 bats.
The man responded, “I don’t really care,” he said Friday. “It’ll make a better
story if I make it to the big leagues.”
I don’t know about that. If I were he, I would be worried—very much,
about my self-esteem and the future of my career. I do not know if it was
the thick skin or the robust sense of healthy ego that led him to say that.
I have a question: which is more effective in fighting against anxiety attacks
and depression: Zoloft or the words of Jesus in the scriptures? How many
have experienced a relief from anxiety, because they have read this above
passage, as opposed to having taken the pill?
We do worry about our own lives, both present and future, about the present
economy and the retirement. If we do not, most of us are convinced, that we
would end up in a disaster.
Would you take Zoloft, so you would not worry, if your investment lost
value, on which your income, welfare, and retirement depend? Or, would
you rather turn to the above passage of the Bible, if the company in whose
stocks you have heavily invested posted significant losses two quarters in a
row?
Jesus says do not be anxious about life:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what
you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than
food, and the body more than clothing?”
What would it have sounded like to the hearers in Jesus’ time? The crowd
gathered around him was not the wealthy or the upper class. Chances are
that it was probably the poor, working class. How would they have taken
what Jesus had to say to them?

In the passage, it appears that Jesus was talking about the basic necessities of
life: the issues of food, clothing, and body concerns. Jesus was talking
about the people’s anxiety of where the next meal would come from, how to
keep warm, and how to stay alive.
Nowadays, we are concerned in completely different things: we worry about
which cuisine to try, how to control our calorie intakes, what emollients to
apply to the skin, and how to make things more ergonomic and fun, and less
work.
We live in a different world than what Jesus and his contemporaries did.
And because of this, we approach life from a completely different angle.
Our assumption and expectation of life are radically different from those of
Jesus’ contemporaries. Jesus was talking about the basic survival needs of
human being; we bring our own modern assumptions and expectations of
life, when we hear the scriptures.
With this assumption, it is difficult to connect to the spirit of the biblical
discourse, and appreciate what Jesus was talking about, because we are
firmly entrenched in the modern amenity, luxury, and affluence that did not
exist before in Jesus’ time.
No matter how wealthy or poor, one needs to eat three meals a day. The
only difference is that the wealthy worry about the menu, while the poor
worry about the portion of food. Today, the wealthy ponder, if it would be a
$1000 dinner in the posh restaurant, or $50 dinner at a regular one, while the
poor worry, if it would be a PJ Sandwich or nothing.
There is more to what separates the modern from the ancient. We live in a
complex and diversified society, and also created more areas of anxiety and
worries. We are worried about our manufacturing jobs going overseas. We
are sensitive about the Fed’s decision to raise or lower a point in lending
rate. We are troubled by the housing bubble bust. We are concerned about
the Dow Jones Index. We are disturbed by the free trade agreements. We
are living through the climatic changes whose seemingly irreversible
consequence is yet to be seen. Jesus did not say anything about what to do
when the global temperature rises by 1 degree, or when the industrial
pollution affects the air and water qualities for millions and millions of
people.
Do we have time to extend our worries to other people’s welfare? There is
plenty to worry. What about over 100,000 lives lost in the cyclone tragedy
in Myanmar ? What about the livelihood of the survivors? What about the
military dictatorship that rules the country that put the ruling general’s name
on the aid packages? As if that is not enough, what about the earthquake
that killed over 80,000 in China , about the shelters and food supplies for the
millions of survivors who are now all homeless? Compared to these
humanitarian disasters, what we have suffered from Hurricane Katrina pales.
Things that affect the human lives are not limited to a local area any more,
and what happens in one place affects other areas of the world. As recently
as this month, we heard about rising food price that affect many continents.
Anti-foreigner riot is ripe in South Africa : the South African working poor
struggle against rising food prices, unemployment, and influx of immigrants
fleeing the dictatorship and economic disaster in Zimbabwe .
On our soil, the frustration from the exodus of jobs to overseas along with all
its support industries lead to the perception that immigrants are responsible
for the lost jobs and higher taxes. But that is not so simple: Americans are
not competing for jobs with those who risk their lives crossing the desert to
find a job that pays $10 an hour, working the field in the scorching heat.
And rising food and gas prices in this nation are, contrary to elsewhere,
bringing record profits to certain farming and oil industries.
In keeping with this global scale of things, even mistakes and
mismanagement are ginormous in scale. Have you heard about the
incompetence/corruption that was reported this past week? The Pentagon
cannot account for $15B of expenditure for this war in Iraq . That’s in
billions, not millions. In one instance, it was only a signature that
consummated a handover of $320M in cash supposedly for employing 1000
Iraqis, but no one knows for sure where the money went.
Today, we worry about far greater things than just what to eat, what to wear,
what to drink. We worry about the misleaders of this nation frolicking in
DC, who have been put in charge of the lives and wealth of this nation.
Maybe, you did not need it before, but you may now, since I reminded you
of all these. Would you like the prescription for Zoloft now? Or, would you
rather turn to the scriptures?
The media report about the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan , but far less
about what the veterans go through, once they return home. Remember the
infamous email the head of VA’s mental health division, Dr. Ira Katz,
advised the media spokesperson? It began with “Shh!…” It referred to
1000 veterans attempting suicide each month within VA facilities—1000
veterans each month!
When our soldiers come home all banged up and torn apart, not only in the
body but also in the mind and spirit, shouldn’t some one worry about the
welfare of our soldiers, about their persons, relationships, marriages, and
jobs? Would Jesus tell us not to worry? If we are not worried, shouldn’t
this lack of worry worry us?
Will the words spoken and the heads bowed in respect on Memorial Day, on
behalf of the dead and the maimed, satisfy the moral obligations and the
stately protocol? Will the American flags busily flapping in the wind, lining
up the driveways of the cemeteries across the nation, heal the wounds and
sooth the pain of loss? Will the declaration that the dead sacrificed their
lives for the cause of freedom and democracy fill the void left by their
absence?
Let us examine for a moment this Gentile thing. “The Gentiles seek all
these things.” Jesus is saying, they all do it, but for you, you should first
seek the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness. The Christian disciples
are supposed to seek first and foremost the kingdom of Heaven and its
righteousness.
I am not sure, if taking a pill would melt away our anxieties and pains. Does
it solve the problems that caused the anxieties and pains in the first place, or
does it make us numb to the problems and pains that we always carry?
I do believe that worrying is not any more the thing only the Gentiles do: it
affects every human being on earth. I would like to ask Jesus to answer this
question: How would seeking first the kingdom of Heaven solve all these
worries and problems?
When Jesus taught his listeners, Jesus did not have the people of the 21st
century in his mind: he was rather addressing his immediate audience and
their clear and present context of life. Jesus would definitely address our
own problems, if he were here today.

Sometimes we cannot help but notice that the Bible seems to have lost its
relevance to the modern life. It is, therefore, the modern Christians’
theological task to interpret the scripture in the light of the new context of
life, so that God’s timeless promise retains its relevance for the current
generation.
Many seek their own selfish ends. Many do seek the righteousness of their
own causes over those of the kingdom of Heaven . What if everyone
changed their way of thinking, and started to see things from the kingdom
perspective? What if people began to change one by one, seeking first the
kingdom and its righteousness?
What would the world be like, if a great number of Christians believed—and
actually practiced—the righteousness of the kingdom?
I really do not believe that only the Christians can be righteous. I believe
any one could follow the righteousness of the kingdom. I believe that any
one is a child of God, a child of Yahweh, a child of Allah, who seeks such
righteousness, Gentile or Jew, slave or master, Christian or Muslim.
Wouldn’t that be like making disciples of all races and all beliefs who would
embrace the kingdom’s righteousness, as opposed to the exclusive religious
beliefs? Wouldn’t such people make a better world for the rest of us to live
in? Wouldn’t “seeking first the kingdom and its righteousness” be a more
appropriate understanding of making disciples for the modern world?
Worrying would not add to the span of life; worrying would actually lessen
the span of life. So this is the prescription for the modern day:
Although there are many reasons to worry, we, the children of God choose
to celebrate life instead. We choose to savor the rare, fleeting moments of
life that come and go but leave us with the sense of gladness. We choose to
learn to live the moment and dream of the more just future. We choose
intentionally to notice the glory found in the wildflower blooming at the
corner of the parking lot, over that of the Solomon’s. We choose to be the
wildflowers that cover the rugged terrain of bigotry and hatred.
No matter what may befall upon us, we choose to be faithful to the present day and seek first the kingdom of Heaven ; we will not cease to live each day the righteousness of the kingdom.

Source: http://www.standrewsumcpaloalto.org/sermons/may25th2008.pdf

Microsoft word - manual~1.doc

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