In Non-essentials Liberty

Have you had about enough? Hassles at home? Harrangs on the news? Bullying from bosses? Arguments to the death, it seems, over stuff not worth livin’ with much less dyin’ for? Do you feel stuck in the muck? Do you recognize that when everything about my way has to be the only way, we may not be listenin’ for what our dear Lord comes to say? Do you notice how much grown-up stuff is really just kid stuff? (Your children notice!) Well then, I got a song for you! It’s an update on a kids-song all of us can sing…

Drone, drone, drone along grumpy as can be.

Verily, verily you’ll be switched by what you will not see!

(2nd time, all singing!)

Here, here, here’s the thing, Jesus teaches me

Verily, verily ev-ery thing ain’t what it seems to be.

(2nd time, all singing!)

All, all, my friends, has not the same import

Verily, verily you’d be wise all wrangling to thwart.

(2nd time, all singing!)

Last verse…

Praise, praise, praise the Lord, and hold your God the Most

Cling-to-him, Look-for-him, in his son & through the Holy Ghost.

Methodists have known all about rancor and wrangling 'way back to John Wesley, founder of our clan. He was often “on stage” with folks who disputed him. He had a wonderful way of engaging, but disarming them. Once, he found himself in trouble with a pesky Presbyterian over the notion of predestination. Finally, he just quits arguing, crosses the platform, extends his hand (gesture), and simply offers, “If your heart is as my heart [in love with Christ for salvation], give me your hand.” It was a kind of signal moment we could use today in many places. In spirit, it’s the 2nd leg of that great Wesleyan teaching we’ll be exploring this month. “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” O, let’s take a walk with this misunderstood understanding, in non-essentials liberty!

Jesus never spoke the words, in non-essentials liberty. Yet, he taught the thought, often, deeply, and in a couple of forms. Mark’s Gospel gives a glimpse on an especially busy teaching day. The general message in easy terms. Figure out the difference between the big stuff and the small stuff. Then: don’t sweat the small stuff! O, and measure with God’s ruler, not your own! Here’s the gist of Mark’s report. Christ hears his clan fussin’ and fumin’ on the way up the coast to Capernaum. Once there, he asks, “What was that all about?” Well, now they get quiet. Embarrassed. They’re caught. BUSTED… by Jesus. (‘You ever been that? I have. And whenever you are, you just got nothin’ to say!) The argument, I’m more important than you are. (Singsong) How UNJesus! And they know it. Hear what Jesus says. “It’s not essential to be 1st, but faithful; not served, but in service! It’s downright freeing.” (In recognizing non-essentials, there is liberty.) If you belittle others, lookin’ down your nose, you place them lookin’ up your nostrils. Gross! Not a pretty sight. What’s unlovely in you is revealed. Even Heaven can see!

Now Jesus goes farther. ‘A child in his lap. “Just believe like the little ones. That’s enough. Remember: the littlest ones always see the biggest picture!” Many a Church Council across the ages has gotten too big for its britches. ‘Tried to parse the mysteries of God. And then enforce its opinions. ‘Like the dear souls who tried to solve how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Mercy! Christ treasures the adventurous believer… who wants to know more. ‘Thirsty for truth, loving to learn… like a child. And willing to see old things in new ways. Too often, we insist on our own view, only to admit no new truth. We play the game, “Yes That’s Nice, But.” No matter what the other says, we throw up a wall of rejection and retort. I know a head doc whose patient insisted there was nothing the therapist could do for him. ‘Claimed he was already dead! The therapist asked, “Do dead men bleed?”  The doc produced a little lance, gently poked the man’s finger. Of course… a drop of blood. The fella was ecstatic. “Look doc,” cried this troubled soul, “Dead men DO bleed!” Wow. Make our own opinions essential, or exclusive, and we are imprisoned, and the other souls around us are likewise enchained. In NON-essentials, liberty. Perspective. Openness. No wonder Wesley proudly says, “Our people think and let think!” He does not mean we are wishy-washy or unprincipled. He means we are liberated and liberating in the name and cause of Jesus Christ!

O, the Lord’s not done with us or the 12. They fuss of a healer not one of them. Say’s Jesus, “He who is not against us is for us.” While my friend Eric Byrd IS right, “ ‘Ain’t everybody saved, ya know,” there are still believers in unexpected corners and good souls in other companies than our own. There are parties in households, and businesses, and churches, and congress, and communities who need to understand, ‘cause we can’t agree on everything, doesn’t mean we can’t agree on anything. Jesus is no friend to sin, but sinners are the love of his life. You and I can be kinder to each other and to all. “Whoever gives a cup of water in my name will by no means lose his reward,” says Christ.

In non-essentials, liberty. Jesus never says that. But he teaches it in a way Wesley didn’t mean when he spoke up. John’s was not a consumer age like ours. Consumerism wasn’t epidemic… as today.

Luke’s Gospel gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ twist on liberty that frees the soul. Ours. Everyone’s. Jesus appeals to us. Get unstuffed!

He tells the story of the guy who builds barns to store his stuff. (Nobody’d thought up those EZ Storage pods and businesses yet.) He keeps on getting’ and buildin’ til finally God tells him, “Forget about ‘eat, drink and be merry’ with all that stuff, stuff.” “Silly soul, you’re comin’ home to me tonight! I’m all you need! What a waste was all your worry and pilin’ up stuff!” Says Jesus, “Be rich toward God. It’s the only treasure you need to treasure!”

Imagine what your life and mine would be. How freeing. If only we would set aside our passion for the latest gadget, the next big get, the cool next notion. If only we learn to separate the unnecessary form the indispensable. Somethin’s jacked-up, so long as we spend more effort to get the flat-screen TV than on givin’ our kids a picture of heaven on earth. VBS was right this week. We gotta Shake It Up. ‘Get our heads right. ‘Our hearts right. (Thanks to all, kids, parents, teachers & staff for the reminder!) This week, our Camp Hopers will get a little lesson from on high. “Live simply, that others may simply live!” Jesus says it this way, “Consider the ravens (in the air, not the ones locked out or on strike, which ever): they neither sow nor reap, have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more value are you than birds!”

In NON-essentials… liberty! Also priorities and perspective. Humility. Kindness. Openness. Generosity. Assurance. Blessing!

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