I admit that much of our Christian faith can wash over us as if we’ve become bored with the same old dish over and over. The challenge is often to refresh ourselves rather than rehearsing the same old ingredients in the same old ways of preparation. [If this reads like a plug for the Renew ministry we’ll discuss after church then you’re right.]
You’re not alone if you often feel wearied by all the theological “chefs” who overcook the same bland dishes. A key to overcoming numb taste buds involves making things tasty and textured. There’s nothing wrong with a piquant salad dressing to spruce-up your otherwise bland arugula. What does this have to do with today’s message? Well, I’m sharing a challenge to bring new life into old words, to take the limp and lifeless greens on your plate and partner with God to make a great Caesar’s salad [render unto Caesar!]. I’m having fun with the metaphors, so let’s create a recipe for success and enjoy a refreshing palette of possibilities.
Let’s step out of the world of culinary arts and quote Paul’s words in Romans: “[F]or the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8b). Paul emphasizes the preeminence of love, which is a good, mighty, and wonderful thing. We know that there is nothing greater than love, and that all the Old Testament Law is fulfilled by loving one another.
There is more to Paul’s message than an emphasis on love. Again, Paul says its best: “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep” (Romans 13:11a). Time is paramount. Each day we move inexorably closer to the realization of our transition from this life to the next. Make no mistake: eternal life has already begun. We are to be awake and applying ourselves to the splendid task of living and loving.
Consistently loving is not easy. If it were, then there would be no need to review and learn from biblical writings or our experiences. Love must transcend trite slogans and become energetic, responding in relevant terms to the people around us, those whom we can accept for who and what they are.
Ready for the end? Paul seemed to be ready, and the overwhelming sense from the Bible is that he wrote people expecting that the world would collapse in a fit of fire and judgement. For better or for worse—I think better!—the world didn’t end in the first-century. The sense of urgency in the New Testament writings is yet to be fulfilled because Jesus hasn’t returned and no one seems to have a reliable clue as to if or when that will happen. We need not sink into a faithless despair or a cynical apathy as we debate biblical prophecy. Instead, we can take Paul’s advice all the more seriously as we “live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness” (Romans 13:13a).
Eat, drink, and be merry? Sort of. There’s nothing wrong with celebration as long as we do it for a greater good, such as rejuvenating ourselves and sharing the joy of God’s kingdom. Living in mindful love isn’t dependent upon pin-pointing Jesus’ return or attending the latest Book of Revelation seminar. We can take Paul’s advice to simply be ready whenever our end occurs. We are ready when we know who and what we are, and when we choose to live intentionally, aware and awake of the redeeming God in us.
It’s not that we can’t have fun, but that we should choose long-term joy over short-term excess. If we receive and share God’s love and truth then vital joy is here and we don’t need to hold our breath waiting for the heavenly trumpet to sound. Booyah!