Livestreamed service

Genesis 3:8-21
Psalm 96:1-5, 10-13
Romans 8:31-39

        In hindsight, I’m not sure that “Made for More” was the wisest choice for a sermon title.

        I mean, I would hate for you to think I’m a sudden convert to the so-called “prosperity gospel,” the more-capitalist-than-Christian idea that what God wants more than anything in the world is for you to be financially successful and physically healthy, and that there’s a direct link between how faithful you are, how much money you give to certain huckster preachers, and how good your life will be.

        And I would really hate for you to think that I’ve bought into the whole “live your best life NOW” self-help culture, which invites each and every one of us to wear ourselves out in a non-stop, frantic effort to build at least the image of a perfect life—a life that looks perfect on Facebook and Instagram, an image intended to show others (or maybe just ourselves) that we’ve arrived, that we have it all, that we are happy, happy, happy!

        And I would especially hate you to think that I meant “more” in terms of more stuff, though I will confess that when my next-door neighbors got new siding put on their house last week, I found myself thinking that my house needs some, too.

        But none of that is what I mean by “made for more.”

        None of that is what God meant when, according to the story, God created all things, called each and every one of them good, plopped the first humans down in the middle of it all and said, “Enjoy yourselves! I made all this for you, and I made you in my image. You have everything you need, and I, at last, have soulmates. All of us can live together, in peace and harmony and love. So, please: Make yourselves at home in this lovely garden paradise.

        “Oh—and I almost forgot: Everything here is for you—everything, that is, except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Don’t eat that. If you do, you will die.”

        And so began, according to tradition, an endless human cycle of messing up, blaming, shaming, running from God, and, sometimes at least,  making things even worse.

        And so began, according to our faith, God’s endless cycle of providing for us, being rejected by us, sadly explaining to us the consequences of our actions, forgiving us, tenderly caring for us, constantly inviting us into relationship, welcoming us home, and encouraging and empowering us to be who we were created to be. Again and again and again.

        So when I say that we are “made for more,” what I mean is more than repeating our same mistakes again and again and again. More than our most basic, ego-driven ways of being in the world. More than constant struggle and striving. More than feeling that we are forever falling short. More than blaming others. More than refusing to take responsibility. More than living in fear. More than trying to hide who we really are and what we have really done. More than pretending to be something or someone other than we are. More than worrying that we’ll never have enough or be enough.

        What I mean is that going all the way back to our creation story and then all the way through to the Word Made Flesh and the life and teachings of Jesus, the Divine Word has been consistent: That we have been made for more than what is in this present moment, however precious or agonizing that may be. We are made for more than what we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. We are made for more than just ourselves. More than mere survival. More even than a return to innocence and a perfect garden. More than we can even begin to imagine.

        We are made in the image of God who is love to be in right and harmonious relationship with God and all creation. We are made just a little lower than the angels. We are made for joyful and fulfilling union with the Holy One!

        And . . . as was true of the very first humans and every human since, we’ve also received from God the gift of free will. Which is to say: We have choices. So many choices:

        Right or wrong, left or right, caf or de-caf. Take care of that unpleasant task now, or put it off until later. Be kind or not, care about others or focus only on ourselves and those closest to us. Learn the ugly truth of our nation’s racist history or refuse to think about it. Respect people for who they are or reject everyone who doesn’t fit a certain mold. Come to church and do the joyful but sometimes hard work of building community and discerning purpose, or pursue more fleeting pleasures.

        You get the idea.

        Every day we’re faced with countless choices, some conscious and others not, some unique to us and others more universal.

        And the single most important choice we must make is the same one faced by those first mythical humans and every human who’s lived since then: Will we choose to live with God, or will we choose to try to be god? And closely related to that choice is this one: Will we serve the one true God, or will we make gods of the things of this world and give our best to them—whether those are good things like working for justice or accompanying the poor or a certain sense of ourselves, or the more troublesome idols of country, money, power, and prestige?

        The Year W lectionary for Lent doesn’t include the the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, but isn’t it interesting that just as one of the first stories in the Hebrew Bible is about making choices, so is one of the first stories in the Christian Gospel? The contrast is clear:

        While the first humans in the creation story chose to do the one and only thing God had forbidden them do, Jesus chose the love and promises of God over his own physical and ego desires.

        I would say that the first humans chose knowledge and autonomy, and that Jesus chose more—more than things, more than status, more than power, more even than the illusion of control over his own circumstances and destiny. Jesus, weak and famished, chose to trust the goodness of God.

        It’s not easy, I know. The world is filled with shiny things, and there are so many would-be gods. We have so many choices, and decision fatigue is a real thing. And sometimes we forget that not to choose is also a choice.

You know how it goes: You and your partner have a little spat and don’t get around to talking it through. You draw the line and your kid goes ballistic. You put off calling your friend and your friend puts off calling you. You dig a hole at school or work and it just keeps getting deeper. You skip church for a few Sundays—or maybe a couple of pandemic years.
One bad choice or non-choice leads to another and before you know it, you and your partner are hardly speaking, your kid hates you, you’ve lost a friend, and, well, you can’t go back to church now—people might make a fuss. One thing leads to another and one day you wake up asking, “How did I get here?” and saying, “My God! What have I done?”

        But one thing doesn’t have to lead to another. We can’t turn back the hands of time but, if we’re willing to take the first step, if we can trust that we’re meant for more, we can, by God’s grace, begin to set things right. We can experience forgiveness, healing, hope, and restoration to the heart of God. We can experience more.

        The good news is that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not bad theology or stories and traditions that seek to divide us by gender or race or identity. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus—not even our bad choices.

        The good news is that there is no expiration date on God’s mercy. And the way back home to God is greased with grace.

        What will you, what will we, choose today?

        May we all recognize the choices that we have. And let us pray for the strength, courage, and grace to choose well—to choose the promises of God over the promises of stuff, to choose love over difference, peace over war, the care of creation over exploitation, community over separation.

        Beloveds, in the multiple-choice test of life, let us decide to choose more. It is what we were made for.