Tag Archives: hypocrisy

Just Another Easter

The Gallups in pastels for Easter

So that was fun.

I’m sure many of your found the courage to wear pastel colors that normally lie dormant in you closet the rest of the year yesterday. Perhaps you got together with family members you would never spend time with unless you had to. You may have eaten a few too many peeps than the recommended serving size. But even if you did none of these, chances are you went to church. Even if yesterday was the only day of the year that you do.

I’m normally a rather sentimental fellow. I cried when I watched Charlotte’s Web; and when I say cried, I mean I sobbed and snot poured out of ny nose and I didn’t care because I was so enraptured in the beauty of the moment. Yeh, I’m one of those. So usually every year around the beginning of Spring, I find myself knee-deep in snot and tears as I become overwhelmed by sheer beauty of the Easter story.

The whole thing is beautiful even if it isn’t personal, but it is. In no way am I worthy of such beauty, such grace, such love, such life. Yet the story of Easter is just about that, the meeting of our complete unworthiness with God’s complete welcome. When the weight of my folly intersects with the glory of God’s love, tears are paltry offerings to express the beauty of redemption.

But this year my eyes stayed dry. I wore my pastel pants, ate candy, went to church, sang about joy, and went to lunch like nothing different happened. I had to ask myself why.

Maybe because like our linen pants and pink ties, we rummage through the closet to find this thing called to Resurrection and pull it out for one day to show it off only to have it stored away till next year. The Resurrection is the climax of the gospel, the story of Jesus. Without it, we have no hope, we have no faith, we have no life. It completes the work of the cross and ushers in a New Creation that is bursting forth light where darkness once reigned. It is at the very center of our faith as Christians, yet for many of us it has already become an afterthought today.

The reality of the Resurrection is that it is not just an event that happened but it is always happening, especially right now. Our hope is that we too participate in the Resurrection through our faith and obedience in Christ. The intersection of our depravity and God’s love is our daily reality. Yet when we think that one day a year is good enough, we are in effect denying the Resurrection.

When we regulate the power of God to some children’s story that only matters peripherally at best, we deny that the tomb is empty. We deny that Jesus truly reigns in our hearts and in our world. This year I saw a spectacle of false joy. I was immersed in a group of people who had traded the truth of Easter for a lie. Because really nothing changed. We put on fake smile to match our shoes and tread upon the gravity of this story.

I may seem a little heavy-handed but I felt the weight of our hypocrisy most clearly yesterday. Instead of shedding tears of joy, I shed tears of sorrow. As my brothers and sisters gave lip service to “He is risen indeed” I wanted to shake them and plead, “do you really believe this?” Because if we did…..I’m not really sure what would happen if we really did.

But here is the power of Easter. The sins of our ignorance, the depravity of our hypocrisy is not met with God’s scorn but with his grace.

If the Resurrection is real then I can hope and rejoice that the life that seemed so distant in the very hearts it was professed to belong to, can (and I believe will) find its home there once again, perhaps even for the first time. The implication of Easter is that we can again cry tears of joy in the face of our hypocrisy because Jesus laid death in its grave.

I did not cry yesterday because I was also part of the denying crowd.

Because my vision was filled solely with our collective hypocrisy, I missed the intersection of grace altogether. I saw our depravity as victorious and that is the very lie the Resurrection destroys. Jesus overcame the grave so that Love can truly win.

Do I really believe this? Because if I did…..

Michael is the Pastor of the Church at Argenta. 

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A Seat at the Table

By Michael Gallup

Every Thanksgiving, my family congregates at Grandma’s house for a feast, sometimes as many as 60 people in attendance. My Dad would tell the story about his first Pierce Thanksgiving. He described a washtub of dressing, nine pies, and what he thought amounted to enough food to feed an army. However, he underestimated the appetites of the Pierce army and after taking a nap found my Uncle Jimmy picking the last scraps of meat off of the turkey carcass.

I can assure you that this feeding frenzy we call Thanksgiving has not ceased to be a furious survival of the fittest at Grandma’s house. There is little decorum to these meals, most carry a fork in their front pockets so that they can sample the goods before Grandma prays and we take turns trying to cut each other in line and pushing the capacity of our paper plates to their limits. Yet there is one aspect of this meal that us newcomers refuse to intrude upon, who sits at the table.

Like I said, sometimes as many as 60 people show up for this meal and sit all sorts of places, on stumps, lawn chairs, the floor, but a few, only about three, sit at the table. These are usually my uncles: Jesse, Steve, Rocky, and Jimmy. Although no one has ever stated that it is off limits to sit there, I wouldn’t dare presume to take a chance. Sometimes they do let others sit there, my brother has before and some of my cousins, but none of them lasted very long; my uncles are a tough bunch to sit with I promise you. Throughout my years of sharing this meal, I like my dad, have learned a few lessons, but most of all I learned that you must earn your seat at the table.

Jesus finds himself ,strange enough, at a table similar to my Grandma’s. One Sabbath after the Jewish equivalent of church, he is invited to a meal at a religious leader’s house. There he finds that this extension of hospitality was actually far from it, the host sought to test his guests to evaluate their worth to sit at his table.

Jesus, clever as always, addresses this act of inhospitability by reversing the table, he points to another recipient of the host’s up-turned nose, a man with swollen joints. Jesus asks the group what is the right thing to do on this day, to heal or not to heal? The party remains silent, the answer is clear enough but in the answer they find their hypocrisy revealed.

The Sabbath was a day to let go and let God, but they were using it to jockey for position, to earn a right to sit at the table. Instead of showing hospitality to the injured man, they ignore him because he is in their way. Yet Jesus refuses to let them go along in such a manner. Into their silence, he tells them a story that gives flesh to the skeleton of a meal they are sharing. He says:

“When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.

“When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Meals are indeed sacred; times when, if we are true to their intent, we are brought to the same level. We all need meat and bread, we each need sustenance and are utterly dependent upon God and each other for this food. Meals are a time to share our hopes and jokes, time to not only share the gravy but our very lives.

Yet we, like the religious leaders Jesus speaks this story to, have perverted the intent of a meal. It has become a time to hoard as opposed to a time to give, a time to expose our power over another as opposed to a time to humble ourselves, and a time to lament our lack as opposed to a time to praise our abundance. But the beauty of this story like most of Jesus’ stories is that it not only exposes our deficiencies, it also offers hope of a better story.

In our humility, Jesus says, we find honor. I said that I never presumed to sit at the table with my uncles; this was not because I had some great sense of humility but because I was scared of them. They are some big bad dudes, but through the years I’ve sought to honor the men who grew up with my Momma and in small ways I’ve had some of the honor and even respect reciprocated. And I promise you, those few moments and words have been some of the sweetest in my life.

I think that all along, if I simply had the courage, I could have found a seat at their table, there was always room, because they had no need to prove themselves to anyone, least of all me. “But these strict Sabbath-keepers had their eyes first on Jesus to see what he was going to do, then on one another to see how they could take advantage of one another. They were betraying the Sabbath in the very act of ‘protecting’ it.” And we betray ourselves when we use the good things God has given us to somehow prove ourselves.

May we lower our noses and seek the last place and perhaps we may hear Christ himself say to us, “Friend, come up front.”

Michael is an aspiring church-planter and student at Denver Seminary. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.

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The Perils Of Righteous Indignation

“I did not have sex with that woman.”

If you were cognizant during the President Bill Clinton’s  administration, his words are etched in your memory. Americans were infuriated that their president cheated on his wife and jeopardized national security—and then lied about it on national television. And rightly so.

At the front of the protestors, Newt Gingerich chastised the president for his infidelity. But years later, Gingerich confessed that he was engaged in an extramarital affair in the midst of the Clinton probe.

Ouch!

Righteous indignation is a sword that swings both ways. It may help us expose someone’s flaws, but on its way back, it may expose ours.

Today, you’re going to read about a weak, pathetic man and his daughters who may share more in common with us than we’d like to admit.

TODAY’S READING

Genesis 18:16-19:38
Matthew 6:25-7:14
Psalm 8:1-9
Proverbs 2:6-15

NOTES

Lot made bread without yeast in Genesis 19:3 because it was evening when his guests arrived and he didn’t have time to let his bread rise before baking it.

The behavior of the men in Genesis 19:4-11 was deplorable, even among pagan nations. The New Bible Commentary explains, “No greater flouting of oriental conventions of hospitality can be imagined than to make guests submit to homosexual rape. Ancient societies often condoned homosexuality between consenting adults, but rape, especially of guests, was always regarded as wrong.”

A question about Genesis 19:30 that I’m unable to answer: Why was Lot afraid? He was a wealthy rancher with so many flocks that he had to separate from Abraham. He had the financial means to hire people who would protect him.

The Word Biblical Commentary points out the pathetic irony of Genesis 19:30-38: “The angels have rescued Lot and his virgin daughters from the Sodom mob; now they sacrifice their virginity and their father’s honor when there is no actual danger.”

THE WORD MADE FRESH (how Jesus makes it real to my life)

Lot’s story is pretty disturbing. He lives in a town that by ancient standards, makes Las Vegas look like Disneyland. He was passive, weak, and offered his virgin daughters to be raped by the men in his city so they wouldn’t touch his houseguests. If he was wealthy enough to live wherever he chose, why did he choose to live in such a deplorable place?

Unfortunately, his daughters’ fiancés lost their lives in the destruction of the city, and with a fearful, protective father, they held little or no hope for getting married and having children. So they got their father drunk and had sex with him.

I guess you can take the girl out of Sodom, but you can’t take the Sodom out of the girl!

About the time my religious ardor was adequately worked up over the story, I moved to our New Testament reading. Jesus said not to worry about what I’ll eat, or my body, or what clothes I’ll wear. In other words, don’t get so worked up about my life.

Then Jesus throws cold water on my fervor with these words:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

–Matthew 6:31-32 (emphasis added)

Oops! To quote the great philosopher Alfred E. Neuman: “What, me worry?”

Yes, I worry about these things. I worry about finances, getting out of debt, being a better husband and father, getting a young church on its feet. And this places me on level ground with pagans and Lot’s daughters. That’s a way to knock me off my religious high horse! I guess there’s a little more pagan in me than I’d like to admit.

Jesus then follows these oft-quoted words with some balm for my wounds (from falling off my horse): “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

I don’t need to worry because God has it covered. In fact, he wants me to forget about me and focus on him.

Finally, lest you think I want to leave you sprawled on the ground, read Psalm 8 from today’s reading. This is how God sees us.

Isn’t it amazing how our readings seems to work together?

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. Describe a time when you fell off your religious high horse.
  2. Why do you worry?
  3. What does today’s reading—especially the portion in Matthew—tell you about God?

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