Monday, February 25, 2013

An Eavesdropper's Guide to the Galaxy

Lent is the season of searching. But searches don’t produce results unless the searcher knows what he or she is actually searching for. So the first couple weeks of Lent might be used fore that purpose…our searches are personal and so each of us might well be searching for something different while as a community we might have some commonality about our search.
That’s where the Bible can be helpful. Some folks consider it a guide to life, a roadmap. The problem with that is that unless you know where you’re going…any map will do. Right?
This morning’s sermon is titled “An eavesdropper’s guide to the galaxy. The title comes from one of my favorite books, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
A fellow named Douglas Adams wrote the book, which begins when a squad of intergalactic contractors arrive uninvited at Arthur Dent's house. They have orders to demolish the house to make way for a bypass. Dent’s friend, Ford Prefect, arrives. Arthur is lying in front of the bulldozers to keep them from demolishing his home. Ford explains to Arthur that the Earth is about to be demolished. The Vogons, an alien race, intend to destroy the entire Earth to make way for a hyperspace, interplanetary bypass.
The two escape by hitchhiking on one of the Vogon demolition ships. This is, however, against Vogon government regulations, and when the pair are discovered, they are tortured.
The torture is requiring them to listen to Vogon poetry, which is known as the third worst in the known Universe. Eventually they are saved from this horrible torture and pass through many other improbable adventures
Arthur becomes separated from the rest of the group and is taken into the interior of the planet by a native who explains to Arthur that the Earth was actually nothing more than a supercomputer commissioned and paid for by a race of hyper-intelligent beings. These creatures had built a supercomputer called Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to Life, the universe, and everything else. This computer, after seven and a half million years of calculation, had announced that the Answer to all of those question is in fact…42.
Being unsatisfied with the Answer, they then set about finding the Question to which that was the Answer some whereupon the Earth was created to calculate it.
However, ten million years later, and just five minutes before the earth could answer the question, the Earth is demolished by the Vogons. All of that is followed by a great deal of drama…all of which ends when everyone decides to go to a place called “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” to have lunch.
Now…you may ask…what does that have to do with anything…much less today’s sermon? Doesn’t that plot sound a little like the plot contained in the Bible? Doesn’t it all sound like us and our lives?
We may not be hitchhikers but we are eavesdroppers and the Bible is “the Eavesdropper’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Think about it. We are born and are set adrift with this book in our hand.  We are given an unknown amount of time on earth to answer one question. WHY are we here?
The race is on. The contest begins. Will we be able to answer that one question before our lives end?
Turns out there is no roadmap…no cheat sheet…no computer that can help us answer the question. The answers are not in this book but in our own brains and hearts where God put them. So then…what is this book for?
In recent months, I have begun to remember how difficult it is to parent a toddler. Rhyland is three years old now and spends a lot of time with grandpa. For those of you who haven’t been around a three year old for a while, let me refresh your memories.
It is times of great joy interrupted by frequent meltdowns, tantrums, picky eating, potty training lapses, and did I mention tantrums? So I do what I often do when I am confused about something in my life. I got a book. The book is entitled “The happiest Toddler on the Block.”
As I read it…a light went on…an “ah ha” moment. Now I get it…now I see what God has been trying to do with this book. You see, one of the most effective parenting or grand-parenting techniques is what this book calls “side-door messages.” The theory is that toddlers (and we never really outgrow that stage of life…we are all still toddlers at some level) toddlers believe what they OVERHEAR more than what is said directly to them.
So…the idea is that you allow the toddler to overhear you whispering about him or her, praising their good behaviors to someone else. Second, you use stories, fairytales and myths that have important messages embedded within them that are age appropriate, allowing the toddler to figure out what it means to him or her.
Hmmm…does any of that sound familiar? This morning we are allowed to eavesdrop on God and God’s Son. Jesus, the Bible says, took Peter and John and James up on the mountain to pray. The story is told that we might overhear it and go with them to that mountaintop. We are there as Jesus is transfigured. We watch the appearance of his face change, and his clothes become dazzling white.
Now we eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah. They are having a conversation about what Jesus plans to accomplish in Jerusalem. What are those plans? The story doesn’t say. We are not allowed to overhear that part of the conversation. Why not?
Like with our toddlers, I think God wants us to use our imagination this morning to find the meaning. If we can understand Jesus’ purpose in going to Jerusalem…just maybe we can understand our purpose in living. If we can imagine the conversation between these three…Moses who led God’s people out of slavery into a new, promised life, Elijah who risked his life by speaking the truth to those who didn’t want to hear it and Jesus…if we can imagine the conversation between these three Jews…these three prophets of Islam…these three Christian icons…
…can’t you just imagine the stories they shared about their shared experiences, about God’s call in their lives. Use your imagination to hear them laugh and hear them cry. See the body language Moses uses when he tells the story of the burning bush…
…the look on Elijah’s face when he tells of hiding from the armies of Jezebel, despairing…asking God to take his life, watch his face as he tells of the Lord passing by, of the great and strong wind that rent the mountains, and broke in the rocks…imagine the smile on Elijah’s face as he tells of that moment when he realized the Lord was not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire but in a still small voice."
Now…imagine Jesus…listening intently as Moses and Elijah tells their stories…strengthened in his own resolve to do what he must do in Jerusalem.
God gave us this book so that we could eavesdrop on that and hundreds of other conversations. We are allowed to overhear these stories being told so that we can find the answer to the questions of our own lives…
…and then the story ends with much of the mystery in which it began…a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days they told no one any of the things they had seen.
BUT in our days…they have told all of us of the things that they had seen so that we can become the happiest toddlers on the block.

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