Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter sermon, close to how I remember giving it, abridged and without special effects

A long time ago I heard a sermon about how you can't keep God in a box. I'd heard dozens of "God in a box" sermons in my time and in my mind I was saying, "yeah, yeah, you can't keep God in a box blahblahblah" as the preacher held up a small white box to demonstrate.

Then the preacher came out of the pulpit. This was a little disturbing. It was all very well to talk about how you can't keep God in a box as long as everyone was staying in the right place, but when the preacher left the pulpit, I couldn't help feeling a little nervous.

She came to the center, holding up the box and talking about how you can't keep God in a box when all of a sudden, she threw the box to the floor and it shattered.

And my first, completely unbidden though was, "That was a nice box!"*

It hadn't occurred to me before that even the nicest box is still a box. And God doesn't fit in a box.

Let's think of this in terms of Jesus, who didn't fit into the nice boxes of law or purity or race and gender relations. He healed people on the Sabbath. He touched lepers. He and his disciples didn't practice ritual cleaning. He talked to women -- including a Samaritan woman and a Syro-Phoenician woman. He went to dinner with tax collectors. And he suggested God did all of those things too.

This kind of behavior was so disturbing that they literally nailed him down to keep him in his place. And then, once he was dead, they bound him up in cloths and put him in a tomb with a stone blocking the entrance. Talk about a box.

But the story of Easter is you cannot keep God in a box. God will break open the box no matter what you do.

There are two ways this applies to us today. First of all, we need to examine what kind of boxes we try to keep God in. They may be nice boxes, but they are boxes all the same. Author Anne Lamott quotes a friend who has a great way of summing this up: "You know you've made God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do."

The second is this: What kind of box are you in?

A few weeks ago, I got to hear Brene Brown talk to a group of church leaders and she said something I thought was very interesting. She asked us what we thought was the biggest barrier to belonging. After our guesses, she told us that her research indicates the biggest barrier to belonging is fitting in, that fitting in requires you to assess and adapt. It's all about being in the right box.

In contrast, what really leads to belonging is showing up and being seen, and isn't that what we hear today in the story of the Resurrection? Jesus shows up and is seen, after everyone's best effort to force him to fit in.

You don't need to fit in either. You already belong.

Easter is about the breaking of boxes. God does not fit in a box. Jesus will not stay in a box. And you are free from the boxes that hold you as well.**

*yes, I did in fact do all of these things during the sermon. My "box" was unfortunately very clearly a flower pot, but, you know, it got the point across. I had placed a piece of marble I'd found in the garden of the house where I was staying on the floor in the center aisle of the church and disguised it with Easter lilies. The altar guild member in me was upset when I realized I had placed most of the lilies with the sales tags facing out. After saying "That was a nice box!" I also added that the second thought that may be running through their minds was "Who is going to clean this up?" I told them I would. The Altar Guild still took care of most of the cleanup, but I did do the vacuuming at the end.

**I practiced the closing sentence over and over and over again, and still messed it up! This isn't it exactly either. I can't remember the exact words I'd prepared. But they were pretty good -- better than this version anyway. Too bad I couldn't remember them in the moment!

1 comment:

Linda C. said...

You're a great preacher. Wish I'd heard/seen this one!