Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jefferson Killed A Cow


In 1801 on today’s date, Thomas Jefferson was elected president of the United States by the House of Representatives. The election had been tied for six days between Aaron Burr and Jefferson and the House had voted thirty-six times without arriving at a majority vote. The young nation was in deep trouble because peaceful transference of power is so crucial to our constitutional form of government. Finally, a majority decided that it was preferable to vote for someone they didn’t like rather than to endanger the unity of the nation. Alexander Hamilton, the father of our economic system, helped move the congressman to a healthy conclusion.

Three years later, Aaron Burr fatally shot Hamilton.

Democracy is a messy business!

So is faith.

If you are reading through the One Year Bible, you must have been troubled by all the blood and guts of today’s passage (Leviticus 4 & 5). I mean, the priest is supposed to hack up a cow, do something with its guts, and sprinkle blood on the incense – yuck! What’s that all about?

It’s about making the effects of human sin visible. It a picture of what our sin does to our soul, our family and friends and to our community.

King David once prayed, “Against you and you only have I sinned, O Lord.”

It’s a beautiful prayer but it’s not true. We don’t sin merely against the Lord. The blood and guts spatters over everyone around us and spreads yuck over our descendants, sometimes for generations to come. God wanted us to acknowledge that. David’s observation was false.

The Old Testament is full of mess because we’re full of mess. Even when we follow the Lord, we make a mess. It takes a lot of grace and forgiveness to keep us functioning at any level.

A few years ago, a friend in the music business asked me to listen to a song that he felt was about to become a big hit. His intuition proved correct, though I did not know that at the time. I just found myself surprised, irritated and moved by the lyrics: “what if God were one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on a bus, finding his way home”?

Christians wince at the phrase “slob like one of us’” but perhaps we wince because we are looking through rose colored glasses at the incarnation of God. We can hardly bear to think that Jesus, our Savior, was a man in every respect, sometimes hungry and frustrated, that he defecated and grew weary. We have often deified the humanity of Christ out of our reverence and respect for Him. However, in so doing we blunt the power and wonder of the incarnation. For the heart of our faith is that one day God became a common man, like one that a person could conceivably mistake as a “stranger on a bus finding his way home.”

When we consider God as Son, we are getting very intimate with God. This is the God who “walks with me and talks with me and tells me that I am His own,” as the hymn writer put it.

Jesus entered the mess. He didn’t try to heal the mess from the outside. He came into the mess with us. He allowed the gunk to splatter on Him.

Our faith is not a pristine, edited, flawless thing. We have doubts. We sin. We come to wrong conclusions about other believers. We make bad decisions. We fall in love with erroneous ideas. We are stubborn. We are loyal to denominations because grandpa belonged. We screw up. We sing hymns that don’t make any sense.

One proof of the divine origin of our faith is that it survives our stupidity! It does this generation after generation.

So far, our nation has done the same thing. The vice president of the country shot a political rival because he was ticked that he didn’t get to be president.

Thomas Jefferson, who many believed would wreck the constitution and destroy the nation, turned out to actually do a pretty good job.

When we learn that life is messy and we roll with it, things turn out!

It’s the perfectionism and pride that kills us.

Only God is perfect and even He was willing to enter into imperfection for us.

It’s a lot better than going to church to see a cow hacked up!

2 comments:

James Smith said...

In 1820, just six years before his death, Thomas Jefferson set about editing the New Testament, physically removing with scissors all verses that pertained to miracles, resurrection, and anything supernatural, and pasting the rest together. What he was left with was, he believed, a purely moral document.
Library of Congress

Removing “stuff” he didn’t agree with only leaving law leaves me to wonder. It is by faith that we keep our hope of things eternal.

"We can hardly bear to think that Jesus, our Savior, was a man in every respect, sometimes hungry and frustrated, that he defecated and grew weary. We have often deified the humanity of Christ out of our reverence and respect for Him. However, in so doing we blunt the power and wonder of the incarnation. For the heart of our faith is that one day God became a common man, like one that a person could conceivably mistake as a “stranger on a bus finding his way home.”"

Reshaping G-D in our minds tears down the “Awe” in our hearts.

"We fall in love with erroneous ideas."

Pastor Dan, I love this post, you have brought to light one of the many reasons for the reading. Remembering we are all sinners saved by grace and the shedding of blood. What the blood of bulls and goats could not do, Christ paid once and for all who would accept him.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights. I hope to learn the first lesson of Rabbi Hillel, “Silence” to listen, for you are a wise teacher.

Trish said...

very kind.thanks