God has Tenure

There's a bit of humor that has gone round about why God would never get tenure at a University in the United States. For those of you who may not know what tenure is, it has to do with professors at university levels and sometimes in primary schools, who are granted the right not to be fired without a really good reason after an initial probationary period. During this probationary period there are guidelines and standards that must be met. Normally the professor will have published a research paper, all original work, complete with bibliography, footnotes, no plagiarism and continuing to do research in his chosen field. 

Well, this author suggests that there are 16 reasons why God would never get tenure. First he refers to the Bible as God's major - but one and only - scholarly publication. It was written in Hebrew, not English and had no references. God had to get a bunch of his students to edit the work and put in all those references and footnotes we see. Well, if the students did all that work, we can probably guess he didn't write the whole thing by himself. As far as continuing work in his field…well He may have created the world, but what has he done since then? The scientific community has had a tough time trying to duplicate God's results. He forgot to apply to the Ethics Board to get permission to use human subjects in his research. When one experiment went wrong, he tried to cover it up by drowning all the subjects. He rarely came to class, just asked his students to read the book and got his son to come teach. His first two students got expelled when they learned too much, well, got the answers from a snake. There may only be ten requirements to pass his class, but most students fail his tests. Finally, if you needed to speak to him personally, he hardly ever had office hours and they were usually held on a mountain top.

In other words, if God showed up at your school office with Bible in hand, he'd have a pretty hard time getting a job - well at least by today's academic hiring standards oh, yeah, not to mention separation of church and state. You know, though, the rules, my friends, were created to protect us from ourselves - not God.

How easy it is to be a modern day Pharisee - one who knows and lives by the law so completely that God can't get through the door to do what God does best. Can you picture those Pharisees scurrying around, saying, "No, no, no, go away all you who are sick and heavy laden, go home, God doesn't heal today. We are open for that only six days in the week. You know the rules, keep the Sabbath Holy. But Jesus came and opened the door to allow the Spirit to do its work - to redeem a child from one of the heavy burdens of this life that is so distant from the Father.

The Gospel message that we heard today, begins with the simple statement that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and the end of the passage says there were those who were put to shame. When we look at the few short years of Jesus' ministry, we find Jesus teaching all the time. Explaining God's intent behind the law and when peoples eyes are opened, we either find people rejoicing and free or we find people ashamed, bitter and bent on self-destruction. In Matthew chapter five, Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. All the law, as we know, pointed to the coming of Christ and when he came, he turned human misunderstanding of the law on its head. The law commands us not to murder - but Jesus tells us that even anger, insults, and calling people names is liable to judgment. Don't commit adultery, the law says. But Jesus says that even if you just day dream about it - you've done it.

Human understanding leaves loop holes for us to think we are getting away with some things and its okay. With Jesus' understanding we soon discover we have only been fooling ourselves. No matter where we turn, we are convicted. But that is because we basically misunderstand the intent of the law. Way back in the book of Deuteronomy, God told the Israelites that the law was for their benefit, that they could live long and prosper in the land that they were inheriting. Jesus tried to teach them that the law was meant to bring life not death. Following the law creates a context - an atmosphere so to speak in which the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit can move through us and continue bringing us closer to him.

So, what do you think it would be like if the door bell rang tomorrow morning while you were running around trying to get ready for school? You open the door and there stands Jesus dressed in clothes from your favorite store whether it was JC Penny, Aeropostale or Hot Topic and he says, "Hey, just thought I'd hang out with you today. D'ya mind?" How would that feel? Would your heart sink? How would you introduce this guy to your friends? Would you feel like your whole day was ruined because now you had to behave ever so perfectly? Jesus is there watching your every move.

Or would you realize what an opportunity it was to see life from a whole different perspective? You'd have someone there who could guide you through every disagreement you had with friends and enemies alike. He'd be there to explain all the mysteries of the universe when you never could understand anything your science or math teacher ever said. He'd help you feel better about your growing discontent with yourself and your parents - who you are and how valuable you are to the one that really matters.

Would it make a difference to you if getting on that bus tomorrow morning, you knew you were about to find tools that would open the whole world to you and a future that was filled with possibility? The word disciple means one who learns, in other words a student. And being a disciple doesn't just mean coming here on Sunday, picking up a few facts about Jesus, learning the ten commandments and then leaving them out there on the sidewalk outside the church. It means taking them out into the world and trying them on for size and seeing if it can't make a difference to the future of the world. You may never see Jesus in a pair of Jnco Jeans or a baseball uniform waiting for you on your front lawn, but he is there, none the less.

Teachers, you have an important responsibility. You, like Jesus, are interpreters. You take facts and attempt to make them come alive for minds that are still discovering what it means to live. You take the history of humanity and try to help us learn new ways of living in community. You take universal truths and try to form them into ethical guidelines that get us through the whirlwind of human passions. What would it be like if you found Jesus in the teacher's lounge or sitting in the back of your classroom? Would it make you cringe like you were being evaluated? Or would it give you the strength to overcome the obstacles that young lives confront you with? You may not be able to walk into your classroom with Jesus or even with the greatest thesis ever written because human rules strive to separate the source of life from life itself. But Jesus was all about changing lives through love. Jesus has given you the greatest resource of all, his love for you. He has gifted you with the responsibility to translate God's world into contemporary understanding to make God's word relevant. What an exciting challenge!

And, so for students and teachers all over the world we seek to offer you a blessing as you begin a new school year.

Read other sermons by Pastor Joan