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.
sermons by Pastor Joan