Friday, April 28, 2006

Help My Unbelief

From the sermon: Rewriting the Book of Love, from Help My Unbelief: sermons by Fleming Rutledge, published by Eerdmans 2004

The performance artist Laurie Anderson, whose new show is opening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music next week, is a reader of the Bible and the literary classics. According to The New York Times article about her, she deals in ‘big ideas’ about history, philosophy, science and religion. Well, I don’t know. She is very bright, very committed, and very well read, but not many people’s ideas are as big as the Bible’s ideas. She wrote a song called ‘Kerjillions of Stars’ in which she sings:

If I were a queen for a day
I’d give the ugly people all the money
I’d rewrite the book of love
I’d make if funny

That sounds quite appealing, although I don’t think we could call it a Big Idea. A lot of people have enjoyed imagining what they would do if they ran the world; her idea is more endearing than most. It wouldn’t work, though. We know that. It’s just an attractive fantasy.

She sings ‘I’d rewrite the book of love.’ That’s the most interesting part of her song. Would you call that a Big Idea? Maybe so, maybe not. We can be sure of one thing, though; not in a million years could any human being come up with the Big Idea that we have in this passage from Philippians today, no matter how brilliant, well-read, or ‘spiritual’ they are. I don’t think a lot of Christian people realise this. We are so used to this Big Idea that we don’t react to it.

For a lot of us, coming to church is sort of routine. It even becomes predictable. We do more or less the same things every Sunday morning and go about our business during the week. We forget that we are here because of a staggeringly new thing that happened two thousand years ago. No scientist or philosopher or religious thinker who ever lived could ever have imagined One God in Three Persons with a Second Person, a Son, who would come into the world to be crucified.

He became like a slave, one who belonged completely to others. Instead of being the boss of us, the Son of God let us be the boss of him. And what happened? We put him to death. Because he let us be boss, he died the death of a slave. That’s what happens when you and I get to be king or queen for a day.

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