Sunday, February 26, 2012

26 February 2012: Year B, First Sunday in Lent.

Preaching: malakhgabriel (Gabe, if you prefer)
  • Denominational and Theological Background: Raised Southern Baptist, current member of a small house church. Influenced by process, narrative, postmodern, body, Quaker and weak theologies.
  • Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies.
  • Vocational Background: Started a house church.
Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Peter 3:18-22, and Mark 1:9-15.

Turning. Turning toward something. Turning away from something. Changing direction. Reorienting. Our readings today speak of turning.

In the first, one of the most terrifying episodes in the Bible has come to an end and even God wishes to turn from that. The one who is love turns away from destruction and toward love. Toward life.
What does it mean that God turned, changed direction, reoriented?
We see it again in today's Gospel reading, Jesus, after his baptism, a very public ceremony, turns away from the crowds, from his family and his people, He turns away so that he can turn back toward them renewed. He turns away from temptation so that he can turn toward his ministry.
The Psalmist asks God for help turning. "Make me to know your ways," he says. "Teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long." Turn me toward you, Lord. Take me out of my busy life. Teach me patience as I wait for you.
And the author of 1 Peter talks to us of our own turning, our baptism, "an appeal to God for a good conscience," echoing the earlier cry of the Psalmist.
Here at the beginning of Lent we bring our attention to our own turning. We may be turning away from our evening cocktails, or from spending too much time online, but in these turns our goal is ultimately to turn ourselves toward God. Often in saying "O my God, in you I trust" we have to remind ourselves to turn away from the places where we often put our trust, places that do not deserve it.
On Ash Wednesday we heard the words "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." This reminder of our own mortality, and of our oneness with all that surrounds us, opens our entry into Lent, into our turning. Looking at this precious and brief time we are given forces us to take note of our own direction, to be deliberate in that toward which we are oriented.
Perhaps you are called to turn away from clothing yourself in the products of worker abuse. Perhaps you are called to a clearer mind, turning away from alcohol or other substances. Perhaps you are called to turn toward God in regular prayer. Perhaps you are called to turn toward God in service. Perhaps you are called to fasting and self-denial, to turning away from yourself and toward the other, often-forgotten children of God. Perhaps you are called not to turn away from yourself in self-denial, but to turn toward the self that you or others have forgotten to love, toward remembering that you are made in the image of God, that you are holy and that the dust from which you came was stardust.
Whatever the call may be, God is calling to you. God is asking you to turn, as God has shown you God's own turning.
Lent is a time for turning, but I cannot tell you how to turn. I can only tell you that God's call is to love. You must listen to God's call, to how God is calling you to love.
O God, in this season which begins with an embrace of our own mortality, an acknowledgement and observation of the brevity of the time in which this pile of dust is animated by your holy breath, we put our trust in you. Help us to walk the paths to which you call us with steadfast love and faithfulness. Help us, O Lord, in everything that we do, to turn toward Love.

A Faith of Humility

Preaching: GoMustard

Denominational: Presbyterian Church (USA)
Education: Bachelor Arts in Religious Studies and Communication; Master of Divinity
Vocation: I serve as a Campus Minister and Worship Leader

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14
There were some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and held  contempt for others, so he told them this parable: To men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing on his own prayed like so: “God, I give thanks to you that I am not like other people: thieves, exploiters, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a  Sabbath, and tithe a tenth of whatever I gain!” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but instead beat his breast, crying, “God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner!” I say to you all, this is the one who went home from the temple justified, rather than the other. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. 

For years, Gary Birdsong is somewhat of a celebrity on college campuses throughout the state of North Carolina. While he prefers to call himself simply, “Brother Gary,” he’s better known by any number of titles, depending on which campus you find him on: at East Carolina, where I went to school, most of us knew Brother Gary as “the Joyner Steps Preacher.” At N.C. State, he’s known as “the Brickyard Preacher.” But Brother Gary is probably most widely known as “the Pit Preacher,” a named derived from his most frequent preaching location outside the Student Union at the UNC-Chapel Hill.

At first glance you might mistake Brother Gary for a character out of a Flannery O’Conner novel. He wears tight suspenders underneath his dark suite and tie; and sweat drips down his forehead and graying beard, as he waves his leather-bound Bible, and shouts at students about their sinful lifestyles as they pass him by. You can always pick out the Freshmen from the crowd that gathers to listen to Brother Gary speak, because the Freshmen tend to be the ones that haven’t yet figured out yet that there’s no use in arguing with Gary. Upperclassmen seem to be more inclined to simply enjoy Gary’s theatrics. 

But that’s not to say Brother Gary isn’t offensive, for indeed, Brother Gary is an expert at getting your blood to boil. On top of some of his more grotesque stories from his days as a Hell’s Angel; On occasion, Brother Gary has been known to make racist, bigoted and hateful statements in the name of Christianity; he’s even been known to refer to young women passing by who’s clothing do not meet his standards as “prostitutes” and “hussies.” But the bulk of Brother Gary’s preaching always seem comes back to the same theme: anyone who isn’t like him, who does not think or believe the way he does, needs to get right with God, for is surely condemned to spend eternity burning in hell.

The first time I encountered Brother Gary, I was coming out of a history class; walking across campus heading back to my dorm room. A small crowd had gathered on our campus library’s steps to hear Gary and One girl in particular had emerged from the crowd and was now face-to-face with brother Gary in a shouting match. Gary had apparently told her she was going to hell for the shorts she was wearing, and she, a devout Christian herself had decided she was going fight back. “You are disgusting, and I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian!” she told him. When she’d finally had enough and decided to leave, she turned back for one last jab, “You’re a hypocrite, just like the Pharisees. You are nothing but a Pharisee!”

Then for a moment, a small miracle occurred: Gary Birdsong was left speechless. She had called Gary the P word. For brother Gary it was the greatest possible insult, evidenced by the fact that when Gary finally regained his speech, he turned beat red and shouted back “Me? A Pharisee? How dare you, you self-righteous hypocrite! You’re the Pharisee!”  This of course was enough to draw the young woman back into another argument with Brother Gary, this time about which of them was more like the Pharisees.

Nobody, it seems, wants to be a Pharisee. Today the word Pharisee has come into semi-common usage to describe someone who is being hypocritical and arrogant, and this like seems like a fitting meaning, after all, Pharisees are the bad guys of the gospels, right? Pharisees are the ones that were always butting heads with Jesus; the ones always getting in the way of Jesus’ ministry. It was the Pharisees who were always getting offended by Jesus’ parables, it was the Pharisees telling Jesus he shouldn’t heal the sick on the sabbath, and it was the Pharisees who were always asking him tricky questions trying to trip him up and prove him wrong. Come to think of it, from the way it’s told in Bible school stories, you’d come think that the Pharisees were a bunch of sneaky, mischievous, unmerciful, cold-hearted villains.

Well today, I want to say a few words in the Pharisee’s defense. Over the past two thousand years, Pharisees seem to have gotten a bad rap. In their own day pharisees were not seen as villains, rather were actually devout religious leaders among Jews in those days: it was populist Judaism, the religion of the people. We forget that some of Jesus’ most significant followers were actually practicing Pharisees: disciples like Nicodemus, Joseph of Aramathea; and then of course, there was this other pharisee, named Paul, who went on to write half the New Testament. In the same way, while the Gospels tell us that Jesus butted heads with the Pharisees, they also tell us he also shared numerous meals with them, prayed and worshipped with them. While we might know Pharisees for their arrogant bullheadedness, in their own time and place, in first century Judea, the Pharisees were known and respected primarily for a deep faithfulness and a commitment to holiness.

Which brings us to today’s parable: yet another instance of Jesus picking on a faithful Pharisee. Jesus tells the story like this: two men go up to the temple to pray. The first is our friend, the Pharisee. Like most pharisees were, he’s a very religious and pious man. He gives offerings from whatever he earns, and he spends two days out of each week devoted in prayer and fasting. To put it another way, our friend the Pharisee is not unlike many of us: he takes his faith very seriously.

So when the Pharisee prays, he gives thanks to God for blessing him with such righteousness and devotion. He’s seen the kind of lives lived by those who aren’t so devout: thieves, adulterers, those who take advantage of others; he’s seen their misery, and can only thank God he is not among them. After all, the Pharisee can’t take credit for it, because it is not his own doing, but only by God’s blessing. In the same way, he doesn’t stand out in the open shouting his prayers for everyone to hear. Instead the text says that he goes off by himself so he can pray in private and in peace. Just the kind of faith and devotion we might expect from a Pharisee.

But then there’s the other man: a tax collector. Unlike Pharisees, tax collectors were not the kind of people you’d expect to find praying in the Temple. Tax collectors made a living by swindling and scamming others, and were despised by many for their exploitive ways. But just like so many of Jesus’ stories, in our story, there’s a twist: the tax collector does not quietly pray to himself, but rather calls out to the Lord beating his chest: “God have mercy on me, For I know that I am a sinner!” It’s this sinner who goes home justified, Jesus says, and not the faithful pharisee.

So what’s the real difference between the two? What exactly is it that Jesus uplifts in the tax collector that the pharisee is lacking. Well isn’t it obvious? The Pharisee is full of himself, right? I’m not so sure. Try for a moment, to forget the 2,000 years of pharisee vilification we read into text; try to forget our modern notions of pharisees as arrogant and hypocritical: because it seems to me that it’s little too easy for us to just jump in and suggest that the problem here is typical Pharisaical self-righteousness.

When I read this story, what I’m particularly struck by is the fact that our Pharisee friend doesn’t seem to be primarily concerned with his own righteous. Instead he seems far more concerned with the unrighteousness of others. In fact, he’s so concerned with how unrighteous other people are, that perhaps he no longer even understands what it means to actually be righteous. The Pharisee from today’s story is guilty of taking an unfortunate spiritual shortcut; a shortcut that many of us are also guilty of taking. The shortcut is this: it’s far easier to figure out who we are not than it is to dive and discover who we are.

Consider the work of Christian Smith; who is a sociologist who has written a number of books on the religious faith of young people in America. In 2005, Smith ran a lilly foundation project called “A National Study of Youth and Religion.” Smith and other colleagues interviewed over 3,000 American teenagers about their religious beliefs, and what Smith found was rather shocking:

Smith found that even though most of the interviewed youth would call themselves religious or faithful in some form or another and even though most came from Christian backgrounds, most of the young people interviewed could hardly articulate any of practical meaning of their religious faith. He found that there were really only three, very basic practical theological convictions the young people could readily explain: the first is that there is a God, a divine being some kind that orders the universe, the second, that God wants us to be good people, and the third that God is there for us in times of need. Smith argue these young Christians are so unaware of what Christianity is about that we might as well call this a new religion, and he coined a term, to describe it. He calls it *Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.*

But what Smith also noticed was that while the interviewed youth gave Smith a lot blank stares and few positive answers about their faith, he also got a surprisingly high number of negative answers. In other words, the interviewed young people were incredibly perpared to articulate what they didn’t believe. “I’m a Christian, but you know I don’t think that,” they would say. “I’m not the kind of Christian who does those things.” Smith would follow up these statements by asking what Christians did believe, what Christian did do, and would again only be met with blank stares. Ultimately, Christian Smith found that today’s young people are so good at explaining what their faith isn’t about, that many can hardly describe what it actually is about.

Since then, Smith has written another book, identifying many of these same patterns in young adults as well. And I’d suggest that it doesn’t stop there. I’d suggest that many of us, even those of us who might readily be able to articulate what our faith is about are guilty of focusing too much on what we are not, particularly us mainline protestants (originally said Presbyterians, but changed for the audience). 

“We’re not like those Christians,” we say. “We’re not the kind of Christians that use words like “saved.” We’re not the kind of Christians who believe that you should read the Bible literally. We’re not the kind of Christians that believe a rapture is coming and end of the world is coming on May 21st or October 21st or whenever. We’re not the kind of Christians who think women can't be leaders; we’re like not those Christians that dance in the aisle and speak in tongues; we’re not the kind of Christians that support racism and sexism and bigotry. We aren’t the kind of Christians that like Brother Gary, think everyone other than our little group of like minded people are going to hell. Oh, God we give you thanks that we aren’t like those other people! Thank God we aren’t like those Pharisees.” 

So what’s the real difference? What’s the real difference between the pharisee and the tax collector? What’s the real difference between the pharisee and us?

At the end of the parable Jesus reminds us that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." If we are really interested in knowing who we are in Christ, rather than who we are not; if we are interested in understanding what our faith is about rather than what it is not about; then the place Jesus tells us to start is with humility.

“God have mercy on me, for I know that I am a sinner!”

Friends, Jesus is not concerned with our always being in the right. Rather Jesus is first concerned with how ready we are to admit we are often in the wrong. As the old testament passage says “tear up your hearts and not your clothes,” for this is what we stand for, this is where our faith begins: not with the glory of devotion and holiness but with the heartbrokenness of humility, for we are not believers in ourselves, but rather recipients in God’s grace. Hear this good news of Jesus Christ: we do not get to split humanity up in to pharisees and tax collectors. We don’t get to decide who is “us” and who is “them,” who is “in” and who is “out.” Human beings have a long history of deciding who are the righteous and who are the unrighteous. But Christ does not work that way, for we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God, and it is Christ who is the righteous one.

Friends my prayer for this morning, is that we might be humbled, so that we might be exalted. I pray that we might first know who we are in Christ Jesus, rather than who we are not. I pray that we might first concern ourselves not with the righteousness of others, but with our own need for mercy and forgiveness. I pray that we might remember that the Christian faith does not begin with having all the right answers, but rather starts with the humility to acknowledge we are often in the wrong. And the prayer I pray this morning not a prayer of thanksgiving that we are not like the Pharisee, but rather that a prayer of confession that we are just like the the Pharisee: that we are sinners saved by God’s grace. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

12 February 2012: Year B, Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany.

2 Kings 5:1-14, Psalm 30, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, and Mark 1:40-45. Preaching: liturgical_libertine
As we approach lent we’re told of the healing power of Christ and what we must do to receive healing and restoration. In the 2 Kings passage we’re given a story about Elisha heals a valiant warrior of leprosy and in our gospel reading we get another story of a leper being relieved of his disease. Healing is a topic of controversy in the contemporary Church. Does God heal through prophets like in our OT reading? Does God heal physically? Emotionally? Who does God heal? Why are some who are in need not receive healing? With these questions in mind, let’s enter into a conversation about healing with much fear and trembling. In our Gospel reading a leper approaches Christ and asks:
“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
To such a question, our text cites that Christ answers indignantly, but affirmatively. Christ heals the man and gives the qualification to tell no one but a priest and then make the appropriate sacrifices. In our Old Testament reading, we get a short narrative about the warrior Naaman who is seeking reprieve from his leprosy. Naaman goes to the King of Israel and asks the King for healing. The King, like Christ, answers indignantly, but unlike Christ answers negatively. When the King cannot help Naaman, he seeks out Elisha. Naaman goes to the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha will not go out to see Naaman, so he sends a servant to instruct Naaman to go dip himself in the Jordan Seven times. Naaman’s response to the servant was incredulity. Surely, there is more to healing than doing what someone’s servant says! After some talking in to from Naaman’s servants, Naaman went and did what Elisha’s servant instructed and was healed.
Now, what does this all mean for us and for what we know about healing and being healed? Leprosy in biblical texts is a catchall for a variety of awful skin diseases. Obviously, skin diseases aren’t pleasant and it doesn’t take much faith or motivation of any kind to go looking for relief. In Naaman’s story, Naaman approaches the obvious outlet for healing, the King of Israel. The King’s answer to Naaman’s search for healing is interesting in that, the one who has been put in place by God to rule over and govern his people can’t even do something as simple as heal a leper. To be healed Naaman must follow the instruction of Elisha’s. Naaman is a bit scandalized by the whole occurrence; Elisha doesn’t even come out to see Naaman. Naaman must submit to Elisha and in turn God in order to be healed.
Consider the connections Naaman shares with the story from the Gospel. A leper comes to Christ and asks to be healed. This Gospel story is particularly interesting because this other nameless leper goes to the same people Naaman does, the King of Israel as well as the one who can actually heal him. As flippantly as Elisha gives Naaman the instructions for healing, Christ heals the leper. Neither Christ nor Elisha does anything great or ceremonious to heal their lepers, they both just require to be asked.
What does all this tell us about healing? Apparently, all that is required for healing is to just ask the right person. However, just asking the right person requires something radical. Like Naaman we have to approach healing with a humble spirit. Pomp and status must be put to the wayside. Christ comes to us though the weak not necessarily through Kings or people of lofty social standing. Healing requires the faith to come to Christ and ask “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” This is a particularly subversive act because if Christ were transposed into our society we would pay him no mind. The juxtaposition of Christ in our culture underscores the paradox of Jesus. Christ is of incredibly low social standing and even lets himself be killed, but also embodies the very ground of being from which we all are pushed into existence.
Perhaps the healing and restoration Christ brings us if physical, but perhaps it’s larger than that. The healing we receive may not always be the healing we ask for, but we will get the healing we need if we submit to Christ.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Waiting Upon That Which Gives Meaning to the Apparent

5 February 2012: Year B, Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11, 20c, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 and Mark 1:29-39. Preaching: The_Hero_of_Canton.
Denominational Background: Raised United Methodist, Local Ministerial Candidate in the Free Methodist Church on track for (eventual) ordination as an elder in the church.
Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Philosophy (with a heavy concentration of courses in Ministry), prospective Seminary student next fall.
Vocational Background: Two years youth ministry experience, one semester as a T.A. in the Religion and Philosophy dept. of my Alma Mater.

For those of you who don’t know me very well (which is the vast majority of you, I would imagine), I enjoy being silly. I don’t mean this in the rambunctious sort of way I was silly as a child, but in a more refined and, if I’m being honest, pompous sort of way. This largely comes from an oversaturation of my father’s sense of humor, which was heavily informed by Monty Python, as well as a heavy dose of the Pythoners myself and some Douglas Adams, whose sense of humor is not too far removed from the Pythoners. All this is to go the long way around to telling you that I rather enjoy Douglas Adams’ hysterical science-fiction series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Perhaps many of you have seen the more recent film adaptation of the first book, but I first was exposed to it on the BBC television program and Arthur Dent will always be, for me, Simon Jones, and Mos Def can never become Ford Prefect in my mind.
            There is an oft-repeated quotation from the first book in the five-part trilogy that is favored by atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins. Despite the sad fact of this quote being favored by atheists, I think putting it into some context will help illuminate our texts in what I hope will be a delightful and, dare I say it, amusing manner.
            The quote goes like this: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
            Now, this quote was written by an atheist, so I don’t think Richard Dawkins is that far off when he quotes Adams as saying it, although it bears mentioning that attributing the quotation of a character in a novel to the direct thought of the author is typically bad form. However, I wish to put it in some context so that we can better understand the concept of waiting upon, a prevalent theme in our texts for today.
            When this particular quote comes up, we are, along with Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Trillian and Zaphod Bebblebrox, treated to a description of the indescribable beauty of viewing a binary sunrise from space. Nothing is quite like it and few things are more breathtaking. Zaphod, however, is not looking at the sunrise, but the planet that the suns are rising over. Zaphod is searching for the lost mythical planet of Magrathea – a planet he has been actively seeking out and a planet whose existence Ford Prefect is incredulous of because he previously thought it was a story mothers told their children so they would become economists.
            The quote in question comes up as an annoyed Ford Prefect would just like to look at the sunrise without bothering about the planet and is rather annoyed that Zaphod can never really let things be; he always needs to make things extraordinary in order to appreciate them. The problem, of course, is that it is the mythical planet Magrathea below and, had Ford voiced his thought, he would have been made to look quite the fool.  
            It is in the light of this story that I wish to speak about waiting upon.
In the text from Isaiah we see that Israel has been haughty; She has not obeyed the Lord nor has she recognized the sovereignty of He who is beyond comparison, who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name. In short, they have not pleased God. Yet they are promised that those who wait upon the Lord will be blessed. This lens, that of waiting upon – or serving the Lord – as a blessed undertaking, is how I want to examine the texts from the Bible as well as Adams’ quirky little comedy so that we might become transformed into people who truly wait upon the Lord.
            Paul’s relation to waiting upon shines clearly in this passage from his letter to the church in Corinth as well. He wishes to offer the Gospel “free of charge.” It bears mentioning at this point that Paul preferred to earn his living as a tentmaker rather than encroach upon the hospitality of those in a city in which he was evangelizing. Perhaps more profound, however, is the commitment he lays down here: to be all things for all people so that he may save some. He weaves here an intricate web of perception. That is to say, he knows that he is, at the core of his being as an apostle of Christ, free from the Law, but he is willing to undergo the Law so that might those under the Law may be saved. He is even so bold as to claim that he may become as one outside of the Law even though he admits to submitting to the Law of Christ.
            This can seem a bit confusing, I think, unless we look at Paul’s agenda. This agenda, we must understand, is more than simply “to save souls,” although that was certainly a primary goal of his. What I think we ought to examine is Paul’s emphasis on the cruciform life. The chapter in Corinthians appears to be shaping up to be a defense of his rights as an apostle, which it partially is. What is more important here, however, is that Paul is advocating the voluntary suppression of one’s rights as an act of solidarity with those in his charge. This, for Paul, was an expression of cruciform love, a love that re-actualizes the sacrificial love of Christ, and also demonstrated the true freedom he had come to possess in his renunciation of possession.  
            To live a cruciform life is to constantly live in the shadow of the cross, to live a life conformed to the sacrificial life of the loving Christ. We see this taking place in the Gospel reading from Mark: Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and then proceeded to heal many others. What’s more, Jesus did not stop there, but continued along the path, never really having a home or a place of comfort. It is this attitude that characterized Paul’s understanding of living a life in the shadow of the cross.
For Paul, this sentiment has no higher expression than self-sacrifice. Paul lowers himself for those who need saving; he does not ride in on a high horse so that he may talk down to the people and coerce them into the faith that transforms lives. Paul, in the tradition of John the Baptist, believes that if Christ is to become greater, he must become less.
            Indeed, this is the path to salvation. This is the topsy turvy view of the world that Christianity presents: salvation comes through weakness, not through power or coercion. Love, not hate, provides the strength to win the day. True wealth comes from freeing yourself of possessions rather than enslaving yourself to them.  
            What could the lives of Jesus or Paul have been like if they had not waited upon others? They would have been lives without meaning. If Jesus of Nazareth had not given of himself, then I seriously doubt he would have risen above the status of the many magicians and charlatans of the day. But the fact of his divinity implored him to do more, to be more. And had Paul not given of himself inasmuch as he understood the life of a follower of Christ to demand, he would have been a far less effective minister of the Gospel and his writing might not have been considered suitable for canonization.
            Both of these men waited upon people, to be sure, but it was only because they first waited upon the Lord that they were able to wait upon their fellow man effectively. It was their assuredness in the provision of the Lord that allowed them to execute the tasks of their lives in the special kind of loving humility that accompanied many of the early church.
            Let’s return to Zaphod Beeblebrox, the man who waited upon the Lord. OK, maybe not exactly, but I think it’s an effective metaphor. Ford Prefect wanted to appreciate the binary sunrise without bothering so much about the planet below that held Zaphod’s concern. It is the mythical planet of Magrathea that makes the sunrise possible, however. Without the planet, the suns would have nothing to block them from view, robbing us of the unspeakable beauty to be had in viewing a binary sunrise from space. Zaphod, the man of faith, effectively waited upon that which gave meaning to the apparent and he did not falter. Were it not for his steadfast faith in Magrathea, the whole story, no doubt would have ended with Arthur and Ford dying in the vacuum of space. Zaphod thus becomes the man who brings salvation to the protagonists of the story.
            Zaphod was only able to be such an agent of salvation because of his devotion to that which gives meaning to the binary sunrise. Zaphod shows us what waiting upon looks like by his sheer irrational devotion to a mythical planet which can only be perceived secondarily by Ford prefect through its effects.
            So too, do we see that Paul exemplifies waiting upon the Lord in his devotion to living a life of sacrificial and cruciform love. It does not make sense to our modern sensibilities, I think, to give up the rights we have. All you have to do is look at the vibrant debate in American politics revolving around socialized health care to see that people are not willing to give up what they feel it is their right to have so that others may live in less strife. But to Paul, this irrational devotion to living lower than he is privileged to is the perfect embodiment of the example we see in Christ Jesus.
            It may be easy to come away from this message thinking that if we wait upon the Lord then we shall be saved. I do not deny this, but there is much more going on here. I want to propose that waiting upon the Lord will allow us to be transformed into agents of salvation so that we may not be satisfied simply with our own salvation, but strive to achieve the salvation of all peoples.
            I implore you all to take a leaf out of the book or Jesus, or Paul, or even Zaphod Beeblebrox. We must allow ourselves to become so consumed with waiting upon the Lord that we invariably wait upon the needs of others as well. For it is through a love of God that we can truly love people and it is through devotion to God that we might not only save ourselves, but others as well.