The Gospel of Pooh & Jesus too
What day is it guys? ‘Sunday’
So, heres the scenario… what do you do: Your walking down the street, only 5 dollars to make it through the weekend, and you really want a milkshake…
The sign out front says, “free milkshakes tomorrow!”
Who would save their dollar and get their milkshake tomorrow?
Who would just go for it and buy the shake today?
Its pretty hot! And you could use that $5 for other things… afterall, tomorrow will probably be pretty hot too!
So you wait. When you return and order your shake the check says, ‘$5 please’ and you respond, ‘the sign said they were free…’
‘The sign said free tomorrow, but today its today.’
So again, what day is Today? My favorite day!
For the service today I planned on writing a sermon on Procrastination… Well… there ya have it… and all God’s children said, ‘Amen.’
I spent some time after seminary teaching an intro to writing course at a local college, and my students were REALLY, REALLY good at procrastination!
Never fails, when a week (or 5) of procrastinating finally comes around and kicks you in the rear-side, the quick fix is to simply repeat what other’s have said or written.
For my college students we called this ‘cheating.’ Plagiarism, and their laziness in covering it up always astounded me!
I had one student copy a page (literally… like in a copy machine) from one of those yellow cliff note books you find at the library and turn it in as a book report.
A decade or so later, students don’t actually know what libraries are.
In church, its not considered ‘cheating,’ but ‘holy,’ to go off the words of a gospel or epistle when
writing a sermon or making a decision!
Thus today we are going to walk together through the wise words of Jesus found in the gospel of Mathew, chapter 6, to which you may feel free to turn.
However, as is the often the case when I come play with yall… we are going to stir things up a little bit by infusing the equally eloquent lessons of the Gospel of Piglet and Pooh alongside Jesus’ words!
Who wants to read?
Matt 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Logic would say when there is a verse 9, there are 8 verses proceeding it…
and if Matthew felt the need to scribe them, they likely hold some value in the context of the larger passage!
So backwards through the Gospel we go!
Matt 6: 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Whoah. Pause again!
There are some harsh words in there!
No wonder we jump strait to verse 9, recite the Lords prayer, and throw up an Amen to close out every week!
Its much happier sounding, less condemning and certainly easier to just repeat Jesus words!
Thats exactly what my students who read the cliff notes instead of the books said…
It was my final year of seminary and I’d just started an intensive Clinical Pastoral Education summer program at the University of Louisville Hospital. Already feeling awkward in the goofy suit I had to wear (i’m a wet suit, not ironed trousers kinda guy) I pushed open the door to a darkened room and…
Have any of you ever read the book the ‘Shack?’
In it God is personified in the form of this witty, confident, full figured African American woman.
As an awkward seminarian trying to live into the “minister” roll and perfect the ‘language of prayer,’ the most intimidating figure in the world may well be a confident, charismatic, African American woman!
Well that is exactly who I found awaiting my words of wisdom and comfort while lying in a hospital bed decorated with stinging IV’s and flashing lights.
“Pray with me” she said as she grasped my hand (now shacking and sweating like I was back on a junior high date.)
Confession… I HATE PUBLIC PRAYER! Did then and still do.
I don’t hate praying… I just really don’t like trying to put the jumbled personal prayers swirling around my head into vocal, sensible and comprehensible sentences.
So I started stumbling through a few lines of seminary language, ‘babbling like the hypocrites,’ when…
‘Ah heck’ I thought as I waited for her scolding.
“Your doing it wrong…” she said. “That’s not how you’d talk to your best friend or daddy is it” (speaking of my awkward divinely directed dialogue?) “You come back after you and Papa-God get on closer terms.”
‘This is how you should pray,” Jesus states as he knelt down in devotion and awe of God.
Unfortunately, what we read in the Gospel is just that, the ‘words’ he then recited… and not the experience!
Thus 2000 some odd years later we recite a rather dry script every week, the translation Jesus’ prayer that accompanied his impassioned demonstration of the connection he shared with his father.
A relationship that transcends words (no matter how holy or polished they are) and a relationship that our creator yearns to share with us as well.
I’d imagine that if we could see the authenticity and love in Christ’s eyes as he spoke those words we may indeed have a new appreciation for this prayer we repeat every Sunday around 11am. Say it with me:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Again… Pause! How can we gloss over a line like that every week?!
Maybe what Jesus was getting at in those verses preceding the Lord’s prayer is that, though its not ‘plagiarizing’ to turn to rely solely upon the words of scripture…
to fall victim to a superficial reading and reciting, instead of getting lost in the deep rumination and reflection of it is indeed cheating…
Cheating ourselves out of a relationship…
Cheating ourselves out of the experience of Heaven here on earth.
“On earth as it is in Heaven?”
I thought Heaven was a far off place that we experience when this ‘earthly’ world passes away? Or when we pass away from this earthly world?
It may well be and that is a great vantage point if your a fan of procrastination!
However, putting off a homework assignment is one thing, putting off the elation of Heaven is a whole different story!
Well where do I start?
Fear not friends, Heaven on Earth ain’t as complicated as it sounds!
In fact, it lives in simplicity, the more complicated we make it, the further it is flung into the future!
“Is this heaven?” Asked John the movie ‘Field of Dreams’
“Nope. It’s Iowa.” Said Ray
John: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven. They told me Heaven was the place where dreams come true.
To that Ray looks around and seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch he replies:
‘Hm. Maybe this is heaven.’
One of the main reasons we put off Heaven may well be because we don’t understand it. We teach early on about a Heaven in terms of tomorrow, so no wonder it doesn’t make sense today.
But ‘tomorrow is only a day away!’
and yesterday’s tomorrow is here already awaiting our play!
(sorry for the rhymes and word play…I’ve been writing Childrens books as of late!)
Actually, I’ve loved writing children’s books, because children are uniquely able to dance in the moment and experience Heaven on Earth right here, right now… like today!
“What day is it Pooh Bear?”
“Today Piglet… And Today is my favorite day.”
Yes Pooh, me too… and today we shall taste Heaven on Earth… Sweeter than any worldly honeycomb or free milkshake!
Pooh bear seems to function on a similar wavelength with the Messiah in his ability to step away from the fears, uncertainties, and expectations of tomorrow to engulf in the excitement of the moment! If we could all only awake every morning on that side of the bed!
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting to-day?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
How can we all dive so joyously into the distant divine in the mundane moments of every day?
The answer lies in our seeking… the kryptonite of Procrastination!
Lets do an experiment…
Simon says pat your head…
Simon says stomp your feet…
Simon says Fill in the blank…
Jesus says “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
And we pause. Lets save that one for when this world passes away.
That’s tomorrow’s free milkshake… we’d have to pay for it today… though it sure would taste divine!!
Lets close out by diving just a little deeper into today’s passage… into the verses following the ‘Lord’s Prayer’s’ Amen. Uncharted territory for many of us:
Matt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Halt… Piglet… our wise and worrisome little buddy, what say you?
“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
“Piglet was comforted by this.”
Guess what! Trees fall, life happens, and moments tick away…
whether or not we allow them to, worry about their uncertainties, or try to cling to the false comforts of this world that surround them.
“Life happens’ and time passes, but ‘living’ requires presence and cannot exist alongside of worries of tomorrow.
Its great that Pooh was able to comfort his buddy Piglet…
However, false comforts too easily lead to complacency -a starch relative of procrastination- both serving as evangelists of this ‘distant future heaven’ mentality.
As long as we remain complacent with dreams of a future Heaven, we can never truly experience the elation awaiting us right here on earth!
For the divine demands our dreaming with open eyes… We are called to seek.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you’ said Christopher Robbins to a pondering pooh-bear….
You can’t sit in church waiting for heaven… for happiness…
‘You have to go seeking sometimes Pooh!’ …and you and I too!
A message similar to that of Quolet in today’s Old Testament reading from the book of Ecclesiastes:
If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies’ (just hopefully not on Piglet, Pooh, you or I!) ‘
‘He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.’
Ecclesiastes is part of a subgrouping of Biblical texts classified as ‘wisdom literature,’
and its supposed scribe’s name, ‘Quolet,’ simply means ‘Teacher.’
We are called to seek, not to wallow away the days watching the wind and staring at the sky awaiting God to take form in the clouds.
God is not an “it” of which we may conceptualize or name, nor heaven a place, paraphrasing Martin Buber. These are the eternal ‘thou,’ experienced through relationship and interactive experience with creation…
“When two people relate to each other authentically, says Buber, when a soul intermingles in dynamic fashion with nature’s aestitics, “eternity is the electricity that surges between them”
Be it piglet and Pooh, me and you , or a heartfelt hello to someone new (there are those rhymes again).
It is through our authentic communion with creation that we taste Heaven, glimpse creator, and get lost in the moment.
In this sense, the ‘Heaven’ we seek is not a “kingdom” in in the modern sense of the word, but a “Kin-Dome” where we all equally possess and share the energy of the heavens.
Buber’s contemporary, existentialist Ludwig Wittgenstien furthers this philosophy stating, “eternity, Heaven, is given to those who live in the present.”
One of my favorite ways to ditch worries, watches, and worldliness and Live in the present… is yoga!
Verses in ancient tradition were called sutras. This wording is still common in the Yoga traditions as movements between postures are infused with verses of wisdom and reflection. Its where beget the latin root, suture, or stitch in medical terms.
Thus the verses are not the end all (not meant for blind recitation)
But the stitches that piece together our progressive seeking.
What allows me to disconnect during a yoga class is my getting lost in the in-betweens.
Heaven is indeed the destination… because the journey is indeed the destination. And it all starts on the best of days… Today!
today will indeed live on as our favorite day!
For as the Gospel of Bon Jovi declares, “They say in Heaven, love comes first… we’ll make Heaven a place on earth!”