Sunday, July 24, 2016

Which Can is Corn and Which is Peas....

 Labels can be really helpful and important.  And they can also be harmful and misleading. Have you ever thought about the labels we give to things, places and people? I sometimes wonder why Adam called a giraffe a giraffe.  And how did he come up with a name for everything? And did he seek God's approval for each thing and place that he titled?  Maybe I spend too much time pondering on this reality.  However, recently this label thing has left me feeling a bit perplexed.

 Yes, labels can be very important at times. For just a minute I want you to imagine you are getting ready to head over to the grocery store.  You have a list of items that you need to purchase.  Lettuce, avocados, red onion, ground turkey, cumin, coriander, a can of black beans, a can of corn, and shredded cheese.  Guess what you're m aking?  Anyway, you arrive at the market and you walk in the door.  All of the produce is thrown on a table like a pot of vegetable soup.  And the shelves are packed with boxes, bags and cans.  Nothing is labeled.  The boxes are all tan with nothing written on them.  Each can is missing it's paper wrapper.  And all the dry good bags are made of an aluminum non transparent type material.  It may be easy to identify the Lettuce, avocados, red onion and maybe even the ground turkey.  But be careful.  Looks can be deceiving.  You find yourself feeling frustrated because you cannot figure out which can is corn and which is peas.  You arrive at the meat counter and they have ground pork, turkey, chicken and veal all side by side without any label indicating which is which. They look alike but the recipe strictly calls for ground turkey.  Just then you realize that the prices aren't  on the shelves or the items you need to purchase.  Yes in this situation labels are absolutely necessary.

So what is the deal with me feeling so perplexed.  Well it's the labels we give each other.  I am not talking about the positive labels.  I am talking about the mean, horrible, disgusting and judgmental labels we place on the people we don't particularly care for or even know.  We are all guilty of shunning someone at one point in our life.

This morning I sat and read Ezekiel 16.  I had to read it a few times to let it sink in.  My understanding of this scripture is that, even when our circumstances take us to places where our friends, family and strangers will label us with a, not so appealing, name, our Heavenly Father still lavishes us with grace.

Nothing will prevent God from using what we would classify as "unusable" people. You see we are all addicted to sin.  If you look throughout the old testament you will find that God uses liars, adulterers, harlots and even people, like the ones we have shunned, to change the world. "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 

I am pretty sure that Abraham, David, Solomon, and the woman of Ezekiel 16, along with others from both the old and new testament, would be escorted out of our churches if they showed up today. And I often wonder if Jesus showed up to a church service what label would we give Him? Would we run to Him?  Would our heart skip a beat?  Or would we label Him a street bum and request that He sit in the back to be less of a distraction?  Perhaps, we might find a reason to judge Him by His clothing or the color of his skin too.

When the world rejects us God search and finds us in the dumpster and showers us with His mercy and love. Then He pours His essence on us.  Clothes us in the finest garments.  Puts the most comfortable and fashionable shoes on our feet.  Initially, we are drawn to His side.  We wake up each morning and greet Him with a prayer.  We sip on that cup of fresh brewed grace and head out into the world.  Eventually the world seems to appeal more to us than the alone time we have with our Lord and Heavenly Father.  So, we gradually spend less and less time at His feet and more and more time in the world.  Only to wind up feeling judged, beat up, hated and confused. The world will take and take some more.  And when you are down and out it will beat you until you have nothing left to give.  The woman in Ezekiel 16 cared more for the things of this world.  She started out abandoned, rejected and alone.  But then in an instant was found and transformed into a princess.  Everything she needed her adopted father provided.  However, her desires for what the world had to offer became greater.  Her attitude was that of entitlement.  And she no longer wanted what her father, the one who found her abandoned in her filth as an infant, had to offer her. She left his side and went out to discover "herself".  She gave her money, jewelry, clothing and all her possessions away to anyone who would give her attention.  She even gave herself away.  And as time went on her life, along with her reputation, was ruined.  Every time she walked into a room she was labeled by the others. She was called a harlot, even worse than a harlot.  Prostitutes were even slinging labels her way.  There she was naked, cold, empty and alone.  The scars were too many for her to bear.  And just when she was ready to give up she hears a familiar voice.  His hand reaches out to her.  She hesitates.  How could he have known where to find her?  Why did he come to rescue her? She reaches for his hand and he pulls her to him and holds her so tight she can't breath.  Overwhelmed she cries and says, "Father, I am not worthy of your love.  I am a disgrace to your name."  Her father looks adoringly at her and kisses her muddy face.  He says to her, "You are a princess.  And those who know me will see that you are the source of my joy.  I have never stopped loving you."  He took her home bathed her, lavished her with love, and nursed her back to health.

Unfortunately the world will continue to be a harsh place to live.  We love to define and label people by the sin in their lives whether it be from their past or if they are knee deep in it currently.   If we are all made in His image why do we spend so much time pulling each other apart.  We should be blinded by God's unrelenting grace and His unconditional love. We need to stop defining each other by our skin color, hair, clothing, shoes, jobs and financial status.  And we must learn to forgive and reflect on God's mercies.  They are new every morning (Lamination 3: 22-23)   I  pray that the God of mercy and grace will renew our mercy for each other every day.  Not only do I pray the He renew mercy, but I pray that He'll make us tenderhearted.  God's grace has a divine never ending supply.  So, when the world gives you an unfavorable label just remember that your creator's name for you is the only label that matters.  God will come in and sweep you up and embrace what the world once labeled as an unworthy, broken, hot mess of a child and lavish us with mercy, love and never ending grace.

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