Readings: 2 Peter 1:2-8; Mark 14:26-31
Have you all seen the movie “Forrest Gump?” It’s a wonderful story of a simple man whose good intentions bless him with many great rewards. As the movie moves through these historical moments of life, Forrest unintentionally finds himself in some difficult and crazy situations. But through them all, he always seems to manage with great success.
As a result our hero constantly receives more from life than he could ever imagine. Yet the only thing he wants... is the love of his childhood sweetheart, Jenny Curran. Both he and Jenny suffer the scars of a difficult and painful childhood. Jenny tries to run away from the problems of her past. She is always looking for something more from life: more fun, more freedom, more sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Forrest on the other hand lives day-to-day by the simple wisdom he learned from his mother. The most famous being: “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Life is like a box of chocolates, isn’t it? At our conception we are given our DNA. And at our birth we are handed over to a family. We're not given a choice. We don't get to sample or taste to see if we want to be a chocolate covered caramel or a chocolate covered cherry. We have only the hand that we have been dealt, no more and no less. I sometimes wish I could go through life like Forrest. Worried free and even a bit clueless. Truth be told, I'm afraid I am more like Jenny. I often want more.
The question this morning is: how much more do we need? How much more will it take... to stop us from running away from life, so we can see we've got enough on our plate already?
As most of you know, Trader Joe’s has come to Grand Rapids. You may also know that I live by the simple philosophy that if Trader Joe’s doesn’t have it, then I don’t need it. I don’t need a hundred choices of breads or multiple varieties of canned corn to chose from. I just need my Shepherd’s bread and a can of corn. It’s a good philosophy for dietary needs, but not so good for other needs. For example Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry my brand of toilet paper or shaving cream or laundry detergent. For that I have to go to Costco, where the concept of more is an understatement.
One doesn’t just go in to Costco and buy a can of shaving cream. No, you have to buy three cans. And a jar of honey comes in only one size…a gallon. Costco does this so we can save money. But if you are not careful, you will have to spend more money to rent a trailer to get the stuff home…they sell those there too. More isn't necessarily a good thing. Where does one store 72 rolls of paper towels? Or how on earth can any one person consume a two-gallon vat of yogurt before it goes bad?
We might think we want more. But who here wants more pressure in life, more fear and anxiety, more doubt or insecurities, more restrictions or more opinions thrown at you. We might want a more satisfying job or more self respect, but we might not want to take on more burdens or responsibly to receive it. And that's the problem of living in a culture of "more is better." As rich as you are someone is richer. But as poor as you are there is someone even less fortunate than you.
This mentality of "more is better" has affected the church too. We want more people in our pews, and more members to support our daily ministries. Even Peter wanted to do more to protect Jesus...but then he runs away and betrays him more than could have ever imagined. Truth be told, we don’t need more time or money, or greater success or fame, we don’t need a more perfect body or even a more perfect mate. Because right now, at this very moment, we have everything we need to achieve complete happiness.
The Apostle Peter reminds us of this. He tells us God’s divine power has given us everything we need... not just for life, but for a life of godliness. This comes to us through Jesus Christ, who has called us into his glory and granted us participation in his promised salvation. Through Christ, we receive eternal life! What more do we need? And dare I say, God’s love and grace is more than we can handle.
Through Christ... God has given us not only a way to escape the corruption of our world... but also a way to partake in the world to come. This is an amazing gift! This is all the Good News we need. We may not have been able to pick our family or the life that we were born into, but we can chose to follow Christ towards something greater than our imaginations can employ.
There's a catch. Too many Christians still believe they need more. They carry around more guilt because they believe they have to have more faith to be closer to God. But do we? Do we need more faith? Or do we simply need to allow the Spirit of God to give us all the strength and courage we need to be obedient, to help others in need, or to open ourselves up so we can be more free to love our neighbors?
God gives us what we need to live godly lives. And Christ shows us the way to supplement our faith in order to do what God has called us to do.
Yes...Life is like a box of chocolates. It's full of surprises. Some we will like and some we won't. We don't know what will be thrown at us or what will knock us down. Therefore we must empower our faith by embracing a life that is Christ filled. And Peter tells us we can do this: by practicing goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and of course love. You can think of them the seven steps to happiness and living out a godly way of life.
They are the steps we all must take everyday, not to increase our faith or to receive more of God’s grace, but to understand ourselves better. And understand all of what we are supposed to do today...in this moment. For its in the moment we are surprised, attacked and knocked down. The more we practice these virtues in our world, the more effective and fruitful we become. In other words, we don’t need more love, we just have to love more every day. And by our actions, each day becomes more loving.
For Forrest Gump, each day brought an adventure all of its own. And each adventure brought its reward. Jenny also had many wonderful adventures...yet she could never see the reward standing right in front of her. Even when Forrest wants to make all her dreams come true...she still runs away looking for more. In the movie we discover the more she runs...the more fragile she becomes. She gets more scared, and more damaged, and more broken.
Jenny's story reminds us that we don’t need more time; we just need to use our time more wisely. We don't need more things, but we just need to stop chasing after those things that make us barren and empty. Instead let us bear the fruit of our faith, by remaining focused on God. And using our time faithfully, loving one another. What Peter is reminding us all is this: a life spent doing what God has called us to do...is a godly life. In such a life, we thrive... with the very gifts we have been given.
Listen to the words of the Dalai Lama who said, “The world does not need more successful people. The world desperately needs more peacemakers, and healers, and restorers, and storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
Do we need more Christian boys and girls chasing after dreams? Or do we need more godly men and women participating in reality? Bearing the fruit of God's kingdom. One Hindu mystic said it this way. “We don’t need more Hindus, more Christians, or more Muslims – we need more Buddhas, more Jesuses and more Krishnas – then there will be true change. Every human being has that inner potential.”
Life is like a box of chocolate...I believe mine is a variety of sweet and savory. I may not know which one I am biting into, but I know what I can expect to find on the inside. God's love and grace. As we move towards Advent, awaiting the birth of our Savior, we will see how in one little baby, God gives us all the hope, all the peace, all the joy, and all the love we need.
But as you leave here today, remember this: We don’t need more faith, just faith. We don’t need to be more committed; we just need to be committed. We don’t need more grace, for God’s grace is sufficient.
Need I say more?
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”