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Reputation is Near Everything
From The Preaching Event by Claypool
Readings: Gen 2:4b-3:24; Mat 28:5-10
October 25, 1994, December 1, 2001
Matthew 28:5. And the messenger answering said to the women, 'Fear not ye, for I have known that Jesus, who hath been crucified, ye seek; 6. he is not here, for he rose, as he said; come, see the place where the Lord was lying; 7. and having gone quickly, say ye to his disciples, that he rose from the dead; and lo, he doth go before you to Galilee, there ye shall see him; lo, I have told you.' 8. And having gone forth quickly from the tomb, with fear and great joy, they ran to tell to his disciples; 9. and as they were going to tell to his disciples, then lo, Jesus met them, saying, 'Hail!' and they having come near, laid hold of his feet, and did bow to him. 10. Then saith Jesus to them, 'Fear ye not, go away, tell to my brethren that they may go away to Galilee, and there they shall see me.'
Reputation is Everything
O reputation! Dearer far than life,
Thou precious balsam, lovely, sweet of smell,
Whose cordial drops once spilt by some rash hand,
Not all the owner's care, nor the repenting toil
Of the rude spiller, ever can collect
To its first purity and native sweetness.
-Sir W. Raleigh
His Reputation is Ruined
The reason people are not better reconciled to the Father today is because his reputation has been ruined. Genesis 2 and 3 relates how it was ruined, who ruined it, and who perpetuates its ruination. All the anguish and suffering that humanity has ever know traces back to that one point in time. People don’t trust the Creator because he is perceived to be untrustworthy in our time. Yes, the Almighty Father has a bad reputation!
The entire reason that Christ’s church, his preacher, and his saint, exist is to bring reconciliation between a misunderstood Creator and his an untrusting creation. The greatest service that can be rendered to humanity is that, through the Holy Spirit of Jesus, saints facilitate the work of atonement at the very deepest levels in the human psyche, the only place where what is made and who has done the making may come together to create anew.
The first man was, by very nature, in friendly union with his Creator, walking and talking with him and fit to live eternally in him. But the man’s turn to hostility caused the great friendship to be broken and further close fellowship to cease. This is not because Yahweh is cruel; rather, brokenness was the natural consequence Adam’s abandonment of the natural order in the beautiful Eden.
No human being has been created since Adam, which means “man,” and Eve, which means “life.” All humans are born into this world under the same sad curse that Adam and Eve contracted: to toil, to suffer, to die. But the worst consequence of sin is that humans are alienated from their heavenly Friend; they can no longer trust a god whom they can’t walk or talk with. How can we trust The Powerful Other whom we have never seen: unless, of course, we are naïve children?
So the Almighty has acquired the reputation of a deadbeat dad. He allows suffering, disease, and needless pain. If he cared, why doesn't he do something about the evil in the world? Why won’t he lift the curse? Why doesn't he show himself? For that small minority that has worked to restore a right relationship and has succeeded, such glorious gratification is achieved that spreading the word of reconciliation becomes a life's mission. We want to set the record straight about our Loving Father and lead others into the highest of reunions.
Here’s a true story for your. Once upon a time a merchant had identical twin daughters. The girls were inseparable in every way. Neither one married. When they grew up they took over running their father’s store. One day a customer bought some little trinket. One of the sisters put the customer's dollar on the countertop and walked him to the door. She later remembered the dollar, but it had disappeared. She asked her sister about it, but she claimed to know nothing.
Puzzled by the disappearance of such a tiny amount of money, the first sister asked again, "Are you sure you didn't see that dollar?" The other caught a note of accusation, and flared back in anger. As days went by, the unfounded suspicion over the missing dollar increased. New charges came to the fore. Tempers flared. It got so bad that these twins divided the store right down the middle with a wall. The small community became involved as each twin enlisted allies.
One day a late model Cadillac with an out-of-state plate drove up. A man got out and went into the store, asking right out loud how long the store had been in business. One twin said, “I’ve been the owner for over 25 years now.” The stranger replied, "Then you’re the one I need to settle up with. About twenty years ago I was destitute. I was walking down the alley in the back and I saw a dollar lying on the counter. I never stole anything before, but I was so hungry, I took it. It’s been on my conscience ever since. I’ve come to pay it back along with any reasonable damages."
The stranger was surprised to see the lady begin to cry “real big” tears. She staggered then broke down. “Sir,” she said as he took the stranger by the arm, "I want to take you next door and have you repeat your story to my sister." She did just that. Then the stranger witnessed two middle-aged women who looked just alike weeping uncontrollably and falling into each other’s arms: To think, twenty years of hostility over nothing at all. What a waste. What reconciliation!
Mistrust Ruins Relationships
This story parallels what went wrong in the first place between creature and Creator. For suspicion was the cancer beneath the original disobedience: "a spirit of mistrust had taken root at the deepest level."
It started when the serpent cast doubt on the Creator's motives. The serpent, wise in deception, outwits and exploits the innocent Eve. "You are a stupid little girl! This god who lays down the law is the exploiter of little girls! He is a tyrant who needs to control you to make himself feel greater. He knows if you eat the fruit, you will become big. You’ll feel satisfied! So he is the enemy of your self-fulfillment. Trust him no more; rebellion is your only hope."
The woman and man sided with suspicion instead of trust. They believed the worst, not the best about their divine Friend. The order and beauty of the world consequently began to unravel. Chaos and evil were quickly drawn in. Eventually, the beauty of the cosmos withered, died and decayed. Today all creation groans and creaks. Once the benevolent Creator became the enemy, everything he created falls under suspicion. Can anything now undo such estrangement? Can the dollar be accounted for?
"Jesus was God's answer to the problem of a bad reputation" (John Killinger). The truth is that reconciliation began when Yahweh approached the man Abram with a promise, that he would receive a new land and become a blessing to the world. Yahweh’s effort at reconciliation took its grandest form in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, the new Adam. The God didn’t even spare his own son, but offered him up as a sacrifice of reconciliation.
The following is an almost true story. My dad Jack Snyder picked up a hitchhiker late one night. The hitchhiker told the sad story of his life then he pulled out a gun and demanded that Dad give him everything and the car. Dad was a new Christian; he offered to set the hitchhiker up in a house, get him his own car, and give him a job if he would only reconsider and accept the truth. Amazing as it may seem, the hitchhiker agreed.
Dad owned a small construction company. He put the hitchhiker up in a little rental home, bought him an old car and gave him a job. Immediately, the hitchhiker's girlfriend and her grown children joined him from Kentucky. Dad didn’t like this development, but regardless, he put the girlfriend's grown children to work, too. I too worked the construction crew at that time. I became friendly with the hitchhiker's family. As time went on, they openly discussed, cussed and ridiculed Dad right in my presence.
These Kentuckians were suspicious of all the good Dad had done for them. They began to hate him because he was so good and they were so rotten. Our property that they lived on began to go downhill. Trash was heaped up all over the yard; the house filled with garbage. Before long, the Kentuckians moved several dogs in, too. Why should they take care of what belonged to somebody else, especially to HIM! Dad had a bad reputation with that family, but he never did anything wrong, only good.
Dad became distressed and depressed, wondering why he’d been taken advantage of after his good deed. Didn’t he do what a new Christian is supposed to do? He became angry and was ready to throw the whole bunch out of the house. But my brother, who was also a member of the work crew, offered to explain the situation to the Kentuckian to get things straightened out. Dad thought it was worth the effort and sent Pete over to try to rectify the situation. Here’s where the truth of the story ends and the parable begins.
My brother met the Kentuckians on their turf. He hardly had a chance. Within minutes, the former hitchhiker brandished the same gun he had pulled on Dad and instructed Pete to go out into the ramshackle garage. There he shot Pete four times – in both legs and arms – torturing him before squeezing off the fatal bullet into his heart. The Kentuckians packed their belongings into the old car and drove off.
Put yourself in Dad's place now. Can you feel his rage and misgivings? "O, if only I had it to do over again!" Now, if you were Dad, suppose you had the power to raise Pete back to life. Would you then send him back into the same situation? No, you wouldn’t.
Jesus, Reputation and Reconciliation
This story parallels the Father’s sending of the Son to humanity. The amazement is not that the Father had the power to raise his Son from the dead, but that he actually sent him back to the same people that had tortured and murdered him. Three days after he was killed in cold blood, the word was out: that Jesus was not only alive, but that he was saying, "I’m going on ahead to Galilee; Meet me there! Let's get right to the work of dispelling the suspicion against the wonderful Father, and reconciling the world back to his never-ending love and care! Let’s do it even if our lives are at risk!"
And today that is my task as preacher and yours as saint: to tell the story of an awesome Creator whose only reason for making man was to share the garden; to share the wonder of intelligence; to share the miracle of aliveness. In the face of suspicion, the Creator refused to stop loving us; refused to give up on us. Is Yahweh's bad reputation deserved? The answer is, "No, of course not."
When Jesus returns, he will restore his Father’s reputation, for all will know Yahweh, learn of his kindness and love him. When the world is reconciled to the Power of Creation and a right relationship is restored, won’t there be an unlimited potential for this world of people? There certainly will! Greater events beneficial to all humankind will occur then, even greater than any since the special garden relationship unto now. For all the trash in the yard will be burned up; the dogs will be cast out of the house. In those glory days, even Kentuckians may be restored to favor. Hallelujah!