7-28-13 “Choose Your Fork”
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
(8:30) Hosea 1:2-10
The baseball great Yogi Berra  was know for sayings that seemed to make no sense yet feel like they’re hovering tantalizingly close to deep truth.
The future ain’t what it used to be.
"Never answer an anonymous letter"
" It's deja vu all over again"
My favorite: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
What is it about that statement that makes me stop, not just to ask "hunh?" but to also thank, "hmmmm."
We have other sayings about forks.
Remember “He speaks with a forked tongue?”
According to one 1859 account, the native proverb that the "white man spoke with a forked tongue" originated as a result of the French tactic of the 1690s, in their war with the Iroquois, of inviting their enemies to attend a Peace Conference, only to be slaughtered or captured
When I hear that someone “speaks with fork-ed tongue,” I can’t help but think of the serpent in the garden of Eden, instigator of the first bad human choice.
And do not bring us to the time of trial, Jesus said.
Our scripture readings this morning have some tough stuff in them.
Did you flinch a little when you heard Jesus say to us, If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" I don't ususally thik of myself as evil. At least not the way villians in movies are evil. But I know that I don't always make the choices God wants me to make. I know that sometimes being led into temptation looks, well, pretty tempting. Oh God, how bad can it be if I'm mean just this once? If I ignore that person just this once. If I turn my back and ignore what I know God wants for me, just this once...
When you come to a fork in the road take it. Pick it up. Look at it. Think about it. Pray about it?
What can you do with a real fork (wind chimes and other crafts projects aside)?
Have you ever watched a little kid try to figure that out? First they try to stab whatever's in front of them. It doesn't matter whether its solid, mushy or liquid. Eventually they figure out that they can stab other things too, like their borther or sister. Eventually they start to get the hang of the utensil and actually move food into their mouth. What an accomplishment! What joy overflowing! They want to share. They try to feed you with this wonderous implement they've discovered
Stab or feed. That's our choice pretty much every day.
Remember Noah’s story? In response, God’s plan A seemed to be to indict, to judge, to punish, and finally to forgive.
But in one of the little prophetic books, something extraordinary happens. God comes into the story in a new way.
Hosea first sees an impulse kicking in “eye for an eye, pain for pain,”
It sounds like God is scape-goating him, doesn’t it? Like God is taking the pain of a dishonored husband and stabbing another, take that! (And maybe I’ll feel better.) A time honored tradition that we still use today, even to explain the cross. But God doesn’t stay there.
In this book, for the first time, humanity sees God responding differently. God takes the fork that began to stab and offers to feed with it instead. What Hosea learns, and what he models, is how God behaves with those who have dishonored him.
Each story, … of Hosea, … of Jesus, presses the limits of human imagination and understanding while drawing us deeper into God’s embrace than we’ve ever been before, even though we’ve been unfaithful. It can be my story and yours too.
Men and women speak with forked tongues, that’s a fact,
And yet even the snake is later redeemed by God in the desert with Moses, and spoken of as a sign of God’s redeeming power by early Christians. The snake becomes a symbol of healing and wisdom among medical practitioners.
So what are some actualy forks in the road? Where are places we see God's plan continuing to respond and emerge?
One example is gambling in Maine. For years Methodist led the charge against leagalized gambling, knowing that it is not God's intention to leave our shared or household economies to chance. But as the public was worn down by relentless press of the industry, Methodist have become silent on the subject in the past few years. What now? A new effort has begun to pay attention to those who are most vulnerable to problem gambling and addiction. Executives from the gambling industry are supporting the creation of a network of self-exclusion by which people who recognize their problem can be kept from the casinos. Professional standards are being created for counselors who work with addiction to gambling. We Methodist can be silent in the face of defeat, or we can rise to the opportunity to be partners with former foes.
Another example comes from our past. As I was working with some old Methodist Disciplines (our polity guidebooks) I was astonished to find a 1952 prohibition on divorced ministers. What a painful period of change that must have been for our church as the culture all around began to embrace divorce. What was God doing in that time? Did we discover that we were wrong about what God's will was? Or did we find that God's will responded to the needs of God's people?
Last October we prayed for an Afghani school girl who has become a global ambassador for women's education, Malala Yousatzai. The shot from a taliban fighter meant to silence her went through her brain and lodged in her shoulder. Today she is once again active as an advocate for educational equility. What makes someone choose to feed rather than stab? Where does the wisdom, the strength, the courage come from?
He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial."
When we are not able to forgive, we end up stabbing either someone else by passing on the pain, or ourselves by holding it in.
When we are able to forgive, we are fed and able to feed.
Relentless Love written by John van de Laar
Though we run hot and cold,
fickle and changing in our faith,
your love remains certain and constant;
Though we grow tired and disillusioned,
bored and distracted far too easily,
your love stays true to the end;
Though we allow our grief and anger,
to turn us away from grace and mercy,
your love refuses to let go;
We praise and thank you, O God,
for your relentless love,
for it’s abundant availability,
and for so flooding our lives with love,
that some must, inevitably overflow
and warm others with its touch.
Benediction from Colossians: As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Karen L Munson
United Methodist Pastor & Liturgical Artist