02 January 2011

Garbage, Resolutions and Amateur Theologians

I perform a ritual each Sunday I secretly call "playing Marty." Monday is garbage day so each Sunday after church I gather up the garbage, clean the science experiments out of the fridge and roll the garbage can to the end of the driveway in anticipation of an early Monday pickup. Why do I call it playing Marty? Because I lived in a small town where I knew the garbage man by name. His name was Marty. When you live in a small town you develop your own vocabulary. Families have their own languages too. Combine the two and in my family if you had garbage detail it was your turn to play Marty.

At my house New Year's Eve was called "Amateur Night" because that's the one night people who normally do not drink think they have built up their sobriety levels to such a point that they are immune to alcohol. Perfectly lovely people think a couple glasses of champagne or a cocktail or two cannot crumble their 364 day run of sobriety. They lose their minds. They get into vehicles and they drive. They go into bars where the professional drinkers have been honing their testiness and over developed bad attitudes. The amateurs are looking for fun, the professionals are aching for a fight. Inevitably someone goes to jail. The amateurs also use their drunkenness as a plausible excuse for letting their mouth say whatever their hearts have been thinking. Throwing caution to the wind they say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong moment with alarming precision. Oh, and what is it about New Year's Eve that makes an amateur drunk think that he or she is Wild Bill Hickok or Annie Oakley? While at the sheriff's office and the fire department I came to hate New Year's Eve. Wise deputies parked under freeway overpasses to avoid the bullets shot into the air by fun loving folks who forget whatever goes up.... must come down. Between drunken amateurs with cars, guns and mouths there are just too many tragedies waiting to happen. God spare me from amateurs.

Speaking of God and amateurs, today my pastor talked about resolutions and how they aren't necessarily a bad thing to make unless we make them without thought. Our goals are often too lofty or completely selfishly motivated. I myself have never met a New Year's resolution I haven't broken. I would call my clandestine attempts to align my life in accordance with God's word self-focused and.... (gulp).... amateurish. Why? Because only someone with a cursory or introductory concept of the gospel would feel they had it in their power to affect the necessary changes in their character to live a godly life. That's an amateurish mistake. Sadly our pews and podiums are full of amateurs. Amateur theologians abound.

Here's a thought. If I could 'play Marty' and take the garbage out of my soul, what need would I have of the Word or the Holy Spirit or the fellowship of like-minded believers? How would I look different than anyone else who claims to control their destiny? I wouldn't. I think that's why most people in the United States who profess to be Christians look not unlike those who make no such profession. It's not in my power to sanctify myself yet I have a responsibility to present myself to the One who can. So, how's this for a resolution. I resolve to press on.

Philippians 3:8-14
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from {the} Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which {comes} from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained {it} or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of {it} yet; but one thing {I do} forgetting what {lies} behind and reaching forward to what {lies} ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(NAS)

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