Sermon: the Dude Abides

In the Cohen brothers film, the Big Lebowski, the Dude, the main character in the movie, seems unphased by the disasters that happen in his life . . . . 

 

 


In the Cohen brothers film, the Big Lebowski, the Dude, the main character in the movie, seems unphased by the disasters that happen in his life.
In fact, all the Dude seems to be concerned about in life is bowling and the upcoming bowling tournament.  
He is mistaken for a millionaire with the same name that owes gangsters money.
The Dude's house  is vandalized by gangsters, who ruin the Dude's rug.
The Dude is then drawn into a complicated and weird plot involving the kidnapping of the millionaire Lebowski's wife.
The Dude is then variously attacked by movie tycoons and Nihlists.
And the end of the movie, the mysterious cowboy narrator, named the "Stranger," asks the Dude how he is.
The Dude answers, "strikes and gutters, ups and downs, you know."
The Stranger tells the Dude, "take it easy, I know that you will."
To which the Dude raises up his hands, and in answer to the implied question of how the Dude stays happy and calm through the ups and downs, strikes and gutters of his life, says the most famous line of the movie.
"Well, you know, The Dude Abides."
The Dude Abides.
The Gospel of John and the Letter of John that we just read also talks a lot about abiding.
Jesus tells us, "Abide in me as I abide in you."
"I am the vine, you are the branches."
"Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless you abide in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit] unless you abide in me."
Jesus abides in us, and Jesus is asking us to abide in him, find our home in him, draw our life and our identity from him.
Jesus Abides.
And what is this abiding all about?
It is about realizing the nature of our intimate relationship with God.
Just as the branch of a grape vine are intimately connected with the vine the branch is attached to and draws its nutrients, water, and life from the vine, so are we totally dependent on Jesus for our life and happiness and heath.
We don't like to hear this.
We don't like to be dependent on anyone.
We would rather think of ourselves as independent, self made, calling our own shots.
But calling our own shots instead of allowing God to call the shots is the root cause of all of unhappiness, depression, and disconnection.
Jesus and almost all of scripture tells us this is so.
Remember that whole apple in the garden of Eden thing?  
The issue was that Adam and Eve wanted to go it alone.  
Adam and Eve thought, we are good enough, smart enough, and powerful enough to handle it.
We can do it ourselves.
We don't really need God.
And in that story of Adam and Eve is the truth.
The truth that we think we can call all of the shots and do it ourselves without God is what always gets us humans into trouble.
We think that we can outsmart the chances and changes of life.
We think we can handle it.
We think can plan and strategize.
We think we can exercise and get on the  latest diets to keep ourselves healthy.
We think can make more money, and a little more, and a little more, and then we'll be happy.
We think we can protect ourselves and our homes with guns.
We think we can be strong.
We think we can be tough.
We think can look out for number one and be independent.
We think that through our efforts we can make our lives all up, and no downs, all strikes and no gutters.
But the truth is that we can't control what happens to us in this life no matter how hard we try.
And the truth is, when we try to control everything ourselves and leave God out of the picture, we damage ourselves and others can never create anything that is good and true and lasting.
"Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless you abide in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit] unless you abide in me."
We need to take a lesson from the Dude.
We need to abide in Jesus.
And we need to need to let Jesus abide in us.
Jesus does not promise us that he will take away the pain and the tragedies of life.
Jesus does not promise us that happiness is all that we will experience in this life.
Jesus does not promise us that we will always be safe, or comfortable, or secure, or rich or healthy.
Jesus does not promise us that we will bowl over 200 in every game.
Jesus promises us that he will abide with us.
Jesus will abide with us through all of our ups and downs, all of our strikes and gutters, and all of our sufferings and pleasures.
And when we abide with Jesus, Jesus will transform and use all of our experiences -- in fact every part of what makes us us-- to bring us and those around us to joy and peace that encompass both our pleasure and our pain.
Jesus abides.
 
And there is another thing about Jesus' metaphor that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.
Jesus is not a one branch vine, and each one of us are not the only branch.
Jesus the true vine abides in each and every branch - each and every human being.
It does not make any sense for me as one of Jesus' branches to hate or ignore another of Jesus' branches.
The Epistle from John we read today makes this clear.
"God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
"Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
"The commandment we have from [Jesus] is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."
Jesus abides in us and Jesus loves each and every one of us.
Each and every one of us.
And whoever Jesus else Jesus abides in and loves is our brother or sister.
Jesus abides in and loves you.
Jesus abides in and loves me.
And Jesus abides and loves Freddie Gray, whose died in Baltimore as a result of spinal injuries he suffered while under arrest in a police van.
Mr. Gray's neck was critically injured, after the police allegedly handcuffed Grays hands behind him, shackled his feet, and left him unrestrained to be thrown around in the back of the van while it moving.
Thrown in the back of the police van in a practice that has come to be called a "rough ride" by the police and the African American residents of Baltimore.
A practice apparently designed to rough up people who have been arrested without actually hitting them.
African American people who are citizens of Baltimore and fellow citizens of the United States.
African American people who, according to a University of Chicago Study, are 50% less likely to receive a call back from white potential employers after submitting a resume if they have a black sounding name.  http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html 
African American people who, according to a study by the New York times, were given roughly a $700 higher price when bargaining for a used car than the price given to white study participants for the same used car.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/upshot/the-measuring-sticks-of-racial-bias-.html?abt=0002&abg=1 
African American people who are incarcerated at nearly 6 times the rate that whites are incarcerated.  http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_stateratesofincbyraceandethnicity.pdf 
African American people in whom Jesus abides.
The evil of racism in this country is 500 years old and has disordered our social and political relationships on every level.
The evil of racism feels like a problem that is too big and too complicated for us to fix.
The good news is that we do not have to figure out how to fix racism by ourselves.
The good news is that we do not have to trust in our own very limited strength, and energy, and goodness to overcome racism.
The good news is that if we  abide in Jesus, and let Jesus abide in us, Jesus will use us as channels of Jesus' love, Jesus' power, and Jesus' justice
"The commandment we have from [Jesus] is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."
Abiding in Jesus, we must do our work of love and seek justice in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters in Baltimore and throughout the United States.
Abiding in Jesus, we must do our work with humility, with energy, with urgency, and with passion.
Abiding in Jesus,  we will be a channel for Jesus' work of righting injustice, bringing peace, and healing all of our relationships.
Jesus abides.
And that is good news for all of us.
Amen.

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