Philippians 3:17-4:1 Homeland Security August 12, 2012
As Christine and I were reading the scriptures from the bulletin last week, I was reminded of an article that I found in a book a number of months ago.
And as is often the case with things that interest me, I started trying to work it into my sermon for this morning.
It’s from a magazine called “Homes and Gardens”, in their November issue from a few years back, and the subject is a well-known public political figure whom I think we all know.
See if you can guess who it’s about.
The reporter was a guest in the home of our mystery man, and wrote the following article based on his observations while he was there. It’s quite revealing. (here we go)…
“There is nothing pretentious about the little estate. It is one that any merchant…might possess in these lovely hills…Meals are often served on the terrace on little tables shaded by big canvas umbrellas…[the owner] delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, musicians and singers. (he must have a taste for the arts).
…The guest bedrooms are hung with old engravings. But more interesting than any of these to the visitor are [the owner’s] own water-colour sketches…none measures more than about eight inches square, and each is signed by [the host] himself…
The gardens are laid out simply enough. Lawns at different levels are planted with flowering shrubs as well as roses and other blooms in due season. The [host], I may add, has a passion about cut flowers in his home, as well as for music.
Every morning at nine he goes out for a talk with the gardeners about their day’s work. These men… are not so much servants as loyal friends.
A life-long vegetarian…, [our host’s] kitchen plots are both varied and heavy on produce.” (he must be concerned about his physical health).
I won’t go on.
The article goes on to describe the mystery man’s love for dog breeding, his love for children, and the graciousness he shows his community in periodically opening up his home for an elaborate ‘fun fair’, complete with cake, fruit, and sweets for the children to enjoy as they frolic around his sprawling, well-kept, and beautiful grounds.
It closes with some parting words from the host as he stands and takes in the estate with the reporter beside him.
“This place is mine” he says, simply. “I built it with money that I earned.”
Any guesses as to who it might be?
Based on this article, he’s an artistic guy who loves music and seeks to surround himself with beauty. He cares about his physical well-being, and He has a soft spot for children and pets. He sounds like a gracious host with a good work ethic, who opens his home freely.
It was Adolph Hitler.
The article appears in Homes and Gardens magazine, in the November issue from 1938.
…so what are we supposed to think?
Have the history books gotten the story wrong?
If we knew Hitler personally, if we would have been a guest on his estate, would we think differently of him today?
Is it any easier to forgive the atrocities he committed, knowing that he was such a lover of the arts and such a gracious host?
Of course not.
If anything, reading this article exposing the ‘softer side’ of Hitler makes the dilemma that much more complex.
And at least for me, it makes reading the Bible that much more interesting…because if anyone in the world can be considered “wicked” through and through…I’d make the case that it was Adolph Hitler.
We love to hate Hitler. His name alone has become symbolic of some of the worst evil our world has ever seen.
And yet, it’s evident that He told himself, his close friends, and the readers of “Homes and Gardens” magazine a story that’s not all that different than the story I tell about myself….a story I’m guessing you tell about yourselves, too.
The story is some version of this: “This place is mine. I built it with money that I earned.”
As true as that story might be…as proud of that story as we might be…
It’s not the story that’s going to endure.
It’s not going to last.
Paul writes to the Philippians about what will last…and that’s our citizenship in heaven.
Everything else will pass away.
So, what are you building right now?
We live in the age of information, a culture of self-hype.
It’s never been easier than it is right now, to present the world with a version of ourselves that’s been airbrushed to perfection.
But the question we’ve got to ask, is how long is it going to last?
Ten years after you die, Nobody is going to care about your facebook profile, or the story you’re currently telling about yourself.
Eternity starts now.
But the question is not how to be remembered well.
The question is the same as it’s always been…Who is your God?
Your actions always speak louder than your words…so who is your God?
It’s interesting, somebody once told me that if you really want to gauge someone’s character, you should look at how they treat the poor, the lame, the needy…the people who can’t do anything for them in return.
It’s true of Character, but it’s also true if you want to see someone’s God.
When we abandon God, we abandon the people on the margins.
When we abandon God, we’re left with no god but our stomach, as Paul puts it. We glory in our shame and our destiny is destruction.
When Earth is our homeland, we begin to exchange God’s Truth for lies…lies about creation, lies about ourselves… when we abandon God, we begin to exchange the glorious mystery of life for easy answers and a bunch of hype about ‘Homeland Security’.
And that term makes it clear who’s in and who’s out.
But this is not our home.
Our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have to believe that even Hitler was not beyond the reach of God.
I have to believe that even Hitler could have been redeemed by the transformative touch and love of God, because if we’re not holding on to the hope that people can change…that God can transform even the most wicked person…then our faith is worthless and we have no hope.
But the Truth of a person is always bigger than what we can see.
We can judge a tree by it’s fruit…don’t hear me wrong.
We can judge a person’s character by the deeds that they do.
But hope and judgement are two different things.
Hope is our job.
Judgment is God’s.
That’s why Paul writes to the Philippians, saying “Let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
Live by example.
Have role models.
The surest way to change your character is to change your behavior.
Seek out good role models.
Find a mentor.
Look around, find someone you want to be like…and imitate them.
Then take it a step further, and listen to what people have to say to you. Listen to the story other people tell concerning your life.
It’s hard to hear if it comes in the form of criticism…but it’s important to hear, nonetheless.
Our actions in this world have eternal consequences.
And Eternity begins today.
There is the potential for righteousness and wickedness in each one of us.
We live in the tension between good and evil.
The challenge for today, if you should choose to accept it, is this.
Find someone who will tell you what you need to hear.
And listen to them.
You’ll be transformed from this encounter far more than you ever will from a sermon.
Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself “what’s going to last in my life”?
What kind of difference is there between the story I’m telling about myself, and the story others are telling?
What are the poor saying about me?
What are those on the margins saying about who I am?
God’s story is bigger than any of ours…but how is it being told in your life?
Press on. Stand firm in God. Do not exchange God’s Truth for the lie that this is all there is…for this is not our homeland, and our citizenship is in heaven.