April 22, 2018

 The Third Sunday After Easter April 22, 2018 “Responsible Love” 1 John 3:11-24 

 Some of you know that playing board games isn’t high up on my list of things to do. In fact, if that list had a basement, I’d bury board games a few miles under it. Not everyone feels that way, though. 

Board games are more popular than ever. In 2017, sales grew by 28% over the year before. Global sales rose to $9.6 billion. 

The surging popularity of board games has led to the growth of a new kind of gathering place, the board game café. They’re popping up all over the world, including right across the river in St. Louis. 

Here’s just a snippet of a longer interview with the owners of Pieces, a board game café in Soulard. 


As the sales of board games have soared, so also has the number of parents who, though anxious to pull their kids away from whatever screen has them mesmerized, aren’t nearly as anxious to play a three-hour Candyland marathon. 

That’s why more and more parents admit to cheating when they play games with their kids, at least according to an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal. 

Mind you, these parents say they’re cheating to lose and shorten playing time. I wonder, though, if they might not have another aim in mind—protecting their children from losing. If that’s the case, they aren’t doing them any favors. 

Losing and loss, sad to say, are part of life. When our parents can’t protect us from them, we take on the job ourselves, seeing only what we want to see. 

Our brains aren’t powerful enough to notice and know everything. That means we end up filtering or editing what we take in. What we choose to let through and what we choose to leave out is hugely important. 

We mostly let through information that makes us feel good about ourselves. We conveniently filter out whatever threatens our ego or what we believe. 

Neurologist Robert Burton puts it this way: 

Imagine the gradual formation of a riverbed. The initial flow of water might be completely random—there are no preferred routes in the beginning. But once a creek is formed, water is more likely to follow this newly created path of least resistance. As the water continues, the creek deepens and the river develops. 

What’s scary about it is that the less we see, the more comfortable we become, and the more certain we are of our beliefs. After a while, the channel cut through our mind by prejudice and habit gets so deep we can’t see over the banks to what’s outside. 

Sad to say, we’re okay with that, too. That’s where today’s reading from First John takes us to task. 

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? 

We don’t mean to refuse. It’s just that we can’t help people we stopped seeing a long time ago. 

Researchers in New York gave sixty-one pedestrians Google Glass to wear while they walked about one block. 

Before they started their walk, people in the study broke themselves down by social class, including poor, working class, middle class, upper middle-class, and upper class. Then, Google Glass recorded everything they looked at. 

Researchers found that while social class didn’t influence the number of times people looked at others, it did affect how long they looked at others. Those who reported being in a higher social class spent less time looking at other people than those of a lower class. 

Unfortunately, our willful blindness to the people around us can last a lot longer than a one block walk. I’m the contact person for CESNA here in town. In a given year, I’ll see 80 to 100 families looking for help with rent or utilities, clothing or food. The clear majority are working, many at two jobs. 

March 1 was minimum-wage workers’ equal pay day. It marked how many extra days into the new year a minimum-wage worker has to work just to earn the same amount he or she did in 2009. 

In 2018, a worker earning $7.25 an hour needs an extra forty-one working days, more than two months, just to take home the same pay he or she did in a single year the last time the federal minimum wage went up in 2009. 

Yet we refuse to see. Or, worse yet, we blame low income people for their status. 

Things like your family situation growing up, your level of education, the job opportunities you’re handed, and the rate of crime and drug use in your neighborhood all shape a child’s future. 

Poverty hits people of color harder than others. It has nothing to do with laziness. Despite whatever gains we may have made in civil rights over the last fifty years, racism has created a cycle of poverty so vast that it touches all people of color. 

How is a poor child who has to drop out of high school to help care for her younger brothers and sisters supposed to pull herself up by her bootstraps when she’s stuck tight in a web of poverty and discrimination that she was born into? 

Try imagining how different things would be for you were it not for the accident of birth. See, really see, others not with the eyes of judgment, but with those of mercy and understanding. 

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 

Laying down our life might mean a one-time act of heroism. More often, though, it means putting our own wants aside and doing what we can to meet the needs of others. 

It means sharing burdens, easing pain and suffering when and where we can. It means looking at the glass of our lives as always full enough to share, being content with enough and not hoarding our time, talents, or possessions. 

Laying down our life means working at the hard parts of being together and staying together as a church. It might mean that we have to “shut up and put up” for the good of the body of Christ. It might mean taking the back seat and letting someone else drive for a while. 

It never means packing up our little red wagon and going home at the first sign of disagreement or at the expense of your neighbor. 

Laying down our life means remembering that God loves us, flaws and all. That gracious love, in turn, frees us to love others. 

This isn’t an, “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine,” kind of affair. This is love poured out not counting the cost. This is love that demands no return, love that won’t let a needy brother or sister go without help it’s in our power to give. 

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? 

The simple truth is that it does not. May we love, you and I, not just in word and speech, but in truth and action, today and every day.