In Driving Miss Daisy, Miss Daisy has to adjust to a good many things as she is aging and the world keeps changing. In one scene, she and Boolie, her son, are talking about a dinner in the area where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is to speak. She is eager to go, but when she asks Boolie to go with her, he explains that he’d like to – but doesn’t think he can. He is afraid of what other businessmen would think, perhaps take their business elsewhere. But Boolie’s fear won’t prevent his mother from going. But then, in the car, she asks Hoke if he wanted to go with her….and discovers with surprise that inviting him to attend the dinner with her didn’t occur to her until Boolie said something, and then when they are on the way. Through the 25 years of the movie, Miss Daisy keeps unfolding layers of who she is to discover both her boldness as she lives towards her dying and her sometimes still foolish limitations.
[i]IN VAIN – Empty (kenos)
1 Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
From time to time, we all feel like our faith is non-existent. We feel hollowed-out inside – empty of any faith we once had. There are other times, when we may not feel empty, but we seem to be missing the mark. Those who nurture us in faith are concerned when we hit an “Empty time.”
At the start of the morning reading from Corinthians, Paul expresses his concern that the church at Corinth seems to be lacking something in how they are living out their faith. He is afraid that they are receiving the grace of God IN VAIN. The Greek is kenos = empty. Their faith is empty. They aren’t living out the gospel.
In other parts of the letter, Paul explains that they are not demonstrating love and compassion or each other. That’s a HUGE problem for anyone identified as part of the church of Jesus Christ. (LOVE)
After all, Jesus showed love rather universally. He loved broken-down invalids and cast-away sinners, the followers who continually disappointed him and even those who sought his death. For those who follow Jesus, the church which is called “the body of Christ,” love is a pretty good baseline. We even sing it, “They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love.” A church that isn’t identified with LOVE isn’t living out the gospel. Their faith is pretty empty.
Trusting in God. Paul also accuses them of not trusting in God enough to let God work in their lives. He fully expects that God’s transforming (that means changing) grace would be VISIBLE in their lives if they are living out the gospel.
the church is arguing over differences in beliefs, with people attempting to persuade, bully or browbeat others into their point of view.
divisions in the leadership, jealousy over positions and authority – as if power politics works with a leader who hung on a cross.
disagreements over worship with different thoughts over proper worship or what most honors God.
A church that has a spirit of criticism and division, that can’t seem to trust God enough to be working inside of them, isn’t going to be identified with living out the Gospel. Paul’s concerns about the church in Corinth are rooted in their inability to BE the church where they are. They aren’t BOLD enough. They are too rooted in expectations or their own preferences to let God work in their corporate life. Their faith isn’t vibrant with love and possibility. They look pretty empty. Paul is afraid that God’s grace is IN VAIN.
SURPRISE! Paul wants all Christians to live boldly! Paul, ambassador and missionary to as much of the world as he could reach, doesn’t want anyone to be held back by fear. He wants the churches he began and those that he nurtured, to live as boldly NEW people – citizens of God’s in-breaking NEW AGE.
Paul would tell us that “Life is uncertain.” And advise that we make plans that matter. After all, tomorrow is never guaranteed. He might, if it hadn’t been before his time, quote Robert Herrick’s poem to “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,”[ii] or give something like Mr. Keating’s carpe diem lecture “Seize the day.” “We are food for worms….everyone of us will die.” [iii] So we can’t wait for tomorrow – there may not be one for us. We have to live out our values TODAY!
“Poor, but enriching many,” Paul said of himself. Service to others matters, not the accumulation of wealth.
God is at work. “God is at work in the world. Be a part of it,” Paul would say. “The new life we experience in Jesus is available to all,” Paul would say. While all too often we try to figure out how to exclude people from counting, Paul keeps drawing new circles to include everyone, or blurring boundaries that we thought were firm. “Stop worrying about God’s business,” Paul would say. “Your business is to show the love of God to ALL people,” Paul would say.
Not that this kind of living is trouble-free. There are no guarantees that living faithfully, following Jesus and serving God makes for a happy-go-lucky or easy existence. St. Paul has been referred to as the “prophet of disaster.” Shipwrecks, arrests, beatings, imprisonment, attempted mob violence, escaping over walls from those who sought to kill him, and years of incarceration…. None of us would call that an easy life. Certainly not a trouble-free one.
And yet this follower of Jesus would write,
18 I am sure that what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s children? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.[w] 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 18, 31, 33-39
Live for God today! Live with a focus on what matters – service to others, sharing the good news of God’s amazing love. Carpe diem – for we are more than conquerors and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord!
We have a strange paradox before us. The paradox of a life following Jesus, a Christian life, is that we are living by dying. We find our lives when we are bold enough to, if not lose them in a temporal sense, at least decide that keeping them isn’t the most important thing. When we live out loud for God, we have a kind of strength that may otherwise elude us.
David’s story helps us uncover what this means. David was just a kid in this story – a shepherd running errands to take food to the front. And maybe, as teenagers tend to be, he was a bit arrogant and overconfident. Perhaps he even thought he was immortal, as our teens used to be able to do. But he also took a deep breath and looked at the Philistine warrior and perhaps shrugged his shoulders and said, like the great warrior Crazy Horse before the Battle of Little Bighorn, “Hokahey, today’s a good day to die.” Perhaps he said to himself as mythic raiders did before a battle, “Die Bravely.” He just strode into battle with what he had, his weapons of choice, to do what he could.
This isn’t a sermon about David – he’ll get his own sermon this summer when we talk about Heroes. But David gives us a model for LIVING BOLDLY – to do what is before us with all the honor we have.
And what is before us? St. Paul already told us that. We are becoming God’s new creation — by the power of God at work in us. And so the work of God should show in our lives. Love. Openness to God’s transformation. Love for others that opens up new possibilities for them too. Grow. Opening hearts. Love. Live as witnesses of new creation. Love now. There is nothing BOLDER than LOVE. Nothing better to show God’s work in us than LOVE.
We can’t be empty, friends. No grace offered in vain for us. Instead, let us be DARING and BOLD in showing God’s love through our love for all people. Now – seize the day for it is the one we have. Carpe diem – for we are more than conquerors and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord! “Live boldly – today’s a good day to die. And a better one to live out loud!”