Missing the Buffet - thrive UMC Official Blog

Missing the Buffet

1 Corinthians 8:1-6, 12-13

Now concerning meat that has been sacrificed to a false god: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. If anyone thinks they know something, they don’t yet know as much as they should know. But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.

So concerning the actual food involved in these sacrifices to false gods, we know that a false god isn’t anything in this world, and that there is no God except for the one God. Granted, there are so-called “gods,” in heaven and on the earth, as there are many gods and many lords. However, for us believers,

There is one God the Father.
        All things come from him, and we belong to him.
And there is one Lord Jesus Christ.
        All things exist through him, and we live through him.

 

12 You sin against Christ if you sin against your brothers and sisters and hurt their weak consciences this way. 13 This is why, if food causes the downfall of my brother or sister, I won’t eat meat ever again, or else I may cause my brother or sister to fall.

All of us know what it’s like to feel as if we’re ‘missing out.’ Indeed, the world is so chock-full of activities, and material items, and experiences that there is no way we could cram all of them into our short calendars before we die. And just in case you find yourself threatened with a brief moment of contentment, our species has invented an almost inexhaustible number of reminders of little things you might be missing out on by doing whatever it is you happen to be doing now.

On Facebook or Instagram, you can see everything the people you know are up to –all of the trips they take, and their accomplishments- while you’re staring at a screen, not doing much of anything.

On Amazon, you can look at all the stuff that you could buy –so you’re not missing out on the latest shopping trends [slides]: like purchasing a ‘Nicholas Cage sequin pillow’; or procuring your own  sample of Uranium ore; or riding the cutting-edge of the latest fashion trend, where you’ll need an inflatable unicorn horn… for your cat! 

Probably all of us have had the uncomfortable experience of finding out about what sounds like the party-of-the-year, only to discover that it happened last Friday, without you.

Or if adventure is more you’re thing, there there’s actually a website called experiences.com, where you can book a spa day, or schedule a sky-dive, or race in a corvette. Because it’s never too early to start ticking off the items on your bucket-list.

All of us –to one degree or another- worry that we might be missing out.  You can even hear this in our local churches, where publicity and buzz are currencies worth more than gold.  ‘Have you heard what the mega-church down the street has started to do? Yeah, my neighbors were talking about it –what’re they doin’ that we aren’t?’ Even as a faith-community we can worry about things like that: –what if we have this wonderful chance, and it sneaks right by us?  What if there’s this once-in-a-lifetime, unrepeatable opportunity, and we totally blow it?

But while all of us might wonder about things like that from time-to-time, for 7s on the Enneagram it is a full-time job –especially if they are not particularly-well integrated.  Type 7 is called “the Enthusiast” –and we’re going to learn just a little bit about them today. [And I think it’s very appropriate to talk about 7s on All-Saints day, because these are the kind of people who go out of their way to ‘live life to the fullest.’]  

[Slide]

The basic desire of the 7s is “to be satisfied and content –to have their needs fulfilled.” Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. 

At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

Here are a few trait-defining statements that most 7s find to be true about themselves:

  • “I love traveling and discovering different kinds of foods, people, and experience –the whole fabulous whirlwind of life!”
  • “One thing I absolutely cannot stand is being bored –and I make sure that I am never boring myself.”
  • “When I no longer enjoy doing something, I stop doing it.”
  • “One of my main problems is that I am easily distracted and can get too scattered.”

Just a quick reminder to those of you who might be new to the series or otherwise unfamiliar with the Enneagram: first of all, everyone has all of the qualities of all the types that we’re talking about –so regardless of who you are, we’re talking about you today. And second, the key to becoming a healthy, well-rounded human being is to grow to be more in-touch and in-tune with the other aspects of your personality. The only real difference between the different types is where the focus and the emphasis lands.  And for 7s, the emphasis is on all the good, happy things.  Their gift is joy. So if you ever want to spice up a party –or if you need someone to help pull you up out of a funk, call a seven, because they are magnets drawn to positivity.

But the funny thing about craving and chasing after satisfaction is that it proves to be a fleeting, elusive mistress.  It generates the kind of excitement you need in order to leave the house and go to a party; but once you get there and see the people, and listen to the banter, you suddenly find yourself wondering if there might not be a bigger, better party happening somewhere else, without you.  It’s one of the cruelest paradoxes of the human condition: our relentless pursuit of happiness is often the very thing that keeps us from ever having it.  

            If you ever want to see what I mean in action, find a kid and give her a dollar –and right before she says ‘thank you’ turn and give her brother a crisp ten-dollar bill.  All of a sudden their one-dollar richness turns into a deficit –because instead of simply getting a free gift, the universe or God or whoever now somehow owes that child 9 dollars, right?  And they don’t understand it, but they feel that they need to whine and argue or maybe even throw a fit to try and close that gap. 

            And this is exactly how the ancient religious system used to work in the Pagan world. There was a perceived satisfaction-gap.  So to get more –whether it was security or success with the crops, or vengeance from an enemy, or the assistance of a heavenly hand in war or in love –if you wanted anything you could get for yourself, then you would go to the temple and make a sacrifice.  And that sacrifice was supposed to function kind of like a lotto-ticket to get you what you wanted.  You see, the pagan gods were pretty aloof (and not very benevolent), and they were constantly caught in one kind of drama or another.  If you’ve ever seen the show Keeping Up with the Kardashians you’ve got the picture. So chances were that they weren’t going to notice your petty prayers and gift –but they might!  And if they did, then you were supposed to receive a blessing out of proportion to what you gave. 

            And the magic of the system was that if one temple or god didn’t give you what you wanted –if it didn’t work- then there were always several other temples out there to try. And lots of people did their regular rounds going from temple to temple to temple, chasing satisfaction. Coincidentally, this is the same magic malls use to possess, but now belongs to Amazon, right?  Their real power comes from the fact that you don’t actually know what you want –you just know that you want stuff, and they have the best access to stuff.  So you go there.  And while you’re there, you might as well buy stuff, right?  Because –hey, maybe that’s the thing you need to satisfy your cold and empty heart. I mean, can you really say your life is complete if you don’t have a sequin Nicholas Cage pillow? And if that doesn’t work, you go somewhere else to try it all over again.  And so long as there are more places go and more things to try –as long as you’re chasing ‘more/better/happier’ somewhere else, then you won’t ever actually be where you are.  And the thing you’ll never confront is what’s missing in you.

            But at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth that there is only one God in heaven, and there is only one Lord over all the earth, who is Jesus Christ.  And you are given only one life to live.  So you don’t have to spend your days anxiously running from temple to temple chasing satisfaction. You don’t have to buy the attention of the varied apathetic powers of heaven or earth to matter.  You don’t even need to lie awake at night wondering if your gift was noticed or if it was good enough –because the best blessing is already available to you. Regardless of who you are or where you live or how much you know, you will have unlimited access to joy… when you love. 

            This is why Paul talks about our bodies as being temples, because we are the living gateways of blessing and of joy.  The real line from heaven to earth is through us!  –because access to the one thing on earth that truly makes life good is something no one can monopolize or control.  If you want more joy and to live into a deeper sense of significance, the only distance you have to travel is from where you are to the next person closest to you.  And while it’s true that you won’t be able to make them love you, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you from loving them. And that’s where salvation comes to life: when we love other people.  It’s when we give for our neighbor. 

Paul says, “Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. If anyone thinks they know something, they don’t yet know as much as they should know. But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.”  

And you can turn that last part around: God will know you by your love.   

Brothers and sisters, of all of the varied buffets life has to offer us, this is the one thing we don’t want to miss out on.  Let us not miss the chance to love God with all we’ve got –our hearts, minds, spirit, and strength, and to love our neighbors as our selves.  This is the one thing we can do, and experience, and have and give that matters.

Before we close today, I wanted to share just a few quick spiritual growth practices for the 7s in all of us:

  • Practice restraint and moderation. I like to call this ‘practicing gratitude’ –if you don’t feel like you have enough, fast from some of the things you do have, so you can better appreciate them –for if you ever want to have more joy, you just need to be more grateful.
  • Develop and practice the spiritual discipline of solitude on a regular basis. This is kind of like a fast from people: it will help you come to know who you are apart from your relationships, and grow in gratitude for the love that’s shared (as opposed to the experiences you share).
  • Give yourself a pat on the back whenever you allow yourself to feel negative emotions like anxiety, sadness, disappointment without letting yourself run away from them.

In just a moment, we’re going to celebrate the love God has for us through the sacrament of eucharist.  One way to experience communion is to approach it as a love buffet.  There’s only a little bread, and just a taste of juice, but there is more to love in the people around us –and in God who is with an in us- than we could ever exhaust in a lifetime.  It’s a gift we share not only with those who are here with us, but also with those beyond these walls, and with those who have gone before us in this life.  So if you love someone who has passed from this life, in communion we are connected with them again, through love. Let us ready ourselves for this holy gift, through prayer.

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