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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Slow and Gradual Karma's Gonna Get You

2015-09-06 Ga 06 07-10 Slow and Gradual Karma's Gonna Get You

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

Second Scripture Lesson        Galatians 6:7-10

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.




Writer and recovering Presbyterian Anne Lamott writes:


"Everyone, from almost every tradition, agrees on 5 things:

Rule 1: We are all family.

Rule 2: You reap exactly what you sow. That is, you can not grow tulips from zucchini seeds.

Rule 3: Try to breathe every few minutes.

Rule 4: It helps beyond words to plant bulbs in the dark of winter.

Rule 5: It is immoral to hit first." (Anne Lamott, Small Victories)


I think Rules 2, 3, and 4 apply well to Labor Day, particularly Rule 2. You reap exactly what you sow. The Bible says that. So does the Qur'an. Buddhists, Sikhs, Jainists, Taoists, and Hindus say it, too. They have a simpler name for it. They call it karma. Good works get you good karma. Bad works get you bad karma. Enough bad karma and you're sentenced to remedial work in your next life. You come back as something like a mosquito. Or a presidential candidate. Enough good karma and you come back as your dog.


John Lennon wrote, "Instant Karma!" with an exclamation point. Instant Karma! is nice, especially when people lie, or cheat, or steal. It's soothing to see them get what they deserve in the current news cycle. Unfortunately, the legal system and divine retribution are normally far less instant. It takes a long time for what goes around to come around. But it's sweet when you live long enough to see it. It's not that I wish bad on bad people. On second thought, that's exactly what it is. As ye give, so shall ye receive, scumbag.


Paul wrote, "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow." Proverbs says, "Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity" and "Those who are generous are blessed." So on Labor Day, if you've worked hard and kept your nose clean, if you've given an honest day's work for an honest day's pay before taxes, if you've shared with the poor instead of keeping it all for yourself, if you've generated a fair amount of good karma, then you deserve a few minutes to breathe (Rule 3). What we send around comes back around. We deserve to let what's been sown as labor be reaped as leisure. Leisure seeds. Leisure suits. Leisure suits us and the Bible tells us so. I love that line in Ecclesiastes, "…it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil." (Ecc 3:12-13). Feel free to share that with your boss or oppressive overlord. On the other hand, it might be better to wait for karma to turn him or her into a cockroach. Let that pleasant image soothe you if you have to work tomorrow.


Paul says, "…if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith."


I think what Paul and the Bible are saying here is that it's really hard not to give up. It's really hard to force yourself to plant bulbs in the dark of winter. It doesn't make sense. Because the ground is rocky and frozen. Who would believe something beautiful might grow? I mean, karma - along with everything else - is supposed to be instant with an exclamation point, right? Or when your spirit is rocky and frozen, or your attitude is buried under the mud, who takes pleasure in their toil? They say to break the toil into smaller parts. Great. Then you have "toilettes." Oh, de toilettes can really stink. Why would anyone want to endure things like chemo, or surgery, or the DMV unless something good was supposed to grow, later, and come back around, someday?


"You reap what you sow." It's a warning to people who sow, what? Whatever makes your teeth grind or your soul despair over the sorry state of humanity. It's a prayer for poetic justice to rain down on the unjust and wash them away. If that's how you want to use it, you certainly can, and will. We all enjoy a good laugh when people get what they deserve.


But, "You reap what you sow," is also a little deeper than that. If it weren't it wouldn't be in the Bible, as well as so many other sacred texts.


There's satisfaction of seeing people get bitten on the hind-end by their own foolishness. But God's not really into momentary satisfaction. God's more into planting those bulbs in rocky, frozen hearts, and waiting to see what grows. And good for us that God's so patient. Down below the surface, where roots tangle and wormy things dig is where God plants seeds of hope. That's what all this is really about. Not going around and coming around, but hope. "You reap what you sow" means that you hope. You hope for something more than what you see today. You hope for more than runny noses and screaming fits. You hope for more than arthritic fingers and arms that aren't long enough to let you read tiny print.


If you believe that you reap what you sow, then you believe in hope. You believe that what happens today and tomorrow and the foreseeable future (if there is such a thing) is not all that's ever going to come around. You believe that your labor and your works of hope will bear fruit, almost never as soon as you'd like, but eventually. You believe in something more than your own work, that your labor is not an end in itself, and that with God's help, you can help something better grow.


You reap what you sow. Well, not always. Not exactly. Whether you're growing zucchini, or tulips, or teenagers, the harvest is going to surprise you. Nothing ever turns out exactly as we plan. The world comes with an endless supply of organic fertilizer. Seasons pass between planting and harvest. Things change. As much as we might want to wish, we're not in charge of the seeds. We just plant them. Like when they planted the crucified Christ in the ground. They never would have imagined a resurrected life would emerge three days later. Three days. Wow. God can break out the MiracleGro® when we least expect it.


If what goes around comes around, there's reason to hope. If the labor of your day serves the greater good, then God's fingers are also wrapping around it. So, relax. Breathe. Let God plant more seeds of goodness in you.