arts · church

the gospel according to Sam-I-Am

I was reminded recently of the kind of mind-numbing, repetition of a pastor’s call while reading the book Green Eggs and Ham to my kids. You know the story. Sam-I-Am keeps asking over and over and over and over to that random Cat in the hat looking character, “Do you like green eggs and ham?” He gives suggestions on a ton of ways this Cat-dude could try them, in all manners of situations and in varied company. All to no avail.

As I read it, I started to feel ever so slightly annoyed. Why can’t Sam-I-Am just take a hint? Not even a hint. Flat out denied! Sam, back up, man. I’m done with you. Begone! You’re getting on my last nerve. Stop following me. You’re stalking. I’m calling the cops!

We all know how it goes, though. The Cat-dude finally gives in and says, Sam if you just promise to shut up, I will try the #*$&@! green eggs and ham. And then… SPOILERS! He really likes it. He really, really likes it!! Amazing.

And it occurs to me that more often than not, your PASTOR is like Sam-I-Am. It feels that way. Many tend to think of it that way, even if they’d never admit it out loud or anything. (Bless his heart.) Every week, your pastor is calling out to you. Well, if he’s faithful to the word of God and the Holy Spirit’s leading – to call to repentance. To call to justice. To call to the clear commands of Jesus himself, to love God and neighbor. Over and over and over and over. In a million different scenarios. Through a billion different bible verses. And they all say the same thing, pointing to the same truth, over and over and over. You need Jesus. You are a sinner and unworthy. You are desperate on your own. You will fail on your own. You will never need Jesus any less.

And more often than not, the people say, “I DO NOT LIKE THEM, SAM-I-AM!!”

Even Churchy people. People who have sat in the pews every Sunday for as long as they can remember, putting in their dues, giving their tithes, singing their hymns loudly, visiting the sick, collecting for the poor and needy, they all sit there and tell Pastor Sam-I-Am, no thank you. Well, when they are actually listening to the sermon at all.

Oh God, forgive us. What will it take for me to see my errors? What will it take for me to admit my sin and my need of you? How extreme will it need to be?

I love how it’s not until the Cat-dude is sinking in to the sea that he finally gives in. It’s poetic, really. Dr. Seuss, I’m sure, had no intentions of my taking his story as biblical truths (from what I understand he was not a Christian by any means, but still pretty wise about human nature.) The Cat-dude is at his wits’ end and he has nowhere to go and is sinking down. Ok, ok. I’ll try it.

“When I was sinking down, sinking down… ”

It’s also poetic that Sam-I-Am is right there with him. Still offering the delicious ham and eggs. Still waiting for a response. Still pressuring the spot that needed to be pressured. Still hoping and knowing that what he was saying was absolutely true and life-giving and, yes, even, pleasant. It didn’t look very appetizing. And most kids really don’t care for green anything. But we know, in the end, that it is not how it looks. It is good. It is so good.

I wonder what it will take for the Church today to sink down. Because we know, after all these years, after all of history, that it, too often, takes sinking to change anything. I was reminded also recently by my husband’s sermon series on Jonah, that what we realize from Jonah is that he didn’t even repent when he was in the BELLY OF THE WHALE! What?! Not even then was Jonah going to admit that he was wrong. He was prideful. He was arrogant and rude. He was ungracious and unkind. And he was rotting and decaying in a big fish. What does it take to get us to admit we are rotting from within? Why can’t we see what has swallowed us whole? What has damaged us and made us hard-hearted? We can’t see the forest for the trees. We feel so sorry for ourselves and, in desperation, we make promises to God that we half-heartedly attempt to keep. But we need more. We need Jesus. We need to be saved. We need to be changed from inside out. We need hope and peace, but we need to admit that the ways we’ve been trying to get them will never work out. We need the gift of repentance. We need the grace that repentance alone can bring us. We need to get past the initial, outward ugliness and pain of repentance – the green, off-putting color, if you will, of repentance – and get to the goodness of grace and forgiveness and redemption of all that has gone wrong.

And then Jesus sends Sam-I-Am with a big ole plate of green eggs and ham.

Just try it. Try Jesus. You will see. For some of us, we’ve been avoiding Jesus our whole lives. We’ve been running away, and we get annoyed with the way he keeps popping up. For others, we have been around him all our lives, but we’ve never really let him change anything. It’s like having the plate of eggs and ham, but never actually eating them. Well, today is that day, friends. It has never been more that day. Sam-I-Am notwithstanding, the plate will not give up. The steadfast love of Jesus is not going any where. He will use Pastor Sam-I-Am and a hundred scenarios, pursuing you until you can run no more. He will “hunt you down,” as one pastor I know likes to say. He’s not giving up. And he’s got all the rhymes to do it for the rest of time.

Try him. Try him. He won’t let you be.
Try Jesus, Cat-dude. You will see.

(with all due respect to Seuss… )

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