Thursday, June 4, 2009

Changes in Attitudes: The Gospel and Jimmy Buffett

This week, we are beginning a six week sermon series based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett. I borrowed this idea from my friend, Wade Griffith at Trinity UMC in Tuscaloosa, because it seemed like a good fit for a community on the river with a lot of folks who live there only on the weekends and because I do believe that Jimmy Buffett's songs ask the kinds of questions that many outside the church are asking: What gives life meaning? What happens after we make a mess of our lives? What really is the "good" life?

We are beginning with Margaritaville, the anthem of beach vacation, spring breaks and drunken parties. Yet, this song is actually anything but a celebration of the drunken lifestyle. There is great pain in many of the lyrics, such as when he praises "that frozen concoction that helps me hang on." These are the words of a man who has wasted his life on women and alcohol and now realizes that his wasted life is no one’s fault but his own.

What do we when we find that we’ve made a mess of our lives? What does God have to say to those who have sinned and are now experiencing the consequences of those sins?

Nearly six centuries before the birth of Christ, the people of Israel found themselves in a similar situation. They turned their backs on God and found themselves in exile in Babylon. The prophet Isaiah had warned them that if they did not change their ways, they would pay. And now they were.

Hear now, the words of God through the prophet Isaiah to a people wasting away in exile:

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
6Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Isaiah 55:1-13

• In what ways, do we spend money on that which is not bread and labor for that which will not satisfy?

• What is God’s answer to those “wasting away in Margaritaville”?

I'm in Birmingham preparing for Annual Conference now.

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