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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible- Galatians
M&Ms and the Gospel

Galatians Series or Reformation    Galatians 2:1-14

The basis of the sermon for today is from Galatians 2:1-14,  ďBy revelation I laid before them the gospel which I would preach to the GentilesÖthat the truth of the gospel may be preserved among you. And also from Galatians 1:11,12, where the Apostle Paul writes:  I want you to know my friends, that the gospel which I preach is not a man made gospel;  it was not handed down to me by humans.  For I did not receive it from humans nor was I taught it by humans; but the gospel I preach was given through a revelation from God.  It is Godís gospel, not a human gospel.Ē 

Here in my hands is a bag of M and Ms.  I am not sure if you like M and Ms, but to me, they are very good candy.  There are many things I like about M and Ms, but the first thing you notice about them are the variety of bright, shiny colors.  See here in my hand; all the bright shiny colors of the candy.  What brightness.  What colors.  But even better than the bright shiny colors is the taste of the M and Ms.  You pop one into your mouth, crunch your teeth on it, and you immediately taste the rich, dark, succulent chocolate.  Ummmmm.  M and Ms come in two kinds:  regular or nuts.  I prefer the regular that you can stick up in near your gums and just let them melt over time.  Another thing about M and Ms is that they are like potato chips;  you canít eat just one;  you have to have another...and then another...and another.  They are just so compulsively good. 

I have discovered that M and Ms are not only good candy but M and Ms have become a psychology of living.  M and Ms are a philosophy of life.  The M and Ms approach to living goes like this:  If someone is smiling, you give them an M and M and they smile even more;  if someone is working hard, you give them an M and M and they work even harder.  On the other hand, if someone is frowning, you withhold the M and M from them and they figure it out;  they want an M and M so much that they start smiling.  If someone isnít working very hard, you withhold the M and M from them;  they figure it out;  they want an M and M so much that they start working harder. 

The purpose of M and Ming people is to positively influence their behavior.  It works well on the whole animal kingdom;  cats and  dogs,  rats and mice, elephants and chimpanzees,  husbands and wives,  and even children.

I would like to tell you a story of how M and Ms worked with my children.  When my kids were younger, we used to go backpacking as a family.  Anne was eight and Joel was five, and we were going to hike up to Annette Lake in the Cascades, a 2500 foot elevation gain in three miles.  Itís a tough hike.  So we needed to positively motivate the kids to move up the mountain, and M and Ms would do the trick.  We gave each child a watch to watch the time, and after every ten minutes of walking, they would ask for an M and M. We would give them each an M and M.  It worked like a charm.  Watch the watch; ten minutes of walking; another M and M.  They loved it.  After eight minutes, Joel said he wanted an M and M.  Mistake, yes big mistake.  I gave him that M and M.  And then six minutes later, and then four minutes, and then two minutes and then no minutes and he started howling that he didnít want any more of my M and Ms.  He wanted a ride;  on my shoulders.  Whew!  So on top of my fifty pound pack, I put my fifty pound son;  put on the watch;  and every ten minutes, I would give myself an M and M.  Ten minutes, another M and M.  Ten minutes, another M and M.  Then eight minutes.  Six minutes. Four minutes.  Two minutes.  And we ran out of M and Ms.  We would have died on the mountain, but luckily, after searching deeply in her pack, my wife found another sack of M and Ms.  And up the mountain we went again.  With new motivation and new energy, we made it to the top of the mountain and our campsite. 

The purpose of M and Ms is to positively motivate people into action;  to motivate them to do what needs to be done.  And it works, most of the time.  Some of the time.

Now, there is thing negative side to M and Ming people.  There is a downside.  That is, if someone does you a favor, you feel that you have to give them an M and M in return.  Youíre indebted to them;  you owe them one.  For example, a friend came over the other day and roto-tilled my garden.  He couldnít do that out of the simple generosity of his heart  and because we were good friends and neighbors.  I was now in debt to him.  I had to give him an M and M in return.  There is no such thing as a simple gift;  people now keep track of the transactions and who owes whom what favors.

Another negative side to M and Ming people is that you start to expect them to give you an M and M in return if you do them a favor.  You are kind to others and you expect them to give you some favor back.  I scratch your back;  you scratch mine.... I expect you will scratch mine. 

All of us learn this psychology of M and Ming people very early.  M and Ming is very instinctual to the human race;  it is easily learned and deeply ingrained in all of us.  We canít escape it.  Itís at the heart of all human relationships. 

M and Ms are very good candy.  M and Ms are also a way of positively influencing behavior.  But as I have grown older, I have discovered that there is an M and M theology of religion.  There is an M and M style of Christianity.  In the M and M style of Christianity, God is the creator of the M and Ms.  God is up there in heaven with an M and M factory, and God makes all the M and Ms for the whole world.  And God gives out M and Ms to the whole world;  but we discover that this God gives out M and Ms quite selectively.  To those people who obey his rules, regulations and rituals, God gives more M and Ms;  and having received their M and M rewards,  they obey his rules, regulations and rituals even more faithfully.  And to those people who donít obey his rules, regulations and rituals, God withholds his M and Ms, until those people  figure it out that they need to obey his rules and regulations in order to get more M and Ms.  And, if people really obey those rules, regulations and rituals faithfully over time, God will invite those people up to heaven when they die, and they live right next to the M and M factory and they will eat M and Ms forever.  What sugared bliss!

Now, like all good ideas, there are some negative sides to this religious M and Ming.  In this scheme of things, God no longer freely gives his blessings;  rather, God has become the giant briber in the sky.  God no longer freely gives abundant blessings to all; blessings have strings attached.  Godís blessings become bribes to motivate behavior. 

Another negative aspect of this religious M and Ming is that obedient people start to expect blessings from God, like God owes them their blessings.  This was especially true of the Pharisees in the New Testament;  they thought of themselves as good, upstanding synagogue folk; and they expected God to bless them for their good behaviors with good favors.  The same is true with a lot of church folk:  They reason:  I am a good loyal Christian and church member, and I expect God will heal my child or protect my child from diseases and disasters or my parents from cancer and coronaries. God owes it to me, more than some of those pagan types.  Or as in the parable of the prodigal son;  the older brother stayed home and expected the blessings from the father.

Now, this M and M theology is found in all religions of the world.  In all religions of the world, there is a God who is a creator of the M and Ms up there in heaven.  In all religions of the world, God gives M and Ms out to his creation.  In all religions of the world, this God gives more M and Ms to those who obey his rules, regulations and rituals.  In all religions of the world,  this God withholds M and Ms from those who donít obey the rules, regulations and rituals.  This is called ďnatural religion;Ē  it is called ďnatural theology;Ē  It is the natural way that human beings think that God works in this world.

 And the Apostle Paul calls this kind of religious reasoning  ďmanís gospelĒ or a ďhuman gospel.Ē    It has been thought up by humans;  it is instinctual to humans. It is well ingrained in the human race.   But Paul says,  ďI want to preach to you a new gospel;  a gospel that has not been distorted  by human touch and human instincts.  The gospel I preach I received as a direct revelation from God;  I receive it from Jesus Christ.Ē

Now, this new Gospel of the Apostle Paul will be very hard for you to understand this morning;  not because this new gospel is so complicated;  but it is difficult to grasp because we are so deeply programmed to think M and M about God.   Because it  is so instinctual to think M and M about God (obey, you get an M and M;  disobey, you lose the M and M, it is difficult for our hearts and minds to comprehend this revelation that the Apostle Paul received from Jesus Christ.  But that is what I want you to do this morning:   to break free from M and M religion and  hear this new gospel. 

What is this new gospel? What is this new religion?  What is this new way of thinking about God?  This new gospel is not symbolized by M and M candy at all;  it is symbolized by the letters CC, the crucified Christ.  Your mind now needs to focus on CC: on the crucified Christ, on God who loves you so much, that God comes to die on the cross to freely forgive you your sins.

Now, to get at this, you need to think of someone out of your life experience who loved someone else so much that they were willing to die for that person.  If you donít have any stories out of your own life or literature where someone willingly dies in the place of another, you wonít be able to grasp what I am talking about.   For example, I know a woman by the name of Myrtle Ringdahl.  Her daughter, Janet, my age, and  an acquaintance of mine from years ago;  her daughter Janet was on a kidney dialysis machine, and gradually her daughter came closer to death.  And when I would call on the home of Oscar and Myrtle, it was Myrtle who would say over and over again:  ďIf only I could die.  If only I could die in place of my daughter.  O God, please.Ē   Do you know any stories like that, out of your own experience or through the experience of others?  Another example.  My cousin Lois was dying down in Lake Oswego, Oregon.  She had cancer, cancer of the jawbone;  it was an ugly experience of pain and she had chosen to die at home in here living room.  When I would call on my cousin Lois, her mother Anne, my Aunt Annie, would take my out into the kitchen and look me right in the eye and plead:  ďEddie, why canít I die?  Why canít it be me?  I would do anything if I could die in my daughterís place.Ē  Do you know any stories like that.  To understand CC love,  to understand the heart of God, you need to be touched by love which is willing to die for another.  For at itís core, Godís love is not that of an  M and M candy dispenser; Iíll give you an M and M blessing if you are good.  At its core, Godís love is so great,  it is willing to die in your place. 

Now, when you think of God in terms of CC, for whom does God have this special affection?  In M and M religion, God has special affection for those who obey his rules, regulations and rituals;  but in CC Christianity, God has special affection for those who are being crucified under the pain of life.  Let me illustrate.  At the first worship service today, over on the left sat Paul Carlson who visits his wife, Ruth, every day,  his wife who has Alzheimerís;  every day for years he goes to see her.  In the front row sat Art and Lou Farwick, Lou undergoing chemotherapy.  Lou is always suspicious that this may be her last visit to church.  In the back sat Aden OíDell who is fighting cancer and Parkinsonís at the same time.  And in this CC Christianity, God loves all people and cares for all people, but God has this special affection for people who are being crucified on the crosses of life.  Hunger, starvation, war. Whatever the pain of life may be, God is especially close to people as they walk the valleys of deep darkness, the valleys of death. By contrast, in M and M religion, God has special affection for those who obey the  rules, regulations and rituals very well.  There is a huge difference between the two religions. 

In CC Christianity, God gives us his blessings, freely and generously;  not because we merit it;  not because we have obeyed the rules, regulations and rituals.  Godís blessings are given freely;  they are not bribes; and this is very difficult for M and M people to understand.  And so Godís blessings come to you, not simply  when you on top of the world and you your family are all doing well because you think you are following Godís laws fairly well; but when you are at the bottom....when you have bottomed out with alcohol, when you have hit the bottom with drugs, when you hit the bottom in your marriage/divorce, when you feel like you have totally messed up, there is God to bless you with strength and healing and comfort, and Godís hand will freely reach down into your hole and lift you up and out.  God is at the bottom of the hole;  ask Jonah in the story of the whale;  thatís what that story is all about:  God freely saving you when you are at the bottom.  Itís so different than the godly M and M dispenser for perfect achievers.  

And eventually, people start to think CC in their relationships with each.  M and Ms are very dangerous when they are at the core of  your marriages, your families or your friendships.  If the core of your marriage is, ďIíll scratch your back;  if you scratch mine,Ē  if that is at the core of your marital love, you have a sick marriage.  If M and M psychology is at the core of your family relationships with your kids, your kids are sick.  Do well in school, and I will give you more M and Ms of my love, you have a sick family.  And if M and M psychology is at the core of your friendships, they are not true friendships at all.  But in all the great marriages, in all the great families, in all the great friendships, the  CC  love runs deep.  You love so much  that you are willing to sacrifice for the other, spouse, child, friend;   you genuinely and generously give to each other, not to give anything back.  Every spouse wants a marriage where love is freely and deeply given.  Every child needs a home where they are loved ever so deeply in all circumstances of life.  And every friend enjoys a friendship where the people give deeply and generously of themselves to each other.  My best friend from years ago came thorough town last night;  you just give the best you have to offer your friend;  thatís what friendship is.

Youíve got to understand the purpose of M and Ms;  as I pop one into my mouth, I know that M and Ms are good candy.  But M and Ms are terrible for marriage;  terrible for parenting;  terrible for genuine friendship.  You gotta understand what M and Ms are good for and NOT good for. 

And CC love is given to strangers.  The Bible is forever concerned about loving the stranger.  M and Ms are never given to strangers, because strangers, by definition, never give back.  You never see them again.  For example, you are riding in your car and your car is behind the city bus in front of you.  Some child is waving out the back window at you, making all kinds of positive gestures.  And you enter into a momentary game with this stranger of a child.  Waving.  High fiving.  Honking.  Thumbs up. Smiling. The bus turns a corner and your car goes straight, and life moves on.  But in those few moments, two strangers give to each other. And so CC love gives to strangers around the world, via world hunger, quilts, missionaries.  CC love is forever being generous with people you never see.  CC love is always given to strangers.  Not M and Ms;  you only give to those that you see can give to you back.

M and Ms.  I always have enjoyed M and Ms.  I prefer the regular to nuts.  Pop one into your mouth and you taste the dark succulent chocolate.  It is so important to understand what M and Ms are good for.  They are good for candy.  They are good at motivating positive behavior of dogs and cats and rats and elephants and salespeople.  They even work at motivating husbands, wives and children.  But M and Ming makes for terrible love between a man and a woman;  M and Ming makes for terrible love between parents and children.  It makes for terrible love within friendships.    You see, M and Ms arenít love at all, and therefore M and Ms make for terrible religion.

The Apostle Paul said:  The gospel I preach is not a human gospel.  It has not been touched by human hands.  I did not receive it from  human hands.  This gospel was given to me as a direct revelation from Jesus Christ.  The gospel is the crucified love of God who died on the cross to freely forgive and love the whole world.  You need to understand CC;  itís the essence of life and love and genuine faith in God.   Amen.

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