Summary: You might think "How’s your karma doing?" is an odd sermon title for a Lutheran pastor. You would be right in thinking that, we don’t believe in karma, we believe in grace.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three In One Who has justified us apart from our works.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Two Sundays ago I was in Tampa, Florida at the Campus Mission Confabulation, a ministry conference on how to effectively do campus ministry. Since the conference covered a period of time that included a Sunday, I was able to participate in two rare privileges in my life. The first rare privilege was a Sunday without having to prepare and practice a sermon. The second rare privilege was being able to sit back in my hotel room and watch TV (I don’t get tv at home).
Now of course, as I was sitting in my bed, surfing through the possible channels I could watch, I came across a wide variety of possibilities – Law and Order, CSI, a few made for TV movies --- and the pinnacle of acculturated television viewing in the United States, a marathon of the series “My Name Is Earl”
You may or may not be familiar with Earl, so for those of you who have never watched it, you can find Earl on NBC. He’s been on TV for about 2 years now. In each and every episode he goes through and tries to right some wrong that he had committed earlier in his life. This has led him to do such things as reuniting family members, giving away massive amounts of cash, and just being a general do gooder.
Sounds like someone that we would love to have as a member of our congregation at first. That’s really until you hear Earl’s story. Earl J. Hickey was probably the most despicable person that you had ever met right up until a particular day at a quickie mart when he stole five dollars from someone and bought a lottery ticket with it. That lottery ticket ended up being a winning ticket for $100,000 dollars. Elated, Earl walked out into the street outside the quickie mart, and was promptly hit by a car. He woke up in the hospital, without the $100,000 dollars, and in a lot of pain with really only his brother Randy and a random hotel maid to really care for him.
After getting out of the hotel room, Earl has a bit of an Ebenezer Scrooge moment. His life flashes before his eyes and he decides that he knows why the car hit him. He begins to imagine why he ended up in the hospital, and he can come up with only one answer – “karma”. Now technically “karma” is a much bigger concept, but to Earl, and to most of us it all means the same thing – “what goes around, comes around.” See Earl has decided that since he’s been such a horrible guy in the past, that’s why he’s cursed with bad luck in the present.
Earl decides that in order to get his life fixed in the present, he has to right the wrongs that he did in the past. He puts together a list of all of the people that he has done wrong to, and has been working through the list for two seasons now, simply hoping that once the list is done, he will be right with karma and everything will go well in his life.
So what kind of stuff would go on your “karma” list? Do you feel like you still should probably make up for some of the evil stuff that you have done in your past? If you felt like you had to make up for everything that you confessed this morning, how long would that take?
If anyone had quite a bit of stuff on their “karma list”, it would have been the author of our epistle reading this morning. This guy who is now calling himself Paul used to be called Saul, and Saul was bad enough to make Earl blush. Earl may have done some stuff that was pretty horrible in his life, but Paul, Paul was putting people to death and imprisoning the rest. In fact, just like Earl, he was in the midst of doing something wrong when he came to an epiphany about what he was doing.
You remember the story? Paul was riding along the road to Damascus, where he had papers that would allow him to lock up and possibly kill any Christians when he got there when all of the sudden, a bright light shone down on Paul and Jesus spoke to him in a disembodied voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
And so Saul was struck blind, and then later led to the house of Ananaias where Saul received his sight back, was baptized, and they put together a list of all of the rectifications that Saul would have to make and according to that list Saul owed the church several thousand denarii which Saul – now called Paul made up for by selling a field that had been in his family for generations.