The Tiger (2021)
Frederick Buechner tells an old near-eastern fable about of a motherless tiger cub who was found by a herd of goats and adopted by them. He grew up thinking he was a goat, learning their ways and copying their mannerisms.
One day a king Tiger came upon the herd and all the goats scattered in fear except for this young tiger who was afraid but somehow curious about the King tiger.
The King tiger asked the young tiger, “what do you mean by this unseemly masquerade,” but the young tiger just bleated nervously and kept on eating grass.
The King tiger explained to the young tiger that he was not a goat but a tiger but it didn’t register with the young tiger.
The King tiger took the young tiger to a pool of water where he could look and see his reflection and compare it to that of the King Tiger.
The young tiger looked and could see he was quite similar to the King Tiger, but he was still unsure.
Then the King tiger killed one of the goats and brought the young tiger some meat to eat.
It tasted strange to the young tiger, but then he started to feel warm inside and he tore into the meat and gorged himself and then he lifted up his head and gave a mighty roar.
After all, he was a tiger.
There seems to be a universal truth shared by nearly all religions and it is this: We humans do not live the way we were created to live.
We were created to live in love and harmony. We were created to have relationships with God and with each other. Caring, sustaining and communicating relationships.
We were created to live in Paradise.
But something has gone terribly wrong and there is lots of hate and violence and war and greed and hunger and selfishness. There are lots of broken relationships and people who do not know the creator, let alone follow the ways of the creator.
Deep down we know we are created for something better. Deep down we know we are made in the image of the creator... But something is wrong.
Or to use the words of our metaphor. We live like goats when we really are tigers.
Now some try to handle the problem by saying that there really is no problem. That we are really goats who would like to be tigers, so we just have to accept the fact that we are goats and live with it. We are neurotic, so go to your psycho-analyst, lie on her couch, spill your guts and when you’ve got all that tiger complex stuff out of your system, get on with life.
But the suspicion we were made for more still lingers.
The more moralistic among us say that if you have to live with a goat then you have to train the goat to be a good goat. You have to bathe it to get rid of the odour and you have to teach it how to use a knife and fork and say please and thank you, and you have to teach it how not to make rude noises in public.
But sometimes morality instead of making us happy, just makes us feel even more, that we are not free to be ourselves, and that morality is just another prison.
There are those who say “don’t worry be happy.” Grab another beer out of the fridge or try a different brand of grass. Forget all about goats and tigers.
But ignoring the problem will not make it go away.
…the problem that we are not our real selves, our true selves, our best selves.
And being a Christian doesn’t make the problem go away either.
Sometimes being a Christian makes us aware of just how much sin there is in the world, and the enormity of how many people hate their neighbour, and are selfish.
And what’s more, when we face Christ we are faced with the enormities of our own failures. We just don’t measure up to his love, his grace, his understanding, his forgiveness, his commitment, his sacrifice, his miracles, and his resurrection.
And so, the best reason I know for not being a Christian is this: Believing in Jesus does not make your problems or the world’s problems go away. It doesn’t make life easy.
In fact, Jesus not only tells us it won’t always be easy, he actually invites us to take up a cross and die with him.
Yep. That’s what Jesus says. Die. Die to your self. Sacrifice yourself for other. Be a servant of others. Serve the greater good. Give up on selfishness.
Die to this life you lead which is caught up so much in the world’s idea of life, competing, arguing, climbing to the top, stepping on toes, beating someone else to the punch, being number one, putting people down.
Die to that slogan: Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing.
Die to this life you lead which is caught up so much in the world’s idea of life: owning, possessing, controlling, having, being powerful, manipulating, maneuvering, being seen, being noticed, and being adulated.
For when you die to that life, Jesus says you can be born again. You can be resurrected. You can be transformed to be like Jesus....
Loving, kind, inclusive, compassionate, friend to everyone, forgiving, graceful, non-violent, truthful and just.
Today we come to the sacrament of Holy Communion. Communion is in one sense the re-enactment of Christ dying on the cross to show us how much we are loved.
But communion is also a meal. It is a meal where we metaphorically feed on Jesus.
Jesus’ love, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus’ grace, Jesus’ compassion feeds our souls and spirits …so much so that we are intimately connected to Jesus…
So connected that Jesus calls us one body
So connected that Jesus calls us one family.
We are so intimately connected to Jesus that Jesus will say we can live in him and he can live in us.
Being a Christian isn’t easy. Dying to self isn’t easy.
But the best reason I know for being a Christian is this: Jesus is the one that gives us the power to change from goats into tigers… to be our true selves, the people God created us to be.
Jesus is the one who gives us the power to die to ego and selfishness and be born again to love everyone.
Jesus is the one who is the food of life. And that food is universal, radical and unconditional, love and grace. Amen.