Skip to main content

It is NOT what it is


A few months ago, in reflecting on the lessons that were coming up then, I wrote about " Three Things We Shouldn't Say" - little religious expressions or sentiments you hear repeated so often that you start believing they're based on biblical truth, even if they aren't.

Well, in thinking about this Sunday's lessons, I've come up with a fourth: another popular expression that we, as people of faith, really shouldn't say.

And that's this:

"It is what it is."

I don't know when that expression started - it doesn't seem like that long ago - but all of a sudden it seems like you hear it almost every day.

Similar to the other expressions that I'm challenging, it's often said in a well-intentioned way: as if to say, "I'm not going to sweat it," or "I think I'm going to make peace with this situation." Maybe it's a modern-day equivalent of saying "no use in banging your head against the wall."

But if you listen carefully to when it is being said, and why, I think that more often, something more insidious is at work. I think that more often it's said in the exact same tone as "screw it."

In other words, "it is what it is" is often resignation.  

Resignation is false contentment. Too often, "it is what it is" really means "I give up...I can't see any use in fighting this...so I'll pretend that this situation is immutable, unchangeable, forever fixed."

And if that is what is meant by "it is what it is," then we (as people of faith) really ought to strike it from our vocabularies.


 Because "it" is NOT necessarily "what it is."  

Whatever "it" is, it has developed. It has been brought about, by someone or some set of events.

In Sunday's lessons, we'll hear a lesson from Exodus where God expresses his frustration with the people Israel, telling Moses he's ready to destroy them. Moses' reaction? It's about as far away from "it is what it is" as you can get: he "implores" God, asking him to change his mind.   

And guess what? God doesn't say "it is what it is," either: we hear that "the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to to bring on his people." God changes his mind in response to Moses' plea.  

And on Sunday, we'll hear Jesus using the example of a shepherd leaving the ninety-nine safe-and-secure sheep to go after and rescue the one lost sheep.   

He does not tell a story of a shepherd saying, "one of the sheep is lost? Oh well, it is what it is."  

We'll also hear Jesus' example of the woman who has ten silver coins, and loses one of them. She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and searches carefully until she finds it.  

She does not say, "Ah, I still have nine perfectly good coins...it is what it is."  

And so: the next time you hear yourself tempted to say, "it is what it is," ask yourself:

"Wait: why am I saying that? Am I really content, really happy with "it"? Or am I surrendering to resignation, resigning myself to something I should be imploring God about, searching after, and diligently pursuing...

...and then resisting and fighting "it" until "it" is decidedly NOT what "it is"? 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 



“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…

The Beatitudes, Lady Liberty, and Refugees

A sermon preached January 29, 2017
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…

The Best Posture of this Country

A sermon preached September 6, 2015

The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls Church, Virginia
James 2:1-17 Mark 7:24-37
In case you’re confused by the service leaflet, where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%.  
(And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…)
(Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available on line.)  
What you’re going to get from me today is a little different than a normal sermon.
Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events.