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The Church’s forgotten mission: Hospitality

Devotional Thoughts for today

 Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. •Amen.  1 Peter 4:7-11  HCSB

By unremitting study they should fit themselves to do their part in establishing dialogue with the world and with men of all shades of opinion. Above all let them take to heart the words which this council has spoken: “Since humanity today increasingly moves toward civil, economic and social unity, it is more than ever necessary that priests, with joint concern and energy, and under the guidance of the bishops and the supreme pontiff, erase every cause of division, so that the whole human race may be led to the unity of God’s family.

Yesterday, a man I had lunch with caused me great concern. He didn’t, rather something he said did.

He was someone I met at a chamber of commerce event, and he engaged some of my staff in a discussion, and then as I walked up to the table, we talked for a while.  While very friendly, he was sure the church was based on falsehood, as he didn’t believe our God existed.  I invited him out to lunch, to discuss things further, and handed him my card. 

To be honest, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t take me up on the offer.  But he did, and we had a great conversation, both of us rarely eating what was on the table before us.  We learned a little bit about each other, talked about religion in general, Christianity, the church, and why a successful computer geek would sacrifice comfort and a great job to become a pastor in the middle of nowhere.

And what intrigued him the most, why a pastor/priest/minister would take the time to take him to lunch.  ( or for that matter, why a Christian who didn’t know him would)

And in retrospect, the very thing he was curious about, causes me great concern. 

The man has lived in my community for as long as my church has been here. There are other churches in my community that are as loving as caring as mine, and other pastors ( Mike, Bill, Father John) that are shepherds that care for people and for those who are lost or broken as I do.

So why would it take 4 decades for a man to be invited to lunch by a pastor/priest?

Why would we allow a man to go so long without knowing we could take him to lunch, and in a friendly discussion ( even with some teasing) help him explore what he doesn’t understand, that God loves him. 

That God is with him, even as he sees a new doctor today. 

God commands such hospitality, even to those who are alien to us, actually very specific to those who are alien to us. We are to love them, welcome them, help them experience and explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love.  

The awesome thing about this is that we aren’t welcoming them on our behalf only, we are acting as agents of God’s grace, as those who have been tasked with serving as reconcilers, as those whose work is described in these words,erase every cause of division, so that the whole human race may be led to the unity of God’s family.

(Although I a Lutheran, I often find the missional wisdom of Vatican II inspiring, especially in a place like this.)

We can enter into dialogue with the world, assured by God that we don’t go alone. Prayer reminds us of this, as does our time of meditation, especially on the sacraments, which are all acts of God’s hospitality, revealed in very tangible means. 

We know a peace beyond understanding, we know a love beyond the ability of poets to describe, we have a God who welcomes u into His presence and would welcome all, forgive their sin and inviting them to share eternal life, with Him.

Heavenly Father, help Your people again show Your will at work in their lives, as we open our churches, our homes, and our lives to those who need to come to know that YOU love them, as we show them that love, as we love them in YOUR name.  And bless my new friend John on his journey, and be with him at his doctor’s appointment today. AMEN!

Do me a favor, share with me stories of how you have been welcomed and loved by churches you have visited.  Or stories in which you share how you could have been made more welcome. THANKS!

 

(p.s – the end of the lunch included John inviting me out to lunch, to continue our discussion)

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Live in Harmony/Concordia: A sermon on Romans 12:9-21

church at communion 2Live in Harmony/Concordia
Romans 12:9-21

 Jesus, Son, Savior

May you realize the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enables and empowers you to live in harmony with each other, as God intended!

Live in Concord

When I originally put a title to this sermon, it was missing one of the words you see up on the screen right now.

Anyone want to guess?

The original title read this way, Live in Concordia.

But I was afraid that some people might start moving their bedroom furniture into the Multi-Purpose Room this week, and Hank and Loreen would sell the furniture at next week’s yard sale!

Seriously, Concordia was the Latin name of the goddess the ancient Greeks called Harmonia – the two words are interchangeable, one simply finds it roots in Latin, the other in Greek.   So to live in harmony, as Paul tells us, is to live in Concordia.

We are to blend together, with one heart and mind.  Not to be copies or clones of each other, but rather to have our lives be together working together as one, as beautiful as any symphony.

For that is who God is transforming us to be, a people who love other, who really love them, with genuine affection.

Even if it isn’t easy, even if we struggle to do so, for in that struggle we learn to depend on the God who changes us!

The challenges

Love each other, challenging at times.

Love the stranger – that’s what the word hospitality means – literally to love the alien like a brother.

Ask God to bless those who try to crush you.

This isn’t exactly easy stuff!

It’s going to be very difficult at times, it is going to take effort that we don’t want to put into it, that we are not sure is worth it.

It is very different from who society has tried to make us become.

This is love without bounds, being ready to help them at all times, without any hypocrisy, as we serve God by loving others.

It’s a lot of work, we can’t be slackers about it, it takes dedication, and hearing God and obeying Him, even when we don’t want to love them.

Let’s be honest, though they may be different for each of us, there are people that it is hard to love.  Maybe it’s a neighbor, or a family member, or a person on the road that cut you off, or maybe even a pastor or deacon.

If this was simple and natural, Paul wouldn’t be writing it, covering every loophole he does.

We have to love each other, we have to love others, even those who aren’t like us… we have to love our enemies enough that we plead with God to bless them.  As Jeremiah says, we have to influence them on God’s behalf, rather than let them influence us by their persecution, by their hatred.

We have to love our enemy!

To do otherwise, to not do so is sin….

The righteous anger of God….

Paul gives us a way to deal with our tension, our frustration with those who are our enemies, those who persecute us, and try to crush us.

He says not to take revenge, to not personally seek our own brand of justice.

Let God handle it, let God’s righteous anger work itself out.    For God will do what is ultimately righteous, what sees sin paid for fully, which wreaks havoc on the guilty.

God promises this!

Even if the one who pays the price is Jesus.

Actually, that is His glorious preference, that all sinners would be united to Jesus at the cross.  All sinners.  All those others, all those strangers all those aliens and even you and I.

So rest assured, what we plead for if we hear God, is fully within His will.

And that changes everything, as God saves you and me, uniting us to Jesus, demonstrating His grace and mercy to us in that cross where His blood was spilled where hopefully they will be united as well, for Jesus paid the price for all our sin.

Which is why I find the greatest place for reconciling people to be here, at this altar, at this place where God’s love is poured out on us

Our confident Hope.

I want to back track from God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus for a moment, to verse 12,

Let’s read it together,

12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Rejoice in our confident hope, the hope we find at the cross, the hope we find in the resurrection, reaffirmed every time we unite with Christ’ in communion, even as we did in baptism.

Be patient and longsuffering.  Don’t think a life lived loving others will be easy, but suffer through it, depending on God not only for the strength and power but to help you stand firm.

Which is why you keep on praying, pleading with God for them, and to help you remember His love for you.  Prayer is more than just asking God, it’s talking to Him, realizing His love, letting Him take the weight off your shoulders.  It is keeping your eyes on Him, knowing that enemies can’t crush you.
You see, that’s the key, to keep your eyes on God, to keep in His presence, to find yourself loved and safe in His peace.  AMEN!

Can anyone stop “them”? Should anyone?

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
28He said to them, “You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles. But God has shown me that I must not consider any person ritually unclean or defiled. 29And so when you sent for me, I came without any objection. I ask you, then, why did you send for me?”

Peter spoke up: 47“These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them from being baptized with water?  Acts 10:28-29, 46b-47

Philothea, our possessions are not our own, but were lent to us by God to cultivate them, and it is his will that we should render them fruitful and profitable, and therefore we perform services agreeable to Him in being careful of them; but then it must be a greater and more solid care than that which worldlings have of their goods, for they labour only for love of themselves, but we must labour for the love of God.

As I was reading this passage in Acts this morning, I noticed something I had overlooked before, something staggering in light of some of today’s issues.

Peter didn’t know why he was there!

He knew God wanted him there, he knew he was going to speak for God, but Peter didn’t get what God was about to do.  A few verses later he sees it, as he stands in the midst of those that represent the oppression of his people, an evil, violent government, and people that days before, he considered defiled. He believed they were so defiled and unclean that simply by walking into their home, he would be considered defiled and unclean.

Even so, the Spirit sent him to Cornelious’ home, and taught him over and over that God is the one who determines who is unclean and defiled, not culture, not tradition, not even the anxieties that plagued them.

Then, even as Peter is learning this lesson for real, God takes it a step further. He just doesn’t confirm that these people can hear the gospel, He pours out His Spirit upon them. Peter’s obedience to the command to not consider them unclean results in their salvation, their being made one of us, the people of God. Our brothers and sisters in Christ.

How wonderful!  How incredible!

And how much a lesson we need to see in our day and time.

God may not send us into their homes today, it seems that He is bringing them into our homes. They are refugees and immigrants, they are those who are turning to us for help, just as Cornelius was guided to send for Peter.

Will we consider them unclean and defiled?  Will we let our anxieties rule over our mission?  But as we encounter them ( and all we encounter) will we let God determine whether they are deserving to hear of His love?   Will we let God move their hearts, and put His Spirit within them?

Or will our attitudes put up road blocks?  Will our self-righteous judgment drive them away, insisting that we have to protect what is ours?  (which really isn’t – see the quote from St. Francis De Sales in blue)

The realization that I started this with was that Peter didn’t know exactly why he was there, he had been told by God that he was to go, that this was God’s plan. As so he went, and came to know Cornelius, and so found the greatest joy.

May our faith grow like his, where we can set aside our fears, our anxieties, our biases and share with people the love of God. And so discover the one we thought was our adversary is really our brother.

Lord have mercy on us all…

 

 

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

What Can You Bring on the Journey – A sermon on Mark 10:17–22 (with Audio)

Traveling Companions of the Cross
Lesson IV – What Can You Bring on the Journey

Mark 10:17–22

Iesou, Huios, Soter

May the God our Father, the God of peace make you hoy in everyway, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!

What can I bring?

It is expected.

You may be bringing the side dish, or the desert.

Or if you are going to Dr. Chris’s you may bring a box of wine.

But we are trained to bring something with us when we go to someone else’s house.

If we are going on a long trip, we may offer to pay for the gas, or grab the snacks and drinks for the trip.

We might call it having good manners, or being raised and trained well.

Certainly the man in the parable was like us, he wanted to journey with Jesus, to be guaranteed that eternal life with God.

But he didn’t expect, and he couldn’t handle Jesus telling him he couldn’t do his fair share.

He couldn’t accept that when he asked Jesus what he could bring on the journey, Jesus’ answer was,

Nothing! Matter of fact, “go, sell everything you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and without bringing anything, “come follow me.”

We, like the man in the gospel struggle when Jesus invites us to come follow Him, and adds, leave everything behind… and I mean everything!

The problem of what we cling to… our idols

For the man, a man by all accounts righteous, what he wanted to bring along the way was his possessions.  That was what he clung to, actually it was what clung to him.  He wouldn’t let go, and walk with Jesus.

I hope we will….

You see, some will make this passage about the money, that we should use our money well for the kingdom.  That it proves that we are responsible to use our money and all we possess to praise God.  It could be our golf clubs, our sewing machines, our guitars or homes.  Sell it all, give it to God. NO!

Actually God didn’t want it.  Use it to help those without, set it aside. Come with me!

There is a bigger issue here. The way things control us, the way count on things to identify who we are.  It might be something we possess,  or it might be a talent, or our intellect. Jesus isn’t just asking the man to leave stuff behind.

Think about what Jesus asks people to leave behind in scripture.

Their jobs, and Matthew and Zaccheus left their tax tables

Their families, and Andrew, Peter, James and John left their families as they left their boats

Their nations, as Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and Paul would leave those behind

Their “rights”? a disciple follows His master… abandoning all for the honor.

And amazingly, their guilt and shame, as both David and Peter took on leadership roles they didn’t think they were qualified for,

Often how we define ourselves shows us what our idols, our false gods are. What we cling to, what we think defines us.  What we cling to, what defines us in the darkness of a night…..

Hear how Luther put it

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?

Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

Where does your confidence lie, when all else is falling around you?

It might even be negative – that you deserve to suffer, because your are no good.

Or it might be the idea that you are a victim.  That life is the way it is because you’ve been crushed by others, or attacked, or mocked.

**Whatever it is, what we define ourselves as, hints at what our gods and idols are.

They are the things that get in the way of walking with Jesus, what get in the way of our following him.

And like the man, if we are to be Christ’s, then we have to let go of that other stuff….

and walk with Christ, letting Him provide everything we are to be, to need. Letting Him show us what gets in the way of our relationship with Him, and letting him destroy those false idols, those false gods.

Come Follow Me!

That’s what we see as Jesus responds to the man,

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Catch that first line –

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him.

Jesus didn’t see the man as too proud, too conceited.  He saw a man that he loved, that Jesus came to die for, to make the man’s idyllic dream of heaven and eternity true.

In His love for the man, he saw what would stop him.  The things he possessed that meant more to him, at the moment.

Jesus loved him… Jesus wanted this man to join Him.  Just like Jesus wants us to join Him, to accompany Him to the Father’s side.

And Jesus would die, to show this man, and each of us, how much God treasures us. To give him a glimpse of the treasure a life lived with God is.  To show him the treasure that Jesus would bring him to know.

The treasure promised in the cross, given to all who would be joined to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, that incredible mystery we proclaim in the Memorial Acclimation, that we proclaim every time we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

We don’t have to bring anything, as what we have, what we put our trust in what we depend upon doesn’t define us.

The fact that God loves us does.  The fact that He loves us enough to do what it took, the cross and the grave, to make us His children.

That love defines us.

The love that says come with me.  Accompany me through life unto eternity.

I love the quote that shows how we are defined, found in Paul’s words to the crowd in Athens,

as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children
.’ Acts 17:28 (TEV)

And so we understand what the man couldn’t, what the writer of Hebrews wrote so clearly,

So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)

That’s the point of selling the stuff, getting rid of the stuff that gets in the way, whether it is good or bad.

So because of His genuine love for us, come, let us follow Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, the One who loves us more than life.  I tell you this, we won’t even remember what we’ve left behind!

AMEN!

Take Up Your Cross: photo What Does that Look Like?

Take Up Your Cross: photo
What Does that Look Like?

Romans 12:9-21

 Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ flood your lives, enabling you to “really” love others!

 

Take up the Cross…but what does that look like?

The words of Jesus we know well, we’ve heard them before, but how often do we think through what they mean?

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.

Turn from our self-centered, self-serving, self-focused needs.  That is a real challenge, especially in a culture that jokes about what it feels to be true.  You know that saying, “It’s all about me”

That’s tough, and God’s law does convict us when we act like life is “all about me.’

But it’s the second and third actions that are required, that make it more challenging.

Taking up a cross?  Which one – the one above the altar – hey no problem.  The one Vicar Chai carried in this morning? It’s kind of heavy – but most people can carry it.  No, it is something far more than that.

Take up the cross, and follow me, Jesus says!

Are you willing? More importantly, are you able?

In order to answer that question, we have to know what does this mean: “take up your cross, and follow Jesus”.

You have to know what it looks like.

That is what the section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes, so let’s look there.
What it looks like

Though the description of taking up your cross and following Jesus flows through the entire twelfth chapter, I want to start with verse 11 this morning, for it is the key

11  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 2 Rejoice in our confident hope.

Now, most of the people here are not even remotely lazy, most work hard.  We commit to serving the Lord enthusiastically. We are confident in the hope we have; that God will be faithful to His promises.  So this bearing the cross thing seems possible, and since we are good people, we can do this!

But those encouraging words are to spur us on to do that which is more challenging….

It goes on,

Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 

And on….

15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 

And on…..

17  Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge.

These actions and attitudes are not easy, they are indeed, what it looks like to take up your cross, and follow Jesus.  They sum as well, this idea of love, which started the reading.

9  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

No hypocrisy allowed, no “but they did, said, thought,” just really love them….

So how do we “really” love

This is difficult, is it not?   I mean we are supposed to really love our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, those annoying phone solicitors and even our pastor?  Really love them?  Not sure we can do that all the time, Are we sure we can bear that cross. Are we sure we want to bear that cross.

But bear it we must, if we follow Christ, if we are with Christ, if we are in Christ.

For that is what bearing our cross is, it is walking in Christ.  To give up our lives, if that is what it takes, for that is what love led Him to do.

Peter said it well,

21  For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)

This doing good, this bearing one’s cross, this setting aside what benefits us, what makes us happy is what happens when we are being transformed by God.  Remember – that is where the chapter started,

1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

So What happens when we slip and throw a whine party?

These words cause a bit of anxiety.  Because I know that we are not always following Christ. I know we struggle to bear our cross, tossing it aside at times.

So what can we do, when we find ourselves justifying why we shouldn’t love this person, or that one?  When we want to justify tossing the cross aside, because we don’t want to love them, to really love them?  Or we are afraid to, for the pain we might go through.

Jeremiah knew that feeling.  In the Old Testament reading we find it, and God’s response to Jeremiah’s whining,

Jer 15:19  To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them.

When we struggle like Jonah loving Nineveh, or Jeremiah loving the rebellious children of Israel, it is simply that, a struggle.  It is the same struggle Jesus had when he looked at the cross, and realize the shame that carrying it might bring, and that is where we find our answer, on how to love others.

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

The struggle for us is not that we can’t love them, it is that we’ve taken our eyes off what Paul told us to do, to 1Rejoice in our confident hope.”

This was Peter’s answer as well, that we should always be ready to have an answer for the reason we have hope.

You want to follow Jesus?  Take up the cross of walking in His love, keeping your eyes on Him.  The cross where He has joined you to Himself, and realize that there, you can see their need for His love, for His mercy, even as you needed it yourself.

This is what it all boils down to, our baptism, our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, our hearing that our sins are forgiven, it is all about God coming to us, uniting us to His cross, bringing us with Him…

Knowing His cross, we cling to that hope, we find the will of God, and a desire to see it come to be, that all would know His love, that all would be ministered to, no matter the sacrifice.

For that is what happens, when we allow God to transform us into people who dwell in is peace, the peace that goes beyond comprehension or explanation.  The very peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?

 

 

Rules of Hospitality?

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rules of Hospitality?

Luke 14:1-14

 † IHS †

 

May you realize the blessing of the Father being your host at the Banquet thrown for His Son, and may you welcome all those to the Banquet who your Father rewards you for inviting….

 

Jesus as Miss Manners? Or a spiritual Strategist?

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

 

As we look at these verses this morning, we need to realize its context. Otherwise, we limit the gospel message to simply being a message about proper manners and etiquette.  The other way we often misunderstand this passage is that we hear it as a strategic lesson, where Jesus is giving us advice on how to get the best seats at a banquet, whether here on earth, or the banquet that is to come in heaven.

This conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee is not a conversation about manners. The reason Jesus came and dwelt among us and died on the cross is not about getting us to behave with great dignity and knowing which fork to use, or how to sit properly at the dinner table.    There is something far more important than that being taught…
It is not about realizing our proper place in society, or trying to strategically deal with a situation so that we find ourselves being glorified and elevated in a situation.

Yet, often this passage is used in those ways.  “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom,” some would say.. “This is the way to go about it.”  Serve now! be served later! Be the servant of servants, then when you get to heaven, you will have front row seats next to Peter and James and just across throne form Paul and Abraham!

Jesus’ lesson here is a lot deeper when we look at the context of his lesson, at why He was giving this advice…

You see, we like the Pharisees and those fighting for position overlooked not only a man in great need.  They overlook his healing as well.  In overlooking him, they miss their own healing.

Instead of helping – they were rushing to the best seat…

As all the guests are arriving, and the question of healing on the Sabbath is being discussed, there is a summons to dinner.  Well, let’s be honest, it wasn’t quite a discussion,  Jesus asked a question, there was silence, He healed the man with severe edema and probably congestive heart failure, and then asked another question… to which they responded with?  Well, silence.

The rush to dinner is on, the questions asked to the religious leaders and experts in the scripture disappears, as everyone was scrambling for the best seat.

Unlike other healings, there was no glorifying God, there was no question about where the authority came to do this kind of miracle or to confront the wisest Bible scholars of the day, and all is lost in the rush to the table. It was not just about the food – I mean, they probably were not having bacon wrapped shrimp.  It was about who was important, where do I rank in society.  The rush to find the right place answers the question of, who am I? The question asked, “What value am I?”

Think about it, have you ever been to a wedding reception and been disappointed by which table you sat at?  Or at the Thanksgiving family dinner, when at 38 you were still assigned to the kid’s table?

That is why this is not about some kind of etiquette strategy. It is not – take the bad seat to start and then you will get a better seat!  Jesus is challenging, as He has all month long in the gospel – the idea of priorities.  This is about the fact that they did not realize the man with severe pain and suffering was there; and they could be there for him.  They could have been the ones God chose to care and love him….they failed.

Be like Christ

As Christ shows up at the feast, he recognizes those in need.  The obvious is the man with edema, the one swollen up like a balloon, whose pain and suffering was not a pressing concern for the leaders of God’s people.  Some commentators even went so far as to suggest that people brought him only to see what Jesus might do, how Jesus would deal with him.  Whether Jesus would answer the question they were asking – could Jesus heal on the Sabbath, was there a limit to His position and authority.

The man with the swelling of his hands and feet was not the only one with a problem with something swelling, with something being puffed up. Jesus came to that dinner, not just to minister to the man, but also to minister to the Pharisee and his friends, to serve them and help them to see that in Christ, it is not about where you sit, but instead that you are invited, that you are called, that you have a place at the feast.

That is the point!  The model that Jesus sets for us.

When Jesus talks of inviting those who cannot pay, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, He is preparing to walk that talk, to do the very thing He has asked us to do.

For we were the spiritually bankrupt, we were the ones broken and damaged by our sin and the sin of the world; we are the ones blinded to God’s presence by that same damage.  Into our lives, as He did with the Pharisees, Jesus comes and invites us to feast with Him, knowing we could never repay His kindness.  In this meal, He brings to us healing, brings us peace, and welcomes us, even though we could never deserve it!

He asks us to consider doing that very thing that He has done!  The same thing for His taking a seat at the back, a seat of a servant.  That is the model He is for us as well! We hear that because He did take the lowest seat, that He Humbled himself and became a servant, even as He served our needs to the point of dying on the cross, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is our Lord.

As I said above – this passage isn’t about etiquette, or about strategies to get ahead in the Kingdom of God.  It is about being Christ-like, about serving people as He has, about keeping priorities straight – and the priorities always have names.

We have on our church cards, and on other things the phrase – Concordia – where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.  This passage is an example of that very thought – as we are encouraged to be like Christ, to see what is going on around us, to look for those that need healing.
We cannot possibly do that unless we first realize that He has come to heal us… that He has taken the lowest place.

We help others heal, for In Christ we have encountered healing!
We forgive because in Christ, we have been forgiven.
We joyfully bring people who do not deserve to be in God’s presence, because we do not deserve to be there either, but Jesus has brought us into the presence of the Father.
We can bring peace into lives that are oppressed by fear, anxiety, and trauma, because we endure these things for Jesus has given us that very peace…

As He invites us to celebrate His taking the back seat, as He invites us to His table, to take a seat with God our Father…. To know we are loved…

You are invited to invite others… to share in this place, in this blessing, in this celebration of love….in this feast…

For the Lord is with you… and He loves you.

AMEN?

The Not-so-Grim Reapers

The “Not-so-Grim” Reapers…

Luke 10:1-9

 In Jesus Name

 

May You find your lives reflecting God’s glory into the darkness, as you are sent out with the Father’s grace, mercy and peace, proclaiming God is really in control.What we Jesus tell you, that you couldn’t take?

Looking at the picture on the bulletin cover, of the two men reaping a harvest, and the simple lives of the Amish, a thought began to develop.

If Jesus was sending us out today, as we heard Him send the 12 out a few weeks ago, as He sent the 72 out in today’s gospel, what would He tell us we couldn’t take with us?

No cash, no credit cards, no ATM cards, probably not even scrip cards for gasoline or restaurants! He might even send us out walking, telling us for this journey we don’t need our cars!

He even might ban our electronics, no computer, no tablet computer, no {gulp} smart phones…

He’d instruct us to stay on task, not to get bogged down in texting each other about what we see and experience, no stopping at Starbucks to enjoy a Venti latte froze espresso cappuccino with pumpkin flavoring, while chatting with friends  No suitcase full of clothes and spare shoes – just you and your partner, hitting the pavement,

Move along now…..

If He sent us out with the Message, but forbade us to bring anything besides what we were wearing.. how would we react?

Why should our Load be Lightened?

It is quite easy to get the wrong impression as to why Jesus would separate the disciples from that which our minds think would benefit to their ministry.  We usually see this as a matter of sacrifice and obedience.  Are the seventy-two willing to suffer for Jesus, are they willing to demonstrate their faith by doing without?  I’ve read commentaries where this is hailed as a mark of the disciples devotion, as standard for those who would serve God.  Indeed, there is a sense of pride that can become involved, as people compare what they are willing to give up, what they were willing to endure.  Some even went as far as seeking pain, suffering, and embracing poverty, in order to prove they were holy…

We do not need such suffering to prove our holiness, any more than the young man last week had to sell everything he had, to gain eternal life, to be in fellowship with God.   We, like the young man, find ourselves in God’s presence, now!

But those things Jesus directed them to leave behind, if the reason isn’t to prove their faithfulness, why would He ask them to leave them behind….

unless they would get in the way of the harvest?

unless the disciples would depend on what they had, more than depending on who was with them.

God doesn’t ask us to give up what we need, as much as He would see us freed from what holds us back, as He would free us from what compels our dependence upon His providence.

If we are always looking to our credit cards statements;

if we are considering why our lunch bag is empty;

if we are wondering how far we can get on the nearly empty gas tank;

if we are distracted from our work by less important text messages;

then does the reaping, the harvesting get done?  Or do we focus on our grim situation, and become “grim” non-reapers?”

It is not really about the items we leave behind, it is the anxiety that they can cause, the stress of caring for what we have, or the concern caused by focusing on what we lack…that takes simple things and turns them into idols, into what we count on, more than we count on God

Yet – in Jesus commanding us to leave it behind, in recognizing that the work of the Harvest is His as our Lord, He is taking responsibility to make sure we have all we need.

Just as when He brought us to faith, and granted us repentance, we need to learn to depend on His care, on His Lordship.  It is as much about depending on Him, as it is about obeying Him.

Why do we have to depend on others?

The seventy two found the same challenge, when it came to where they would stay.

Many here would rather serve in the kitchen, then be the one hosted.  Part of it is how we are brought up, how we are trained – especially in the church.  The laws of hospitality, whether rigid in Jesus day, or the more rigid ones around today, are explicit.  We take the idea of being servants, and relegate it to the physical world, to preparing food and doing that which we think we must do, to appease our guests, to entertain them, and in doing so, sometimes we think we’ve done well…

So did Martha, and it was because Mary wasn’t holy enough, that Martha went to Jesus to complain!

While the 72 were sent to serve, they were just as much to depend.  There was to be a relationship here – where they were to feed these people spiritually, even as they were being fed.  They were to bring God’s blessings to these people, who would respond by blessing them.

It is not unlike our relationship with God – who brings us incredible blessings through the work of Christ, then gladly receives our worship and praise and yes – our sacrifices in response.  Each brings something to the relationship – not one party taking advantage of the other, but each being a blessing to each other!

It’s like the command to eat what is put in front of you – what if the host, the one to whom you are bring the word of life, give you a portion that is significantly larger, is noticeable better?  Can we receive blessings, even if people sacrifice greatly to give them to us?

It is about dependence, about being thankful; whether we are offered steak, or hot dogs, or just a piece of bread, whether it is a glass of the finest champagne, or a cup of water.  For if God led us to bring them the gospel and the hope of knowing Jesus, could He not lead them as well?  It is a difficult lesson, is it not?  It requires wisdom, and humility, for I think it takes more humility to be served, than it does to serve.

There is of course, another advantage to this – if we have no money, no food, no ability to sustain ourselves on the journey, neither can we simply run away when the journey gets too tough.  It’s hard to run, when you have no way to get away, no sustenance of your own?  There may be a time to leave – but surely that comes to both the one sent, and the one they were sent to, and the providence becomes something they work out together…as they abide together in Christ Jesus.

Provide therapy and ministry and tell them……

After helping the seventy two get focused on being sent, and ensuring that they brought nothing that would cause them stress and anxiety, but instead encourage their dependence on the Lord Jesus’s ability to provide for them, Jesus tells them what they are to do, as they bring God’s peace to households, and to people.

Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

While that phrase is often translated, “heal the sick”, it by no means is referring just to physical illness.  The verb “heal” is from the word we get “therapy” from, and the word for ill is used not only for sick, but for any trauma that causes one to be weak, helpless, unstable, unable to stand on one’s own.

The disciples were to minister to whoever was broken, to serve whoever needed God’s love, and more importantly, God’s peace.  It was about assuring them that God was in charge, that He still reigns, that He does care and is present in their lives. It was about sharing with them the lesson that they were learning more and more on this missionary journey.

That to have faith, to trust in Jesus, is about depending upon Him.

To depend upon Him for fixing that which is broken,

To depend on Him, even as we pray as Jesus taught, for what we need daily…

To depend on Him to forgive our sins, and the sins of those who sin against us.

To depend on God to give us a way to escape temptation and to protect us from evil.

For that is what it means that the Lord of the Harvest has gathered us in His harvest, even as He sends us out to gather others.

For even as the 12 sent out include the clergy today, the pastors and leaders of the church, so the 72 represents all of us, the family of God, sent to serve, to gather, to reap, not grimacing, but rejoicing, for even if we go with nothing in the world’s eyes… we know what the Lord of the Harvest provides… what He tells us to bring people…
Our reaping, our work in the harvest field is never grim, no matter what we lack in the world’s view.  Rather, it is rich, for we dwell in and gather others into a peace that is beyond comprehension…

His peace.

AMEN?

 

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