Tag Archives: Grace

A New Take on a Slightly Obscure Hymn

I love going through hymnals and remembering the times I have sung various hymns throughout my time as a Christian. I have a copy of the Trinity Hymnal that I am certain my Dad “borrowed” from our church. He was a drummer, so my guess is that it came home to practice with and never found its way back. The church I grew up in was part of the Conservative Christian Congregationalist Conference and the Trinity Hymnal is the official hymnal of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Both of these denominations have their roots in the Calvinism that swept through Scotland and England after the Reformation. Today I was reminded of singing this hymn in church, wondered how this became such a focal understanding for our specific congregation, and realized how much it taught me about God’s priorities and the futility of trusting human agendas.

Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Hymn 53 from the Trinity Hymnal 1962 edition) has a few obvious problems to the modern singer, including the scholarship that tells us we got the name of God wrong back in the old days because we didn’t take into account the cultural prohibition against speaking God’s name that pervades Jewish understandings of human relation to God. We missed the pointers to the Hebrew word Elohim in the vowel dots above the letters JHVH. There is also a little unconscious sexism in the use of masculine pronouns for everything. However, the underlying message that is based on Psalm 146 is pretty relevant to Christians living in ultimately self-destructive human political and economic systems, empires, and fear-mongering culture wars. I felt a leading to update this classic hymn to reflect modern political structures and would love to hear from you about how you do or don’t find this relevant to our life together or if you have suggestions for refining the update. (I apologize for the few timing issues, I didn’t have accompaniment available.)

Hallelujah Praise Jehovah the LORD

Hallelujah, Praise the LORD, O my soul, our savior praise;

I will sing the glorious praises of our God through all my days.

Put no faith in politicians, nor on humans’ help depend;

They shall die, to dust returning, and their purposes shall end.

 

Happy is the one who chooses Israel’s God to be their aid;

We are blessed whose hope of blessing on the Lord our God is stayed.

Heav’n and Earth the Lord created, Seas and all that they contain;

God Delivers from oppression, Righteousness God will maintain.

 

Food God daily gives the hungry, Sets the mourning prisoner free,

Raises those bowed down with anguish, Makes the sightless eyes to see.

God Almighty loves the righteous, And the strangers God befriends;

Helps the orphaned and abandoned, Judgment on oppressors sends.

 

Hallelujah, Praise the LORD, O my soul, our savior praise;

I will sing the glorious praises of our God through all my days.

Over all God reigns forever, Through all ages is our King;

Unto our God, O blessed family, Joyful Hallelujahs sing.

(Click here to read the original.)

 

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Towards The Light

As I prepare for the coming of Christmas I have been reflecting on John 1: 9-14:

9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

The true light was coming and the Light’s own people did not recognize him. This is a serious check for us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus. Are there ways we ourselves are not recognizing the light which even now breaks into the world. This is the conviction that rests heavily on me now as I witness the sad state of the world around me. I wonder that I, like the people of Israel, am focusing so much on the hurts around me that I am missing the presence of Jesus. As I write this my daughter is working on her schoolwork, sent home for her to work on while she fights an e-coli infection. As I write this the news plays the latest tragedies in the world, and I am overwhelmed with my own senses of loss in terms of my relationship to the Church. I am missing Jesus because I am not looking for him, I am just looking for a way through. How often do I not take the time to look around me for the presence of the light, or only as a solution to the problems of the day?

But the Word became flesh and dwells among us, and longs for some time to be with us. As this season progresses and we move through times of hope and hopelessness, faith and doubt, joy and despair, peace and strife, let us resolve to stop and lean into the arms of the Light so that we might find the small hopes hiding in hopeless situations, the faith that only comes through expressed doubt, the joy that comes with light in the middle of dark despair, and the peace which surpasses understanding in times of strife. These come paradoxically, not because we work for them, but as gifts that flow from the presence of Jesus.

Lord, I come to you seeking the gift of your presence. Open my eyes to see where you are already at work around me and in me. Help me lean into and recognize your in-breaking light. Amen

My Dad’s Last Sermon

I was recently gifted with the audio of my father’s last sermon. I got to hear my Dad’s voice for the first time in many years and his words are just as relevant now as they were then. In this sermon he shares the lessons he learned as a white urban minister. My father was a prophet, and his words, Knowing God, Facing Death, Phil Ochs, and a Kitten  shared with the urgency that comes from walking in the valley of the shadow of death, may be hard for us to hear. These are important words and in a very real way are some of the foundations of my upbringing. My father lived these words out and I try in my own way to live in the knowledge of God proclaimed in the person of Jesus.

If there is anyone out there who can help me clean up the hiss from the tape, I would love some help.

 

The Paradox of Humility

See the notes that inspired this sermon below the You Tube video. This is my final sermon at Clackamas Park Friends Church. See previous post for text of resignation.

Today we look at two difficult concepts that are necessary for holding to the Christian faith: humility, which is difficult because we are trained in pride from the cradle, and paradox which is difficult because it is an expression of an unresolvable tension. One of the great disservices modernity has inflicted on our faith is the pressure to resolve all mysteries or dynamic tensions within our understandings of God. This attempt to define God has led to conflicts and controversies over ultimately non-provable speculations that can lead to false senses of certainty about faith. While we must be leery of the “pat” answers that seek to do away with questioning we must also be equally wary of the fatalism that comes from saying that there are no answers. The 20th century theologian Roger Hazelton defines paradox as “A statement which asserts the truth of two contradictory but necessary propositions having equal rational force.”[i]. Some of the most commonly argued paradoxes in our faith are the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the sovereignty of God and human free-will, and of course the paradox of being saved and yet still a sinner. In order to be faithful, we must allow these paradoxes to stand and live in the tension, knowing that we will not see their resolution this side of heaven. Today’s scripture is filled with paradoxes, and the key ingredient to accepting paradox, humility.

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee. John 4:43-54

  • Paradox 1 – Prophet has no honor among their own. The Galileans welcomed him.
  • They saw the honor given elsewhere then believed. When we are seen outside the familiar context.
  • Background on Capernaum and the change from subsistence fishing to export overfishing.
  • Paradox 2 – The begging official.
  • Paradox 3 – Justice and mercy
  • The power and necessity of dynamic tensions in faith.
  • Paradoxes can only be held in humility. They are an acknowledgement of our finite nature.

Mystery as it relates to the things of God in the Christian realms is our contemplation of the infinite using our finite minds and languages. Mystery can only be expressed in ambiguous terms because of our lack of knowledge about the extent of our lack of knowledge. In an attempt to express these mysteries we turn to the devices of metaphor and paradox so that we can communicate with each other about the God we love.

Paradox then becomes the tool we use to express the mysteries of God as we experience their presence in our lives. As a tool it is important for us not only to see paradox’s usefulness, but also its limitations. Hazelton cautions us that “A paradox is a statement, not a situation. Situations may indeed be paradoxical, but we can know this only when some attempt at considered statement has been made.”[ii] We must be careful then to not confuse our statements about apparent paradoxes in our perception and understanding of God with the reality of God. The gap between the limits of our perception and expression and the reality of God then leads us to attempt to resolve the paradox instead of fully exploring all aspects of the paradox. With humility we must instead admit to the need and place for faith. At some level we have to trust the God we serve or else give up on the religious journey entirely.

Divine mystery is then a tool that God uses to exercise our faith. In Hebrews faith is defined as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1b NRSV) The exercise of this faith then consists of being certain of our uncertainty. I am not saying that “everything is up for grabs” just that we must be very cautious in our theological expressions to start from a place of understanding our limitations. In Romans, Paul also reminds us of the uncertain character of hope and the need for faith “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25 NRSV) It is along this unseen path then that an orthodox faith lies. Kenneth Arnold explains that “a primary characteristic of orthodoxy is a capacity for paradox. Heresies tend to round off the edges and eliminate what does not fit. Faith that demands certainty is probably no longer faith but some form of science.”[iii] This statement brings us to the core of our discomfort with paradox: we as a race don’t like the loss of control implied by a lack of knowledge.

One of the ways God is growing me is in my ability to accept that I do not have the capacity for full knowledge. When I was younger, I thought I knew a lot more than I did. As I gained experience in the real world I made the common mistakes that lead us to a greater understanding of our limitations. If I am to be honest in my self-examination, my discomfort with paradox stemmed from my fear of not controlling my life. That fear led to a distrust of paradoxical statements because they highlighted how outside of my control God is. My reflections on paradox and the mysteries of God over the years has humbled me and led me to a place in which my faith relies less and less on my understanding of God and more and more on my relationship with God. Every answer that I found about the things of God only served to raise more questions. I have finally come to the place at which I realize that the easy answers that I am looking for don’t exist, and that for me to grow in my faith I don’t need better answers, I need the humility to seek out better questions.

As we enter into Open worship let us take this first five minutes to bask in the presence of the God who is beyond us, allow yourself to experience the reverential awe that comes from being in relationship with the infinite God. After 5 minutes someone will stand with the mike and if your communion with God and the rest of us here demands it, rise and speak and the microphone will be brought to you.

 

[i] Roger Hazelton, :The Nature of Christian Paradox,” Theology Today 6, no. 3 (October 1949): 325.

[ii] Roger Hazelton, “The Nature of Christian Paradox,” Theology Today 6, no. 3 (October 1949): 325.

[iii] Kenneth Arnold, “Living With Paradox,” Cross Currents 50, no. 1-2 (March 2000): 3

Positional Blindness

The following video was inspired by the notes below it.

 

In the last week, I witnessed a moment in which someone very much like Nicodemus in today’s text had a moment in which they saw beyond their position of privilege and power to recognize that something they cared about was harmful to their brothers and sisters, and rather than continue to embrace it, they chose to remove it from the equation. I am referring to the courageous stance taken by the Republican leadership in South Carolina to pass a bill removing the Confederate Flag from being flown at public buildings in their state. In the face of death threats, a group of people chose to obey God’s call to remove anything in our lives that could lead others into sin. The Governor of that state signed the bill, and the flag, which was re-flown in the 1950s in protest of the Civil Rights movement, was removed to be placed in a relic room. It is not an easy thing to find that we might be blind, and in today’s text we get to see just how hard it really is to overcome our positions in life to see with God’s eyes.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” John 3:1-15

  • There was a Pharisee. Who were the Pharisees and what did they believe?
  • Came to Jesus in secret. Position of power comes with fear of loss.
  • A private acknowledgement.
  • Taking things way too literally.
  • The wind of the Spirit blows where it pleases, not where we think it should. Acts controversy with Gentile membership.
  • Power blindness. Power has difficulty seeing things that would challenge or destroy its supporting structure.
  • If we are to believe what Jesus says about spiritual realities we must first believe what he says about earthly realities. The gentiles have their lords…
  • The heavenly singularity and the despised savior.
  • Jesus words speak as clearly to us today as they did to Nicodemus, we must accept Jesus’ teaching about the deadly nature of human priority systems in order to be born anew into God’s eternal life. To be born of the Spirit is to accept Jesus as our new head honcho and follow his commands above all others’.
  • Every one of us has blinders that come from our position in life, and it is in our submission to Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit that our blinders can be removed. Join me in praying for the Holy Spirit to fall freshly upon us, to remove whatever blinders keep us from seeing God’s will, and to bind us together as one body dedicated to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us pray.

The Impact of Small Gestures

Sermon notes are below the video.

While preparing for this sermon I sent a question out to my facebook

friends list asking them to share a small gesture that meant a lot to them.

I will read a few of them, and will share the rest at the beginning of open

worship. We often underestimate our impact on other people, and forget

that small acts of recognition can have a much bigger impact than we

expect. In quantum physics and social science this is called the observer

effect and pretty simply put the mere act of observation impacts and

alters the state of what is observed. I will go further and say if

observation has an impact, recognition has an even deeper impact. So,

let us hear from my friends list a couple of small things with a big

impact.

hey…gestures of kindness just flow from my friend Carole

Spencer…It’s like she has a hidden reservoir of kindness…when she

was preparing to move to IN – days before she left she took out

time from her over packed schedule to have lunch with me…a nice

unrushed time together you would never have known what kind of

a time crunch she was under…that’s only one story…she continues,

through small gestures of love and caring to let me know that I am

special and loved…now I am choked up…God bless her

In reference to your small gesture. I was about 19 or 20. We were

not a huggy touchy feely kind of family. I was going through it and

Josh gave me a hug. It was a gesture of brotherly love one I have

not forgotten. Boys are always being told to toughen up. It’s a

shame. We are not allowed to feel the emotion of where we are at.

A friend here who has a small income brought me a candy bar on

my birthday. It made my day.

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip,

he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter,

was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and

told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law,

and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the

son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from

there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. 47 When

Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is

an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48 “How do you know

me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you

were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then

Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the

king of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I

saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”

51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,[i] you[j] will see ‘heaven

open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[k] the

Son of Man.” John 1:43-51

1) Finding Philip – what a huge story behind two words.

2) Like last week with Andrew, Philip’s priority was bringing those

he cared about into relationship with the Messiah.

3) Can anything good come from Nazareth? The reputation of the

“wrong side of the tracks.”

4) Where are our Nazareth’s? God intentionally chooses to work in

the places we think can’t possibly be places God could be at work.

5) The fix is: come and see. Not come and do or come and fix, but

come and witness the activity of God.

6) Recognition of what Jesus sees. The power of the words “I see

you.”

7) This small gesture of recognition was not miraculous to Jesus, but

if you are part of a marginalized people under oppressive rule,

maybe recognition feels more miraculous than we might think.

8) In our open worship I would like you to think on small gestures

from others that had a big impact on you and if you feel led, to

share them with us. I will begin by reading off what was shared

with me.

I’ve got a story about a military chaplain who offered me the use of his office – to study or nap – when I needed to get somewhere quiet. I’m trying to figure out how to tell the nutshell version. I’m sure you understand why that’s difficult for me.

I was at my daddy’s funeral, and a man about my age came up to me, cowboy hat in hand and asked me to forgive him for his bullying me in school. How much courage this man had. He knew that he might never see me again and because he had become a Christian, he wanted to make things right. What could I do but hug him? God’s grace is a wonderful thing. Many other people bullied me in school, he is the only one who asked forgiveness.

My husband died and I was walking my dog a couple of days later (more his dog). This guy came up to me who I never met and said that God wanted him to pray for me. He asked my name and told me he would be praying for me. He told me God loves you very much. I thought it was very strange but I needed it really bad!! I never saw him before or after in my neighborhood. Do you think he was an angel? I was very suicidal at the time.

Twelve people from my small group at church showed up at my dad’s home and worked for 2 1/2 hours in 88 degree plus temperatures to help with yard work and such. His neighbors and another really good friend of mine helped out as well. The yard had gotten to the point that was beyond anything I could do by myself. Everyone did it with joy, laughter, dedication and hard work. The result was amazing! They all did it just because – no ulterior motives- they just wanted to help out and do something nice

I was thinking (again) of a small gesture from a stranger that was incredibly meaningful to me. One morning I was taking the kids to school and the youngest was shrieking non-stop (be was on a medication that caused crazy behavioral side-effects). It was so bad that I pulled over and took him out of the car to try and help him calm down. A minute later (he was still screaming), the front door of the house we were parked next to opened, and a woman came out onto the porch and, with absolutely no judgement, asked: “is there anything I can do to help?” I thanked her, and told her no, he just needed some time to collect himself. She nodded, and said “I guess we all have days like that. If you think of anything, just come on up.” Her compassion and kindness for both my 3 year old and for me in that moment were an incredible gift, and helped me to help him. Such a small thing, only words…. Yet three years later I still remember her.

Amy blessed me with flowers before my flight back yo

When I moved to CA 2 good friends came to see me off at the airport which I didn’t expect, and it made it so much better. Made me feel like a real person

I planned a fishing trip a year ago knowing it would be before hay cutting time where I live We had a warmer than usual season and the hay will now be cut while I am gone. Two people volunteered to put the hay up in the barn for me while I am gone and manage the crew needed to do it. I am greatful.

I was sixteen and had reached my full height of five foot eight inches. However I only weighed about 105 pounds, was pale as only a white Oregonian can get and half awake. I was greasy that spring morning and chose to wear baggy army surplus pants with a black sweatshirt. At the time I was attending an alternate high school at the local community college which required a ride of the city bus. Now, before we begin, it needs to be said that I come from a loving, stable, middle class home. Food was in fact available and the whole family sat down every night for home cooked dinner. I just usually opted out of eating most if any of it. As a consequence I slept for 16 hours a day and didn’t get a lot of exercise. I was also into the whole “war orphan” look and carefully cultivated a sad and lost affect. That morning I was feeling very half dead and was curled up in a ball on the bus mostly asleep. A youngish man on the bus leaned over to me and asked hesitantly “Do you…need, um, breakfast?”. This man looked to my 16 year old eyes as “too old to be potential threat” (potential threats were kids my own age who may feel entitled to pester me) which probably meant he was 25-30. I, being half awake, looked up in confusion and said “No? Um, no thank you? What?” to which he looked abashed and said “oh.” The rest of the ride and day commenced without anything interesting happening. But thinking back, I realize what an amazing amount of bravery this took. This young man had to overcome many social barriers to offer me kindness. First he had to overcome the barrier of talking to an underage girl without being thought a predator, he had to talk to a stranger, which just isn’t done in Salem, Oregon, and then he had to talk to what I’m sure appeared to be a homeless teen. Homeless people in this town are regarded as crazy meth addicts who will murder you without the slightest provocation. I really wish I had had the presence of mind to thank him profusely and encourage his future offers of help. I actually did need breakfast that morning, I’m sure I hadn’t eaten a thing in the previous 20 hours, and emotionally was sorely in need of help. So, maybe with the help of the interwebs, I can communicate this message to him, and to others who hesitate about offering food to strange children. Hey guy on the bus, thanks.

I don’t know if I shared this one or not at CPFC, but an incident on a MAX train had a huge impact on me. There was a young homeless couple a couple seats ahead of where I was standing as we crossed the steel bridge into Portland. They were discussing where they would spend the night and where they might find something to eat. I was standing there trying to decide if I should pull some cash out of my wallet and give it to them when a young man, also homeless but a little better equipped, stepped up and acted. He put his duffel bag down on the floor and zipped it open to reveal a couple dozen cans and other packages of food. He said to them, “Here! Take what you need. It’s not mine. It belongs to Jesus.” He didn’t hesitate and wonder about the right thing to do. He just acted on what was in his heart. And what was obviously there was Jesus Christ’s admonition to love God and love your neighbor. I’ve since come to understand this lesson biblically. Jeremiah 31:31-34 has this to say: “31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.” This says to me that after the coming of Christ and the establishment of the new covenant God has put His law on our hearts. He has informed our consciences as to what is right and what is not. Many people now use the letter of the Law to justify ignoring what their consciences tell them is right. They argue that the Holy Spirit cannot contradict the Law. What they are really trying to say is that they can ignore the Holy Spirit if it contradicts their comfortable, human interpretation of the law. In the incident above, I should have simply obeyed my conscience without thinking through all of the ramifications and possible requirements. When I hesitated, a homeless young man stepped up and taught me a lesson.

 

First Things First

This sermon was inspired by the following notes.

In our lives, we have many things surrounding us attempting to claim a higher position on our priority list. The hardest decisions in our lives tend to not be between good and evil, but between competing “good” things. Often we make choices and wonder if we chose the right good thing to take precedence. The difficulty for us is compounded by the messages and advertisements around us that each tout themselves as “the best thing”. We have foods that claim to be “superfoods”, insurance companies with “superhero” mascots, politicians claiming to be saviors, and all kinds of products with words designed to make us prioritize that product over everything else. In today’s scripture we see what Jesus’ coming does to our priority structures and what we have to gain from the change.

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). John 1:35-42

  • A relationship with someone who knows.
  • The responsibility to point to Jesus when we see him at work.
  • Jesus is inviting of people right where they are. He had no entrance exam for following. You start where you are.
  • When we welcome people to be in relationship right where they are with no conditions that is incredibly inviting and when that invitation is accepted Jesus begins to teach.
  • Andrew could have gone back to John, back to work, etc, but he found his brother first and told him about the Messiah. When people encounter the God who loves them Just as they are it changes priority structures. Priority one becomes sharing that love, that good news with loved ones.
  • What would have happened if Andrew had gone back to life as usual? No Peter. A different set of disciples. A different story. A story with a huge missing piece.
  • Andrew’s priorities were not to make Peter acceptable than to bring him, but to drag him exactly as he was, with all of the flaws we have come to know and love, the cowardice, the rashness, the temper, the fear, and all that sheer impulsive open mouth insert footedness that made Peter what he was, directly to Jesus to meet the Messiah.
  • Jesus didn’t give Peter the fifth degree over his theology or lifestyle, but gave him a new name and an invitation.
  • The “Bounded Set” mentality vs. the “Centered Set” mentality.

Bounded Set: Do you believe like me? Concerned with enforcing conformity to a norm. What would you say the pros are to this kind of setup? Pros: Easily defined boundary. Easy to determine who “belongs”. How about the Cons? Cons: Who controls the measuring stick? Not welcoming if not ready to 100% conform.

 

Centered Set: Where are you in relation to Jesus? Concerned with relationship building. What would you say the pros are to this kind of setup? Pros: Welcoming to all. Focused on drawing closer to Jesus. How about the Cons? Cons: Can become relativistic rather than relational. Requires more work.

 

 

[The] situation in the actual world is much more complicated than that. The world does not consist of 100% Christians and 100% non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand…. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together.    Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass. It is some use comparing cats and dogs, or even men and women, in the mass, because there one knows definitely which is which. Also, an animal does not turn (either slowly or suddenly) from a dog into a cat. But when we are comparing Christians in general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real people whom we know at all, but only about two vague ideas which we have got from novels and newspapers. If you want to compare the bad Christian and the good Atheist, you must think about two real specimens whom you have actually met. Unless we come down to brass tacks in that way, we shall only be wasting time. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001), 208-209.

  • Today we bear that same trust, to seek God’s face, live for him and reflect the light of his love around us. When this happens we see people coming to God just as they are, with all their flaws and we get to witness the transforming power of God at work in them over the years.
  • Sometimes we allow things about ourselves or others to get in the way of the light we are called to shine, and that light grows dim, we forget to put first things first because our eyes have strayed from the love of Jesus.
  • I am sure that I am not the only one here that is guilty of allowing myself to turn away from God’s light, and I invite all of you to join me in praying that we could have the obstructions and false priorities cleared that we might reflect the unconditional love of God on each person around us, welcoming them into relationship with the Messiah, Jesus. Let us pray. Our Open worship will end with the Keith Green song Oh Lord You’re Beautiful.
  • Open Worship