Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 18, 2010 - Tyranny of the "Always"

The Tyranny of the Always
Luke 13.10-17

Luke 13:10-17 NRSV
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day."
15 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?" 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Healing or Relief?
There is the story of a man who came to a holy woman seeking healing. The holy woman listened patiently as the man listed his complaints and then asked, "Do you really want to be cured?" The man was shocked by the question and said, "Of course I want to be cured. Why else would I have come?" To which the holy woman replied, "Most come, not to be cured, that is too painful. They come for relief" (3).

Some hope hidden in the human heart reaches out to God when life stumbles along the edge between life and death. We pray at such times – speaking awkward yet vividly real prayers. We call on those who stand a little closer to God to join us in praying: it might be the pastor that we call; it might be the holy woman in your circle of friends; it might be the whole church. We pray for healing.
Today, we have been part of a service of healing. Bring your prayers for healing; pray for yourself; pray for others; pray for the world that still needs healing. We invite you to reach out to God for the healing your heart desires.

It was an ordinary Sabbath Day and an ordinary village. Being the Sabbath, Jesus had come to the synagogue to worship with others. It was his habit because in the synagogue he found the center of Jewish faith and life. Here too he found people hungry to hear the Word of God.
[TASK:] Let us focus on each character’s encounter with Jesus. Three characters filled out this story, in addition to Jesus:
+there was a woman who had been bent for 18 years;
+The leader of the synagogue was there;
+And, of course, witnessing everything was the crowd.
In order to hear the message of this text, let’s stand with each of these characters in turn.

I. First, we’ll stand with the woman.
A village woman came into the synagogue one day. She was probably known to the other people in the village. People didn’t move around much in those days. Only Jesus might have been stranger there, traveling about as he did. The notable fact about this woman is that she was bent over; the Bible does not tell us what happened that she was bent over like this. Was there an accident? A birth defect? Was she an older woman who suffered with osteoporosis? The Bible only tells us that she had been bent over like this for 18 long years. Think about that woman this morning. Is her story in any way your story, too? Can we identify with a woman who has suffered until her body is bent?
1. What parts of your life and body are bent as you come to church this morning?
Our *bodies* are bent:
+Old age slows us down;
+Some of us carry the scars of old injuries;
+Some of us are broken in ways that modern medicine cannot fix.
Our *spirits* are bent:
+Your spirit may be bent with burdens of the heart;
+Or Mistakes made long ago;
+Perhaps loneliness, loss of someone you cannot live without;
+Guilt for which we can find no forgiveness;
+A grudge which weighs on your shoulders like a ton of bricks.

Any of these might leave us bent over, unable to stand up straight – like the woman in the story who had been bent over for 18 long years.

Worse, after 18 years the tyranny of the "always" sets in. She has always been that way; she and everyone else assumes that she will always be this way. Our search for a cure becomes half-hearted; our words of encouragement become muted and only half-hearted. Even prayers for her healing give in to the apparent fact that she must always be bent over. Don't we do the same? Eighteen years becomes forever. A long time *already* predicts the future that things will *always* be just this way. We give up even on the power of God to heal and change us, to give us new lives.

2. Now, with the woman hear Jesus speak the healing word. What would you have Jesus know; what would you most desire to hear Jesus say; how long has this burden rested so heavily on your back?
Only know that on a particular Sabbath day, Jesus saw a woman who had been bent for 18 years. Then, during the offering, he got up and went to her with a word and a touch. And she stood up straight to shout, “Hallelujah!” Then, during the Doxology, she danced a jig across the chancel as the congregation sang, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

3. One more point about her healing: Jesus didn’t ask, and she made no request. Seeing the need, Jesus simply stepped forward to heal. Such is God’s grace.
And such is the ministry of grace to which Jesus calls us who would minister in his name. What are we waiting for? An engraved invitation from the broken hearted? A four-page application from the hungry? An ID card from the naked? Seeing that she was bent, Jesus went to her with a healing touch and the healing word, and *SHE STOOD UP STRAIGHT*.
Let our worship train us for hearing and for openness to the cries of the needy.

II. Next, let's look at this event with the ruler of the synagogue.
My guess is that he had known this woman for many years. In fact, I imagine that he had prayed for her by name many times over those 18 years – perhaps at the bedside or during the *prayers for others* in the Sabbath Services.

14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day."

1. When Jesus healed her on the Sabbath, he was offended. You see, HE WAS JEALOUS FOR THE LORD who has asked that we set aside just one day for worship while leaving us six for every other sort of work. He knew that if we fail to keep worship at the center of our lives that human nature is to put ourselves and our importance at the center. So, he said, “Healing has a place, just not on the Sabbath.”
But, God’s will, not a set of rules, is to govern the lives of those whom God has called out in grace. Experiencing grace means living graciously, at all times and in every possible way.

2. WHAT DOES THIS TELL US ABOUT GOD? Remember God’s commandment that we keep the Sabbath Day. Basically, the command said, “You shall do no work on the Sabbath Day.” In Jesus’ time, people believed that the only activity worthy of the Sabbath was praising and worshiping God. Every sort of work, every chore at its heart takes care of my business and my needs. Even conversation and lessons which take care of me and my life are unworthy on the Sabbath. Convinced of this, they set aside the Sabbath to God only. It was a beautiful thought.

But, suddenly, because of Jesus, the ruler has a problem. Jesus has healed on the Sabbath, and of course that means God has just healed on the Sabbath. So, what does this healing say about *God*?

On the Sabbath, the people set aside very work and thought which is for themselves in order to praise and worship God only. That God has healed says that God also just sets aside all prerogatives of being God – even receiving the praises and worship of the people on the Sabbath – in order to care for the people God has created with such loving care.
That’s what Jesus tried to explain to the Synagogue Ruler – and now to us.

III. [The Crowd]
The crowd is the third character I want us to stand alongside as this healing unfolds. The crowd saw all this and responded with rejoicing. They did not rejoice because the bad old ruler of the synagogue lost an argument with Jesus. They had nothing to gain from that. They rejoiced because they, like the woman who was healed, saw in all of this the power of God breaking into their lives.
1. If you had been standing with the crowd, seeing all this, what would your response have been?
A. The bent-over-woman knew exactly what to do; she danced around the synagogue shouting the praise of God.
B. Or perhaps we stand wondering if Jesus will see *our need* and work the healing miracle in our lives.
C. We watch the ruler of the synagogue as he stands red faced with hands on his hips.

We stand in the crowd, we have seen all of this unfolding. Now, what will our response be? Will we join the tyranny of the “always” and declare grace off limits on the Sabbath? Will we dance with the bubbling woman” Will we follow Jesus in other ministries of healing and grace? The decision and response are ours to make.

CONCL: Imitating Jesus
Illus: In Scott Peck's book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, he tells the story of a lecturer telling the story of Jesus' being called to restore the daughter of the leader of the synagogue. As Jesus is going to the leader’s house, a woman who has suffered from hemorrhages for years reaches out from the crowd and touches his robe. He feels her touch and turns around and asks, "Who touched me?" The woman comes forward and confesses that she was the one who had reached out to him for healing, and then Jesus goes on to the house of the synagogue leader.

After telling the story, the lecturer asked the audience of 600 mostly pastors and church leaders which character they identified with.
--When asked who identified with the woman, about a hundred raised their hands.
--When asked who identified with the anxious synagogue leader, still more raised their hands.
--When asked who identified with the curious crowd, almost everyone else raised their hands.
--But when asked who identified with Jesus, only six people raised their hands.

Something is very wrong here. Of 600 pastors and church leaders, only one out of a hundred identified with Jesus. Maybe more actually did but were afraid to raise their hands lest that seem arrogant. But again, something is wrong with our concept of Christianity if it seems arrogant to identify with Jesus. That is exactly what we are supposed to do! We're supposed to identify with Jesus, act like Jesus, be like Jesus. We come to receive the healing which Christ alone can give; then we go out, sent, to share the healing of Christ with those who have not heard (2).

2. Scott Peck, Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth
3. Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict, (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 128.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 11, 2010 - Right, but oh so Wrong

Right, But Oh, So Wrong
Acts 16.16-40

The Preacher
A husband and wife went to an old fashioned revival in a little town. The preacher preached that night on money, and presented the sermon under three points.
1. First point: "Make all you can." The husband nudged his wife and said, "That preacher is the best I’ve ever heard. He is no nitwit. He knows what it’s all about. He is one smart preacher."
2. Second point: "Save all you can." This excited the husband, and he whispered again, "This beats anything I’ve ever heard. He’s smart enough to be President. This town has never had a preacher that could hold a candle to him." The preacher commended hard work and thrift, denouncing laziness and waste. The husband couldn’t keep quiet. He whispered to his wife, "I’ve believed this all my life."
3. Third point: "Give all you can." "Oh my!" exclaimed the husband, "Now he’s gone crazy. He has quit preaching and gone to meddling."

[THOT:] How does the church "meddle" in the affairs of the world? On what basis does the church speak out in the public arena?

One day, Paul and Silas were walking to the place of prayer that the Jewish people in Philippi used. It was a little out of the town; it was just a gathering place. As they walked, a slave girl followed them. She had a demon that enabled her to do divination. It was not just a typical demon like we encountered during Jesus' ministry; this was a demon that arose from Greek mythology. In the Greek of the New Testament, it is called a "a pythian spirit." In Greek mythology the "python " was the dragon that guarded the Delphi oracle at Mt. Parnassus and was killed by Apollo. Although this is not clear in the English translation, her power was clearly tied into the pagan worship and mythology of the Greek world.

Well, as she followed Paul and Silas, she cried out, "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation." As you think about it, this was a strange claim for her to make.
1. First, she was a slave owned by masters who made money from her ability to divine the truth. Now, watch her as she tells the world that Paul and Silas are themselves slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." She is a slave, calling Paul and Silas slaves.
2. Secondly, she has a pagan demon that gives her the power to speak the truth, and she uses it to tell God's truth about Paul and Silas. I suppose that we should appreciate the respect that the pagan demon shows to the Most High God of Israel.

Now, as she continues this for several days, Paul gets annoyed. It is an unusual word in the Bible. God's people often act out of conviction or calling or faithfulness, but the Bible rarely tells us that someone acted with the power of God because they were annoyed. No matter. Paul was annoyed. He turned to the slave girl, and cast out the demon. Why would he bother? Even though she was a pagan, possessed by a demon, she was announcing the truth. What was the problem that annoyed Paul so?
[Ans:] While factually correct, the problem is that her announcement is misleading:

1. It is misleading to offer the fact of God without inviting someone to faith and loyalty to God. Read the Bible from one end to the other: we are never offered the fact of God without being invited to a new life of obedience following God. As an older member told me one time: No sermon is complete until the invitation has been offered. She offered the fact of God without the invitation. She was misleading and Paul was annoyed.

2. It is misleading to suggest that the gods of the Greeks (along with their demons) are equal to the God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. By using her pagan gift to tell the world that they were slaves of the Most High God, she left the impression that the pagan deities and the God of Israel are in some sense equals. Paul could not tolerate any suggestion like that. By casting out her demon, Paul demonstrates God's power over the pagan Greek demons and gods.

3. It was also misleading for her to use the name, “The Most High God,” because the Greek God Zeus was also known by that name. Which did she intend? Zeus or the God revealed in Jesus? She did not say clearly, and Paul could not accept her ambiguity.
So, Paul got annoyed and cast out her demon. He did not act because of her faith; she claimed none. She did not request healing; the demon did not challenge Paul as other demons challenged Jesus. You might say that the slave girl was right, but oh, so wrong. Paul cast out her demon because he was annoyed.

II. When the demon was cast out, the slave girl became as any other young woman. She could not divine the truth or see the future. More importantly, she could not make money for her masters without her gift. So, her masters caught Paul and Silas, dragged them to the marketplace in the center of the city, and there they charged them with destroying their money-making machine.

Now, think about these events just a moment. This is different from most of the healings that Jesus performed in his ministry. Paul, through the power of jesus christ, has just interfered with the way someone makes their living. To confirm this point and its importance, Paul and Silas are brought to the marketplace. There they are charged before the magistrates and thrown into jail.

When I was young in ministry, I often heard the complaint that preachers should stick to spiritual matters and leave the world's matters to others. I remember living through the Civil Rights Movement here in the South and through the protests of the Vietnam War. They were necessary but severely painful times in this nation. In both of those great movements, Christian leaders spoke out and walked in the demonstrations. And in both of these great movements people expressed the wish that the Christian leaders would stick to spiritual matters and stay out of worldly matters.

The situation is pretty much the same now. In our preaching, we preachers tend to stay away from situations that require technical expertise.
+When all I know to do about the oil spill in the Gulf is to weep for the spoiling of the earth, what can I say?
+When all I know about our nation’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is what the talking heads on TV tell me, what more can I add?
+When all I know about poverty in Knoxville is what I see on Thursday at Soup Kitchen, what more does preaching have to add?

[THESIS:] And yet, I am convinced that the Church is called to speak out. If the scriptures have spoken to ancient kings and harlots, to rulers and fishermen, then we are called as the Church to give voice to the Word of God in our time.

[TEXT] Paul and Silas were walking rather innocently to the place outside Philippi where the Jews gathered to pray. This slave girl follows them, speaking God's truth about them. "They are servants of the Most High God." All of this is very spiritual, very theological. Then, out of annoyance, Paul turns and casts the demon out of her. In that simple act, out his annoyance, he thrusts himself into the public arena. There is no indication that he wanted to make that leap from the spiritual to the worldly. He just wanted her to be silent. But there he was – interfering with the local religion, interfering with the way her masters made their good living, challenging the way everyone in Philippi assumed that the world should work. Out of his annoyance, he jumped from the spiritual into the worldly. There was no going back.
Think about it: on what basis does faith speak out and act in the public arena? On what basis does the Church address the world?

IV. I want to suggest several intellectual practices and spiritual commitments that could serve as the basis or the foundation for our public life as a community of faith.

1. The first commitment we should make is to foster a sense that we are a community shaped by the living God – the God revealed in the life and work of Jesus Christ.
Too often we enter the church only "to pick up something we need," not realizing that a church invites us into a community of faith. Too often, we approach the church the same way we approach Walmart: Does it have the items on my shopping list? Could I get these items cheaper or more conveniently somewhere else? While we see others on Sunday whom we recognize as regulars, we are less and less prepared to see ourselves as a community together. We enter the church and expect to leave as individuals.
But, God calls us into community – into a Christ-shaped community of faith. In worship, God calls us to know ourselves and our neighbors as "the people of God." Then, as a distinct people, we can speak to the larger world around us with the concern and witness of this community.

2. We should build upon the foundation document of the Church – the Bible. Without the Bible, we do not know how to worship, how to tell the story of our faith, or what language to use when speaking of God. The Bible is absolutely necessary to forming and keeping the Church. The earnest study of the Bible is essential to a thoughtful, Christian witness in the world.
We have not come to this place to study LAW or EARLY CHILDHOOD INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS or ENGINEERING. We have come to this place to learn the things and the teachings of God. We have come to this place to gather around the source-document of the God who embraces all – all that we can REACH and all that LIES BEYOND HUMAN REACH. In the opening of the Bible at the center of the Church, we are formed, we taught, we are given voice to speak the life-giving Word of God.

3. The next commitment rises from the foundation of scripture: We must want for the world what God wants. (Note: See #2: The foundational commitment to the Bible above.)
I see God wanting justice and charity. I see God showing us how to live through Law and story. God wants the broken world to be reconciled through Jesus Christ. God wants all this and much more. Let us want for the world what God wants.

4. The sobering truth is that we will sometimes find success in the world; other times we will just mark time, or, worse, we will meet crushing failure. We must hold onto the vision of God's great creative and redemptive purposes in Jesus Christ for all peoples and all creation. We must hold out the conviction that God’s great purposes will in God’s good time be fulfilled – and in that fulfillment the world will be healed.
In times of defeat as in times of victory, the one whose vision remains focused on God's goal of blessed and universal peace/shalom will neither despair not exult, but in all circumstances will give God alone the glory. Indeed, anyone who clings to the vision of what God wants for the world can be satisfied to be known as a “servant of the Most High God. Vision gives ordinary work its wings.

5. The fifth commitment that will give us the foundation we need is our personal commitment to God in Christ. Over the past generation, we have focused on the practices of religion and given less attention to the relationship with Christ which is life-giving. In the hallways and the councils of the Church we have
+waged the battle between contemporary and traditional worship but failed to learn the depths of worship;
+done research projects on church growth but failed to add to our church membership;
+asked an MBA to optimize our church operations but have not learned how to pray.
We are quick to ask other Christians if they have completed a certain program and slow to ask them if they know the Master. Faith leads us – as individuals and as a congregation – to a personal connection with and a personal obedience to Jesus Christ. It is a commitment of the heart just as it is a commitment of the head.

[WRAP-UP:] I offer these five foundational commitments because they give us a distinctive voice in the world. These five commitments keep us true to the God in whose name we would speak.

[ILLUS: Tex:] Tex Sample tells the story of the day he explained to a seminary class why the old song, "In the Garden" is not a very good song. He listed his objections, and he was devastating:
+This is a song about just me and Jesus
+Does the writer of this hymn believe that no one has ever known this kind of joy except him?
+And, where is Christian community in this song?
Sample said that, as he continued to list his objections, he grew more animated. He could see the impact his critique was having on his young students.
+[Quote from Sample:] "Jesus is more than a good feeling between your liver and your gall bladder."
The bell rang; class was over. He thought that he had put an end to that song in the lives of these students forever. The students filed out with those agreeing with him winking and chuckling about this critiques and his passion.
But one student waited until all the others were out. She was a 40-ish woman who came to seminary in mid-life. When everyone else had gone, she stood before Tex Sample and told him: "Tex, my father started sexually abusing me when I was eleven years old. He kept at it until I was sixteen and finally found a way to put a stop to it. After every one of those horrible ordeals I would go outside by myself and sing that song:

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses...
And he walks with me
And he talks with me,
And he tells me I am his own.

She summed it up by saying: "If it hadn't been for that song and for Jesus walking with me, I would never have made it through that absolutely awful time." Tex Sample said that his eyes dropped to the floor. He was reeling from the impact of what she said (1).
You see, she had a foundation, that regardless of her circumstances, could not be taken from her.
1. That foundation gave her the strength and courage to choose a better direction for herself.
2. That foundation gave her the courage to speak out when her professor could not see the insignificant places in this world where God was holding lives together.
That is what a foundation will do.

V. Where do we address the world as Christians and as the Church?
1. We speak through our worship. Worship is the constant witness we make to the world – our witness to a great God revealed in Jesus Christ.
2. We speak through lives shaped by this Christian faith. I hope you are a better teacher, baker, or McDonald's employee because of your Christian faith.
3. We speak through the ministries we undertake as a church or a Sunday School class or as a prayer circle. We speak about God's hope for a world that is made more gentle through charity and kindness.
4. We speak through the pulpit and every Sunday School lectern, bringing real events under the light of ancient Biblical truth.
Count on it: like Paul, we will one day find ourselves brought in the public arena through unexpected circumstances. So, be careful when you are inclined to get annoyed with the truth that someone tells about you. You might find yourself on the hot seat for being God's witness.

1. Sample, Tex. “In the Garden,” Earthy Mysticism, Abingdon Press, pp. 77ff.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Great Thanksgiving 7/4/2010


The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth.

You commanded, Holy God, and chaos yielded to your Word,
so all that is beautiful and good might be created by your grace.
The sun and moon were shaped so we would have days and nights
in which to praise you, but we spent our time denying your dreams for us, living each moment for ourselves.
You fixed the boundaries for your Garden, where we could have life and joy with you, but we chose to play on the garbage dumps of sin.
You told the prophets to 'Go!' and bring your vision of healing and restoration, but we thought them to be fools, standing on the edges of our lives.
When we had decided to have nothing to do with you, you chose to become one of us, living, calling, creating once again through Jesus the Christ.

And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, Creator of the Universe, and blessed is Jesus, your Son, our Lord. When he could have left us to deal with sin and death on our own, he came to live with us; when he could have chosen
the path to power and fame, he walked the deadly road to Calvary;
when he could have called down the angels to save him,
he cried out for forgiveness for all your children.
When you could have left him alone and forsaken in the grave,
you graced him with new life.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

When the supper was over he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ's offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon this Bread and this Cup, O God,
that they might become your grace and peace for us,
so we might become your servants of hope and restoration to our world.

As we come to your Table, remind us of your promises
that when the sea is no more, you will flood us with your grace;
that when the earth is a hollow husk, you will walk with us
through the streets of the New Jerusalem;
that when the sun, moon, and stars have burned out in space,
the Light of your love will shine for us forever.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty God, now and forever.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 4, 2010 - All the Wrong Places, All the Wrong People

Acts 8:26-40

The Eunuch is reading from Isaiah, talks about being shorn, cut off. But Isaiah is a book of hope for outcasts, captives, the poor, the lames, the sick, and even the eunuchs. Freedom for the marginalized. What it means is to encourage and affirm one another to live in the Good news of the God of Israel whom Jesus taught and revealed.

An encouragement to accept people who are different for whatever reason, without prejudice or partiality. The universal embrace of God, to be instruments of God’s restoration.

Thus as the gospel moves into the world, it gathers under the wings of God’s mercy more and more of those who have been lost, pushed away, and forgotten. This story is a personal story of the recovery.

3 questions asked:
1. How can I understand unless someone guides me?
2. About whom does the prophet write?
3. What is to prevent me from being baptized?

We are currently sharing stories of the faith of the early church as recounted in the book of Acts. One scholar has suggested that the book of Acts is like a church history, not that dusty tome stored on the shelves of seminaries that all good students must read and understand in order to pass some church history class. No, instead the yellowed fading pages that you are handed when you arrive at a church, stapled in the corner, telling the story of that particular church. Not always telling all the story, just the best parts.

But the book of Acts is misleadingly titled. Its traditional name, “Acts of the Apostles,” is true enough – except the apostles are not the ones driving the action. The apostles are busy organizing a reform movement and new institutions based in Jerusalem. And Acts shows the Holy Spirit continually calling into action the people who make up this new assembly, blowing the breath of God into new and distant places and bringing new, boundary-pushing people into fellowship with Jesus. The Spirit, not bound by human constraints ("we've never done it that way before"), is continually pushing the limits of who God welcomes and where this good news is to be proclaimed.

Acts was written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke. That gospel takes us to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension while Acts takes us from that point on to Pentecost, the birth of the Church, and to its growth and spread throughout the known world.

One question that Acts also asks questions about who’s in and who’s out. The very first Christians assumed that you had to be Jewish before you could be Christian. People who wanted to join the Church had to become Jewish first, had to follow the Law, had to be circumcised if they were male, had to observe the dietary and purity restrictions.

Who’s in and who’s out? Only those who are fully Jewish are in. But Acts tells how the Spirit led the Church to reach out. The gospel reached across those boundaries. Gentiles were welcomed. Circumcision was no longer required. Adherence to the Jewish dietary restrictions was lifted.

Who’s in and who’s out? The love of God in the good news of Jesus reached out beyond what everyone thought the boundaries were. God’s amazing love reached out and claimed those on the outside, the poor, the outcast, the sinner, the Gentile, the leper, the woman, the mentally ill, the prisoner.

So we find Philip going down to the city of Samaria and preaching. And he turns out to be really good at it: a 1st century Billy Graham, and his first time out, too. He had the moves, he had the words, he had the miracles—Philip was a star. Even though he’s in all the wrong places. Samaria!

But he was a man after Jesus’ heart, because he wasn’t afraid to cross the line into Samaria, where no self-respecting Jew would be caught dead in those days; in fact, Philip was the first disciple to leave the old neighborhood.

Peter and John, back in Jerusalem, heard about Philip’s success. They heard about how the Samarians had actually accepted the word of God from a rookie and been baptized, which sounded like mission impossible to them. But the reports were true: Philip had converted a whole city of Samarians. Who would have thought it? In all the wrong places.

It was a major coup for the Christians, their first big missionary success. I bet Philip couldn’t wait for his next preaching assignment. He was pumped when he saw that angel of the Lord coming, bearing a message he could just imagine: Your mission, your next appointment, is to the big city.

But you know what that angel said? “The wilderness road. Jerusalem to Gaza. Desert.”

I bet Philip was stunned, you could have knocked him over. Perhaps he asked politely if there had been some mistake, and hadn’t the angel read the report about Samaria, don’t you think Philip could really contribute more, make better use of his gifts, if the angel sent him to a major metropolitan area where there might actually be some people to listen to him…etc. etc.

But no: the angel is firm. The wilderness road. Jerusalem to Gaza. Desert.

No one really talks about it, but for an up-and-coming missionary like Philip, those words had to be a blow: disappointing, sure, and even downright insulting. Because your efforts in that city were so successful, Philip, we are assigning you to a deserted stretch of road without a single village! What a waste of talent. No human being in their right mind would do such a thing—which is our cue, by the way, to immediately suspect that God is involved.

God directed Philip and the good news of Jesus that he was sharing to a place where he encounters a eunuch, one of those males not fit for the community of God. Who’s in and who’s out?

Philip is obedient: he goes where he’s told. He doesn’t pull a Jonah move, get on a boat so God has to send a whale after him. But I do notice that Philip is not what you would call proactive in this story. He’s on that wilderness road, where he’s supposed to be; he sees the man in the chariot, but does he approach him? Nope; not until the spirit orders him to. Which tells me that Philip, was pouting because even he would have to be suspicious of a scene this ludicrous. What? You mean he’s not the only one on this road? Someone else is there, too? What a coincidence! And, somewhat unusually, that person is an Ethiopian eunuch, and he is reading aloud from Isaiah? Who else would concoct this but God?! It sounds like, The kingdom of God is like a shepherd, who leaves ninety-nine sheep so he can go look for one that was lost.

Here is Philip, walking the hot highway road, and he sees an Ethiopian, dark skinned, tall and no doubt large since Philip recognizes him as a eunuch. Certainly the Ethiopian must have looked impressive, a large man with obvious wealth. Not only did he have a chariot, but someone was driving it. He had the luxury of sitting and reading. He obviously was an educated man with significant power since he was a court official of the Queen of Ethiopia. Indeed he must have had exceptional wealth to be able to own his own copy of the writings of the prophet Isaiah. An impressive and perhaps even intimidating man.

Philip was a preacher; he should have seen it a mile away: The kingdom of God is like an Ethiopian eunuch, sitting in his chariot, in the desert, at noon, reading aloud from Isaiah. But Philip just sits there until the Spirit pokes him. And somehow, I doubt he converted the city of Samaria by going up to complete strangers and kindly asking them, “Do you really understand what you’re reading?”

The Bible often tells of insignificant people who are important in God’s eyes but this seems to be the opposite. Royal job, important man, powerful, but unwelcomed in God’s house. Deut. 23:1 shall not be admitted. Thankfully he is not reading Deut but Isaiah…the remnant from Ethiopia and Eunuchs will have a better name than sons or daughters. So which is it? In or out? Welcome or not? The Evangelist comes to help him understand.

The Ethiopian's answer is interesting. He does not do what most powerful men do; pretend that they know the answer lest they look ignorant or foolish. This is the temptation of most men, and some women, to never look vulnerable, especially to those with less power.

Yet, here is a rich and powerful man willing to admit, he is ignorant. Not just to an equal, but to a poor foreigner. I wonder why that is? Could it be because his being a eunuch, his difference made him understand the cruelty of those who lord power over others. Men over women, women over their servants or children? I don't know, however somehow this man, has what we Christians call a "teachable heart". He is willing to listen, and not only listen, but listen to the unlikely people; a poor foreigner along the road.

So the Ethiopian Eunuch invites him into his chariot, and invites Philip to guide him. The text is from Isaiah, "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe this generation? For his life is taken away from the earth."

The Ethiopian Eunuch asks, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this about himself or about someone else." Notice his question is not a command, but full of courtesy, even respect for Philip as a teacher. There is no demanding questions from a petty tyrant, but gratitude for the gift that Philip is. We see in this foreigner, a reflection of the graciousness of God. Here we see the work of God preparing him to receive the Good News, and the call to be a Christian.

Is this God’s word for me? Sheep shorn, slaughtered, who will recount the generations? Humiliation and justice denied.
God’s word is not just “back then” but Jesus said, “Today…” The news is even better than the eunuch could expect. Not only does God understand the experience of being humiliated and ostracized, Jesus experienced it personally.
“In Jesus this stony road of suffering is transformed into a highway of exaltation.” Out of his anguish he shall see light, the righteous one, my servant shall make many righteous. (Isaiah 53:7).

Do you really understand what you’re reading? They aren’t exactly kind words. They aren’t even polite, actually, if you look the man Philip is talking to. Look at him: the man is an Ethiopian, which means that he was gorgeous (because in those days the Ethiopians were considered the most beautiful of all people in the ancient world); the man has a chariot and a scroll, which means that he was rich since that’s the only kind of thin rich people had; he’s the Queen of Ethiopia’s treasurer, in charge of all her money, which means that he was powerful. Beautiful, rich, powerful, and—a eunuch, a castrated male, which means that in the eyes of Jewish law, he was a mutilated outcast, forbidden to even enter the temple. No one was allowed to talk with him, or have a meal with him, or even touch him, no matter how beautiful, rich, and powerful he was. Do you really understand what you are reading? I don’t think Philip wanted to read or to even talk to this man. I don’t think he wanted to look at him.

Here is the troubling part for me. Philip was a deacon; he was all about kindness and social justice. He fed widows. He served the poor. He preached in Samaria, which took guts, I can tell you. But I think preaching to a eunuch basically rocked his world. It challenged everything had been taught. I don’t think Philip knew how to preach to a eunuch and still be a Christian.

How can I, the eunuch replies, without someone to guide me? How can I, when you won’t let me in your church? How can I, when you are so afraid of me that you won’t even talk to me? Do I really understand what I’m reading?! No! I’m sitting here in the wilderness, trying to make sense all by myself, in my chariot, and I’m stuck here—unless, of course, you’d like to climb up and sit beside me.

I notice that Philip doesn’t exactly volunteer for the job. But he doesn’t say no, either. It’s hard to, when there’s a live person right in front of you, and a Spirit that keeps bossing you around. I imagine Philip taking a deep breath and saying, “Okay, Lord; if you’re going to go to the trouble of these special effects, I guess I’d better play along, but next time, maybe you could blow my circuits with a lost sheep, instead of sending me an Ethiopian eunuch sitting in a chariot in the desert, reading aloud from Isaiah? Give me a break!”

So together they read Isaiah, and Philip told the eunuch the good news about Jesus, and it turned out Philip was a good preacher this time, too; really good. So good, in fact, that the eunuch lifted up his eyes, and he saw water in the desert. Did you get that?! He saw water! And while Philip was mulling that one over, the eunuch turned to him and said, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” You see, the eunuch really did understand what he was reading. He understood so well that he believed the impossible: that God loved him, an Ethiopian eunuch, sitting in a chariot in the desert reading Isaiah with a really scared guy called Philip. God loved him, exactly as he was, and all he had to do, now, was show up at the font to be baptized. Because that’s what baptism is: the mark that God loves us, not because of anything we do, but because of who we are.

What a miracle. Two guys sitting in a chariot in the middle of a desert, reading the Word of God together. Two guys deciding that maybe the world was bigger than they’d imagined. Two guys realizing that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Everything about this story is incredible. Did you really expect to see an Ethiopian eunuch, a man at once powerful and marginalized? Add to this the fact he is either a very marginal Jew, or a God-fearer who has found in the God of Israel something that speaks to him. And speaks strongly enough for him to acquire and study the holy writings of Israel. Have you ever tried to read a Hebrew scroll while bouncing along a wilderness road? The appearance of the water itself is a surprising thing in the desert – but perhaps not as exalted or lush as painters have imagined it. We picture an oasis, but it might just as easily be a humble waterhole.

The eunuch asks: “What is to prevent me from being baptized”?

Well, almost everything. When you think about it, almost everything! Roadblocks: cut off from the land, cut off from the covenant, cut off from God by his loyalties, never to be a “full member.”

But Philip hears the Spirit speaking, “Absolutely nothing.” Walls of prejudice and prohibition that stood for generations came tumbling down blown over by the wind of the Spirit. In God's kingdom...Lost and humiliated = found and restored.

And grace is at work in our lives, opening us to the reality of our need for salvation; and the reality of the Kingdom of God unfolding in the world through Christ. How mysterious that God can even use evil done to us as an opportunity for grace. I have difficulty accepting that God causes evil to happen to us, but I do believe that God can bring good out of evil. The cross is evidence enough for me to believe that. God can use even deathly shame to bring about good.

Just like the Ethiopian being a eunuch, whether by birth, injury, or abuse, he likely would have been the brunt of jokes by other men. Perhaps this was why he was so curious about the story of the suffering servant in Isaiah. He may have personally known what unjust humiliation meant.

However the Good News was that this man did not choose the way of bitterness and condemnation of the world, but rather developed an openness to what others may offer. He has an unexpected life giving humility. This is fertile ground for the Good News of Jesus Christ. And Philip tells him that this scripture is talking about Jesus, and he tells him the Good News.

And as they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the Ethiopian Eunuch says, "Look there is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" Notice he doesn't say, "Please, can I be baptized?" I wonder if he saying, "Is there anything preventing a eunuch from being baptized?" For you see, this man with all his power, wealth, education, while in Jerusalem would not have been allowed in the temple. Only those considered "whole" could enter, and his condition would have kept him on the outside of temple-Judaism. Would Philip be the same, and prevent him, a Eunuch from God's presence?

How delightful the text is that Philip gives no verbal response. He says nothing, but obviously the Eunuch knows he is indeed welcome, and more than welcome, since he says, "Stop the chariot, and goes down to the water to be baptized by Philip and becomes the first African Christian. Why doesn't Philip say anything? Perhaps it when we are in the presence of the obvious work of the Holy Spirit, nothing needs to be said, and nothing more needs to be done. We just do what God wants us to do!

When you can see that, you can see springs of water in the desert. Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized? Philip knew there was a time to preach and a time to shut up and wade into the water, and this was one of those times. Because he finally understood what he was reading, too, once he climbed up into the chariot. Reading scripture with the eunuch changed Philip’s life, and it changed the church, too. Philip saw: there wasn’t anything to prevent this man from being baptized. There never had been, except for Philip himself.

It’s hard when we find ourselves in all the wrong places, with all the wrong people. It might even be easier to serve a meal to them rather than to climb up into a chariot and sit right next to them, and read from the same bible, and share the good news about Jesus, and see in that person’s eyes how it will change their life. Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized!?

In the midst of limits (wrong places, wrong people), the spirit inspires us to challenge those limits when right relationships with God and neighbor are at stake! God’s active presence is enabling the mission of the church especially among those whom our traditions marginalize.

Who’s in and who’s out? That’s the difference between God and humans. God is like this, forever moving outward, creating out of love, embracing out of love. But humans are sinful and like this, constricted, driven to protect what is theirs, to cling to what they think is theirs, and to draw lines and boundaries to keep out people who scare them or who are too different from them.

All of us have ended up on the outside of those lines and boundaries. We’ve been told that we are too young or too old, too pretty or too ugly, the wrong sex, the wrong political party. We went to the wrong school or lived in the wrong place. We didn’t have enough money or didn’t belong to the right club or organization. We weren’t smart enough or educated enough. Who’s in and who’s out? Nearly all of us know what it’s like to be out. But the amazing love of God in Jesus reaches out wide across all lines and boundaries saying, “My love is for you, too.”

When the eunuch’s story (and ours for that matter) is refracted through the story of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, it becomes a narrative of redemption, restoration, and hope.

But listen. Listen to the Spirit telling you to go to that unlikely place. Listen to the questions and the stories of the people around you. Pay attention to the interaction between the words of scripture and words of peoples' lives, of your life. Share the goodness of God as you have experienced it. The Holy Spirit is still blowing, especially in the edgiest places of life. With the Spirit at work, what is impossible for humans becomes not only possible, but immediate, compelling, and real. Places and situations that might seem God-forsaken become the sites of revelation and blessing.

We might wonder where in our churches and in our communities the Spirit is blowing right now? Perhaps, for a hint, with the eunuch and Philip we might read again the words of the prophet - "In his humiliation, justice was denied him" - and go to the places where human humiliation becomes the opening point for divine glory. And that is a good place to ask a few questions.

Finally the Spirit snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. Rejoicing is the response to God's grace, that is why we gather here!

But we know from history that the eunuch did more than rejoice, for he carried the Good News to his country, and it quickly spread such that the Ethiopians are amongst some of the oldest Christians on the planet. And if you ask them how they heard the Good News, they will tell you this very story and rejoice. AMEN.

May 30, 2010 - We Cannot Keep From Speaking

As some of you are probably aware, I don't really write a word-for-word manuscript but only a bunch of sermon notes that seem to become the conversation that we have on Sunday mornings. So here are my sermon notes from May 30, 2010:

We Cannot Keep From Speaking
Acts 4:1-22

Something that’s been eating at me…why this Messiah? Over 30 figures arose in the 200 odd years between the Maccabeun revolts and the destruction of the temple. In fact, Jesus, the one we know so well, wouldn’t even be considered a major figure.

So why such a life changing impact?

As the door shut behind them, the disciples did not know what to expect. Told to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, they gathered with a sense of excitement but also deep uneasiness. Much of these experience of Jesus involved waiting. The patient flow and work of God, which would one day make sense, at this time seemed almost dreadful. Still they waited and watched for God’s next chapter to unfold.

Maybe Peter felt it first. Although knowing that Jesus had ascended, there was a sense of someone other than themselves in the room. However, what their physical senses were telling them did not compare to what their souls were screaming. He is alive…They looked at one another with the same feeling, that sense of moving forward.

And then Pentecost, the tongues of flame, the sound of the wind, the echoes of a full-blown storm. The room filled with sights and sounds unseen and unheard before. A chorus of voices filled the space, speaking inspired words, telling the story. Finally Peter said, “Listen carefully to what I need to tell you…” And he preached the first of many sermons that detailed the good news of Jesus Christ and to which this new community of faith would devote itself completely.

I sometimes get carried away, primarily because some biblical narratives don't end in just a few passages, just a few verses. They’re not short subjects but rather they're epics. The scriptural passage that we read today was Acts, Chapter 4, verses 1 through 22, but the passage that I really want to focus on is in verse 13. "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were ordinary and uneducated men, they were amazed." To give you some background, Peter and John had healed a lame man. There is a children's song that sums it up that goes like this:

"Peter and John went to pray.
They met a lame man on the way.
He asked for alms and held out his palms;
And this is what Peter did say:
Silver and gold have I none,
But such as I have give I thee.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
He went walking and leaping and praising God,
Walking and leaping and praising God.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

Peter and John have been arrested by the authorities (identified here as "archons," the biblical word for the principalities and powers) for healing a man and preaching the resurrection of the Jesus these authorities had killed. A night in the pokey does nothing to dampen their spirits. Normally, "idiots" (idiotai, common) are cowed by the panoply of power and the bearing of the powerful. But not these goats. They use the occasion of their arraignment as a platform for preaching. "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and idiotai, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus." They had, in fact, observed that this was trademark behavior for those who had been with Jesus. Jesus takes sheep and makes them goats. He takes those who have internalized the system of ranking and stratification as divinely ordained and frees them from these delusions. He awakens common, ordinary people who have never before sensed their power and sends them into the very maw of the System to denounce it.

The Powers are not stupid. They sense the genuine threat this empowerment poses for their hegemony. This danger must be met head on. The entire priestly oligarchy turns out: "Their rulers, elders and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family." These Powers ask right away, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Obviously they couldn't have done it on their own; someone had to put them up to it. And indeed he did. But the frightening thing is that although the authorities had killed the instigator, his comrades were stronger than ever.

The effrontery of these idiotai! They make no effort to plea bargain, or to reassure their captors of their harmlessness.

Walter Wink, professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York calls them obstreperous. resisting control or restraint in a difficult manner; unruly.
noisy, clamorous, or boisterous: obstreperous children.

Instead, they revel in their newfound power. They stick it to the authorities: You murdered the man who has empowered us. It is by his power that this formerly crippled man now stands before you whole. Worse for you, this "criminal" you had the Romans execute is destined to become the cornerstone, for "there is salvation in no one other name under heaven by which we must be saved."

That concluding triumphal statement has caused havoc in human history. Christians armed with the certainty that they alone possessed God's truth tore about the globe destroying religions and spiritualities superior to their own. Let us apologize to the countless victims slaughtered by Christian conquistadors for refusing to convert; let us beg for mercy from God and humanity for the arrogance of Christianity in its spiritual scorched-earth-and-take-no-captives missionary juggernaut.

But if we attend to what Peter and John are up to, we hear the truth in what they say. Jesus was, if fact, the first person to propound a consistent critique of the domination system. Building on the prophets, he stripped away the facade of goodness constructed by the Powers and exposed their violence and greed. In the same way that we might say that Adam Smith was the revealer of capitalism and Karl Marx the revealer of the class system, Jesus revealed the domination system. Docile, sheeplike human beings don't even realize the depth of their oppression, but accept their inferior status as a God-given fate to be endured. The poor have no idea that their liberation is the special concern of God.

If "saved" means being united and reconciled with God, then Acts 4:12 is palpably false. There are many authentic roads to God, and no religion holds the franchise for illumination. But if "saved" here means being delivered from the bondage and delusions of the domination system, and being empowered to set others free--if it means ultimately transforming the system itself and renouncing domination in all its forms--then Jesus is indeed the one who can yet save the world from the domination system. And that, it seems to me, is a factual statement with which persons of all religions might agree.

As a result of that healing, as a result of that miraculous event, they were hassled, they were admonished and arrested. And while standing in the midst of their captors, they were interrogated. They asked them, "By what power or in what name did you do this healing?" And Peter with all boldness proclaims, "This once lame man is standing before you. He was healed in the name of the One whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, Jesus."

Now Peter, if you remember, had not always been so bold. On the night of Jesus' trial when it would seem that Jesus would really need Peter to speak up for him, Peter was only willing to shut up and run away for fear that the same fate of trial and execution awaited him as well.

What happened to make him so bold now? He was no more educated than he was before the crucifixion. He was uneducated. His social status and his status in the religious community had not changed since before the crucifixion. He was just everyday people.

What changed Peter? What gave him this new-found boldness? The resurrection happened. The Jesus who preached love and forgiveness had risen from the dead. The Risen Christ bears no grudges about what previously had happened. God's love was spoken to Peter and John and all who were in assembly that evening. In spite of all that happened, the Christ appeared to Peter and John and all the others and said, "Do not be afraid. Be at peace."

So now, in light of forgiveness, Peter can boldly proclaim Jesus as the Anointed One of God and heal the sick in his name. He doesn't seem to care any more about the fact that his life might be in jeopardy. They had been forbidden to teach the teachings of Jesus but in light of all that has happened to Peter and the rest of Jesus' followers, Peter says he can no longer shut up. Peter says he can no longer run away. He's on a mission. He has focus and he does what he is sent to do.

Subsequently they were released and they told others of the incident. In the epilogue in verse 31, it says when they prayed they shook the room and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. In turn, all who heard went out to boldly be proclaimers themselves of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember again, they were no church officials. They didn't wear special robes or special vestments. They were just everyday people.

What about us? Is the resurrection just a story that has survived hundreds of years? Is it just an allegory that makes for a good television mini-series or book sales? The Church teaches that Jesus rose from the dead. Ministers and priests stand in pulpits and proclaim that Christ is alive. All these things testify to the living Lord, but what do you say? What do you believe? If the resurrection has changed everything, how has it changed your life? If you believe that Christ is alive, if you have been touched by the word of God's love and forgiveness, how can you keep silent about what you have seen? How can you keep silent about what you have heard and how your life has been transformed? You don't have to stand on a street corner with a bullhorn. You don't have to stand in the middle of an auditorium full of strangers to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord. The most effective proclamation is by everyday people who share their faith and their faith stories with other everyday people.

Like Peter, we may have done some rotten things in our lives that don't exactly proclaim that Jesus is our friend. Oh, we might sing that song, but we have to admit sometimes that the things that we do in our lives bear no resemblance to lives that have been touched by Christ.

A few years back a song, which made a big splash in the country music world, was “Live Like You Were Dying”. It described a young man’s encounter with terminal illness that ultimately freed him to live life to the fullest. He learned to live with reckless abandon, squeezing every moment from every day. God wants each us to find such an intimate connection to living, but not simply in the moment. There is a deeper life that God beckons us to try, and, for the few who test it, God unveils the blessing of setting aside one’s self and discovering the mystery of true relationship. This relationship transforms us and like the dawn of a new day, possess all the potential for hope and redemption that faith in God promises. You see, that is what Christ wanted the disciples to understand: that as they began their journey into the world, it was all new, and yesterday’s woes no longer held power. This inauspicious band of fishermen, malcontents, marginalized, and forgotten was poised to change the world. Jesus taught them something better than to live like you were dying; he taught them to live as those raised from death itself.

The resurrection changes everything. It changed the disciples. It changed the world. It changed me and I'm just everyday people. It continues to change us.

Over the next days, months, and years, the community of believers formed in every nook and cranny from Jerusalem to Rome. The apostles and their message spread to every land, and converts from every tribe and nation ignited this movement of the Way into a potent force that eventually altered human history…sometimes manifesting itself in ways that were very different from the original intention, but always being called out into the world. Craig Van Gelder in his book The Essence of the Church says it best: “The church is more than what meets the eye. It is more than a set of well-managed ministries. It is more than another human organization. The church lives in the world as a human enterprise, but ultimately it is the called and redeemed people of God.

So the church, ordinary, everyday people like us, can go on in prayer and bold proclamations to shake rooms across the planet that the world might know of God's love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Amen.