Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26, 2010

Walking out of Our Tombs - the Raising of Lazarus
John 11.1-43

[At the Grave]

This is one of the most familiar passages from the New Testament. We find it in John 11; this is a passage you most often hear read at funerals. On such occasions, this story is one of the most solemn and hopeful passages in the Bible.

A. This story from the life of Jesus comes as a witness that what Jesus did for Lazarus, his friend, what Jesus stands ready to do for everyone who walks with him in faith. This is one of the great stories we read at the grave. This is one of the great stories we read when we have reached our wits' end.
When you stand at the grave, or whenever you consider the limits of your own life, you want to hear this story again. It reminds us of the power of Jesus to meet us there with hope and a promise. It reminds us that when the world is finished with us and those who love us can go no further, Jesus Christ is able. Jesus Christ has demonstrated his power over death and the grave. Jesus Christ is the resurrection and he is life.
Imagine Lazarus’ thoughts as he laid on his second deathbed some years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Normal feelings of worry and fear were there in the corners of his soul, no doubt. But he had to have confidence. He knew that Jesus had a power over death like no other. Jesus was “resurrection and life,” and so Lazarus could be sure that he was not going to the grave alone.

B. The danger of reading this great story only at funerals is that it has become for us only a funeral passage. But it is so much more.


[I. Plotline]
By the time we reach the middle of the book, John's Gospel reads like a fast-paced novel.
+In chapter 9, he tells how Jesus healed the man born blind and compounded the offense by doing it on the Sabbath. This led to an investigation by the Pharisees and Jesus' counter-charge that they were spiritually blind.

+In chapter 10, Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd, and uses the image of the Good Shepherd to charge the Jewish leaders with failing to be good shepherds of Israel. This did not sit well with them, of course.

+By the end of chapter 10, matters are so bad between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem that they were actively trying to arrest him.

+To stay out of their hands, Jesus has to withdraw from Jerusalem all the way across the Jordan River to the place where John had been baptizing. Notice the symmetry in Jesus' choice of retreats:
a. Jesus puts himself in the great line of those called by God by going where John was calling people to return in faithfulness to God.
b. This place at the end of his ministry is also the place where Jesus began his ministry when he was baptized by John.

+Now, at the beginning of John 11, Jesus learns that his dear friend, Lazarus, is near death. For the sake of his friend, he must return to the region around Jerusalem. The town where he will visit is called Bethany.

+By the end of chapter 11, the Temple authorities are again planning to arrest him, and more than this, by the end of this chapter they will be planning to put him to death.

We must not read this story in isolation. The lethal tension between Jesus and the Temple authorities shapes the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The way Jesus responds to this tension teaches us what it means for Jesus to go to the cross.

Two hard-to-explain places in the story can be explained by this tension:
1. When Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and should come, Jesus waited a few more days. Clearly, the sisters expected Jesus to come quickly; why did he wait? Well, he waited according to the story so that the glory of God could be shown through the miracle of raising him from the dead. Still, Jesus' delay was very disappointing to them – and to us.
The tension between Jesus and the Temple authorities shapes the story, too. Because the home of Lazarus and his sisters is only an hour's walk from Jerusalem, Jesus had to deal with the threat of arrest. Several times in the gospels, Jesus demonstrates a certain discretion when dealing with hostile authorities; this is consistent with that pattern. In the end, Jesus is caught between the threat of arrest by the authorities and his love for his friends.
2. The whole matter comes to a head in one of the other difficult moments in this story when Jesus finally arrives at the tomb where Lazarus is buried. John tells us:

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping,
he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

Every commentary on the Gospel of John asks: If Jesus knows what he is going to do for Lazarus, why is he distressed? He should confident and calm, but he is not. There he weeps – confirming his love for Lazarus. But, more than demonstrating his love for his friend, I see in this weeping an indication of the toll this visit takes on Jesus. To visit Lazarus' family at such a public time is to tell the authorities that he is close by and could be easily apprehended. POINT: It is a reminder to Jesus that the price of loving those who love him may be his own life. The act of coming to Lazarus shows us the love which took Jesus to the cross – the politics and the hostility of the Jewish leaders or the Romans. It was love for those who loved him that took Jesus to the cross.

3. The question every life-long follower of Jesus must surely ask is whether Jesus makes as much commitment to us as he asks us to make to him. Did Jesus do the "Son of God thing" and count himself finished, with no further responsibility to his followers? Or does he love his own with a love that is willing to be inconvenienced and to be put at risk for others?
• Jesus coming, even though the authorities have promised to arrest him,
• Jesus consoling Martha and Mary,
• and the picture of Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus,
are vivid assurance of Jesus' willing love for those who follow him. That he is willing to love Lazarus and his sisters even at the cost of his own life is strong assurance for every Christian family.

Where did we get the idea that love is for sissies or only for those with the leisure to enjoy it? I see in Jesus' tears at the tomb of Lazarus the same agony that we will see when Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. At that moment it is clear that he holds all the power in heaven and on earth, but exercising that power is not what he has come to do. His purpose is to blind himself in love to those who will love him, hoping that we will see in his love the great love of God. That he has come to raise Lazarus from the grave shows that he is willing to risk absolutely everything to make this one point real.

II. Think back over the conversations Jesus has with Martha and Mary again. When Jesus arrived, Martha came out to him and dealt him a gentle rebuke: "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." She plainly had great faith in Jesus' power and his willingness to heal her brother. Now, Jesus turns the conversation to the faith she has in him:

23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."

In saying this, she has said nothing more than the Pharisees have been teaching for a long time: there will be a resurrection, and Lazarus will rise on that day. She sees God's promise, but it is not personal and it is not connected to Jesus in any special way. So, Jesus presses the point further:

25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Jesus is telling her about himself. And, I guess he is wanting us to listen in on the conversation, too. Of course, faith needs to know Jesus. But, it is not enough that we are basically religious people who hold loving thoughts about needy people. The Christian faith presses us to deal with Jesus of Nazareth.

1. It goes further: it is a reminder that Jesus is both totally God and totally human. For most us, it is easy to believe that Jesus is one or the other.
A. For most of the people who followed Jesus, it was easy for them to believe that Jesus was human. They saw him human every day. They had a harder time believing that he was God.
B. We, on the other hand, have no problem seeing Jesus as God. The problem we have is believing the other side of the fullness -- that Jesus was fully human. The miracles and even the words he spoke have been disconnected from the person Jesus.
He was a historical person who lived and breathed, who ate and slept, who suffered in the full sense of the word on the cross.

2. Too many of us, like Martha, hold the resurrection only as a concept. She understands resurrection as a concept that is long ago and far away. But, resurrection is standing right in front of her in Jesus, whom she can see. He is the resurrection; he is life. This hope now stands so close that she can look into his eyes. This is also Jesus who says, “I and the Father are one.”
You have to understand that this is the great scandal of the Christian faith: We proclaim a God who cannot be captured, a God who has captured the entire universe. God is the Creator. So far so good. But the scandal of the Christian claim is that this great God, whose reach is more vast than the universe took flesh in one particular person -- Jesus Christ

III. Now, there is more. The story of Lazarus is not reserved for the day we die. It is hope in the present-tense for everyone of us who are caught in the patterns and habits of death.

["Hoarders"]
Recently, I was talking with friends about the modern application of this passage. Does it only speak to us at funerals? Does it have any further message for us? Their quick response was: "Yes, have you watched the television series, "Hoarders"? I have heard others talk about the series but I have never sat down to watch even one episode. Their urging: "You have to watch it. It is all about Lazarus being called out of the tomb."
Well, I went home and set the TIVO. Then, because I was in a hurry, I got online and found a website where I could download any episode from whole series. In a few minutes, I was ready to watch.
"Hoarders" is a series about people who hoard everything in their homes or their yards until they create an unhealthy situation for themselves and their families. The program describes hoarding as a psychological disorder – an genuine inability to separate junk from treasure. Or more correctly: the inability to separate themselves from junk.
The episode began with the identification of two hoarders: one a man; the other a woman. Perhaps the city codes enforcement officers helped the TV show to identify these likely subjects. With the camera we go inside the homes and see the piles and piles of rubbish – at least, that is what it looked like to me. In one home, we could not even see the dining table for the rubbish piled up on top of it and under it; it just looked like a pile of trash in the center of the room.
Next a psychologist is brought in to work with the hoarder. They talk about the problem and the personal difficulty in letting go of all this trash. The psychologist makes this a very person-centered problem. It will not be handled with a bulldozer – which would have been my solution.
Now, the cleaning crew arrives. The job is both physical and emotional for everyone involved. They work against the clock; the city codes enforcement officer is coming. They work against the deep resistance of the hoarders to keep what they have.

Now, connect the story of the raising of Lazarus with the story of the Hoarders. Symbolically, the houses on the show have become tombs. They are filled with dead dreams and dead possessions of these hoarders. The filth in the house has created an unsafe living environment for the people living there. The houses were not places of safety and promise; they were places of death.
The sad ending for each of the hoarders came when the result of all this effort was announced. In both cases, the cleanup crews did enough that their homes were not condemned. But, in both cases their lives were not really changed by the cleanup they had done.

This is the place where Jesus' work is more effective. The TV crew and the cleanup crew they hired brought nothing more than a Band Aid to the problem. When Jesus called Lazarus from his tomb, Lazarus was raised to life again.

The promise of Lazarus is that through Jesus we can be raised from all the dead places in our lives. We can be set free from the wrappings of death that surround us. We can be set free for new life by the power of God through Jesus Christ.

Let's take a few minutes to think about the places where death wraps around us like a tomb. Then, remember the promise that, just as Lazarus was called from his tomb, we will also be called from our tombs by the voice of the Master. His voice calls us to new life!





Notes:
1. Buechner, Frederick, Now and Then

September 19, 2010

You Could be Drinking Living Water
John 4.1-42

I have always believed that the story of "Jesus and the Woman at the Well" can only be told properly at a place like a country store. I began my ministry in the edge of the mountains where people would gather in country stores at the end of the day to pick up a few items, to catch up on the news of the day, and to talk things over. The closest town can come to the society of a country store is the regular breakfast crowd at McDonalds or Hardees; Panera Bread is too sophisticated for this kind of community to break out. Even if you are not part of that regular breakfast crowd, you know what I'm talking about because you have seen them on any Saturday morning. People are there for more than groceries or breakfast; they come to talk; they come to listen. In the society of such places, there is a lot of common sense.
In my imagination, followers of Jesus are sitting around a country store when the subject turns to Jesus' call for his followers to tell others the Good News of the Gospel and lead others to faith in Jesus. To use the big word of the church, Jesus called all of his followers to do the work of “evangelism”. Someone in the circle says, "I couldn't do that. I'm not an evangelist like the Preacher. Or, I don't have my life together like... [you fill in the name]." Soon, many heads are nodding in agreement. Leading others to Jesus is surely what Christians are supposed to do, but I could never do that either." And the great call for every Christian to share the Good News will stop right there unless someone can answer this objection.
Now, someone in the circle clears his throat and says, "Listen up; I have a story for you. Maybe it'll help." The storyteller begins to tell the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. He tells about a woman who definitely does not have her life together: she has had five husbands and the one she lives with now is not her husband. She is such an outcast in her own village that she goes to get her water in the heat of the day when the righteous women are busy at home.

On this day, Jesus is traveling through Samaria on his way home to Galilee when he stops to rest by Jacob's well. The woman finds him there without a bucket, and he asks her for a drink. She is sassy and teases him about failing to keep his own Jewish rules about not touching anything that Samaritans have used. And a conversation unfolds between them: about living water, about her life and all those husbands, about real worship, and about her hope to see the Messiah when he comes. Finally, Jesus' disciples arrive from the village; she takes this as her opportunity to escape his penetrating honesty. She runs back to the village and tells everyone, who does not make it a practice to speak to her, "Come see the man who has told me everything I've ever done."

For most of the villagers, their first response to her awkward claim is something like: "I'll bet that took a while." Then she says or maybe asks, "He couldn't possibly be the Messiah, right?" This woman is no Billy Graham. Her life is wreck; her message recalls all the things her neighbors criticize about her. Then, in John 4.39, the result of her "evangelism" is reported:

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word.

Then, the one who is telling the story to those who believe they could never share the Gospel with anyone at all, stops and looks around at all the complainers. The message is clear: If that bawdy, train- wreck of a woman can lead her entire village to Jesus, you can do it, too.//
As the bumper sticker says: "Friends lead friends to Jesus."

[Sally] It was an ordinary workday morning at the church office. I was serving a church in another city at the time. It was located in the old, downtown part of the city – the part most people miss on their way to the marina or the lake or Walmart. This was a church where the staff consisted of one preacher and one part-time secretary named Janie. It was a morning like this one, as I recall. A woman came into the church office with the man with whom she lived, a rather odd-looking couple: She the older one; he was several years the younger. Obviously they were going to ask for a handout. You could see it coming as soon as they stepped through the door.
She introduced herself: "My name is Sally; I'm the ugliest person in the whole city." Her candor took my breath away. To be honest about it, her face was badly disfigured. As she explained it, her Daddy had thrown her out the window of the shack where they lived. The fall left scars and actually changed the shape of her face. But, because her family could not afford a doctor and her mother was too ashamed to explain what happened, she never got medical care. Now, they were poor, and constantly in need of a handout.
Sally was very quick. Her eyes checked out every detail about the office. As soon as she saw the secretary's candy dish, she asked for a peppermint. Then, she went on with her story while her husband listened. Obviously, he never tired of hearing her retell their desperate situation. I recently checked with Janie to make sure I had this story right. She reminded me that Sally told us that day that “she” suffered from “prostate cancer”, and it was inoperable.
They were “local poor” in that they did not travel around; they stayed in our little and made their way as best they could. So many years have passed now that I cannot remember exactly what kind of help Sally asked on that particular day. When their visit was finished, Sally called her husband and they went out. After they were gone, Janie, my Secretary, caught my eye and pointed at her desk. The candy dish had been cleaned out.
It was a pattern that would be repeated many times over the following years. They would come in needy every few months; the situations run together. Over the years that passed, Janie and I got to know them well and actually grew to care for them. And each time they came, Janie would quickly hide the candy dish, lest it be empty by the time they made their way to the door.”


For me, Sally was the personification of the Samaritan Woman. Because of her poverty, her violent past, her questionable marital status, her reputation for picking up anything that wasn't nailed down, and of course, her untreated prostate cancer... she was forced to live on the edges of polite society. I never knew her to hold a job, and she had no marketable skills. Like the Samaritan woman, she was the woman who had to take care of her business when everyone else was busy somewhere else. Like the Samaritan woman, she was the last person I would expect to address and lead our little city. So, every time I read the story from the Bible, I imagine the Samaritan woman's name was Sally, and I can imagine her squirming as Jesus looks deep into her soul.

II. TEXT: The Biblical story begins with a note: Jesus has just learned that the Pharisees have heard: "Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John." So, Jesus responds to this information by hightailing it out of Jerusalem. We tend to pass over such notes; we don't understand the local politics that shaped Jesus' life very well. The irony of the news that Jesus was not welcome in polite company in Jerusalem is that he traveled through Samaria where he met a woman who was herself not welcome in the polite company of the women of her own village.

He and his disciples come to Jacob's well, which is located outside Sychar, a Samaritan village. Jesus sits down to rest while the disciples go into the village for food. We are told that this well is located outside the village; most of the women would use the village well. It is noon, a time when the women did not usually go to get water. The Samaritan woman is making sure that she is getting her water when polite society is not around to criticize.

She comes to the well and discovers Jesus resting there. He asks for a drink of water. And now her sassy tongue gets her into trouble. She assumes he was just another man with his guard down. She didn't know this was the King of Kings she was talking with.
+In ancient times, men did not speak to women in public, not even, I'm told, their own wives.
+In addition, Jewish men would not share vessels in common with Samaritans.

Jesus asked for water, and the Samaritan woman nailed him for his social error: "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" She was pointing out to him that these were his rules, but he was too thirsty to keep them. Score “one” for Sally.

Think about this situation; the Samaritan woman is quite correct; Jesus has committed a social faux pas – one which has been imposed by his own people. He should be scrambling. But, this is Jesus, who theologically must always been in charge of any situation. John cannot tell this any other way. Now, Jesus responds to her.
“If you knew the gift of God,
and who it is that is saying to you,
'Give me a drink,'
you would have asked him,
and he would have given you living water."”

Of course, the Samaritan woman does not immediately get the new direction Jesus is taking this conversation. "What living water?" She thinks he is talking about flowing water such as you would find in a spring or a stream. It is interesting that Jacob's well, where they are talking, works as both a “well”, with water flowing in from the ground, and as a “cistern”, storing rainwater runoff. As such it is not particularly good-tasting water. But, more than that, we know that Jesus is talking about the “living water” of God's indwelling Spirit. She will receive this Living Water through her personal encounter with Jesus.

“He offers an invitation to the woman, an invitation to new knowledge and to transformed life. The onus of responsibility falls on the woman, because Jesus can only offer, he cannot force her to receive. If she accepts the proffered invitation, if she can identify the gift of God and the identity of the one with whom she speaks, then a dramatic role reversal will occur, an unprecedented act of transformation. If she accepts the invitation, the woman will turn to Jesus in vulnerability and need, and he will give to her. She who was asked to give will become the one given to” (1).


III. We also know that Jesus is pointing to baptism, which is the way we act out the bestowing of God's indwelling Spirit. We receive this Living Water through the sacrament of baptism.

Today at Church Street Church, we will see the sacrament of baptism acted out again in the baptism of young Ben. For him and for all of us, it will be one of God's holy moments among us.

For some reason, we, who were baptized as infants, are bothered that we cannot call to memory the moment of our own baptism. But think about it: We are not asked to recall the “event” of our own baptism so much as we are called to remember the “ongoing significance” of our baptism.

“At the beginning of the celebration of the sacrament, the pastor says, "We are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit." To remember our baptism is to recognize its connection with these mighty acts of salvation. These mighty acts are the foundation of our beliefs. Thus, the baptismal covenant can help us in affirming our faith and can provide nourishment for our journey of faith (2).”

[Baptist Preacher Will Campbell] was interviewed in Alive Now! many years ago. He told this story about baptizing his little grandson:
“I baptized my grandson, although it was a very "un-Baptist' baptism. My daughter Bonnie asked me if I would baptize her three year-old son, Harlan, on Christmas. And my daddy was there. At that point, he had been a Baptist deacon for sixty years. And I was afraid. You know, in Baptist circles infant baptism is quite a scandal. Particularly if not by immersion.
So I asked him in deference to him, "Daddy, do you believe in infant baptism?" And he said, "Believe in it? Son, I've actually seen it." That was his way of saying, "Don't be silly! Baptize your grandson!" So we did it at the breakfast table. Harlan got to giggling while were doing this. And when we got finished, he said (he called me, "Papa"), "Papa, what did you put on my head?"
I said, "Water."
And he asked, "Why?"
Bonnie was squirming. She didn't want her three year-old son traumatized by her daddy's horse and buggy theology. But it was a fair question, so I was glad to answer it. I talked about guilt and forgiveness. He said, "What is guilt?" I said, "You know about the big lump you get in your throat when you and your Mama quarrel?"
When I got through with the little homily, he jumped down from the table, wiped the last of the runny egg with his biscuit, and started off toward the door to the television room. Then he came back and grabbed me around the knees, looked up, and, in the throes of a deep down belly laugh, said, "Well, well, Papa. Thank you, then."
And my Daddy looked at me and winked like, "Don't worry about it, it'll do." The rule in Baptist circles says: "You can't be baptized until you have reached the age of accountability." But I've never heard a better response to a sacrament. He gave a “BIG LAUGH” and a “THANK YOU”. If that's not what worship is – just saying 'Thank you' – I don't know what is" (3).”

No one can force us to receive God's Living Water. But, if we accept the proffered invitation, if we can identify the gift of God in baptism, then a dramatic transformation will begin. If we accept the invitation, we will turn to Jesus in vulnerability and need, and he will give to us Living Water. Imagine such a gift! That is the promise of baptism.



Notes:
1. O'Day, Gail. The word Disclosed, quoted in Alive Now!, J/F '94, p. 41.
2. Vogel, Dwight. By Water and the Spirit, quoted in Alive Now!, J/F '94, p. 7.
3. Campbell, Will. "Interview with Will Campbell," Alive Now!, M/J '94, p. 32ff.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 12, 2010 Who's was the Sin?

Whose was the Sin?
John 9.1-11

I. Blindness
A. We don't have many incurable diseases in our day. Even our tough diseases can be managed and controlled so that we can live even as the disease continues. By contrast, in ancient times many diseases were incurable. And there might have been more except that most people didn't live long enough for the modern diseases of old age to develop. Further, many children in ancient times simply did not live to the age of five; childhood diseases took a terrible toll. // One of the conditions that could not be cured in ancient times was *blindness*. As heartbreaking as blindness is for us in this day, it was even more so in the ancient world.

If you saw the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, you remember the scene where the scammers were taking children from the garbage dumps, then blinding them, so they would be more pitiful and more effective beggars on the streets of the city. Such intentional cruelty makes us shudder. The blind of the ancient world were reduced, like the blind in poor countries of the modern world, to begging.

It is no wonder that the story of Jesus healing the man born blind was remembered and cherished in the Gospel according to John. Knowing first hand how terrible blindness can be, our spirits are lifted by the memory that our Jesus had the power and took the time to heal a blindman. What act or miracle could be more life-changing than this?

[B.] As you read the story, the drama leaps off the page. There is the blindman, his parents, his relatives and neighbors. Of course, the Pharisees are the constant bad guys in John's Gospel; they got into the story, too. The event that started the drama was simple enough: Jesus was walking down a street and came upon a man who had been blind from birth. Apparently, the disciples knew about him and called him to Jesus' attention. So, Jesus went to him, and healed him.

Now, the real drama begins.
1. His relatives and the neighbors see the man born blind now healed and start asking about him. It's almost a comedy scene. The healed man is standing right there among them, but his relatives and neighbors keep talking *to each other* but *around* the man. They treat him like he is not even standing there.
"Is this the man who was blind?"
"Blind from birth, really!"
"How about that?"
All the while, the man who has been healed stands in the middle of the crowd repeating, mostly to himself, "I am the man. I was born blind. Now I see." He could have been invisible for all the crowd of people is concerned. They are talking to each other but not to him. I can imagine someone in the crowd running into him, not seeing him. It makes you wonder who is truly blind in this scene.

2. Next, the drama moves to the Pharisees. It is the Sabbath day, you see. They are the keepers of all that is Sabbath. Again, they suffer from a greater blindness than the real blindman suffered. They talk about the Law; they talk about the Sabbath; they talk about the guilty. But, they miss entirely the Good News that a man born blind has been healed by the power of God by the hands of Jesus.

[C.] It is no surprise that this story was symbolically important for the early Christian Church. Tradition holds that this story was read as part of the preparation of new Christians for baptism.

1. The scene where the relatives and neighbors could not understand what happened to the blindman is like the response a new Christian will get from her own relatives and neighbors. A young Christian needs to be prepared for the neighbors to talk.

2. The scene where the pharisees called the blindman to explain what had happened to him are just like the interrogations that new Christians would get from the rulers of the synagogues. A young Christian needs to be prepared to answer the disapproving questions.

3. The continued role of the man born blind, who answers with his own experience, even though he cannot join the big theological debate, is offered as an example to every young Christian. A young Christian needs to know that their own experience is their best answer.

D. At church this morning, we are celebrating Christian Education Sunday. On this day, we affirm the importance of teaching well Christians of all ages.
1. We all need to be ready to answer when we are asked about our faith.
2. We all need to make this faith the powerful force in our lives that God intends it to be.
3. We need to remember that the most powerful explanation of the Christian faith that we can give is simply telling our own experience. Like the man born blind said to the Pharisees when they tried to intimidate him: 25 "I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see."

This story stands as a reminder of the importance of serving as a teacher in the Church School. As teachers,
1. We prepare young Christians to answer for their faith;
2. We prepare our students to think like Christians at the decision points all people encounter;
3. We add to the store of our students' knowledge of God that enriches their living.//

II. The basic question the disciples confronted in the blindman was the one they asked at the beginning:
"Who sinned that this man was born blind?" Did he sin in his mother's womb? OR Did his parents sin and their child's blindness is God's justice meted out? OR did the sin come from some other, totally unexpected quarter?

A. The Pharisees began with the same assumption that the disciples began with: Somebody sinned; there is a price to be paid. They were not sure who sinned, but the blindness is evidence of the BIG SIN, so somebody has to pay. If you begin here, then punishment is the logical result.

This is the same logic that drives the news today:
+Rev. Terry Jones, Pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, like all of us, sees unspeakable acts of terrorism which seem to come from Islamic radicals, so he decides that he should burn the Koran. There is a sin; there should be Punishment.
+The 9/11 terrorists saw America as their enemy, so they laid the plan to fly airliners filled with innocent travelers into the towers of the World Trade Center. That there were people inside those towers of many nations, including their own, and people of many religions inside those towers including their own, did not matter. There was a sin; they should provide the punishment.
The blindness of the man was evidence of the BIG SIN, so somebody has to pay. If he gets healed too easily, then our sense of justice will be violated.

This is the reason Jesus' flagrant healing on the Sabbath is so offensive. He not only took away the punishment, which took away the evidence of the BIG SIN, he did his healing on God's Sabbath. They might have written this healing off as some do-gooder's over-exuberance if Jesus had done this on any other day of the week. But, when Jesus healed the blindman on the Sabbath, he demonstrated that God Almighty didn't have the least interest in punishing anybody and even less interest in revealing the person guilty of the Sin.

Now, you can see why the Pharisees' acted as they did: If he deserved his blindness before Jesus healed him, he still deserved to be blind after Jesus healed him. By saying the healing was not of God, they could narrow the focus to man and his blindness. He must be wrong to claim that God has healed him; shut him down. We have the whole problem in our hands, and as soon as we stifle his claims and restore the punishment, the world will make sense again.

B. In addition: saying that the healing was of God, would open the whole world up to the reality that God is acting in human life. And, if God is acting in human life, then God is acting in ALL human life.

The convenient boundaries by which we make sense of the world are shown to be the toy fences they have always been.
+our prejudices cannot contain the conviction that God is the creator of all peoples;
+our hatreds cannot stifle the great heart of God – which is to love the world so that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him...
+our knowledge about God is proven to be a puny rumor that wilts before the Holy Presence we cannot control.

The power of this story is that it does not leave us at the mercy of the guys holding the argument. From the beginning, we are in on the life-changing truth that God is acting in human life in the hands and the life of Jesus Christ. To know that God was acting in Jesus is assurance for all of us who would follow Jesus. But, much more, to know that God was acting in Jesus presses on us the game-changing vision that God is at work in all of life. God is at work
+in the nursery down at the hospital where our precious babies are being born;
+in the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan;
+in the Preacher Jones' church down in Gainesville, Florida where they are piling up copies of the Koran to burn;
+in the streets of Cairo and Teheran where people are marching in protest.
God is at work in all of life.

1. The place Preacher Jones got off track was in his conclusion that his job as a Christian was to stifle Islam like the Pharisees tried to stifle the blindman's claim.
2. The opposite conclusion that we should just give up and give into Islam would be the same kind of mistake. It would stifle conviction of the blindman that God was moving and at work in human lives like his.
Burning a pile of Korans and burning Preacher Jones in effigy are two sides of the same coin; they are only trying to stifle the bigger truth.

What the world needs is a vision of the future based on the conviction that God is too great to be contained and is at work across this world.
Faith in God through Jesus Christ opens us to see possibilities that we could not see without faith.

[Illus:] Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, said, "A Christian community is a *healing community* not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision (3).

The man born blind, meanwhile, was looking right at it: "Lord, I believe," he said when he laid eyes on Jesus at last. And then he did the only thing that makes sense when you realize that you have been carried into the very presence of God. He worshiped.

There is a wonderful hymn by Frederick Faber, which expresses this conviction beautifully:

There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea.
There's a kindness in God's justice,
which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind. ("There's a Wideness in God's Mercy" UMH-121)





Notes:
3. Nouwen, Henri. The Wounded Healer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 5, 2010 - In the Potter's House

Jeremiah in the Potter's House
Jeremiah 18.1-11

A man came down from the North Carolina mountains. He was all dressed up and carrying his Bible. A friend saw him and asked, "Elias, what's happening? Where are you going all dressed up like that?" Elias said, "I've been hearing about New Orleans. I hear that there is a lot of free-running liquor and a lot of gambling and a lot of real naughty shows." The friend looked him over and said, "But, Elias, if you are going to New Orleans to find all that, why are you carrying your Bible?" And Elias replied, "Well, if it's as good as they say it is, I might stay over until Sunday"


Religion is at the center of the news again – both religion as such and religion as woven into political speech as politicians invoke the name of God to bolster their claims. I started by making a list:
1. The first item on my list is the Glenn Beck rally on August 28. His call to rally Americans on *The Mall* in Washington D.C. attracted 10's of 1000's and maybe 100's of 1000's. It also attracted 10's of 1000's of comments in the many news outlets. As you know, he called for a *Restoring Honor Rally* on the Washington Mall. People I've asked have been more measured in their response – not strongly for or strongly against as I expected.
2. The fact that the "Restoring Honor Rally" was set for the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech from the same spot in which King said, *"I have a dream,"* called up all those memories as well.
3. The focus on religion has continued with the controversy swirling around the Ground Zero Mosque in New York City.
4. The focus on religion has even come home to Tennessee with the construction and vandalism at an Islamic Cultural Center in Murfreesboro.
5. As I was going though the online websites to get the basic facts straight, I ran into an even stranger expression of religion in Oklahoma. A Satanic Church which calls itself "The Four Majesties" has booked the Civic Center in Oklahoma City to hold a ceremony of its own.

This multiplicity of religious faiths making the news is becoming more and more what we find in the U.S.A. When I was young, the main religious questions were asked between the Methodists and the Baptists; we did not realize how close we all were. Now, this multiplicity of religious faiths tests the limits of tolerance; it leaves us confused. After all, if each of these very different faiths claims to hold the truth, then how do we live in a nation which allows each and every one to make that claim?

How does a Christian keep the faith while allowing others to keep their faiths, too?
+If the Christian faith makes ultimate claims about the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then how do we live tolerating other religions which make different claims or even claims that directly challenge the Christian claim?
+If the Christian faith helps us see the world in a particular way with particular values and a particular vision for the future, how do we live alongside other religions which make claims for different values and a different vision for the future?
+Because the Christian faith makes ultimate claims for what is good and right, how do we come to terms with people who use those claims in the service of their politics?

Our faith shapes the way we see the world. How do we live alongside other faiths and other politics that see the world in very different ways?

[TASK:] I set out to sort out these current events that are taking up so much time on our television sets. I thought that any reasonable person, schooled in the ways of God could separate religion from politics, and truth from instigation. Instead, I find myself in a noisy room where everyone seems to be shouting in the direction of everyone else. Even though everyone seems to be shouting, I'm not sure anyone is hearing much. It seems people don't want a dialogue as much as they want to take a position. Before long, I found myself reaching for my own megaphone just to challenge the wave of noise that threatens to drown out my best intentions.

[Poem: I Tend to Shout More]

I tend to shout more,
on days like these
when the cacophony around me rises
blending all shouts into babble
until the point is no longer any point
but just a rising competition to stand over
every other challenger real or presumed.

I tend to shout more,
when truth becomes irrelevant
to the game and the competition,
when comforting the broken frightened ones
now strewn around the battlefield
becomes the foolish concern for sissies,
when kindness is pushed aside
in our headlong drive for power.

I tend to shout more
when words cease to matter
and lose their power to connect,
point and move people and peoples,
when the same words–even hallowed words–
can carry so many different meanings
that my tenderness on hearing hallowed words
is stolen– just another backdoor into my soul.

I tend to shout more
when the noise around me,
claiming the truth, makes me wonder
about my own right to claim anything,
even whether I even have the right to believe
that I am a beloved child of God.

I tend to shout more
when I find myself gripped by fear
that my prayers are not loud enough
or rising high enough.//
When I wonder what God must think of all the noise,
I imagine the Almighty leaning over the threshold of heaven
straining to listen,
but wincing at the noise that drowns out prayer (1).


II. Let us allow Jeremiah's prophecy to teach again what it means to live as people of faith in an increasingly noisy and pluralistic religious scene.
Jeremiah's message comes in fiery words designed to scare the fur off the cat – and wake us up to the Word of God spoken to us and about us. The very next verses following the story of the Potters's House are a sharp condemnation of Israel and its lack of faithfulness:

13 Therefore, thus says the LORD:
Ask among the nations:
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel has done a most horrible thing.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon
leave the crags of Sirion? Of course, not!
15 But my people have forgotten me,
they burn offerings to a delusion;
16 making their land a horror,
a thing to be hissed at forever.
17 Like the wind from the east,
I will scatter them before the enemy.
I will show them my back,
not my face, in the day of their calamity. (Jer 18:13-17) .


Jeremiah challenged Israel because it was rebellious and going its own way. It about to learn the awful truth that the God who blesses can also withhold the blessing. It is about to learn that the God who helps us when we are down also expects us to live up to the Scriptures' call to righteousness and justice and concern for the poor.
1. More than most prophets, Jeremiah challenged Israel to righteousness both personal and national. He called to account those who pray sweet prayers on the Sabbath and then go out to live like heartless tyrants the other 6-days of the week. He called the nation to God's righteousness in its dealings with other nations.

2. Jeremiah spoke in a confusing time in Israel:
+Much like our own when real terrorists are promising that we are the target of their destruction.
+Much like our own when fear about the future makes us pull those dear to us close for comfort.
+ Much like our own time when uncertainty makes us want to join the cheer: "My country right or wrong."

Patriotism makes us savor all things that are right about our county and celebrate them; it makes us want to overlook anything that as wrong is unimportant. But Jeremiah would improve the old cheer:

"Our country, right or wrong.
When right to be kept right;
When wrong to be put right again."

It is not enough to be right by the world's standards. It is not enough to be a hair better than our enemies. It is God's righteousness that is the standard by which we are measured. This is true in our personal conduct, in our business, and in our national life together.

Benjamin Disraeli was England's only Jewish Prime Minster: He said in a campaign speech in 1832: "I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many and the prejudices of the few."


III. If the Christian faith makes ultimate claims about the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then how do we live tolerating other religions now making different claims or even claims that directly challenge the Christian claim? Well, I do not believe that we live well by reducing our faith and that of others to the lowest common denominators – the few things we can agree on so that we do not have to disagree. Faith is about the spice in life, not the source of dullness.

[ILLUS:]
We have treated our Christianity as if it is an embarrassment any time we take it out in public. To make it more acceptable, we water it down to make it appeal to more customers. But, this leads to disaster in our faith. Watered down, it is simply not the real thing. The hot, offensive themes – such as the cross and the blood of Christ – are taken out, and a comfortable, people-pleasing substitute is found. The false gospel may be soothing to the taste, but it is powerless to save. The spicy gospel will always be an offense to sinful humankind.

I believe that the future calls for the kind of tolerance that holds firmly to our distinctive and rigorous Christian faith while choosing to live in peace with those who make other, equally strong, choices. What binds us together as Americans is the freedom to go many ways together. While this will not always be simple or free of conflict, this *many together* approach allows each faith to hold onto its integrity.

[ILLUS:] Years ago, I had a Jewish neighbor. He and his family were very active in their synagogue; they actively practiced their Jewish faith at home also. On Saturday, we would be out doing the chores that guys in the neighborhood would do. At the end of the day, he would often say to me on parting, "Have a good Sabbath." He was obviously, wishing me a good Sunday – my Sabbath, not his.

We must live in our pluralistic world in tolerance and respect for others and their faiths. This means holding our faith as the dear source of life it is for us. It means living openly so that we live out our faith witness to others.

III. As I read Jeremiah's warning, he does not allow much room for compromise or for accommodation with people of other faiths or other politics. His message is evidence that religion speaks of ultimate things: God, eternity, and obedience. The *Ten *Commandments* are written in stone. The interpretation of those commandments may undergo some changes, but the commandments themselves won't be swept away with a simple eraser.

While I appreciate Jeremiah's rigorous simplicity, we live in a multi-world: multi-party, multi-denomination, multi-ethnic. How do we keep faith with Jeremiah's call to rigorous faithfulness to this God who has been revealed in the face of Jesus Christ? How do we keep faith when even those of us who share the same faith cannot always agree on the political and social implications of this faith? God forbid that we should withdraw into privatism, where anyone can believe anything they like as long as they keep it to themselves. This great faith, which shapes us, still sends us into the public arena to give voice to our convictions.//

I answer this at the Table. I come to the Lord's Table to receive and to be fed. To kneel at this table is to be shaped in the image of Christ: convictions, loyalties, hopes, dreams of God's future. I believe that the God who has revealed himself in the face of Jesus has dealt with me, and I must respond. As legend quotes Martin Luther: "Here I stand; I can do no other." Now shaped, now claimed, we step forward into the noisy, competing world – there to bear witness, there to live as an example, there to stand and work as God's person.

Come to the Table–to be fed at the Lord's hand is to know that you take God with you wherever you go.



Notes:
1. AF, September 1, 2010
3. "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" (The Declaration of Independence).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August 29, 2010 - Living as Long as Life Lasts

Living as Long as Life Lasts
Luke 16.19-31 "The Rich Man and Lazarus"

I. I have always been fascinated with the fact that insurance companies can calculate how long we will live. They do it to figure out how much to charge us for life insurance. That has always struck me as a grim calculation to make about anyone, so for years I refused to take their tests. Then, I had a different thought: now I like to take their test on-line so I can figure out ways to beat their system.
Northwestern Mutual Life, AARP, and others offer these life expectancy calculators; so I recently took the test again.

Illus: The Longevity Game!
The banner across the top of the screen said: "Welcome to the Longevity Game! See how your lifestyle can affect you in the years to come by answering just 12 quick questions."
Age? - You can’t change that!
Gender? Women get points/men lose points. Again, you can’t change that.
Blood Pressure - I ran down to the drugstore to get a new reading.
Height and Weight - It suggested a bit less weight would be helpful.
Family History of heart disease? - No.
Exercise – well, do you?
Is your life stressful – yes; isn't everyone's life stressful these days?
Driving/Motor vehicle accidents - none in last few years.
Seatbelt - yes.
Smoking - No
Do you use illegal drugs? After paying for prescriptions, who can afford illegal drugs?

AF - Bottom line 88 or 96 depending on which test you take.
Just for fun I took it for an elderly old saint in the church: life expectancy: 111
I also took it for my niece who is in preschool: life expectancy: 96

The life insurance company can figure out when “on average” you and I are going to die. They use their estimate of your life expectancy to figure out how much to charge for life insurance. They have to be good at this; otherwise they won’t stay in business.
But, I’m a preacher, and I’m not so interested in when you and I are going to die as I am in how to live for as long as life lasts. What is your focus? How long until you die? Or how to live for as long as life lasts? It is a very important question.

I. TEXT 19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

There was a rich man. There was a poor man. The story begins by offering us a list of characters. No detail is offered about their church membership; nothing about their character, or their faithfulness to their wives. It does not tell us whether their children loved them or whether they doted on their grandchildren. There was one rich man and one poor man.
The poor man was so sick that he was covered with sores, and he was so hungry that he longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table. The final insult to his dignity was that even the dogs would come and lick his sores. Perhaps he was just too weak to push the dogs away.
The only relationship between these two men comes from the poor man's desire to eat the crusts of bread which fell from the rich man's table. Whether they have ever met or knew each other's names is not shared with us. Whether the rich man even knows about the poor man, Lazarus, is not shared with us in this setting of the story. It appears there was no real connection between them.
APPLIC: This is true of our lives, as well, isn't it? We see ourselves as rich or poor or middle. It is a label we put on ourselves and on others. It describes our state, just as we use similar words to describe the state of the others we see around us. As we pass along and we make the quick judgment. We don't have to know their names; it's better not to, after all. We just keep a bit of distance between us. Why would we want to keep our distance?

First, we keep our distance so we can we avoid the trap of measuring ourselves against others. We cannot stand to agonize that some are better off and we are less – any more than we can stand to worry that some are less well off than we are. If we start comparing ourselves with others, we can wear ourselves out. So, we just note our observation.

Secondly, we keep our distance so we can make sense of what we see. Human nature is to provide some reason for what is happening around us.
+One family never did know how to work.
+Another family has always had money.
+Over here, these got caught in the Great Recession of 2008.
+She lost her job and then lost her house.
Even on hearing the beginning of this story, we are already imagining possible reasons the rich man was rich and the poor man, Lazarus, was poor.

And thirdly, if our assumptions are holding, then maybe this is the way things are supposed to be. Maybe things have been hard for everyone, and they just couldn't recover. Maybe the poor deserve to be poor. Somebody has to be that way. Maybe even God ordained it this way – like gravity, like the reason the sky is blue.// The best part of believing that there is a reason for someone else's poverty or misfortune is that we are off the hook. If the reason has nothing to do with us, then there is no reason for us to get involved. There is no reason for our consciences to get stirred up at the sight.

Jesus began the story by telling us that there was a rich man and there was a poor man. So far there is no reason for us to do anything about it except to take in the facts as he offers them. Maybe the story will take us someplace else, but so far, all he has offered us are the facts of the case.

II. TEXT 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

Well, the unexpected happens. The poor man, who appeared to be punished by God everyday of his terrible life, is transported to heaven where he rests in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man, who appeared to be blessed by God everyday of his life, finds himself in Hades, where he suffers torment.

This is a logical problem for faith. If what God judges about us after we die is the truth about us, then why is this life not consistent with God's judgement, too? It's funny:
+Those who have blessings in this life, want to believe that God's judgment about us shows clearly in this life.
+Those who suffer in this life want to believe that God's judgment about us will only show clearly in the next life.
Who is correct? The caution offered by Jesus is that our blessings and sufferings in this life can be a very poor indicator of what lies ahead of us in eternity.

The rich man called out:
24 He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

We keep trying to make sense of it all. We keep trying to see the pattern or figure out the secret. Blessings in this life are supposed to suggest that we are blessed. Sufferings in this life are supposed to mean that we are condemned, right? We are almost desperate to make it work. How else can we rest assured that our lives are working? How else can we be sure that we have reasons to give thanks?
So, what is the task of faith? We assume that we understand but maybe we don't. Faith is both robust in its power to reshape our lives and fragile in its refusal to provide measurable guarantees.

John Wesley spoke of his "Aldersgate experience" of May 24, 1738, at a meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, in which he heard a reading of Martin Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, and wrote the famous lines "I felt my heart strangely warmed." Just that; but nothing you can measure.

As the Letter to the Hebrews says in the 11th chapter:
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible (Hebrews 11:1-3 NRSV).

Rather than guarantees that God's will and judgment are clearly marked with payoffs, this parable cautions us that God's will and judgment are often hidden from the human eye. Christ goes to great pains to teach us:
+to look with compassion and tenderness toward the poor; their suffering is not an indication of God’s displeasure – but an indication of God's call upon us;
+to look at the lives of others without judgment; we cannot measure the heart as God can;
+to be more watchful of our own motives and actions than we are of the motives and actions of others. God does not grade on the curve; God grades on the standard of His righteousness.

The Christian life is not measured in riches received for faithfulness given. The Christian life is measured in faithfulness to God through Christ – faithfulness that watches patiently and works for the Kingdom of God to come in all its fullness. WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN ORDER TO GET WHAT WE WANT; WE BELIEVE SO THAT WE CAN HEAR THE CALL OF GOD UPON US MORE CLEARLY.

APPLIC: This is the reason church asks us to give of ourselves and our treasure. The church becomes the focus point of our faith:
+the place where we work together with others for the kingdom that God already sees;
+the place where we practice what it means to be faithful to God;
+the place where we imagine together the world that God already sees.
We believe so that we can hear the call of God upon us more clearly. Imagine a church where everyone hears and responds to the call of God with joyful service.

IV. TEXT: Now comes the saddest part of Jesus’ story:
27 He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- 28 for I have five brothers--that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' 29 Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' 30 He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Now seeing, the rich man does think about his brothers. He wants to warn them; he does not want them to suffer as he is doing. But, Abraham replies, “No.” They have Moses and the prophets.

A. As Moses wrote in the Book of Deuteronomy 15.7:
7 If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.

B. As Isaiah the Prophet wrote in Isaiah 58.6-7:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7 NRSV)

Abraham told the rich man, "Those brothers of yours have Moses and the prophets." And now, so do we. We have the scriptures to teach us how to live, how to treat one another, how to walk in faith.

George Buttrick cautioned that important as it is to share food, the parable is about an even deeper and more pervasive attitude of neighborliness toward others. “The story offers no support to the glib assumption that the rich man would have fulfilled all duty had he dressed Lazarus’ sores and fed his hunger. True charity is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not spasmodic or superficial. Food and medicine are necessary, but there is a more fundamental neighborliness. Fundamental neighborliness is the barometer of the soul, an indication of the attitude of one's heart that is prized in the sight of God (1).

Faith comes through hearing the Good News of God proclaimed. They have heard; will the five brothers believe that God has another way for us to live and change? Now, more to the point, if we hear the Good News of Jesus, will we respond with Christ-like living? Will we put away the ways of the world and chose the way of Christ? This is the challenge of this parable.

CONCL:
The message of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is that the response to hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ has two inseparable parts:
(1) faith in God and
(2) charity toward your neighbor.
Both are included; both are important to God. This parable is addressed to those of us already in the church, those of us who are already washed, baptized, confirmed, and regular on Sunday morning. We say we believe in God and trust in Christ for our salvation. Now, allow faith in God to open our eyes to our neighbors. Allow our faith in God to give us the hearts God would give us.


Notes:
1. Buttrick, George A. The Parables of Jesus, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1928, p. 143.
2. Bakker, Jim. "The Re-education of Jim Bakker," Christianity Today, Dec 7, 1998.