Archive for February, 2019
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” [NRSV]
Have you read this as the way God loves us?
This is where we learn how awesome God’s Love is all about
- God listens to us
- Give loves when we don’t,
- God loves when hate
- God blesses when we are not deserving
- God speaks to us when we ignore God
- God expects to be attacked
- God expects to loose more to reach us
- God expects to be asked for help
- God is willing to sacrificed for us
- God treat us the way God Hopes we will treat others
- God expects loving to be difficult
- God expect to help and not be helped,
- God judges and loves us anyway
- God forgives first
This love becomes the example for us
Those who love:
- Listen to Christ
- Love enemies,
- Do good for those who hate
- Bless those who judge you
- Pray for your abuser
- Expect to be attacked
- Expect to loose your coat and shirt
- Expect to be asked to help
- Expect to loose your stuff
- Treat others who you’d like to be treated in their situation
- Expect love to be difficult
- Expect to help and not be helped
The most impossible list.
We fail miserably!
What do we do when we have not loved as God loves?
This is where we learn how awesome God’s Love is all about
“God have mercy on me a sinner” is our best defense and starting place.
Start the day praying this prayer at the beginning, end and middle of everyday.
Love through me because on my own I cannot love. “I” can’t do it
But God can through us.
Jesus, Love me
He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. [NRSV]
Woe to you who are Blessed, Blessed are those who are without.
Contrasting Matthew’s account of the Be-attitudes and Luke’s account as blessings and woes we have the differences of spiritual deprivation and material want.
So here Luke recounts a message of warning about faith. Rather heading this as a prescription list of do’s and don’ts, we have almost the punchline of a parable.
This seesaw of woe and bless is a lesson and warning to be people of faith and trust in Christ.
Quite simply, those who are hungry and thirsty have a different perspective on where to turn for wholeness or fullness. If you have nothing it is easier to see that what you need most is not something you can satisfy or supply yourself.
Those who are hungry are at a place of not being able to satisfy them selves and they know their own emptiness.
Remove your assumptions about political agenda about poverty as this is not spiritual word for governments it is directed toward disciples.
Disciples need to be asked where do you find your hunger a d thirst for want satisfied? In food? Drink? Wealth? Social position? Social identity?
If we who are spiritually empty going to attempt to fill our body’s will we find blessing? Is it temporary or eternal?
There is more:
In addition to physical needs Jesus places our emotions in the cross hairs
Woe to those who remain an emotional mess when Jesus is offering hope, peace and community.
If we are weeping from grief, jealousy or envy where will we find peace?
Are we look around and listen there is no shortage of weeping, hatred and exclusion. The remedy is not simply to toughen up, ignore those who persecute us and make our own group of like-minded films t comfort us. These are the world solutions.
Jesus is offering himself to the disciples first so that we may offer Christ to the world.
The core operation of the church is not to get people to confess Jesus. While that can be a measure of a starting point, Jesus is blessing the trust that follows belief.
- Do you trust Jesus or your money
- Do you depend on the worlds approval or being included in the kingdom
- Do you think you can have your cake and the kingdom too
These woes are are not to the casual one who overheard the Gospel or those who received healing or feeding in the crowds.
Jesus is asking us as disciples:
- how is God feeding you?
- What do you thirst for, is it spiritual or physical
- Are your emotions guiding your mind or is the Holy Spirit
- Which s you value more belonging to the crowd or the party or the popularity the world attempts to offer or is Jesus enough
Woe to us if we are fooling ourselves.
We might convince ourselves but the world see through us
Are we expecting someone to spoon feed us or are we working to be fed through word, service, witness, worship, etc.
We are likely to prefer Matthews. Be-Attitudes to Luke’s woes because the warning is to us as believers more than it is to the world.
Jesus’s wors are to disciples AND the crowds, and the world
A Word and Witness to the World
The reason Jesus starts with disciples getting right side up is that we are sent to witness and encourage the rest of the world
What does the church have to offer a world that is divided, hurting and addicted to social media?
We are called to be a community of sinners seeking Christ as our strength and promise.
The blessing comes AS we share the journey.
It’s not that we perfect the life and then go out. That’s impossible.
But if we only eat and never feed we are not blessed, we are poor
If we satisfy ourselves and our neighbors thirst, weeps, is hated, or ignored then neither of us are blessed
The world says that money and politics and ideology are our blessing
Jesus says woe to those who hunger and thirst when those change, fail and go against the kingdom.
There is a challenge to take the discoveries of the 21st century and learn to relate the powerful blessing of Christ that are timeless. Much of the modern world’s theology is post-modern. A crazy term. I think the shorts definition is that so many believe they have outgrown religious life and are satisfied looking for fulfillment elsewhere.
If we are not strong in faith ourselves we have nothing to share with a world that has move past what it never found, trusted or resolved.
The debate splitting the denomination is evidence that the faithful lack a handle on being grounded in Christ, if we were we would not have been dragging our feet for forty four years on the same debate. It is our calling to place our trust in Christ and proclaim what we hold true by faith.
Share the blessing by sharing the journey, Christ in your heart and you heart given to those who hunger, thirst, weep and search for the heart of Christ through you.
Otherwise Jesus would have never needed disciples, that just how Christ works.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]
These verses are the definitive description of the extremes and expressions of love. Love is indeed the greater power. Love is the great gift. It is freely give, but requires all things to be fully experienced and shared. To be loved takes no effort on our part as the recipient. Yet, it means the most to make good on its reality.
What or Who do you love?
To love a thing, or an idea, or a goal, or a dream, is an impossible investment of love. To say I love donuts, mashed potatoes or country-fried steak may reveal a passion for carbohydrates, but these items will never return love to me.
I can more appropriately say I extremely enjoy the taste, experience of flavor of these items but to love them is to invest in something that can never return love, which will ultimately lead to an emptiness when the temporary fullness passes.
To say that I love my job, my house, my car or my hobbies is also a misinformed valuation. These treasures surely provide, means, space, access and interest in my life, but they will never have the capacity to complete the circuit of love I might try to bestow.
More than semantics, Love should be reserved and invested in persons and relationships that have the potential to love.
God loves us.
What does it say about US and about God, that God loves us enough to trade God’s-self for us on the cross?
God does no see us a objects in creation. We are more than bird, tree, day, night, snow days, or sunshine.
You are my Sunshine.. as important as sunshine is for light, warmth and vitamin D. The sun does not love us knows nothing of us although we depend on it continually. It is not the source of our being loved, but it is a gift from the one who does love us.
The Son, for love
God loves us enough to exchange our inability to return love, so we can love. Our society has doubled-down on being able to so definitely define and determine and self-declare every detail, label and category except for the most stubborn of them all: for example..
Every human that has ever lived has failed to be loving, kind and worthy of the existence we have been born into. Even those in the most deplorable of conditions has value, chromosomes, living and multiplying cells of possibility that are not self-willed into being.
We are born into a world filled with every example of those who precede us with some level of brokenness, self-focused not compassionate moments, some more than others, and some we assume are continually so bent.
I have yet to have business card printed that state my name and underneath that name says sinner.
John Thomas Brantley: Sinner
I profess to this be true and claim it in my daily prayers, but I don’t introduce myself this way. Before I met Wendy, a host of friends, family and church members set me up with people to date. (Worst were those who had dreamed of being a pastor’s wife, yikes!) I finally printed up a card that came closest to the plain “Sinner” card.
On the front it listed in 30 words the reason I would be a good, safe and decent person to spend time with. One the back of the card we 30 word of confessions what to expect when I was not presenting my front side. I presented this card two four women at the end of the first date. Two of them never called back. One called back to ask for a copy because they lost it and wanted to show their friend, but was not interested in a second date. Wendy met for the lunch two days later.
The old tourism catch-phrase from the Virginia board of Tourism stated: VA is for <heart/emoji>. Imagine the bumper sticker from God that reads: “Life with God is for “Sinners” with an emoji of our own face.” We don’t like to see ourselves as such. And if we do we spiral in depression and self-hate which is not the purpose of acknowledging our trouble with loving God.
I have trouble love God and Loving my neighbors.
If I love my neighbors it is typically because they are easy to love and we share things in common. If my neighbor is very different I tend to be cautious and hesitant until we find some common ground. Our common ground with all humanity is that we all have moments where we love ourselves more than we love God or our neighbors and some of us have more times we don’t love even ourselves.
Most of this we probably know in our heads.
The church, the governed, our neighbors and even our families are begging to be loved, valued, included, shown compassion, taught what is meaningful, corrected when we are lost, listened to, trusted, and the like.
The admonition from Paul to the church to model loving one another in the ways we find God loving us:
- Don’t talk about love and not actually love.
- Don’t talk about your expertise becase your not always perfect.
- You may know I love, but do you know those who need love around you?
- You are a person of faith but others are watching when we don’t model faithful speaking and acting.
- Don’t let our stuff and wanting stuff get in the way of actually loving others.
Ask some to be totally honest and ask all these each day:A
- Am I patient with you others around me?
- Do you experience kindness from me?
- Am I jealous?
- Do I look out for what’s good for me before others?
- Am I as wonderful as I think I am?
- Have you seen me be arrogant?
- When was the last time you saw me treating someone rudely?
- Is it my way or the highway?
- What do I sound like when I’m irritable?
- Do I cheer when my enemies get what’s coming to them?
- Do I celebrate when God shows up?
- Does my faith show in all things?
- Am I always hopeful?
- Am I committed to see our relationship through the hardest things and times?
That is a heck of a check-list.. This makes it easier to simply claim the business card and acknowledge, Yes, Lord! Have mercy on me a sinner!
Here the Good News: God loves us while we are still sinning.
God doesn’t want us to keep living in these broken ways, but that does not stop God from loving us. God does not give up!
Who in your life needs to hear these words? Who in your areas of influence needs to see God showing love through you to them?
The best marker in journey of learning to love are the moments we love like an adult loves. A child loves because she or he needs. And adult loves not only from the point of need, but also because we know that self-love is never enough. We need God’s help. We need the power of God’s Spirit surging through us, because our Sinner List of when we are not loving shows we have the capacity to try, but not the frequency to make it through.
Loving in the Mirror
If we look in the mirror and see only our own reflection we will fail. The task it to seek God through us.. and we will love for ever.
The Greatest thing is the hardest.
You can do it, in Christ!
Come to the table, and start allowing God’s love to shine through you afresh and anew.