Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [NRSA]
Jesus Moves Toward Us
In the 21st century world things progress more rapidly that we can comprehend. In the field of technology there is the suggested Mohr’s law that progress changes exponentially every two years. But we are quickly approaching a subatomic limitation for our devices and machines to get any faster or any smaller. With switches in microprocessors approaching single digit nanometer we assume that there is a finite limitation that will halt progress. But as with every unimaginable breakthrough comes the new medium and new energy source that turns the old technology on its head and we are seeing a near endless progression in the advancement of things.
The new Apple Mac Computer, fully loaded from the factory comes in at $54K if you add the keyboard and mouse that are not included. And on the day of its delivery to customers there are much faster and much cheaper machines being sold. All this chaotic pace of change is to ask an old fashioned question.
Is it necessary or even helpful to apply the model of progress, change, advancement and efficiency to the words, concepts and power of our faith?
People have been finding their way to the very heart of God through Jesus Christ for over 2000 years. Did it take the followers back then any longer to give their hearts to Christ?
Did it require any special technology to have find access to the teaching of Jesus?
Did it call for specialized agents, teachers, and tools to feed the sick, give drink to the thirst, befriend the forgotten, care for the widow, orphan, and stranger?
Did the words of Jesus hold less power then than they do know for all our advancement in biblical study and theological reflections?
Does Context Matter?
I would say in the past 35 years of my theological study, 8 years spent in direct research and study at seminaries, hundreds bible studies, over 3,600 sermons prepared and delivered, I would say a great deal of influence from the academic world has pressed hard for preachers to understand, appreciate and value the fluid contexts in which we serve and work. But I have begun to question part of this teaching.
What does it mean for Jesus, the son of God, Jesus the Christ, God who empties himself of his immortality, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his multidimensional comfort in the realms of heaven and be born, go through puberty, deal with family and community, be confronted with institutions, religions, authorities and powers physical and spiritual so that we could see and know God more clearly?
It means that God values us, you and me, and everyone out ‘there’ enough to enter our context, so that we could know God’s context in our lives.
I believe we have had a great deal backwards. We are not called to soften, entertain, or make God’s call, expectations and invitation any less or any different now than when, he first revealed himself.
But we live in a world of Thomas-es who want to touch, see, feel, experience for ourselves. We don’t want to take someone else’s word, especially if it is old, outdated, and not in our own context.
That is somewhat like saying if only Jesus were Chocolate-chip-mint Ice cream. That is my favorite flavor and if God would see fit ‘himself’ into my container, context, understanding, limitations, then I would be more likely to believe or trust.
So while it is vital for Jesus to come to our Context, God has no need to be as fickle and flexible as our attention deficiencies.
We are comfortable in our Slavery
Slavery: There are people who are treated as slaves in this world.. not because of the color of their skin, but for a lack of education, power, influence, and a disbelief that slavery exists in our context.
Workers who make pennies a day, make it possible for so many of our products to be inexpensive deals. The next time we purchase something think about the salary, working conditions and benefits you would want to receive for making those items and remember the bulk of the profits are in transportation, stockholders, taxes and tariffs.
China workers, Africans working in African for Chinese government funded projects. Labor given to build infrastructure in lands that are not part of China, but are taken advantage.
We are being made slaves of political division.
Women and girls in human trafficking.
We are called to be free from slavery. We are called to set the captive free. We are called to celebrate liberty in every nation.
Our question for Context and many forms of Slavery, are no Match for..
The Power of Fear
God come to show us his heart and word. He gives us the power of the Spirit and the gift of Salvation through his sacrifice so that none of us live in fear.
And yet.. we all know some fear.
Fear of death and dying.. Even though we know that God has made a way to him and fear is no longer and end, but rather a doorway closer.
Fear of a new place, a new school, a new job or home.
Or fear of no place, no job or no home.
Fear that what we have known to be safe and dependable is being shaken and changed,
Or a fear of having to replace comfort with confirmation of our faith and trust in Christ.
I know that my grandmother feared the day they would close her church, Wesley Chapel, the fourth church on a charge of churches in the South Georgia conference of the UMC. She saw the number drop from over a hundred, to the twenties, to 12, to 9, and at the point it was three, despite paying the apportionments and salary portion herself, she felt like it was her responsibility to keep the doors open. But that is just the thing. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us to keep the doors unlocked, he lives in us so that we will walk through those doors and make disciples of the world who find their home in Christ just as we have done.
The Fear we face this year: Are we upholding memories or upholding the folks who don’t know they are sinners like us, who want church to be their convenient favorite flavor and song and style,
So What Are We To Do?
The heart of this passage asking us to show by our trust and faithfulness. Are we fans of evil that is comfortable, easy and popular or are we committed to a more difficult path?
Are we here to be served, taken care of and made to feel safe from a world that has little respect of hope for us?
Are we here to be witness of fear, timid-ness, and doubt or
Are we the those whom Christ has called, challenged, empowered and standing strong as we go into the world for the sake of Jesus Christ?
I say any other choice is our defeat.
Hold up this measuring rod for one another: Am I being tested in my faith? In my witness? In my service? If so, we have to encourage one another and not divide one another
If not, we are call to receive Christ anew, to hear his call, to claim and reclaim the challenge, and to be steadfast in God’s work through us.
Alone I will fail, Together in Christ we can endure all things. Be strong in prayer, strong in worship, strong in loving and forgiving, strong with encouragement, strong in listening and studying God’s word. Strong in singing and being the presence of Christ right now.