These times we live in are hard. They are filled with hate and violence, and the recent events of Ferguson embody that in everyway. Regardless of racism, the death of Micheal Brown is a tragedy, most of all for Officer Wilson. Yes, there are hateful people in the world, but to take a life is a burden I do not wish to bear. For those of you who avoid the news, 18 year old Micheal Brown (black) was shot during an altercation with police officer Darrell Wilson (white). The grand Jury, after reviewing all of the evidence decided that Wilson was acting within the law. But what are we, a small church in Northern Appalachia supposed to do about something that, unfortunately is a common occurence in metropolitan areas, and in the long run will likely not affect us? The deeper problem is a matter of the heart, not the skin. Us human beings are sinful people, dead in ourselves (apart from Christ) and many living while running away from the only salvation available. The riots are not about race, they're about hate. They're about the injustice shown towards non white people by white people in uniforms, and it breaks my heart. We have been shown the greatest mercy possible, and we let the world around us continue living without it. Shame on us! I ask again, what can we do about the rioting across the nation?
First and foremost, we need to evaluate our hearts. Are we knowing deep down that this is all apart from God? If I, a sinful man feel heartbreak for those i do not know, how much more heartbreak is Abba feeling, that has no sin and loves perfectly? We must know in our hearts the compassion that Christ had for us, and in turn show it to those who need it most.
Secondly: We have to tell the world about how our Holy Father sees these events. He is in agony over the hate towards each other and wants nothing more than his people (THATS US) to go tell them he feels this way. We, as Christians in Gallia County need to go out into our own communities and tell them about how King Jesus feels about this. We have been given a wonderful, universal platform to witness with! Everyone is talking about these events. Therefore you have been given many opportunities to tell about our Savior! What have we to lose? An argument? Whoopty doo. That is minimal risk compared to telling someone that Christ is the most loving and perfect being in the universe and he specifically saved each and every one of us from an eternity is hell.
Lastly, i would advise all of our churches to come together, to hold meetings of prayer, lifting up His church so that the holy spirit will guide us in these times and the times to come. These are not the only bad events to occur, and there will be more to come i am sure. But let us be vigilant with our prayer. Pray together, as churches and as God's Church for the hurt people of Ferguson and all of the people across the globe that Christ loves so much.
Mark 5:1-20 show us this, that Christ has done a good work in our lives and we should go tell about his work for us.
Good news is here! Washington Elementary School in Gallipolis has donated 4 large car loads (one pictured below) to Grace United Methodist Church to be redistributed in a Food Pantry to those needy. GUMC has been experiencing a large amount of success with the food pantry, reaching out to over 100 different families every month. When supplies went low God answered our prayers with the generosity of the youth in our community. God Bless Washington Elementary for their kindness to those who are hungry! Pictured below is one class that helped donate so much food!
St. Augustine once said, "We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!"
A few weeks after the Boston bombing, the Texas explosion, the horrific Gosnell trial, and whatever else has tried us in the last few days, it becomes easy to forget about Easter that we celebrated a few weeks ago. When tragedy strikes, we often watch the news anxiously for the next detail to come to light: who was it? why did they do it? are they going to catch them? As we continue to watch the coverage, we begin to despair over the condition of our world. We believe that things are falling apart, that the end may be near.
Things may be falling apart, and the end could be near. Or it could be another 10,000 years. Either way, our job as Christians live everyday in light of the Resurrection. To live as though Jesus really did rise from the dead. Our God has brought Jesus through the worst pain that the world has to offer, through death, and then to new life again.
We don't stick our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong. Nor do we throw our hands in air, giving in to the world's message of gloom and despair. No, we must call to mind once again, that Christ has risen from the dead, and we are raised with him. And as people of the new creation, God has place us here to live out the resurrection life.
God has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. Often what is reported in the media doesn't affect us directly, and we cannot change what happens in the world around us. But we can change how we interact with the people we come in contact with. We can help our neighbors. We can encourage our families. We can teach our children the gospel, and the Jesus inspired morality the springs from it, including the sanctity of every human life. We can live new life through power of the resurrection.
This is the Easter season, and we are the Easter people! Alleluia is our Song!
Related: Why we need Christmas more than Ever
Its been nearly two weeks since Resurrection Sunday, but according to the traditional church calendar, it is only the second week of a seven week Easter Season. This season is a time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, new life, and new creation. It is no coincidence that this period on the Church calendar occurs during the time of the year where we see nature come to life. Just this week, we have seen beautiful sunny skies, the Dogwood and Bradford pear trees bloom and the grass getting greener - and taller.
It is Spring. The cold gives way to warmth. The ground is broken up and readied for planting. Dormant seeds come alive.
And Christ is risen. Alleluia! The Lord is Risen Indeed!
Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree - so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles....."
What is this curse of the law the writer is talking about? Back in Deuteronomy chapter 28 Moses tells Israel that they will receive blessings for obeying the law, and curse for disobeying the law. For obeying the law, God would bring blessings of fruitful labor, prosperity, and peace. The first fourteen verse of the chapter is a picture of human flourishing: blessings of children, livestock, and land.
The next fifty-three verses of curses is a dark portrait of human anguishing. God would curse their labor and their livestock, and cause them to be defeated by their enemies. They would "grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness". They would become a "horror, a proverb, and a byword" among the peoples of the earth. In other words, they would become an object of ridicule and scorn. Verses 65 - 67 sum it up: "The Lord will give you a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, 'if only it were evening!' and at evening you shall say, 'if only it were morning!' because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see."
This is the curse of the law. The curse that Israel deserved, because they did not obey the law. The same law which Jesus said could be summed up in two commands: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." We also have failed to obey this law. And as a result, we deserve the curses. When we fail to love God, our very source of life, we no longer deserve to flourish as living human beings. We deserve the anguish any living being goes through when it is cut off from its source of life.
Yet, Christ become a curse for Israel and for us on that Friday long ago. He was cursed. His labor of love and healing was rejected by the people. He was tortured by his enemies and nailed to a tree (a curse in and of itself according to Jewish law - see the Galatians verse above). He became an object of ridicule among both the Jews and Gentiles. He bore the curse, so that we might receive the blessing.
Our sin is bad not so much because we break a list of rules, but because we misrepresent our Creator. As humans we were created to bear the image of God and to take dominion over the earth for God (Genesis 1:26). As image bearers of our creator, we are called to reflect God's goodness to the rest of creation. As dominion takers, we are given the job of maintaining and cultivating planet earth for the glory of God.
However, we were not content to be God's image bearers. We often want to bear our own image - to glorify ourselves. This is known as pride. And instead of taking dominion for God, we tend to take dominion for ourselves. This is the scandal of our sin: We created to bear God's image, and we have tarnished that image. Because of our sin, we misrepresent God's goodness. Further, we were created to be stewards of his creation as dominion takers for God, and we have twisted this calling to be dominion takers for ourselves.
Fortunately God came to earth to restore us to be his image bearers. The New Testament says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Christ came to be what we could not be: the perfect image bearer of God. And through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ - and the power of the Holy Spirit - God is making us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). In Christ, we are restored to be the image bearers of God.
In my last post, I referenced the story of the self-righteous Pharisee and the penitent tax collector. The Pharisee attempted to hide his self-righteous disdain for other sinners behind a veil of gratitude for his own supposed godliness. He was quite happy to report to God that he was not "like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." Yet, by the end of his prayer of thanks, it is quite clear that he is no much grateful as he is ignorant of God's own law - the very thing that he takes pride in keeping. He had forgotten what Jesus called the two greatest commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind....and...you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
These weren't just Jesus' new ideas - these were actual Old Testament commands. However, Jesus does take them farther than anyone ever had before, saying, "on these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Maybe if the Pharisee had remembered that his first duty was to love God with all of his being, he would have immediately recognized that he had fallen way short, and his prayer of thanks might have actually been a prayer of repentance. But, because he saw no sin in himself, he saw no need for the God who is fully of mercy, abounding in steadfast love, and ready to forgive. And if you don't know this God, you just don't know God.
Perhaps he should have prayed this old prayer of the Church:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
"He (Jesus) also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” - Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)
Before God, we are all miserable sinners. The only difference is that some acknowledge this and plead for nothing but mercy. Others thank God that they are not the same kind of sinner as their neighbor. The Pharisee in this story thinks that because he has not committed the obvious taboo sins of his culture, he is fine. Even more he fasts regularly and tithes on everything. All good thing things. Yet, he forgot about the one sin that leads to all others: Pride.
It was pride that caused the fall in Eden and it is pride that causes my fall and yours today. We compare ourselves with others, seeking to justify ourselves in the sight of God and men. To do this, we must paint a very bleak picture of our neighbors' morality, and a very charming portrait of our own goodness. In highlighting our goodness and focusing on others' failures, we become self-deluded, thinking that our sins are trivial. We begin to see no need for repentance and mercy, only "thankfulness" that we are not like those we hold in contempt.
The remedy for us is humble repentance. As Jesus said, "...everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." That's why we have the Lenten season - to humble ourselves once again so that we may be exalted with Christ as Easter.
Titus 2:11-14 looks at salvation and grace from a different perspective than we normally do:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
God’s grace has been given to enable us to lead self controlled and godly lives in the present age. We often think of salvation as the thing that will give us rest and an easy future in heaven. Salvation does bring rest, but it also brings a challenge as it “trains” us to give up our worldly passions and exchange them for a life of Christian discipline.
Our culture often bulks as the idea of self-control, and I must admit my own guilt in this area. We often find discipline to be a vice – an invention design to suppress our authentic expressions of our true selves. The gospel brings us back to reality and says that actually much of our “authenticity” is the problem: our true selves are like sheep that have gone astray, with every one going along on his own way.
This gospel of Jesus Christ brings salvation to the lost sheep, with God forgiving them for straying from his path. The gospel also brings transforming grace that enables us to live with more self-control, as we put off our old selves and become his new creation here on earth.
At our church, we are going through The Story, which provides a overview of the biblical narrative by using actual scripture portions from the NIV. This past week we came to chapter 17, which told of the failures of the wicked Kings and the eventual fall and destruction of Jerusalem. Israel had fallen because it had failed to live up to its God given task of being a light unto the world. God had chosen the offspring of Abraham to be a blessing to the surrounding nations. Instead, Israel became like its neighbors, returned to idolatry, and eventually was destroyed. Israel had misrepresented God, and God had enough. The city of Jerusalem was crushed, the temple burnt, the people sent into exile.
Jeremiah laments the situation: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people…Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude…All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and away their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem; Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?” The light had been snuff out with nothing remaining except the smoldering wick.
Though Jeremiah was the weeping prophet, he found reason for hope: “The steadfast lover of the Lord never cease; his mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Jeremiah was confident that God would once again prove his faithfulness. And God did. Centuries later God sent the true faithful Israelite to be a blessing to all the earth, to be a light unto the world. Jesus said that now, he himself, was the light of the world, and that whoever followed him would not walk in darkness. The light of Israel had been restored in a brighter way than ever imagined. Now, through the Messiah, God has ensured that light would no longer be trapped under that basket of self preservation that leads only to smoldering wicks. Instead, God has determined Jesus followers would be the light on display for all the world to see, so that he may receive glory from all the nations. As we continue in the Epiphany season, lets remember that our task is to carry forth the light of Christ to the world around us.