What I said…only better

Yesterday, I preached a sermon from the gospel of Luke, chapter 15. The “holy people” of Jesus’ day were grumbling about him spending time with “sinners.” Elsewhere in the same book (Luke 7…especially verses 31-35), Jesus knew that people were calling him a glutton and a drunk, because he was spending time with such people. Jesus goes on to tell two stories: one about a man who loses a sheep, and one about a woman who loses a coin. You can read it here.

If you’ve been around church for a while, you have probably heard sermons on this before. I tried to do something different with this, at least different for me.  I asked us to imagine being in the audience and hearing these parables for the first time. I wanted us to imagine being the “holy people,” the people who spent most of their lives trying to do the right thing, maintain a relationship with God, and set up boundaries in our lives in order to maintain that relationship. How might we have heard those stories?

When I put myself in the sandals of the Pharisees, the sect of Judaism that was trying to live out the law of God as best they could, I found that these stories, probably would make us begin to ask questions like these:

Do I think that God celebrates like that over people I see as “outside” the church? Do I know this God of celebration?

When did I lose that sense of celebration, and when did I lose that urgency to share the hope that I have?

I said some other thingsyesterday as well. But I think this does it better. Today, I came across a video from Michael Stewart, who is the Founding Director of Verge Network and Conferences( http://www.vergenetwork.org/)

The video features three segments that say what I was trying to say yesterday, in more compelling and clear ways. These short videos get to the heart of our resistance to share, but also how simple it might be to introduce people to follow Jesus. Here is the video link: http://www.vergenetwork.org/lp/barriers/

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Who is my neighbor?

And the million dollar question is…”How?” Question Mark

(perhaps the half-million dollar question is, “How exactly?”)

If someone tells that we should be doing something, whether it be exercising more, eating better, reading more, spending more time with our families, etc…isn’t the question “How?” or “How exactly?” close behind?

I’ve been studying the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 this week. An expert in God’s law comes to Jesus, asking him how we might inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by asking him a question. (side note: Jesus does this a lot…answering a question with a question. I heard author and speaker Ravi Zacharias say that by doing this, Jesus unearths the assumptions of the ones asking the questions. Why is it they are really asking?)

Jesus asks him how he reads the law. The man answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says he has answered well.

But then really wants to know how to do this, when he asks for some clarification. “Who is my neighbor?”

To this, Jesus tells a story. You can read it here.

Along with studying this passage, I’ve been reading a book by Steve Moore, entitled, appropriately, Who is My Neighbor? I don’t mean for this to be a book review, because, in all honesty, I haven’t even finished the whole book. But I found the chapter entitled “From Information to Action” especially good. Moore says that there are four “exit ramps” that prevent us from actually feeling compassion for someone, and then acting on that feeling. Exit RampsFirst is intention: that we might actually have lots of great thoughts about serving, encouraging, having compassion…but the hurriedness of our lives prevents us from actually doing anything. The second is deflection. We think that showing mercy or helping someone in need is really someone else’s job. Third is rationalization. We think that what we do isn’t really going to make a difference, that what we can offer isn’t nearly enough to solve the problem. Fourth is justification, which Moore describes as deflection and rationalization on “steroids.” (p. 55) These are beliefs we form that attempt to explain why someone might be poor or in need, and that they “might have brought it on themselves.”

But the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t seem to allow for any of these exit ramps. When the man asked Jesus how he might inherit eternal life, and how exactly he might act on this, Jesus told him a story. A story of a man who actually DID something for someone in need. While others walked by, this man (and Jesus chooses the hero very carefully, and to his hearers, this Samaritan was an unlikely hero) took the initiative and showed mercy.

I found myself asking, “Which exit ramp do I use most often?”

How about you?