August 21, 2017 – Jury Duty- 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

writing on the ground

When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters?  If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?  I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?

In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?   But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.  And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (NRSV)

I knew it would happen eventually, having been a registered voter since 1987. I got the little postcard from the city municipal court informing me that I have been chosen for jury duty.

Since I am an avid student of history, government and civics, I am more fascinated by the prospect of serving on a jury than I am bummed out about it. Yet being put in a position of judging the actions of others is a bit daunting.  We are not God, so there is no way we can ever know all the details or weigh all of the variables, so all we can do is make the best informed decision possible with the information we are given.  In such instances all we can do is take a cue from Solomon and pray for wisdom. We must remember that while behaviors necessarily have consequences, we are fallible and sinners too, lest we be tempted to be too harsh.

It’s really easy to air our own dirty laundry on Facebook or other social media, and to let the “court of public opinion” mull over our private things.  Unfortunately, random gossip and various conjecture seldom ends well. Hurtful things are too easily said, and so difficult to mend.  Those kinds of commentary are best left avoided on all sides.

As Jesus followers we do have a role to serve in helping moderate each other’s behavior, even though at times we are loath to exercise that role. It’s easy to become legalistic and measure hems- to make sure everyone is staying modestly dressed for example- or to count others’ swear word lapses as standards of piety or indicators of proper decorum. It is equally easy to do the opposite and be laissez-faire and just say anything goes and completely overlook inappropriate or potentially harmful behaviors that should be addressed.  The Christian church as a whole, in the past fifty years or so, has been struggling with the balance between being hyperlegalistic and having no boundaries or expectations at all.  Neither extreme is healthy, and the balance as almost always, lies in the middle. We should always seek to treat others as Jesus would.  Love is neither mollycoddling nor stifling.  If we would correct another, we need to examine ourselves first and only seek to address the issue from a standpoint of love for the other person.

No one can earn or deserve God’s favor or salvation. There are no brownie points to be earned for “adulting” today.  Yet as Jesus followers we are invited to a better and fuller, God-honoring life, right here, right now- a life of modesty, chastity, moderation and honest enterprise. In this way we honor God and we respect others around us. Our examples can encourage other believers to live in God-honoring ways too.

Our lives are meant to be lived in response to the grace and mercy and generosity of God. Not in measuring hems, or counting swear words, or majoring in other minors.

As always we can go back to the words of the Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (my paraphrase)

God is God. Love Him first.  Learn His Word and write it on our hearts. Spread it around.  Repeat.

July 12, 2017 – Being “Little Christs”- Fountains of Rest- John 12:44-50

fountainThen Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me.  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.” John 12:44-50 (NRSV)

Thinking of this week’s sermon verses-

(Jesus said): “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29 (NRSV)

How can we as believers be as “little Christs” to the weary?

Judging others is easy. We do it all the time.  We make mental commentary on others’ physical sizes, hygiene, clothing choices, lifestyle choices, and everything else pertaining to other people.  Even if we think we don’t do this, we do.  Passing snap judgments is part of human nature that isn’t one of our more attractive qualities.  It might make us feel better for a minute to think, “at least I am not like so and so,” but in truth we are just as fallen and just as in need of Jesus our Savior as anyone else is.

It is more difficult and challenging to think of ourselves not as commentators or judges, but as fountains of rest. How can we be that person who offers a drink of water to a parched soul?  How can we bring a “little salvation” to a person in need?  Sometimes just a kind word, or holding a door open, or fronting someone some change who came up a few cents short at the register is all it takes to reveal the heart of Jesus to a person who desperately needs a little rest.  The Holy Spirit works in and through the words and actions of believers.  We may not see the end results of how our actions impact others, but we know that God can use our actions for His good.

Jesus came to offer hope, light and love to the world. His calling to us is to follow His example and do the same.

Do people look at us and see the face of Jesus? Do they find His rest in our actions of charity and mercy?