SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 12:3-13
TEXT: 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
THEME: The Spirit works in us in forming the community of God.
Pentecost is 50 days (Pente) after Easter and marks the out pouring of the Holy Spirit upon the eleven Disciples in Jerusalem. Like a sonic wind, the Spirit of God blows into the lives of the Disciples, calls the town’s people of Jerusalem into the streets and breaks the cultural barrier of language and include all in the praise of God, all in the God’s activity, all into God’s love, all to have hope in God’s resurrection power, all towards God’s gracious forgiveness of sin, all to God’s liberation, of deliverance, and of life. So instead of just marking the day when the Spirit arrives, we will be looking at the effects of having the Spirit in our lives from the Apostle Paul’s letter to a church community in Corinth.
It is the Spirit that enables us to say “Jesus is Lord”. It’s not magical, but a matter of the heart. The Holy Spirit works in our lives even before we come to believe. The Holy Spirit is that sense of right and wrong within us, of Joy and fear that guides our lives. The Holy Spirit is that sense that there is of more to life than just living, of awe at created and an appreciation of beauty. The Holy Spirit gives us a fear of death, the seeking for meaning, and the capacity to love. When we believe in Jesus, faith enables us to see the movement of Christ’s Spirit among us.
To say, “Jesus is Lord” is a very strong statement. Jesus is Lord of my life, Jesus is Lord over all. Jesus has authority and jurisdiction over me. It is Jesus’ will over mine own. So, what is Jesus’ will? What is on Jesus’ agenda? What is it that Jesus wants to accomplish? Jesus is Lord to accomplish ‘‘the common good’. A communal good that would find its expression in community, as the people of God, the Kingdom of God, as the nation of God. Living in relationship with God and having the dynamics of this relationship draw us together in community, and influence how we live and treat each other.
To accomplish living as a community of people is not an easy task. And so, to help us participate in the fruition of our Lord’s will, God’s Spirit equips us with abilities to do so. These manifestations are given to the members of the church so that the church may function and be relational. Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues and is what is needed to foster our relationship together and keep us participating in God’s mission.
This list of gifts is not comprehensive. Paul will list other gifts in different orders, in other letters. Not one member possesses them all. But as we are able, the Spirit of God distributes them as they are needed for the common good of a church. They are given, as the Spirit knows us and to whom they would best be used by in the community, for the common good. As diverse as we are, there are a variety of gifts, for a variety of things that need to be done, for the variety of activities that Christ has for us to do.
The work of the Spirit of God unites and gives life in diverse and varied situations. What does it look like to be people of Pentecost, forming community?
This is my thinking on gifts and talents. When there is something that God has for the church to do, in participation of what God wants to accomplish, but we have already expended our talent or strength, then God will meet us with the Spirit to give us what we need to accomplish this mission for God.
I will tap our Food Pantry as an example. This valuable ministry was begun with a vision of two young mothers in our church, as a collection of food for those who came to the church. In the early days, I remember rummaging through the cabinets of the kitchen looking for things to give people who needed something to eat. Bless their hearts, this was not enough, and Janet Bishop, with her organizational skills and deep compassion took an interest in this ministry and if God did not fill her with the Spirit to do this. Then there was FEMA, and Food Bank, and Ala Lani Methodist and Emanuel Lutheran resourcing our Food Pantry. Not for any one’s good but for the ‘common good’. When Janet was no longer able to continue this ministry, I wondered who would take the helm. Nancy Alueta, stepped in. With each person who takes on ministry, God gives gifts, but not always in the same way, and with their own flavor and combination of gifts and talent. The book keeping part was shared with Jaime Ribao our office administrator, and a couple young ladies came along side to help this ministry. Each gifted in their own way, talented and contributing to the common good.
Talent and strength are our natural ability, but when they reach their limits, of what they can do, God gifts us with abilities, knowing we couldn’t do this on our own, it is God’s gift that enabled us to continue to participate in this mission. I have seen the Food Pantry become a ‘Prayer Pantry’ over the years because of the gifting of the people who participate in this ministry. If you have to chance to work with this crew, you will find that they are not all the same, some can bag rice, others stock shelves, greeting people with respect and kindness is a special gift. It is a microcosm of the Body of Christ. They are not always happy with each other and the Spirit gives them grace, forgiveness, patience, humor and laughter. Even when they are tired going up and down those steps, God will give them strength or send an angel to carry a box.
This scenario, of the combination of gifts and talent, gets played out in our church over and over again, in the worship service, the rummage sales, the music Concerts, the Equipping of Tomorrow’s Church Leader events, the Sunday School, Boro Boro Sundays, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Pentecost.
We need the Spirit to keep us on track with God. To participate in God’s mission and not think that it’s God’s job to join ours. We need the body of Christ, with their diverse gifts and talent, to lend a hand. to form community, to expand, explore, and experiment with God’s call of us, to be engaged in a variety of activities and service, activated by the same God and God’s Spirit.
This past week, it seemed that we could begin meeting in the sanctuary again, maybe in a limited way, but to be back inside. As I sent an email to the Council members about this, the story of the Exodus came to mind. The people of God, as runaway slaves, wandered in the desert with a single purpose, of entering the Promised Land. But for God, it was not so much about getting these people there, as it was more about forming a people of God, who live in relationship with the Holy and have this relationship define who they were, their relationships with each other and the world.
Our church has, really, never been closed during COVID-19, we have just been church in a different way. We have been reaching out, staying connect. We’ve tried Zoom, are on Facebook, we Aloha each other while at home. Pray for each other through text messages. So, although we greatly grieve, missing each other, our love for each other will keep us apart a little longer, for the common good. The Church building is not the goal, being the best version that we can be as the people of God in all circumstances is. We can’t do this on our own, so reach out to each other, and see how God is equipping us during this time with gifts beyond our strength and talent for the common good found in Christ Jesus.
Worshiping back in the sanctuary will be different. We will ask you how you feel as you arrive, about your COVID- contacts, everybody will be wearing a mask, arranged seating will be for safe distancing and we will continue the Facebook live worship format, without hymnals. We will replace the Aloha hour with a Sanitize the Church Hour. And leave the church, for our cars, distancing and Live, Long and Prosper, Star Trek good byes. Moving forward we will need a Holy multi tool Spirit set of gifts for the common good. It will be different, but it will be good to be together again, in some form, soon.
SCRIPTURE: I Peter 4:1-14, 5:6-11
TEXT: 5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.
THEME: Casting ourselves on Jesus.
When we go out to get fish, they call it ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching’, because it expresses a humble hope. In contrast, if we were not humble but arrogant and think that every time we go ‘fishing’ we get fish, then we could call this activity, “catching”. People would watch us to see if this is true or not. Do we want to base our reputation on the aptitude of fish? We live with some certainties that has us living our lives in relationship with God. It sounds presumptuous. Even arrogant for us to assume that we could discern the will of God. But we live with a humble arrogance as Jesus does. We live in a provocative relationship with God through love, with grace, compassion, forgiveness, wholeness and mindfulness.
We are beloved by God and the things do reflects this, but not everyone understands this or values relationships over money as we do. Even when we live according to God’s ways, knowing who God is, having hope, being positive, addressing issues of injustice, bringing healing, practicing respect, and restoring relationships, our lives can put us under fire. Not everyone welcomes our good intentions and can be threatened when our actions attempt to transform the status quo. Casting our hope for Good does not always come back with the expected appreciation. First Peter says, Regardless of what other people think or how they treat us, rejoice in living according to God’s ways, in knowing that you are doing good for others. We don’t do things for the appreciation of others (although an occasional thank you is always nice), but to do good, in itself, for God. Reviled for the name of Christ. Humble in following God’s ways, Participating in God’s activities among us. As present as God is to us, sin lurks like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We can be tempted away from doing what God wants us to do by fear, greed and doubt. So be careful, be disciplined and have faith. The Spirit of God is resting on us. Resist doing what is against God and cast your cares, upon God. Last week, our discussion in Peter took us to Psalms and a lamenting prayer that cries out to God and complains. Casting our anxiety to God is with an expectation for help, hope, and compassion. The God who calls us to eternal glory in Christ, promises to restore, support, strengthen and establish us. Casting our humble hope upon God, keeps us going in God’s direction.
As Christians we can be obnoxious, irritating, arrogant and self-righteous, when we let sin, greed, selfishness and ego devour us. We don’t want to be people who others feel that they have to put us in our place. Instead we can complain and lament to God about what we are doing and how we are being treated. If we can learn to live wisely, we could be a faithful blessing to others without being obnoxious. How does our living bring transformation to oppressive systems? How should we live, trying to avoid sin by casting our cares upon Jesus? 1 Peter says to humble ourselves under God. Praying is a humble activity that casts our hopes upon our relationship with God. But like in fishing, we do so with a humble expectation of God helping us. Prayer is a process of engaging our situations with the Holy. God is always good, and has the best in mind for all involved, and so the answer to our prayer maybe different from what we expected. Last week the church realized a short fall with the closing of the County Fair in October. Our current budget was worked on to anticipate the loss of income. But no matter how we modified the budget, we were still short the Fair income amount. Then on Monday we were sent documents from the bank to cover 8 weeks of our employee’s salaries. It is just about the same as the lost income from the fair. It is humbling to put ourselves under God, but God is good and provides for us even when we don’t have a way to rub two coins together. Discipline yourself to keep alert. Be aware of the humanity of others and their wounds. When we see their wound then we can address their pain. We can also become aware of how our behavior can affect others for good or bad, as well as be an inconvenience or a blessing, or an irritant or a comfort in their lives. Allen Boesak encouraged the perpetrators of Apartheid not to see Africans, but human beings and the wounds they bore because of this system of prejudice. When we discipline ourselves to see each other as humans, then we can treat each other with respect, compassion, dignity, acceptance, love and grace. When we live, believing in God, discerning God’s will, living God’s truth in practical ways in our world, then part of our behavior is to be a resistant to what is wrong. We have ethics, values and boundaries that we will not cross. We put up a resistance to evil and its practices. We have a dream for our community to be different from how it has become. A County on the mainland reported at their council meetings on YouTube. How they were getting ready for the upcoming election. They have volunteer police officers manning the polling places on election day. In this conservative community, no one may not think about it, as it is their usual practice, but having police officers manning the polling stations may be a deterrent to a segment of their population from voting, especially if they ever felt that they were at risk of being arrested. This practice could even be seen as a way of controlling the votes in their county and racist. This is the sort of thing that Christians in the community could stand up against and create resistance to this insipid practice.
Most of the time I want fish, sadly it is by shopping. But my expectation is the same, I am hopeful, that there will be the kind of fish I like, and at the price I am willing to pay. I guess shopping comes with its own set of expectations. As the CORONA Virus flat lines on Maui, there is an expectation that the church will reopen. Funny, we were never closed. But without a vaccination, how safe are we? Don’t get me wrong, I miss you all, I miss gathering, I miss preaching to an audience, laughing together, singing together, being in prayer for each other. I miss sitting around the table and shooting the breeze about theology. But even when we open our doors again, we will have to distance ourselves by 6 feet. At first no more than 10 of us at a time. We won’t be singing out loud. You won’t feel the hymnal in your hand, and after service, we will have to wipe down the entire church with a disinfectant solution and all of the hand rails and door knobs. Not everyone is going to risk coming to church. And we will still have our service on Facebook live for those who choose to stay safe at home. We will humble our self to how God leads us to start up and gather again, even though we would love to have a group hug. We will be disciplined and keep our mask on, wash our hand, distance ourselves and gather in group no larger than 10, because of our love for you is greater than our grief of being apart. And we will resist the greed and selfishness, to do the right things, to advocate for life, and truth, and safety, and the worship of our God and participation in the mission during the COVID pandemic. Our Humble expectation is to do what God wants, when God wants it, with those whom God wants. After all we are God’s church, funded by God’s love through Jesus the Christ.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 3:13-22
TEXT: 17bAlways be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
THEME: Tell the story of how we have come to have hope in God.
There was a 17-year-old girl that was working in an ice cream shop to raise money for her college education. She has been doing this for the past three years. When the cases of COVID-19 flatten in her area, the store was given permission to reopen. A long line of customers formed outside of the store and the wait time was long. Having to wait for his ice cream, an irate customer blurted out vulgar insults at her that caused her to quit at the end of her shift.
The owner of the store, knowing how important this job was to this high school senior’s college ambitions formed a Go Fund Me page that raised $30,000 for her in a few days.
What a great story of people acting well, in the midst of bad behavior.
This passage in 1 Peter 3 illustrates our human suffering, as we live doing what is right, in a world motivated by greed. Greed operates out of a fear of scarcity, a fear of death, a fear of others who will take what they have and a fear of those who are different from ourselves.
In the past, we may have needed to have a fear of those who were different from ourselves to survive, but in today’s environment, we need to adapt to those who are different from ourselves to collaboration for success. If we had taken to heart the stories of how New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand and Germany were able to contain the COVID-19 virus, our story here in the United States would be different.
So, we challenge the inequality between the compensation of men and women. We challenge our prejudice of color. We challenge our cultural biases to make the Implicit Bias, the biases that we have been brought up with or taught, to be informed by what we know by the explicit Bias of fairness, equality and a change in perceived roles.
NHK’s program, ‘Direct Talk’, “Uncovering Our Hidden biases”, featured; Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard Social psychologist who devised a test to measure our hidden biases, towards others according to race, gender, and social class. She had an audience categorize a series of items and tasks associated to Male, female, career and home. As flash words appeared on a screen, such as; job, profession, children, garden, kitchen, cooking, brief case, the audience would shout out left or right indicating Male/work, Female/Home. but when the category was changed to Female/work and Male/home, the answers stalled considerably even though we knew which answers we wanted to make, they were not automatic showing our implicit ingrained bias over our explicit or informed biases.
Living by sharing, unbiased pay for equal work, compassion upon humanity and justice puts us in contention with the powers that refuse to collaborate, they segregate instead of include and create crisis that diverts our attention from dealing with the real issues.
God, suffers because of love for us. Our love for others does what is right, but can cause us to suffer for our good conduct in Christ.
We suffer at the hands of others, just as Christ suffered for our sake. He was put to death for loving us.
Just like in the story of Noah. The Nephilim or Watchers, give birth to evil spirits in our world. The flood becomes the way for those who trust in God to survive, as the waters of baptism signals our trust in God and distancing from evil.
God is more powerful than any evil. And the resurrected Jesus is more powerful than any evil in the world.
God’s love compels us to do what is right, to do good, and to be concern about others even when what we do is unpopular with those around us. Christ reminds us who we are and encourages us to live as he does. God is more powerful than any force of evil in our world. What are our stories of faith that invite others to God and give an accounting of our hope?
Taking our cues from podcast interview by Andy Crouch of Donna Harris they used the structure of a Lament from Psalms to address the suffering in our community.
1. It begins with a prayer that cries out to God. I like the openness and innocence we can have with God to be the whiny child. What do we hear our community complaining about, where is their pain, how are they suffering?
2. Acknowledging these feelings of grief, sorrow and pain, we trust in God’s help, God’s ways, and God’s promises to get us through this suffering. We recall how God has helped us in the past. This week the Mayor closed October’s upcoming County Fair. Every year the Fair has provided us with about an 8th of our annual income. Each year we have has some problem to navigate through and each year God has helped us. I don’t know how, we will be able to make our budget this year, but I do know that God will help us, as in the past, to continue to minister and worship as a church with what we have.
3. We need to be in prayer, complaining about everything, 4. asking God for everything, asking God to intervene for us. 5. Expressing our rage, remembering God’s assurances, recalling our past stories and God’s promises.
6. Then we praise God. We thank God for help and answers to prayer. We are grateful for what we have. We remember that God is strong, that God is powerful. That God is good all of the time.
And we sit in quiet, resting in God, listening to the still small voice of God, and move forward with God’s leading, to solve problems.
This is a process where our brokenness can begin to lead us to ‘creative action’ of service and solution. Desmond Tutu has this saying, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. (just service) We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in (Solution),” ‘Creative action’ is the product of the Marriage of the work of service and solution
Coming up with an argument for why we believe is not as important as just telling the story of how we have hope in God. God is more interested in the relationship we have together, that if what we believe about God is completely accurate or not. This is why we have denominations and a variety of churches. What is important, is the story of how we have been brought to have hope in God. We will have the rest of eternity to get our theology squared away.
This sermon is a compilation of stories. Jesus told stories to illustrate faith, love, truth and behavior. It is in our stories that we have a defense of hope. The 17-year-old girl who suffered the verbal garbage of an unsympathetic person, has another part to her story, as her boss listened to her pain and decided to do something about it. He closed his shop for a day, redid his Facebook page to take online orders, limited and distanced his patrons, then set up a Go Fund Me page for this future college student.
The COVID-19 virus will take a collaborative, global, approach to defeat it. Our implicit biases can be changed as we allow our informed explicit bias to become our new norm. Noah’s story is one of trusting in God who is more powerful than any evil. Donna Harris has prayers that can take our broken lives and marry service with solutions that gives birth to ‘creative actions’. Wailuku Union Church Soda booth is a story of God’s continual provision towards a faithful congregation. And Desmond Tutu’s wisdom of not only ministering to the symptom of evil, but in finding a solution to prevent people from falling into the river. Our defense of hope, is not found in a convincing argument, but in the stories of how we have experienced God.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 2: 2-10
TEXT:5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
THEME: Be encouraged knowing who we are with God.
One of the hardest mission fields to be a Christian in, is at home. These are the people who know us the best and have the hardest time seeing us as people who have changed. Our telling them that we have been transformed does not have as much meaning if our actions and behaviors don’t look like they have changed for the better. Being sheltered in, or safe at home, keeps us apart from our church community that supports, encourages, and enriches our lives. So, while we are apart from each other, we have to remember who our God is, who we are through Jesus, how God sees us and who we are when we are together as a community. The second chapter of 1 Peter covers a lot of material. It is a letter addressed to Christians who have moved from their homes to neighboring countries. Being a Christian has given them a new spiritual beginning, but in addition to this, these Christians are now having a new physical beginning in another country.
No matter where we are, we get our bearings of who we are and how we are to live from Jesus. Jesus is like a cornerstone that is placed on a piece of property from which the rest of a building is oriented to. Right angles, from this elevation, whether we are level, how far or how near we are is all in regards to cornerstone; the foundation, the standard of Jesus. When I lived on the mainland, every so often we would go to the coast and look across the Pacific towards Hawaii, remembering family, friends, food, communities, what was familiar, the mountains, the surf, the flora and fauna and life in another way. We would touch the water and think, “this is the same ocean that is touching our islands. There was a sense of connectedness. For these dispersed Christians away from home, turning towards Jerusalem must have given them a sense of centering, remembering who they were, giving them confidence of living differently in a foreign land. To keep their identity in Christ while assimilating to a different culture. This has been the greatest challenge for the People of God, whenever they traveled in new territory or settled to what was foreign to them. When they were insecure, they were vulnerable to the influences of others, instead of being influential with their unique culture and relational beliefs in God.
The first thing Peter wants them to remember is who they are and who God is. Peter describes their experience of God as tasting. When my family lived on Molokai, we tasted their foods; inamona, enenui poke with chop chop limu, steamed taro with condensed milk, akai or raw liver, 5 day old poi with dry fish, hi hi wai cooked over a hibachi with Kau-bi sauce, and a lean kalua pig where the fat is melted into the meat. We tasted goodness, just as God could be tasted in the lives of these people, in their culture and in their churches. We can remember our experiences with God with thanksgiving, like the good things we eat. We can keep a faith history to remember God’s goodness, even when what we are tasting at the present time is bitter and sour. We remember our stories with God that have brought us out of darkness and called us to adventures of faith and light. The newness of our lives has us participating in the works of God in Creation and amongst the created. We are living stones built into a spiritual house with Christ as our cornerstone The church rocks with praise, worship, and thanksgiving to God. The church rocks with tasting, building, and helping. The church rocks with gratitude of majesty, miracles, and wonder. The church rocks with people, prayer, and caring for who God brings to us. The church rocks…. rock. With Christ as our cornerstone, God is wanting to dwell among us. Like in the garden, like with the incarnation, like with the Spirit within us and with us now. Be encouraged because of who we are to God; Get our bearings from the Christ as Cornerstone: a living spiritual house, a holy priesthood, our worship being acceptable to God, chosen by God, precious to God, God’s own people, and recipients of mercy. This is who we are, This is who you are. Don’t forget it. Be encouraged by this. Systems of greed, deception, power, manipulation, ego and control find God’s system of truth, love and compassion; a confounding conundrum. Greed operates from such a narrow, selfish perception that it has no concept of love or value for other lives. It is to this world we are called to proclaim a life lived as children of God.
We have new life with Christ as we learn about God’s profound love for us. We are affirmed in knowing we are chosen and special to God. We are God’s kids, who can go directly to God just as we are. We are a community people in fellowship with God, who bring our experiences with God where ever we are and with whomever we are with. How does the church, together and apart, live as living stones built into a spiritual house?
Living stones are a holy priesthood connecting the world with God. Think of everything that a priest does, as what we can do for our self and what we can do for others, to help them connect their lives with God. Then together we can fellowship with God as our parent and Jesus as our friend. This is our proclamation as a Holy nation, as God’s own people. Of how to live like Christ, of how we can live with God. This is what builds us into the Spiritual House. We are living stones. The Church is organic as it rocks. We are a living community of newness. We position our lives according to Christ. Our orientation is in regards to Christ. We live out what we have tasted and experienced with God. We live with joy, we have gratitude, we venture in faith and dispel darkness with light.
There is a lot of stuff in 1 Peter, but the theme of a new beginning because of being loved by God and loved by Jesus, changes and transforms our life. We are encouraged to keep on living in this newness because we are God’s people, built, like rocks into a spiritual community. God wants to dwell with us and is connect with each of us as a holy priesthood. We are acceptable to God, we are a holy nation, we are chosen and precious as Jesus is precious. And when we are apart, sheltered in, or have moved away it is hard to live with the same fervor. So, we set our bearings on the standards of our living, to Christ, our cornerstone. We can taste the goodness of God even in a foreign land. We are a living stone built into a spiritual house, A church that rocks its rocks, and whose rocks, rock the church. Knowing who we are to God helps us to keep the changes we have made, no matter where we are, and be an example for others to venture to change and be transformed and built into the community with God.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 2:19-25
TEXT: 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
THEME: Take Jesus’ example and copy the good things in our lives.
I was struck by one of the commentators on this passage from Luther Seminary’s Sermon Brainwave. He quoted systems scientist, Peter Sen-ge saying “…people are more attracted to Buddhism because it presents itself as a way of life, while Christianity presents itself as a system of beliefs.” Boy did my Zoom Bible study on Monday night jump on that. They disagreed with this lecturer at MIT with quoted from the Psalms and Proverbs, then Hebrews, and the Gospel not to mention the prophet Isaiah,
This made me think about something I read from Marcus Borg, New Testament theologian, he says, “But Christianity is not about “right beliefs.” It is about a change of heart. It is about the transformation of ourselves at that deep level that shapes our vision (how we see), our commitment (our loyalty, allegiance), and our values (how we live).”
The working title of this sermon began as, “A Way of Life” then “The Way of Life” and in the bulletin I listed “Living for Jesus” but after I came up with the Keiki Special message, I changed it simply to, “Copy Jesus”
The passage for today from 1 Peter chapter 2 is divided into two main parts: first about what life is like as a follower of Jesus, and the second about what we believe. Living by following Jesus is characterized by enduring pain while suffering unjustly, enduring when beaten for doing right, having God’s approval for continuing to live in relationship with God in all circumstances. Being called by Christ to live forgiven lives, through grace and love, giving up our wanting to retaliate pain for pain, for a trust in God and forgiveness. Boy, Christianity is a hard sell. “Come one and Come all, live in a way that follows God, and puts on our best behavior that will lead to our suffering and test our endurance as we participate in God’s work of loving the world!” Was that in the brochure you got when we came to Christ?
The second part of this passage is on what we believe, because our behavior changes when we have a change of perspective, a renewed mind, when we see and understand God and the world, from a new insight or revelation. When we get a view of the world through God’s love for us through Jesus’ life. Jesus’ love that bore our sins, by loving us so much that when his enemies came to kill him, because of what he said about God’s love and forgiveness, and about our acceptance before God, he did not run away. Jesus’ blood marks the cross of his death, as a sign for the spirit of death to Passover our lives with resurrection. Forgiveness frees us from sin.
There is no one greater than God. God does not answer to a larger cosmic power. God makes the rules, so if God wants to forgive us for loves’ sake, for compassion’s sake, for grace’s sake, then God can do that and does not need a sacrifice to do so. Our God is not so small that there is some cosmic balance that needs to be kept. Righteousness is our right relationship with God that forgiveness enables. Our renewed relationship with God is that of being a child in the household of God. Christ’s wounds are the marks of Christ’s love for us, that heals us. As a shepherd cares, leads, watches, protects, seeks out, brings the lost into the fold, heals, and sustains life, so does Jesus shepherd our souls in loving care.
Being a Christian is more than just what we believe but in how the truth of God shapes and forms the way we live. How does Jesus’ way of living become more a part of our ‘way of life’?
Oh my, it is by living, how Jesus has lived for us. If suffering for being a Christian isn’t enough, for doing right in a culture where the ‘means justifies the ends’, added to that is to live a life that is gracious, loving, forgiving, free, imaginative, relational, has good manners, trusts in God and is filled with appreciative gratitude.
Remember when the Christian catch phrase was, “What would Jesus do?” Basically, all it meant was to “Copy Jesus”, copy forgiveness, copy love, copy generosity, copy healing, copy reaching out, copy living for God, copy endurance, copy living in a way to help others, copy trusting in God and copy God’s ways.
It is so easy to be influenced by others, it is harder for us to be influential. We need to set the good example for others to follow even when we don’t stand out. We need to endure when no one else wants to do thing that way. We need to love those who others ignore. We need to have faith, trusting in God when all hope seems lost.
I’ve told this story, that I heard on an On Being with Krista Tippet podcast before, of collegiate students Matthew Stevenson and Derek Black. Matthew was one of the only orthodox Jews on his campus and Dereck came from an influential family in the Ku Klux Klan. As Derek’s identity as a motivational speaker for the Klan was revealed on campus, Matthew invited him to his weekly Shabbat dinners as a way for Derek to get to know those whom he was raised to hate. This was something Matthew thought he could do instead of the fearful anger that was rising against Derek on campus. This invitation to a dinner, remembering the God of Creation, to rejuvenate through rest, and to be in relationship with others. This cultural habit allowed them to get to know each other for who they were. Derek began to question the presuppositions and ideologies he was brought up with. Both the public outrage against the Klan’s racism and this friendship beyond labels renewed Derek’s thinking and transformed his life as he left the Klan.
The Gospel truths gives us the capacity to question what we have been taught, To Question the prejudices we have inherited, to challenge the fears that we harbor, and compare these with a life that copies Jesus.
Living by truth is not easy. Not everyone will treat us well because of the truth we live. We need to be discerning at all time so that our lives can be a copy of Jesus’.
As we read the Gospel account of Jesus’ life, how effortlessly he lived his relationship with God, it is a way of life we are to copy. There are examples of what to do with temptations, doubt, trials and hunger. Through his example we get a sense of the ‘give and take’ flow of a relationship that is being lived out with God and not the ‘tit for tat’ balance of the scales of justice. Moving away from an obedience to the Law, Jesus lives in fulfillment of the dream of God, showing us an ease in living relationally with God. There is joy even when love leads to suffering. Love will lead us to make some serious decisions on how we chose to live. Love’s way is not always easy, but love’s way brings blessing to others and relationships that are transformational. Our way of life is to live in constant relationship with God. At times it is a wrestle, at times a dance, a stroll, and a race, in each instance we can copy Jesus.
Christianity is a ‘A way of life’. If we meditate on our favorite passages, its meaning could be reworded into proverbs that guides as a way of life:
Be still and know that I am God of Ps 46:10 could be reworded as, “Trusting in the stillness of the universe brings harmony living.”,
Forgive as God has forgiven us from Eph 4:32 can be restated as, “The way of kind compassion releases hurt, as grace does from heaven.”,
Love God and Love our neighbor of Lk 10:27 is a wise saying, “Harmony with the source of the universe, expresses love in acts of compassion.”
and my favorite about seeking first the Kingdom of God from Mat 6:33, “Primo Cosmic Harmony, provides all we need for communities of forgiveness and acceptance.” Let’s turn the truths about God, from things we believe, into ways of life, as we Copy Jesus.