Tag Archives: John Calvin

Such a Time as This

A Sermon for 30 September 2018

A reading from Esther 7:1-10 and 9:20-23.  Listen for God’s word to us.

“So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.  On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther?  It shall be granted you.  And what is your request?  Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”  Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request.  For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.  If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.”  Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?”  Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!”  Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.  The king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that the king had determined to destroy him.  When the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?”  As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.  Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.”  And the king said, “Hang him on that.”  10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.  Then the anger of the king abated.  . . .  Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, 22 as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.  23 So the Jews adopted as a custom what they had begun to do, as Mordecai had written to them.”

This is the word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

Do you ever feel as if we are living in a time absolutely consumed by values unlike those of Christ?  Maybe you look at the lives of neighbors or friends and wonder:  what in the world drives them to do what they do?  Perhaps you turn to the news and think:  does anyone care any more about things like compassion, forgiveness, truth?  If ever it seems like the world around us is like foreign territory, we can give thanks for the biblical reminders that we are not alone.  Throughout the story of faith, God’s people have lived like aliens in another land.  Doing their best to be who God needed them to be, no matter where they found themselves each day.  From Abram and Sarai in Egypt, to the exiles in Babylon.  To Jesus who was a young Jewish boy hiding out as a refugee in Egypt because of the foreign king of his land.  The earliest stories of Christ’s movement remind us that Rome once fatally rejected Christ’s ways – not only killing Jesus, but later putting to death one of his most strident followers Paul, and scads of early Christians too.  If we ever wonder how to be faithful in the midst of a world that lives and moves and values things quite unlike the ways of Christ, then taking a dip back into Scripture might lend some helpful clues.

For instance, consider the life of the great Queen Esther.  Once orphaned by the death of her mother and father, young Esther was lucky enough to have a cousin who took her in.  Though we often refer to him as Uncle Mordecai, he technically was a first cousin who adopted Esther to be his own.  Orphaned children don’t always get a great shot in life.  But Esther had one thing going for her and Mordecai seized upon it.  A delight to the eyes, Esther was absolutely beautiful.  It’s a bit of a harsh story – especially in light of the current climate of #Why I Didn’t Report.  A drunken king is shamed before his kingdom when his Queen Vashti refuses to be summoned to the debauchery in order to be on display.  To save face and keep every man – as Esther 1:22 reads:  “master in his own house,” Queen Vashti is banished from ever again setting foot before the king.  Stripped of her crown, the king demands another.  It is then that Mordecai jumps into action.  His reasoning being he and his people, the Jews, are aliens in a foreign land.  Exiled by Babylonians, they eventually found themselves under Persian rule.  After years of keeping themselves alive, Mordecai figures a beguiling queen who hides her Jewish identity could come in handy someday.  Beautiful young Esther is sent to the palace.  The story goes that she favors the king’s head eunuch so, that she rises in the ranks of King Ahasuerus’s harem.  This is the point of the story when we really don’t wanna know all that Esther had to do.  Scripture merely records that it is her beauty that deeply impresses the king during the times when she went in to see him.  . . .  Though no mention is made of God in the entire book of Esther, we have to wonder if Mordecai alone is running the show, or if Yahweh the Sovereign of the Universe was busy making a way where there seemed to be none.  Esther – keeping her Jewish identity a secret – soon finds herself the new Queen of an empire stretching from India to Ethiopia!

It might be helpful for us to know that when the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell, the Assyrians took a divide-and-conquer approach to Israel – flinging their captives wide across the known world.  Some from a tribe being sent there.  Another being sent here.  Still others, all the way over there.  Years later, the Babylonians sent Judeans all together into foreign land.  All the way from Jerusalem, they mourned the destruction of their lives, their land, their Temple.  Psalm 46 poetically reminds what always eventually comes to be:  “the nations are in an uproar,” the Psalmist writes.  “The kingdoms totter . . . the earth melts” (Psalm 46:6).  Which is pretty much what happened.  The nation of Assyria rose.  The nation of Assyria fell.  The nation of Babylon rose.  The nation of Babylon fell.  The empire of Persia came to be.  And it too would see the end of its mighty rule.  . . .  Kings of empires often are inflated.  The stories of Scripture are full of leaders who are puffed up on themselves only eventually to fall.  I guess being a successful invading emperor easily could leave one feeling they can do whatever they want.  After all, if you think you’re at the top; who’s going to be around to tell you no?

The king of Persia was smart enough to know alliance matters.  When someone warns you of an internal assignation plot, you make sure the one who saved your skin is favored.  From all his time at the palace gate, old Mordecai hears that two eunuchs close to the king have grown angry enough to kill him.  Mordecai gets word to Queen Esther who in turn lets King Ahasuerus know what’s in the works.  When a new man rises to position number two next to the king, he doesn’t at all like that Mordecai refuses to bow before him.  Deciding it’s beneath him to have Mordecai alone killed; Haman, the new number two to the king, sets his sights instead on annihilating all the Jews of the empire.  . . .  Scholars believe the book of Esther is a part of Scripture to explain how the Jewish festival of Purim came to be.  According to one biblical commentator, “the purpose of the feast, actually two feasts, are to celebrate the rescue of the Jews from their wicked enemies, their escape from death that turned their ‘sorrow into gladness and . . . mourning into a holiday’ (Esther 9:22).  This liturgical feast was to be made unique by its exuberant gladness, the sharing of gifts of food with one another, and the giving of presents to the poor” (Kathleen M. O’Conner, Feasting on the Word, Yr. B, Vol. 4, p. 101).  Such deliverance reminds of a brilliant quote we read this week in our new Book Group book Inspired:  Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again.  Author Rachel Held Evans writes:  “My Jewish friends like to joke that you can sum up nearly every Jewish holiday with, ‘They tried to kill us; we won; let’s eat!’” (p. 40).

None of it would have come to pass if not for the courageous Queen Esther – who was smart enough to listen to the wise sage Mordecai when it came time to look beyond her own comfort to the salvation of her entire people.  When Mordecai sends word to Esther to use her position as queen to plead for the lives of all the Jews, he’s eloquently quoted in Esther 4:14 as saying:  “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish.  Who knows?  Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

Perhaps we are living in a world of such challenge as followers of Christ’s way, for such a time as this.  Oh, we may not be beautiful queens of an ancient empires stretching the wide expanse of almost all the known world.  But we are a people of immense privilege living in a land of incredible wealth.  We have been gifted with positions in business and education and industries of service.  We have the pleasure of living in relatively safe neighborhoods in comfortable homes with access to just about anything we could want.  . . .  I’ll never forget the words of another wise sage when I drove her from inner city Nashville to do a minute for mission in the church I was serving in Brentwood.  As a student of Vanderbilt Divinity School who was serving on the staff at a church in subdivisions where corporate wealth was on the rise, it was common to hear fellow Div. School folk questioning if I cared at all for the plight of those in need – as if need only wears a face related to money.  On our way to Brentwood for a minute for mission by Ms. Laura, the founder of the Luke 14:12 Feeding Program of Edgehill United Methodist Church; I’ll never forget the words she spoke to me.  She said:  “Jule, those crushed by poverty need others to speak for them to those who have the power to make a difference.”  She encouraged me faithfully to follow wherever God sent me – no matter what anyone else might think.  With Mordecai, she might as well have been reminding us, saying:  “Who knows?  Perhaps we have come to our positions in life for such a time as this.”

In the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther stuck to a doctrine of divided kingdoms – the realm of God and our station in this world as separately distinct from one another.  John Calvin, the genius behind our Presbyterian thoughts and ways, believed there is no separation.  As Christians, we are in this world to make an impact.  Summarized beautifully in the Great Ends of the Church, the missional statements of the PCUSA proclaim, we are here as Christ’s Church for “the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; (for) the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; (for) the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and (for) the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world” (PCUSA Book of Order 2017-2019, F-1.0304, p. 5).

Indeed, each one of us – wherever we go every week, we are needed for such a time as the one in which we find ourselves today.  . . .  Take heart, royal priesthood.  Be brave, members of the household of God.  The God of Jacob and Mordecai and Esther is with us!  We are here, now, for just such a time as this!

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit.  Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2018  (All rights reserved.)

Instead Consider

A Sermon for 7 August 2016

A reading from the gospel of Luke 12:22-34. And remember: they’re still on the road with Jesus, out of Galilee for the last time as they head for his final trip to Jerusalem. Listen for God’s word to us.

“He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will God clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’”

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!

 

Believe it or not, most of what I just read from the gospel of Luke is not an assigned reading according to the Revised Common Lectionary. O, the part about selling our possessions to give it away as alms is – which is miracle in and of itself that our church mothers and fathers had the foresight to have those words of Jesus read before his body at least once every three years. But the part about do not worry is not. The lectionary would have us skip from Jesus’ parable of the rich fool and the plea to take care against defining our lives according to our possessions, to striving for the purses that do not wear out as we’re ready for whatever twists and turns life brings. But worry? The invitation to consider the simple things around us like birds. How do they all get enough to eat each day? And enough to drink? And with all of them around; yet each little bird finds a place somewhere in this world to build their nests to snuggle down safely for the night away from any circling prey. And what about the wildflowers? In Galilee, there still are bright yellow flowers popping up all over. Wild mustard I was told, not lilies. But wildly prolific nonetheless. Have you ever been walking along a sidewalk and seen all those beautiful little purple flowers pushing their way through tangles of gnarly Bermuda grass or popping through whatever crack in the path they can find? How do they grow? Presumably the wind alone scatters their seed. When it rains, they drink. When the sun shines, the nutrients they need seep deep into their little-flower pores. It’s like it just happens. They get what they need to grow.

Some might argue that the swarms of common house sparrows and the droves of little purple wildflowers that are so insignificant they rarely are seen as beautiful; someone might say they matter more in this world than people. But most of us believe we matter a little bit more than them. A proper orientation towards all the creation that surrounds us might better be that we equally matter. Species are mutually beneficial to one another. After all, it’s not just beauty little wild flowers provide. They actually have a purpose for our lives too. Did you know that “seaweed, algae, and marine phytoplankton make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s oxygen producing plants” (www.secrets-of-longevity-in-humans.com/oxygen-producing-plants.html)? Even that which we consider worthless slim is important to sustaining our human life. Without oxygen in every cell of our bodies, we cannot live. And there they all are. Chirping sparrows, little purple wildflowers, seaweed, algae, and marine phytoplankton too. Doing their thing without one care in the world. If they could talk and we asked them what rattled them awake in the middle of the night, I’m sure they would say: “nothing. Not one thing.”

It’s we humans that seem to live a different way – which might be why God created a whole world first that knew how to just be before setting us loose in the garden to worry our little heads off. . . . Someone pointed out to me this week that it’s not really helpful to tell someone who’s trying to change their behavior not to do it. Like “Don’t worry,” Jesus says here. “Do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.” It’s not really all that helpful because the words alone churn up our anxious hearts. Now we worry too that we worry so much and Jesus told us not to do it. It’s like he’s kicking us when we’re already down – even if he didn’t mean further harm. He really is trying to paint a different picture to give us a loop hole out of the worry trap. Jesus knows we need the what to do more than the what not to do in order to make any sort of lasting change. The details may be a little lacking about what it looks like to strive instead for the kingdom, but the actual practice he first suggests is the way out. Watch the birds. Pay attention to the little lilies. See how everything in this creation fits together. As we notice, we might just come to the conclusion that it’s all going to be all right.

One of the most helpful things I have come across for deepening my trust in God, actually is something I’ve learned from the energetic therapy called Healing Touch. After a healer asks someone the physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual healing they seek and before going on to the next step; the healer silently repeats that desire as if it is the prayer for the healing. And then, if the healer is doing it right, they must release that desire to the Highest Good. Literally, if a healer is doing it right, they must let go of the outcome. Who is anyone of us to really know what another person needs as they make their journey in this world deeper into who God would have them be? Who is anyone of us to really know what we ourselves need as we make our journey in this world deeper into who God would have us be? . . . We definitely can ask, and by Jesus even, in a few verses just prior to this portion of Luke, are told in fact to ask for exactly what we want (Luke 11:1-14). And then, we must release that desire to the Highest Good. Something many of us refer to as the will of God. (As in: “Thy will be done.”) A daily practice each one of us gets is to release, then wait – even if it takes nearly forever – we must wait to see how God will take what we may consider the worst garbage of our lives and somehow make a way to something new. . . . In the admonition not to worry, Jesus is inviting us to let go of our firm need to stay in the driver’s seat. To welcome the mystery of what will unfold. Do not worry means: know that God’s got this, because God’s got you – and every other creature too.

In a lot of ways, worry gets straight to the core of whether or not we trust what Jesus says – not to mention trust who Jesus is. Do we trust, what our ancestor in the faith, John Calvin, once so formally professed: that God is benevolent towards us (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, 3.2.7). In other words, Jesus asks: do you believe the God of the Universe loves us, or not? . . . How we answer that question is meant to make a difference even in whether we’re able to get a restful night’s sleep. It does not mean everything always is going to be easy or turn out the way we want it. We will experience pain in our life – it’s part of the package. In fact, it’s a gift really, though we seldom think of it that way. Pain in our body, mind, or spirit can be considered a great teacher if we turn aside for a moment to explore what message we’re supposed to be hearing from that pain. What our body, mind, or spirit is crying out for us to notice and most likely stop to change something about how we are going about life. Even if all it is is to remember: “O yes, God! I need to get back in the passenger seat to enjoy the view of where you are taking this all.”

Do not worry is not easy. A lot of us already have cut a really deep channel in our brains to go right from wonder over what’s taking place to incessant, can’t-sleep-a-wink worry. If watching the birds isn’t helping one bit. If paying attention to the wildflowers and even trying to appreciate how the seaweed just does its most helpful thing is not making a difference to stop your worry. Then, turn to the ways of the kingdom, as Jesus also tells us to do. Get out of the house to go show love to somebody. Make peace maybe through a caring gesture to someone who really has been on your nerves. Be a little more generous with your thoughts about why that person always is so mean – what burden might they be bearing that you know nothing about? Share what you have with someone who really needs it, then see how you feel after. Do these kingdom things and you might just find you sleep a whole lot better at night. You might just wake rest-full, ready to greet the first bird’s beautiful song.

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2016  (All rights reserved.)

 

“Who’s In Charge?”

A Sermon for 9 August 2015

A reading from Colossians 1:9-20. Listen for God’s word to us.

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!

And one more reading because today we are continuing with our look at the Foundations of Presbyterianism from section F of the PCUSA’s Book of Order. . . . Remember Foundation #1: God has a mission: the transformation of the whole creation! A re-created world where all is at one with God! . . . Foundation #2 has five points and is entitled: Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Listen.

“(Point 1): The Authority of Christ. Almighty God, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, has given to him all power in heaven and on earth, not only in this age but also in the age to come. God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ Head of the Church, which is his body. The Church’s life and mission are a joyful participation in Christ’s ongoing life and work. (Point 2): Christ Calls and Equips the Church. Christ calls the Church into being, giving it all that is necessary for its mission in the world, for its sanctification, and for its service to God. Christ is present with the Church in both Spirit and Word. Christ alone rules, calls, teaches, and uses the Church as he wills. (Point 3): Christ Gives the Church its Life. Christ gives to the Church its faith and life, its unity and mission, its order and discipline. Scripture teaches us of Christ’s will for the Church, which is to be obeyed. In the worship and service of God and the government of the church, matters are to be ordered according to the Word by reason and sound judgment, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Point 4): Christ is the Church’s Hope. In affirming with the earliest Christians that Jesus is Lord, the Church confesses that he is its hope, and that the Church, as Christ’s body, is bound to his authority and thus free to live in the lively, joyous reality of the grace of God. (Point 5): Christ is the Foundation of the Church. In Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Christ God reconciles all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross (as we just heard in Colossians 1:19-20). In Christ’s name, therefore, the Church is sent out to bear witness to the good news of reconciliation with God, with others, and with all creation. In Christ the Church receives its truth and appeal, its holiness, and its unity.” (PCUSA 2015-2017 Book of Order, F-1.02).

Do you remember the What Would Jesus Do craze of a few years back? I think it started with woven bracelets to wear around your wrist. And I believe it was a movement primarily targeting youth – at least initially. WWJD was right there on your arm as you went about your day. The theory was that whenever you ran into some sort of situation in which you didn’t know what to do, WWJD would be your guide. Like a moral compass. So say the mean girl at school got knocked down in gym class and was struggling to get back up. WWJD: What would Jesus do? Turn around and run in the other direction? Pin her down further, then point and laugh? Or walk right up to her and offer her a hand? . . . Maybe it was about the big test on which you really needed an A if you were going to be able to graduate. As you walked down the hall past your teacher’s classroom, you noticed she dropped the answer sheet right there at your feet. WWJD: What would Jesus do? Pick it up, shove it in his backpack before anyone noticed, and hurry away to memorize all the answers? Choose not to cheat and just quietly walk away? Or maybe go find the teacher to let her know the test had been compromised? WWJD? What would Jesus do? It’s not a bad reminder – even if it first was a bracelet fad for youth. Because as we move through the stages of life it seems the situations get a little more complicated – the stakes, higher. The ethical dilemmas when trying to live faithfully in this world seem to grow more complex each day. WWJD? What would Jesus do? What shall we? . . . What would Jesus do? Because the Christian life is not just about what we think – even if such right thought has been our Presbyterian hallmark through the years. As our theological forbearer John Calvin taught: it’s about right thought that leads to right action. Just as Foundational Principle #2 proclaims.

Under the authority of Christ, “the Church’s life and mission are joyful participation in Christ’s ongoing life and work” (F-1.0201). We are called and equipped by Christ “for mission in the world – for sanctification,” or being in the process of becoming holy, more like Christ, “as we are in service to God” (F-1.0202). Joyfully: as a privilege we get the opportunity to fulfill. Christ gives us our life as a church – our unity, our mission and we are to obey his will (F-1.0203). As our hope, (according to point 4 of Foundation #2) “we are bound to his authority and thus free to live in the lively, joyous reality of the grace of God” (F-1.0204). What a powerful witness a lively, joyous response to God’s grace would be! We are sent out to bear witness in the world to the good news of the reconciliation of all things (F-1.0205). . . . All of these: participating in Christ’s ongoing work; being in mission in the world; obeying Christ’s will; living freely in a lively, joyous reality; and bearing witness to the reconciliation accomplished in Christ. All of these are about DOING – not just sitting around thinking or just believing certain things. But getting up and getting out there to BE as Christ would be in the world. Asking ourselves in every moment: what would Jesus do? Because he is the One in charge. How does he want to live through us?

It’s like Colossians reads: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created” (Col. 1:15-16). In the words of Presbyterian Foundation number 2: he’s the Lord of it all – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the head – not the session, not the pastor, not the biggest financial backer, or even the members who do the most work. Jesus Christ is the head. And you and I, the church, are his body – his hands and fingers and feet. . . . Think about the metaphor literally. Our head is the brains of the operation that is each one of us – at least most of the time I hope! For the most part, our body moves and does its thing because our head tells it to – sometimes consciously; sometimes just automatically. In the same way, with Christ as the head, we – the body of Christ – participate in Christ’s ongoing life and work today according to him – our head. Sometimes automatically, but often times consciously we must stop to consider: WWJD? What would Jesus Christ, our head, have us do? . . . In case it’s ever extra difficult to discern, the final point of our denomination’s statement on The Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture gives a clear guide. It’s a helpful little document for those who need a reminder of how Presbyterians approach it all. The statement culminates in the Rule of Christ – which is the Rule of Love. We believe we read all scripture through the Rule of Christ – the way of Love; for Christ is the definitive revelation of God’s infinite, unconditioned love. Christ has called us into being. He is with us always as the Risen Christ. And he gives us all we need for our mission of love in the world today.

One fiery commentator forcefully proclaims of the church that: “the purpose of the Church is not to be a place of entertainment where persons . . . come to be spectators while leaders . . . ‘put on a show’ using whatever gimmicks and novelties they can pull out of their bag of tricks so that everyone has fun. . . . The purpose of the church is not maintenance – to be a safe place, a refuge for its members – until Christ comes again. . . . The purpose of the church,” the commentator continues, “is not fellowship where the entire energy of the congregation is focused on its social relationships so that each person feels as if he or she belongs.” The commentator clarifies that “fellowship is an important dimension of the church, but it is not the church’s central purpose.” . . . Neither is the church’s purpose “protection, where the community, terrified of the world beyond its walls, invests all its energies in constructing a safe place where its members can dutifully worship, study, and enact their sacred rituals. The real purpose of the church is clear – to be the community of disciples of Jesus Christ and as such, to proclaim Christ” daily in word and in deed! (Feasting on the Word, Yr. C, Vol. 3, Rodger Nishioka quoting David Ng, p. 258, 260, 2010). Living as he lives. Doing as he charges. Being his body in the world today because we are “bound to (Christ’s) authority” (PCUSA Book of Order, 2015-2017; F-1.0204). And if we are not, we’re something other than the Church of Jesus Christ. . . .

With him in charge, obedient to his will; may the life of the Risen Christ be seen in us each day!

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2015  (All rights reserved.)