pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

All

Reading: Romans 10: 8b-13

Verse 12: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him”.

Verse 12 is a pretty amazing statement when one considers who Saul was. As Saul, Paul was raised as an expert in the Law. He was a Pharisee – a person who dedicated his life to carefully following all of the Law. Saul followed the Laws that called for a strict separation between Jew and Gentile. The Jews were the chosen people of God, a group set apart. Gentiles were all non-Jews. This was a large group of people. As the early church began, Saul’s zeal turned upon the Christians, who were Gentiles according to Saul’s world view. Then Saul met Jesus. His heart was changed and his name was too. Paul is the Gentile version of Saul.

All of us are like Saul to some degree. We are raised with and we can learn stereotypes and prejudices or at least thoughts about certain groups, types, or classes of people. For Saul the dividing line was Jew-Gentile. It varies for each of us, but the list is long when put all together: men-women, black-white, American-immigrant, old-young, Republican-Democrat, white-Native American, jock-nerd, Christian-nonbeliever, white collar-blue collar, rural-urban, straight-homosexual, educated-uneducated, progressive-liberal… The list goes on. And on. But no matter who is on our lists, Paul’s truth remains truth because it is God’s truth: “For there is no difference between ____ and ____ – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him”. God created us all and loves us all as His dear children. All does mean all. Anyone we could name. Anyone we could put on the list. All is a pretty inclusive word. God’s love is inclusive.

We each live within God’s extraordinary love. In the Jews’ world at the time of Paul’s writing, the us-them mentality prevented them from sharing God’s love. This same mentality can have the same effect on us today. It should not be so. We read why in verse 13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. Everyone. That’s a big word too. May our love for all people, for everyone, be that big too.

Prayer: Lord of love, when I begin to see things that divide or separate, tear them down. When I begin to see differences, wipe them from my mind and heart. Create in me a pure heart, O God, a heart of love for you and those you love – all people. Amen.


Leave a comment

We’ve Always

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Paul begins our passage by reminding his audience of how he got to where he is at right now: by revelation of God.  He was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus, was struck blind for three days, and turned his life around 180 degrees.  Paul went from greatest persucutor of the church to the champion proclaimer of the church almost overnight.  It was a transformation that only God could lead.  The change God wrought in Paul gives him some authority to speak on God’s behalf.

But the news Paul is now sharing is difficult for many to accept.  At the core of this new church are ancient Jewish roots.  Almost all of the leaders and members of the church are Jews.  So, forever they have been “God’s chosen people”.  Of all the people in the world, only the Jews are chosen by God.  Since the time of creation, the Jews have been the one and only people of God.  This is one of the great “we’ve always done it this way” stories.  And now, Paul is preaching another story.

Today we still run into the “we’ve always…” stories.  A church I was at a while back ran a day center for the homeless and economically challenged.  Several people from the church volunteered at the center.  So, every once in a while, a volunteer would bring a guest with them to church.  This worked out OK because there was a buffer there.  But every so often a guest would respond to an invitation and would come on their own.  It was then that we learned who the few “we are God’s chosen people” followers were.  Yup, these guests are not just like us.  Yup, these guests are just like us: dearly loved children of God.

This was the revelation of God to Paul: all people are God’s people.  Red and yellow, black and white, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar, …  This is the continuing story of God.  It is, of course, the ultimate “we’ve always…” story.  Jesus loved and welcomed whoever came to Him.  There were no applications or interviews or screenings.  Come one, come all.  All were worthy of His love and care because all are children of God.  As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”, may we also seek to be the light in the darkness to bring healing and salvation to the world in need.


Leave a comment

Preach and Testify

Reading: Acts 10: 34-43

Peter opens today’s passage with an important statement, with one of the significant learning and understanding shifts in the early, early church: “God does not show favoritism”.  It is a shift away from a small, select ‘chosen people’.  Instead, Peter tells us, God is willing to accept all who fear God and who do what is right.  When the church came to understand that God is for all, the whole world became the mission field.  It was not just throughout Judea that they were called to bring the good news, but out into the entire world.  People of all races, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, religions, ecenomic classes, social classes… must hear the good news.  This philosophy of accepting and welcoming all is the essence of Jesus’ ministry and is foundational to many of our churches today.

Peter then goes on to give a brief summary of Jesus’ ministry: bapitzed by John, anointed with the Holy Spirit, did good and healed, died on a cross, rose from the dead.  After the resurrection, Jesus returned and commanded “us” to preach the good news and to testify that all who call on Jesus as Lord will receive forgiveness of sins.  Again, Peter chooses words like ‘everyone’ and ‘all’ – anyone is welcome to hear the good news, to profess Jesus as Lord of their lives, and to receive forgiveness of their sins.

In the last few verses of chapter eleven, the people Peter was preaching to are overcome by the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, and are baptized in the name of Jesus.  The power of God entered that situation and welcomed some new members into the family.  The command to preach and Testify is our command as well.  To tell the good news and to share the story of what Jesus has done in our lives is our great commission as well.  We accomplish this call with words, actions, deeds – whatever it takes for others to come to know Jesus Christ.

Today, may all of us who call on Jesus as Lord share the good news of Jesus Christ with any and all we meet.


1 Comment

Go and Do Likewise 

Reading: Luke 10: 29-37

God, who is my neighbor?  This question has a different connotation today than it had in Jesus’ day.  In Jesus’ day, the community was close knit.  One knew a lot about one’s neighbors.  But today many people do no even know the person across the street.  We may have hundreds of friends on social media flung far across the world, but we are too often isolated in our own homes.

In today’s parable Jesus sees neighbor as not just the people living around us, but also as anyone we might come into contact with.  This definition really changes the ball game.  We might be willing to take a meal to the family next door if we know they are struggling, but the family across town that we do not even know?  In Jesus’ world, yes we would.  Neighbor is everyone.

We can take a meal to the family next door even if we are really not friends.  We can do it even if we do not really get along.  It is a quick, limited interaction type of engagement.  It is a safe foray with little commitment.  In our story today, the Samaritan goes beyond this – way beyond.  He stopped, got his hands dirty, actually cared for the wounded man, took him to a place to recover, and paid for it.  He even told the innkeeper he would pay for any additional expenses when he returned.  And I bet he stopped in and checked on the wounded man.  They probably became friends!

Jesus saw all people as His neighbor.  In the parable we clearly see our call ad Christians to love all people that we encounter.  It is the example set by the Samaritan and by Jesus.  As Jesus said to the lawyer, may we too go and do likewise.