Thursday, August 27, 2009

Combating Homelessness

Skid Row, Los AngelesImage via Wikipedia

LAST WEEK ELEVEN from our church family (7 youth, 4 adults) traveled to southern California to serve at the Los Angeles Dream Center. It was a week that truly impacted each one of us. We started our week in a light-hearted fashion by spending a day at Disneyland, that place where dreams come true, and then spent the rest of the week experiencing the ministry of the Dream Center as they endevor to help those whose dreams have been shattered by homelessness, drugs, abuse, crime and the other destructive epidemics that ravaged the inner-city.

Our sermon passage this week is found in John 14:15-31. And in many ways relates to the realities that we experienced last week while we were serving on the streets of L.A. I believe one of the greatest fears I possess is that of being homeless, but as I was reminded last week, homelessness goes far beyond not having a roof over your head.

In reading through this portion of Scripture I was reminded that there is a marked difference between being home-less and being house-less. Being house-less is an issue of "location." Being home-less is an issue of the heart.

In speaking peace to His disciples, Jesus reminds them that they shall not be left as orphans, those without both house and home, but rather he was sending to them the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) and that He and the Father would also make there home within them. (John 14:23) In this passage we are reminded that homelessness is so much more than being without a place to live, and we are reminded of what is needed to insure that a person can be at home even if forced to live under a bridge.

To find our home with the Heavenly Father requires that with live in relationship with Him and this relationship involves keeping His commands (John 14:15), namely, to love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:38) and to love your neighbor as Jesus has loved us. (John 13:34-35)

As we continue to live out the life of love in and through and by the Person of Jesus Christ, let us continue to do what we can to combat house-less-ness, but also let us combat the deeper need of bringing people home to the Savior, for this is the greatest need.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

So Close...Yet So Far

There are some passages of Holy Scripture that are more worrisome to me, than others. Take this coming week's sermon text from John 13:18-38. It this encounter around the table Jesus introduces to His followers that there is a betrayer in their midst. One who has journeyed with them for three years and one who had the responsibility of keeping the common purse of this band of Jesus followers. As the writer John records it becomes obvious by the end of the meal, that the betrayer is Judas.

What makes this disclosure even more striking is that even at the very time of Judas' turning he is sharing bread with Jesus, he is in close proximity and fellowship with the one whom he will turn over the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15) So close, yet so far away.

Whenever I read the accounts of Judas' betrayal (Matthew 26:14, Mark 14:10, Luke 22:3) I wonder does that capacity reside within me? I pray not! John makes an interesting comment in John 13:27, that it was after he took the bread from Jesus that Satan entered his heart. At one level it sounds like up to that point Judas still had the opportunity to do right. I certainly cannot say what the reasons where for Judas to betray the Lord, I am sure there was more than one, but the bottom line is, he did.

It's easy to cast Judas in a bad light, but the passage goes on to remind us that Judas was not the only "betrayer" in the group. Even Peter, the Rock, one of Jesus' closest disciples would turn his back on the Lord. He stood in the shadows of Jesus' trial and when questioned as to his commitment to Jesus of Nazareth, denied knowing Him, not once, not twice, but three times. (John 18:25-27) Peter even knew what was coming (John 13:36-38), he could have steeled himself for the coming trial, but alas, he too betrayed his Lord. He was so close, yet so far away.

What about me? So close...

Stay close!!!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Holy Pedicure

OK, I'll be honest, this week's study passage is one of those that can make me feel uncomfortable. It's the washing of the disciple's feet by the Lord Jesus. (John 13:1-17) It's not uncomfortable because Jesus is bending down, wrapped in a towel, taking the form of a servant to wash the dirty feet of His followers. No, it's uncomfortable to me for two other reasons:

First, is it where Jesus tells His followers, that as He, their Lord and teacher, have washed their feet they should do likewise. (John 13:14)

Second, is that we have taken the above directive and developed it into some sanctified ritual. By that I mean, in some faith traditions there is a regular foot-washing ceremony, like the regular Communion services we celebrate. Or, if we have not created a "special event" we have spiritualized Jesus' actions and words saying that this means we are to have a "servant's heart" in regards to our dealing with each other and the world-at-large.

I believe that both of these miss the boat.

To make the act nothing more than ceremony we rip it from the reality of life. (Sometimes I believe we have done the same with Communion, but that's for another blog.) When the foot-washing is done within the walls of the sanctuary it becomes sanitized and weak, not really accomplishing the task for which it was designed, that is the actual removal of dirt from a persons feet so that they would not be offensive to others reclining at the table.

When we spiritualize the act it becomes too easy to think we are humbling ourselves to the menial task of a servant, when in reality we seldom bend far enough to truly take the servant's posture. If that sounds judgmental it is only because I am looking into the mirror of self-evaluation as I type this blog!

It seems to me that if Jesus was only referring to the actual washing of another person's feet, then those who are professional pedicurist must be some of the most spiritual, Jesus-modeling people around. Like most things within the church today, we run the risk of "professionalizing ministry" and thus loosing the deeper truth our Lord and Savior was seeking to impart to us.

So, what is Jesus teaching? Well, lest I give away all my thoughts for this week's coming Sunday message, allow me just a few thoughts to wet-your-whistle, and maybe get other ideas following. Some lessons for me from the Master.
  • Keep your eyes open to the practical needs of those around you.
  • Seek to offer down-to-earth practical help.
  • The Jesus-life is sometimes nothing more than dirty work.
  • Jesus is not only my Master, but my Model for how to live.
  • Humility comes easier when you know Who you belong to, and where you're going.
  • Being a servant means stripping off that which hinders.
Well, that's enough to keep me busy. How about you?