MANUSCRIPTS FROM PASTOR DAEKYUNG'S MOST RECENT SERMONS ARE BELOW:
Witness to the Word - March 17, 2019
Text: Matthew 27:32-44, Colossians 4:2 Title: Prayer: Seeing the World As We Are
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
May you realize more deeply what prayer is and gain the strength to put it into practice in your daily life as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today is Second Sunday in Lent. As we all are reading the book Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge written by Mark Batterson during this Lenten season, and our choir is planning on singing the cantata Come, Touch the Robe on Palm Sunday, I am inviting you to rethink about and practice prayer that Pastor Batterson addresses in his book in light of the narratives of the cantata. So last Sunday, we first listened to him say, “If we want to see God move, we need to make a move” as we witnessed the bleeding woman take steps of faith after praying. Today, we are going to deal with Day 11 reading of Draw the Circle titled “First-Class Noticer” and the sixth song of the cantata “Soldiers of the Cross” that sings about the soldiers who “nailed Jesus to a cross and gambled to see who would get his clothes” (Matthew 27:35, CEV).
In Day 11 reading, Pastor Batterson lets us focus on the word “watchful” which is used in Colossians 4:2 saying, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (NIV). And, he says that “[w]e become God’s watchmen” when we pray. In other words, “Prayer is the difference between seeing with our physical eyes and seeing with our spiritual eyes. Prayer gives us a God’s-eye view.” Simply put, we can see everything, everyone through God’s eyes by being in prayer. Pastor Batterson tells us about a concept of “first-class noticers” quoting Warren Bennis, the renowned leadership expert. First-class noticers “pay close attention to what is happening around them. They see things that others miss and understand when to dig deeper so that they can make informed decisions about whether action is appropriate.” In this regard, Pastor Batterson says, “Prayer turns us into first-class noticers. It helps us see what God wants us to notice. The more you pray, the more you notice; the less you pray, the less you notice. […] When you pray for someone or something, […] [y]ou start noticing anything related to those prayers.”
You have had such an experience, haven’t you? Let us look back on our lives. For example, when we started to pray for someone who was mourning for the death of his or her loved one, God suddenly let us notice that they needed food and words of comfort. So, we brought those things to them at once. Later, they told us that they really needed them at that time, and we satisfied their needs. Here is another example. We experienced a moment when we felt like we were useless. Maybe our family or friends made us feel like that. Finally, we couldn’t overcome that feeling by our own strength. So, we prayed. Then, God helped us to notice what we needed to know about ourselves. God told us what nobody told us: “You are precious. Your presence itself is valuable. You don’t have to do something amazing. You are just my beloved.” What do these examples tell us? Prayer has an effect on how we understand what’s happening around us.
Pastor Batterson says, “We don’t see the world as it is; we see the world as we are. That’s why prayer is so critical. It’s a way of seeing reality.” So, who are we who see the world as we are? We are ones who have become God’s beloved children by God’s grace. And, we are ones who are waiting for Christ to return. Living between when we are saved and when Jesus will come again, we are praying that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, we, as those who pray, see the world in a new way. Even if we look at the same thing, the same situation, the same person, we who pray don’t see them as they are but discover something new in and through them.
We can find evidence of it if we contrast the story of the bleeding woman that I told you last Sunday and today’s story of the soldiers beneath the cross of Jesus. In both stories, they are seeking for the same thing. What is it? Jesus’ garments. Both the bleeding woman and the soldiers are looking at the clothes that Jesus wore. They see the same thing. But, the soldiers see it as it is. For them, Jesus’ robe was just an extra benefit. Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. So, the governor’s soldiers stripped him and nailed him to the cross. And then, they divided his clothes by casting lots to determine who would get his clothes. “The clothes of executed criminals were the [bonus for] the soldiers on duty.” They just understood Jesus’ clothes as an additional income. But, the bleeding woman sees Jesus’ robe not as it is but as she is. In other words, as she prayed, God helped her to see it from a new perspective. So, she noticed that “[t]he robe was just a piece of cloth, [but] when Christ was present, there flowed a great healing power.” So, she touched the hem of his robe and was instantly healed. In short, when we pray, God opens our eyes so that we can interpret what is happening around us from a new angle.
Here are more examples of that. Acts 16:6-8 says, “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” What was happening around them? They were continually prevented from going where they wanted to go. Their plans failed. But, they were not disappointed. Rather they prayed. Verses 9-10 says, “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, [they] got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called [them] to preach the gospel to [Macedonians].” Yes. When they prayed, God opened their eyes so that they could notice that there was a new road that lay ahead to which God was about to lead them.
We are told in Matthew 26:36-39, “Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. When they got there, he told them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Jesus took along Peter and the two brothers, James and John. He was very sad and troubled, and he said to them, “I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying. Stay here and keep awake with me.” Jesus walked on a little way. Then he knelt with his face to the ground and [started to pray], “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup.” What was happening around him? He as a human being was struggling with obeying God. He became anguished and distressed (Matthew 26:37, NLT). But, Jesus’ prayer did not end there. Rather, he concluded his prayer by saying, “But do what you want, and not what I want.” Yes. When Jesus prayed, God opened his eyes to help him notice that he could fulfill God’s plan to save us by obeying God.
While preparing today’s sermon, God reminded me of one of my experiences that I have forgotten. Now I can share it with you. Well, we moved to Burlington in June last year. The Great Plains Conference reimburses pastors for their moving expenses. The moving company charged me 1,100 dollars in total, and I paid 500 dollars down on my moving day. And the conference sent me a 500-dollar check and was supposed to pay the remainder. So far so good. However, I don’t know why but there was no communication between the moving company and the conference for about a month. So, at the end of July, one of the movers contacted me and asked me to pay the remainder. So, I did it. And, I shouldn’t have done that. It turned out that the conference also sent a 600-dollar check to the moving company. So, I immediately called the mover several times to ask him to refund money, but I couldn’t get through to him. The moving company said they also had lost contact with him. I suddenly realized that I had been swindled. I was bewildered and actually didn’t know what to do at that time. I was not even able to think that I could let my District Superintendent or the church know about that situation. All I could do was just pray. I just kept praying that God helped me to focus on getting acquainted with my new congregation even in such a situation. And I struggled to forget about it. 600 dollars was not a small amount of money for my family. But, I chose to think I tipped the mover 600 dollars additionally. I thought he might have needed it. I poured out my heart to the Lord over and over again. Then one day, God enabled me to banish all troubles from my mind by making me notice something different that also happened to me in June, July, and August last year. All of a sudden, God led my wife and me to recall how Burlington UMC family had helped us to settle into a new town. Judy Stukey and the members of the Board of Trustees had prepared the beautiful parsonage for us. Jane Griffith put a welcome pizza in the refrigerator at the parsonage for us on our moving day. Luella Masters brought tasty meatballs, bread, and salad to us when we were still unpacking after moving. Barb Merry brought a map of Burlington and taught me how to read it. Johnny Freeman helped us in moving a mattress and dining sets from Lawrence and Kansas City by using a trailer. Terry Emmons gave us tomatoes he grew several times, so we ate lots of spaghetti with fresh tomato throughout the summer. The Caldwell and Wright family helped us in carrying the piano which I got for 10 dollars at the city-wide garage sale. Richard Croll helped us to buy another car when we needed it. We realized that, even though we had a bad experience at that time, we also had lots of good Samaritans who helped us. So, we gradually forgot the incident. Yes. When I prayed, God opened my eyes so that I could see the countless miracles that already surrounded me.
Friends, as Pastor Batterson says, we don’t see the world as it is. But, God encourages us to see the world as we are. When we devote ourselves to prayer, we will see what God wants us to notice. We will see what’s happening around us in a new way. We will see the ordinary miracles surrounding us. And we will see the Lord who is still working for us. Amen.
 . Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 67.
Text: Luke 8:40-56, Mark 16:20 Title: Prayer: Making a Move
40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” 49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” 50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
May you realize more deeply what prayer is and gain the strength to put it into practice in your daily life as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
First of all, thank you all for joining us for a brief live stream worship service last Sunday on which we finished our seven-week worship series. We started it by remembering the gifts God has given us and wrapped it up by reminding ourselves that we are called to use those gifts not only for our church family but also all the people we see in our community. And the Lenten journey this year just began. We all are encouraged to focus on prayer during this special season. And I believe that it is through prayer that we can receive the power and wisdom from God to use our gifts and talents for others.
I’m also planning on preaching about prayer during Lent. I’m gonna share some of the important points dealt with in the book Draw the Circle that will especially challenge us to pray for forty days. But, I also wanted to relate it to the themes of Lent. So, I decided to mix the theme of the book Draw the Circle with the narratives of the cantata Come, Touch the Robe that our choir is planning on singing on Palm Sunday, April 14th. So, simply put, we are going to look at how the stories of the cantata shed light on prayer about which Draw the Circle talks.
So first, we are going to address the day 7 reading of Draw the Circle titled “Put on Waders” and the first song of the cantata Come, Touch the Robe whose lyrics are about a bleeding woman we see in today’s text. The day 7 of Draw the Circle starts with Mark 16:20 which says, “The disciples [of Jesus] went forth and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” And then, Pastor Batterson, the author of the book, invites us to think of something important about prayer, saying, “We wish it said “signs preceding.” We want God to go first. That way we don’t need to exercise any faith at all. We’ve got it backward. If we want to see God move, we need to make a move. […] We can pray until our knees are numb, but if our praying isn’t accompanied by acting, then we won’t get anywhere.” His saying reminded me of the “Leap of Faith” scene from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Indiana took a first step of faith out into thin air. And he found that there was already a bridge there. Prayer is essential. But, taking a step in faith after praying is more essential in our life.
Pastor Batterson tells us a story of the Israelite priests stepping into the Jordan River (Joshua chapter 3) as an example. On the way to the Promised Land, Moses had died, and Joshua became a new leader of the Israelites. Then Joshua secretly sent two men to spy out the land. After the spies came back, they were sure that the Lord had given them the whole land. But, there was a problem: the Jordan River in front of them. Joshua prayed. Then what? He decided to cross the river. Ha! But, here they experienced another miracle. As soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. And all the people crossed the river. Pastor Batterson says, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like getting my feet wet. I’d much rather have God part the river, and then I’ll step into the miracle. That way I don’t get my feet wet, but if we aren’t willing to get our feet wet, we’ll never walk through parted rivers on dry ground.”
In Luke chapter 8, we also meet a woman who was willing to get her feet wet, that is to say, to take a first step in faith after praying. Actually, today’s text begins with a man named Jairus, who came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter was dying. But, all of a sudden, a woman appears in the scene. She had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She’d suffered for so long, hadn’t she? What were you doing in 2007? And, what have you accomplished for the past twelve years? I bet many things have happened to each of us. Looking back on my life, I was sick in late 2006. But, unlike the bleeding woman, I was healed and greeted 2007 in good health. Since then, I have been married, ordained, moved to Kansas, graduated from another seminary, served the UMCs in other towns, and started to serve in Burlington UMC. But, what about her? Her life had only been sheer hell for twelve years. She had lived like the living dead.
Then one day, she heard about a man named Jesus. People told her he healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised a person from the dead. Once she heard about him, she had no choice. She started to pray fervently that she could meet Jesus. But, that’s not all she did. She made a move. The Bible doesn’t say where she comes from. She may have traveled long distances. Anyhow, she finally saw Jesus on the road. Though she never tried to speak to him, she made her way through the crowd to Jesus to kneel by his side. She kneeled and, in faith, touched his robe, just the hem of his robe. And, she was healed.
But, if we reread this text in connection with the Jewish law found in the Old Testament, we may realize again how great the move she made was. Though, in our times, we don’t consider that we are religiously unclean because of uterine bleeding any longer, the ancient Jewish society believed that all of them make people unclean as we see in Leviticus chapter 15 which says, “‘When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Whoever touches them will be unclean.” According to this law, the bleeding of the woman in today’s text “makes her unclean. So besides suffering this messy, painful, weakening physical condition that all her money spent on doctors has not cured, she is ‘unclean’ as well. This means that her husband (and maybe children?) cannot eat food she has cooked, cannot sit on chairs upon which she has sat, cannot touch her even, without becoming ‘unclean’ themselves!” She had not been permitted to interact with others as well. I assume that the doctors she met may have also refused to meet her. That’s why she had to see “many” doctors (Mark 5:26). She had been isolated.
But, she made a move. Even getting out of her house to meet Jesus was a big step of faith. And, she eventually touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak. No. No. She wasn’t supposed to do that. How can an unclean woman touch Jesus, the Holy One of God? In the end, Jesus became unclean because she touched him, didn’t he? No. “[R]ather than the Lord Jesus becoming unclean and contaminated by her, she is healed and purified by the holy power that resides in him!” According to the law, she was unclean. But, by the grace of God was she accepted.
Friends, if we want to see God move, let’s make a move. When the sick woman prayed and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe, she was instantly healed. When Joshua prayed, and the feet of the Israelite priests who were carrying the ark touched the water at Jordan River’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. Then, what move will you make? What step of faith will you take while praying? If you are praying for a better relationship with someone, you can first extend an olive branch. If you are praying for more people to be saved, you can start sharing the good news with them. If you are asking God to fill you with love, you can try to show compassion and hospitality to others. Friends, what move will you make if you want to see God move?
 . Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 51.
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
May you hear the voice of Jesus who calls you to be a faithful disciple wherever you are as you listen to God’s Word which is proclaimed.
I grew up in a Methodist church in Korea. Even though Korean Methodists are rooted in the Wesleyan tradition, they are open to the Pentecostal tradition as well. In other words, individuals eagerly seek to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Many of them believe that speaking in tongues is one of the pieces of clear evidence for having the Holy Spirit. I also remember that I spoke in tongues for the first time when I was a high school student. I was just amazed. I lost myself in the presence of the Holy Spirit at that moment. As I recall, I prayed in tongues for more than one hour. It was wonderful for me to be there. Like Peter who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountain, I wanted to make shelters as memorials there. It was a real wow moment.
But, that day was special not because it was an unusual, strange moment but because it was the moment when I heard God’s voice clearly saying, “I love you. You are my precious child. No matter what you have done, no matter who you are, you are my beloved.” It’s because of that voice that my eyes were full of tears. It’s because of that voice that I was reminded of my new identity in God. We may easily focus on a change in Jesus’ appearance in today’s text. But, what’s more important in this amazing moment is that Jesus was reminded of his identity. We are told in verses 34-36, “While Peter was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.” “[T]he divine voice pronounces the fullest answer to the question of Jesus’ identity […]. Jesus is both the unique son and the chosen Servant in whom God delighted and through whom God would bring salvation to the nations.”
I’m sure that you also have experienced the presence of God in various ways in your life. Some of you felt the Holy Spirit through speaking in tongues like me, some of you through reading the Bible, some of you through the love and hospitality others show to you, some of you through worship or a small group experience, and so on. But, no matter how we meet God in your life, there is one and the same voice we all hear: “You are my beloved.” Such God’s voice always encourages and strengthens us. And we think that should be enough.
But, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration does not end on the mountaintop. It is soon followed by a story of Jesus who heals a demon-possessed boy after coming down from the mountain. Why did Jesus have to cure the boy? It was because his disciples who had been at the foot of the mountain could not drive out evil spirits while Jesus was on top of the mountain. So, eventually, Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you” (Luke 9:41)?
You may wonder why Jesus called the disciples “unbelieving and perverse generation.” What did he mean by that? First of all, we can easily conclude that the story of Jesus’ transfiguration tells us that we need to not only have a mountaintop experience, that is, a joyful, amazing experience of God’s presence but also come down from the mountain and return to our ordinary life to live out God’s will. I agree with the conclusion. But, if we reread the text, we can find that the disciples who were on the mountaintop with Jesus were not the same with the disciples who were asked to heal the demon-possessed boy. And, these two stories rapidly and ultimately turn our attention to Jesus’ followers who were spending time with others in their daily lives. Those disciples also had experienced God’s amazing presence through Jesus’ life and ministry. They witnessed Jesus who was feeding five thousand people, walking on the sea, turning water into wine, healing so many folks, etc., etc. They had already had so many mountaintop experiences with Jesus even though they were under the mountain while Jesus was on the mountain in today’s reading. And, Jesus wanted them to live like him even when they were not with him. But, unfortunately, they could do nothing. Maybe they had no power to heal the boy. Or maybe they refused to cure the boy. We don’t know why they couldn’t do that like Jesus. What’s important is that the grace of God, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit were not revealed through them to others.
Now, what does this account tell us? We are gathered to have a mountaintop experience through which we are filled with God’s love, hope, grace, and encouragement. But, at the same time, we are scattered to spend far more time under the mountain. It is there that we are asked to love, to heal, to serve, to show compassion and hospitality, to live like Jesus even when Jesus is still on the mountaintop. Friends who are beloved, you are gifted. We are called to use those gifts for each other in our church. But, we are also called to use them for all the people we see in our town and the world. We need to keep asking what they need. We need to keep sharing God’s love without condition. We should continue to serve where we are in our ordinary lives. That’s what we followers of Jesus are called to do under the mountain.
Now, let me conclude Greater Gifts and See All the People worship series. We started our seven-week worship series with the voice Jesus heard from heaven when he was baptized which said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Now we are about to conclude the series with the voice Jesus heard from the cloud on a mountain, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35). This identity of Jesus is repeated by the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus on the cross. They said, “Surely he was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54)! The voice Jesus heard from God from when he started his ministry to when he finished it was always the same: “You are my precious child.” Folks, God always calls you “my beloved” as well. Now, let us continually help all the people we see in our lives to be aware that they are also God’s beloved by using the gifts God has given us. Amen.
 . R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 9:206.
Witness to the Word - Feb 24, 2019
Text: Luke 6:27-38 Title: The Questioning Crowd
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
May you hear the voice of Jesus who calls you to follow his path as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
We thought about the spiritual gifts that God gave us through the former worship series. Now, we are talking about using those gifts for all the people we see in our community. At this point, let us be reminded that we are also the crowd around Jesus. But, Jesus continually invites us not to remain the crowd but to be his faithful followers. We are those who press in on Jesus, and Jesus sees us. So, we also turn our eyes to others. We are the needy, and Jesus satisfies our needs. Thus, we also take care of those in emotional, spiritual, or financial need in our town and the world. Then today, what is Jesus challenging us who are in the crowd to do / so that we become his disciples?
As we have seen, Jesus walked on the street, saw the crowd, and comforted and healed their wounds. So far, so good. But, all of a sudden, Jesus said something that may have puzzled the crowd. He says, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. […] Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. […] If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. […] Do not judge. Do not condemn.” “What? Are you kidding? I can’t do that” they may have thought to themselves. We can easily imagine that the crowd was questioning his message.
We know that today’s text shows some of the toughest instructions we Christians are to follow. Yes, we are talking about the difficult themes today. But, I would like to focus on two things: What’s the point of Jesus’ message in today’s text? And, how is it connected to the theme of our worship series See All the People which is reaching out to the community with our gifts?
First of all, what are the verses in today’s reading trying to say in common? What is a major theme of Jesus’ message today? Basically, Jesus is not talking about love for neighbors but love for enemies here. In a word, he’s talking about unconditional love. In other words, Jesus is asking the crowd to “love anyway.” Because God’s love poured out for us is unconditional, our love shown to others also must be so.
Then, how does the main point we grasped shed light on the local outreach that we have engaged in? We are called to see the people in our community in the way Jesus saw us, to support the needs of the people as Jesus satisfied our needs, and now, to share our gifts with everyone we see without condition. Let’s think about it while looking at the verses mentioned earlier one by one. First of all, verse 29 says, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.” Let me ask a question. When we Christians approach people to share our gifts and talents with them, what would they think of us or our action? Unfortunately, many people would probably think we had a hidden motive which is to bring them to the church. And, they may not be accommodating. That is a natural reaction because many churches have engaged in outreach ministries to accomplish the quantitative growth of the church for long. Well yes, we are called to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20). Please keep encouraging your neighbors, friends, and family to worship together with you here. Please re-invite the members who haven’t attended our church for long. An invitation to the faith community is important. But, our motive must be always love which is unconditional. In other words, sharing the love itself should be the purpose of community outreach. So, even if people strike you on the cheek, in other words, misinterpret your action of sharing, don’t be discouraged. Let’s offer the other cheek also. I mean, let’s keep sharing God’s love anyway.
A pastor gave a message on home evangelism and one family thought they had better do something to witness to Jesus. So they invited their neighbours to dinner the following Friday night. When it came to the meal, the believers were keen to show their neighbours that they upheld Christian standards in their home. So she asked little 5-year-old Johnny to say grace. Little Johnny was a bit shy. “I don’t know what to say” There was an awkward pause, followed by a reassuring smile from the boy’s mother. “Well darling,” she said, “Just say what Daddy said at breakfast this morning.” Obediently, the boy repeated, “Oh God, we’ve got those bad people coming to dinner tonight.”
Again, let’s share our gifts with the people we see in our ordinary lives continually. But, let our motive always be love.
Second, we are told in verse 30, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” This is opposite to worldly standards. But, this is the only way we may live out God’s unconditional love that can make this world more beautiful. For that reason, so many people have talked about giving without expecting anything in return. One of them is Nelson Mandela. He said, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.” Whatever gifts we share with the people in our community, when we don’t expect a return and only focus on God’s love which will flow from us to them, it will be the greatest gift.
Third, verses 32-33 say, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” I hope when you consider someone with whom you start to share God’s love, he or she will be the person with whom you are already familiar like your family member, neighbor, friend, coworker, colleague, etc. It will be an easier start. But, I also hope you don’t limit whom you will share God’s love with. Sometimes, God may nudge you into sharing God’s love with those whom you don’t like to encounter, those whose opinions are different from yours, or those who don’t smile at you. It’s a hard assignment. But, that’s a core of sharing God’s love without condition.
Lastly, Jesus says in verse 37, “Do not judge. Do not condemn.” When we reach out to people, we sometimes think who deserves our love and who doesn’t. Nobody is completely free from this judgment. Therefore, we should always ask God to help us to see people with God’s merciful eyes. Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk and writer, says, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
In summary, because Jesus reached out to us with unconditional love, he calls us to share our gifts in the community unconditionally.
Let me conclude the sermon with a story:
[A man] finally decided to ask his boss for a raise in salary. It was Friday. He told his wife that morning what he was about to do, All day the man felt nervous and apprehensive. Late in the afternoon he summoned the courage to approach his employer. To his delight, the boss agreed to a raise. The man arrived home to a beautiful table set with their best china. Candles were lit, and his wife had prepared a festive meal. Immediately he figured that someone from the office had tipped her. Finding his wife in the kitchen, he told her the good news. They embraced and kissed, then sat down to a wonderful meal. Next to his plate the man found a beautiful lettered note. It read: “Congratulations, darling! I knew you’d get the raise! This festive dinner that I made you will tell you how much I love you.” While on his way to the kitchen to get dessert, he noticed that a second card had fallen from her pocket. Picking it off the floor, he read: “Don’t worry about not getting the raise! You deserve it anyway! This festive dinner that I made you will tell you how much I love you.”
Friends, let’s remember this “I love you anyway” posture when we reach out to the community to share our gifts. Amen.
17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Good morning. May you remember that you are God’s beloved and God wants to work with you for this community as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Last week, I invited you who have already received gifts and talents from God to turn your mind to everyone you see in your daily lives. Some of them may desperately need emotional, spiritual, or financial support right now. If we just pass them by, we might not know what they need. But, if we see them the way Jesus saw the crowd, we will be aware of what they thirst for.
There were always lots of people who were thirsty around Jesus, and Jesus quenched their thirst as we see in verses 17 – 19 which say, “When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. Everyone tried to touch [Jesus], because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.” Here is a story of a Ghanaian novelist and publisher: “I was only four years old as I lay by my father on a floor mat on a hot summer night. (My mother, with a baby, had her own room at the time.) This was in northern Ghana where the climate is mostly dry. Sweat covered my body, and the heat parched my throat. I felt so thirsty I shook my father awake. In the middle of that dry night, he rose up and poured water from a jar for me to quench my thirst. Throughout my life, as he did that night, he exemplified the image of a caring father. He provided what I needed.” Likewise, I bet you all have experienced God who satisfies your thirst since you became God’s beloved children.
Now, recall the people you have encountered for the past two or three weeks. They may be needy, thirsty, and expectant as you are. What would they need? What would they thirst for? I bet you have already thought about those questions and known the answers. I asked several people this question: What do you think the needs of the people in our town are? Spiritually, emotionally, physically, or financially, etc. And they have given me answers. I would like to share them with you. In that sense, it is not I but we who wrote today’s sermon.
First of all, one thing we can notice most is emotional needs. We have allowed ourselves to get so busy that we aren’t saving time to get emotionally connected to the people in our lives. And, people need kindness. That may be spiritually or emotionally or physically. People also would like to see the church become welcoming and inviting to all because Christ is always inclusive.
Second, our community suffers in being so busy that we don’t recognize or address our need for Christ. We have so many opportunities and so much competition for each minute of each day. To condense this into one phrase, we might say: misdirected priorities. People need Jesus. They need to know how much God loves them. They need direction from the Holy Spirit. But, at the same time, people want to see the love of God through us.
Third, financially, there is such a difference in life for the people of Burlington, New Strawn, Gridley, etc. Though we have many people who make a great living, we also have people who are losing their jobs and who barely make minimum wage.
Then, what can our church give them? How can we support their needs? That was the second question I asked the same people, and here are their answers.
First, concerning emotional needs, a connection between people can be made best by small group opportunities. We know that when we feel Christ’s love working through others in any small group we are a part of, life can be much more manageable and enjoyable. And, we as a church can give everyone we meet kindness and support, which may be a smile, holding the door open for them, listening to them, or doing something for them, like a meal, a visit, or cards. It could be something bigger too. We can also break down the barriers of prejudice and fear that separate people from God and each other and show people Jesus’ inclusive love. It is important for the church to be a comfortable, safe place for everyone who seeks guidance from God.
Second, regarding spiritual needs, the church can demonstrate that Christ makes a life-changing, positive, eternal difference, a difference that many don’t even know they need, and help them to make time and space to incorporate Jesus into their lives. Also, we can prepare ceremonies through which people in our community can truly celebrate God’s love and mercy. We can also remind all of the parents and grandparents that the greatest gift for birthdays, holidays, achievements, etc. is always the leadership involved with understanding of a life in Christ, such as, praying or reading the Bible in front of them and showing them they are trying to follow in the way of love.
Third, with reference to financial needs, we can keep supporting existing organizations which provide some form of financial support or services such as Gods Storehouse, ECKAN, Cancer support, local churches programs, etc. Or, we can offer cooking classes for those who don’t know how to cook with the ingredients they receive.
We can continually come up with lots of wonderful ideas for supporting the people in our community. But, you know, what is important is that the ideas can be realized only when we use our talents and gifts for them. Reaching out to the community is an ongoing ministry of the church. We have engaged and will continually engage in it. On the one hand, as the answers mentioned earlier say, we can keep inviting people to this faith community, helping them feel loved and welcome, and seeking to be faithful disciples of Jesus together with them. But on the other hand, each of us can be the church wherever we are. Where we are, we can show others God’s love by using the gifts we have been given.
In that regard, today’s text points out a significant thing. Verse 19 says, “Everyone around Jesus tried to touch Jesus, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.” Yes. People need to touch Jesus to be healed. They need to meet Jesus to experience God’s unfathomable grace. They need to accept God’s invitation to have an eternal fellowship with God. We know there is something they need to do to quench their thirst. But, there is one thing we should note. It is the fact that Jesus walked the street to allow them to touch. Jesus sometimes stayed only with his disciples, but he also climbed the mountain or went to the lake to see people. Jesus often prayed in a solitary place, but he went to the marketplace as well to let people touch him. In other words, he didn’t wait for people to come to him but went out to show God’s love and mercy through himself to them. Likewise, we are called to be gathered, but at the same time, to be scattered to show God’s love to whomever we meet.
I would like to keep encouraging you to be the church after you are scattered. We will continually think about how we can support the people in our community. We will keep doing what we have done. And we will also try to do what we haven’t done. Some of you may be able to start dinner church or cooking church in our community, some of you donut shop church, some of you quilting church, some of you art church, etc., etc. to share God’s love where you are. But, the key is always you who have received gifts and talents to use for others from God. Let’s get excited. Let’s learn. Let’s make it happen. Amen.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Good morning. May you be reminded again that you are important and are an instrument of God’s love as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today, we started See All the People worship series. But, it is still connected to the Greater Gifts worship series in which we were reminded of the three gifts we received from God: first, the new name “beloved”; second, unique spiritual gifts; and third, each of us gathered here. Now, the new worship series invites us to turn our mind to everyone we meet in our daily lives. And, we are also able to use our talents and gifts for them as well.
The changing of direction is related to the nature of the church. I already shared my understanding of the church when I started to serve at Burlington UMC last July. Do you remember it? I know. It’s long, long ago. The church is not a building but people who follow Jesus. And the people are gathered and scattered repeatedly. The followers of Jesus are gathered to be reminded of how amazing God’s grace is and what God wants us to do. They are also scattered to the school, to the office, and to home to live as a church there. God’s love flows from them to everyone they see in their ordinary lives.
Today’s text conjures up the image of Jesus who is seeing people. Verse 1 says, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” Can you visualize it? The famous image of large amounts of fish breaking the nets that we can see in verse 6 also reminds us of the crowd pressing in on Jesus. Jesus went to the lake, climbed the mountain, or walked the street. He was always surrounded by the multitude there. And, he saw them.
But, what does it mean to see for Jesus? Is it just to run into somebody, say hello to him or her, and continue on one’s way? “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:30-32). Did Jesus see the people around him in that manner? Absolutely no.
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’” (Luke 10:33-35). This is the way Jesus saw the crowd.
“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (Luke 13:11-13). The disciples of Jesus also copied him: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (Acts 3:1-8).
To sum up, Jesus saw people and healed, comforted, and loved them.
We also see people every day. We see people at the donut shop, Hoover’s, the library, the school, the office, the museum, etc. If we know what gifts we have, we can use them not only for our church family but also for all the people we see in our daily lives. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, said, “The world is my parish.” “In the early days of the Methodist movement, many in the established church thought the Methodists were crossing lines, holding meetings in places where there was already an established church. Pretty soon, Wesley found himself unwelcome to preach in the parishes of the pastors of his day. [So,] Wesley responded by saying, “The world is my parish,” reinforcing his mission “to spread scriptural holiness across the land.”” Wesley is not talking about competing with other churches. Rather, he is calling, [as Jesus was,] “all persons to receive God’s gift of salvation and follow in the way of love and service” wherever they are, wherever they go. We the followers of Jesus are called to serve all the people we see whether we are gathered or scattered.
A Christian has a unique identity. “In the Letter to Diognetus, which dates back to the second century A.D., an anonymous writer describes a strange people who are in the world but not of the world: Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect. … They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the unusual form of their own citizenship.” We Christians belong to this world. But, we are not ones who allow the world to define ourselves based on whether or not we reach a particular standard that the world sets. Rather, we are ones who let God define us. God has invited us to have an eternal fellowship with God regardless of who we are. And God sees us as we really are and says, “You are my beloved.”
Now, we as those who are sent into the world are called to let everyone we see know that wonderful fact as well. We are called to let all we meet know that God invites them to have an eternal fellowship with God regardless of who they are. We are called to tell them that God sees them as they really are and also regards them as God’s beloved. This is how I understand evangelism. We generally consider it as bringing people to the church. It is right. But more fundamentally, evangelism is to proclaim the good news to the world through words and deeds. In other words, it is to let God’s unfathomable love flow freely from us to all the people we see.
There are many ways in which we reach out to the community with God’s love. We have already engaged in outreach ministries deeply. Especially, as we are celebrating Scouting Ministries Sunday today, we are reminded that “[t]he scouting program can be an effective, intentional outreach ministry of the local church. … Nurturing children, teens, and families through outreach and evangelism and incorporating them into the life of the church may have tremendous, eternal results for the youth, their family and the Church.”
What else? Yesterday, Bob Culbertson, Darla Jones, Joyce Hopkins and I participated in the Fresh Expressions workshop. A Fresh Expression is basically about how we can serve all the people we see in our community in an imaginative way. So, “[e]ach fresh expression of church is unique, and designed for their particular context. They can be rural or suburban, in public spaces, housing projects and college dormitories. Some are aimed at specific groups. […] There is biker church, cowboy church, church for artists, church at or after work; the sky’s the limit. Each is an adventure in bringing the power of the Gospel to people who might never experience Christian community and the transformational and self-giving love of Jesus.” We will continue to learn about Fresh Expressions and attempt to implement them in our community. But, the point is that we are called to share God’s love with all the people we see in this community.
So, folks, let us be gathered to be reminded that God loves us as we are. And, let us be scattered to remind all the people we see that God loves them as they are. God is calling us to see all the people in the way Jesus saw the pressing crowd. Amen.
 . The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), ¶301.
 . https://bible.org/illustration/christ-one
 . http://www.gcumm.org/scouting
 . https://freshexpressionsus.org/about/#what
Why Judas? - Richard Croll, Guest Speaker on Feb. 3
Have you ever wondered what type of person Judas was? What did he look like? How did he act? Did he have many friends? Was he smart? When I think of Judas, Severous Snape of Harry Potter fame comes to mind. Hunch backed, greasy hair, mousy look...a real weaselly guy. But then I got to thinking about it, if Judas was the loner of the group, if Judas was the guy who looked like he didn't belong, wouldn't he have been the first one the other 11 would have turned to when Jesus said he was going to be betrayed by one of the 12?
Why Judas? Why was he the one to turn Jesus over to the high priests? Don't you think God could have picked someone else to point Jesus out? There were many people who knew Jesus, who saw him teach and perform miracles. Any of a number of others could have pointed Jesus out, so why Judas?
Judas as we heard in Matt 10 was one of the 12 disciples Jesus chose to send ...to drive out evil spirits....to heal the sick....to preach God's holy Word. Didn't God know Judas' future? Didn't He know Judas was the one who was going to betray Jesus? Of course he did, Jesus even foretold of it during the last supper. But did Jesus make a mistake in picking Judas? Remember Jesus didn't go out in the market square and in a blanket statement, ask for volunteers and take whoever raised their hand. Luke says in 6:13 that from a larger group of followers, he chose 12. Judas was chosen from a larger group of Jesus' followers, chosen as one of the 12! Jesus was face to face with many folks, and He deliberately asked each and every one, Judas included.
Why Judas? We don't know much about Judas, or for that matter several other of the 12...Judas 2 who was also known as Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Andrew, Phil and Barty. Most are not well known to us, and for that matter how much do we know about any of the disciples. What are their favorite colors? Birthday? Snack foods - besides John's love of locust and honey, fave sport, did they play quiditch, did any of them like camel racing?
None of this really matters, because it isn't how much we know about the disciples, but instead about how much we know about Jesus, and our heavenly father, who offered us the priceless gift of grace. My answer to "Why Judas" is found in Judas's lack of knowing Jesus. All those other followers that could have been chosen instead of Judas, longed for more of Jesus. They followed Jesus around the countryside, they worshipped him.
There aren't many scriptures about Judas in the Bible. Most say the same or at least similar things about him: he was one of the 12, he betrayed Jesus, he killed himself. However, if we check out the things John has to say-
John 6:70 -70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”
So, we know that Judas was chosen by Jesus. All of the 12 were chosen, so this doesn't help us much in finding who the true Judas is. All of us are chosen... each and every one of us, but as we know, not all who are chosen, actually live the life of a Christian. Some of the chosen don't listen and go their own way. Others accept Jesus, but don't really lead a Christian life and should be considered more of fans than Christians. They know of Jesus and what is required, but decide to sit in the stands and cheer for those participating in the game.
Let's look at tonight's football game, who has a jersey for one of the teams? Maybe a hat or t-shirt or license plate or cup? Maybe you have some Chiefs gear of similar types, same idea. Does that make you a member of the team? Of course not, we can't just say we are members. Oggie showed us earlier, just having a jersey, or knowing the names of the coaches and players doesn't make you a member of the team. If that were true, our own Isaac Caldwell would be a member of the Red Socks. No one knows more about any team than Isaac and his Socks. Congrats Isaac! No, we have to participate in practice, we have to study the play book, we have to live the life of the team.
Each member of the many teams around the world, know what their team stands for. Wildcats don't often cheer for Jayhawks, Patriots players know they don't voice their opinions about the team in public, and Heat, Cavs and Lakers players know you don't go against Lebron. Each team has its own underlying rules for how its members are to act. Some are allowed to question other players motives, some are allowed to go to the media, some players think they are above reproach.
News flash, being a member of Christ's team has similar rules. Sunday worship is as close as we come to practice, and it works for that purpose. Our team doesn't require us to attend, but we are encouraged to. We come here for the pep talks and the breaking down of film - that's where the pastor says good or bad things about what is going on with his team. He tells us in what areas are we lacking, what are our strengths. Being a good team player requires we study the playbook, we study the playbook to get in the game. Our playbook has all the answers, many more than Brady has in his. Every situation has been written about and how we are to react. The Bible is the ultimate playbook.
We do have John's account of a situation that arose in the previous gospels. The account has the disciples getting angry with Jesus for allowing the woman to slather an expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. Here is John's take....
John 12:5 - 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages."
John usually gives some pretty eye witness details. This one points directly at the heart of Judas. John also told of Judas' penchant for taking money from the treasury. Many of us would have had issues with what we didn't understand. We would have seen pouring expensive perfume on someone's feet, even Jesus' feet, as wasteful. But the skimming from your gang's money? Taking money from the church? Judas' heart was full of himself; he had no room for the love that knowing Christ gives you. Judas knew of Jesus, but he did not know him.
Jesus seems to be proving a point with the choice of "Why Judas". Jesus is showing us that people from within can cause great damage. Just look at our church from several years ago, it wasn't hurt from outside but instead by members within. Satan looks for cracks he can exploit. The biggest crack we can have in our foundation is to not have a foundation. If we do not get into the Word and spend time in prayer, our foundations will have cracks as well.
It seems the answer to "Why Judas" is not one, but many answers. The first is yet another teaching moment showing that sometimes the biggest problems come from within. A second is that he simply did not know Jesus until the very end. Before Judas' own death, he showed remorse and stated that he killed an innocent man. I believe this leads to the most important puzzler of "Why Judas". I see this as one of the major plot twists in the Bible.
While we cannot know for certain, scholars believe Judas died prior to Jesus. God, who wrote this story before He even created the earth, knew Judas was going to be the great betrayer. God knew who was responsible for turning over His Son over to those who would shortly after mock, ridicule, torture and then murder Jesus. In most cases, we have free will. The ability to choose, but Judas didn't have that luxury. And yet, I believe God left an escape clause to save Judas, should Judas want to be saved. With Judas dying before Jesus, he died before the veil was torn, before Jesus made a way for us to step through to the holiest of holies, before we had a place created for us in heaven. All those who died before Jesus are given the chance to repent and accept Christ as their savior. Maybe Judas can repent, or as it says in Matthew - "better that he had never been born". Is Judas in heaven or hell? It doesn't matter. What does matter is your relationship with our risen savior. Make sure you know Him and He knows you. Amen
Dearest Heavenly Father -
We, your children, gather here today to deepen our relationship with You. Let the music we sing and the words we hear touch us in ways that lead to thoughts of You, and allow Your Spirit to flow over us this day in ways that affect us throughout the week. We thank you, and we praise, today and forever more.
In Your precious son's name we pray, Amen.
While we collect our monetary tithes and offerings, do not forget that our offerings can take other forms. As we read in Proverbs 11:25 -
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
So, if you cannot give financially, do not fret. God has given us different ways to bless those He puts in our pathway. As we give today, prayerfully consider how you can give in other ways. Will the ushers please come forward.
All we have is a gift from You. Today, tomorrow and to the ends of the earth. We will always be dependent on your mercy and grace. Take these gifts we have given today, and search our hearts to find areas where we can give in different forms. Because you have not given us money alone, but have given us merciful and passionate hearts, eager and helping hands, loving and caring voices. Show us how we can use those gifts in the same manner so we can further Your Kingdom.
Bless us now as we say the prayer You taught Your disciples so long ago,
Our Father, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
As you go forth today, ask yourself, what kind of relationship do you have with our Risen Savior? If your answer is it could be better, do something about it. Pray more, read more, worship more. As you go forth, in whatever you do, do more. God bless.