Prayers for Florida

Over the years of keeping THIS particular blog, I have gained quite a friend in Tommy F. Thompson of Jacksonville, FL.  I have watched Floridians weather storms all my life on the TV, but only now do I have a friend who weathers them personally.  I am praying for these folx now who brave the monsters of the sea that come raging ashore threatening life, property, order, and our very way of life.

Currently, Tom has a home.  But as he and I discuss it, there are plenty of folk in Florida who will weather this having no home to lose.  It is quite possible that millions of Tom’s neighbors, and Tom himself, might join them living in nature and chaos very soon.

I care.

I pray.

I encourage you, my precious few readers, to as well.

 

Thanx

X

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Lectionary Sermon for 1 September 2019 on Luke 14:1,7-14

I find the background of historical information in this blog post alone is worth your time to read it. The insights and conclusions are worthy of your consideration as well. While I will quibble with the notion that the meal offered in hospitality to strangers and needy folk is something OTHER than worship (and this thought trickles down into alternative conclusions, in my view), the overall post is absolutely fantastic, insightful, and helpful for opening your Christian imagination to deeper involvement with Jesus, and that is a HUGE blessing! I hope you will read this!!!

Bill Peddie's website

On Taking the Message Seriously

While most Christians claim to believe that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life, in reality, followers who genuinely try to follow his teaching tend to be so far out of step their society’s popular conventions that those who follow such disciples’ example are few and far between.

Francis of Assisi appears to have been something of an embarrassment to the Church of his day when most church leadership of the time seemed focused on hierarchy and status. As stories of the deeds of Francis with his humility and compassion began to spread, the Church leadership found his witness hard to ignore, yet it was difficult for them to offer him support without demonstrating the difference between his example on one hand and the practice of the mainline Church leaders on the other. It was not so much the leaders were unaware…

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A Fat Beggars Mailbox Fundraising Scheme

Okay, I am finally gonna do it (not really, I am being facetious with this – please don’t take this seriously), and start a fundraiser for Fat Beggars so we can “help” the homeless of Lubbock, Texas.

How am I gonna do it?

(Glad you asked.)

Simple.  I saw a news item running on the morning headlines about a young 16 year old, climate activist coming to America on a zero-emissions sail boat which she is taking around the world to raise awareness for climate issues (or what not…).

(DISCLAIMER HERE:  This post is not actually about “climate change,” so don’t get your hackles up.  I am personally sensitive to that issue, but not an activist for that cause.  I simply use this news item as an example and because it acts as a catalyst for my current thinking about a different issue, one which I actually do champion and argue about.  Please keep that in mind.  This post is NOT, therefore, debating the issue of climate change either for or against any political agendas related to it.)

So, anyway, I am hearing this headline-making story on the TV in the other room as I am doing other business, and I am thinking about how many on-going current stories are featuring or related to climate change (not least Amazon rainforest fire updates for the last several days).  And yet we have this teenager on a sailboat going around the world raising awareness and confronting world leaders about this issue, and even the newscasters I respect are sitting there opinionating on her spunk and personality, her dogged determination, and her important cause.  And I can’t help but think how the other headlines dealing with this issue are surely overshadowing this girl’s efforts already, making her mission redundant at best (it seems to me), yet garnering so much attention and sympathy.

I mean, I have a cause too.  My cause gets attention sometimes too (at least in general terms) and it actually raises lots of money also (just not for THIS ministry, or for the niche issues THIS ministry cares about).  I mean, The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church of Lubbock (not its real name) boasts a MILLION DOLLAR budget in recent years, and parades the names of individuals and organizations which donate on their website.  Yet, this same organization kicked me out of their “church” when I insisted that it should open its doors to the homeless when it freezes at night in Lubbock.

(See, this is actually my REAL issue to argue about.)

My cause, the one I actually want to raise REAL awareness about and for which I seek real change, is for the CHURCH of Lubbock to actually, and physically (and Spiritually), OPEN THE CHURCH HOUSE DOOR to the homeless – especially when the weather is bad.  WWJD???

Okay… so back to the point of this post.

See, here’s the thing:

I champion this “homeless cause” too, as does The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church AND a number of other churches, organizations, and individuals in Lubbock.  There is already a LOT of attention given to this issue and to a handful of these ministries/activists.  However, there is still this persistent sub-issue which goes regularly neglected, downplayed, and buried under all the other attention.  The CHURCH is closing her DOOR on the poor and needy and leaving homeless people in the streets night after night – even when it’s freezing cold in the winter.  This is where I come in.

I am almost redundant.  Almost unnecessary.  Almost not worth your attention.  Almost.

Now… IF you come camp out with me on the streets in front of a giant, multi-million dollar church house on a freezing cold night in December when the wind and wet is howling and blowing and you hunker down in your layers trying to SURVIVE the night, THEN IT WILL CROSS YOUR MIND: Wow!  If that big empty church house were to just open the door, we could really get warm and take some real shelter in there!

And IF I am there with you talking about it as the hours pass by with no relief, AND the misery overwhelms you, THEN MAYBE in five minutes or MAYBE in five hours, you will come to see that as a SPIRITUAL matter of loving Jesus.  ANY CHURCH HE IS A PART OF WILL LEAVE THE 99 TO SEEK THE LOST AND BRING THEM IN TO THIS SHEEPFOLD!  In fact, as soon as this idea comes home to roost for you, shivering there in the cold, you will suddenly see it is a NO BRAINER!  And that ignoring it is a NO HEARTER!!!

FEEL ME YET?

Yeah.  THIS is the niche being neglected that I champion.  It is an important one.

And here I am hearing a news item on the national broadcast morning program about a 16 year old girl, whose name I can’t remember, and all about her spunk and determination and her effort to raise awareness for an issue that was featured in three or four other news items already before we got around to her, and I am thinking:  Wow!  I need in on THAT!

Of course the girl in the news this morning has a zero-emissions boat and is going all around the world.  I can’t actually see the relevance in all that.  Why does she need to actually travel like this in order to promote her message?  And for that matter, I am not able to run off and go around the world either.  I am stuck a little closer to home.

Nevertheless, this reminded me of a similar tactic used for fundraising I encountered at The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church years ago, before I was kicked out AND before they found other means of raising money – money on the order of a MILLION DOLLARS.  Yes.  BEFORE all that, there was a special flyer leadership passed around featuring a fundraiser asking for donations per mile.  You see there was this nature lover dude in Colorado (not Texas even) who planned to hike the totality of the Colorado Trail, crossing the mountains and the state of Colorado over the course of the summer.  It’s an ambitious undertaking, to say the least.  But he was raising money and awareness for homeless ministries, and Premier Homeless Pseudo Church signed on to be one of his beneficiaries.  Thus, the “church” was promoting this fundraising scheme.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I totally get that as a helping organization, Premier Homeless Pseudo Church has operating costs and service goals which cost money and that raising funds through various imaginative methods is standard procedure.  I get all of that.  I did not in anyway oppose that fundraiser, but I really did not understand it either.

Here’s what I mean:

We have SOME GUY in another state hiking a nature trail all summer long.  For him, it’s a vacation.  In fact, I kinda envy the guy.  I wanna hike a nature trail too!  In fact, I am FROM Colorado, and I have hiked part of that trail myself, and so I know what an awesome adventure this guy is setting out to enjoy.  But, if I go hike that trail, it has NOTHING to do with homeless, with raising any money, or awareness of anything.  In fact, it just puts me out the money of time off work and expense for supplies, BUT IT MAKES FOR A NICE VACATION!

Of course that’s just if I do it.

This GUY I don’t know, on the other hand, is serving Jesus step after step by doing the very thing that would be selfish if I did it.  But hey!  Other than that… it makes perfect sense.

AND this girl sailing around the world to promote her agenda for issues having to do with climate change make me recall that other fundraiser from the distant past, and also give me an idea.

So… I told you ALL OF THAT so I can say this:

Agent X is now embarking on a trip to my mailbox to get the mail.  I have calculated that the average number of paces round trip from my front door to my mailbox is just over 56.  Thus I am asking you, my dear reader (Once Again I Am BEING FACETIOUS ABOUT THIS), donate $1 per step, and I am sure we can finally get the church of Lubbock to actually OPEN THE DOOR to the poor and homeless this winter.

(Disclaimer again: Unless of course Global Warming prevents us from having a cold winter, in which case, kiss your money goodbye!.. I will just get some new shoes to replace the ones I wear out checking the mail!)

Please make checks payable to:

(oh, I forgot who to make it out to… or where to send it… actually, just send it all to my mailbox!  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  After all, I will be walking out there to check the mail anyway, so just for convenience sake…  It’s all part of this important service to Jesus!)

 

 

Wisdom From my Homeless Friend Shaz

Shaz! If you can love Shaz, it’s a sign to me Jesus is in you, and I am excited, because Shaz knows what she is talking about.

Grace and Truth

“You tell me this”, said Shaz* as we sat over coffee, “You tell me: if there was a homeless person lying in the gutter, would it be a Christian or a druggie that stopped and helped him?  It would be the druggie every time.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan came to mind.  And I knew she was right.

I said “I agree with you Shaz.”

That stopped her for a second.

We had met for a coffee, but when we got there she refused to have one. Said she’s not paying that amount for a coffee.  I offered to buy her one but she refused that as well.  So I drank my coffee and she sat opposite me with nothing.  Instead she had the sugar bowl.  With a spoon she stirred and stirred as she spoke.  The constant stirring was mesmerising and I had to tear my eyes away…

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Nathan and David: The Untold Story

Nathan was a prophet of God.

He was a trusted prophet, on the king’s payroll no less, or so it appears.  King David’s payroll, to be exact.  Yes, the David who was a “man after [God’s] heart” and secretly (and especially) anointed by God to be king.  Yeah, that one.

Nathan is known as a good prophet, one who speaks accurately the message from God to the king.  And that is a correct assessment, but not exactly the whole story.

David, this shepherd-boy who is especially anointed to be King of the Jews, consults Nathan in II Samuel 7, just as soon as he has conquered all the nation’s enemies and God has given him rest.  It is David’s first order of domestic business.  His first action item as king, barring only establishing his crown.

What is this important business?

(Glad you asked.)

David, the especially anointed one of God, wants to build a HOUSE for God.  You see David, this king “after [God’s] heart”, finally gets a chance to actually sit a minute on his throne and catch his breath.  And as he assesses things, the first thing he sees is how that he, the anointed one, lives in a fancy palace, but God lives in tent city!  Something just seems amiss here.  This isn’t rocket surgery, not a complicated notion at all – at least not for one with a humble heart in the presence of Almighty God.  David, it seems, feels that he has overstepped his place, and he wants, now that he is in charge, to build a HOUSE for God.  And that just SEEMS appropriate!

So David runs this idea by Nathan his prophet.  And Nathan too sees it just like that as well.  The idea is just too obvious, and so at first Nathan gives it the prophetic nod.

I find this interesting, because Nathan, the prophet who speaks so trustworthily for God, signs off on this project just willy-nilly, but then later that night, he hears a different message from God about it.

NOW

There is a whole lot of very important theological STUFF packed up in the message Nathan later takes to David, STUFF I wouldn’t want you to miss. (If you are not already familiar with this story, please read it.)  But all that important STUFF is the usual focus of any study of that passage and of the relationship between Nathan, David, and God.  I want us, just this once, to consider the road less traveled in the meaning of this story just a moment.  Not that my take is more important, it’s not, but it will help me make an important point.

Nathan, a trustworthy prophet, misspeaks for God.

He is on the king’s payroll, so endorsing anything the king desires is an ever present temptation, but the king, in this case, is desiring to humbly honor the God Nathan speaks for, so it’s all a bit complex at this level, and we may never really iron all of that out.

I don’t mean to smear Nathan’s reputation one bit with this.  This is all biblical fact, raw data already provided in the Holy Scriptures.  I am not actually convinced that Nathan was particularly dubious even in this one instance, but we cannot deny the fact that he speaks for God a word favorable to the king before he himself hears from God on the matter.  He jumps the gun.  He could make mistakes (or at least he did one time).

It is quite clear that Nathan is only too eager to rectify the thing the next day after he actually hears from God.

It probably makes matters easier for Nathan that the message from God to David will ultimately be quite flattering for the king – even though it turns the plans of this Lord’s anointed one around in a 180 degree repentance.  But there is nothing in the text which highlights this as Nathan’s motivation, and so it appears that he comes at last with a pure message and a pure heart.  And in fact, there is nothing made of the fact that the trustworthy prophet seems to have rushed to publication of God’s Word ahead of time and thus misspeaks.  This page-one, headline-retraction seems in no way to besmirch Nathan’s record or reputation.  On the contrary, if it has any impact on Nathan’s credibility at all, it is only to cement his trustworthiness all the more.

Thus we have a  prophet who is on record as having made a prophetic mistake with regard to this anointed one “after [God’s] own heart”.  So when we find, just four and five chapters later, that this specially anointed one, this king “after [God’s] own heart”, also has flaws (to put it mildly – after all he not only cheat’s on his own marriage, he plots and executes the murder of the other partner in the other marriage behind whose back he does the cheating! (Making Bill Clinton look angelic…)), we might do well to ask how a “man after [God’s] own heart”, one so specially anointed as this, could possibly entertain ideas of such sin and coverup, much less commit them.  Let’s face it; David, this Lord’s anointed one really blows it!

And how will God handle this problem?  The king of his own people, the “man after his own heart”, the anointed one God designates for a dynasty that will endure for all time, has just engaged in some of the most despicable evil a man ever can.  So God does what he always does in this situation. (I am being facetious!  This is not a common occurrence.)  Yes, God sends Nathan with a no-miss message for the king, the king he works for and by whom he gets paid.

How’s this for a bind???

And Nathan is faithful with the message!  He doesn’t miss.  Not this time!

And so in a parable, (much like a preview of the kind Jesus will preach against the temple elites to crowds of Israelites many generations later when the prophecy Nathan first botched, retracted, and re-foretold about David’s Son comes true), is preached against the king!  Against the king who signs the paychecks.  Against, no less, God’s specially anointed one.

This is no easy message to deliver.  If the king chooses to reject the message, he may well “shoot the messenger” as we like to say.  Nathan’s very life may be on the line for uncovering the royal coverup.  We certainly see Herod do this to John the Baptist much later, and John is not on Herod’s payroll.

Nathan is in a conflict of interest: serve God and possibly lose his life or not serve God and definitely lose his LIFE.  (At the very least, he stands to lose his job, all his friends, and be banished or shunned for the service into which God calls him.)

And so this prophet with a less-than-perfect record goes to speak with God’s anointed on behalf of the God who anoints him with a very spicy parable for the “man after [God’s] own heart” who has stumbled into sin and coverup … a parable that lures him into a matrix of conviction and justice.

The parable itself is quite clever.  It seems perfectly designed to rile up the king in order to ensure conviction of the wrongs committed, only the punchline is that the king is the criminal on trial here in his own court!  I encourage you to read the oracle this prophet Nathan brings.  It is quite a story!

And then the truly amazing thing happens…

This one especially anointed by God, this one embued with power and authority over the nation of God’s people, this same Lord’s anointed who fretted about how he lives in a palace while God lives in tent city, ignores the prophet as best he can, marginalizes him, rallies his court together, and bans the prophet from every coming back to “church”.

Sound familiar?

Well, if you have read this blog very much, then I am sure it does.

Think about it.

 

A Street Prophet’s Parable

One day as the street prophet was teaching the bums on the empty lot behind the liquor store about how the “empire” robs people of their God-given imagination and capacity to explore His loving reign over creation, and as he used this line of reasoning to explain how it is that they find no room at the church on cold winter nights, the bums felt invigorated by his words, but they lacked comprehension.  His dialogue was peppered with the word “empire” over and over again, but the bums had never heard such teaching before.  It was curious to them, but some simply did not understand.

Finally, one of the brothers spoke up and asked, “What do you mean by ’empire’, and how does it rob us of our imagination?  I don’t feel robbed of mine.”

The prophet answered with a question, “Did you ever hear the story about the high school student sitting in a lecture in his public school History class who raised her hand to interrupt the teacher and ask, ‘So if this Christianity was so deeply influential on modern civilization and so many of the important institutions that we take for granted, like hospitals, prisons, and major charitable organizations, then why don’t you tell us more about this religious faith behind it all?'”

At this point, the bums listening to the street prophet all looked at each other a moment and back at the prophet expecting him to tell such a story, and as they sat there blinking in a moment of cognitive dissonance, the prophet asked, “… and why not?

What If Rome Got It Wrong?

A silly question, I know, but humor me a moment.

Think about the Roman patronage system for just a minute.  That social arrangement which forms the backbone of economic, industrial, and military might of Rome.  That arrangement between a patron and client, between benefactor and needy, where each party gets entangled in certain kinds of obligations toward the other.  A wealthy person from an upper class takes some form of pity on an underling and from time to time speaks up for, advises, defends, or even cuts the underling in on a good business proposition, and where the underling, the client, the needy person, stands ready to answer every beck and call of the benefactor to whom all gratitude is owed.

Nothing in this world is FREE.  Even in modern America we say that FREEDOM ISN’T FREE.  Someone pays dearly to ride the ride of civilization up front, and sooner or later, we all pay the man on the backside.  And this patronage system worked all that out for the Roman Empire from top to bottom for hundreds of years and ushered in on an unsuspecting world the very PAX of Rome, a utopian dream!

Patronage.

Yes.  A series of obligations upon which is built not just an empire, but civilization itself.

And patronage is like a strong muscle.  There is power and leverage that comes with it – thus ORDER where otherwise we would find chaos!

And in this system, underlings know there place!  They work hard every day to please the benefactor in hopes that one day the crumbs falling from the table will turn into a ship coming in.  Imaginations trapped in the toiling wheel of life, while really the benefactors benefit more and more and more all the time.

Oh sure there is risk, and every now and again, a ship does come in, and an underling breaks through to the other side, maybe even usurps the benefactor.  Just enough of this happens to keep the hope alive!  But mostly not too much of it, and so a Roman can count on the stable order of empire and world.

Of course this is all at the expense of GIFTGIFT does not belong to the world of PAX.  No.  GIFT belongs to the world of SHALOM.  What if we start seeking SHALOM?  A world God makes that can actually handle the truth about GIFT.

GIFT suggests something is free.  No strings attached.  “Freely you were given, freely you give!”  Such an idea would unravel EVERYTHING we built if we REALLY meant it.  If you were to actually FORGIVE a debt, the whole system would be under attack!  This monster we have created would no longer be in control!  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a LIVING God!

But as long as you are humoring me, consider this:

What if we turned patronage upside down and inside out?  What if those of us of means sold everything we have and ran out into the streets to find the poor and needy and to serve THEM as if THEY WERE OUR BENEFACTOR in the Age To Come?  What if it’s their testimony for or against us that decides our admittance or rejection from the utopian dream of Matthew 25?

What if Rome got it wrong???

What if the Kingdom of God were at hand???

Would you repent?

A $30 Irony

I was raised in church from before I was born.  I have been to more than a few churches and more than a few thousand Bible classes.  And in all that time, I was never charged any money to attend a Bible class where we learn about Jesus.  Not once.  Except for Christian college where I earned professional degrees.

I thought Bible class was free for all, all the time.

But then a couple of years ago I joined a class that charged money.

(To be fair, the ministers offering it were willing to pay the attendance fee for me, but…)  Still the class had a fee of $30.

Yes, this class was offered in a very well-to-do, White, middle-class, professional church made up of people more than capable of paying the fee.  But there was this charge.

And the topic?

How NOT to give money to the poor who will waste it and be enabled in bad behavior if you do.

How ironic is that???

Talk about doing harm with your money!  Wanna see When Helping Hurts???  Yeah, let me take you where I go to church and you can give money to a ministry that will marginalize your readiness for the Matthew 25 Judgment AND will charge you $30 to ENABLE them to do it again and again and again to other well-to-do people who want to keep their money and not feel guilty for turning Jesus out.

Wow!