Proper 23(C): One Out of Ten Lepers Agrees

Wow! When the PASTOR listens, REALLY listens and wrestles with God, THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE! Please, please, please… This is a MUST READ! Visit this blog! I beg you…

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Proper 23(C): One Out of Ten Lepers Agrees

Luke 17:11-19

By: The Rev. Leah Lyman Waldron

At first glance, this passage is about gratitude: remembering to thank God for the longed-for blessings in our lives. While there’s definitely a rich sermon there, it’s not really the focus of the text. Thanking Jesus is actually a function of recognizing Jesus: all ten lepers call Jesus “master” when they first see him, but only the Samaritan comes back to acknowledge that Jesus’ healing act was a function of his godliness. The lepers who were Jesus’ fellow Israelites know this wandering rabbi has been healing those in need and show him due respect, but the Samaritan—who worships God differently enough to be treated as a “foreigner” (v. 18), literally a non-Jewish outsider—knows that his power is of God and that “to thank Jesus is to glorify God.”[1]

This shouldn’t be a surprising…

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Prophets

Matt’s post is appropriate for this blog at so many levels, I would be derelict not to link him, I think. So here it is. Please visit Matt’s post today.

Laced up Lutheran

I’m currently reading The Politics of Jesus by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. It was published in 2006, but it seems to apply as much today as it did 13 years ago.

There are many nuggets in this book, especially in the first chapter. The section that caught my attention is on the prophets and their impact on Jesus.

Prophets would have had a significant impact on Jesus and his view of the world – especially his politics. Politics is a word loaded with much meaning. Often it is misunderstood. The politics of Jesus’ time wasn’t the same as the politics of our own. There were no Republican or Democrat parties in those days. There were no political parties at all. There was no America, and certainly no American ideals to be fought over. The idea of democracy, or any type of democratic ideal was not something that the average person…

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Hiding Simple In The Complex (Smoke-n-Mirrors)

I think this is not a good title for the post.  It does nothing to grab your attention and comes off so abstract that it probably repels interest.  But I am gonna stick with it, and try to keep this brief.

An interesting observation, based on my recent post “What Does It Profit A Nation To Gain The Whole World And Forfeit Its Soul,” has come to light in a unique way.  The argument in THAT post is about the American Church getting more and more lost in the American Dream of wealth and power than being found in sharing God’s wealth with “supportive networks” a.k.a. COMMUNISM (of a godly kind, of course).  And part of the premise of THAT post shows the problems of poverty and homelessness are complex and “intractable,”  yet the American culture (of which the church has so deeply imbibed), finds it easy to blame the poor and thus walk away from biblical ways to address their problems.

The new observation based on my recent post notices that the American Church (not least in my own experience as expressed multiple places and times throughout this blog) actually champions all the arguments for complexity.  It would be so simple if a needy person on the corner asking for spare change could get their life “fixed” with the collection of funds they are asking for, but as so often happens, the bum either squanders the finances and/or it’s not enough.  Thus, this otherwise very simple solution does not, in fact, “fix” the problem.  If it did, then perhaps the church would back it.

Thus the church, certainly in my experience around Lubbock, holds classes for white, middle-class Christians where the complexity and “intractability” of poverty is discussed at length, where the pupil(s) in the class become overwhelmed by this observation, and then are told giving alms will actually hurt the poor!  And beyond that to leave this work of caring for the poor to the professionals who know what they are doing!

The point here is rather complex.  The church is having it both ways.  The church is claiming the problem is complex, “intractable,” and all that on the one hand, AND, on the other, blaming the poor too.

Here is what is NOT happening:

Listening to and obeying God.  Thus we lack trust in God – FAITH.

Yes.  God’s word repeatedly tells us to give to the poor AND/OR shows other people being commanded to give to the poor, AND/OR shows examples of God’s people giving to the poor.  And not only that, God’s word pronounces Judgement on those who do not give to the poor repeatedly throughout Scripture.

God’s word does not tell us this almsgiving will somehow “fix” the poor.  On the contrary, Jesus himself tells us “the poor will always be with [us],” and we “can do good to them whenever [we] like.”

Thus I would extend this observation one step further.

The church’s obsession with “effective” outreach is not biblical.  There is something meant by “effective” which is, biblically speaking, defective.

Here is my best guess:

The power in almsgiving is not actually in the MONEY; it’s in the GIVING!  And the “fix” we might hope to find there is likewise not in the MONEY given (boy, a greedy church is all over that like white on rice!), but in the SHARING of the bountiful blessings of God among humans and the rest of creation!

NOW SEEK SHALOM!

 

On Their Level

This post is a stunner! Please visit this blog and be stunned. I think you will find Jesus in these words.

Our Daily Journey

Recently a church youth group was on a wilderness back-packing expedition and got lost. It was supposed to be a half-day trip, so they soon ran out of water in the Texas heat. One boy especially became dehydrated and seriously ill. Another hiked miles to get help, then hiked back with rescue team to show them the location. A helicopter came and took him and this now seriously ill friend to a hospital over 100 miles away. The other hikers were provided supplies and were eventually trucked out. Fortunately, the rescue was in time – the young man’s life was saved.

Nice story, so far. Right? Here is where it gets dicey. Our young hero is now in the hospital waiting room. He calls home to bring mom and dad up to date. So far so good. The boy continues his vigil, but soon realizes a predicament – he has…

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What Does It Profit A Nation To Gain The Whole World And Forfeit Its Soul?

The problems of poverty and homelessness are “intractable” and complex.  However, in American culture, it is easy to blame the poor for their own problems and thus to be overly simplistic and uncaring.  “These people” lack discipline, delayed gratification, job skills/education, work ethic, and so forth on the one hand, but on the other, “these people” struggle with alcohol and drug addiction and mental illness.

No doubt such observations are true.  Any and all are common – even major – contributing factors to poverty and homelessness in our culture.  However, very quietly, bubbling up at the edges of popular analysis, I find a concern for “networks of support.”  People living on the street suffer the loss of “networks of support” which put them there, networks which enable (empower, if you don’t like my use of “enable”) them to overcome any of these other contributing factors.

Got a debilitating drug addiction?  That is enough to put you out on the streets, UNLESS you have a “network of support” which intervenes on your behalf.  (I recall a sales company some years ago where the top salesman had a terrible alcohol addiction and could not drag himself out of bed in the morning to go to work, but the boss benefited so much from this guy’s ability to “close the deal” that he would literally go roust the guy out of bed, drag him through the shower, get him some coffee and drive him door-to-door to make his sales pitch, and thus kept the man employed and in an apartment despite himself).  THAT is a “network of support” alright, and not the only kind.  A drug addict might avoid the streets by leaching off his daddy’s trust fund for many years too.

Call it distasteful if you must, but the concept holds its own quite well, actually.

For that matter, sofa surfers are notoriously hard to count among the homeless.  They are right on the edge of our culture and sometimes do in fact sleep on the streets or in their car, but they manage to sleep on sofas all through their “network of support” as well, and this keeps them floating just above the countable population at the shelter or at the soup kitchen.

With this concept in place, you can begin to see that when the numbers of street homeless swell in any given city or nation, it is a sign that the “networks of support” are failing.

Isn’t that interesting?

And the terrifying thought that no one dares to utter when considering this notion, and probably the reason it is only bubbling up at the edges of popular analysis, is that THIS kind of theory places blame on our social networks rather than merely on the individual.  That makes any helpful measures considerably MORE complex than the intractable poverty already is!  It also points the blame back at all of us.  It is a group effort to put people out on the streets, and you are part of that group.

Americans, at root (and at our conservative best), champion personal responsibility.  The moment we move the discussion in THIS direction, there is a feeling, a fear, that the solutions are not matters of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” but rather more Socialist or Communist in nature.  And among the most conservative of Americans, are Christians – Evangelical Christians at that.  People who believe, in some strange sense, that God blessed America in, through, and on account of this spirit of independence, of strong work ethic, of strong self-discipline.

These same American Christians claim to champion Jesus, the “inerrant” Bible, and “traditional family values.”  This is a group of people, a “support network” unto themselves and their political views, whose championing of such matters goes a long way in driving the culture where we are today.  I speak particularly about and too THEM.  And I point out the very uncomfortable truth that these championed matters are eroding even among conservatives at an alarming rate.

I have yet to run into American Evangelicals, at least in any powerful numbers, who have thrown in the towel on “Jesus” per se, or on their views about the Bible being “inerrant.”  But I am finding a LOT of them, more and more every year, backing out on “traditional family values” for sure.  And while I won’t fault these folx for their sense of self discipline, I do ask them to demonstrate faithfully from the revered Word of God how they can champion a spirit of independence or even a strong work ethic – certainly as it pertains to blaming the poor for their predicament.

On the contrary, I find in the Bible, that book American Evangelicals prize as “inerrant,” a strong commitment to a spirit of interdependence!  (We might, if we were social scientists, call this “networks of support.”)   In Acts 2 and 4 both, we find the Lord Jesus’s church selling all their possessions and supporting the poor among them by such means!  Yet I don’t ever hear American Evangelicals citing those “inerrant” passages!  They get glossed over too easily, I think, on our way to blaming the poor and distancing ourselves from them!

This American attempt at insulation from the poor, which above I demonstrate in use of our Bible, is also supplemented in numerous cultural ways by the church(es) which engage in this kind of spirituality and politics.  We build our cathedrals in the white-flight districts of our towns and cities, we send 501c3 organizations to tend to the poor on our behalf (insisting that in order to receive our financial support they also protect our values which blame the poor and keep the poor out of our sight and mind on our behalf).  We promote coffee shops on our side of town which claim to financially support poverty relief organizations serving on the other side of town.

All of these are cultural insulators between the poor and American Evangelical Christianity.

They most certainly are NOT the “networks of support” we find in the Bible.

And while God is blessing America, as he seems to have done for the last 400 – 500 years, the last 40 years have swelled the ranks of the poor, the addicted, the mentally ill, the lazy, the homeless, and so forth.  Those numbers are climbing!

This deterioration of our culture has happened, and is happening, on our watch!  It grows right under the nose of those American Evangelicals so eager to insulate themselves from the poor, to pull the plug on Jesus’s “network of support.”

We are a nation that has gained the whole world, but we are forfeiting our soul.  American Evangelicals are leading the charge!  And the eroding commitment we have for the “inerrant” Word of God, is proving detrimental more and more every day.

Think about it.

 

Closing the Gap

“Close the Gap” and OPEN THE DOOR (Revelation 3:20)

donrelly

Donald R.Elly, M. Div.

Luke tellsthestory of two men.One was quite rich, theotherdestitute, dying of malnutritionand are blind to each other.It is painfully obvious thatwealthisthedifferencebetween them.Bruce Larsonsummarizes failureof the rich man, …”he is blind to the person in need siting right outside his gate. He is damned for his casual indifference to the person right as his door.”

Several factors may account for the failureofvision (1). First, wealth in Jesus’ day, was often thought to be a sign of God’s blessing, while povertywas theresult of sin,or lazinessor God’s curse (the Prosperity Gospel is the contemporary form of this Old Testament idea.).

Secondly, the lack of vision by the rich man may be a result of arrogance that…

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September 26

“God erred…”? If God was wrong about being right, then I don’t want to be right about being wrong. Despite the commitment to caution in giving, this post celebrates the grace of God for the least of these. I wouldn’t want to discourage that. I will promote it instead. Bravo, Pastor. Praise God!

Daily Devotional

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”– Luke 6:38 (NLT)

(One last thought about doing good for “undeserving” people before I get back to the Psalms.)One morning when I was living in Phoenix, I was meeting a friend of mine for breakfast.As I walked up to the hostess to be seated, she was talking with a rather disheveled man who appeared to be homeless.He asked if there was any work he could do to earn a meal.She told him, “I’m sorry, but no.”As he turned to leave, I touched him on the arm and said, “Wait a minute.”I turned to the hostess and said, “Would you seat this man and tell the waiter to serve him whatever…

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Just A Crazy – Really Crazy – Idea (maybe)

(Think about this.  A crazy idea, I know, but give it a chance and really THINK about it.)

Imagine with me a moment that you are bedding down among an impromptu camp of homeless bums around the back stoop of the Law Offices of Exploit, Poor, and Greedisgood.  The camp is made up of a small group of men and women, less than a dozen, and one bum has a pet dog, three others are sharing a bottle of booze, two are discussing Jesus and a Bible study they attended earlier, and you settle in next to a bum with a small television which is tuned in to the local news.

Most of the news headlines have little or no significance to you, but the bum with the TV seems intent on watching, and the sound of it is loud enough that everyone in the camp stops talking to listen.

There is a lead story about the county commissioner approving a budget.  Another about a burglary at a popular restaurant.  But then a story buried near the back of the headlines features a property owner who has found evidence of homeless squatters in a vacant and dilapidated apartment complex.  Suddenly, the hush falls over the camp as this story gets trotted out.

The property owner is alarmed that she found evidence of a fire pit in the building.  The fire has caused extensive damage which the owner is waiting to find out whether insurance will cover or not.  Meanwhile, the property owner has been cited numerous times for zoning violations, but she assures Channel 9 News that as soon as she can raise the money to make repairs, she will – or if she finds a buyer, she will sell the property.  But of course, fire damage of this sort sets back those plans.

Just then one of the bums sharing the booze bottle exclaims, “That’s where Booger and Batman were sleeping last week, I think.  I bet they are the ones who set that fire.”  Someone else mentions, “Well, I don’t blame them.  It got cold last week.”  And someone else interrupts, “Shhhhh!  I’m trying to listen.”

Just then the newscaster says, “Coming up next, Weather and Sports!” and the program switches ironically to a commercial highlighting Walmart’s “Outdoor Living Center.”

When the news program returns from the commercial break, the perky weather girl announces a drop in temperatures is expected tonight!  “It’s a good time to think about bringing in your pets and potted plants,” she says.

Just then the bum with the pet dog invites his dog to snuggle under his blanket.  No mention is made about bringing in the people from the streets.

One of the bums gets up and announces that if it is going to get all that cold tonight, then he had better tend to business now and get hunkered down in his sleeping bag before it gets too cold.  He then proceeds to drop his pants and squat on the law office stoop to drop a load.  Some of the other bums complain that they now have to sleep with the smell of it in the camp all night.  One of them claims he already smells worse anyway.

There!  Did you imagine that???

Okay, now imagine this scene unfolding entirely unnoticed in a Christian town.

Do you think God notices?

Imagine the pastor who serves the church across the street from the Law Offices of Exploit, Poor, and Greedisgood watching the same news program at the same time, only doing so from the comfort of his den (“man-cave”).

Pastor Bates tells his wife to be sure and bring in the dog and the fern from the back patio, “It’s going to get cold,” he says.  Then he switches off the light and heads back to his warm, dry bedroom with a master bath and toilet merely six feet from his bed where he offers his nightly prayers to God.

What will go through THIS pastor’s mind when he encounters one of the employees from the law office on the street during the lunch hour the next day and he complains that the “neighborhood is going to pot, Pastor”?  Will THIS pastor say anything in defense of the poor, or will he sympathize with the law office which suffered a digestional assault in the night?

What It Was Like at Philly’s Homeless Pop-Up Restaurant

Luke-14 Party :The Parable of the Great Banquet
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Erika B. Lewy

philly-pop-up-menu-Photography-by-John-Baer-1-940x540

Last Saturday afternoon, the outside of the 23rd Street Armory revealed few signs of the party going on inside. Faint strains of songs by the Stylistics and the Ebonys escaped the large hall, and a few buses were parked outside. But inside, no one was getting married, celebrating a sweet 16 or a bar mitzvah. Members of the city’s homeless community were at Pop-Up Philly, an event organized in just 20 days by South Philly resident Jason Pinardo.

Pop-Up Philly was a one-day event — part restaurant, part community outreach, part dance party. It drew criticism from some Philadelphians who felt that the $23,615 raised on a GoFundMe page could have been used more practically to help the city’s homeless population. The event’s organizers say it wasn’t wasteful, but necessary. They say it gave people a sense of hope.

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Birthday of the gods vs. Christmas

(The following is copied from a previous post on this blog.  However, today is Augustus Caesar’s birthday (bet you forgot), and so is a good time to copy/paste and start thinking about Christmas.  Please meditate AND ENJOY the world under Lord Jesus rather than Lord Caesar this year!)

Check out this quote from Caesar. Let it bounce sparks off your Christian imagination. If you have not studied Roman (and/or early Christian) history, this will likely be new for you.

An ancient inscription unearthed by archaeology:

The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere…; the birthday of the god [Augustus] was the beginning of glad tidings that have come to men through him….

(I found this quote when studying N.T. Wright, btw.) The message of this inscription is Rome’s imperial gospel message about Lord Caesar and how world order is created by (and through) him. He is called “savior.” He is credited with ending all wars in the whole known world for forty years! (Thus, elsewhere, he was known as “Prince of Peace.”) This inscription even calls him a “god!” and characterizes itself as “glad tidings” – another term for “gospel.”

Since Christmas is [coming soon], I ask you to imagine with me the birth in the imperial palace of a son. This is hypothetical rather than actual history, I know, but it was an on-going hope of the empire whether realized in actual history or not.

Visualize the queen pregnant by Lord Caesar coming to full term and all the public anticipation for the coming news of the emperor’s next generation. (You might liken that anticipation to Caligula, the third Roman emperor.) Then, suddenly the bards around Rome call for everyone’s attention and for crowds to gather in the palace square. An announcement and a presentation will be made shortly.

Go there with me, in your mind, and join the throngs of well-wishers. You can see the politicians from the Senate, lords and ladies of nobility, and even military commanders elbowing each other to take important positions down front just below the balcony window of the palatial delivery room. You are just an imperial peasant, maybe even a slave, but you manage to squeeze into the forum near the back of the venue where you see the full scope of the crowds and the cheers of delight when the curtain is pulled back and the proud father raises the newborn child (the future leader of the world-wide empire) over his head almost like Michael Jackson dangling a baby!

Imagine all the titles of nobility, power, hope, and strength thrust upon this child as the crowds celebrate his birth! The hope of the civilized world expressed in joyful noise, dancing, delight, gifts and sacrifices, parades, gladiator games, shopping malls decorated in seasonal colors, feasts, orgies, parties, worship services (of pagan varieties of course), and all the private homes decorated for the party season too. Now, imagine this celebration becoming an annual event. (Actually, this part is historical, and you don’t have to rely strictly on your imagination.)

Sound familiar?

Yeah. But here’s the kicker: Augustus Caesar’s birthday was September 23rd, 63 B.C.
So, let me ask you: Did you remember Augustus Caesar’s birthday this year? Did you celebrate it?

I strongly doubt it. I bet you forgot. (Oh? You didn’t even know about it???)
Hmmm…. I promise you that everyone in Bethlehem heard about the world in mass hysteria and celebration over Caesar’s birthday. Even if those good Jews refused to celebrate, the seasonal event did not go unnoticed!

We don’t know the date of Lord Jesus’s birthday. St. Mary stored up a lot of things like that in her heart, but none of the witnesses there that day saw fit to store the date up in our Scriptures. Nevertheless, we have chosen, for good or for ill, to celebrate Jesus’s birth on December 25th. And our annual celebration goes on almost globally, and is celebrated at a level that rival’s that of Caesar (minus the orgies and other pagan aspects) while Caesar goes ignored almost completely!

Of course that observation is a tremendous over-simplification, as any thoughtful reader here surely knows. The holiday has become tremendously commercialized, deeply secularized, and always did collude, at least a little, with paganism. Nevertheless, Lord Jesus is celebrated in a turn-about of fortunes with Caesar, while Caesar – that Prince-of-Peace pretender, that Savior-of-the-world pretender, that Lord-of-lords pretender – goes almost entirely forgotten!

That’s a coup d’état, ya’ll!

Two thousand years later and Rome is not a world power, Caesar is not emperor, but that born-homeless peasant (from a back water part of Caesar’s reign) has usurped him without firing a shot!

Wow!!!

Now, I ask you to go read Luke’s Gospel (chapter 2) and see that first Christmas celebration. See, don’t imagine, see Luke portray for you the inside-out, the upside-down, the back-hand across Caesar’s face inherent in the power of the Gospel St. Paul later told Rome he is “not ashamed of!” (Rom. 1:16). Luke makes a lot of mention of Caesar’s rule in that chapter, but then he bestows imperial titles that were normally reserved for the emperor on the peasant child instead. Luke is subverting empire!

Watch the courts of heaven open like a curtain from God’s palace balcony, only it’s a barnyard where YHWH, The Great God Almighty’s only begotten son is born! The angels announce that a Savior is born! The shepherds, some of the lowliest, smelliest, most forgotten and left-out people in Caesar’s empire, are ushered to the place of honor down at the front! No politicians, nobles, or other elites would bother to come if invited (except Matthew’s sojourning astrologers from the east!). It’s just humble people and the angels of heaven getting it together in a back lot mostly unnoticed by the powers and principalities and other authorities – but the invitation to come and see is made to you if only you will answer the call.

Behold! This is your God! Humble yourself that you might join the celebrations! And let us find the world order his reign brings as we forget Lord Caesar’s birthday yet another year!

What does this have to do with a blog on HOME and HOMELESS???

I think you can figure that out.

Amen? Anyone???