Sunday, September 20, 2015

Homeless Jesus

We started a new sermon series last week called On the Fringe:Good News for Outcasts. I'm not writing this to add things that should've been said. Quite the contrary. It has been an outstanding sermon series so far and I can't wait to hear more. As usual, I was just inspired by it and it got my mind thinking. This simply serves as a spin-off from Pastor John's message. I do encourage you to listen to the message online. I will put the link at the end for you to explore on your own.

In a nutshell, Pastor John has been guiding us through the Gospel of Luke. To our surprise, we found out last week that that involved celebrating Christmas a little early. Sort of. It did remind me that the story of our Savior should not only be told in December. John's objective was to make it clear to us that God used outcasts, people on the fringe of society, to tell the story of His son's birth. Mary was a nobody, but yet she was used to birth our Lord - whom by the way was not born under a roof of royalty, but rather in a cave surrounded by animals. But what about the people that surrounded this newborn King? They were outcasts. Shepherds were at the bottom, but yet an angel was sent to them. Think about who were among the first to hold Jesus. What an honor, right? It wasn't kings and queens. It was shepherds. 

That was last week.

Today, most of the focus was on a man with leprosy - a contagious disease that not only came with its obvious physical burdens, but societal ones as well. Lepers were forced to live on the outskirts of town, wear tattered clothing with unkempt hair. That was the law. For those legalists out there, that law changed by how Jesus acted towards all outcasts not just this particular leper. Just saying. At least it should've changed by His actions. I admit with no hesitancy that my knowledge of such things - how laws changed and whatnot - is poor. I do know however, that Jesus, on more than one occasion, took the brutality of the law and injected gentleness into it while at the same time turning it upside down on its head.

Back to the man in tattered and torn clothing...Jesus, unlike every other person in the community, reached out and grabbed hold of this man and healed him. He didn't stand far away from him only to be able to poke him with the tip of his finger. The leper was seized by Jesus as if he actually was important despite his social status which the required  for him to shout out, "Unclean. Unclean." while walking near anyone else. Yet, Jesus didn't think twice about it.

About the Picture The fact that people were upset about this doesn't surprise me. The fact that some Christians felt it was an unflattering and inaccurate depiction of Jesus baffles me. It was sculpted with the following verse from Matthew in mind: "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Interpreted simply means that if you treat someone on the fringe with disrespect, then that's exactly how we're treating Jesus. If we walk by a homeless person without offering anything then we're walking away from Jesus. Feel challenged? Good! Then it's serving its purpose. I feel challenged. I swallowed that sentence as if it were a jagged pill because it extends beyond homeless. It extends to our own neighbors but isn't limited to them either. It goes beyond our neighborhoods and communities. There are people on the fringe and there is no one to blame but ourselves.

Closing Thoughts I think sometimes we put ourselves on the fringe. I don't just mean with our self-esteem - although that is definitely a culprit. Our ideas, dreams and hopes get marginalized and deemed unworthy sometimes. God has a plan for us and that doesn't mean we're doing that plan when we wake up and go to work. Search your soul for a moment. What would your "I'd rather be..." be? Don't give up on those aspirations. They were planted for a reason. A purpose. Let's not render our dreams homeless and place them on a bench only to have passerbys pretend not to notice or worse yet have you pretend not to notice. Is that what you've been doing? Placing your dreams on hold? Why? It's a scary thought, but people do in fact walk away from what they are doing to pursue and grander goals. Their courage is inspiring. Now go and ponder the seeds that have been planted and do something to uncover your dream. We are empowered to do so. Doing otherwise is ignoring a gift. When we ignore a gift from God aren't we at the same time ignoring God himself?

Trust the Journey.

Ryan

Here's the link to today's sermon: http://www.christchurchva.org/live

*Please take note at the top of this webpage on how to listen with optimal sound.

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