We have been called to arise; to enter the Holy of Holies and worship the Triune God. We have come by the sacrifice of another, by the leading of His Spirit to worship our Father in Heaven.
We have come to raise our voices and respond to the goodness of our Lord. We have come to be renewed and strengthened. Those you have ears to hear, let them hear.
Ephesians 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
That’s the challenge; understand the will of the Lord, and walk and act accordingly. But our flesh likes easy, safe, selfishness. We have our own desires. We have our own wills and they struggle against the Spirit and our faith every day. The mission of the Lord is others focused. The love of the Triune God faces out. The will of the Father is that His children will lay down their lives for others just like our older brother Jesus laid down is His life for you.
The calling of the Christian Faith is “This is my body broken for you….Husbands, Wives, Parents, Masters, servants, friends…this is your calling. Everyone, this is your calling. This is a calling so heavy only the humble can carry it. It will break the backs of the proud. This is my body broken for you…
Look around. Look around this church. Look around your neighborhood. Look around your family. You were not given bodies and redeemed for mere pleasure or selfish pursuits. Life was poured into you so that you could pour it out in the service of others. This is my body, broken for you…
This requires walking by faith, fighting the easy safe selfishness that our flesh loves so much. It requires looking up and looking out. To the condition and welfare of others. It requires prayer, putting on the mind of Christ by daily submitting to His word and it requires repentance.
Now let us confess and ask God to forgive us for our selfishness and ask for the Spirit of God to reveal and lead us in understanding the will of our Lord.
There is something we need to address in parts. Something that is difficult to hear, difficult to receive and against the spirit of our age. Against the pop theology so prevalent in the modern church, but it effects our fellowship with the living God and our day to day lives.
We pray and we feel like God doesn’t hear us. Prayer can be a source of doubt. The outrageous promises of Jesus in Prayer receive indignant uncertainty from most of us – mystified frustration from the rest. Continue reading “Why Won’t God Hear My Prayer?”
Jesus’ table here obviously proclaims the gospel. This is the body broken and the blood shed to make us sons and daughters of the living God. Our tables must likewise proclaim the gospel. But how? Our table fellowship has to reflect the reality of the Gospel and how it shapes all of our relationships, conversations, attitudes and actions. Jesus welcomed every tribe and tongue. He took away the dividing wall between Greek and Jew. In Christ all Christians are one body and the call to join is for everyone. Our tables therefor must reflect this unity and peace.
Our tables must be a place where everyone from dad to mom to the youngest walker are waiting for an opportunity to jump up and help with spills, getting more milk and passing the platters. No patriarchal lies are allowed where father sits at the head of the table while his dependents fetch everything. The speech of the table must be edifying, building up the hearers and not full of backbiting or gossip. The Atmosphere must not be sullen, downcast or bleak. Christ’s table is a weekly feast of repentance, song, prayer, edification and rejoicing. Our tables must operate within the paradigm of this reality. At our tables the least shall be greatest. The last first. The master must be a servant. Continue reading “The table of Love proclaims the Gospel”
In Luke 4:4Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God. But if so, why does Jesus go on to spend so much time at meals and talking about food?
We require something more fundamental to survive than just meat and drink. Man has deeper spiritual needs. Jesus uses food metaphorically. Jesus uses our need for food, symbolically. We are used to food metaphors like Jesus as the manna from heaven. But another Example is John 6:27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
Food is a great metaphor because it represents a very instinctual need that every human has in common. Substitutionary atonement can be difficult for some people to grasp. But everyone understands “You’re hungry and I have food that will satisfy you forever and I give it to you gladly.”
Table fellowship is a way to get people involved in your day to day life. It’s a way to get involved in other people’s day to day life. But it’s not about the food, even though the food is a real tangible blessing. Ultimately it’s about building relationships.
Jesus chose the table and meals as the basis for His teaching ministry because it’s more intimate and people focused. Hospitality involves welcoming, creating time and space, listening, paying attention, and providing.
Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force us to be people oriented instead of task oriented. We have more important, more fundamental needs than food can satisfy but it was largely through poetical statements about food and through table fellowship that Jesus addressed the needs and developed opportunities to come along side people to teach and serve them. Continue reading “The Table of Love is About More Than Food”
Who do you eat most of your meals with? What topics are usually discussed around your table? Who does most of the serving? If you notice, the center piece of the sanctuary here is a table. Whose table? What’s served? What is discussed around this table?
Today we are going to consider what tables and meals have to do with how to love others like God loves us. Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people: In Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi. In Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal. In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the five thousand. In Luke 10 Jesus eats in the home of Martha and Mary. In Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law at a meal. In Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends. In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus. In Luke 22 we have the account of the Last Supper.In Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem. Continue reading “Love Came Eating and Drinking”
The Christian life is a life lived by the grace of God, under Christ’s law, in God’s world, in the presence of God himself. We love because God first loved us (1st John 4:19). The Triune God instigated a relationship with us. He created us, redeemed us, sustains us and gives us hope for a future life with him without sin, pain or death (Romans 8:30). This is the work of the Father, Son and Spirit who are a community of love creating a community of love, on earth, to share in their eternal glory.
This self-revealing, instigating love of God shapes our lives. It shapes ethics, behavior, schedules, faith, science, study, vocation, the arts; our very understanding of the world and our place in it.
Our first Trimester will be focus on this amazing reality. You Are God’s children (John 1:12-13) and heirs of the promises of God (Eph. 2:12) who are called to devote yourselves to the glory of God in all you do (Matthew 22:36-40).
This point is pretty straightforward. Jesus did not avoid spiritually or physically unlovely people. He didn’t avoid the rude, crude or crippled. Jesus’ mission was to save people who did not love him. People who were fallen in sin. Who moaned under the yoke and tyranny of corruption.
Jesus loved people who were outsiders, that society rejected and ignored. He stooped and in stooping lifted people up with Grace, service and love. Think of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. She was coming to the well alone. Most women came out to get water together, which was the custom, to help each other. This woman comes by herself, she’s an outcast. Does Jesus avoid her? Does he berate her for being an outcast? Does he begin the conversation by confronting her sin? No, He addresses her need. He doesn’t focus right in on her sin, he sees His sister in want. He sees past her unattractiveness and immorality to see the image of God in her that’s marred and under bondage and ministers to her there.
Other examples abound. Children, women of ill repute, paralytics, people on the fringe; cast out, forgotten, overlooked. Jesus overcomes their brokenness, ugliness and loves them. Frees them. Lifts them up with Grace. You were fallen. You were ugly. You had nothing to offer God. There was and is no way to reciprocate the love he’s given you and yet He loved you anyway. This is love. Not loving people who can repay you. Not loving people who are easy to love. Christ-like love is seen most purely when it’s extended toward people who cannot reciprocate in any way is most like Jesus’ love.
The arrogant, the self-righteous, the boastful, broken, un-bathed. The sick, the old, senile invalids, drug addicts, the drunks, the liars. Unlovely people often lack propriety, kindness, patience, you know, the fruits of the spirit. They are rude, self-important, crass and proud. Or they’re locked in sin and need freedom. That’s usually a pretty ugly situation that’s hard to be around. Jesus didn’t accept the corruption but saw past it to the marred image beneath that needed love, respect and dignity. He overcame the sin to get the sinner. He overcame the un-lovliness to love.
Jesus doesn’t avoid the unlovely He seeks them out. Treating people with love is not about accepting people’s sin it’s about overcoming the sin of people who need our love. Would you moms avoid the trashy looking lady at the park who is yelling at her kid? Would you feel it’s your responsibility to instruct her in proper parenting or would you ignore her completely? Could you overcome your prejudices and her ugliness to love her. To extend to her friendship and kindness?
Furthermore, a common reaction to people trapped in sin is to stay away from them until they get free of it. But if no light ever comes into a dark situation how is the dark going to recede? I didn’t see the ugliness of my own sin until light came into my dark corner bearing the love of the Father. And the one who bore that love prayed for me. She respected the least respectable person who ever lived. She gave dignity where there was none. She saw past the marred fallen-ness to the image of God beneath and loved that image.
Think of your own story. It was compassion that taught you compassion. It was hope that others expressed for you that gave you hope. Remember the person or persons who came like the sun into a dark cave and overcame your ugliness with love.
Now look at the ugliness around you. The angry atheist, the crass redneck, the arrogant businessman, the prideful outdoorsman, the graceless green tree-hugger, the drug addict, the homeless guy who probably could work and see past all the sin and un-lovliness to the image of God beneath. Look at the ugliness and how little there is to love. Go and find the image of God beneath and love it.
To love people with few or no good qualities is putting yourself into a very vulnerable state. It can be very difficult and dangerous to love an angry drunk, drug addict, the self-righteous, the dark and moody. It’s sapping. It requires dying. It’s opening yourself up to be sinned against and hurt. And that often holds us back. Uncertainty, distrust, fear.
C.S. Lewis wrote in the The Four Loves “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
This is what happens to a lot of Christians. The seed of God’s word goes down and sprouts up but the cares and worries of the world choke it. Fears smother the love inside of them and they bear no fruit. We must turn outward in faith and hope. Believe in the sustaining power of God’s love for you and let it extend through you to the unlovely. Be vulnerable and open.
Loving is risky business, but it’s the serious business of the kingdom. Jesus kneeled in the garden afraid. He knew what it would cost Him to love the unlovely. But He bowed His head and looked for protection and provision from God, the Father. Jesus overcame His personal fears to love like His Father loved Him. We too must overcome un-lovliness and its risks. We have to overcome our fears to love like we have been loved.