Monday’s After Thoughts: 7 May 2018

This one is a little longer today, so grab a snack and something to drink….
I have lived the majority of my life here in Nevada County. Sure, I have been other places like Walla Walla, Denver, Chico, La Habra, Compton and Anaheim, but the bulk of my life has been spent here. I love it here. It is “home” to me regardless of where else I might be living. I understand what it means to really live here. I have enjoyed the outdoors here on hikes and lake days. I have visited most of the historic sites and asked “Old Timers” about the town and what it was like growing up here. I have played baseball, soccer and football as a kid here. I went to school here. I have pastored here and worked in other jobs here. I have immersed myself into the community here and I think I understand what it means to live here.
I think.
At least I have given it a go.
Which is what you do if you are living someplace.
For those who were present for yesterday’s sermon, I shared a little about the idea of “abiding” as it is used in John’s writings. When we are called to “abide in Christ” or “abide in His love”, it means we are to live in it; that we are to live it out. It reminds me of Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:12 when he writes that we should “ work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” The idea is that we should be living out our beliefs. If we believe that we are saved, then we live a life of a person who is saved . It is like the encouragement to “walk in love” or “run the race with perseverance,” where we are asked to live out the beliefs we hold.
And when we live out the beliefs we hold, others can see what we believe.
Good, bad or otherwise.
You and I are called to live out God’s love as manifested in the person of Jesus. We are called to look around to see if our joy has been made complete. We are reminded to bear fruit (which has the primary idea of living out Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ). We are called to see others differently (which is what I said I wanted to talk further about in today’s offering).
The first reading from yesterday was from Acts 10, verses 44 through 48,
“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.”
The context here is important for this as it relates to the point that I made yesterday and will continue with today. This passage of Scripture is from Peter’s interaction with Cornelius (not a Jew) at his house because God has commanded him to go there. Cornelius is not a Jew, and as a non-Jew, he eats things that are forbidden for Jews to eat; things that are unclean. As a Jew, Peter would not have associated with someone who was unclean. God’s vision to Peter was of a feast of unclean animals to which God commands Peter to “rise, kill and eat.” After protesting and saying he will not eat anything unclean, Peter is scolded by God and told, “Do not call anything unclean that I have said is clean.” Clearly God is trying to teach Peter about something bigger than clean and unclean food. He is showing Peter that His love is for all and that because His love is for all, he (Peter) should love those whom God has loved. In case we miss the point of contention with the Jews it is further clarified in chapter 11 of Acts, verse 2 and 3:
“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
The Jews had a problem.
They saw all non-Jews as inferior.
They detested their culture.
They didn’t believe they had anything to offer and were not worthy of their time.
And because of this, God’s kingdom did not grow.
Faith in God stayed, primarily, in Palestine.
Until the Gentiles got wind of God’s love.
Then it moved around to Rome and Alexandria, as well as to the East.
God’s love is contagious when it is manifested in the “abiding love” of His people. When we live out God’s love in the presence of others, it changes the way people see life, God and themselves.
And it changes us.
But we have to see others as God does.
Which brings me to heart of the matter.
We struggle to see others as God sees them.
We get drawn into the drama of seeing the world as “us” against “them.”
Or maybe it is not “against,” but simply just “us” and “them.”
We dichotomize that which God does not.
And we invalidate His message.
I am reminded, often, that “God so loved the world that He gave His Son….”
Which means I must strive to see others through God’s eyes and not my eyes.
Which make judgments.
Which see differences.
Which seek transactional affirmation.
Which are more comfortable with those who are more similar to me.
Which feel more at rest with those who think like me.
It means that I must, no matter how much I disagree with someone, live out God’s love in their presence and view them as God does: worthy of His love.
Red, blue, left, right, conservative, liberal, gay, straight, male, female, black, white, rich, poor, ordained, lay, or whatever…..
Just live out His love in your life.