Sunday, May 25, 2008

the Message of the Gospel

I heard several sermons the other day (gotta love podcasts) that I would like to talk about...

The Message of the Gospel and how we communicate it.

At Mt. Sinai, in the story of the Exodus, God gives a message to Moses to give to the people of Israel:

"This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'"

Many times, as Christians, we focus on what we are saying to people. Good Christian are determined on how many "answers" they have. They interpret I Peter 3:15 (Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have) as needing to have all of the answers, whether it is philosophical, scientific, spiritual, psychological, or political. There is nothing wrong in principle but if it is the only focus we are missing the point. We then focus on trying to "own" the truth by arguing with people. We forget about the second part of the verse that says,

"But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

How many times do you hear Christians using the "truth" they know to try to make others look stupid (most of the time, in the process, it is the Christian that looks stupid but anyways...). Some would argue... Well, Jesus made the Pharisees look stupid... Yeah, the Pharisees were the religious leaders and those who claimed to KNOW all the truth. So, if Jesus were here today, he would reserve his "argument mode" for know-it-alls.

We are afraid to say, "I do not know." We feel that our value of a Christian is lessened because we do not know all the answers... But the world needs honesty! Think about how you react to know-it-alls... Do you think that non-Christians are going to react any different to Christian know-it-alls.

Back to the main point... Notice that this verse assumes that the world is asking a question. The only reason that they would ask anything is if there is something different to ask about. I feel that the world is not doing a lot of asking because we are not very different than them (i.e. divorce rates, consumption of stuff, location of residence, eating habits, etc...). Which brings me back to Exodus...

God's message to His people was that THEY were to BE His message. He did not give them a power point presentation, a tract, or a 10-step plan. He did not say, these are the answers to all of the scientific and philosophical questions and make sure that everyone you meet hears this message and if they do not agree, you kill them. No, He said, be a priesthood for the world. He said, Be an example to the world. God calls us to be his people.

Moving to the NT, Peter borrows from Exodus and says in I Peter 2:9,

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Peter is talking about the new Israel, the body of Christians, you and me. He is borrowing from Exodus and tranfering the role of God's messengers to us.


What does that mean?

To "be"is not just talking but doing... it is everything... everything we do should be for Christ.

What kind of stuff should we be doing?

Well, lets look at God on Earth, Jesus... He embodied Justice, Peace, and Love. He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and Love your neighbor as yourself."

Christianity is not a set of bullet points... and Christians should not be valued based on their ability to argue. Whether a Christian can argue a mormon into the ground or make an atheist look stupid or know all the points of how evolution is fallible is pointless if they do not love the person they are arguing with!

The best argument for Christ is our lives...

What I want to hear from you all is... what can we be doing now... in Fresno? What are acts of Justice, Peace and Love that we can incorporate into our lives?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kindergarten and Desmond Tutu

My wife has been coming home from her kindergarten class she is student teaching in and singing kindergarten songs. Because of that, I thought about a book the other called "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" (I havent read it but the I have heard the gist of it is pretty much self-explanatory...). The song she was singing went like this:

The world is a rainbow
Filled with many people
And when we work together
Its such a sight to see

Now you be you
And I‘ll be me
That’s the way we were meant to be
But the world is a mixing cup
Just look what happens when you stir it up.

When I first heard this I started laughing and went to my mini-library of books I am reading for my thesis and showed her a book called, "The Rainbow People of God" by Desmond Tutu. We laughed. I thought to myself, if only we actually listen to what we teach kids maybe we could learn something ourselves.

Look at the lyrics again... It seems to me that the problem is that we want me to be me and you to be like me also and when we dont get our way we pout and have a little tantrum like a little pre-schooler saying I want my way... and if we still dont get our way many times we fight. I am not saying no one should ever disagree and that all truth is relative. But, what are we called to do when we do disagree? Is there an acceptance of the person as a loved creature of God or are they defined by the disagreement and considered "not like me" and thus wrong and at worst not worthy to be alive because of their belief, color, ethnicity, religion, etc... (thats what happens with genocide...)

Desmond Tutu knew the dangers of war, violence and hate. But more importantly he knew the power of Jesus Christ and the power of love that he gives us. Let me end with a quote from Desmond Tutu in a speech he gave in Norway in 1991:

"At home in South Africa I have sometimes said in big meetings where you have black and white together: 'Raise your hands!" Then I've said, "Move your hands," and I've said, "Look at your hands-different colors representing different people. You are the rainbow people of God."

And you remember the rainbow in the Bible is the sign of peace. The rainbow is the sign of prosperity. We want peace, prosperity and justice and we can have it when all the people of God, the rainbow people of God, work together."

I want to hear what you all have to say... what does it mean for the "rainbow people of God (to) work together"? What can we do now, practically?