Thursday, June 28, 2018

July Sermon Series

Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth:  Whenever you did one of these things to
someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”  (Matthew 25:40 MSG)
The ways of the world are pretty clear.  Grab power, if you have the chance.  Gather it up.  Protect what you have.  And avoid vulnerability at all costs.  It makes sense.  Because the difference between being powerful and powerless in this world is the difference between success and failure.  Security and helplessness.  Life and death.  It’s just how things work, right?  But it’s not how God works.  Throughout the Bible, God shows us another way.   And this way is not about power-seeking, power-grabbing and power-protecting.  Instead it’s about power resisting.  And it requires aligning with the powerless.  Even when resisting is dangerous.  Even when siding with others increases our own risks.  Even when there’s no personal, practical benefit.    
It’s the pattern of a Creator holding back chaos to protect new life.  It’s the pattern of choosing an alliance with Hebrew nobodies over Pharoah’s militia.  It’s the pattern of laws and prophets insisting on care for strangers, orphans and poor folks over more advantageous relationships.   It’s the pattern of a savior turning down a glorious armed revolution.  And standing instead alongside the lowest and least.  Even when it meant irritating the religious establishment.  Even when it meant defying an Empire.  Even when it meant accepting a cross.  God aligns so completely with vulnerable folks that whatever is done to them is done to God.  This is God’s way for the world.   It’s not easy.  It’s not risk-free.  But it is where God shows up.  Will we?  
July 1: The Paradox of Divine Power
John 13:1-5  Seek to serve, not dominate.
The religious establishment is threatening Jesus’ life.  The political powers are closing in.  The stakes have never been higher in his ministry.  So how will he respond?  How will he take back God’s world?  Jesus’ plan startles the disciples.  No weapons.  No strategic alliances. No holy lightning bolts.  Just dropping to his knees to take on the task of a servant.  Choosing vulnerability.  Siding with the lowest and least.  What in the world is God up to?
 July 8: Choosing Sides:  Impractical Alliances
Exodus 1:8-22  Dare to defy forces of death.
Two ordinary women must choose sides.  And their choice will change the entire Exodus story.  Will they align with the one holding absolute power?  Or will they side with those who can offer absolutely nothing in return?  The midwives Shiphrah and Puah make a simple, impractical choice.  They defy Pharoah’s direct order.  They protect the baby boys of Hebrew women.  Just because they knew and respected God. 
 July 15: Speaking Dangerous Truths
2 Samuel 12:1-7a   Risk confronting injustice.
David is a powerful king.  Chosen by God. Anointed to rule a sprawling kingdom. Commanding a formidable army.  Things seem to be going so very well.  But things have gone so terribly wrong.  And Nathan is called to an unenviable job.  He must confront David’s immense power with truth.  Even though there’s no practical benefit to him. Even though confronting the injustice comes with loneliness, fear and risk.
July 22: Listening Outside In
Matthew 15:21-28  Recognize good news in unexpected places and people.
It’s an uncomfortable story.  A desperate peasant woman pleads for her child’s healing.  And Jesus ignores her.  The disciples insist on a more forceful send off, but she persists.   She recognizes Jesus as the Son of David--the messiah!  In turn, however, he insults her with the bald prejudice of his place and people.  But the good news resists this corruption.  And against all expectation, the words of the good news fit perfectly in the mouth of the ultimate outsider.  For all of us to hear.