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I don’t believe I have ever followed a specific prophetic writer for three weeks in a row before. Yes, this is the third week running I have chosen to reflect on Jeremiah’s work in Judah, way back somewhere between 650 to 570 BC. That is likely because Jeremiah’s writings are rather gloomy. They are full of pessimism and laments. In fact, Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet.
Today’s reading is no exception as Jeremiah cries out for God’s presence. “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. ……The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Jeremiah laments, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” Gilead was the region East of the Jordan where the renowned healing ointment or balm was found. A physician of course would normally be someone seen as having a remedy for whatever ills came upon you. (It seems like physicians have always been hard to find)!
Jeremiah is pretty depressed, he is worried about his people and he doesn’t have much optimism about their future.
Last week I was speaking about optimism, how it was foundational to hope breaking out in some future time. I also mentioned how difficult it is to have enough optimism to believe into hope, when we are surrounded by so much destruction and chaos, self-centeredness, hostility, intolerance, and hatred. Many skylines in this incredible creation have pretty gloomy horizons in our present times.
I heard something astonishing the other day. I didn’t believe what I heard so I checked. And what I heard was indeed correct. Apparently, according to media sources, an estimated 4.1 billion people are expected to tune in to the Queen’s state funeral this coming Monday. That will make the event the most watched in television history. Now that is saying something indeed. And 4.1 billion is a lot of people.
There are about 67 million people in the United Kingdom. One billion is 1,000 million so you can see that the population of the UK is pretty small in comparison to all those that will watch. The population of the USA is roughly 338 million, so also well short of even half of one billion. The population of India, one of the most densely inhabited nations on the planet, has about 1.4 billion people, which is still far short of 4.1 billion. If my fact finding is accurate, the population of our world at this time is just under 8 billion people. And if my high math skills are correct, it would seem to me that close to 1 out of every 2 people plans to watch in someway, at least a part of the Queen’s state funeral tomorrow
That is astounding.
Her majesty Queen Elizabeth ll was of course an incredible and amazing individual. As we watch the daily news unfold it is abundantly clear there has never been a monarch as loved as she was, and likely there never will be again. In reflection of her outstanding service, her loyalty to her people and all the commonwealth, her wisdom and her steadfast unwavering encouragement through times of crisis, the remarkable outpouring of emotions in her passing is understandable. As I was writing this reflection yesterday, British news media reported that people were being discouraged from trying to view the Queen as she lies in state. That was because there was up to a 20 hour wait! I simply can’t imagine what a 20 hour que looks like, let alone fathom waiting in one for that length of time.
I’m sharing this because I wonder if the Queen’s passing has, in an odd and unexpected way, been a kind of Balm to people throughout the world, momentarily at least fixing thoughts on something other than personal issues. It seems as if Queen Elizabeth’s death has been a magical salve that has catalyzed an outpouring of both grief and affection.
There seems to be a kind of huge “timeout” because something else has focused our attention.
Is this because the Queen’s death is more important than what we have been doing? Is it because it is profoundly sad? Is it just because we are caught up in the pomp and ceremony of royal events, and the history of the British Monarchy? Whether it is any of these things or something else, the event has brought people together en masse.
Jeremiah was trying to tell the Judean people they needed to come together en masse too, to repent and find God again in their hearts. God would offer healing and hope for a new future. But they had to give up idols and false prophets. They had to give up being selfish and greedy, actions that were taking them away from God’s promised kingdom love.
Jeremiah asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?”
That is because the people have not yet found the path seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. With actions and attitudes entrenched in the present, not much was going to change. Little did they know that the balm then needed was already in their own hands and the physician was right there, in their midst. The balm was human healing and God would apply it; if justice, peace, right relationships and Holy Love were invited in.
We, all of us here and around the world, those in the hundreds, thousands, hundreds or thousands, millions and even billions, can also be the magical balm that brings forth healing of both a broken planet and a broken world and its people. God can work incredible miracles if enough of us believe in that possibility, if enough of us remain optimistic and hopeful and do what we can to create the kind of kingdom the prophets spoke about.
Fully half the world’s population will be in some way engaged tomorrow in viewing Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral. Over 4 billion sets of eyes will be watching. Over 4 billion sets of ears will be listening. Over 4 billion hearts will be feeling a myriad of emotions.
I wonder what might happen if just a quarter or even an eighth, a sixteenth or any notable number of those individuals could open their eyes wide to see what is really happening to our creation? What might be the outcome if enough people opened their ears to hear the cries of the poor, the sick, the lonely, the homeless and the outcast? Where would Gods kin-dom reality be if enough of us opened our hearts to let in unconditional love?
If 4 billion people can be so touched by one person’s passing, can that many be touched by God’s love? That is the balm needed in Peachland and throughout our world, the salve to be applied to the deep wounds of the earth and its peoples.
We need to be a part of that. Thanks for listening this morning, Amen
Files coming soon.
That’s not what I had in mind. That didn’t work out the way I had planned. What a huge disappointment, I’m shattered, bruised, defeated, and demoralized. Can I start again.? I don’t know whether or not I can cope. Do I have the will to go on?
On occasions like that it would be nice wouldn’t it if we could simply be like the potter and crumple the clay back into a ball, kneed it again, put it back on the wheel and turn that lump of clay into something beautiful.
Jeremiah suggests God has that authority, that power to make everything new again. God can even “pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them,” if they are wicked, if God so chooses. But if they repent, Creator God might think twice and start again, planting a new people and a country.
To Jerimiah and other biblical prophets, repentance is the key. Repent, change your behaviour and you will be spared or receive some sort of reward. Life will be restored. In death, a banquet laid before you. Peace, rest, new life in Holy Arms is promised. There are dire consequences otherwise.
Now, I don’t think you will be surprised if I express that I’m not a believer in the literal “dire consequences” interpretation of this passage. The God that I know is not punitive or disciplinary. But I do wonder if God does threaten to re-make me, you.? I hope so, I pray that it be so!
I pray that I can be re-formed as the potter reforms his work on the potter’s wheel. I hope that I can be remade again and again as I grow beneath the great lover’s hands as her wisdom prods and guides me. That is what God intends. It is what Yahweh intended during Jeremiah’s time. Not that the people of Israel should be faced with an ultimatum, but that they should know, if they believed in God, they needed to change. That is a consequence of God’s hand, you can’t believe and stay the same. The Holy Spirit will change you, no ifs ands or buts. In reality I suppose that is not so much a threat as it is a promise. And what a glorious promise that is!
God, the master potter, reshapes, renews, repurposes, revitalizes rejuvenates and remakes us all the time. Our bodies are stricken down, bent, and broken. They rise again with the aid of heavenly crutches to meet a new challenge as best we can. Our minds, preoccupied with worry, filled with apprehension, and riddled in doubt are liberated; a voice says, come to me and I will give you rest. Spirits depleted, energy drained, hope lost, in anxiousness and in grief, the clay of our being falls to pieces. But somehow, bit by bit, our brokenness is knitted back together in God’s hands. Be still and know that I am God, and that I am with you to mend and heal.
I recall being a first-year student at the Centre for Christian Studies. Among the many comments from program staff, one really stands out for me as I reflect on the scripture for today. “Be prepared to be changed.” “You will not leave this program the same person you were when you came in.” And they also said, “It might take time for people close to you to adjust and understand the changed you.”
That and more has been true. During my “transformation” if I can call it that, I moved from considerable doubt (could I really do this?), to a reassured disciple, (I think I just might be able to do this)! Barriers to my understanding God in the world were broken down and new visions of the Creator’s love emerged. I became excited about engaging with Holy Mystery and filled with awe when I did. Apprehension gave way to confidence. I began to feel a new kind of belonging,
While I expect this was challenging work for God to do, God the potter was doing something new, reforming and making a different Ian.
We all of course know the story of the apostle Paul. As Saul, a cruel, tyrant and an anti-Christian if ever there was one. He was a zealot and a persecutor of the Jews. But God had another plan and would strike Saul down on a lonely country road. After a blinding light receded, the master potter’s work had begun again. Saul became Paul and would travel thousands of miles from Rome, through the Middle East, Asia and Greece spreading the gospel and advocating Christ’s life and his messianic message.
I have a vision of both Paul and I as living clay. Held in the hands of God’s creating presence, we were plied and pulled, stretched, and restructured. Our malleable persona remolded and reformed. Something new emerged.
Something new was what Jerimiah was speaking to the people of Israel about, long before Jesus would walk the earth. “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.
Some listened to Jeremiah’s teaching, allowing themselves to see God again and anew. They would ask Yahweh to lead them in truth and away from corruption and selfishness. They would be receptive to the potter’s hand in their lives. They would be renewed in faith and hope. New vessels would emerge eager to embark towards a path of righteous living.
But what of the people of Jerusalem and kingdom of Judah itself.? Jeremiah is speaking to a wider audience that the individual. The Divine Potter also speaks not just to us individually, but humanity collectively, a nation, nations.
As we grow and fall in love with God more deeply, we transform into instruments of hope, peace and justice in the world. We shift and adjust. We are reshaped within our experiences. We move forward, sometimes battered and bruised, but miraculously we become more determined. Individually remade through our own disappointments, our loses and perhaps even our grievances, we rise again reassured.
In community the potter is at work once more. This time she is reforming relationships. This time he is answering the grieving, rebuilding hope. Holy Love answers the calls of all who are desperate and lost; all who may be broken. Fragments of lives are put back together and an opportunity for healing emerges. And that happens only though a community of believers who have been shaped by God’s hands.
In Jerimiah, words spoken conveyed a hope that God the potter would “re-form” a people, bringing lost sheep back into the fold. Today those words remind us that we too need to be constantly “re-formed,” “re-made” in our discipleship. To accomplish that requires an openness to being placed back on the wheel and leaving the rest up go God.
None of us will be the same after we have spun around on the potter’s wheel and have been touched by the creator’s hands. We won’t be the same when we jump off, because people will notice.
That’s a good thing. Because people will notice your kindness, generosity, perseverance, integrity, patience, forgiveness and of course your unconditional love. And with any luck that will spread to others you meet along your journey. That is the essence of Kin-dom living.
Let us be open to the gift the Holy Potter has to give us, and through our remaking, continue to meet head on the challenges being in ministry together requires.
Thanks for listening this morning, Amen
Lenore and I found ourselves in the City of Grand Forks during a short road trip while I was on holiday. We discovered a very modest motel on the banks of the Kettle River. That’s where I met Chad. He came over to see Duffy and I while we were on the river bank. Well, I was on the bank, but Duffy was in the water, no surprise there. Chad and his partner were holidaying from Vancouver where he works finding suitable social housing for the needy. Chad is an indigenous man; I would suggest in his mid to late 30’s.
What a friendly and engaging gentleman, emphasis on the gentleman. He was very talkative and sociable. He had been to Grand Forks before and new the area. He showed Duffy and I to a place on the river with deeper water where Duff could have a good swim.
As conversations often go, he was telling me about his work, and I shared some of mine. That is when he said, “I really appreciate and respect the United Church. You were the first to apologize for your part in the Residential Schools.”
Now that got me thinking.
Often, I wonder, perhaps you do too, are we making a difference? There is absolutely no doubt that our ministry here in Peachland provides spiritual nourishment and growth to this community of faith, comfort and support through pastoral care, incredible outreach through the Bargain Bin and of course critical fellowship through our gatherings. But my Diaconal Social Justice spirit does challenge me at times. It asks, what are we doing in the larger context of justice, the kind of justice Jesus lived for?
Both of our scripture readings that Donna shared this morning speak of this calling. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” says Paul to the Hebrews. “16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Paraphrasing Jesus’ comments in Luke’s gospel, when you are invited to a wedding banquet, don’t take the seats of honour, leave those for someone else. And if you are planning a banquet yourself, invite the less fortunate, “the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind.”
These messages tell us to remember our discipleship calling and to act as we can on it. I was so thankful to meet and chat with Chad because he affirmed with me that we are making a difference. I didn’t ask Chad about his childhood or history, but he would be the son of a mother or dad who had been affected in some way by the Residential School system and the aftermath of social ills that created. Perhaps he was a child caught up in the 60’s scoop when many aboriginal children were taken from their birth homes and placed in foster care. Regardless, he expressed no bitterness or resentment. Meeting him was a blessing and it encouraged me.
Great things can happen when we listen to God’s spirit and bear witness to Jesus’ ministry calling us on to advocacy. In a recent post, Brian McLaren, a teacher at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque New Mexico, offers some examples.
“Here’s what will happen, he says, if you listen to the Spirit. You will see a person or a group being vilified or scapegoated. Everyone is blaming them, shaming them, gossiping about them, feeling superior to them, venting their anxieties on them…. But the Spirit will draw you to differ courageously and graciously… You will risk your reputation in defending the person or people being scapegoated. And in that risk, both you and they will know that God’s Spirit is alive and at work in your midst.”
“There is a prison near you. A hospital. A park or a bridge or an alley where homeless people sleep… There’s a country in great need or a social problem that few people notice. If you listen to the Spirit, you will be drawn toward an opportunity to serve. At first, the thought will frighten or repel you. But when you let the Spirit guide you, it will be a source of great joy—one of the richest blessings of your life.”
Jesus, and after him the Apostle Paul commend us to this kind of advocacy. And we could compile a huge list of others we know who have done likewise. Advocates of Peace and Justice, those that fight for racial equality, those that stand up for women’s rights or the rights of gay and lesbian individuals, climate justice critics, environmental activists, stewards of the poor and disenfranchised. We do what we can to stand with them, but we are often left with the question, what can I, what can we really do?
And so I am drawn back to Chad and wonder how many more Chad’s there are walking down beach avenue or sunning themselves at Sun-Oka beach? Perhaps you have made an impression on someone through your acts of kindness and generosity that you are unaware of. Perhaps you simply said hi and good day to a queer person in the grocery store line up, and it made them feel welcomed. Perhaps you honked your car horn when you passed by a demonstrator with a sign that read, “this is my body, my choice.” Perhaps you offered a street person a hot cup of coffee or served food at a hostel. Perhaps you helped a struggling elder carry her groceries home. Perhaps you dropped by a lonely neighbour’s home with some fresh baking.
We don’t know the names of people we might touch with our acts of generosity and compassion. And while it is nice to know we have made a difference; we don’t act to be praised. We act because we believe in the ministry of Jesus who gave, so that others may be blessed.
13 “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed.” You will be blessed says Jesus. Yes indeed, in ways we just can’t possibly comprehend.
I believe there are many Chads out there who would applaud what we do and what we stand for in Christian Ministry. I was encouraged to hear that he recognized this Church’s efforts. But I remember that Jesus wasn’t speaking to a church or to a faith following. He was speaking to ordinary everyday folks, people like you and me. He was spreading the message of how powerful unconditional love can be and what can be accomplished through it.
How many lives have you touched I wonder as you have walked along with the gospel? How many more might you touch as you continue to be that spirit of peace, grace, understanding and generosity? You may never know.
Then again someone like Chad might greet you one day and offer you the assurance that you have been a blessing, because you have been, and you are.
Thanks for listening this morning,
Centre for Action and Contemplation, meditations at cac.org, Wednesday August 24, 2022
The World's Priorities:
Suppose a doctor discovered a cure for cancer. That would be good news. Having been discovered the cure is there, but unless doctors are taught how to handle the cure, it will not become available to all cancer sufferers.
Here on earth, at a place which can be located and a date which can be fixed, Jesus gave the human race its only cure to the deadly disease of sin. "It is accomplished!" he cried from his cross(John 19:30, NEB). The cure - the good news - cannot be made available to sinners all over the world unless Christians learn about it and go out to administer it. That is the Church's role. "We have this ministry,"(2 Corinthians 4:1) Paul wrote. Paul means Christ's ministry which he accomplished in the days of his flesh and which he committed to all who profess his name. Our role is to study the gospel ministry of Jesus, to learn about it and make it universally available.
The event in Mark. Early one morning Jesus restored sanity to an insane who had been cast out of normal society and forced to find his asylum among the tombs of the dead. The man believed that he was possessed by a thousand demons; so, Jesus, in order to cure him, had to show him that the demons had left his body and found another dwelling place. He sent them, or sent something, into a nearby herd of pigs. The stampeded and rushed headlong over a steep cliff into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. The local farmers weren't very happy about all that floating pork. They didn't begrudge the healing miracle - they were not inhuman - but they couldn't see why it had to happen at the expense of their livestock. The Gospel says that "they began to beg Jesus to depart from their neighborhood"(Mark 5:17) You can see the contrast in values. The farmers put pigs first, people second. Jesus put people first, pigs second. People were his priority.
But the Church today lives in a society which is terribly mixed up in its priorities.
Here are some examples. Just this past week the news aired a story with pictures about starvation and children dying due to starvation. I searched the internet and found lots of pictures and stories about the need for food. They have some food but not enough food with the right nutritional strength. We also see commercials and online advertisements for high-cost especially nutritious dog foods. After looking at the hunger situation for children we now see dog food of red meaty chunks covered with thick gravy. Believe it or not, many dogs are eating better than millions of people.
Another glaring example of mixed-up priorities can be seen in the point of view that puts the space race ahead of the human race. In one year, 2018, countries spend over 70 billion for space programs. (https://spaceq.ca/euroconsult-releases-its-government-space-programs-report-expenditures-reach-us70-9-in-2018/) This week it was announced that the preparations for another trip to the moon is in the works. That is expected to cost over 30 billion. Then it hopes to head for Mars. Now consider what countries have contributed for Global Food Security. Wow - over 75 billion - but wait that is not for one year - that is for five years from 2014 to 2018 inclusive. (https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-47r) Global Hunger spots around the world come for a variety of reasons such as conflict, climate, disease, displacement, economic crisis, locusts, and political instability. (https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-graphic-truth-global-hunger-hotspots-in-2021) On top of that 1/4 to 1/3 of all food produced is lost or wasted. (https://www.ibtimes.com/world-bank-takes-food-waste-seriously-estimating-third-production-wasted-1559247) There are groups like Okanagan Gleaners (https://www.okanagangleaners.com/) who gather raw vegetables and transform them into a dry food mix. I am not against things like the space shots, but there has been a miscalculation in priorities. Governments can respond to major issues when they choose to work together to address world issues. Take the Covid Crisis. Look at the world-wide response. The United States alone over 6 trillion, yes trillion not billion. (Washington Post, April 15, 2020) Now put covid and hunger into perspective. According to a Heart-Breaking Truth post, Feb. 19, 2020, Coronavirus: about 1000 dead worldwide in 2 months, worldwide panic, daily messages in the media. World hunger: Around 24,000 deaths in a day, 3 in 4 deaths are children under 5 years. Hunger is not something the rich can die from, so it doesn’t interest anyone. If Governments can spend the kind of money they do in space, if they can work together to tackle Corona Virus, then why can’t they work together to keep men, women, and children alive here on earth?
But why pick on the space program and Corona Virus? Are not the expenditures of projected expenditures on sports stadiums and the fabulous salaries paid to professional athletes and entertainers of concern as long as so many of the earth's population go to bed hungry every night? Look at the worth of some of those at the top of the Forbes wealth list. And on the news, LeBron James has signed a contract extension with the Lakers, a two-year contract $97.1 million. Compare this to the one of the top Women’s NBA players. Now what about the US President and our Prime Minister. What about the top 10 billionaires of Forbes List. What can they do with what they make? Sadio Mane, the Liverpool star earning around 10.2 million a year, gave the world a lesson in modesty after fans spotted him carrying a cracked iPhone. In an interview with Tele Dakar in October 2019, Mane had outlined that his major goal after becoming one of the top players was to help people. "Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches and two jet planes? What would that do for the world? I starved, I worked in the fields, I played barefoot, and I didn't go to school. Now I can help people. I prefer to build schools and give poor people food or clothing. I have built schools [and] a stadium; we provide clothes, shoes, and food for people in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 euros per month to all people from a very poor Senegalese region in order to contribute to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips, and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me," Mane said.
Our society is all mixed up in its priorities and it is the Church's business to straighten them out - unless the Church also happens to be mixed up; in which case the Church needs to take a closer look at the priorities of Jesus.
The Priorities of Jesus: Every person has their own priorities. You can usually tell what they are by asking three questions:
1. What do you have time for?
2. How do you spend your wealth?
3. What do you allow to interrupt you?
When we ask those questions about Jesus, the Gospels give an immediate answer. What did he have time for? Persons. He led the busiest of lives, he moved with a sense of urgency because he knew that his time was rapidly running out; yet he always found time for persons, time to chat with a man at mid-night (Nicodemus) or a woman at the well, time to visit the home of friends or to take little children upon his knee.
Now did he spend his wealth, which was not money but the power of God? On Persons. If you read the Gospels carefully you will see that, whenever they describe Jesus as being conscious of Divine power, they immediately tell how he used that power for some act of service for people. The most dramatic example is his washing of the disciples' feet. (John 13:3-5).
What did Jesus allow to interrupt him? Persons. It didn't matter what he was doing - preaching a sermon, eating a meal, taking his rest, praying - he could always be interrupted by persons who needed him. Persons were his priority. He put persons first.
We have already seen that Jesus put persons before things. "You care for men; we care for swine," declared the irate farmers after Jesus healed the demoniac. They were right. Jesus did care for people. That was the motive behind his frontal attack on the laws governing Sabbath observance.
He didn't want to undermine those laws, but he did want to expose their distortion of people's priorities and he wanted to straighten them out. Out for a walk through a grain field with the disciples, they started to pick some grain. The Pharisees told them that was not lawful. Jesus responded, "The Sabbath was made for the human, not the human for the Sabbath."(Mark 2:27)
In today’s Luke passage, they objected to his healing on the Sabbath of a woman bent over for 18 years, he called them hypocrites and accused them of being kinder to their donkeys and sheep and oxen than they were to people (Luke 13:15). In Matthew, a man came to Jesus with a withered hand, the leaders asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Again, he said, "what man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and life it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!"(Matthew 12:11-12)
Jesus put persons before institutions. Here again his priorities contrasted sharply with those of his contemporaries. One day, as he stood with his disciples in the temple at Jerusalem, they said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"(Mark 13:1) It was the normal reaction of country boys to the big buildings of the great city. But Jesus had also said "Look!" but he was not pointing to the temple. He was pointing to a poor widow who had dropped two copper coins, her total wealth, into the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). In his eyes that was the big thing, the really wonderful thing, the mightiest financial transaction in the world. It was precisely because the temple buildings represented an institution that it did not notice persons like the poor widow, for they exploited such persons rather than serving them. So, Jesus predicted their destruction. "There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down"(13:2). I say now that not one scrap of that building will remain standing if it ever exploits people rather than serve them.
Jesus put person before people as he was always stopping to help, always turning his attention from the many to the one. He said that the whole world could not be set in the balance over against one human soul (Mark 8:36). He said that all heaven's energies are sometimes directed to the salvation on one lost soul (Luke 15:1-10). In Capernaum one day he was preaching to a large congregation when a distraught father interrupted the sermon and begged him to come and heal his sick daughter, Jesus, valuing persons more highly than congregations, stopped preaching and "went with him"(Mark 5:24). In Jericho, where the people lined the streets to get a sight of him, Jesus heard the cries of a blind beggar above the shouts of the crowd and for the sake of that one lowly individual he stopped and said, "call him"(Mark 10:49).
In Bethany, where his disciples criticized a woman for an extravagant gesture toward him, saying that the money should have been given to the poor, Jesus rebuked them, not because he didn't care for the poor but because he cared for that particular poor person whose extravagance met her own deepest need (Matthew 26: 6-13). What she had done would be spoken in memory of her. Jesus put persons even before the success of his own mission. That's what took him to the cross. He was safe as long as he simply preached sermons and taught disciples and proclaimed broad, general, principles about God and man and love and the Kingdom.
Nobody quarrels with preachers and social radicals; they come, and they go. It was when Jesus got down to specific cases that his enemies started to worry and began plotting to do away with him.
They did not object to his gospel of God's forgiveness; they objected vehemently when he cured a paralysed man by saying, "my son, your sins are forgiven"(Mark 2:5-7). They were not disturbed by his teaching about life after death; they were dreadfully disturbed when he demonstrated his power by raising Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:38-44) Jesus jeopardized his mission for the sake of persons. His care for them took him to Calvary, and even there he cared for them to the very end.
- What of the Church's ministry when it is consciously patterned on the ministry of Jesus in the Gospel? Priorities become clear. First and foremost, it must be a ministry to persons - not populations, social structures, or new buildings. Persons must have first claim upon us, and all else must be subordinate to them.
God sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save persons. Jesus sent the Church into the world to seek and to save persons. They are the Church's priority. For many lifetimes the Church has been engaged in this mission, and with each generation it has become bigger, costlier and more elaborate - as you can see by a visit to the Vatican in Rome, the World Council of Churches in Geneva. There are many impressive downtown churches. But there is a question that needs to be asked about this big costly, elaborate rescue operation which had reached across so many centuries, the question that an American lady had the colossal cheek to ask one of the guides in Westminster Abbey: "Young man, stop your chattering and tell me. Has anyone been saved here lately?" The Church, that is us, needs to continue to concentrate on ministry to people. That was why our churches Bargain Bin was our spirit sighting this morning. Janet told us of number of stories about sharing and recycling, about helping, and even staff reaching out to help people evacuated from fire zones and other stories. The Bargain Bin is an example that people are the priority.
Our Church must have people as our priority, so that we can have the same the priorities of Jesus. People then might respond to the Church as they once responded to Jesus.
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