Storms & Giants: Lectionary Readings for June 24, 2018

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There are times when we are faced with something bigger than we can handle. And I know that statement runs opposite of the line “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”…But sometimes that statement does not match our experience. Sometimes that statement feels like an encouraging bumper sticker on a car that is being towed to the junkyard.

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Sometimes, yes, sometimes…we are faced with things that we CANNOT handle. But hope can still give light to our existence when our past, present, and near future times still appear as dark and murky. This hope does not minimize the pain of our current struggle, but it gives us the strength and nourishment that we need to get through our struggles. 

I believe that God is on the side of those who struggle with things that they cannot handle (Psalm 9:9–20) because God has experienced human pain and emotion to the fullest extent. This then necessitates the belief that God stands against those who oppress others; those who intentionally do harm to children of God. 


1 Samuel 17:1–49

I remember sitting with my parents a few months ago at their place watching an old Christian movie about David and Goliath that was almost two hours long, and it was only and solely about the big fight. It was the cheesiest, most drawn-out movie I have ever seen. 

But Goliath was a bodybuilder. And David was a twig. 

The Philistines were an established nation and force. And the Hebrew people were just starting out. 

So when the Philistines offered to forgo the big battle in exchange for a champion vs. champion fight — the Hebrew people were tempted, but they remained silent. 

No one wanted to fight Goliath. They would rather die in a big battle than die at the hands of a man who probably had the most gruesome rumors spread about him. 

David stepped up to the plate, and those around him probably thought he was being sarcastic…but he wasn’t. This crazy shepherd boy who plays the harp actually wants to fight a bodybuilder who could have torn him limb from limb. 

David’s faith motivated him to overcome his fear, and it drove him to face his demons because he had the God of the underdogs and the oppressed with him. He knew that God was on his side. 

Goliath fell victim to an inexperienced and ill-equipped boy with a slingshot because of the power and compassion of a Mighty God who stepped into a situation that an entire nation could not handle.


2 Corinthians 6:1–13

Facing giants isn’t a new theme for Judaism or Christianity. It is riddled in our history as an integral part of our identity and our relation to God. 

We do not worship God because we want our best life now. We worship God because God is worthy of our praise, even when we are facing giants, or in the deepest of valleys. 

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The Judaic/Christian faith is an honest faith. The Psalms are full of celebrations and laments. It’s not all rainbows and smiles — and I like that. It is life-giving, hopeful, but it also lets us mourn, grieve, cry, and even get angry. Therefore, our faith cannot be reduced to an encouraging bumper sticker on a car headed to a junkyard — as if all hope is lost when life hits us hard— our faith is more like the family and friends who surround us and support us after the wreck.

The Apostle Paul is an important influencer on the Christian faith, but he can sometimes be an intimidating character to imagine. There are times when you’d want to invite him into your living room for a nice chat, and maybe so that he can encourage you, and there are times when you’d like to leave him at the door. He’s kind of like that family member who gives you some tough advice that you really don’t want to hear in the moment, but then later you realize how right they were in that advice, and how their roughness around the edges was motivated by their intense desire to see you succeed and grow.

Paul wasn’t like a TV preacher with a shiny suit, and a Mercedes. What he said to those who were suffering was born out of his own experiences as one who had previously caused much suffering, and as one who currently suffers for the very message that he was presenting to the church. 

In 2 Corinthians 6:1–13, Paul writes of all that he has gone through in his pursuit of God, and in the pursuit of spreading his message. He lists that he and his peers went through “beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger”, but he also maintains that unrelenting hope that we’ve been talking about. He writes, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

A beaten man who had been thrown into prison on multiple occasions continues to seek and follow God because hope was no longer a manufactured emotion, but an implanted sense of direction to lead him through his calamity.

God is on the side of the weak, the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. And God sends out others to wade into brokenness and to point to when all things will be made new. il_fullxfull.438193639_q47r.jpg


Mark 4:35–41

As a Christian, no figure brings me greater hope than Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Gospel accounts. So much of how we should treat one another, how we are to understand Gods love for all (including ourselves), and to what great depths God was willing to go in order to redeem a broken world, is found in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Gospel of Mark is an intriguing read. In it we find Jesus who is equally concerned about the people’s spiritual and physical needs — but Mark focuses on spiritual warfare and power, unlike any other Gospel account. 

In the first few chapters, you find story after story of Jesus performing exorcisms; literally casting out demons. In Mark 3:23–30, Jesus gives this INCREDIBLE explanation of why he is doing it; he said that when a person breaks into a house, he binds the strong person of the house so that he can gain control of the house, and take what he wants. He is saying that by casting out demons, by binding the devil, he is debilitating the effects that the powers of evil have — Christ is taking over control of the house. 

The people, who were formerly demon-possessed, used to be outcasts of society; their family disowned them, they could no longer go to the temple, and the religious folks gave up on trying to help them. But now they were free from the strong man that bound them, and they were free to escape their calamity and shame. Christ took over the house.

After this, Christ spends some time teaching parables — stories — that explain the importance of faith amongst, and despite of, the reality of turmoil and struggle. It is only fitting then, that the author of Mark places the next scene in the middle of a stormy sea. 

Image 06.jpgThe wind is howling, the waves are crashing, and water is beginning to get into the boat. The closest followers of Jesus on earth are scrambling to keep the boat afloat while Jesus is sleeping on a pillow — as if nothing was happening. 

Frustrated, they woke up the one person who may know what to do, and they asked him, in pure panic, “Don’t you care that we’re drowning??”

Jesus arose from his slumber and ordered the winds and the sea to be still.

All was calm. The boat remained afloat. And these followers of Jesus were left scratching their heads as they wondered who this man really was…the man who had control over the winds and the sea. 

Jesus demonstrated power and authority over the storms of people’s lives, and the storms that would cause them to lose their lives. Christ took over the house.


Application

There are times when we feel like those early followers of Jesus in the boat on the stormy sea — we cry out to God and we desperately ask: “Don’t you care what is happening to us?? Wake Up! Move! Do Something!”

And there are times when we observe others going through turmoil, shame, abuse, oppression, persecution, prejudice, and heartache, and we cry out to God with those same words.

But it is in times of destruction that renewal can most clearly begin to formulate in our vision — like a dead-looking tree in winter that begins to bud in anticipation of spring. We may see the leaves and the flowers, or maybe we won’t — but we now know that that tree is not dead. All Hope is Not lost. 

And when we realize this great hope that we had to have implanted within us, we are then called to share the source and the sustenance of that hope with those who need it most. 

In remembering the words at the beginning of this message:

God is a God who is “on the side of those who struggle with things that they cannot handle (Psalm 9:9–20) because God has experienced human pain and emotion to the fullest extent.” This calls us to stand with those who are hurting, broken, and oppressed.

 “This then necessitates the belief that God stands against those who oppress others; those who intentionally do harm to children of God.” This calls us to stand against the powers of evil in this world — to bind them and gain control for the Kingdom of God.

We may not be able to handle things on our own, but we have an ever-present God, and an ever-expanding support network to hold one another up.

“God is on the side of the weak, the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. And God sends out others to wade into brokenness and to point to when all things will be made new.”

Hope is already, and Hope is yet to come. Amen.

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On Josh Duggar – Again: Sacred Cow Celebrities, Grace, and Justice

It was not that long ago that I posted my response to Josh Duggar’s molestation of his little Sisters, and how people, especially Christians, responded to it.  To sum it up in one single quote, read the following:

“Saying “what he did was terrible, but he is a changed man” is not enough.  As Christians, we understand that the power and forgiveness of Jesus is powerful, but we also know that sin is crippling, addictive, and harmful to us, and those around us.”  (See that post Here)

Following that train of thought, it is with a heavy and perplexed heart that I write this blog post today. Yesterday, I read an article on Relevant Magazine‘s website about how Josh Duggar’s email address had been leaked by hackers who exposed all of the email addresses who signed up on the popular cheating-on-your-spouse website – Ashley Madison.   Josh was not delayed in his Apology for his actions, and to be fair, I will post that apology below:

“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly, over the last several years, been viewing pornography on the Internet. This became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him … I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.” – Josh Duggar, as quoted on revelantmagazine.com.

In finding out what he had done, I was pretty frustrated at the sin, and if I am honest, I was pretty frustrated with Josh.  I saw the Revelant article in my facebook feed, so I decided to look through the comments that other people had left, and within the comments, many people said things similar to the following:

“He did something wrong, he apologized, lets move on…”

“Jesus forgives him, why can’t you guys…”

“Grace should be given to all…”

And people, I get the forgiveness and Grace of God – I really do.  If Josh really has repented to God, than by the marvelous Grace of Jesus, He is already forgiven.  BUT, and I say that with a heavy heart, he did do wrong, he did violate God’s design for Marriage, and he did it all while staying on a high horse.   So while I will stand with you when you say God’s Grace can cover him, I will depart from you when you do not have the courage to stand against pornography, adultery, and when you have a tendency to brush off the sin, in order to defend the example.

I will stand with you when you affirm the Grace and Love of Jesus…

I will stand with you when people speak hate against any person, including Josh Duggar…

I will depart from you when you make an idol out of Christian Celebrities (Sacred Cows), and when you are blinded to their wrongdoing…

I will depart from you when that same marvelous Grace you speak and preach about is limited to a certain demographic…

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Side Bar

That last point brings me to the following quote from a young woman named Megan who commented on the Relevant article on Facebook:

“I find it interesting that white evangelical Christians can muster up sympathy for Josh Duggar but not Michael Brown or Eric Garner. This thread is amazing. Rape culture and racism continally leave me in awe. Who we choose to extend grace to says so much about the culture.” – Megan

Do you HEAR her?  Do you hear her honest questions about how the loud voices of the evangelical Christian community can sympathize with Josh Duggar after hearing that he has apologized, when this same crowd, by and large, sided with the cops RIGHT AWAY in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others. 

Why do we jump so quickly to defend Josh Duggar, and the cops, while saying about Michael Brown and others.. “Well, they shouldn’t have run…”.  We show Grace to Josh without a second thought, and we show condemnation to Mike Brown, Eric Garner – and we assume that everyone raving about racism in america is out of their minds…

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Sacred Cows, Grace, and Justice

My Brothers and Sisters, we are called to follow Jesus each day, to preach Truth, to love others, and to reject false teachings and ways of living.

May I propose to you something controversial? 

When we, as Christians, elevate the status of a Christian celebrity in our minds, we have to be VERY careful.  We have to be careful because in some of these instances, we elevate the celebrity so much that we become blind to the wrong and hurtful things that they may say or do.  We essentially make idols out of them; making them our “Sacred Cows“.  If someone says one word against them – we are quick on the defense.

We do need to show Grace, but can we be consistent, and show Grace to all?

Finally, can we join together in the name of Justice in a fight against Christian Celebrity Idolatry, and adultery?

And as a Facebook user, Megan, observed, can we as a Church use our efforts of defense to defend those suffering racism and prejudice, corrupt police systems, etc.?

Church, I love you.   Lets take some time in thought and prayer, and let us ask God how we can make the world a better place.  Let us ponder how we can strengthen the bonds of our own marriages, and the marriages of those around us.  Let us ponder strategies to combat lust, pornography, adultery, racism, and rape culture.

This is a Call to Action.  Will you Join me in being a voice?

-Jon

Please tell me your thoughts and opinions!

Links:

Revelant Article

Relevant Facebook Page

Lamb Theology – On Josh Duggar (First Post)

Lamb Theology – Post on Racism

Lamb Theology – Post on Living the Love of Jesus

 

Charleston Shooting, Racism in America, and the Christian Obligation to Action

My wife and I watched “The Butler” last night, which is a movie about one man’s job as a butler to the president of the united states through the terms of Eisenhower through Reagan.  The film tracked this one man’s experience and thoughts during the civil rights movement, and the struggle of thought between activism, and hoping your country will get it right soon.

As a white boy, growing up in the 90s in the northeast, I did not notice a lot of racism.  When people talked about racism, and white privilege, I assumed that was all done with by now.

In 2008, as a 16 year old, when I heard from fox news, or somewhere else that African-Americans voted for Obama just because he was black, I thought it was ridiculous that people would do such a thing…

Now? I don’t find it so ridiculous.  Not because I am a big Obama fan, but because it had taken WAY too long for there to be an African-American president; it had taken WAY too long for African-Americans to gain true, and protected equal rights.

From the 1700s to the late 1800s, slavery was legal in the United States, and it was present in the Americas since its colonization.   From the late 1800s to 1965, African-Americans were legally told that there was a “white” side of a restaurant, and a “colored” side; a white water fountain, and a colored water fountain.  They were excluded from places, and even when they were oppressed against the law, the “Law” was a group of White policemen who regularly beat them, sprayed them with a fire hose, and some of these policeman were members of local white hate groups – KKK or otherwise.  These segregation laws, called Jim Crow laws, remained in effect until 1965 – just 55 years ago.  Going along with this government-driven racism, we have to think about what this did to the African-American community.  A quality and an equal Education was difficult to find, going to college was a rarity, and all of this, combined with the reality that equal pay was still not enforced, results in poverty and a lack of trust in the white man, and in police officers.  Can you imagine growing up and hearing stories from your mom, and your grandfather about how policemen would beat your people to death simply because of the color of your skin?  With this in mind, when an African-American talks about racism, they are not only talking about the slavery of long ago, but of the blatant racism that existed in the lives of themselves, their parents, or their grandparents.

Fast forward 55 years to 2015.

We have an African-American president, equal pay is enforced- for the most part, there is no more “colored” or “white-only” schools, restaurants, churches, etc..

BUT

  • When Trevon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012, MANY conservative news agencies and people took the side of Zimmerman.  Although an altercation may have taken place between the two people, not much was known about the situation at first, but many conservatives were quick to take the side of Zimmerman over Martin because Martin was a “suspicious” black guy in a black hoodie walking around a neighborhood in which he stayed.
  • 2014 – When Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson, again, with not many details out, many conservatives took the side of the officer. I am not a Democrat, nor am I a Republican, I just know what I have observed.
  • 2014 – When Eric Garner was held to the ground and was audibly heard saying “I can’t breathe”, policeman kept him down, forcibly restraining him until he died, and there was an outcry against police brutality.
  • 2015 – When Freddie Gray sustained injuries within a police vehicle, there was an outcry against police brutality, there were riots, both violent and non-violent, and still…the conservative news agencies and people took the side of the officers, even though these officers were later found guilty of the brutality in which they were charged.  Conservative articles circulated about how Freddie Gray was a known criminal, and how he had multiple charges against him in the past…as if any of that mattered..as if any of that justifies the acts committed by the police…
  • 2015 – This Week on 6/17/15 – An early 20s White man walks into a historic African-American church in South Carolina, sits with them in prayer for an hour, and then kills 9 black men and women, leaving three survivors.
  • In 2015, the Confederate flag still waves high at the South Carolina State Capitol, and it is protected by State law to not be lowered or taken down because it is part of South Carolina’s history. 
    • Can you imagine, as a black person, seeing the same flag spoken of as waved by KKK members, being flown at your state’s capitol?  I realize that for some, the flag is more about country music and rebellion, but it nonetheless has extremely racist meanings to a lot of people, and should never be displayed by any American Government.

Racism is not dead; Racism exists in these instances, and racism exists in how people respond to these instances.  Regardless of our political party, combating racism and prejudice should Never be thought of as conflicting to our political views, and if they are, as a Christian, I submit to these folks that if Christ was their ruler, they wouldn’t be so quick to defend the subtle racism that exists around them.

When the Black community is united against racism that they have seen and noticed, white politicians, news anchors, and people do not have the right to brush away what they are saying.  Every instance should be examined.

If you are quick to defend the police before all facts are out..

If you are quick to point out that there are innocent White people attacked by black people too…

If you are quick to think that you can’t speak up because of how it may make you look..

You are part of the problem. 

If you are a Christian, and you honestly believe that you should follow Christ, then you should be at the forefront of people uniting against racism, in all of its forms.

If you are a Christian, and you hear of a White, Black, Asian, or Hispanic person being mistreated because of their race…You should be the first to defend them in Word, and in non-violent activism.

Jesus commands us to more, and to love all of those we come across.  Jesus broke racial prejudice when he told the parable of the good Samaritan who stopped to help a beaten man on the side of the road.  The Samaritans were a different race than the Israelites and there was a lot of conflict between the two; Jesus showed his followers that we are all people, and we can all show compassion.

Will you take a stand against the racism that is still alive and well in this country?  Will you take a stand against your own inclination to remain silent?