Living for the King

Sermon delivered on Christ the King Sunday A, November 23, 2014, at First United Methodist Church, Van Wert, OH.

There is no audio podcast of this sermon.

Lectionary texts: Ezekiel  34.11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100.1-4; Ephesians 1.15-23; Matthew 25.31-46.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I am Fr. Kevin Maney, rector of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus OH. I grew up in this church and some of you will remember my parents, John and Margaret Maney, who loved this church and were active in it. To say that I am honored and thrilled to be invited to preach here today would be a massive understatement and I want to thank Pastor Gus for the trust he put in me to preach the gospel to you faithfully. But I am also mindful of what happened to Jesus when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth to preach. He angered the folks there so badly that they sought to throw him off a nearby cliff. Not wanting this to happen to me when I returned to my home church, I sought the highest authority in the land on preaching, my wife, and asked her sage advice about preaching this sermon. She mused for a moment and then reminded me that a well-received sermon should have a good beginning, a good ending, and the two should be as close together as possible.

Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, a feast relatively new in the Church’s calendar. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 as a way to resist the rise of totalitarianism and secularism of his day. It marks the last Sunday of the Church’s calendar year and as its name implies, today is a day when we celebrate Jesus as King, Messiah, and Lord of all God’s creation. So this morning I want us to look briefly at what we can learn about living as faithful subjects under King Jesus’ sovereign rule.

In our gospel lesson this morning we as Jesus’ followers are given both a word of encouragement and a word of warning. The encouragement is not so obvious so we need to have a little background because the judgment scene Jesus describes is part of the overall biblical narrative. The entire story of Scripture is about how God is putting to rights his good creation and creatures corrupted by human sin and the evil that accompanied it. God has chosen to do this by calling Abraham and his descendants, the people of Israel, to bring God’s healing love and blessing to the nations. Those nations who embraced God’s people Israel would be blessed by God while those who did not would be cursed (Genesis 12.1-3). There’s more to the story but this is what we need to help us make sense of our gospel lesson.

With this in mind, then, the first thing we note is the startling fact that instead of the nations being judged based on how they treated Israel, Jesus is declaring that he will judge the world based on how it has treated the least of his brothers and sisters (his followers), the reconstituted Israel. So much for the old canard that Jesus had no self-awareness of who he was or that he was just an extraordinary teacher. Teachers don’t get to judge the world, not even extraordinary ones. Only God gets to do that and here we see Jesus telling us that he will judge the world!

But how do we know that Jesus is talking about his followers and not all people? Elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus had warned that not everyone who called him Lord would enter God’s kingdom, but only those who do the will of his Father. Lip service alone will not cut it. All true love and faith is manifested in action (Matthew 7.21-23). And then in a scene that would have shocked those who witnessed it, in response to his mother and brothers coming to speak to him, Jesus declared that his mother and brothers (and sisters) were those who do the will of his Father (Matthew 12.47-50). So the likely meaning of this judgment scene is that those who have not followed Jesus will be judged based on how they have treated those of us whom Jesus counts as family, his brothers and sisters, you and me, even (or perhaps especially) the least of us. Here we see our Lord who sends us out into his world to be his salt and light reassuring us he understands all too well that he is sending us out on a dangerous mission but that he is taking note of what we suffer and that we will be rewarded for our faithfulness.

Now of course we as Americans are rarely called to suffer and die for the faith the way many Christians around the world are suffering and dying for Jesus’ sake. But our lesson warns us not to neglect their suffering. So, for example, we are called to support our family members in Jesus around the world, both tangibly and through our prayers. And we are to offer encouragement and hope to those we might know personally by reminding them of passages like these (cf. Romans 8.31-39). Charity, of course, starts at home.

And while we may not be suffering as some of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are, we are under increasing pressure to sit down and shut up. Our culture is becoming more hostile to Christian perspectives and morals and the net effect is that we are increasingly silenced because we don’t want to offend anyone or be found to be politically incorrect or be subject to name calling or job loss or worse. None of this should surprise us because our Lord himself warned that this would happen to us and that many of his followers would fall away as a result (Matthew 10.16-24; 24.9-10).

So if we have lost our voice in proclaiming the gospel to those in our world through word and deed, or if we hide Jesus’ light by failing to tell others in whose Name we do our good deeds because we are afraid of how others might react, then let passages like our gospel lesson be an encouragement to us so that we recover our voice and embody Jesus’ great love for all people as he commanded us to do in this judgment scene and elsewhere. And in doing the hard work of being Jesus’ salt and light to the world, we can take further encouragement by remembering that we are doing something else Jesus commanded us to do. We are taking up our cross, i.e., we are willing to suffer for our Lord, and denying our selfish ways for the sake of others, as we follow our Lord Jesus, who will not only judge the world at the end of time but who is also alive and reigns as king right now, judging it and us, deeply ambiguous as that may be.

But if this is the only thing we draw from today’s lesson, we will miss its warning to us as God’s people in Christ. When Scripture offers us encouragement as it regularly does and as we have seen in the judgment of the sheep and goats, our appropriate response is not to sit back, prop up our feet and get all uppity and self-righteous because we are on the winning side. The warning in the judgment scene pertains to us as well. And here it is good for us to remember what we have been given as Christians and why we do what we do in the power of the Spirit.

As we have seen, the biblical narrative is about how God is rescuing his good world from the ravages of evil, sin, and death. God has ultimately accomplished this by becoming human in Jesus of Nazareth to confront and defeat sin and evil by dying on a cross for us (cf. Colossians 2.14-15), shocking and unexpected as that is. As Paul put it, there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus because on the cross God condemned sin in the flesh so that he would not have to condemn us. By Jesus’ blood we are reconciled to God who has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 8.1-4; Col 1.13-14, 19-20).

We know this is true because God raised Jesus from the dead in a mighty act of new creation that would be a preview of the day when God would finally put to rights forever all that is wrong with this present world so that resurrection and new bodily life, eternal life, is our destiny. As Paul reminds us in Romans, those of us who are united to Jesus in faith share in a baptism like his so that we share in his death and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). And until we see the Lord face-to-face, he is alive and available to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. None of us deserve this gracious gift but it is ours through repentance and faith, thanks be to God!

I can hear some of you right now. What’s this got to do with our gospel lesson? Get to the point, dude. Balyeat’s is filling up as you speak! Here’s the point. Contrary to a superficial reading of this story of judgment which seems to advocate a works-righteousness, it is anything but that because we must fit it squarely within the broader story of the gospel, which is the story of how God has rescued us through Jesus the Messiah, the one true and faithful Israelite. We have been given a wondrous gift, a gift that reflects the very heart of God, and we who have embraced this gift through faith are expected to imitate our Lord in doing the will of his Father. As we have seen, real faith must always show itself in what we do because what we do is always a product of what we think and believe. In the story of the sheep and goats, Jesus is holding up for us a pattern of practical, Calvary-like love lived out in faith for us to follow in our own little neck of the woods and warning us that we too will be judged by how we treat the poor, the least, and the lost, just like those not of the faith will be judged for their treatment of us. This is how we are Jesus’ salt and light to the world. This is how we are called to embody his love and presence in our lives, to respond with compassion to human despair. And of course we find one of the best examples of this kind of faithful, sacrificial love in John Wesley, an Anglican priest whose Methodist movement arguably saved 18th-century England from social revolution.

So how is Jesus calling you to respond to his command to bring his healing love to the world, both as individuals and as part of his body, the Church here at FUMC? What we do with this question will be determined in large part by whether we really do believe that we are loved and claimed by Jesus from all eternity and whether we think he is both present to us in the power of the Spirit and is Lord of all creation, both now and in the future. To believe this takes great faith and trust, a faith and trust that can only come from having a lively and intimate relationship with the living Lord through prayer, worship, study of Scripture, and fellowship. This knowledge produces godly wisdom and a deep desire to please this God who has rescued us from the gates of hell itself, and this in turn will produce sheep-like behavior (in the best sense of our gospel lesson) in response to our knowledge that we really do have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Robert McKenzie: A First Thanksgiving Hoax

mayflower-compact-iiI first encountered William Bradford’s supposed First Thanksgiving Proclamation when my family and I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some dear friends from our church.  Knowing that I was a historian, the host pulled me aside before the meal to tell me that he had found the text of Governor Bradford’s proclamation calling for the First Thanksgiving, and that he planned to read it before asking the blessing.  Here is what he had found:

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

 William Bradford

Ye Governor of Ye Colony

Although I was uncomfortable contradicting my host, I felt compelled to tell him that this was a hoax.  Can you figure out why?

Read it all.

CT: Why You Can’t Read Scripture Alone

No person is an island. Listen if you have ears to hear!

48905You are a new Christian. You want to learn all you can about the Bible, for you know it is the Word of God, and somewhere you heard that you can know God only to the extent that you know his Word. You know a woman down the street who has walked with God for more than 60 years and has studied Scripture all that time. She has read commentaries, enjoyed attending churches within different denominations, and discussed the deep things of God with other mature believers and pastors.

You consider reading Scripture with her, to glean her wisdom. But you choose to read the Bible for yourself by yourself. You don’t visit the woman because you don’t want her beliefs to influence your own reading. And you want to listen to the Holy Spirit yourself, so you can get to the purity of God’s message untainted by outside influence.

Some Christians, and not just new believers among them, take this “me and God” approach to reading Scripture. They have learned from Matthew 15 not to be like the Pharisees, whom Jesus said exalted human tradition over God’s Word. They also try to heed Paul’s warning not to succumb to “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition” (Col. 2:8, ESV used throughout). They have concluded, therefore, that Scripture teaches that church tradition—and all the perspectives and human-derived interpretations that it carries with it—should not color our reading of God’s Word.

Is that what the Bible itself teaches?

Read it all.

Fox: Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Pilgrims

Don’t be an ignoramus about Thanksgiving, pilgrim!

mayflowerWe usually think of the Pilgrims as British exiles who sailed to the North America and settled in Massachusetts. But the truth is a bit more complicated than that; the original Pilgrims were 35 members of the radical Puritan faction of the Church of England called the English Separatist Church, which illegally broke away from the rest of the Church in 1607. The group originally settled in the Netherlands, where the laws were much more lenient.

There, the Separatists suffered economic difficulties and feared the loss of their English language and culture. This inspired their voyage to the New World, a new home where they would be free to practice their religion and way of life.

In September of 1620, they joined a London stock company to finance their trip aboard the Mayflower, a three-masted merchant ship headed across the Atlantic. They intended to settle in an area near the Hudson River, part of the Virginia colony, but because of stormy seas, the Mayflower eventually anchored over two months later in what would soon be called Plymouth Harbor, in what is now Massachusetts.

Read it all.

151st Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Today marks the 151st anniversary of Lincoln’s, Gettysburg address, one of the seminal speeches in American history. Take time to read and reflect on it today and give thanks that God has raised up leaders like President Lincoln to guide our country through difficult times.

LINCOLN’S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

doc_036_big doc_036b_bigFour score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Pope Francis’ Opening Address to Humanum Conference

Good words from the Holy Father. Show me a society with strong families, not redefined, and I’ll show you a strong society.

Pope Francis pictured during private audience with Austrian President Fischer at VaticanIt is necessary first topromote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods. The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is “indispensable”; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.” (n. 66) And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium’s emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.

In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart. I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future. Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.

Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.

Read the whole speech.

NFL Agent Says Domestic Violence Crisis Due to Ungodly Men

I’m really encouraged that someone finally gets it. Wish more “analysts” and social commentators would do likewise.

NFLAnother day, another football player arrested for domestic violence.

Frank Clark, a senior defensive end for the University of Michigan, was arrested Sunday for allegedly attacking his girlfriend in a Perkins, Ohio hotel room. Sports analysts predict Clark will be a third-round NFL draft pick next year. It’s the latest in a string of scandals involving football players this year–including Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson–that has prompted the NFL to implement a revamped domestic violence policy.

But Drew Pittman, a Christian NFL sports agent whose firm has negotiated almost $1 billion in player contracts, claims we’re missing the real problem. He says America–not just sports–is experiencing an epidemic of men who are not equipped to be husbands and fathers. He’s compiled stories and principles from his career in a new book, First Team Dad: Your Playbook for a Winning Family  (foreword by Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy), and argues that our real problem is ungodly men. Here we discuss his book, sports scandals, and what he believes every parent can learn about parenting and marriage from professional sports.

Read it all.

Bill Crawford: Good Politicians Care for all of Their Constituents

Yep.

The good governor will do what is best for his whole state.

Consider Ohio Gov. John Kasich, just re-elected to a second term. A Fox News commentator said, “Kasich’s empathy for others is one of his strongest qualities.”

Kasich is a fiscal conservative, an adamant tax cutter, a small government champion, an effective job creator, and pro business. He is also an evangelical Christian whose pro-life actions dramatically reduced abortions in Ohio.

But, he believes the Bible calls him to do more.

“The right way to live is to make sure that those who do not have the blessings that we have, those who are beleaguered, those who have fallen on hard times — we can’t ignore them, we have to help them, and we’re expected to do that, and I believe the Lord expects us to do that,” he said. “And it’s spelled out pretty clearly in the Old and New Testaments, consistently.”

For that reason he signed Ohio up for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, one of a handful of Republican governors to do so. “I had a chance to bring … Ohio money back to Ohio to do some things that frankly needed to be done. And that’s to treat the mentally ill, to get them across the bridge so they can get employment. The same for the drug addicted — and you know drug addiction is in every demographic, every income, every community — to treat those people, rehab them, and get them to work. And also to make sure the working poor have a system that makes sense, instead of showing up and getting their health care in emergency rooms.”

Read it all.

A Night and Day Difference

Sermon delivered on the second Sunday before Advent A, November 16, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Zephaniah 1.7, 12-18; Psalm 90.1-12; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11; Matthew 25.14-30.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In last week’s epistle lesson we saw that Paul addressed concerns about what would happen to the Christian dead when Jesus returns. Paul reminded us that they are safely in the Lord’s care and would appear with Jesus at his Second Coming. In other words, those who are alive when this happens will not have an advantage over those who have died in the Lord. In today’s epistle lesson Paul focuses on the fate of those who are living when the Lord returns and this is what I want us to look at briefly this morning.

How many of you have some concerns or anxiety about what will happen to you when the Lord returns to finally put to rights all that is wrong in his creation? I mean, look at our OT and psalm lessons this morning! The prophet warns his people (and by extension us) that God’s wrath is coming and there will be no escape. They had not been God’s light to the world to bring the blessing of his healing love to bear on the nations. Instead, they had become just like the nations to which they were called to bring God’s light, and worse! And now the prophet warns the chickens are about to come home to roost. They will discover that God is not indifferent to their sin as they foolishly believed. God’s wrath is about to be poured out on them and there is nothing in this world—not their wealth or status or their false gods or their delusional thinking about their accountability to their God—that can save them. It is a terrible picture Zephaniah paints for us. No wonder the only appropriate response is silence.

And if we are looking for some better news from the psalmist, he’s not giving us much love either. He reminds us that God has set our misdeeds before him so that we kindle God’s anger and are consumed by his wrath. Oh sure, some of us might live to be 70 or 80 but even then our days are filled with toil and sorrow, passing away before we know it and then we are gone, i.e., we will die. Or what about Paul’s warning to the Romans and Corinthians that we all must stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14.10; 2 Corinthians 5.10)? And this is just the tip of the proverbial biblical iceberg! I could cite dozens more passages like these. In light of all this, I’m really looking forward to the day of the Lord. Aren’t you?

Ah, Father Maney, you cry (literally)! Another one of your feel-good sermons! How nice. You sure do know how to preach good news to us so that we are uplifted and given hope. Do you happen to have an ice pick we can put to our heads to put us out of our misery? To which I respond, where’s the fun in preaching that kind of stuff? So again I ask. In light of what we have just reviewed, how many of you have some concern or anxiety about what will happen to you when the Lord Jesus returns to put his corrupted world and its people to rights?

This, of course, is the concern Paul is addressing in our epistle lesson. The Thessalonians were apparently anxious not only about the fate of their loved ones who had died in Christ but also about their own fate. And in light of what we’ve just seen, who could blame them? But the question I just asked is also a trick question if you are a Christian. Do you know why? Of course you do. And if for some reason you don’t listen to what Paul says.

Paul, of course, would have recognized immediately that I was asking you a trick question because he would have known instantly that I left out a key event in asking it and then in reciting all the passages about God’s judgment on sin and the people who commit them. Please don’t misunderstand. None of us should take sin and its deadly consequences lightly or make light of it. God certainly does not and that is why he acted decisively on the cross to do something about it on our behalf and that is what was missing in the previous equation.

The cross of Jesus Christ and his subsequent resurrection to which Paul refers almost in passing in our epistle lesson (who died for us) is the key to us not being anxious about our present or future. Why? Because as Paul tells us elsewhere, on the cross evil has been defeated (Colossians 2.15) and  there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Jesus because in his blood shed for us on the cross, God condemned human sin in the flesh so that God would not have to condemn us who put our hope and trust in Jesus (Romans 8.1-4). On the cross, we are reconciled to God and transferred out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son so that we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1.13-14, 19-20). And since Jesus is God, we see the very heart of God beating for us on the cross. It is a heart overflowing with grace, mercy, and love for us, a heart that does not want to see the death of any of his image-bearing creatures.

This is why Paul could reassure the Thessalonians (and us) about our respective fate. He tells us we need not fear our Lord Jesus’ return and gives us two reasons why. First, we are children of the light and children of the day. In other words we are the Lord’s people who are forgiven and who will therefore escape his terrible wrath. Second, God has destined us for salvation because Jesus died for us and was raised from the dead. In other words, we who have faith that God has done this for us in and through Jesus are destined to share in Jesus’ vindication (his resurrection) because we are inextricably linked to him in the power of the Spirit who makes Jesus present to us right now and binds us to him forever so that wherever he is, there we will be also. We don’t receive this gift because we are deserving in any way. To the contrary we are deserving of God’s wrath about which Zephaniah and the psalmist speak. No, we are given this gift of life and pardon and mercy because God is loving and merciful and has given us demonstrable, historical proof of his love for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But here’s the thing. Many of us act like we don’t really believe this. We remain anxious about our present situation and eternal destiny, choosing to believe that the Good News of Jesus can’t really be that good. And so we walk around anxiously gritting our teeth, trying desperately to earn favor in this wrathful God’s sight, which of course is an impossibility. We instinctively get this and it does nothing but increase our fear and anxiety.

And even if we do believe the Good News that is in Jesus, it is easy for us to lose sight of it because as Paul reminds us we live in a good world gone bad, a world of darkness that is hostile to God’s good plan to heal and redeem us in and through Jesus, a world that seeks after any god except the one true, living God. That is why we have to remind and encourage each other about the gospel so that it is not taken from us and we lose all hope. If you are someone who calls himself or herself a Christian and are laboring under this terrible burden of a false gospel that is full of wrath and devoid of hope, stop it right now! Do the math and take time to read and reflect on the hope and promise that permeates the entire Bible, especially the NT! And if that does not do it for you, talk to a trusted Christian friend or one of the priests here and we will try to help you find the love and hope that is in the gospel. Again, it is not about our worthiness; it is about God’s great love and tender mercy for his image-bearing creatures.

If we really take to heart the healing power of the gospel, there will be a release from the burden of guilt and anxiety over our relationship with God and our standing before him because we realize that on the cross, God really has done something about our sin so that we are destined for life and not death, pardon and mercy instead of judgment and wrath as the world and its people are. This, in turn, frees us to be the light-bearing people Jesus calls us to be as part of the rescued community of Abraham. This is why Paul goes on to urge us to act like people of light or the daytime. Your eternal destiny is secure, he says, so start acting like you really believe it. And how do we act like people who belong to the day (who have been rescued from evil, sin, and death)? In this particular passage, Paul tells us to put on God’s armor that will help us show others that we are people who possess the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

And now we are getting at the message of Jesus’ parable about the talents in today’s gospel lesson because the parable really is about how well we use the gifts God has given us to be his light to the world, to bring hope and Good News to the nations (and to our neighbors and fellow workers and friends, including each other). Notice that in entrusting the third servant with only one talent (a talent was worth about 15 years of wages for a common worker so even this was a huge amount), God judged this servant’s business smarts to be less reliable than the other two. Notice too that God did not condemn the servant for having lesser ability than the other two servants. Rather, God judged the third servant because he didn’t even try to use the limited abilities he had!

At the heart of this parable, then, Jesus is warning Israel (and us who are the newly reconstituted Israel around Jesus) that God has given us our life, our possessions, our gifts and abilities to be spent and put into circulation in the arena we call life so that we can help bring God’s light and love to the world. This is what Jesus was talking about on the sermon on the mount when he called his followers to be salt and light. This is why God has rescued us from the darkness of our sin—so that he could use us to help bring about the kingdom on earth as in heaven. Once again, our eternal destiny is not contingent on how well we do this, but rather that we at least try in grateful response to the incalculable gift we have been given.

But this is where it gets tricky because for a variety of reasons, most notably because the Church has dropped the ball in teaching its people how to be Jesus’ salt and light to the world, we don’t know how to do that. For example, we think loving people is all about being nice or giving them what they want, when often what they want is more darkness and not the light of Christ. If their darkness is going to be judged by God, how is that loving them? Our challenge is to redefine the conversation in our day so that we are not letting the culture with all its disordered desires define and drive the conversation. As one writer recently put it, we are called to be radicals because we are the recipients of the radical love and forgiveness of Christ so that we can offer folks a reason why they should want to come and die and so follow Christ.

Think on these things and talk about them so as to encourage one another in this work. How can we share the light of Christ so that in us, people see the gift of love and salvation we have? Whatever it looks like, and there are literally infinite possibilities, one thing is for certain. If we do not know we have Good News, we will not be prepared or know how to share it. And so in closing, I remind us all again that we are set free from sin and death and reconciled to God now and for all eternity by the blood of the Lamb shed for us and are given his Spirit to testify to us that this promise is trustworthy and true. That’s the Good News that is the sole basis for us to live as people who belong to the day, who belong to Jesus forever, thanks be to God!  To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

CD: Cosmic First: European Spacecraft Lands on Comet

Wow. Just wow.

PhilaeSearch1Landing with a bounce after traveling 4 billion miles, a European spacecraft made history yesterday by successfully reaching the icy, dusty surface of a speeding comet — a cosmic first designed to answer big questions about the universe.

The landing by the washing- machine-sized crafter after a decade-long journey required immense precision, as even the slightest error could have resulted in stellar calamity.

Indications were that the spacecraft touched down almost perfectly, save for an unplanned bounce, said Stephan Ulamec, head of the lander operation.

Read and marvel at it all.

Michael Gerson: From Ohio, a Different Sort of Republicanism

Election_Ohio-04f14

Politicians are supposed to pretend that a favorable verdict was perfectly natural and inevitable. When I raised the African American vote with Kasich, he responded, “I’m flabbergasted by it.” Disarming candor is Kasich’s stock in trade. And a decisive electoral victory has liberated someone who already had few inhibitions.

Describing his policy-oriented, aspirational campaign, Kasich told me, “When I first started, my staff completely freaked out. ‘How are you going to get any excitement without talking about Obama?’ We are too caught up in ideology and partisanship in this country. When I said [during the campaign] that we need to respect the president of the United States, the reporter [for the Associated Press] nearly passed out.

“We need to show more respect, not anger. This is not a wrestling match. There have been too many hardened hearts in this country: ‘You are my enemy, just because you don’t think the way I think.’ I don’t even know how we got here. At the end of the day, it means that my side is not always totally right and the other side totally wrong.”

Another spot-on commentary. Read it all.