Another one of Mike's sermons from the past...
AGAINST AND FOR
We are a debating society. We are encouraged to "weigh in" on issues or matters of importance. Of course, we don't have to be an expert. We can just have "strong feelings" about something In our modern age technology allows us to get our opinion out into the world.
On YouTube you can watch something , see how many times it was viewed, and then give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I've never weighed in.
You can watch a news report and then you are invited to be part of the poll... Are you for or against this issue?
A few weeks ago I tried to get interested in Facebook. I looked on Sue's Facebook page and Yikes! Some people were spewing out some awful stuff! I didn't need to read that! I haven't been back so I hope Sue will let me know if something important happens.
So, surely it's safe to look at your favorite hockey team and read an article about the St. Louis Blues? They didn't resign their captain to a contract...ok, that's fine. Then I looked at the "comment section". Two Blues fans were going after each other. "The team's going in the right direction." "No! it's not and by the way you are a jerk!"
It appears that we aren't always civil with one another in our society.
The truth is, we all have opinions. Sometimes we get worked up over certain hot button issues. We might not like a person because they hold a different view. Maybe it's someone close to us who is the arbitrator. Who gets to declare the winner? Is it important?
During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln was asked if God was on his side. Lincoln replied, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."
In our lessons today God weighs in. God has some opinions and really, that should be the most important thing. What does God say about a thing? Culture may have an opinion. The "experts" may have an opinion. But if we are believers, what God thinks should be our primary concern.
The intro to our first lesson in Amos tells us what God is against. The Word of the Lord came to Israel and chided them for their feelings of superiority over other nations and peoples. Woe to those who make their beds in comfort, eat sumptuous meals and sit idly enjoying all the good things in life. They didn't make changes. They simply didn't care while their country was ruined.
The only thing God is for is for them going into exile. And that's exactly what happened in 722 B.C. The Assyrian Army conquered the North Kingdom of Israel and hauled them away to become slaves. They had stopped caring about what God thinks.
In Paul's first letter to Timothy we find that God's Word is for good leaders who are held to high standards. God has been FOR that throughout the ages.
Moses was a good leader for Israel. He had high standards but he wasn't perfect.
There were many good and noble things about King David. He was Israel's greatest King. He had high standards and tried to follow God but he didn't always succeed.
I think the second reading is telling us that we want our Christian leaders to have high standards, but that should be true of all Christians. I think God wants us all to have high standards. Always considering, always asking what does God want me to do?
In our Gospel reading in Luke 16 I think it's pretty clear that God does not want us to neglect the poor. God is AGAINST that. The rich man is a terrible example of not even helping one of his own.
It's interesting that in all the parables that Jesus tells, only in this parable does a character have a name. His name is Lazarus, or "God is my help."
Lazarus is a pitiful figure. He's laid at the rich man's gate; he can't even get there himself. He's a beggar. He has terrible sores. Dogs are licking him and he doesn't even speak in this parable. Yes, he is part of the great reversal that Jesus talks about, "The first shall be last..."
So, God is AGAINST neglecting the poor but I heard in this reading that he is all FOR listening to Moses and the prophets. And what were they saying... "love God with all your heart soul, mind and strength and be a good neighbor."
You and me, we are the 5 brothers of the rich man in this parable. We are still here in this world. Lazarus won't come and pay us a visit but we do have Moses and the prophets. We do have Jesus rising from the dead. So, what are we going to do with that? I hope we can do something beautiful for God.
Let me explain what I mean. Mother Teresa was a Catholic Nun who went to Calcutta, India, one of the poorest cities in the world. Mother Teresa started orphanages and hospitals to care for the dying. She was greatly admired for giving her life to care for the poor.
As Mother Teresa became famous, people from all over the world came to Calcutta to meet her. When journalists would finish interviewing her she would look at them with a twinkle in her eye and ask, "So, you want to do something beautiful for God?"
Her point was not to be admired but to ask, "Why don't you join me in this quest to be a good neighbor. Help these people. They are struggling. When you go back home, help the struggling people there."
The interesting thing in Mother Teresa's story is that she started out in Calcutta as a teacher in a nice, beautifully manicured convent. At night she would look beyond the walls of her second story apartment. She would see the poor and dying. At first she would throw bread and money over the wall to the poor gathered there. She finally asked her Mother Superior if she could do face-to-face ministry with the poor. She was granted permission. She walked across the street and touched the skin of a dying man. Her life was never the same. She did something beautiful for God.
Last week I said we probably won't christen a ship, have lunch with the queen, convert a nation or be burned at the state. But the world of our neighbor is all around us. It doesn't have to be a big thing but let's DO SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD in the world of our neighbors. I think God is all FOR that.