Welcome to the Waretown United Methodist Church Christmastime Session Discipleship Initiative! For the next two weeks we will continue posting a once weekly reflection on Scripture, Mission, and the book Right Here Right Now: by Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford. This Blog/Facebook discussion is part Bible Study, part Book Discussion, and part Practical Worskshop. You may post responses to this post (either on the blog or Facebook), repost, start a new related post, or message with others regarding the posted discussion for the week. Before you begin, please observe the following practices:
1. PRAY before you start! When we are in connection with God daily… God works in and through our lives to bring insight, inspiration, and understanding.
2. ENGAGE others in the group and outside. What God reveals to us through insight, inspiration and understanding is not meant for us alone… but others as well. God wants to use all of us to bring love, grace, hope, and faith to others.
3. RESPECT everyone. Sometimes we don’t agree… that’s OK. Consider every person and post to be earnestly seeking the best that God has to offer.
4. PARTICIPATE. It’s easy to passively observe… it takes guts to get in on the action! God is not calling for armchair quarterbacks, or part-timers. The only way to experience anything from this is to be ‘ALL IN’.
We are all vulnerable.
There are a million ways we may face suffering, injustice, tragedy and grief.
In the midst of the first Christmas… the birth of baby Jesus… people were vulnerable. Many of the common folks were suffering under the injustice of the Roman leaders and soldiers. Many of the common folks were being taken advantage of and exploited by local officials and tax collectors. And the tragedy of losing loved ones to poverty, prison, and execution was an all too common grief.
This was the world Jesus was born into. His parents were shut out of the inn. Vulnerable. He was born in a stable yard and put in a feeding trough. Vulnerable. His life was marked by persecution, poverty, and injustice. Vulnerable. He was falsely accused, maliciously convicted, and wrongfully executed. Vulnerable.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. When Jesus was raised from the dead he promised that the vulnerable would ‘inherit the Kingdom of God’. Jesus says in Luke 6:20-23:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven.
As we take up the dual theme of repentance and hope this week it is important to remember that our faith in Jesus, and this promise of his, can be a powerful inspiration in our life and in the wider world. Remember repentance (as it appears in the original Greek) means to ‘change our mind’ or ‘turn around’. It implies a commitment of action to a new direction. John the Baptist, we discussed last week, had a ministry of baptism “for repentance and the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Basically… if we change our minds for God and commit our actions in faith to following God’s will and ways… Jesus’ promise is for us. John (not surprisingly), when asked by people how they should make a commitment of action, pointed them in the direction of protecting the vulnerable:
Bear fruits worthy of repentance
And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
In the book we have been reflecting on, Right Here Right Now by Lance Ford and Alan Hirsch, they discuss the absolute necessity of living as a counterexample to the values of the world. Their short but important list (found on p.147) answers the question for us today when we ask: “and we, what should we do?” It includes: living simply over and against a culture of excess; living prayerfully and disciplined in our dependence on God over and against a culture that says “we can do it on our own”; living in courageous support of one another as we take big risks to live for God; living “willing to resist the many ways in which the dominant in our world crush the weak”; and living in creatively joyful ways that actually turn the mixed-up values of the world upside down.
Just yesterday we all learned of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Children, who are some of the most vulnerable among us, were killed by a gunman. I am physically and literally sick to my stomach as I write and think about the event. Let us offer our most heartfelt prayers to the families and community. Let us offer comfort and sympathy.
And let us live, with courageous and committed action, the hope of Jesus which promises that the vulnerable will inherit the Kingdom of God.