Tuesday, 16 October 2018

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Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

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Rev. Zachary Crow: Demonstrate and Allow

June 3, 2018

 

Rev. Zachary Crow: Demonstrate and Allow

June 3, 2018


Our scripture comes from 1 Corinthians. At this point in the story — Paul has been traveling from city to city spreading the message of the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Jesus — and in these travels he found his way to a place called Corinth. After he leaves, he starts hearing reports — so he sends a letter back.

 

1 Corinthians 2 1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

 

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power Some context The world at this time was ruled by the Roman empire and the main god — the big kid on the block was Mithra. Mirthra was believed to have been born in a cave — to a virgin — was worshiped by shepherds — had twelve followers. Sounds a bit familiar. The most shocking piece, perhaps — is that these beliefs date back to 600 B.C. — long before the birth of Christ. These beliefs were central to the religion of the Romans. Another religion at the time centered around the god Adus. Adus was believed to have been born of a virgin — was believed to have been hung on a tree — killed and then several days later was believed to have risen from the dead.

 

The religion of Adus originated around 200 BC — again before the birth of Christ. The religion of Adonis centered around the belief that Adonis was born of a virgin — Adonis was called the “Son of God” — And, his followers believed he had died to save human kind. The religion of Adonis originated roughly around — you guessed it — 200 BC. The Egyptian god Horus was believed to have been born of the virgin Isis — it was believed that when Horus was a small child — four kings brought him gifts. By the time of this letter, the religion of Horus has been around nearly 1500 years. And then of course there was Julius Caesar — It was believed that Ceasar died there was a comet in the sky — twelve witnesses stepped forward and said that they saw this comet — Ceasar’s followers said, of course there was a comet — that was Julius himself ascending to the right hand of God — the language they used was that he rose from the dead and “ascended to the right hand of the God in heaven.”

 

So — imagine with me for a moment — you are a first century Christian and you say to a fellow Roman — “my God was born of a virgin” — the response would have been — “that’s so funny, mine too.” Some of your are not going to like this — but here goes — many of the claims made by Christians at this time — to be quite frank — were not that original or unique. Born in a cave, virgin birth, twelve followers, hung on a tree, dying for the sins of the world, resurrection, ascension — all of them — core beliefs — integral to others religions — long before the birth of Christ. So — in light of this — what should we make of Paul? Paul writes to the Corinthians — and what does he say? I didn’t come with persuasive language trying to argue you into this thing — rather I came in humility — with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. I’m not trying to talk you into this — hell, you’ve heard similar stories before — what I’m trying to do — is show you something new — show you the Spirit’s power. Paul didn’t just pull this out of thin air — a bit more context — Luke 10 Here — Jesus is sending out the seventy-two — he’s only had these followers for a short time — but he sends them out — with Jesus its never just “hey come hang out” — it’s “i’ve got work for you to do” — so he sends the seventy-two on a mission.

 

Luke 10: 1-12 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

 

Jesus says when you go into a town — demonstrate — in this case that demonstration comes in the form of healing — and then announce — this is the kingdom of God — this good deed — this healing — this is the kingdom. Your mission is not to force anyone into this thing — If they aren’t into it — move along. Go in, locate the sick, the marginalized, the oppressed, those who are most hurting — demonstrate — do good work. When they ask “what is this?” — announce — well, this is the kingdom of god incarnate — the good news. If they don’t want anything to do with you — don’t shove — don’t coerce — move on.

 

A few others examples Luke 7 — A bit earlier in the text — John the Baptist is in prison and he sends disciples to Jesus to ask him a question — verses 18—23 18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Jesus does not say — of course I’m the one — of course its me — he doesn’t give a long list of qualifications — no speech — no bullet points — just go — tell him what you’ve seen — Jesus trusts that what is unfolding before their eyes is enough — that they are fully capable of observing and reporting what they saw — go tell John — that’s it — go tell your story

 

John 9: 1—27 1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. 17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” 18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” 20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

 

A few things worth noting — In this story — it’s the religious folk who’ve got a problem with Jesus — it is the religious folks who are protesting and contesting the healing — a man who was at one time blind can now see and the religious people are up in arms about that. The religious elite have a long list of questions for the man — and over and over again, the man does not have answers — where is he? — “I don’t know” — “how did he do this? — “I don’t know.” There’s this instinct — this sense that we have to defend ourselves and our faith — when we’re questioned — grilled — interrogated about our experiences, beliefs, hopes — this sense that we have to double down and dig our heels in — but this man — I don’t know — but here’s what I do know — I was blind and now I see — doesn’t have to have answers to everything — this good, pure, beautiful thing has happened and that’s all he knows — I was blind and now I see. All he does — tell his story — that’s the type of evangelism that Jesus asks for.

 

Acts 19 Here Paul’s not in Corinth anymore — he’s in Ephesus — Ephesus was an extremely religious city — the world center for a goddess named Aritimis — one historian estimates that every year 1 million people came to Ephesus to worship the shrines of Aritimis — Her temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. This city that Paul’s in is similar to Corinth — a deeply deeply deeply religious place with lots of gods — gods said to have been born or virgins — gods said to have been resurrected — gods said to have performed miracles. Paul’s talking about Jesus — and he starts a riot — they basically want to kill Paul and they rush into this theater — and then the city clerk stands up and says to the crowd that wants to kill Paul — 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.

 

None of you have evidence that this man has said anything bad about our religions — he hasn’t said anything bad about the goddess. There’s a lot of talk in church about evangelism — about saving sinners. Your job is not to convince people there is a hell or keep them from going there —Your job is not to prove to everyone why Christianity is right and every other religion is wrong — your job is not to prove the central claims of Jesus — to intellectualize someone into faith — your job is not to take on other religions or pick them apart — God did not call you to destroy other religions — God did not call you to prove that Jesus is who he says he is. I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

 

I would argue that our world is not altogether different from Corinth or Ephesus — today — there is every claim of every kind — pick a worldview and someone holds it — the church has come to believe that it can persuade people into believing — that it can argue its way into relevancy — I’m here to tell you — it’s not enough — frankly, it’s counter productive — because everyone has heard everything. But — a community of folks telling their story — we were blind and now we see — that’s something — a community of folks demonstrating the kingdom — that’s something worth believing in. Jesus says — go to those who are most hurting — most lonely — most oppressed — demonstrate — and then — only then, announce. Jesus seems to think that’s enough to change the world. What do you think?