What Kind of Church? Part 3

Posted on Sun 10 July 2016 in misc

Psalm 25:1-10; Galatians 5:13-14; Luke 10:25-37

Children, Family, and Youth; Worship; Spiritual Growth; Outreach and Hospitality

Serving others in our community by recognizing what God has given us and turning our gifts “inside out.”

Thought about throwing out the theme…I realize the foremost question on most folks’ minds this week is not, “what kind of church is this?” but rather, “what kind of world is this?”


But, while I thought about departing from the theme for a week, I actually decided that our value of serving others, following the example of Jesus, is exactly what the world needs.

When Jesus was asked about loving our neighbors, he told the parable usually called ‘The Good Samaritan.’ Jesus was asked the question by someone our translation calls a lawyer, but really who was a ‘religious know-it-all.’ He was doing what most religious know-it-alls do: trying to make God’s word fit his life, rather making his life fit into God’s word.

The know-it-all-thinking of those times believed that only some people were truly deserving of the title ‘neighbor’. Those who were outside the lines, well, just weren’t as deserving of God’s love. Samaritans were outside the lines. Jesus’ parable showed a very different way of thinking.

Even the name we call this parable, the ‘Good Samaritan,’ suggests that we don’t fully get it yet. Do you hear it? He’s the good Samaritan, unlike most of those other Samaritans. Or, not all Samaritans are bad. As in, this human, who happens to be a Samaritan is worthy of our time and attention because he’s extra good. As in, we missed the point of the parable. Whoever gave this parable the name ‘Good Samaritan’ sounds to me like someone trying to justify himself, just like the lawyer did to Jesus.

This justifying ourselves is the whole problem. It’s always the first step on our path to suffering and violence. It sets up a pattern where in order for us to be good, we have to make others bad. We think: in order for us to win, others have to lose.

And when that plays out to the extremes…well…we’ve seen that this week.In communities of People of Color, there is a fear that any interaction with police could lead to violence. And among police, there is a fear that any interaction with People of Color could do the same. This week, those fears both came true in horrific ways.

Most commentators seem to subscribe to a theory where there are winners and losers. If police win, than people of color lose. Or, if we say ‘Black Lives Matter’ than police lose. The truth is nobody won this week. There were only losers. Neighbors who lost lives. Families who lost loved ones.

It is a tragedy that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile lost their lives this week. And it is a tragedy that five police officers lost theirs in Dallas. Despite what sells more commercials on TV, I think the overwhelming majority of people believe that both are true. Likewise, vast majority of people want a nation where both police officers and the people they serve and protect are safe and do not need to fear violence. We all want that.

If we’re all trying to win — all trying to justify ourselves — then we will all lose. Gandhi said, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Someone else said, a bullet for a bullet leaves the whole world shot down.

Jesus offers a different way. The Samaritan in the story shows us: it’s not about winning and losing. It’s about turning inside out. Taking what we have and offering it for our neighbor. And we are all neighbors.

Following the example of Jesus, this is the kind of church that is called to be broken open for the sake of the world.

Whatever good will we have, whatever resources we have, whatever gifts we have, whatever joy and safety and security and freedom we have … whatever privilege we have — it is not for us to protect or defend or hoard — it is for the sake of the world. It is for our neighbors.

Crisis when we bought a house … Asking the wrong questions … Samaritan used what he had for his neighbor. Every person here has been given gifts. Especially if you share the color of my skin you have extra privilege (including the fact that you don’t have to think about it very often.) How can you use the privilege you have for the sake of the world?

It’s not about feeling guilty; it’s about being turned inside out.

See, here’s the good news: we don’t have to justify ourselves. God loves us first. We don’t have to fear losing because God has promised us everything we need.

God’s love turns the world inside out. There are no longer winners and losers. There are only neighbors.

God’s love turns us inside out. Every gift we’ve been given is no longer something to have to defend or protect, but instead something to break open and share with our neighbors.

This is the kind of church that believes that God’s love has freed us to love and serve our neighbors. This can be the kind of church that turns inside out to share God’s overflowing love with a world that sorely needs it.