Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, Hosea 11:12-12:1, Acts 26:1-23, Luke 8:26-39
Sometimes there is a large gap between what we say we want and what we actually want. Presenting his case before King Agrippa, Paul explained that he was a faithful Jew; like many of his accusers he was a Pharisee, and he’d actively persecuted Christians. His encounter with the risen Christ was unexpected and life-changing. By preaching the Gospel, Paul asserted, he was dutifully acknowledging the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah: “I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place.”
The Pharisees said they wanted Paul jailed for violating the law, but they actually wanted to preserve the status quo which allowed them privilege under the oppressive Roman regime. Waiting for the messiah demanded nothing, but his arrival was dangerous and uncomfortable.
Christians say we want to love the poor and the sick, but too often we actually want to express that love in ways that don’t make us too uncomfortable: nothing that messes up the sanctuary of the church, or threatens our safety, or makes us feel icky. We say we welcome strangers, but we don’t want them be too strange. Like the Gerasenes who ran Jesus out of town after he purged a man of many demons, we don’t want to be the kind of holy that attracts the wrong kind of attention – the kind that makes us look dirty and maybe unbalanced, rather than freshly laundered and pressed for the Thursday evening hymn sing.
The business of the church is not beautiful building s and respectable congregations. These things are fine; they simply aren’t the point. Filling up the pews is nice, but it’s also meaningless if we’re only playing a numbers game by poaching existing believers from “rival” congregations. We need to take the Gospel where it is not, which is often exactly where we don’t want to be. The good news is not that we bring Jesus to people, but that he is already with them and waiting to be embraced. When we don’t go to them, we don’t go to him either.
Comfort: It’s okay for your faith life to be messy.
Challenge: Same as the Comfort, but for the other half of the room.
Prayer: God, grant me the courage and strength to be an effective part of the life-altering Body of Christ. Amen.
Discussion: What chances do you regret not having taken?
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