Sunday, January 13, 2008

Our Part To Play

For starters, after initial greetings, we were reminded of next week's Chili-Dog Fundraiser for Adventure Club. Sunday January 20, there will be a Chili-dog fund raiser featuring Chef Don Walters. Don Walters’ career has included years of service on large boats such as the St. Clair and the Roger M. Kyes of the American Steamship Co. fleet. A native Duluthian, Walters earned the nickname “Chili Don” during his time on the Great Lakes the 1980’s.

The Adventure Club is a weekly program for youth ages 4th to 6th grade who meet Wednesday evenings from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. The Adventure Club, an outreach of New Life Covenant, includes singing, drama, Bible lessons, small groups, games, crafts, dinner and fun. It is hoped that we can raise $1,000 next week for this vital ministry of the church.

During his Children's Challenge, Pastor Brad talked about maps and proceeded to unfold his second favorite, the Duluth-area snowmobile trail map. His favorite map, of course, is the Bible, which provides a map for our lives as we follow Jesus where He leads.

Today's Scripture readings:
Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-43

The title of today's sermon: "Our Part To Play"

Pastor Shannon began with the uncomfortable truth that Jesus has a right to shock us. After all, He is God. When was the last time you were offended by something Jesus said?

As humans we all experience a variety of basic emotions from joy and anger to anxiety or serenity. When you think of the Old Testament prophets, what emotion or quality comes to mind for you? "Don't the prophets strike you as cranky people," he said.

Pastor Shannon cited several passages in which the prophets used angry language and shock tactics to get people's attention.

When we have a choice we generally prefer happy books. But there is a reason for these books of the prophets. We can occasionally read the prophets and wonder, "What's the big deal?"

Today there is much bad in the world. We see cheating in business, AIDS in Africa and substandard housing here in our own community. In their own time, the prophets saw the world as God sees, and their hearts were crushed by the injustice they saw. Their hearts had been trained to feel what God feels, and they felt God's pain.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus gives us an insight as to how we're to view the needs around us.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matt 25:34-40 NIV)

In effect, when people remain neglected, unclothed, imprisoned with no visitors, hungry and unfed, it is Jesus who suffers.

The prophets spoke for God, on behalf of God. The injustice they saw was real. But how are we to respond when God calls us to act?

The prophet Micah wrote:
6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.

And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

We all know and can tell stories of injustice when it happens to us. We hate it when we get treated unfairly. Many Hollywood movies derive their entire storyline from an injustice with revenge as a motivation.

Often, however, we tend to overlook the injustice around us. In truth, we live in a very broken world, much of it that is uncomfortable to look at and difficult to deal with. But Micah gives us a response that is simple yet profound. "He has showed you, O man, what is good.... To do justice..." Whether in our jobs, our neighborhoods or homes, we need to ask God to help us treat others fairly. "and to love mercy..." Other translations state "to love kindness." The word hessed means a steadfast love. It is the visible expression of grace.

We have so much and there are so many who have so little. Pastor Shannon called upon us to not neglect our part in God's plan.

The third portion in Micah's admonition is to "walk humbly with your God."

In reality, the prophets' primary motivation for writing sprang not from anger, but from a depth of love for God's people. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "Anger is the fluid love bleeds when you cut it."

In the end, the eyes of all will be opened, Micah writes. And with the prophet we can exclaim,

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;

you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18,19)

So, what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

But one question remains: Will you and I really do it? It's a really big deal.

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