Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Luke 9: 51-62, "Road Trip!: Rules to follow while on the Missional Highway of Christian Life.", Ordinary 9, 2013.

Road Trip!!!! Hearing those words brings back a slew of positive and unforgettable memories from our childhood, adolescents and early adulthood. The road trip is not just a vacation, its an epic adventure that marks our stages of life. As children we set out on road trips with the family to great America destinations like the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Coast along with Mount Rushmore and the Great Lakes! As teens we test the waters with our friends who can drive and have their own cars as we venture out on mini road trips to places like "up north" (for us Michiganders) and Cedar Pointe (Also a midwestern reference). And then finally as young adults, just out of high school or maybe it's our freshman year of college, we embark on our first "real" road trip thats hundreds of miles and several days long. And we journey with our peers, not our family. Maybe it's a road trip oversees and you and a friend or cousin or sibling journey throughout continental Europe via backpack, train and hitch hiking. Whatever, wherever the road trip is a significant coming of age moment for just about all Americans.

I have a few "road trips" that I remember well from childhood. When I was a kid my family and I would drive west to California from Michigan to see my Grandparents, Aunt, Uncle and two cousins who lived in Pasadena. Those were great trips. I remember driving through the painted desert of Arizona being mesmerized by it's beauty and I remember the great big tunnels we drove through as we passed through the Rockies in Colorado. Those trips were fun, they were formative and informative, but they're not what we think of when we say....ROAD TRIP!!!! My first "real" road trip happened when I was a freshman in College. I went to an Assemblies of God University, so this isn't a story about drinking, smoking pot and chasing girls, it could be (A/G bible college students are not immune), but it's not. We had heard of this preacher in Houston who was calling himself a 'prophet" and he claimed he could tell God's future for us. We were intrigued so we decided to go, plus both my friends where from the Houston area and it gave them a reason to go home. We took my car, since it was the only reliable vehicle we had available to us. Ok, my two friends probably weighted close to 300lbs each, one of them...maybe more. It was 400miles to Houston and it was HOT!!! My car was lower in the back, where they sat, than in the front. After we got back, the engine blew up a week later. One of the most memorable and terrible things that happened was that my friend Wes tricked me into drinking half a bottle of Phillips Milk of Magnesium...they thought that was funny, but actually...the joke was on them ;). It was a fun trip filled with all the stuff you'd expect on a road trip. My Next crazy road trip was with my buddy Jared. We decided to go to Florida for Spring break. This wasn't a typical road trip because we flew to Florida, but had no car when we got there. We were going to stay with a friend, who never showed up at the airport to get us so we took this train down to Boca were they lived. It took for ever!! This guy kept taking his shoes off and the smell was so bad it could gag a maggot! There is so much that happened on that trip it would take hours to tell the stories. Jared got a sever sun burn and we filled super soakers with aloe juice and shot at his back, we hitched a ride with a lady and Jeremy, our friend we were meeting down there, farted in her car and she kicked us out on the side of the road...we had to walk 7.5 miles to were we were staying. It was a long week and a very formative experience.

Every year thousands of people get injured and even killed on the roads. The roads aren't the safest place to be. Especially in the first century. During Jesus' time it was not uncommon for people to lose their lives traveling to other cities because of thieves, bandits and robbers. Today we lose our lives because of accidents, either irresponsible drivers or uncontrollable circumstances. This week a man in Seattle who was dribbling a soccer ball all the way from Seattle to Ecuador, to raise money for hunger programs, was hit by a truck and killed only 10miles away from where he started. Also this week a young man in Indiana was traveling with his parents on a summer vacation road trip. He was hanging his head out of the window when a semi-truck passed by to close and decapitated the boy. The roads are still dangerous and we still need to be carful out there.

Our passage this week has to do with a road trip Jesus was about to undertake. He was ready to head to Jerusalem and he and the disciples were on the road. Often Galilean Jews would circumvent the region of Samaria. The Samaritans did not like the Jews because the Jews were hostile and judgmental towards them. The Samaritans did not believe that you had to go to Jerusalem to worship YHWH, they had their own Shrine in Gilgal. The Samaritans also had different expectation of the Messiah than the Jews. They were believed to not be truly Jewish, they were not born of a Jewess and therefore where not a full Jew. So the Jews bullied them a little, made them feel unworthy and told them they were as unclean as gentiles. So there was some bad blood between these two people, which were for the most part the same. Some of the "blood" was so "bad" that their conflicts over rituals and worship practices often became violent. Jesus liked a challenge so he sent one of his disciples a head to inform the Samaritans that he was coming, but they said. "no, we're not interested in your Jewish Rabbi." and they rejected Jesus. This is were we get the chance to see the animosity between the Jews of Galilee and the Samaritans.  After hearing of this rejection and the rejection of their beloved Rabbi, James and John wanted to destroy the Samaritans with Fire!!! "Burn em' all Lord!!"Send em' to meet their maker!!!" Call down judgment from heaven in the form of fire and kill them all, thats what they wanted Jesus to do. I don't read this anywhere in the gospels other than here with the people of must have been one heck of a feud and so you can imagine why passing through Samaria was avoided at all cost. Jesus quickly rebukes the "sons of thunder" and informs them that, we're not about fire and brimstone, but instead about love and compassion. After that event Jesus and the 12 continue down the road and encounter three more people. All three are interested following Jesus, two of them are directly invited...none of them join. The first one offered to follow Jesus. "Wherever you go Lord, I'll follow" Jesus says to him, "I have no where to Go...the birds have nest, foxes have holes, but I have no where to go." Jesus is saying if you follow me, it's not to a place, but away of living. The next guy Jesus invites, but he is reluctant at first saying, "Ok....but." But let me go bury my father who just died. Jesus says ,"then go bury your dead, you have no place with me." This isn't Jesus being non-compassionate, but dispelling any excuse. Jesus says, "look, if you are going to follow me than do it, your father is dead, let the dead be dead and you embrace eternal life. No more excuse." The final person Jesus encounters is another man who Jesus invites to follow and this man says, "ok I'll come, but let me go home, kiss the wifey and kids and make sure things are set first." Again Jesus says, "enough excuses, follow or don't, but don't use others as an excuse to not."

Each person had a reason why they could not come with Jesus at that moment. We often come up with reason why we can't do what God has called us to, especially at a moments notice. We got to make sure things are all set first and organized. This passage provides for us four rules for our missional road trip. Missional meaning we are on a mission to save souls and to redeem lives for Jesus.

1.) Travel lite. Don't take to much baggage. With you. When the disciples began there journey and Jesus told them, "we're going to the Samaritans." they had all this baggage that went with them and negatively informed their perception of the mission. They hated Samaritans and the moment one of them said something the 12 did not like, it was "off with your heads!!" We often take baggage along with us on our Christian journey and it gets in the way of what God wants to do in and through us. Just like on an actual road trip, if you take to much, there's not enough space for everyone. Leave your baggage at home.

2.) Don't worry about where you'll stay. When we travel we get tired and when we get tired we want to stop and sleep, either in our car or at a motel. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with that days destination, when we are going to stop for the night, that we forget to enough the ride. The man who said, "I'll follow you...where ever you go." what thinking about the destination and not the journey. We need to focus on the journey we're on, not the destination.

3.) Don't try to tie up all the lose ends before you go. Often when we travel we get very anxious the night before. My mom use to stay up really late the night before our family road trips and try to get everything done, packed and perfect before we left. Then the day we left she would be tired, moody and irritable and make everyone else experience misserable. The man who wanted to bury his dad was so worried about lose ends that we missed God's call. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do and less on what "we need to do"

4.) Don't look back. Enjoy the trip, don't worry about what's at home when you get back and don't worry about what you, "forgot" to do before you left. The man who said, "Let me go home first and get ready." was more worried about his affairs, his material life, and his home life than he was about God's call on his life. Jesus told him that once you put your hand to the plow, you never can look back. Don't let the events of the past runin your future. don't look back on where life has brought you to this point and feel gulity, but look forward to what God is doing now.

So there you have it. If we are to be safe on the road trip of faith we need to follow Jesus' road rules. If you have yet to join Christ on the road, if you are the one looking back, saying let me do this, or let me do that and then I'll follow Jesus...stop. You will never be good enough, you will never have your life in order enough to be right enough to follow Jesus. Stop, drop everything and hit the road with Jesus....just believe and have faith.

In Christ,
Pastor Josh

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Luke 8:26-39, Monsters inside us, Ordinary 7, 2013

Americans love horror movies. From almost the dawn of the motion picture there has been the horror film genre. It began with unreal monsters like Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man and FRANKENSTIEN! Frankenstien just might be the most frightening of the classic horror movie monsters. Why? Because he's the most human, despite looking monstrous, all half dead and made of dead people parts, he exhibits a bit of humanity. At the same time he's clearly a monster and very frightening, especially Mary Shelley's version of Dr. Frankenstien monster. The one were all so familiar with is the classic Frankenstien movie directed by Frank Whales. The most memorable and popular scene is when the monster is brought to life during a lightening storm. This is the first time we see the monster, but it's hard to tell who's the monster, the scientist ranting and raving and comparing himself to God, or the man made of dead people laying on the table twitching. The movies that scare us most are those movies that depict us humans as the monsters. There is nothing more frightening than a monstrous human because that can be real, in fact it is and we know it. One of the most infamous monsters of 20th century America is Charlie Manson. He convinced a group of young adults to not only murder, but slaughter innocent men, women and babies. When we hear him speak we know he's crazy and one might even think, he's got a demon.... or 20.

Demons aren't real though...are they? I mean didn't science and medicine dispel the existence of demons long ago in exchange for mental illness and psychological disturbances? Demons are not something we talk about in America or the West for that matter. We don't believe in there existence at least not really, not outside of church or the movie theater. We're not filled with fear of the unknown or unseen like our ancestors were, back when everything was the result of a malicious or malevolent spirit. We know better. Illness is cause my viruses and bacteria and the reason we can't see them is because they are to small. But does all this mean that demons don't really exist, that they are somehow things of a by gone era? I don't think so. I think they are still here with us, they just manifest themselves in different ways now. Our societies demons are greed, selfishness, narcissism, broken homes and abusive relationships. Perhaps their manifestations aren't really that different after all.

In our passage this morning Jesus encounters a raving lunatic who is said to have been demon possesd. We know him as the Gersene Demoniac. We catch up with Jesus and the 12 after several days of very eventful ministry. They had just arrived from the other side of Lake Galilee a lake about the size of our own black Lake in Onaway, MI. In fact Jesus had just calmed the storm, demonstrating his authority over the chaos that threatens creation. As they landed, in a area that was thickly populated with Gentiles, they were immediately approached by the demoniac. I don't know about you, but if a see a raving, butt naked man heading my direction...I'm going the other way. In fact I probably would have jumped right back on that boat and gone home. This is what the demon wanted, to frighten Jesus, to intimidate his human side and to drive away any hope of the gospel being brought to gentile peoples. But this did not happen, Jesus stood his ground. The demoniac was naked, homeless, raving, living amongst the dead. He was monstrous, un human, dehumanized and beyond human control or help. He recognizes Jesus and begs him to not destroy them, Jesus asks him his name and here we get the real story about why this man is so crazy. He says his name is Legion, or a multitude, to many to count! Jesus then tricks the demons into the swine where they run off a cliff and die sending the demons into the abyss. The man is restored, all his demons are gone and he is at peace. The man then indicates his desire to leave his home and follow Jesus and Jesus tells him no, that he should stay and be his appointed representative of the gospel to his gentile people. Jesus then sends him home, completing the cycle. The man was inhuman , homeless and cast out from society. Jesus restored all of this to the man, including his rightful place amongst other humans.

This mans demons we're unlike many of the demons that dwell in us, that threaten to overwhelm us to the point were we lose our humanity. The difference between us and him is that he let it all take over his life. All of life's issues, all of life's dirty little secrets and all of life's darkness. It over took him, we was plunged into a world of darkness and despair where no one could help him, no one but God. But we don't have to let it get this way. Theres a story about a father who took his two year old son shopping with him. While in the store the child was crazy. Everything the dad put in the cart the boy threw out and every time the dad got to close to a shelve the boy would, with one swipe of his arm, knock everything into the cart. The father found himself saying, "It's ok Tommy", "Almost done Tommy.", "It won't be long Tommy.", "Just settle down there Tommy." When the man was all done shopping a nice old lady came up to him and said, "I'm so impressed by the way you handled little Tommy, with such patience and comforting words." The man then said to the kind old women, "Lady, my sons name is Michael, I'm Tommy." To avoid the kind of life devastating demon infilling that the Gresene demoniac faced we need to start with ourselves. We need to learn to handle our problems up front and admit when we are in trouble and seek God's and others help and advice. The demoniac was overwhelmed becasue he tried to go it alone and we just can't do that somtimes. He tried to handle life's issues without realizing how powerful they were and it destroyed his life. We do the same thing. Just ask any addict. Before they lost their job or their family or their home they began to realize they were dealing with a pretty serious demon, but before long they began to believe they had no problem and by then it was to late. To get them cleaned up it takes and act of God. One of the last songs Johnny Cash recorded was "Hurt", a Nine Inch Nails song written in the mid 90's. The song is about the pain and agony of addiction, the pain of loneliness and the purposelessness of life when demons have taken over. Well I'm here to tell you today, it doesn't have to be that way. Jesus can heal you. He can cast out all the demons in your life that have over taken you and have overwhelmed you and who have destroyed your life. Whatever demons they might be, whether it's addiction, lies you've told, unfaithfulness in a marriage or abuse Jesus can stop the monsters inside you and restore your humnity. All you need is to have an encounter with him, and he's here right now beside you. Now may you be restored to wholeness and be redeemed by the savior. Amen

In Christ,
Pastor Josh

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"The Pharisee, The Hooker and God: A Tale of Two Sinners", Luke 7:36-50, Ordinary 7, 2013

Not to long ago Time Magazine did reported on a study regarding Americans and religion. In this study 2,000 Americans were surveyed by having them answer a few questions about God and prayer. One of the people surveyed was a teen prostitute  named Millie. When asked about her beliefs in God and her prayer "life" she said, "I pray every day. Most times I just meditate because the words are hard to come by. A lot of people think that just because I'm a whore I have no morals or values at all, but thats not true. I believe in God and God doesn't judge me, people do, but God doesn't. God loves me. I don't think God judges anyone." This is an interesting take on God, in fact it's the prevailing and popular view of God. Even pastors, seminary professors and Bishops have all adopted this view that somehow, someway everything is going to be ok and everyone will get into heaven and no one will ever face God's reckoning. The truth is God does judge and God must judge in order to be righteous, but the truth in the young girls statement is that God loves her and God loves everyone, but this does not mean there is no consequence for our behaviors wether they be earthly or eternal...there are consequences and there is judgement.

There is a popular belief that prostitution is a victimless crime. That no one really suffers. The johns get what they want, which is irresponsible and uncommitted sex, and the pro's get what they want, money...and maybe sex. This is a lie from Satan himself. There are plenty of victims in prostitution, none the lest are the women. The johns are victims of a society driven by want and fueled by sex. The johns wife and children are victims of a selfish and carnal father and husband. The girls are often victims of abuse or neglect as children and often run away from home and are forced into prostitution to survive. The girls are often abused, both physically and sexually by johns and pimps and are ultimately the victims of a society that is so selfish and narcissistic that people become means to an end and are often viewed as commodities. The average cost for a night with a prostitute in America is 20.00 dollars. The virtue and wellbeing of that girl is worth only $20? Globally the sex slave trade as turned girls as young as 9 into seasoned veteran street walkers. The average cost to purchase a sex slave globally is $90. Plus prostitutes are 45 times more likely to commit suicide than other girls/women...and it's a victimless crime ;). The Rev. Chris Momany, A United Methodist Elder, and a group of Adrian College students have made it their goal to break the silence regarding sex trade and human trafficking and have begun an American Youth Movement right here in Michigan. Below is a link where you can view a youtube video via Facebook on the work they are doing.

The truth is there are victims when it comes to the sex trade and God will judge them, but most harshly God will judge those who create the circumstances that force girls and young women into prostitution.

Why all this talk of prostitution and sex trade? Well interesting enough Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry with and ministering to women who were said to be prostitutes. Mary Magdaline, the woman caught in adultery, the women at the well, and the women who washed Jesus feet with her tears. All of them were recorded in the gospels as prostitutes. This weeks passage features the women who washed Jesus feet with her hair. Church tradition says this was Mary of Magdaline, but most scholars believe that it was a different women all together. The passage begins with Jesus reclining at a dining table with a group of Pharisees who had invited him to eat with them. The host of this meal is Simon, the Synagogue ruler. He was a powerful and prominent leader in his community and his support would have meant a lot to Jesus ministry. Half way through the dinner an unexpected guest burst into the house sobbing hysterically. It was a women who the passage says was "a known sinner" which meant she was a hooker. She immediately began washing Jesus feet with her hair and then anointed his feet with a very expensive scented oil known as nard. The Pharisees were annoyed by this over the top gesture and also with the type of women she was and Simon mumbled somthing like, "if he knew what kinda girl this was he wouldn't let her near him....guess he's not a prophet after all." Jesus' response is tempered with grace and compassion. He tells Simon a tale about two debtors, one that owed $500 and the other owed $500,000,000. Neither could pay their debts back so the lender simply forgave both debts. Now here's the punch line, Jesus asks Simon, "Which one would love the gracious moneylender more?" Simon gives the obvious answers which is of course "the one who was forgiven more." Jesus goes on to point out the love and generosity of the hooker far out ways the hospitality shown to him by his esteemed and righteous host. Jesus then tells the the prostitute that her faith has saved her and sends her on her way.

Jesus says, "Whoever is forgiven little loves little, but whoever is forgiven much, loves much." Perhaps this is why so many American Christians are so tepid about their love and zeal for the Lord. So many of us believe that we're ok, that what we've done isn't all that bad and so we've never hungered and thirsted for righteousness, for forgiveness like this women in our passage. She would have never been accepted in her community nor would the religious people or leaders in her community have accepted her or told her that God accepted her. One of the things I am so proud of as a Methodist is our roots as a movement for the sinners, the outcast and the impoverished. Wesley began his society meetings as a way for people who were not invited to participate in the life of the church because of there "life style" or lack of means to participate in Christian fellowship. During Wesley's life the Church of England had become a yacht club instead of the light house God had called it to be. The poor and the sinners were rejected and not accepted, they were told they needed to get their lives right before they could come into the house of God. Wesley found this to be an abomination to the gospel of Jesus Christ and created the class meetings and societies so all manner of people could experience the Love of Jesus found in the church. Now they may have started out as sinners, but there lives were quickly transformed by the gospel, just like the woman in our passage.

Theres a story about a Presbyterian Pastor who was just out of Seminary and was serving at his first parish. The previous pastor had removed the prayer of confession from the liturgy, but he wanted to restore it's place in the service. Remarkably the pastor was met with some pretty serious resistance and while at a worship committee meeting was told by one of the church Elders that the prayer of confession was to morbid for sunday worship, a time of joy and celebration. The pastor persisted that the church needed to confess it's sins together and demonstrate to visitors that we are all in need of forgiveness. Finally another church Elder spoke up and said, "I don't need to apologize to God for anything, I'm a good person!"

Simon believed this way. He believed that because he was an outstanding and up right citizen and religious person that he and God were ok, but the truth was that he was still a sinner. Both our gospel and our epistle readings for this week tell us that in order to be saved, in order to find forgiveness we must ask for it and have faith that it will be given. Often this is how so many American Christians feel about themselves. We are so often blinded by our own personal piety that we can't even see that we need to be forgiven of our egregious sins! And we believe that our pious life is enough to save us from the wrath of God to come! The hooker understood what Jesus was trying to say all along, she knew she lacked any righteousness of her own, she knew she needed to be forgiven and she had faith that Jesus was the one who could give it to her! The former and late Governor of Texas Ann Richards once said of a political rival that, "he was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple!" Is that you? Do you believe that because you were born going to church you've somehow gotten all the forgiveness you need to please God? Simon believed that, even though he was wrong. This week we need to ask ourselves which sinner are we? Are we the pharisee or the hooker? I for one want to be the hooker, because despite the sin in her life she found God and in turn received forgiveness, while the pharisee is still blinded by the lie that he's ok because he's a good person.

In Christ,
Pastor Josh

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Galatians 2:11-14, "Peter the Rock, Paul the Rock-thrower", Ordinary 6, 2013

Ever felt like you were somehow not related to your family? Maybe you were really adopted or perhaps switched at birth, because there is no way you are related to that know it all older sister or that loud mouthed little brother. How could your mom and dad be such people persons while you hate being around people, at least for more than hour at a time? How could your cousin be such a math wiz while you're mathematically incompetent? It's funny somtime how different we are from our families, but yet, we are related...believe it our not! As we get older, like into our teen years, we start to develop our own personalities, our own likes and dislikes, our own way of doing things. This is when it starts, when we become painfully aware of the fact, or joyfully aware, that we are different and not just different than our annoying little brother, but different from a lot of people.

When I was a kid I was a big Schwarzenegger fan. I saw just about all his movies...that my parents would let me watch. I loved the Terminator movies and all those action films he did, but I also thought his comedies were funny and watched a lot of those. One of my favorite Schwarzenegger comedies was Twins. This was a movie that co-stared Danny Devito as Arnold's "twin", his lost at birth twin. Obviously whats so humorous is that the two could not possibly be any more different, ones tall, muscly, and handsome, while the other is short, fat and obnoxious, so the irony is...their twins (ha ha ha ;)...and you and your bother thought you to were different ;). As the family of the 1st century began to be formed we saw in it what we see in a lot of families....differences. None of these difference could be any more pronounced than the differences between two of Christendom's most prominent figures, Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Tradition says they were both martyred in A.D 64 in the City of Rome in fact some scholars theorize that they were even buried in the same grave, but that's were the similarities pretty much stop. Besides other more significant difference, they looked a lot different, like Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger different. All one needs to do is look at the iconography to see the physical difference.

Saint Peter (above) was tall, burly, rugged and even...handsome. Saint Paul (below) was short, slim and bald...maybe not so handsome ;)
Along with these physical difference there were obvious cultural, traditional and ministerial difference between the two.  Peter was "blue collar", small town and rual. He was uneducated, uncultured, and knew only friends and family from his very small, very simple and very country part of the world. He was a laborer, a struggling and somewhat impoverished fisherman. He was slow to comprehend and quick to speak. He was impulsive and impetuous, and he was quick to act, a trait that often got him in trouble. Despite all that he was a natural born leader. People were drawn to Peter. He was charismatic, out-gowing and a great speaker/preacher. Peter is mentioned every time the Apostles are listed and he is always...always listed first.

On the other hand Paul was "white collar", what we might call a "suit" today. He had been trained in the best Midrash schools, by the best and most well respected Rabbi (teacher) of his day...Gamaiel. He spoke Greek, Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew. He was an up and coming figure in the Jerusalem political scene as a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a Roman Citizen, a thing he valued very much and even used to his advantage as an Apostle. He was a trained Artisan in the art of leather work (what we know as a tent maker). He was a devote, disciplined, dedicated and Torah observant Jew even to the point of being "extreme" or "fundamentalist". He was urban, well cultured and "metropolitan". Paul was not a natural leader, in fact he spent most of ministry defending his right to lead the church as an Apostle. He wasn't much of a speaker/preacher either. The book of Acts tells us the Barnabas spoke for Paul while they were in Lystra (the people thought Paul was Zeus and Barnabas was Hermes, Zeus' messenger). And Paul always considered himself the least of the Apostles, never to be mentioned first like Peter.

As you can see, the two couldn't be more different and they are one of the greatest ironies of the Early church. Paul the Torah observant, well educated and cosmopolitan Pharisee spent the duration of his life taking the gospel, a then rural religion, filled with images of shepherding, farming and vineyards to an urban Gentile peoples, while Peter, the semi-observent, unschooled Jewish fisherman spent his life taking the gospel to torah observant, semi-rual jews, trying to convince them that all the regulations, all the ritual amounted to love God and love neighbor, a truth that Peter himself often forgot.

Which brings us to our passage this week. Last week we heard Paul's testimony on how he went from a Torah terrorist, throwing rocks, stoning Christians to death,  to an Apostle. We all know Peter as the rock because of his profession of faith. So this week we see what happens when Peter the Rock encounters Paul the Rock-thrower. It's important that we have some background when approaching this passage. The main reason for Paul to write to the Galatians is to combat the heresy of the Judizers. The Judaizers were a group of Christians, supported by and encourage by the Apostles in Jerusalem (mostly James). They believed that in order to have a share in the life of Christ one must first become an observant Jew, i.e be circumcised, eat kosher and observe ritual cleanliness. Paul writes them in an attempt to pursued them to the truth, that all one needs to do in order to have a share in the life of Christ is be baptized and join themselves to the body of Christ (the church). All this of course by grace through faith. In this passage Paul recalls a conversation he had with Peter in which he reminds Peter that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. You see unfortunately Peter had allowed himself to be persuaded by the Judaizer sect and was preaching that observant Judahism was a precursor to Christian life. Paul essentially calls Peter on this and points out that he has, nor has he ever really been an observant Jew, at least not like him. Paul shames Peter into repentance and again embracing the one true Gospel, a message of faith, hope and love open to any and all regardless to whether they are observant Jews or not.

One of the most interesting things about this passage, about the book of Galatians is that it bares witness to the process of changing from a religion that is works based, i.e the strict observance of the law, to one that is faith based, i.e salvation by grace through faith. This was by no means an easy transition, it was a struggle and the law remains a stumbling block to the Jews to this day. It must have been difficult for God fearing, observant, even semi-observent Jews of that day to forget everything they were ever taught about holiness and began welcoming people they had always seen as un-holy and that would transfer their unholiness to them, into the family of God. Paul was a perfect example of all this. Paul knew the law, he was zealous for the law, but he also knew the transforming power of Jesus Christ and he knew that it didn't take and observant Jew to experience this.

We know that Peter and Paul made up, they resolved their differences, why? Because thats what members of the body of Christ do....right? ;) Church people never get mad at each other, they never leave their local churches because they are upset with something the pastor said, or because some one they don't like joined...right? Church people always resolve their difference without name calling, back biting or gossiping...right? What allowed Peter and Paul to resolve their difference? They were joined by something greater than their differences. The person of Jesus Christ and if more Christians would turn to the powerful bond that a body has to it's various members more often, we wouldn't have so many church hoppers. Theres nothing wrong with differences, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing or even arguing. What's wrong is division, malice...hatred. Unfortunately there is plenty of all that in our churches today.  How do Peter and Paul, the Rock and the Rock Thrower exist in the same body without killing each other? It's the common message of the cross and their commitment to never doing anything that would compromise that message.

Other faiths have sacred places like tombs and sacred historical sites, faiths like Jews, Muslims and Hindu's. These historical and sacred sites end up being a point of division often, like the difference between Shiite and Sunni Islam, but whats special about us is that even though we have a few historical site or two ;), they don't act as lightning rod for division. What makes us Christians is one baptism, one faith and one Lord. We are all called to and embrace the person of Jesus Christ, that my friends cannot be divided. So may you be people called to unity, called to oneness, called to Christ and may you refuse to embrace the foolish difference that threaten to divid the body of Christ. Amen.

In Christ,
Pastor Josh