House of Jacob

“Jesus will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1: 32-33

Miracle of Christmas

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Thanksgiving Prayer: Feed Us Your Mercy

Thanksgiving Prayer: Feed Us Your Mercy

Gracious Provider,

FEED us

Break the chains of injustice

Untie the cords of persecution

Set the oppressed free
Break our shackles of prejudice

FEED us

Mercy

You love everyone regardless of
Race
Faith
Gender or
Who we love and embrace

FEED us

Let your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing gravy flow

FEED us

We cry
You are with us

Break the chaotic chains of injustice
Untie the cords of persecution
Set the oppressed free
and break the shackles of prejudice

FEED us

Mercy

We lay our anger and pain on your alter.
We seek your light in the darkness

Lord guide us – always

Sharing our food with the hungry
and the poor with shelter—
We clothe our naked brothers and sisters

Loving everyone the way you love us
regardless of
Race
Gender
Faith and
Who they love and embrace.

Wrapped in your love, we give Thanksgiving for feeding us your comfort and grace.

Amen

Recharge Yourself – Finding your energy source and plugging in

rechargeHow Do You Recharge?

Are you tired, worn out, lack energy or feel depressed? What is your energy source? When is the last time you plugged yourself in?

God invented wireless charging long before Nikola Tesla demonstrated it in 1891 or Meredith Perry made it a reality for our technology.

In 1921 Carl Gustav Jung gave us a greater understanding of how we were created to charge without wires. Some of us need an outside energy source while others have inner source.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m referring to the way we are wired with a wireless extrovert, introvert or ambivert energy source. Being an extrovert or an introvert has little to do with whether we like people. This trait is more about energy than relationship. Extroverts seek an outside energy source and introverts have an inward energy source.

We don’t choose our energy source.  We are born wired as an extrovert, introvert or ambivert.  It is futile and draining to try to change someone’s energy source, even our own.

Extroverts draw their energy from interactions with the people around them. The more time they spend with other people, the more energized they become. Extroverts can be shy. They are not always loud or talkative but extroverts gravitate toward social interaction. Extroverts lose energy while alone and can become depressed in the absence of others. Therefore it is important to encourage extroverts to socialize.

Introverts reenergize in the absence of other people. Introverts find interactions with other people draining regardless of how they feel about the other person. Time with a loved one is just as draining as the person sitting next to them on the bus. So it is really important for introverts to have a space of their own to reenergize especially if they spend most of their day with other people.

If an extrovert and an introvert are invited to a party, the extrovert may feel too exhausted to go to the party while the introvert may be full of energy and eager to go. At the party the extrovert gains energy while the introvert becomes drained with each social interaction.

Sleep is a necessary energy source but it isn’t the same type of energy we get from our personality source.  An introvert exhausted from exposure to too many people will not be ready for more interaction the moment they wake up. Nor will a people deprived extrovert wake up more energized and in less need of interaction.

How long does your battery last? An extreme extrovert’s battery runs down quickly in the absence of people so they need lots of daily contact with people. An extreme introvert can go days without human contact and is easily exhausted by human interaction.

Extroverts and introverts can become overwhelmed, overstimulated and exhausted. Introverts and extroverts can be people-oriented or task-driven. They are equally intelligent. Extroverts and introverts may put others needs before their own and be overly concerned about what others think. Both may be sensitive.

Recently, there has been much talk about ambiverts or people who draw their energy from people and time alone. Ambiverts are rare.

Jesus and God are ambiverts. Jesus spent lots of time alone in the wilderness to pray and lots of time with people. If Jesus was an introvert He probably wouldn’t have had twelve disciples. If Jesus was an extrovert He would have been exhausted after 1 much less 40 days in the wilderness.

Also we know that Jesus is with each one of us all the time and in all places. That is a lot of social interaction even when we don’t acknowledge His presence.

Name extroverted and introverted biblical characters. Who are you most like?

Our energy is also related to our pace, how quickly we reenergize. The rabbit and the turtle compete with one another at work, home or in the community. It is no secret that we work at different paces. Couples, parents, teachers and employers quickly notice someone’s pace but disagree on which pace is best.  Have you been told you are too slow or too fast?

The best pace depends on the project.

Each pace has a place in our unique puzzle. There are tasks that require speed and quick turns while others require accuracy and precision. And some require both. Fast paced individuals talk fast, move quickly and get a lot done in a short amount of time. Others have a much slower pace with life in general. They are more cautious and deliberate. Slower paced individuals may not get as much done but they may be more accurate and thorough. Both may have short attention spans and be impatient. It is futile and exhausting to try to change someone’s pace.

How long we hold a charge and how long we need to charge is also related to our pace?

What is your pace? Are you still tired and exhausted? Go recharge.

It’s not a sin, it’s a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

Lord of Grace, you love me. You understand me. You have given me your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength and your body. Please Lord help me to be kinder and gentler with myself. Help me love myself the way you love me. Forgive me for the way I’ve treated someone you love dearly – me.  Help me recharge. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Thanks, Tanks, and Transformation: An Open Letter to Kim Davis by Fr. Marcus Halley +

Enlightenment… does not come through raising walls around our hearts, but by tearing them down and exposing them to the God who comes to us over and over, day after day, in unexpected ways.

Source: Thanks, Tanks, and Transformation: An Open Letter to Kim Davis

Stop Talkin’ ’bout My Sister!

Stop Talkin’ ’bout My Sister! by Unexpected Pastor

It’s time for me to be the  big brother I never really was when we were growing up.  I was too involved in my own life.  But it’s time for me to stand up for my sister.

Not that my sister needs me to defend or speak up for her.  She’s my “little sister” only because she is 2 years younger than me.  She is in better shape materially and physically than I am.  I am a very proud older brother.

But I’ve been silent while people have said all sorts of mean and hurtful things about my sister. Most of those mean and hurtful things have been said by Christians.

They say “hate the sin and love the sinner.”  But then they go and say ignorant things like those listed below.  All of them are untrue, and none of them are loving.  And when they are said, they slander real people like my sister.

So stop talking about my sister.  Stop saying stuff like . . .

Gay folks choose to be “that way”

I’ve never talked about this with my sister.  I figure it would either be insulting or incomprehensible to ask her,” So, when did you decide to be gay?”

I mean, if you asked me “When did you decide to be straight,”  I would have no answer for you.  It’s a setup.  I never “decided” to be straight, it’s how I am.

I cannot imagine deciding to be attracted to men instead of women.

I would imagine the same is true for my sister. So stop insinuating that she could have.

Stop calling her a liar – “You’re not really gay, you just decided to pretend you are.”

Insisting my sister chose to be gay only flaunts your ignorance.  So stop!

Gay folks are evil

We are all sinners – we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ).  We can disagree about whether homosexual behavior is sinful or not, but if you want to believe it is, why be so fixated on it when there are so many other great sins to dwell upon?

Gossip hurts many more people than homosexuality ever has.  Let’s not allow gossips to get married, or to adopt children, or be schoolteachers.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea . . .

Look, my sister is a sinner (like me and you) not because she is gay, but because she is human.

Stop pretending homosexuality is some kind of super sin and that gay folks are super sinners.  You’re talking about my sister.

Gay folks are “that way” because of bad parenting

Now you’re talking about my mom and dad.  When you make statements like that, do you ever consider that you’re talking about real people, not rhetorical points?

Our mom was an awesome mom (you can sing that to the tune of “Awesome God” if you like), especially when we were little.  There was no “role reversal” in our home – she cooked, cleaned, and did all the stereotypical mom things while staying home until we were in elementary school.  She never left the house without her makeup. My dad brought home the bacon and was in charge (or at least thought he was; you know how that goes).  Both mom and dad made their kids their number one priority.

My parents certainly weren’t perfect, but they weren’t the screwed up failures you accuse them of being when you say my sister’s gay because of my mom and dad – and that is what you’re saying when you make blanket statements about the parents of gay folks.

So just stop.  Stop talking about my parents.

Gay couples don’t last

 I guess gay folks can’t commit like us heterosexuals, huh.  Us heterosexuals with our 50% divorce rate and our multiple marriages.  Yay us!  We’re so smug in our superiority.

My sister has been with my sister-in-law for 21 years.  That’s four years longer than I’ve been married.  I’m very competitive and that’s tough for me to admit.

So here you’re not just talking about my sister.  You’re talking about, as my kids refer to them when they don’t call them their aunts, my sisters.

Stop it. You don’t know what (or who) you’re talking about.  Or who you’re hurting when you say these things.

 Gay folks are pedophiles

 Now I’m pissed.  You’re talking about my sister – and my sister-in-law – who I would trust with my kids before I would anyone else in the world.  And I have.

Statistically, there are way more straight pedophiles than gay predators.  That sentence really doesn’t make sense, because pedophilia is a whole different class of sexual attraction – whether it involves attraction to minors of the same sex or different sex, it is neither “gay” nor “straight.”

Acting on such an attraction is wrong because it is exploitation of power imbalance – a child cannot consent, so it is always involuntary.

Homosexuality is not a gateway drug to sexual perversion.  Pedophilia, even though it seems to be brought up over and over in these sorts of conversation, has nothing to do with homosexuality.

It has nothing to do with my sister, so shut up about it.

Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s go to a related topic . . . 

Gay folks shouldn’t be parents because they harm kids

My sister would be an awesome parent.  I’m willing to back that up with the most precious gifts I’ve ever received – my children.  According to my wife and my wills if something happens to both of us (i.e. we die at the same time) my sister and sister-in-law will be the parents of my children.  They love them like nobody else does.  We all need somebody in our lives who loves us unconditionally, and for our children those people are their aunts.

It’s just a shame they live in a state where they could never (unless the law is changed) legally become their parents.  “The ideal is for a child to have a mother and a father.”  Yeah, we could have them raised by some of their abusive or addicted relatives . . . hey, it’s a mom and a dad, so it must be okay.  This is not an “ideal” world, nor is that an ideal solution.

We need to stop letting our prejudice get in the way of love.

Studies have shown that children being raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to get into legal trouble or to use mind altering substances. Being gay is not something you catch or that you learn.

I don’t have any fear that my daughter would “turn” if something happened to my wife and I.  I don’t think she is but if she’s gay she’s gay.

I feel the same way I did when someone asked me what I would think if she dated an African-American (although the questioner did not say “African-American”) or married “one.”  I said as long as he loved her and treated her with respect and agape, it would be great.  I’d feel the same way about a woman.

Gay folks can’t be Christians

So according to you my sister’s going to hell.  That’s about the worst thing you can say about my sister.

Even if homosexual behavior is a sin, where in the Bible does it say that it is unforgivable?  Where does it say that the blood of Jesus doesn’t cover it?

I know, I know.  Your argument is that if it is not repented it’s not forgiven.  Is that true of all sins, or just homosexuality?  If it’s true for all sins, heaven’s going to be pretty empty because the second most popular activity in most churches (behind potlucks) is gossip.  All those unrepentant gossips, are they going to hell?  And folks who are greedy or selfish and don’t even realize it because they’ve rationalized their avarice, they’re on the down elevator as well?

I’m all for repentance.  But repentance doesn’t mean being perfect in either behavior or understanding, it means doing our best, guided by the holy spirit, to turn toward God.  Some things we’re going to get right . . . and others we’re going to continually mess up.  Thank God we’re saved by grace through faith!

My sister goes to church a lot more faithfully than other straight Christians I know – in fact more faithfully than most folks in my church.  She never, as far as I know, professed to be an atheist (like her brother – me).

So really, who’s saved and who’s not isn’t up to you or me.  It’s up to God.

Stop talking about my sister like you’re God.

I have prayed, studied, and otherwise struggled with the issues around Christianity and homosexuality.  I still do.  We can, and should, continue to talk about these issues.  But we must never forget that we are talking about real people – like my sister.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit and directed by Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves, we can have that conversation without employing unfounded – and unloving – defamations like those listed above.

I’ve intentionally stayed away from statistics or links to references in this post because I wanted it to be personal, from my heart. For a more scholarly look at these kinds of misconceptions, read 10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

One last thought for those who make these sorts of statements . . . Maybe if you got to know some gay folks – like my sister – you’d stop saying such hurtful things.  Jesus hung out with folks all the “religious” people looked down on . . . and mostly criticized the religious people for their narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy.  Perhaps the key to overcoming this stuff is to be more like Jesus. Just a thought.

Survival Skills

rock hill

Remember: Don’t lift more than God can handle

Warning:  Bad Things Happen to Good People

Week 2: Survival Steps

 

Let’s talk about stress.

The most difficult problems to accept are the ones we can’t change. We struggle, wrestle and beat ourselves up with stuff beyond our strength and out of our control.

We expect the impossible when we treat every hardship as a challenge to overcome.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Such as applying self-help one liners to every situation expecting a quick fix and being shocked when they don’t work. Only to keep giving the same advice to others that never works for us.

“You can do it”, “do it yourself” and “never give up” attitudes don’t work when we lack control over the situation or need help.

“No pain, no gain” applies to a good workout but is cruel to say to rape, murder or other abuse victims.

Not every problem is solved with a box of kittens, a tissue and a pep talk. In reality, every fight can’t be won. And most importantly, it may actually be impossible because not every issue is ours to solve.

We may not have the skills, the resources or even the control to stop bad things from happening or make things better.

  1. List and discuss bad things out of your control.

 

 

Cancer, mental illness, abuse, addictions, death, poverty and natural disasters are all major tragedies out of our control.

 

Telling ourselves or someone else they are strong enough to handle adversity is not biblical. God knows we can’t handle it alone. God didn’t create us to handle it alone and God doesn’t want us to handle it alone.
People who can do everything themselves don’t need help.  They don’t need a savior.

God wants to be part of our lives.  God wants us to give up, call out for help and embrace our savior.

PrayerRead Matthew 11:28-30 

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  1. Discuss Matthew 11:28-30. Why is it hard to ask for help?

Babies cry out for help.  Children cry out for help.  “OUCH” or “HELP!” is a normal natural quick way to tell people who care about us that we need help.

Is there an age when we are too old or a time when we are too able to ask for help?

So why is one of the very first lies we teach children “you’re OK, you’re not hurt, shake it off, and don’t let anyone know you’re hurt, don’t show weakness…”? Why do we put so much emphasis on self-sufficiency?

Also not biblical.

God hears our cries.

Read Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and God hears my voice.

God wants us to cry out.

When we are weary and burdened we appreciate rest.  We appreciate help.  We notice when we are relieved of our burdens.

God created us to be social.  We are yoked, tethered and joined together with Christ in his baptism, life, death and resurrection (Romans 6). We need each other.  We need Christ.

Accepting things we can’t change is an important recovery step.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

The path to acceptance isn’t easy. It is a journey of its own. Some people are determined to figure out how to solve all their problems on their own. Some have too many secrets, hurts, habits and faulty beliefs to get help. They are afraid and don’t have the support system to recover.

The path to recovery should never be ventured alone. Seek God, a good counselor and healthy support group.

The hardest problems to accept are other people’s problems. When we love someone, we want to protect them.  We want to end their pain. We feel responsible for them and their problems. We struggle for them.

But we have very limited control over other people and their problems, even when those problems hurt us.

Trying to change other people is futile.

The only path to acceptance is through grief.  We have to let go of our old tired beliefs that don’t work (Romans 6:6), reveal our secrets, accept humility and admit weakness.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

  1. Discuss 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Why are church people afraid to share their weaknesses, sins and hardships?

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD identified five emotional stages of grief from personal loss or change from death, illness, incarceration, divorce or addictions. These five emotional stages apply to any stress or change in our life, including traffic.

It is important to remember these stages aren’t sequential.  They don’t work like a check list.  We go back and forth between them as we attempt to cope.

And when crisis hits a family or group everyone covers different stages making communication and progress difficult.

  1. Discuss each emotional stage. Request a volunteer to represent each stage.

Denial: Our first reaction to stress is denial.  It is a retreat when we feel overwhelmed. While in denial we refuse or are unable to believe the truth. Denial is a mask. It provides a false reality to the truth.  Denial is the furthest point away from recovery.

Denial says “I’m not sick”, “My brother isn’t dead”, and “I don’t have a problem with alcohol”.

Dysfunctional behavior flourishes in denial and denial leaves victims open to further abuse.

Read Proverbs 23:29-35

“They hit me but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up…”

Anger:  Anger is our strongest emotion.  It can range from mild irritation to rage. Anger emerges when we feel pushed to acknowledge our loss.

Anger is an important emotion and an important step in recovery. Anger acknowledges and protects us from the raw truth. It is a crossroad, to truth or denial.

Anger shouts, “Why me?”, “It’s not fair!”, “How can this happen to me?”, ‘”Who did this to me?”, “Why did God let this happen?”

Unfortunately, anger may stall recovery for people who are uncomfortable with conflict, afraid of anger and unable to face the reality of their loss.

And anger is destructive when turned inwards or out to others. Angry people are motivated to do something but rarely is anger productive.

Anger blames God, the addict, their family and everyone else. Anger shames the victim and is unproductive.

Read Ephesians 4:26-27

“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Bargaining: Everyone learns how to bargain or negotiate to avoid punishment. Bargaining demonstrates hope in a higher power’s ability to change the situation and restore their life before adversity. While bargaining offers hope, it is still far from acceptance. Bargaining is another strategy to avoid adversity. It is an effort to gain control over the situation.

Bargaining says, “I promise I’ll never have sex again if I’m not pregnant” or “I promise to stop drinking if the judge lets me go.”

Read Psalm 66:13-14

I will fulfill my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.

Depression: Depression hits when we feel the full weight of the situation, and know we are powerless but not ready to accept help. Shame, guilt, past memories and clinical depression may stand in the way of healing. Depression is silent, tearful and mourns the loss. Depressed people may feel ashamed or lack the energy to be with other people. They are afraid and hopeless. Depression says “I’m so sad”, “what’s the point?” and “why go on?”

Read Psalm 22:2

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Acceptance:  Acceptance doesn’t mean we celebrate the bad things that happen to us or declare them good.  It simply means we accept the truth, whatever that truth may be. Acceptance acknowledges we are powerless over things beyond our control and ready to shed our secrets.

We are only as sick as our darkest secrets.

Denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all part of the journey to acceptance.

Acceptance is the first step of recovery. Acceptance leads to peace.

Acceptance says, “I know I have a problem.  I need help. Will you help me?”

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Remember: These emotional stages aren’t sequential.  We go back and forth between them as we struggle to cope with loss. We can fall asleep in acceptance and wake up in denial.

It is important to be patient in love and recovery.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

~  Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

 

  1. Group activity: Volunteers role play how each emotional stage interacts within a family for the following issues:
  • Death
  • Addictions
  • Domestic Violence
  • Mental Illness

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Homework: Make a list of your hurts.  Identify everyone who may be hurt by these issues and identify where you are in the healing process.

Luke 12:2-3

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, or secret that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

Talk to God about your hurts, the people hurt with you and the person(s) causing the hurt.  Keep praying every time they enter your mind.

 Matthew 7:7 [Effective Prayer] “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you”. 

Not sure what to say:

“God restore us.  Help me accept my past, present and future.  Help me accept that I am powerless over _(my hurts)_.  Restore and heal those I love.  Help us walk in truth.  Pour out your grace upon us. Help us.  Give us the courage to accept help. Amen”

Remember: You may not know what wall is preventing you or them from restoring peace.

Healthy Relationship 101: Loving My Neighbor

Luke 10_27“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Love is the key ingredient for a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved.

God is love.  God loves us.  God sent His only Son, Jesus, to love us and show us we are loved. Jesus commands us to love ourselves as God loves us.  In turn, we love God as Jesus first loved us with His whole heart, soul, strength and mind on the cross.

Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves.  We accept Christ’s love, we love God, we love ourselves and share that love with others. Love is a command.

“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34

  1.  What have we learned about healthy relationships? What makes a relationship healthy?

We want healthy relationships.  We want to be loved and supported. We don’t have to guess how to love our neighbor because God tells us how to love our neighbor (Exodus 20, Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation).  God’s commandments provide the healthy habits for loving relationships. They provide a simple structure of respect that we all deserve. When we follow these rules we are loving God, others and our self.

God wants us to call out when we are in trouble, to praise His name or give thanks. We want to hear our name used in kindness.  Our neighbor wants us to use their name in kindness.

God wants to spend time with us. We want someone to spend time with us and our neighbor wants someone to spend time with them.  God, our neighbor and we want someone to listen when we speak.

And we are hurt when someone misuses our name, we get jealous and we want anyone who hates us to be punished.  If God wants these things and we want these things than it is fair to assume our neighbor wants these things. We love others the way we love God and the way we love ourselves.

  1. So let’s review God’s basic lessons on how to “be nice” to our neighbor. Make a note next to the ones you’d like to improve.

 Prayer

  • Serve, love, honor, cherish and respect our parents, neighbor and anyone in authority in our home, church, work or community.
  • Do not hurt or harm anyone. Protect our neighbor’s health and welfare. Feed, give our neighbor something to drink, invite strangers in, clothe our neighbor, care for them when sick and visit them in prison.  Matthew 25:31-46
  • We love and respect our sexuality. We don’t take advantage of our neighbor’s sexuality. We learn to control our sexual impulses and respect our neighbor’s choices. We don’t take advantage of the vulnerable. And treat sex as a special gift of God. We love, honor and respect our partner. We remain faithful.
  • We help improve and protect our neighbor’s possessions and income.
  • We love the truth. We speak the truth about God, our neighbor and ourselves. We are honest.  We do not betray, slander or hurt our neighbor with our words.
  •  We protect our neighbor’s property, blessings and loved ones. We never wish harm on our neighbor. We help restore what is lost or stolen.

The commandments tell us how to love. The Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated” Matthew 7:12 is another summary of the commandments.

Unfortunately, many love others poorly because they treat themselves poorly. They treat others the way they have been treated.  The Golden rule encourages us to treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way we are treated.

God has a great sense of humor because the Golden Rule comes right after Christ asks in Matthew 7:9-10, “Which one of you, will give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or a snake if he asks for fish?”

When we take the Golden Rule literally and give others exactly what we want them to give to us, we are giving our neighbor a stone when they ask for bread. For example, Jayne washes Tyler’s dishes because Jayne feels loved when someone washes her dishes.  But Tyler doesn’t notice Jayne did her dishes because she went to rescue a puppy she hopes Jayne will like but neither appreciates their gift because of miscommunication.

Unhealthy relationships lack healthy communication.  Miscommunication reaps resentment, resentment reaps excuses which are translated into permission to treat others poorly. The Golden rule is twisted into an ethic of reciprocity or two-way rule has been used as an excuse to treat others badly. If our neighbor fails to love us, we don’t have to love them.

  1. How far do I have to go in loving my neighbor? What if my neighbor isn’t nice to me?

Jesus answers this question in our theme verses and parable.

Read Luke 10: 25-28

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”

 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and live.”

Our expert knows love is the one word summary of all the commandments and laws given by God (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Our expert is looking for a loop hole.  Like us, he seeks permission to end his obligation to some of his neighbors.  He asks for clarification.

Read Luke 10: 29-37

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

  1. Love All PeopleWhat does the man need from our “be nice” list? Identify and discuss vulnerable people in the news or community. What do they need?

 

He is naked, hurt, broke and vulnerable. We shouldn’t harm him any further. We should be truthful and not make up stories or blame him. We should respect his sexuality.  We should clothe and get him medical attention. We should help restore what he has lost.

Read Luke 10:31-32

 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

 

  1. Do we have priests and Levites in our society?

 

It is fun being a biblical spectator identifying the bad guy, rolling my eyes at the stupid guys and weeping over the least, lost and left out. It is story time.  We’re not in the hot seat.  Sit back and relax.

God, particularly Jesus, seems really hard on priests. Christ talks bad about the clergy, identifying their mistakes and chastising them for keeping the rules but missing the grace. What often gets lost in the translation or sermon is – love. We hear the rebuke, feel the sting and hope we never experience the wrath of God.

Truth be told, we’ve already been reformed into the priesthood of Christ (1 Peter 2:9-10). We may reject the collar but we were baptized into the priesthood. And like the priests in our story, we mess up.

Like the priest and the Levite, we are impure priests. As a congregation, we fail when we ignore the pleas of our neighbor.

Read Luke 10:33

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

Because of this parable, a Samaritan is now considered the definition of kindness but the expert in the law didn’t have a positive opinion of the Samaritan.  The expert considered the Samaritan an inferior ethnic group. The expert would be shocked the Samaritan took pity on the man and perhaps pitied the man for being touched by the Samaritan.

  1. Identify and discuss the unlikely ‘Samaritan” heroes treated with disgust but prayerfully become our neighbors.

 Prayerfully, our children will live in an age when they can see people in the LGBT community as heroes.  They aren’t taught to be afraid of transgender.  They don’t clutch their purses or call the police when they see a person of color.  They simply lift their arms and faces to wave and say hello.

Read Luke 10:34-35

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two days wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

  1. Discuss the ways the Samaritan cared for the man. Was it too excessive? Where can someone get this level of care?

 

The Samaritan believed in the same God as our expert.  He was guided by the same do good list.  He was taught   to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This parable implies the Samaritan must have loved himself to give the man such extraordinary care.

 

Read Luke 10:36-37

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

  1. Notice our expert doesn’t say “the Samaritan” was the neighbor. How many people are part of this story?  How many are “neighbors”?

We all become a player in this parable, yet not everyone was a neighbor to the man.  Therefore, Jesus’ message to our expert is also to us.

 

Read Luke 10:38

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

“Love does no harm to its neighbors. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

  1. Discuss ways you and your congregation can love like the Samaritan.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10: 27 (NIV)

Homework:  Read Matthew 25:31-46. Find a way to care for Jesus this week.  Read our “be nice” list adding “God loves me” before reading each commandment.

Pray:  Gracious Lord, help me hear your voice and feel your embrace.  Give me the courage to care for the least, lost and left out.  Help me to see those in need and give them comfort. Amen.