Asbury United Methodist Church
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May 9, 2017

While reading the New Testament this morning, I had a weird thought! Maybe you have had the same weird thought!

            If you have ever read the New Testament and had this sensation of waking up and smelling some coffee that the church is missing the boat, please raise your hand!

            Yeah, me too! OK, you can put your hands down now.

            Don’t get me wrong, this is not a church-bashing kind of blog.  That would be sort of hypocritical.

            The church is the Body of Christ! The Body of Christ is people, not buildings!

            And, I am a people! So are you!   Them are us! In other words, we’re the ones missing the boat.

            So…let’s put a finer point on things. Everybody knows that to be a good Christian, we must avoid the do nots: do not do drugs; do not drink; do not use profanity; do not have sex outside of marriage or with somebody in a different marriage than yours; do not hang out in pool halls…

            You can add to the list.  We can sit here all day and continue with our do not list; and, we haven’t even discussed gambling!  Let me see now, where’d I put those lottery tickets?

            What we are really talking about here is personal pietism. And, pietism can get kind of personal, if you know what I mean!

            Personal pietism is not necessarily a bad thing but before we know it, it’s gotten a wee bit too personal!  In other words, we have spiraled totally and completely into self.

            We can begin to parse every word spoken from our mouths and then begin to judge others quite harshly. We can engineer every step, every movement of life and as we do we will watch the joy seep right on out if it!

            Furthermore, as I read the New Testament, I do not see Jesus really big on personal pietism. Don’t get me wrong, it was important to him and he didn’t bash it!  But…and it’s a really big one, his focus seems to have been on a much broader scale.

            He even spells it out for us in that whole sheep and goat passage:

                For 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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

             Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

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.’

(Matthew 25:35-39 NIV)

            Look back over that passage and note the phrase the righteous. I am not sure if you caught that nuance or not but it is sarcasm. One who ignores the least of these aint too righteous!

            Now, back to personal pietism, Jesus is not telling us to ignore it! He is saying to us that there are much larger fish to fry.

Underneath it all, it is possible for us to become so personally pious that we can fail to see the forest for the trees? In other words, while we are focusing upon self, the whole world is sliding off into a ditch.

The barn is burning and we are worrying about what our hair looks like! And, where I feel the church (again, we are the church) may be missing the boat nowadays is not that we are wrong but basically incomplete!

Our view of God is simply too narrow and too shallow! And, at the end of the day, I don’t care how personally pious we think we are, no one can see themselves clearly.

On another matter, people ask me all the time if I am conservative or liberal. This question makes me hot under the collar.   It makes me hot under the collar because politicians have stolen these terms to be used for personal gain; and, a lot of people have gotten brainwashed.

My answer is that I am neither! I am a follower of Jesus to the best of my ability and I am deeply concerned about the things he cared, cares and will continue to care about!

Jesus is God!   If we care about things other than these, we will live an incomplete life! And, the flip side of things is that if we make it our mission to live a more complete life for Christ, we can have our cake and eat it too!

We will find that we’ve ended up with is the richest, fullest life that mortals can live this side of the Church Triumphant (heaven)! That’s a pretty good deal!

Lots of people live as if they would rather die than change their convictions. This is well and good if those convictions match those of Christ. By the way, and he did die for his convictions!

So, if you have ever read the New Testament and started smelling some coffee that we are missing the boat, raise your hand! Boredom just may be your sign! Self will never satisfy for very long at a time.

It is in selfless giving that we come to feel more compete and more whole. And, holy is a derivative of whole! See where Jesus is leading us?

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