Love your enemies. Resist not those who are evil. I call them the hard sayings of Jesus, not in terms of hard to understand, but hard to live.
Also in this category is “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these” (John 14:12). Jesus has way too much confidence in us. We will not only do the works Jesus did; we will do greater works? There’s got to be some way to weasel out of that one. Where’s some good demythologizing or bible gerrymandering when you need it?
My experience has been that the surest way to get yourself into deep trouble with a congregation is to do something Jesus did. Ironic, isn’t it!
In his book Brother to a Dragonfly Will Campbell observes: “Trying to reason with an institution is like pissing on a turtle.” (p. 212)
Speaking of pissing, when Campbell preached at a rich church in Charlotte, North Carolina he told the congregation, from its lofty pulpit, that the thing they most needed was for a homeless person to come to their holy worship and piss all over their fine sanctuary carpet.
Jesus says we will do greater works then he did, but the church doers of ministry at a safe distance, ministry to chalk up a good deed but not in the dirt enough to require commitment or the transformation of those doing the good deed.
Mission is not about a good deed, anyway. “Mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe, their capacity to love, to grown and to do beautiful things and to meet God.” (Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 86.) “We do not want two communities – the helpers and the helped – we want one.” (p. 91)
In Soul Among Lions: Musings of a Bootleg Preacher Campbell writes: “I was not too surprised to learn that in most cities there are about the same number of houseless people as there are congregations. . . . Well how about this: Let every congregation adopt one person who lives on the streets. Ask no questions as to the worthiness of these people. Who among us is worthy? Just find them lodging, a job, friends – give them hope. That would solve the problem of people living on the streets.”
“But how would we afford it?”
“The same way you afford your tall steeples, rich edifices, preachers’ salaries, and all the rest. With tithes and offerings.” (pp. 15-16)
Mother Teresa encourages us not to be overwhelmed by the huge problems of the world, but to do something. She writes:
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can lovely only one person at a time. I can feed only person at a time. Just one, one, one. . . . The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in the church where you go, just begin . . . one, one, one.” (Words to Love by. . ., p. 79)
Carlyle Marney was the pastor of a person not unlike people who will hear this Sunday’s sermon. Here’s a description of their lunch meeting.
“I put in a lunch order and talked about what my job was, what I was doing. He would interrupt me a few times with a question about this or that. I realized at the end of about forty minutes I had been talking all about myself and what I was doing and what the company I was with was doing, what we were involved in and we’d just about finished lunch and I hadn’t learned a thing about what Marney wanted. With that realized I sort of stopped. He said, “Well, go on.”
I said, “Well, I don’t know anything else to say. I have told you what I am doing.”
“Well,” he says, “it sounds to me like you’ve got your life all figured out. You’ve got a nice pasture you’re living in with a fence around it. Sounds to me like there are a few other horses in the pasture that you are grazing with and enjoying living with. And I would offer the observation that you’ve got it all figured out and just down pat, and haven’t got the fainted idea what’s on the other side of the fence.” (Marney, by Mary Kratt, p. 55)
Does the church you serve know what’s on the other side of the fence? Does it give a damm? Would your congregation, in addition to doing its ministries at a safe distance, for once with one person do something Jesus did. And could your congregation do it in a way of not helping, but revealing to one person their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe and in your church?
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