But the economy…

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Acts 16:16-24 tells the story of Paul and Silas being jailed in Philippi.

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

In this story we see a radical message – that when the kingdom of God is proclaimed and where it is unfolding, the status quo will be upset.  Often in Scripture we see a linkage between evil and profit-making at the expense of humanity.  Profit itself isn’t evil – profit-making at the expense of humanity is.

And in this story we see it vividly.  The owners of this woman only cared about her as long as they could exploit her and make money off of her.  And when they could not do that, it wasn’t her well-being they were concerned with.  It was the fact that she no longer made money for them.  She became worthless to them.

They saw it as an attack on them and on their profit motive – or really, their abuse, manipulation, and power trip.

Paul and Silas literally affected the economy of Philippi through their proclamation.  This is what happens when God’s kingdom comes near.  The status quo is flipped on its head.  And many weren’t happy about it.  When people’s money is affected, people start to pay attention.  They know that what is happening is real – and they see that they are not in control.

But as long as the economy is humming along – allowing some to benefit at the expense of others – many turn a blind eye.

When money becomes prime in life and society, humanity suffers.  When money is more valuable than people, then everything is out of whack.  People are not valued for who they are, but rather for what they produce.  Humanity ends up with a price tag.

When money takes this type of central role, then it becomes an idol, a god.  No wonder Jesus spoke about money more than any other subject.

But making money into an idol, a god, has deeper ramifications than this – When producing becomes the prime directive, then the Sabbath is broken.  Sabbath doesn’t mean sitting around doing nothing all day.  It’s about resting from work in order to pay full attention to God – to focus on God and listen to what God is calling us to.  If there is no room for Sabbath, then there is no room for God.  Instead of listening to God, we listen to what the almighty dollar instructs us to do.  And people suffer.

We are no longer made in the image of God, but rather, we are just workers whose purpose is to make a profit.  We snuff out the Imago Dei in which God created us.

This is why Paul and Silas were beaten, stripped, and jailed – upsetting the entire belief system that worships money.  It was an act of defiance against the entire empire, its economic system, its message that salvation comes through the empire and Caesar.  Paul and Silas’ proclamation meant that the empire, Caesar, and their economic system of exploitation were empty and valueless.

Another blog I visit often said it best:

Jesus knows that the greatest obstacle to entering into and living in the kingdom of God instead of under the reign and rule of man is our own economic self interest.   When we are dominated by economic self interest it’s like squeezing a camel through the eye of the needle, and it’s hard.

For several decades our politicians have been giving us a message that needs to be weighed against the Gospel.  Sometimes it comes through a question – “Are you better off than you were four years ago.”  And other times it comes in campaign slogans – “It’s the economy, stupid!”

The economy is a powerful pull.  It has the power to determine our elections more often than not.  Candidates, politicians, and presidents of both political parties are often very flawed – caught in controversy, investigations and scandals, sexual philandering, and dehumanizing rhetoric, supporting policies that do not support the general welfare they are sworn to uphold, but rather to support the status quo where some benefit at the expense of others – where people are valued for what they produce, rather than who they are.

But if the economy is humming along, many are willing to overlook these character flaws.  Many are willing to put blinders on to the plight of our neighbors because “the economy.”  Many are willing to rationalize away dehumanizing policies and rhetoric because there is more money in some people’s pockets – maybe even our own.

But Jesus has a different message.  An upsetting message.  A message that conflicts with our own economic self-interest as we turn a blind eye to our neighbors’ plight.  A message that doesn’t always match up with our national narrative and what we value politically.  Ouch.

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

(Matthew 16:24-26)

Jesus is asking us – what’s more important, the economy or humanity?  Money or God? And he is speaking in economic terms – savings, profit, gain, return.  Jesus directly confronts the economic systems that exploit others and those that maintain these systems and benefit from them.  Maybe that doesn’t sound very American.  But then again, Jesus wasn’t worried about wrapping himself in the flag.  He had another kingdom to advance – one that is everlasting.

Or as Jesus once said in the Sermon on the Mount:

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

(Matthew 6:24)

So which is it?

 

“These aren’t people. These are animals”

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“These aren’t people.  These are animals.” President Donald Trump said this.  The debate is whether he said this in relation to only a specific gang or in relation to all immigrants.  The context seems to point towards a reference to the gang, but previous comments by him leaves the door open to raise the question.

Regardless of who he is referring to, it is wrong to refer to anyone as an animal – no matter how terrible they may be.

Why?  Where do we draw the line?  Who is considered an animal and who is considered a person?  And if they are an animal – what can be done to them?

I wonder what the president thinks about the people we work with and do ministry with at Flying J.  Are they animals?  They aren’t immigrants.  They are citizens.  But they come with many challenges. Many are homeless or living in their vehicles.  Some are ex-convicts.  Some have health problems.  There are families with children.  Some work, some can’t.

When we do ministry at Flying J twice a month, we start with an assumption – that everyone we encounter is a person, has value and worth, and is a child of God.  We provide the limited resources that we have – we make sure people get a shower and can do their laundry.  Being clean is important.  It is a way to bring dignity to a person.  It is a way for a person to feel human again.  To be seen as a person.  To be seen and not smelled.

We bring people over to Denny’s and sit down as a large group, hand people a menu and ask people what they want to eat.  Choice is important.  It’s not much, but having a choice on a menu is a way of empowering people who don’t have much power over other things in their life.  When we empower people with choice, we are saying that they have value and worth.  That they are capable of making decisions.  That they are human.

We sit with our friends and talk and laugh and share.  We share information.  We share jokes.  We share life.  We hear stories and we tell stories.  And we offer respect, a listening ear, and remind people of their humanity.  We proclaim boldly a counter cultural message – that a person’s value isn’t tied to material things, how much money they have, where they live, what they do for a job, or anything like that.  Their value and worth come from the fact that they are human.  We proclaim that God loves them and that they are not alone.

We do this because we are followers of Jesus.

Jesus spoke often about the value of people.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” ( Matthew 6:26)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows. ( Matthew 10:29-31)

“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” ( Matthew 18:12)

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ( Luke 15:8-10)

Beyond this, there is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  (Luke 10:25-37)  There is Jesus talking about the second commandment – to love your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:31)

The list could go on.  I didn’t even talk about the Beatitudes. (Matthew 5:1-12)

In only one place in the Gospel do we see a reference to Jesus calling someone a dog – Matthew 15:26.  Yet, even in the interaction with the Canaanite woman, Jesus still heals.  There are great commentaries on this passage of Scripture that are well worth reading.  The point here is that Salvation is open to more than just the people of Israel – but also to all Gentiles.

Who has value as a person?  Who gets to decide who has value?  And who gets labeled?

Do we follow what Scripture says about each person?  Or do we follow the way of the world – where value is assigned based on whether someone is a part of the right group or not.  If a person can be considered an animal, then what is to hold us back from treating that person like an animal.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

(Luke 10:25-37)

Treating people with respect and dignity is easy when they are just like us – having the same skin color, nationality, language, belief system, ideology, etc.  It’s easy to love a neighbor when they are essentially just like you.  But what about those that are different.  As the lawyer asked – who is my neighbor?  Are they a person?  Especially if they are different.  Especially if they have different skin color, language, nationality, economic status, abilities, sexuality, gender, age, legal status, criminal background, etc.

Who is my neighbor?  Is your neighbor a person?  Or an animal?

Are you going to follow Jesus, or someone else in determining who is your neighbor and how you are to treat them?

I choose Jesus.  How about you?

The appeal of violence

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Violence has an appeal to it.

This may sound surprising to you.  But think about it a bit.  Violence makes up a great deal of our entertainment – from movies about war and crime to our professional sports that celebrate the hard hit.

Violence is celebrated when we attack whoever is considered the enemy.  Think back to the celebration that erupted with the news of Osama Bin Laden being killed.

But violence goes beyond just the physical.

We experience violence when we drive – how many times have you or have you wanted to give the finger to another driver on the road?  Or have it happen to you?  Or just witnessed road rage?

We hear stories of violence in relationships with others, even those that people claim to love.  We hear yelling and screaming.  We see violence through social media – people who are distant politically or on other identifications yelling at each other, demeaning and dehumanizing one another.  We may even participate in any number of these things ourselves.

We hear violent rhetoric from world leaders threatening others with weapons of mass destruction.

Violence has a great appeal – it is used often.

The late Walter Wink is quoted as saying “We trust in violence because we are afraid.”

I think there is great wisdom in this.  We are afraid that we won’t be in control, and so we turn to violence to get our way.  And it usually works. But it’s not a permanent solution or a solution that causes others to change internally.  People will comply when threatened with violence, but they will also look for a way to either escape it or return the violence.  Violence doesn’t bring about a positive change long-term.  It doesnt’ produce a thriving life.  It is totally focused on the short-term.  And, like any drug, it requires a greater dosage as time goes on.

How do we conquer the world?  The world answers with two answers – force and might.   The world conquers through violence and fear.  And it always falls and fails in the long run.  Once the person who has been doing violence to another goes away, there are very few who will remember fondly that person.  And they shouldn’t.  Violence leads to death.

Instead, Scripture gives us another option.  In 1 John 5:4, we are told:

for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

And John 3:16 says:

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Violence doesn’t conquer the world.  It just brings destruction.  Faith and love conquer the world.  Not just for a short time, unlike violence, but for eternity.

Faith and love are both vulnerable.  It’s scary to be vulnerable.  And so when we are afraid, we turn to violence.  We take matters into our own hands.  We enact our own version of justice.  We put ourselves in the place of God.  And we end up suffering the consequences of these decisions.

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

(Matthew 26:52)

Put your sword down Christ-follower.  We are not called to fear and violence.  We are called to vulnerability – faith and love.

Embassy move

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The US embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem on Monday.

I have a range of emotions regarding this.

I’m saddened.

I’m saddened by the move.  Those who know a thing or two about foreign policy and especially the Middle East warned that this would cause an unsettling in the region.  It’s an act of provocation that was unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

In response we saw Iran shooting missiles into Israel from their positions in Syria and Israel shooting back.

In response there were protests.  Initial reports showed that 41 people died in Gaza.  New reports have the number climbing to over 55.  That number will probably rise.  And there will most likely be other incidents that will cause more deaths and killings.

The President sent Rev. Robert Jeffress to offer the opening prayer.  He went and offered a prayer which highlighted how great Trump is.  Jeffress has been on record as saying that Jews are going to hell.  Jeffress was sent.  To Jerusalem.  Where there are a great many Jews.

I’m angry.

I’m angry about this because we have blood on our hands for an unnecessary act that brings instability from the first moment.  But our president loves instability – he’s talked about it as a strategy that he uses.  He likes to keep everyone guessing as to what he will do or say next.  That’s not a leadership strategy – that a strategy for a TV show to get more people to tune in to the next episode.

Do the 55+ people who died in protest matter?  I think it’s time we start asking some serious questions – who counts as a person nowadays?  Did they deserve to be killed because they were protesting?  If your answer is yes, they deserved it, then I ask you – what/who counts as a person?  And what rights do people, human beings, have?  Who counts as a person that deserves to have their life preserved, even in the midst of protest?  Do Palestinians count as people?  How about Muslims?  How about Arab Christians?  How about those with dark skin?  How about those that don’t speak English?  How about those that disagree with those in authority?  Do any of these people count as people?

I’m wondering.

I’m wondering when Christianity will finally acknowledge the reality that there are Christians who worship Jesus as the Savior and there are Christians who worship the Empire and Caesar as savior.

Let me be really clear here – Empire and Caesar go beyond any particular country and can be found in probably every country – Empire is the idea that the might of the nation is of prime importance.  It is the belief that salvation comes through the conquering empire – through military might, cultural dominance, and force of will.  Caesar is the idea that a human leader who is strong – almost god-like – is the savior we yearn for.  We are to worship him and thank god that god sent him, a son of god, to save us from our enemies and establish an everlasting empire that will rule with force and crush anyone in opposition.  And do it in the name of the gods.  Empire and Caesar have existed as the predominate religion of humanity for many millennia, across the world.  Even sometimes under the label of Christianity.  And it is still alive and flourishing today in many places.

Here are the prayers offered by two “christian” pastors at the event.

“We thank you, O Lord, for President Donald Trump’s courage in acknowledging to the world a truth that was established 3,000 years ago – that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Hagee said.

“And because of that courage of our President, we gather here today to consecrate the ground upon which the United States Embassy will stand reminding the dictators of the world that America and Israel are forever united,” he added.

(parts of the Benediction prayer offered by Rev. John Hagee)

“We want to thank you for the tremendous leadership of our great president, Donald J. Trump.  Without President Trump’s determination, resolve and courage we would not be here today,” he said.

“And I believe I speak for every one of us when I say I thank you every day that you have given us a President who boldly stands on the right side of history but more importantly stands on the right side of you, O God, when it comes to Israel,” Jeffress added.

(parts of a prayer offered by Rev. Robert Jeffress)

Is prayer about the actions of a president and his courage and action and resolve, or is prayer an acknowledgement of God’s action in the world and about what God is calling us to?  Is prayer designed to worship the god of Empire and Caesar or the God of creation?

(If you think I’m far off base here, I encourage you to read George Will’s article in the Washington Post.  Throughout the article he talks about the words used by those who serve Trump – words that sound rather religious – “humbled,” “thank you for this privilege of serving,” “the blessing of being allowed to serve.”)

I’m just grateful that these pastors didn’t attribute this move to God.  Both of these pastors are huge proponents of Rapture theology – the belief that Jesus is coming back, will sweep away the faithful in a holy escape plan, then pull out his AR-15 and start kicking ass and taking names – bringing vengeance, destruction, and death over the world.  Apparently Jesus is just an extension of the god of Empire and Caesar.

I don’t worship the same god as Hagee and Jeffress.  I don’t believe in their god and what their god stands for.  Their god is the god of Empire and Caesar.  Their god is a god of vengeance, and military might, and might makes right, and the ends justify the means, and only the strong survive.  Their god leads to death and demands bloody sacrifices along the way.  55+ people have already been sacrificed to quench the anger of their god.  But their god will never be satisfied until there is total destruction.  I reject their god.  I reject the god of Empire and Caesar.

The God I worship is a God who calls on us to die – die to self, die to the idea of the Empire and that Caesar is the savior, die to our loyalties, die to our fears and anger, die to our desire to be in control and to know, die to might makes right and that the ends justify the means.  Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow him – to die to these things.  We die to these so that we can experience resurrection – new life, transformed life.  I worship a God who is love.  A God who weeps often because of the world and its sick adherence to Empire, Caesar, and Death.  I worship a God who accompanies and calls on us to accompany the outcast, the poor, the weak, those out of power.  I worship a God who does not delight in death and destruction, provocation, and war.  I worship a God who tells us that the world will be conquered by faith and love.  (1 John 5:4)  I worship a God who sends his actual Son into the world to save us from the world not through an divine escape plan, but rather through transformation and renewal.  Not by force and might.  But through Faith and love.  This is the God I worship and serve.  Who do you serve and worship?

Rejecting the Gospel

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Why do people reject the Gospel? Do people reject the Gospel?

I think there are people who do.  Some reject the Gospel knowing full well what they are rejecting.  Some reject it because what they thought was the Gospel is different from what they are hearing for the first time.

What is the Gospel?

The easiest way to describe it is that the Gospel is the best news in the history of creation – that there is nothing that you can do to earn God’s love or earn your way to spending eternity with God.  Why?  Because we are broken and don’t know what a right relationship with God looks like – how could we, we are broken.  We’ve never seen it the way it should be.  Instead, God reaches out to us, sets things right, and invites us to participate in relationship with God.

So why would anyone reject this?

Fear, control, knowing.  Many people are afraid of letting go of control – or the idea that we are in control.  Many people are afraid of not being in control of their life.  Many people are afraid of not knowing what God’s plans are for our lives and where God might send us and have us do.

Many people would rather be in control of their lives – or think they are in control of their lives.

But Jesus calls us to death – death of self, death of being in control, death of knowing.  These are scary things if you have never faced death or had a crush with death.

Following the Gospel means that we aren’t in control and really, if we are honest with ourselves, it means we recognize that we never were in control, ever.

Following the Gospel means having the lies we are told and tell ourselves about ourselves ripped from our hands as we grasp onto them like a security blanket.  In their place, we are invited into a journey – not when we are ready, but when we are called.  We’ll be equipped with what we need as we go – that’s how God works.

Are you willing to be out of control?

Psalm 10

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I thought Psalm 10 seemed pretty appropriate for our current time.  I’m sure you can think of recent examples that have made the news.

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, ‘God will not seek it out’;
all their thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’

Their ways prosper at all times;
your judgements are on high, out of their sight;
as for their foes, they scoff at them.
They think in their heart, ‘We shall not be moved;
throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.’

Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
They sit in ambush in the villages;
in hiding-places they murder the innocent.

Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
   they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.

They stoop, they crouch,
and the helpless fall by their might.
They think in their heart, ‘God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.’

Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, ‘You will not call us to account’?

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
The Lord is king for ever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.

Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

(Psalm 10, NRSV)

Jesus Wept

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John 11:35 is a short passage.  Depending on the translation, it is anywhere from two to four words long. It is most commonly translated as “Jesus wept.”  The other variation is “Jesus began to weep.”

That’s it though.  No diving in.  Just a statement of fact.

The context here is that Jesus dear friend Lazarus has died. And we read that Jesus cried.

Does anyone else find it strange that this is the only place in the Bible that talks about Jesus crying?

Correction – there is one other reference.  It’s Hebrews 5:7, which states:  “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. ”

But you don’t get the same feel as in John 11:35.

But again, I find it rather odd that Jesus only cried once during his three-year ministry.

Apparently, Jesus was macho man – never cried, except for the death of a dear and close friend.

I wonder how Jesus reacted to each person that rejected him and the Good News?  How many times was his heart-broken by “disciples” that followed him until it was too difficult.  How many times did he feel like he was gut punched by “friends” who rejected him, betrayed him, and turned away from him.

How many poor, hungry, sick, and dying people did he encounter?  How many times did he witness people being stifled and dehumanized by groups in power who demanded the letter of the law?

And we’re supposed to believe that he only cried once?  Really?

I think he cried often.  I think the world broke his heart many times.  I think his heart was broken by some of the closest people to him and he wept for them.  I think he experienced great sorrow when someone rejected him and the Good News that came from him.  I think he groaned heavy sighs of sorrow each time he was confronted by people who were convinced they were right and Jesus was wrong – people who had no openness to the Good News.

I think this because Jesus was both fully God and fully human.  This is a part of what it means to be human – to experience great sorrow and to cry.  And I think it happened more than just at the news of the death of a dear friend.

I think Jesus cried a lot.

 

What the Gospel is

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What is the Gospel?

Have you really thought about what the Gospel is and is not?

Here is your fair warning – you may not like the result and what it means for your life.

Is the Gospel something that offers us only comfort and security?  Is it something that confirms our beliefs and matches up with what we believe about the world?  Is it something that matches up with our political stances nice and neatly?  Is it something that never addresses touchy subjects?  Is it something that never addresses controversial topics?  Is it something that never challenges us?  Is it something that is can be claimed but makes no other claims on our lives?  It is something that is never political, but only used as a weapon in the ongoing partisan political wars for power over people?

There are many who proclaim this type of gospel.  There have been many who have proclaimed this message for many centuries.  It’s the gospel of don’t rock the boat.  It’s the gospel of comforting the comforted and ignoring the afflicted.  It’s the gospel which is used as a weapon for political expediency.  It is a gospel that is not the foundation of life, but merely just another tool to be used to our own ends.

The Gospel was never meant to be comfortable.  It is uncomfortable and inconvenient.  It is radical in nature because it flips the world right side up.  The Gospel calls into question our loyalties and allegiances.  It smacks us in the face more often than we prefer.  We try to put it away when it becomes uncomfortable and is in conflict with our preferences and beliefs.

The Gospel isn’t about membership – it is about discipleship.  It’s not safe – it risks bringing the world’s shame on itself.  It’s not wrapped in any flag, any nation, or any politician – it supersedes all of these things.  It is not the avoidance of death, but rather calls us to death.

But the Gospel is more than a political platform for some political party.  It is more than just some nice sounding rhetoric that we can voice and then set aside and do what we were doing.  It is a message of life – transformed life, renewed life, restored life.  It is a message of resurrection – that which comes after death.  The Gospel calls us to death – death of our egos, our loyalties, our desire to be right, our judgements, our separation from others, our ideologies, our desire to be strong and mighty, our sins, our brokenness.

When we encounter the Gospel, it changes our lives in uncomfortable and lasting ways.  And it causes conflict.  The conflict arises because the world’s ways are revealed to be empty promises that lead and end with death.  And the world doesn’t want us to see this for what it is.

It is only in the death of these things that resurrection can happen – where the Gospel is truly revealed.  And the resurrection that Jesus offers is life giving.  Where else are we to go to receive this kind of life?

The answer is this – no where.