Notes from Fred
Sunday was a special day for our Family, as Walter Glen Ikner shared his gift for music, lifting our spirits with a beautiful offering of song from “his mother’s” piano!
And we begin on Sunday the most important week of the Christian year, Passion Week – moving from Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, to Easter. Let the power of this week fill your life by being with us in the many ways we walk this week, laid out on our website and in our Bulletin on Sunday…
Walk Across the Road – Bearing Fruit
On Sunday, Jesus offered us an invitation to live the Abundant Life, filled with the Fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, and more, by offering that Life to our hurting, “half-dead” neighbors; especially inviting our Family at Meadowlake to move to another level of reaching out to others who are hurting in our community. (Luke 10:25-37; Galatians 5:22-23)
- A lawyer seeks to test Jesus, but is tested instead, to see how he can be made well by making others well – seeing how that can happen for us. We focused on the questions and answers. The lawyer begins with asking how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus gets him to state the “law”: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responds: “Do this and you will live.” By his response, Jesus has changed the question. He is no longer talking about Eternal Life, for Jesus had just told his Disciples that Eternal Life comes from his death on the Cross and belief in him.
- Jesus is talking about Abundant Life here and now. Jesus explains in the Gospel of John that, if we love God and our neighbor, we will be filled with the Fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, and more. The lawyer wants to know how he can receive this life. He knows who God is, but he wants to know who his neighbor is. We too ask that question, because we also want the Abundant Life.
- Jesus answers: Your neighbors are the hurting, “half-dead” men, women, youth, children that you pass by every day: the children of dysfunctional families who are so far behind that they will drop out of school, and drop in to poverty and crime; the men and women half-dead from poverty, bad choices, disease, domestic violence and abuse, loneliness – as Jesus summarizes “the list” in Matthew, the poor, hungry, homeless, stranger, lonely, sick, prisoners… Love these half-dead neighbors, and you will live!
- Jesus then shows us how to love these neighbors, though six “C’s”. The First “C” is Cross the Road! Like the lawyer, many of us could have repeated the two “love commands.” Yet, like the Priest and the Levite, so often we do not cross the road. These are the road blocks that I hear: I’m too busy; it’s not a priority; I don’t want to be with people like that; they don’t deserve my help; I’m only one person…. Jesus allows for no excuses. The Samaritan had other obligations; he was on his way to Jericho. Yet he made the time and crossed over.
- But I believe that there is an even greater barrier – the church, this church. Too often we are like the student (hear his story on our website) who turned in a report for his final exam, and got an F. It was the wrong assignment. We focus on worshipping, fellowshipping, and learning (which are good), but forget this assignment – to cross over to our neighbors.
- A number of you are crossing over to half-dead neighbors outside the church. But this church is mainly “talking the talk.” We take tentative steps, a few nights a year; a few mentors in a school. Yet, by and large, we do not cross over to our neighbors. And the responsibility lies primarily on me (as your Pastor) and our Session. You have wonderful loving hearts, but we have not given you a path to cross over to love our neighbors. That is going to change. We are going to lay out a path in the next few months, and I hope that all of us will cross over. If we do, Jesus says, we will live!
- When we cross over, our 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th “C’s” give new life to us and to our neighbors: Come together; to Care; Carrying Fruit; Coming back! The Samaritan did not love his neighbor from a distance. He gave him what he needed to stay alive, but even more. He stayed with the half-dead man, developing a relationship; committing to coming back; and giving him what moves from saving his life, to changing his life – carrying the Fruits of God’s Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity…!
- Many of our Ministries just give what it takes to stay alive (eg., Room in the Inn), which is needed, but what more is needed is what changes lives. This is the model of our Love INC Ministry, developing a relationship with Connie, giving her love, being her friend (Connie’s words), encouraging her, bringing her here. Our Love INC Team has done much to change Connie’s life – and, at the same time (in the words of one of the Team): “I cannot describe what a difference our relationship with Connie has made in my life and the life of our family!”
- And what motivates us to come together, care, come back, carrying Fruit, is the 6th “C”: Change is possible! I illustrated this promise by the photograph of Death Valley – totally barren, until it rains. Then it is filled with beauty. Every life, no matter how dead it appears, has a beautiful life within, just waiting for someone to pour in the love that it needs to blossom!
- This is the story of Roy Yamamoto. His story is too long to repeat here (hear it on our website). The “bottom line” is that Roy was half-dead (or worse), a chronic criminal – Until a member of a church kept coming back to him and giving him love. Roy’s half-dead life blossomed like Death Valley – leading today to a prison ministry in every prison in Hawaii, Texas, and Nevada, and a ministry to children of incarcerated men and women that reaches thousands – many of whom have now accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior – All because one man crossed the road….
- Change is possible for our neighbor, and for you and me and our church. The lawyer focused on “Who is my neighbor;” but Jesus flipped the question, asking “What kind of neighbor are you” – one who passes by and passes up the chance at the Abundant Life; or one who crosses over, carrying Fruit, and being filled with Fruit as you do.12. Jesus is about to lay out a path for us to cross over. I pray that we will walk that path and receive Jesus’ promise: “Do this – and you will live!”
Connection of the Week: Ask Jesus to lead you to a neighbor in our community who is “half-dead;” cross over to them; bring them the fruits of love, joy, peace, and more; keep coming back no matter what; and give and receive the Abundant Life as you do.