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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why Incarnation Matters

  In the irreverent comedy, Talladega Nights, race car driver Ricky Bobby prefers to pray to little Baby Jesus at grace before the family meal. Whatever the intent of the movie writer, it serves as a fair critique of a spirituality overly focused on feelings and sentimentality. The appeal of the newborn is a natural impulse. However, there is more at stake here than a baby.

Christmas (Christ's Mass) celebrates the birth of baby Jesus--it is the feast of the Nativity. Our hymns and carols convey the power and beauty of the "silent night, holy night" and we reflect on the singing angels and the little manger. Yet one of the most poignant questions remains to be answered: "What child is this?"

The feast of the Incarnation, a deeper theological concept, answer the question.

This baby, totally helpless and dependent, is the Word made flesh, the eternal Son become human. It is Christ, the Anointed One, and Lord, the Divine One. It is a sublime miracle and an irritant to those who prefer their gods be more robust and amazing.

In the West we have long focused more on action than ontology. The church of Rome was influenced by the Empire. It is concerned with law and order. It is focused on justice and is pragmatic and action driven. Whether Catholic or Protestant, we share this common heritage, giving different answers while asking the same questions. We focus on the cross of Jesus. The church in the East is different. It asks different question and  looks to the saving power of the birth of the Messiah. John 1 is a fertile Scripture to ponder in that regard.

The challenge of the cross is that the focus is on Justice and Punishment; it is hard for many people to see love and mercy in this scenario. The Nativity celebrates the birth of the Lamb, the one chosen as a sin sacrifice and perfect offering. The Scriptures are clear and we correct in understanding Jesus in this way. Our eucharistic prayers repeat this in myriad ways. A sinful people, unable to make restitution, offer up God's Son, Jesus, the Lamb without blemish. He is our High Priest and the offering: He is our redemption!

But many people, even those who believe, still recoil at the idea. Even if they believe it, they are troubled by the thought;. "Why would God kill Jesus for what we have done? How is it forgiveness requires that someone must die? Why the blood lust, the hunger for a death?" Justice is served, but the Justice served is a scandal to our minds and hearts... It seems more like a Viking religion than the Christian ethic we are used to reciting. Seeing the baby Jesus perhaps we are moved to tears, feeling sorry for Him and His mother. Should any mother have to see her son die in such a way?

But the East provides us an additional insight, an angle to reframe the whole issue. It goes back to the saving power of the incarnation. It opens our minds up to the fuller story of salvation. Yes, the cross. Yes the passion and death, but do not forget the rest. Remember it is also salvation through resurrection, and Ascension, and enthronement, and through the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, and final salvation through the final restoration of all things in the End of Days. Yet, all of these are not all, there is also incarnation.

Incarnation: God the Word became flesh. God stoops to take into Himself the created reality which issued forth by His word. God made it and gave it freedom. He formed men and women and breathed into them life (breath/wind/spirit in Hebrew). He made us, each and everyone, an image and likeness of His being. The Eternal Word is the model of humanity. From before time and forever Jesus served as the model of what humanity is and should be. The incarnation is the source of our existence. "In Him we came to be and apart from Him nothing came to be which came to be." We swim in deep waters here, contemplating creation from before time's beginning. Yet if we do not then the cross will be misunderstood.

Creation is God's self emptying.
Relationship with creation is God's self emptying.
The incarnation is God's self emptying in.
Our nature, fallen and tarnished, forever alienated from our Maker by our choices (corporate and individual) is without hope. We cannot purify it because we ourselves have polluted it. We are the infection, the virus which brings death.[more on this in a further reflection on Alzheimers later in the week]

In incarnation God enters into our condition so that we can enter into His. He bridges the unbridgeable gap by emptying Himself. We are saved by the incarnation of Jesus: the Word made flesh.

Now it is God among us, God the lover and friend of humanity, God emptied of power, revealing a deeper Justice, a Justice of hesed (covenant mercy, love & kindness). In the flesh of that baby is, mysteriously, the presence of the Eternal Source. In that moment all that was lost can now be found. Yes the cross is the center, but the incarnation is the groundwork. The foundation is laid. The life and mission and ministry of Jesus: preaching, teaching, healing and exorcising. Eating with and forgiving sinners, reconciling the outcast with the Holy God. Each breath He takes sanctifies breathing. Each step sanctifies walking. Each tear sanctifies crying. In Jesus we are brought into the heart of God, because God came to us.

And now the cross is self emptying God completing the process of salvation. Entering fully into the human condition, including the sins and injustice and cruelty and horror of life. God leaves nothing outside His love and care. And now the Justice of the Cross is also mercy. And we see that this baby's birth is salvation. Here and now. And forever. Because it is God who makes the self sacrifice, not humans, but because God has become human, 'this man, Jesus' born in obscurity (though angels sing it) the cross is no longer an imposition on another, but God's own act.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

Today at Kroger I saw a car in the parking lot with a bumper sticker which said, "My dog is the center of my world." And I found myself hoping that person was dyslexic.
Yet it is also true that in a sense, the story we tell tonight offers a center not far removed from a dog. Jesus, the infant son of two throw away poor Jews at the edge of the Empire, laid out in a food trough is arguably not much better situated then many dogs. Yet that is our story and our proclamation. This baby is God's sign of redemption!

Each Christmas there is the hope that one will be able to create and deliver the most amazing Christmas sermon ever--something so new and innovative and creative and insightful that all the visitors will be drawn to repent and turn to Jesus. A sermon so full of beauty, love and truth that it will heal the sick and broken hearted, mend wounded relationships and restore friends and family into holy fellowship.

Perhaps some of the visitors this Christmas Eve hope for the same? They keep their fingers cross that this preacher is going to say something that they have never heard before which will knock their socks off and turn their lives forever on the right course. Is there something NEW to say about Christmas???

The problem with innovation is that the new and improved has a short time to enjoy being new and improved. The hunger for something newer and more improved never relents. The 'itchy ears' of those who want to be entertained and surprised can never be scratched to the hearers satisfaction.

What we have tonight is a simple story. It is a story which makes little sense to those who expect big and impressive things from God. Messengers, we read came to shepherds with a proclamation of earth changing proportions.

Today in David's city the anointed one has come--the one who will set His people free and save them. And what sign will there be to trust such a claim? Why, you will see a baby, of course, with his mom and dad. A baby....

One of the hot topics in Christian debates centers around sacraments. Some refer to the sacraments as "only a sign" and mean by that a precious reminder. Nothing real here, they say, except the warm feelings or mental image which points us to Jesus.

But today, be clear, the sign is literal and real. That baby is Messiah. The messengers make clear, you can believe what we say is true because you will see the child.

Nothing new or innovative and it seems to leave my socks in place, right there on my feet.

But perhaps we are able to think on it a bit and realize, anew, the amazing depth of this otherwise unimpressive scene. The shepherds are a delightful pun, a sort of verbal game which is, perhaps, a little divine sarcasm.

Shepherds are, after all, the Biblical word for kings and leaders. God is also called a shepherd. The shepherds are to care for and guide God's people, they are to be a sign of God among us ruling. The poor night watchman in our Gospel are not symbols. they are poor underclass men working a thankless job. Yet they are privy to the message of the birth. Their presence works at several levels. They are a reminder of God's care for the poor and His promise to deliver them. They are a sign of condemnation on ruling elites which fail to recognize God and His Messiah. And they are a type of us, you and I, who have come to see this baby ourselves. Each carrying our own hopes and dreams, wounds and fears, needs and desires.

So we stand, yet again, and look at the manger and ask, "Can this baby be the new born King who will save His people?" And our answer will be not so much our words as the lives we live. Lives entrusted to His care, in a loving, obedient faith. The sign, a small baby, seems  too ordinary. Yet, it is what we have. And there is a depth here which, like the mother Mary, we are to ponder...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Is Anyone Righteous?

 Today I preached on Matthew 1:18-25, the 'Genesis' (begetting) of Jesus. The statement that Joseph was a righteous man jumps off the text. Is anyone righteous?
Now Romans 3 plays heavy in our theology, Paul’s declaration that both Jew and Greek are under the power of sin. He proceeds to quote from Psalm 14 There is no one who is righteous, not even one. Ironically, Psalm 14 differentiates between “the fools who do not believe in God and eat up my people” and the children of Israel who are called “the company of the righteous.” The Bible does not speak in one, simple voice on the issue.
Theologies are developed from isolated verses or half verses, often times to prove our points. This is called “a proof text.” And while there is no question that all have sinned and no one can stand before God on his/her own, it is equally true that the Jewish Bible does make note of “the righteous.”

Following this theme, Matthew quotes Jesus repeatedly employing the term “righteous” to refer both to individuals and corporately. It is this fact which raises issues in my mind about righteousness.
5:45 Jesus tells us God lets His rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. If no one is righteous why would Jesus say such a thing?
In 9:13 Jesus says that He has not come to call sinners but the righteous to repentance.
In 10:41 Jesus tells us whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.
In 13:17 Jesus tells the apostles that they are blessed because many prophets and righteous ones longed to see the days of the Messiah.
In 13:43 Jesus promises that at the end of time the righteous will shine forth as the sun. And 13:49 at the last judgment the angels will separate the righteous and unrighteous into separate groups (like sheep and goats).
In 23:29 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and scribes for having the outward appearance of righteousness but within they are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 23:35 He then holds them accountable for the blood of all the righteous that has ever been shed.
Later in 25:37 with a parable where the righteous will ask, “When did we feed thee, give thee drink, visit thee Lord?” And the declaration 25:46 the righteous shall go into eternal life.
As the Gospel concludes both Pilate and His wife declare Jesus to be a righteous man.
“Righteous” in Matthew’s Gospel is not an attribute limited to Jesus. It refers regularly to any number of folks who serve God faithfully. Joseph is the first such one identified.
In an age which disparages “works righteousness” it is probably that Matthew is simply best ignored. Yet there is compelling reason to ponder this word.

Joseph’s dilemma, what to do with the obviously adulterous Mary, is possibly brought forth by Matthew as the first answer to the question, “what is righteousness?” A strict obedience to the letter of the Torah law would say Mary should be executed. In fact, divorce was a more popular option even in those days. But we cannot overstate the power of shame and humiliation. Mary's situation was a grave offense, a capital offense, and in a culture without shame (like America where we flaunt shameful things) it is hard to understand how serious a thing it is. Honor murders in the Middle East still occur, though rarely. Joseph recoiled at such a thing, though his honor was seriously impugned. Love and mercy ruled the day, even if it meant he was humiliated and his manhood mocked.
That is, to my mind, the key. Righteousness is a quality of God. You and I, who are member of God’s people are called to share in the life of God. If God’s Spirit lives in us, we are made righteous, if we live faithfully we are righteous. It is both divine gift and human choice. Both/and. Joseph chose to be holy, to belong to God. His desire to be obedient to God created tension for him, yet his choice, a mix of faithfulness and mercy, resonate with the Torah and Prophets. God demands both. The spirit of the law is still the law, it is just interpreted in the context of the total Biblical record. Some may be tempted to judge others harshly and hide behind the Word as an excuse for scapegoating some subset of sinners. This is behind Jesus' harsh words toward the righteous who would shut others out of the kingdom. On the other hand, in my Episcopal church there is a tendency to make mercy into tolerance. "It's all okay" is the mantra; "it is all about grace" and grace means everything goes. Joseph held the two in tension. He planned to divorce her (Law) but to do it quietly (mercy). This is the heart of righteousness: obedience to God (and when the angel commands him to keep Mary and name the baby Jesus that is exactly what he obediently does).
And being righteous meant his ego died. He chose to be shamed in public. He sacrificed himself to spare her. The attributes of God shape us, too. The cross of Jesus is at the heart of God’s righteousness, and it is at the heart of ours as well. TO love God is to embrace others in love. To love God is to be obedient. To be obedient is to be faithful, to be godly, to be righteous. And to be righteous hurts. And hurting is also to be like God, the God revealed in and through the self-sacrificing, crucified Savior Jesus.

We are made righteous by Jesus self-sacrifice, but vicarious righteousness is not the whole story. Jesus also tells us to carry our crosses. Jesus did not "do it all for us" because He left plenty for us to do. Jesus did all God does for us, but the God of covenant expects a response to grace.

Perhaps America would be a different place if Christians focused on their status as the righteous, if we were willing to pay the price for the sins of others. It we were more like Joseph, who embraced righteousness and fathered a savior who makes us righteous.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Duck Dynasty

I am not a fan of the show, though it has been on in my house from time to time when I was in the room. They are interesting characters but I have never embraced the "reality TV" concept, in large part because I do not think they are real. I know the editing shapes story lines and I assume, perhaps unfairly, that much of what we see is contrived and staged. That said, it seems to be harmless fun and it is certainly a popular show. And it has done wonders for the beard lovers among us.

If you read this obscure blog then I am certain that you are well aware of the recent controversy swelling around the show and A&E. The family patriarch was asked about homosexuality. He responded in a typically Evangelically Christian way. Offended advocates of GLBT roundly criticized this as hate speech. Offended conservative Christians responded that this was a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians and, therefore, not hate speech but Bible truth. The man accused of hate assured everyone that he does not hate anyone but was simply sharing his beliefs. The people who advocate on behalf of those who are hurt and saddened by those beliefs continued to demand 'justice.' A&E in a poorly thought out business move kick the man off the show, not factoring in that the family would back Daddy and not the show. Currently, it looks like A&E's number one show will be gone soon. I hear "duck A&E" tee shirts are selling out like crazy.

One article reports serious blow back on this.My guess is the Liberal crowd do not make up a huge viewership on the show. Camille Paglia (a liberal, lesbian professor and commentator) describes this a a fascist reaction from the Left. She disagrees (she is also an atheist) with what was said, but thinks those on 'her side" of the argument are ignoring the long held Liberal belief in speech and discussion and searching for truth.

I have said all I want to on the issue. It is my belief that people must find their own way. I think traditional Christian faith is totally clear on the issue, and both Bible and Natural Law are in congruence. That said, I know many wonderful people who find themselves in a situation where they are trying to do their best. Until all sin is wiped out, I will continue to not focus on this particular example of "falling short of the ideal."

However, I also know that there are efforts to make traditional Christian morality hate speech. There is a desire among some on the Left to deprive Christians a voice in society. There is some need to equate a traditional sexual morality with a lynch mob or torture. If adulterers decide to take up the same tack things could get ugly. And if fornicators become enraged, well, my goodness, that could end up being close to fifty percent of the adult population! But, of course, there are no special interest groups working hard to justify those things, and for a variety of reasons.

I do not look forward to the future for the orthodox faithful. It seems that there is a trajectory at work in society, Yet as I read Revelation tonight at Evening Prayer I am reminded that the same Bible which so offends many secularists has promised an increase in problems for the world. It also promises deliverance. I am trusting Jesus' word on that.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thus Spoke God

Wrestling with the Advent text this week has been interesting in light of the multiple funerals. [Yesterday as they played taps for my friend George the sky opened up and I was bathed in the brightest light, it was such a moment of grace.] I am looking at righteousness (on Sunday) and realize I need to preach about forty five minutes to an hour to cover the basics... IT WON'T HAPPEN! I will reign in those ponies, so much will be left unsaid. Even so, one of the key issues I am contemplating came up in today's first reading from Zechariah 7:8-8:8.

This preacher/prophet is best read with Ezra and Nehemiah, in the time of "Exodus II" (the return from exile). Today the collection of brief statements from God were rich in meaning and power.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, 
"Render true judgments
show kindness and mercy to one another
do not oppress the widow, the orphan, or the poor
and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another..."

I want to break those thoughts up so that each may be savored on its own. In the end, therein lies a fundamental communication from God. It occurs often and is based on a key concept, this is the nature of God and it is a call to each of us to find our own true (vs. fallen) nature.

God is righteous and His judgments are true. God is also kind and merciful (Hebrew hesed). Judgments that are true are often called blunt. I prefer blunt language (which is often criticized). I find God does as well. He calls us awful names at times, in part because we are awful and do awful things sometimes. Yet, even so, God loves us, and even we can love and care about others.

True judgments do not provide extra benefits for friends or 'the connected,' a challenge in every age. And kindness to the "real people" (those like us) comes easier than it does to those on the periphery. The most vulnerable folks are generally a prophet's focus in calling God's people to righteousness. It always brings me joy to distribute our parish's wealth to outreach. Yes, it is tempting to want more pay and 'nicer things' but that is a temptation easily addressed by words of God like these. There is no legacy greater than kindness and mercy to those who need it and can never repay.

But for Christians, programmed to debase "the Law," it is sometimes thought that such prophetic words are anti-Jewish, anti-Law. As we read on we are reminded that the opposite is the case.(7:7 They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law...) Verse 7 lays the Law and the spirit inspired prophets side by side as two sources of God's word. Torah, which is translated as law, means instruction. When I learned that it turned things around for me. It is God's instruction (Gentiles relationship to this instruction is a long blog for another day) to His people. It explains how to live, to worship and to be holy. Some of it is hard to grasp and its ancient setting is a fog for us. Others, like the social justice words, are as relevant as this mornings lecture on right behavior.

The bad news, from God, is "when I called, they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear." I often say our God is the Burger King God, "have it your way," He says. Choose the type relationship you would have, He says. Decide if we are a pair or separated, He says. Embrace Me, or not, grasp atheism, agnosticism, self-centeredness or materialism. Come up with your reasons and excuses and explanations for doing what you do, and not doing what you do not do. In the end, understand, said God through Zechariah, I will give you what you give Me. You will reap what you sow.

Yet, in mercy, He promises to gather a remnant: I shall save My people....they shall be My people and I shall be their God. Always mercy, always kindness. Always an effort to bridge the gap created by our injustice, our coldness of heart, our lack of thanks and praise, our failure to worship, our failure to share our bounty with the needy and poor. Always that love pouring out (and rejected) and pouring out, again and again into eternity. Such a good and faithful God. And now we are prepared to understand the mystery of Christmas...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas and mixed emotions

Today after Bible study class I will go to the Methodist Church where I will help with the funeral of a young man. His family have a connection to our parish and are sometimes attendees here as well. Their son, a thirty three year old, vibrantly healthy man, came down with a bad cold while on the road (he works for the railroad). the initial diagnosis was pleurisy but as he came home and felt worse and worse he went to the emergency room. I am told he walked in, but within hours he was in dire straights. Numerous theories were bandied about and in the end medical science and prayer did not prevail, at least it did not keep him alive here.

Much of my time was spent with family, especially his parents. We all know that children are "supposed to bury their parents" so there is something unnatural about the reverse. While I was sadly aware that the healing power of Jesus was not manifested, on my way to the hospital after receiving the call that he had passed, I sort of wrestled with the question what went wrong. However, upon encountering his parents I was immediately aware that healing was poured out upon them in a remarkable way. The mystery of life an death, love and loss all covered by the presence of the invisible God. I was deeply aware of His power at work among us.

Later that day I got another call. A former parishioner died in his home in Birmingham. The family has a funeral there today and I will do the graveside tomorrow afternoon. The son made it clear that he wanted me to go to my child's Christmas program, so they made their schedule to fit mine. A serious act of graciousness would you not agree? So tomorrow will be a time of celebration of life, a two year old special needs class singing its Christmas songs, and a family putting their father to rest. My guess is he will be singing with his wife and son at the Christmas program in the heavenly realm.

Friday marks the twentieth anniversary of my mom's heart attack. We had had our family Christmas with her the day before, but she felt poorly and left the presents in her trunk. As she walked through the parking lot that morning she fell to the ground. Two lawyers, dressed in their finery, walked past her as she lay there. (Sort of like the good samaritan story) An African American man, a humble workman, came to her assistance and called an ambulance. Mom was aggressively anti-racist and took delight in pointing out what had happened in the days ahead. She hovered at death's door, returned to us, and then spent the better part of three months bouncing between consciousness and semi-coma. Although she waited until March 20 to die, she is always, in mind mind, a Christmas death. I recall the feelings that Christmas might after spending the day with her at the hospital.

When we were kids my mom always made us sing "The Little Drummer Boy." She was convinced we were so good we could have been on Ed Sullivan. We all knew she was being a mom, but perhaps secretly we thought she might be right. This past Sunday, my son, who was born several years after she died, played his ukelele and sang that song. He had no idea what it meant to me, even when I told him. It was really touching. A pleasant connection with my ancient past and a present day reminder of how God weaves together different times, spaces, and peoples. It will be one of this Christmas' happier moments.

My dad's father also died at Christmas time, December 25, 1974. We were not close to him and had only seen him rarely as children. At the time he died it had been years since I saw him. I was a high school Senior busy with my life. I was sad for my dad, sadder that the death of my grandfather seemed to make little impact on me. It is how life goes!

Holidays are difficult times for many. Divorces make family gatherings a painful time of balancing schedules. Too many deaths and losses this time of year. Many people are lonely and alone. It is not all good cheer and jolly holly happy days. But the story is not about Santa, it is about a God who seeks to save lost people. People lost to sin, death, sadness and in need of life and reconciliation. It is a message we all need to hear. It is a message we all need to share. Jesus was born for us and our salvation. That is hope.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Would You Prefer a Different Messiah?

Paradise Lost is the title of a famous book, but it also describes the human condition. The human heart longs for community in a safe place where our work produces fruits.
We read about that longing in the story of Israel, a macro-version of the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve: a historical parable of Exile into slavery and a promise of Exodus and rebirth. In the end, all the stories in the Jewish Bible eventually point to the final fulfillment of God’s promise in the Messianic Age.
Isaiah’s harsh words of judgment in previous chapters find their completion in these more gentle words (Isaiah 35)  of promise of life. Seeing flowers grow in the desert, hearing about safe paths and security, our heart dares once again to ‘hope for better days.’ Tucked away in these verses are some images which shaped Jesus’ understanding of Himself. "What kind of King will I be?" the Messiah asked Himself. "What manner of Messiah?" Isaiah provided many chapters which served as Jesus' model.

We learned last week that John the Baptist expected the Messiah to appear. He described that Messiah as one who would wash clean God’s people with water and fire. Water—the destructive power which wiped out the world in the Noah story—and fire—the destructive power which many believe will complete the job in the future, final judgment. John the Baptist, dressed as Elijah, no doubt was familiar with Elijah’s story. He knew that Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume his enemies on two occasions. John the Baptist expected the Messiah to invoke the power of God to set his enemies straight, once and for all. He expected the strong arm of God.

As he languished in prison it seems John the Baptist had a sort of crisis of confidence. After the miracle at Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist was sure that Jesus was THE ONE. Now it appears he was having a crisis of faith. Locked up and under threat of death, the Baptizer sends his disciples to inquire: Are you the Sent One or do we wait for Another Kind of Messiah? [The Greek heteros means different in kind, as opposed to allos which means different though the same kind.] John the Baptist clearly did not know; and we do not know in the end if he accepted Jesus or not. [The real question is do I believe?]  Matthew does not say. What Matthew does tell us is that Jesus alluded to our Isaiah text, those words which shaped His self awareness and mission.
"The Blind see, the deaf hear, the mute talk, the lame leap. People are restored to health," all of it a sign and foretaste of God’s People being restored. “Someday” was here, the Kingdom was among us as the Messiah began His reign. Not, however, the type reign John the Baptist expected. Not the type reign the religious leaders of the Jews were ready to accept. Not a reign which Herod would renounce his crown for. Not the kind of reign which would induce Caesar and his legions to submit to.

It is a reign of good news for the poor. People who do not matter and are not counted. People who are alienated and at the periphery; people without vision who have no voice and are not free to walk in the corridors of the rich and powerful. Jesus has focused His ministry of mercy on those, and John the Baptist was confused.
Later on Jesus says that John the Baptist is a great man, the one who prepared the way for Messiah. Yet Jesus, perhaps surprisingly, negates John the Baptist’s greatness. The least in the Kingdom is greater than John. The least is greater, how can this be?

Jesus’ teaching explains: I am Messiah, but I come as your servant. The great ones in the church must be servants. The lowly will be raised up and the powerful will be toppled. The Messiah’s Kingdom is a world turned upside down. It is the weak, the fragile, the needy who rely on God who are saved. In the end Jesus will deliver His people not by slaying the wicked and powerful, but by submitting to them and dying.
God’s Kingdom—that is, the people who belong to God, the ones which He reigns over now, i.e., the church—is under attack. The powerful can and do overcome it. We are a martyr church not an armed military church. Our weapons are love, mercy and kindness. Showing compassion and reaching out to those in need, especially the poor ones, the outcasts and the losers.

Friday I visited the Neighborhood Christian Center on 785 Jackson. It is in eye view of the Pyramid. They minister to hundreds and hundreds of poor people in Memphis. They screamed and danced with delight when I handed them a check of $13,500. That money will do a lot of good. The same is true about Norman’s ministry, where we underwrote a meal and the distribution of socks and toiletries to hundreds of homeless and borderline homeless folks. These are people who have no power, no voice, and are crippled physically and emotionally and who literally are blind to a better life. In fact, they are sometimes trapped in the life because they have no hope.
In and through our support these ministries provide the Messiah’s touch.  I am not the type person who "sees" Jesus every where. I must say I was  emotionally moved after my visit, because I did see Jesus, in and through these ministries, active among people and saving them.

Perhaps we are impatient for the great day of deliverance when Jesus will appear and finally take care of it all Himself. I hope so. I hope we all care enough about “those” people that we are crying out “Come Lord Jesus, Hurry to save your people, all your people.” But as we wait impatiently for Jesus to come, I pray that we will live as people of faith. People who believe Jesus is the Messiah and believe not in the power of armies and destruction, but in self sacrifice, healing, and salvation. The good news is being preached to the poor, that is how Jesus wants it. Let’s continue to use our time, talent and treasure in the Messiah’s service, praying for Him to come soon. Thy Kingdom Come, O Lord, and if not today in all the world, then in us and through us now as we wait for tomorrow