Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sunday Sermon Notes - 04.26.09

Be The Anchor!

Be The Neighbor!

Be the One Who Goes & Does Mercy!

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Luke 10v36-37

The story of the good Samaritan is pretty famous. A lot of people know the gist of the story: a man gets beat up and left for dead alongside the road. A priest comes down the road, sees the half-dead man and walks by on the other side. A temple-worker comes down, same deal. And then a Samaritan comes down the road, sees the guy, bandages the guy up, takes him to a hotel and pays for room and board. Everybody knows that the Samaritans and Jews hated each other for racial and religious reasons. So it was a pretty shocking and disturbing story that Jesus told.

So what's the application? Stop and help people along the road? Be a do-gooder? Name rescue helicopter's after the Samaritan? Is the story about emergency situations? Is it about one time disaster relief? Probably not...

If you read Luke's version of the story carefully, you'll note that the expert in the law asks a very interesting question to get the whole story going: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Or: what must I do to go to heaven when I die? That's the simple translation into our vernacular. Jesus returns the question with a question. The law-expert answers Jesus by citing the Shema and the Neighbor Law. Jesus announces that the man answered correctly: "Do this and you will live."

Jesus just explained how to go to heaven when we die: Love God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself. Essentially Jesus is saying, if you love God and your neighbor in this life, you'll love life in the age to come. If you don't love God and your neighbor in this life, you'll not want to inherit eternal life. You don't want to go to heaven when you die if you don't love God or your neighbor in this life, since the point of being in heaven is being with God and your neighbors. If you don't love God now, during this brief life, how is it you'll want to love God for eternity?

The expert in the law discerns that Jesus has just made it harder to get into heaven, so he asks a follow up question: who is my neighbor?He's hoping that Jesus will narrow down the list, thus making it easier to gain assurance that heaven will be home after death. But here's the flip side of the question: the expert wants to know who he DOESN'T have to love and still get into heaven. Jesus, being the brilliant guy that he is, sees what is going on and gives the story of the good Samaritan as the answer to the question: who is my neighbor?

But then Jesus does this really interesting twist: instead of the neighbor being the recipient of love (as stated in Leviticus 19v18), the neighbor is the one who does the loving. Jesus rephrases the command like this: Be the neighbor who loves. After telling the Samaritan story, Jesus asks the lawyer who was the neighbor to the beat up guy. According to the Leviticus verse, Jesus should have asked: who was the one who loved the beat up neighbor.

Here's the thing: God is merciful to the wicked and the kind, we are to be merciful just as our Father is merciful. God has become our neighbor, through Jesus he has moved into our neighborhood. Just as Jesus is the neighbor who loves, so we are to be the neighbor who loves. When we see a need, when we see a need for mercy, when we see an opportunity to do mercy, we are to do it. We are to be the neighbor. We are to be creative, intelligent, enduring in our work to be merciful just like our Father is us. Obviously we'll need God's Spirit to help us figure out how to do this in the moment to moment stuff of life...but that's kind of the point.

If you want to be an anchor for your family and friends: be the neighbor who does mercy. Everytime. Everywhere. At home. At work. At school. At church. If you want to go to heaven when you die, be merciful. Don't make excuses, just do it. Don't let your exhaustion, your busyness, your distractions, your prejudices, your anxieties keep you out of heaven, don't let them stop you from doing mercy when you see a need for it. In those moments when you want to pass by on the other side for "legitimate" reasons, trust God's Spirit to help you figure out what He wants you to do in that moment. Trust him to know you, your situation, your capabilities, and that he will help you know what to do.

This week: Be The Anchor - Be the Neighbor who goes and does Mercy!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Is something newsworthy because FOX or CNN or some other major network spends a lot of time talking about it?

Is the flu dangerous because one person dies from it? Should we panic? Is it necessary for the president to address the nation and remind us to wash our hands and cover our mouth when we cough. Really? Or is this just another opportunity to look important, act indispensable, spend money (or make money)?

Is it time to explore other sources of news? I believe so...if I want to get past "spin" and get closer to the truth.

Any suggestions for news sources besides major networks and major magazines?

That Levi...

Tonight Tara prepared dinner. Surprising, I know. Once in a while I let her make dinner. When she does it, she does a good job.

So tonight she was preparing her special chicken florentine meal. Levi was sitting on the bar stool, watching her prepare some of the food. He started sniffing the air and inquired: "Do I smell crescent rolls?" And then he asked: "Are those crescent rolls coming my way?!"

Tara and I looked at each other...where does he come up with these phrases?

Specter & Filibuster

The fear seems to be that with sixty votes the Democrats will be unstoppable when it comes to passing Obama's policies. This assumes, of course, that the Democrats will stay united around Obama. It's easy to fear this, but I wonder how monolithic the Democrats are in their thinking.

Specter can spin his move any way he wants, but it still comes across as desperate and selfish. Rather than continue to be a leader for moderate Republicans in what he thinks is an ever-increasing conservative party, he gave up. How is that admirable?

The GOP will definitely shrivel if they turn away from socially conservative platforms. But here's why holding onto socially conservative platforms is hurting the GOP: any scandal by any GOP member comes across as grossly hypocritical. Socially conservative platforms come across as merely political tools rather than right principles. When Republicans are exposed for committing acts that go against the platform they represent, it weakens the voter's resolve to support the party. The Republican party has talked tough about cutting spending and lowering taxes, but they don't actually do it - not enough to undo what they spend. And the Republicans are always trying to put down the Democrats, or waiting around till there is a scandal to manipulate. I know, I know, that's politics. But if the Republicans are inept, leaderless, unvisionary, and self-absorbed, why vote for them?

One last observation: according to Republicans and social conservatives - if you don't vote for them and support their policies, it could be the end of America, the end of our economy, the end of marriage, the end of our freedoms. It's all doomsday kind of scenarios if they aren't elected/reelected. But with the Democrats it's not about the end of the world, it's about injustice and oppression, about hope and change. People are tired of doomsday prophecies. Too much emphasis is placed on policies, on platforms, on political power. America is not great because of the Democratic or Republican party. As a whole, they are an embarrassment. There are a few exceptions. Also, FDR and Lincoln were not great because of their political affiliations, but because of their ability to get our country through terrible trials. I could care less about the Democratic or Republican party, or any other political party. What I do care is about certain political, economic, and social principles. To the degree that someone represents those ideals, they will have my vote.

What will get America through the next couple of decades is not our political parties. It will be through people becoming very innovative at making money despite the government. People who start/run businesses and non-profits despite the efforts of the government. People who start/run churches and community initiatives apart from government help. America may not be "great" in two decades, we may be completely beholden to China and India due to our debts, but that doesn't mean that it's the end of the world. It just means that America needs to start over again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday Sermon Notes - 04.19.09

Be The Anchor!

Our church community takes its name from an obscure verse in the letter to the Hebrews (6v19) - We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It's a great verse with great implications!

On a basic level, an anchor keeps you firm and secure in harbor - whether you're home or at your point of destination, an anchor will keep you where you need to be. An anchor also keeps you from drifting - whether you're resisting the wind and water currents or getting some rest before resuming travel - an anchor can keep you from getting off course when you're taking a break. Lastly, an anchor provides counterbalance for when you're working on the ship. So whether at home, at rest, or at work, an anchor provides a level of stability necessary to finish the journey.

Drawing on those ideas of an anchor, the author of the letter to Hebrews makes a simple analogy: not only is hope like an anchor for the soul...Jesus is the hope of our soul. Jesus is to be our anchor.

But Jesus also sends us out to be anchors to others. He seeks to inspire us and challenge us to be the anchor. In Luke 9v1-6 Jesus ends out twelve of his disciples to do the work he had been doing: healing, teaching, forgiving, restoring, welcoming, inspiring, challenging. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out seventy-two of his disciples to do the same work. And in Luke 24 Jesus sends all of his disciples out. The disciple/students become apostle/sent-ones. Jesus becomes there anchor, only to help them become an anchor - in his name.

We - as followers of Jesus, are expected to be sent-ones. If Jesus is our anchor, he is expecting us to be the anchor to someone else. We might feel like we are under-qualified (we are), we are not perfect enough (we aren't), that we don't have enough time (poor excuse) or that we don't know what to do (not good enough...). Jesus is the one that makes it possible to be an anchor to others. Only when we have experiences to draw on - of Jesus being our anchor - can we be prepared to be an anchor to others.

Here's the thing: God works by his Spirit through people. For the people in your life who need Jesus, odds are you are the one who needs to be Jesus to them. They need you to be the anchor. You might feel like you want to pass on that task - but this is the only task. To be a Christian is to be accused of being a "little Christ" - would anyone accuse you of that? Who can accuse you of helping others find healing and restoration, of being led to forgiveness and peace, of finding hope and faith and love?

God has called you to follow Jesus so that he can make you an anchor. This week - wherever you go, whomever you are with - ask God to help you be the anchor.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Winter Fun

Here's some pics of some winter fun: Dad becoming a US citizen, and the kids having fun in the snow.

It was a beautifu snowy Friday January 9th when Dad became a citizen of the United States of America. I thought it fitting that the Ontario-man should have a thick snowfall on his special day. Tara took some neat photo's of the American flag fluttering amongst the flakes.

There were probably about fifty people who became US citizens on that day. All the candidates had to sit in a special section. Dad had to sit with a group on the far right hand side of the courtroom, while others sat in chairs in front of the judge. The judge took time to read stuff about what makes America special, she let other people talk about stuff that makes America special, and then she had them stand and affirm sole allegiance to the USA.

The judge with a scout troop flanking her - they brought in the flag and guarded it during the duration of the ceremony. One boy had to be taken out - guess he wasn't used to standing still for so long. I think another one had to leave too... maybe he wasn't used to having over a hundred people stare at him.

Dad received some papers and a little momento for the day. Nice touch.

We took the kids with us so that they could be part of the special day. Levi and Eli did a good job of sitting on my lap. They each brought a toy with them, but Eli had a hard time playing quietly. He likes to make sound effects. Silly boy!

With all the snow we got in January, we had to get out there a few times and have some fun with the sleds and general frolicking. Good times.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day

Maybe someday soon April 15th will become a national holiday - a day to protest, a day to rally against the IRS and the White House and Congress and wasteful government spending.

Not that anybody from the Treasury Department is asking, but here are some suggestions in regard to taxes:
First - eliminate annoying taxes. Like the Estate/Inheritance/Death/Birth taxes.
Second - focus more on sales taxes. This would seem more fair - you buy lots of stuff, you pay more taxes; you don't buy lots of stuff, you don't pay as many taxes. If you don't like paying taxes, don't buy stupid stuff.
Third - reduce the amount of the income tax. This is a really annoying tax.
Fourth - tell Congress to quit spending money in such a way that will cause a rise in taxes.

And I'm sure there are plenty of people who will point out how these suggestions will harm the economy. Because right now our tax system is not harming the economy...

Monday, April 13, 2009

It Was A Fun Easter!

It's become a family tradition for us to celebrate Easter with my folks and family on Good Friday and then with Tara's mom and family on Sunday. This makes for a nice relaxing Sunday - we show up to someone else's house to eat food someone else prepared and then slouch on the couch while someone else cleans up...what's not to love? It's been an exhausting last couple of weeks - and on Easter Sunday afternoon I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. I felt bad about not engaging in more conversation...but I was so tired. In between naps we helped the kids with their Easter Egg hunt - they had a good time finding them, opening them, and then chowing down on the candy. We ended up staying at Grandma Karen's till after 7pm - we had to stay and watch to see who won the Master's tournament! Tara and I don't normally sit around and watch golf tournaments - but with lounging around for most of the afternoon and lazily watching the tournament develop...well the game got kind of exciting. It was a fun finish!

Good Friday is an interesting day to celebrate least I think so. Last year and this year I pulled together some elements from the Passover meal to include in our Easter dinner. Both times I've made a dish called hametz - made of chopped apples and walnuts, raisins and cinnamon, and a dash of sparkling grape juice. The dish is used in the Seder meal to remember the mortar the Hebrew slaves were force to make and use in their work to build storage cities for the Pharoahs. And of course we eat it with matza bread.

So this year I decided to include a new dish: marrar - which is made of horseradish and chopped up beets. This obviously bitter dish is eaten in the Seder meal to remember the bitter tears shed during the long oppression the Hebrew slaves endured under the harsh and unjust rule of the Egyptians.

The kids wanted nothing to do with my two specialty dishes. Other adults in our group were tentative about my creation. A few were daring and willing to try it with no hesitation. The hametz dish was delightful - most everybody had seconds of that dish. Except the kids...they at least tried the apple dish. But the marrar...that was a different issue: I warned everyone to just take a little bit and to put it on the matza. I repeated my warning. Apparently my mother missed the memo. She took a huge bite! Ack! This was some bitter, powerful, potent, burning marrar! Several of us tried to shout "ouch" with a pain-induced tongue! We all had a good laugh as Mum downed her sparkling white grape juice in an attempt to assuage the suffering.

I had no idea how powerful the horseradish would be. I had bought it earlier in the day at Scott's - it was the only brand available. Apparently the horseradish is less potent when eaten on roast beef then with thin matza bread. At least that was my experience - some of us were brave enough to try the marrar on our meat...much better!

Later in the evening we had fun eating the bunny cake that Tara made with the kids. Tara's become quite the cake-lady! While the kids ate the cake Dad, Mum, Jerm and I played Wii bowling! My Dad and Mum have become quite the Wii bowlers! They were kind enough to let me win, but they played an impressive game. I'm hoping that Wii games become a traditional part of all our family gatherings!