The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Not even the enemy of HIS enemies!

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Third Sunday of Easter • April 26, 2009

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Spring 09 home 014I’ve been thinking a lot about why we come here.

We need a sense of that – a sense of what we’re here for. Just making a church bigger – that doesn’t do it for me. We’ve been down that road. It isn’t enough to satisfy my hunger.

Why do I come here?

I think I want one thing more than anything else: I want to bring love into my world. I want to bring it to my family. I want to bring it to you. I want to bring it to people on the street. I want to bring it to political decisions. I want to bring it to unloved people. I want to bring it to people on the internet. I want to bring it to the nations of the world.

I want love to change this world. I want it to smother tragedy. I want it to expose selfishness. I want it to change the way my family lives, my workplace operates, my government thinks.

What I want to do here is to re-capture that source of love – and share it in such a way that you do, too – so that love will make everything you touch as you walk through your week just a little different than it was before.

But my world doesn’t get that. It thinks love is a wimpy thing, not the way of heroes. So all week long I talk and visit and write to people who are convinced the Kingdom of God is not enough, and it cannot bring what the world needs. And sometimes their arguments wear me down.

And that’s why I come here. It’s because we’re doing something together. We’re believers that the love of God is stronger than anything that’s wrong in the world. We’re determined to bring it to the places we live and work and vote and write. You’re doing something.

I think we come here to re-focus, to re-empower ourselves to bring the Kingdom of God – which is the way of love – into our world. To set aside the fact that all week long people tell us it’ll never work, and you’ve got to get serious and do things other ways, or that’s fine for personal decisions but you can’t expect Jesus’s ways to work at work or in really difficult situations or among nations.

And we’re here to look again and remind ourselves, “Oh yes you can!”

1 John 3:1-7 (The Message)

1 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.

But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.  2-3But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God.

And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him.

All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.

4-6All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program.

No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.

7-So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A 6th century mosaic of :en:Jesus at Church Sa...
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That’s why we’re here: To remind ourselves of the Model for human life – Jesus Christ of Nazareth, so that we can become like him as we go back out to home and to work. We’re doing something, and it’s hard, and we need to look at Jesus when we get together.

And sometimes out there – sometimes – something happens. Spiritual sparks are struck, and one of those grace moments take place, and you knew you were where you were by divine appointment.

Happened that way to Peter and John.

Peter and John are on the way to the temple, they see a beggar whose been unable to use his legs all his life, they tell him to rise in Jesus name, and he does – he’s well. A crowd gathers, they gawk at Peter and John, and Peter speaks:

Acts 3:12-19 NIV

12When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

17″Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ[a] would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Turning to God apparently brings refreshing – to them, to me, to you.

And look at the end of his words, v25:

“Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.” When God raised up his son, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Peter and John are like us – they’re doing something, too – something way big and totally impossible.

And then, earlier, there was the time back at resurrection day, in the evening, in the upper room. Remember the women who’d gone to the tomb, and were so afraid? They’d wanted to do something good, but the way things work was just too much for them. They needed refreshing.

And later that night, Jesus appears to the disciples – and look at their reaction:

Luke 24:36-48

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36bJesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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And that’s what you’re doing. At home – loving. At work – loving. As you talk about international situations – see them through love, and encourage others to. They’ll think you’re crazy – even Christian people will – but we can come back and get a fresh look at Jesus and remember that he is the one who defeated even death.

From Daniel Clendennin at Journey With Jesus:

I pray to move to the place described by the Yale theologian Miroslav Volf in his book Exclusion and Embrace: “The theme of divine self-donation for the enemies and their reception into the eternal communion of God. . . . As God does not abandon the godless to their evil but gives the divine self for them in order to receive them into divine communion through atonement, so also should we — whoever our enemies and whoever we may be.” Thus the embrace beyond exclusion — “the will to give ourselves to others and to ‘welcome’ them, to readjust our identities to make space for them, is prior to any judgment about others, except that of identifying them in their humanity.” […]

Consider the words of the German pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984), who protested Hitler’s anti-semitic measures in person to the fuehrer, was eventually arrested, then imprisoned at Sachsenhausen and Dachau (1937–1945). He once confessed, “It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of His enemies.”

[From NIV pew Bibles:]

Psalm 4

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

1 Answer me when I call to you,

O my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame [a] ?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods [b] ?


3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;

the LORD will hear when I call to him.

4 In your anger do not sin;

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent.


5 Offer right sacrifices

and trust in the LORD.

6 Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”

Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

7 You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.

8 I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O LORD,

make me dwell in safety.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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  6. YES!


    May 8, 2009 at 3:48 pm

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