Where to look for the good stuff…

John 1:43-51;  CTW: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18


SERMON NOTES:  Where to look for the good stuff…

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Think for a minute about “GOOD” and “BAD.”

Make a mental list, or even write one down now – two columns of opposites labeled Good and Bad. What do you put in each column?

Now think about where Jesus went. Born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth of Galilee, chose fishermen, tax collectors, religious revolutionaries, as his friends, companions and disciples. Welcomed “prostitutes and sinners”, lepers and cripples. Because of the company he kept he was called a drunk and a glutton.

Think about what he taught: “Blessed are the poor, grieving, meek, seekers of righteousness, merciful, humble, persecuted, peacemakers…”

Matthew 5: 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6: 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

It’s interesting to contrast the two passages –

In Matthew Jesus is speaking in the third person – “Blessed are the…”

In Luke he is speaking to them in the second person – “Blessed are you…”

In Matthew he is identifying emotional and spiritual states: humble, meek, merciful

In Luke Jesus lists physical situations: poverty, hunger, grief

Let’s think back to how God had functioned in Israel’s history before Jesus…

  • God called Abram and Sarai, an older couple unable to have children – and thus scorned by their community.
  • God worked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Joseph, all of whom were sneaky and deceitful, at times arrogant, and lacking in courage – yet they were trusted to God.
  • God chose Moses, who had been beaten down from his position as prince through 40 years of shepherding, till he lacked any self-confidence.
  • God chose David – the youngest and frailest of Jesse’s sons – to be king of Israel.
  • David’s great grandmother was Ruth – a widowed foreigner.
  • David’s wife was Bathsheba, whom David stole by killing her husband.

Throughout Israel’s history God often chose those who were less desirable and worked the divine plan of salvation blessings through them.

Paul summarizes God’s work in this way…

1 Corinthians 1: 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

And we are to follow God’s wisdom, not earthly wisdom. Earthly wisdom looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart, looks inward, looks at the potential hidden inside.

Jesus tells us quite clearly how and where to encounter him –

Mark 9: 33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Matthew 25: (31-46) 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

There are at least three messages for us to take from this:

1)     If we want to know where God is at work, and what God might want to do, we should look not to the powerful, but to the weak, not to the wise, but to the simple, not to the rich, but to the poor, not to the healthy, but to the sick

2)     If we want to know Jesus, we must place ourselves in relationship with these same people, for Jesus has said repeatedly not that he is among them, but that they are him.

3)     If we want to be like Jesus, we must become like them.

This is difficult for us, because our culture and its wisdom tells us to look to those who are successful, yet God consistently chooses those who were failures in societies eyes.

We begin hosting Family Promise again this evening.

There are many good reasons for doing this.

  • Jesus tells us to care for the poor because God cares for the poor.
  • Jesus teaches us to have compassion, because God has compassion
  • Jesus teaches us to show love, because God is love.
  • Jesus leads us to life through his cross – the crucified one is the victor.

I think the most important reason is not because of what we can learn, or even because of obedience, though these are both vital.

Rather, the most important reason is because in them we meet God.

What needs to change for us to view our life this way – that in the broken, frail and rejected of society is  where we meet the God of life?

Who do we need to be? How do we need to change?

Think about some simple prayer language. Now, I don’t suggest you go around saying this to other people, because you’ll really scare some of them.

  • When you see, talk to, or touch a child, say in your heart, “God, I greet you. Teach me.”
  • When you meet someone who is poor and struggling, say in your heart, “God, I greet you. Meet my need.”
  • When you meet someone who is sick, crippled or dying, say in your heart, “God I greet you. Heal me.”

Each time you greet someone who appears to have nothing to offer you but rather needs things from you, realize that this is the very person who has the very thing that you need. And only after you have received from them God’s blessing can you be in a position where you have anything to offer them.

For me, the very thought is both terrifying and life giving.

How will we live differently as a result? As we do this, let us share our experiences with one another to learn from and encourage one another.

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