Thanks to Alison Boyle for the photos.
Thanks to Sammi for sharing her gift of music!
Thanks to Nelson Weippert for leading us in worship!
WELCOME OUR DIFFERENCES FEB. 2-14
MATTHEW 5: 1-12
In Matthew 5, we find Jesus up on a hill teaching his disciples who qualifies to enter God’s kingdom here on earth. Jesus didn’t say you must be one of his followers or Jewish or Greek or gentile or Roman. Jesus says if you fall under one of the beatitudes you are welcome into God’s kingdom. Jesus was preparing the disciples for their job that lay ahead. Jesus knew their task wouldn’t be easy, there would be times they face failure; Times they would be frustrated and times they would face competition.
I remember the story in Mark, when the disciples saw a man using the all-powerful name of Jesus to defeat the demons and they tried to stop him, because he was not one of the intimate band of the disciples.
The disciples’ complaint is quite ironic: they are trying to prevent someone from doing what they, just a while before, had failed to do. The irony is not lost on Jesus. The disciples have become possessive and perhaps feel threatened by this outsider who heals in Jesus’ name. They want to restrict the activity of chasing out demons to their group alone.
The disciple’s small-mindedness prevented them from realizing that Jesus ministry and power is not the property of their “in crowd.” But Jesus declared that no one could do a mighty work in his name and be his enemy.
Then Jesus laid down the great principle that “whoever is not against us is for us!”(repeat) “Whoever is not against us is for us!”
What a blow for the disciples’ egos. They wanted Jesus to affirm them as his only representatives.
They wanted to know that they owned the trademark and that others were infringing on what was rightfully theirs. But instead
Jesus told them to let the man do what he would. Jesus was trying to expand their definition of what it means to follow Christ. He wanted them to accept people who didn’t express their faith the same way that they did.
There are times when we too have a hard time accepting other people of other denominations or cultures. We think that our way is the best, and therefore everyone who worships God must be exactly like us.
Here, Jesus is teaching a lesson in acceptance, and it is a lesson that everyone needs to learn.
RECOGNIZE THAT WE ALL HAVE A RIGHT TO OUR OWN THOUGHTS.
We all have a right to think things out and to think them through until we come to our own conclusions and our own beliefs. And that is a right we need to remember and respect. We must be careful for often we are apt to condemn what we do not understand.
Notice how intolerant we can become when someone does not think the way we think--- or their ways. Why we know we are right, why can’t they see it to? Maybe we haven’t taken the time to understand their culture, their religion or their ways of expressing their relationship with God.
---Many Christians are amazed to discover there is:
FAR MORE WAYS THAN ONE WAY TO GOD.
Fifty years ago a book on religious diversity in North America carried the title, “Protestant, Catholics and Jews.” Notice Muslins, Buddhists and Hindu were not included.
In fact where I grew up it was just Catholic and Protestants and I’m sure it was the same for most of you.
But now we are experiencing religious pluralism in our society more than any previous generation of Christians.
If a Ecumenical Spiritual Crusade was called today along with Christians and Jews, we would more than likely find Muslins, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs included.
In fact we now live in Multi-cultural societies not just in large cities but in small towns throughout North America.
Some statistics which you might find interesting, mind you these are in the
United States, but I think reflect what is happening in Canada as well.
6 Million Muslins --as many as both the Presbyterian & Episcopalians(Anglicans) combined.
4 million Buddhists --more than either Presbyterian
1 million Hindus --as many as United Church of Christ.
This multi-cultural religious diversity calls for a high degree of acceptance on everyone’s part!
---An old man named Calvin, now that’s a good Presbyterian name, had lived a good life as a farmer for years. One day an evangelist came to the community, and, in the course of his stay, visited Calvin and asked him what Religion he was. Calvin answered the question like this: “When my grain is ready for selling, after I’ve harvested it and loaded it on my wagon, I can take it to town by any of three roads, the river road, the dirt road, or the highway. But when I get my grain to town and go to the buyer to sell him what I have, he never looks at me and asks, “Calvin, which road did you take to get your grain to town?”
What he does do is ask me, “is my grain is any good.”
----- We must remember that
TRUTH IS ALWAYS BIGGER THAN ANY INDIVIDUAL’S GRASP OF IT.
No one can possibly grasp “all the truth” and we must simply to realize this. We can never know God totally and understand the “hows and whys” of God, to fully understand the extent of God’s Grace and bountiful love that is freely given to all.
But there will always be groups who claim to “speak for God.” Groups that have no doubt that they have the TRUTH.
Within Christianity we have “Groups like the Moral Right” led by Gerry Farewell, a Baptist pastor and “the Religious Right” led by Pat Robertson a pastor and TV personality. It was these groups that George Bush lined up with to win to election. These groups show complete intolerance to anyone having religious views different from theirs.
Or if you write a book that casts doubt on the teaching of Mohammad, as did novelist Solomon Rushni, causing the Islamic Leaders to place you under a death sentence.
Intolerance is a sign both of arrogance and ignorance, for it is a sign that people believe that there is no truth beyond the truth they see.
When we come up against intolerance, this is the time to put Jesus’ teachings of “love and compassion” to practice.
WE WILL BE JUDGED BY THE KINDS OF PEOPLE WE PRODUCE.
All churches, Synagogues or Temples must be finally judged by the kind of people it produces.
It doesn’t matter how picturesque, or how full or how the church is governed.
The question must ultimately be, “What kind of people does it
There is an old eastern fable……..A man possessed a beautiful ring which was passed down from father to son and whoever wore the ring became sweet and true. Eventually it came down to a father who had three sons. Which son got the ring? The father had three identical rings made and on his deathbed he called each of his sons told them not to tell the others and gave them each a ring. When the sons discovered they each had a ring a big dispute arose-which had the true ring. The case was taken to a wise judge.
He spoke. “I cannot tell which one is the magic ring, but you can prove it.” “WE” asked the sons in astonishment. “Yes,” said the judge, “for if the true ring gives sweetness to the character to the man who wears it –then I and all the people of the city will know the man who possesses the true ring by the goodness of his life.
So go your way, and be kind, be truthful, be brave and just in all your dealings and he who does these things will be the owner of the true ring.
The way we live our lives will be the proof. No one can condemn beliefs which produce Disciples for God. That’s all that matters.
When we get to heaven much to our surprise, we will probably find Christians, Jews, Muslins, Hindus, agnostics and others.
And they will be as surprised to see us just as we will be to see them.
We will all meet as people who have lived out our LOVE for GOD through acts of kindness to all God’s people. AMEN