A New Vision Of The World


A Meditation for 24 April 2016, the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 11: 1 – 18, Revelation 21: 1 – 16, and John 13: 31 – 35.


Here are my thoughts for this past Sunday.  Got a little bit behind in my work and struggling to catch up.


Let’s begin by expanding on the thoughts behind Peter’s refusal to eat certain foods. Peter was undoubtedly an observant Jew so he had grown up obeying those dietary laws, rules, and regulations.

But it was very likely that he and everyone else at that time what those laws, rules, and regulations were the way they were. There were foods that you could not eat with other foods and there were foods that you could not eat at all and that was they way it was. The reason or reasons for these laws, rules, and regulations was lost in the passage of time but were based on the early days of the Exodus when food storage and preservation were at a premium. The people who began the Exodus understood this but this understanding got lost over time.

How many of us hold onto attitudes and behaviors that we grew up without understanding why we do? How many times do our actions towards others reflect “old” thinking?

The problem for so many people today is that they remain locked in this “old” way of thinking, often times without realizing it. There are those who read the words of John the Seer in the Book of Revelation and see a fulfillment of the past, of the actions of a vengeful and hateful God. But the Seer’s words are a new vision of the world, a new beginning, an opportunity to begin anew and not a continuation of the old. The Seer’s Revelation was never, as President John Kennedy said in the concluding part of his speech to the nation on 22 October 1962, a victory of might but a vindication of what was right. The Book of Revelation is not a justification of the old ways but the knowledge of the new ways.

But how do we achieve the Kingdom the Seer foresaw? How do we establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth as Christ so many times proclaimed He had come to establish?

Do we create military armies that will destroy our armies? Do we create laws, rules, and regulations that echo our prejudices and hatred, which reap vengeance on those we hate and despise?

Or do we do as Jesus told those who heard Him that day two thousand years ago that we are to love each other as He loved us? Are we to act in such a way that when others see us, they will see Christ?

It is very hard to throw away the old ideas, the old ways. We heard that in Peter’s thoughts written in the Book of Acts. But Peter understood what he had to do.

The assurance and presence of God through Christ gives us the same comfort and strength that Peter received so that we can cast aside the old and claim the new, so that we can have a new vision of the world.

Finding The Way For Ourselves And For Others


A Meditation for 17 April 2016, the 4th Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 9: 36 – 43, Revelation 7 :9 – 17, and John 10: 22 – 30.

Two things to note – I am more and more convinced that modern Christianity has lost its focus, lost its way if you will. It seems, at least to me, that too many individuals today claim the mantle of Christianity without accepting the duties and responsibilities that come with the acceptance of the mantle of Christianity. In fact, and again this is my opinion, too many people claim to be Christians but whose thoughts about humanity expressed through their words, deeds, and actions are in complete opposition to what it was that Jesus said and did during His three year ministry.

And I also think that there are too many people who claim to be spiritual but not religious do not understand that it is through religion that one finds or clarifies their spirituality. I am aware, as a recent CBS story indicated that

Humans are spiritual beings before religious. Religion means to bind back (re-ligare). Religion is a method. Spirituality is inherent in our being. Religion teaches us how to access and guide our spirituality, by providing story and ritual that speaks to our whole person – mind and heart. It “binds us back” to our nature as spiritual beings in relationship with God and with each other. Religion and religious community are designed to help us integrate our mind – bodies – through spiritual awareness; our thinking, feeling and doing in balance and wellness. And this is the ideal goal of all authentic religions (http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/faith-spirituality-the-future/).

You many know that you are seeking some sort of spiritual level but without some sort of framework, you cannot reach any sort of spiritual level.

The church today is very much aware that there are those who seek Christ. As the Gospel reading for today points out, people have sought Christ from the very beginning of the Galilean ministry. And like those who sought Him then, many who seek Him today do not know who or what to look for. And when you don’t know what to look for, it is very hard to reach that spiritual level that something inside you, which for the lack of a better term we shall call your soul, is pushing you to find.

I will admit that I used to dread preaching or writing about the Revelation of John. There was a part of me that just couldn’t accept the idea that a world that began with hope and promise, a world in which God cared about what happened to His children, would end in death and destruction. But, as I read more about what John the Seer was writing and what was the basis for the apocalyptic vision that so many people utilize today, I could see that there was a difference in the visions offered.

But John the Seer wasn’t offering an end to the world but a new beginning. But if one is to see it as a beginning, the achievement of one’s spiritual quest, then one must know who Christ is, was, and will be.

And the only way that one can reach this ending, the only way we can help people find Christ in today’s world is to do what Peter and the other disciples did, show the work of Christ in the world. Granted this may be a little difficult to accomplish in a world where so many people work and live in a matter that says you can only find Christ if you walk on the same spiritual journey as they do.

Let us begin today to find the way. It requires that we first renew our commitment to Christ, to say that we will through our thoughts, words, deeds, and actions, live a life that shows Christ. It is a life that says that we have chosen a new way to walk and we invite others to walk with us. We understand that even though we all seek the same destination, each journey is unique and that we can only help others continue on their journey. And we help by showing them the way.

This is the greatest challenge because it forces us to open our minds, our hearts and our souls to see Christ in many ways. But when we see Christ, we can easily help others. And as we help others see Christ, we also see a new world, a new beginning.

That Particular Moment in Time


A Meditation for 13 April 2016, the 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 9: 1 – 6, 7 – 20; Revelation 5: 11 – 14; and John 21: 1 – 19.

When I first began teaching chemistry back in 1971, I had only a rudimentary knowledge of how to teach. I knew the subject but I was still in the process of learning the nuances of teaching and I knew very little about how students learned chemistry. And to top it off, my first teaching assignment was not in a traditional setting.

Highland High School used a modular plan where each class had one or two periods of lecture, one or two periods of recitation, and one or two periods of laboratory work during on a six-day cycle (which was nice because the cycle kept going, even if there was a break in the regular routine).

But that meant that I had deal with something that didn’t really exist in the traditional Monday through Friday, five periods a day, school calendar and that was laboratory time. So it was that I had to begin developing laboratory experiments.

And like a lot of my colleagues, then and perhaps even now, I borrowed from what I knew from college. I would do the same experiments that I knew from college because I had copies of my notes so I knew what to expect and it was a lot easier to do it that way.

Now, some forty years or so later, I still don’t have the knack for creating experiments that one can use in a teaching laboratory. And what is done in the teaching laboratory today today needs to be done on what is called a micro-scale level and be “green” or environmentally friendly. Were I to be in a position to teach future chemical educators, this is one area that I would really be looking at, if for no other reason than it begins to give the educator an idea of how students learn.

Now, this is has nothing to do with the Scripture readings but since I am at this point, it needs to be said. Students learn best when they actually do the stuff one is talking about in class; you really cannot learn something simply by being in lecture all the time. If you don’t do the work, it never really gets understood.

Even Jesus understood that point. Remember that He sent 72 of his group out into the world while He was still in the three year period of ministry. He sent them out to do what He had been doing and to prepare them for what they were going to be doing when He left.

Now, back to the Scriptural train of thought. The other thing that happened during those first two years of teaching was that I developed an understanding of how students learn chemistry. It was, if you will, the beginning of my “aha!” moment (I first defined this idea in “The AHA Moment”; I expanded on this idea a bit in posts linked to that post).

Without realizing it, I was learning what Jean Piaget learned in the early 50s; that students go through a series of stages of learning. In chemistry, they come into the class at the concrete level, comfortable with what is before them and able to use those examples to find the answers to similar problems. But during the time frame in which they are taking chemistry, they are transitioning to a more abstract level, whereby they assimilate the information and are able to use it to solve new problems.

This is a critical point in today’s world. When faced with a problem, we are very apt to fall back on what we know as a way of solving the problem. In the days between the Resurrection and the Ascension, the disciples do just that.

They are certain about what to do, so they go back to doing what they know. And in the case of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they go fishing. And as we read in today’s Gospel reading, there is that moment when Peter recognizes Christ. It is Peter’s “aha!” moment. And things change as a result. In the dialog that follows, Peter gets a better understanding of what the past three years have been about and what his life is to be in the coming years. Each disciple, each individual who encountered Christ in that period had, I am sure, a similar moment.

There are some who say that your “aha!” moment has to be a dramatic one, such as Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus. And for some, that is probably the case. For many others, their moment is more like that of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, when you understand in your mind and heart what is happening.

In my collection of sayings is the following quote from the The Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the Torah,

In every age there comes a time when leadership suddenly comes forth to meet the needs of the hour. And so there is no man who does not find his time, and there is no hour that does not have its leader.”

Each of us has our own particular “aha!” moment. Though there may be some commonality between our own moment and the moments of our friends, there is no requirement that they be alike. And by the same token, we should not expect our moment to be an exact copy of our friends’ moments or that our friends’ moments should be an exact copy of ours.

The most critical thing about this experience is that it must be reinforced. You can have that moment but if you are not careful, you can lose it. You cannot simply say that you have had the moment and then move on; you must make sure that the moment has taken hold in your life. Perhaps that is why Paul’s moment was so dramatic and why he was blinded. He needed for that moment to take hold; Wesley’s understanding of his own moment came about because he had been preparing for it, though perhaps without understanding that was what he was doing.

But, and that is one of the most important roles of the church in today’s society, we can help each other to find that moment, that particular moment in time when we each come to Christ. In a world where Christianity has quickly become a negative term, the challenge is for those who have Christ in their hearts to find ways to express that experience.

Now, I realize that I do not espouse the traditional line that the mission of Christians is to make disciples of all the peoples of the world. I have had too many negative experiences with individuals who tried to force their encounter with Christ on me and who suggested that if I did not accept that idea that I was doomed.

In one aspect, and I have said this before, they may have been correct. If I do not accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose no other path, then I am probably doomed. But that is my choice. On the other hand, if I understand that Christ’s command to teach those they encounter about Christ (which is what is means to make disciples), then I have to show them what it means to be a Christian and give them the opportunity to become one.

And when we think about that moment when Jesus stood up in his hometown synagogue and told those who were there that he had come to heal the sick, feed the hungry, help those oppressed and bring hope to the world, he outlined what it is that we need to be doing. Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus opened doors and offered opportunities to all who sought Him.

There is one particular moment in time when each one of us sought and found Him; there will be one particular moment in time when others will find Him. It is our task to help make that time a reality.

What Do I Do?


A Meditation for 6 April 2016, the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 5: 27 – 32, Revelation 1: 4 – 8 , and John 20: 19 – 31

I started this a few days ago but had to set aside because of some other things. So I didn’t get a chance to finish it this afternoon, which in itself was a good thing because I was able to get a new idea to help me close the piece.


 

I had written some notes about a new revival but felt that they echoed some of the stuff I have written earlier this year and in the past. But the revival that I am calling for is not the same revival so many public Christians would call for.

Let’s face it, many of those who call themselves Christian today are anything but Christian. Their actions, their thoughts, their words and their deeds are hardly representative of what Christ did. And fortunately, many people are beginning to realize that is the case. But many of that latter group are not joining churches or accepting the label as Christian, and in some sense, I don’t blame them.

Would you want to identify yourself with the same label as so many people whose words, thoughts, deeds, and actions work against the very idea of Christ?

A revival is needed to revive and restore what Christianity really means. And like Peter and the other disciples before the authorities, we who truly believe have to carry out the tasks we have been asked to do without worrying about what the religious and political authorities who have so co-opted the faith say is the right thing to do. How is that Jesus can say to Thomas that others will know the story if we do not tell it?

It may be that a revival is not exactly the thing we are looking for; rather, perhaps there is a need for a reformation, of a restating of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world.

One thing that I was reminded of this morning was what happened during the proceedings against Peter and the other disciples when the religious and political establishment argued against their preaching the Gospel message. If what they (Peter and the other disciples) said was not a true message from God, then the message they presented would literally run out of steam. On the other hand, if the message was from God, then those who would suppress the disciples were the ones that needed to be worried.

If our message is the true message then we have nothing really to worry about. And we know that those who propose a message that runs counter to the Gospel are only able to succeed when they limit what people hear or how people think, so how true can their message be?

So in the end, the new revival that I think must take place will occur when each one of us lives the life that shows Christ is alive in us, when we work to help the hungry get feed, when we help the sick get healthy, when we help to build homes for the homeless, and we seek justice for the oppressed. And when people ask why it is that we do this, we simply have to say it is because we are Christians who have decided to live the Gospel message to its fullest.

Our story is Christ’s story; our story is the story of the disciples and those who heard them, of those who have heard the story over the ages.

And each time a person hears or sees the story as it is meant to be heard or seen, the world changes just a little bit. But when you have a lot of these “little bits”, we have a whole lot of change.

Too often times we expect a major change to occur rather dramatically. But the reality is that the major change occurs very gradually. And it is quite easy to see that it will begin when we live the live as commanded by Christ, so that others will believe.

I do what I am asked, to live a life that allows others to see Christ. That is what I do and what we all need to do.

Would You Go? An Easter Meditation


A Meditation for 27 March 2016, Easter Sunday (Year C).

For me, the Easter story begins just before Sunday on Good Friday. It is the beginning of the Sabbath and Jesus has died. Jewish custom dictates that the dead need to be buried before sundown. Normally, it takes a few days to die, but even so, the Roman authorities preferred to keep the bodies of those who were crucified on the crosses for several days as a subtle reminder to the population of what happens when you provoke the authorities. Tradition says that Joseph of Arimethea asked for and received permission to take Jesus’ body down so that, in accordance with Jewish burial customs, He could be buried.

What would you have done if Joseph of Arimethea had asked you to go with him to take Jesus’ body off the cross and place Him in the the tomb? Would you have gone with him? Would you have climbed up a ladder and help take the bloodied and broken body of your friend, your master, your teacher off the cross?

Keep in mind that if you did this you would have become ritually unclean and not allowed in the Temple until you were declared “clean” by the religious authorities, the same authorities who conspired with the Roman political authorities to condemn and execute Jesus. Would you have been willing to go with Joseph if you knew that it meant you would become an outcast in your own society?

And what if the one of the women had come to you that Sunday morning and asked for your help in completing the task of burial? In the rush to meet the rules that stated Jesus had to be buried by sundown on Friday, the body was not properly prepared. So the women’s role in burial was not completed and could not be completed until Sunday morning, after the Sabbath was over.

That is why the women went to the tomb that Sunday morning, to complete the burial tasks that should have been done two days before. Would you have gone with the women that Sunday morning to help in the task, perhaps to roll away the stone that closed the tomb, lift the body or other myriad little tasks?

And just as the men would have been ritually unclean because of what they had done, so too would the women have been ritually unclean. Would you have been willing to undertake tasks that would have made you “unclean” and would have kept you out of society until authorities allowed you to come back in?

Would you have been willing to help your friends do the “normal” things when someone died, especially when the one you were burying had been labeled, for all purposes, a radical, a reactionary, and a criminal? Would you not have worried that your actions would mark you in the same way. Would you have gone even if it meant you might be arrested and executed as well?

What would you have gained by helping your friends, for doing the right thing?

When I was in the Boy Scouts back in 1964, our Scoutmaster, Major Smith, was trying to find ways to increase Boy Scout related activities. The idea that he came up with was the “Scout of the Year” competition. It was a competition based on the accumulation of points for doing a variety of things (hiking, camping, riding one’s bike, community service, that sort of thing) that Boy Scouts typically did.

Now, some of the points one earned came from the normal schedule of the troop – regular attendance at troop meetings, camping trips, and so forth. But other activities were to be done outside the framework of the regular schedule.

But you could not simply go for a five-mile hike or a ten-mile bike ride on your own; you had to have someone go with you to verify that the task had been completed. Steve, a member of the troop who lived near me, decided that he wanted to win that award. So he enlisted my help. So, every time he wanted to ride his bicycle out to the missile sites outside Denver, he would ask me to come along. As it happened, I didn’t particularly care for such competition and probably wouldn’t have done much more than what I would normally do. But Steve was a friend and he needed my help, so I helped him out.

Now, while this is going on, I and two others were studying for the God & Country award at my church (which happened to sponsor the troop I was in). Part of our class responsibility was to serve as acolytes Sunday mornings.

So when the “Scout of the Year” competition began and we began reporting our activities, I and the other member of the class who was in the same troop (the third individual belonged to a different troop) reported that we had been an acolyte and got our points.

In effect, I was getting points without even trying (if one can consider doing two services on a Sunday morning not trying). This worked pretty well for me until other guys in the troop realized what I was doing and they began to ask about being an acolyte as well. As a result, my own point total started to drop as others began actively serving as acolytes. But, when that first God & Country class ended, a new class began with those who had been serving as acolytes being the members.

When the year was over, my friend Steve received the “Scout of the Year” award. Interestingly enough, I finished something like 5th which I thought was pretty good since I really didn’t try to win. Yes, I know that if I had put a little more effort into the process, I might have finished higher. I had received most of my points for doing things that I normally did.

Consider this – When the competition began, I had already begun my own journey with Christ and it was that journey that I was more interested in completing. The points I received in the troop competition were secondary. But those who saw the work that I was doing and what I received wanted to share in that reward as well. And in serving as acolytes, they all in one way or another began the decision about what journey they wanted to take. And when the competition was over, they continued on the journey with Christ.

Yes, I would much rather have kept the points I had earned for doing two services a Sunday two out of every three weeks. But it was also easy sharing the duties.

Now, when the summer of 1965 came, my family moved from Colorado to Missouri and a new path on my own personal journey opened up. I do not know what happened to those who I journeyed with during 1964 and 1965 or those whose journey began after mine. But I know that because of what I was doing, others began their own journey with Christ.

What does this all have to do with Easter Sunday? We know that the tomb is empty, that Christ has risen. In one sense, we were there with Joseph of Arimethea and the others when Jesus’ body was taken off the cross and laid in the tomb. In one sense, we were there with the women on that First Easter Sunday morning when we discovered that the tomb was empty. We made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, even knowing that it could make us an outcast in society.

We know that He is very much alive in our hearts, our minds, and our lives. And what we know is that our lives are very much different because of this. Our lives have changed in a way that others will see.

And now, on Easter, we are asked to continue the journey, to go from this place into the world, to show by what we say and do that Christ is alive. Some may think that we must make that special effort, that extra step to do this. But all we are asked to do is lead this new life in Christ.

Some think that we must push our friends to accept Christ, that we must castigate them and tell them of all the bad and terrible things that will happen to them if they don’t accept Christ as their Savior. But that wasn’t what Jesus did when He walked the back roads of the Galilee.

Jesus never asked those He healed or gave comfort to who they were or if they were somehow qualified to accept His blessings and touch. He never said that they had to follow Him once they were healed, though many would do so. His was a life that restored hope and promise to the people. His was a life that lifted people out of despair and turmoil.

Does your life reflect that same opportunity? Do you, because Christ is in your life today, help to lift people out of despair and turmoil? In the end, all we are asked to do is live our lives in such a way that it is evident that Christ is a part of our life. That is all Christ ever wants us to do when we walk with Him and to love others as He has loved us.

On this day, when we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, we are asked if we are prepared to continue the journey that began when He asked the Twelve to follow Him. Are we prepared to go beyond the cross and the tomb, out into the world, to lead a life that shows that Christ is alive and that there is victory over sin and death, that there is hope in a world that doesn’t offer hope?

And so the question comes from a friend, from a teacher, from Christ, “Would you go with me?”

How Do We Do Palm Sunday?


A Meditation for 20 March 2016, Palm Sunday (Year C).

Here are my thoughts concerning Palm Sunday this year. I most certainly would like to hear your thoughts about what I have written.

For me, Palm Sunday is an enigma, if that is the right word to use. The theology and scriptures for this Sunday are well known and quite clear; it is how you “do” this Sunday that is sometimes confusing.

Let me begin by saying that I have done traditional Palm Sunday services. Time and place dictated that was what I would be doing. And I know that others, with time and experience on their side, might have a better understanding of what needs to be done.

In one aspect, one’s plans for Palm Sunday depend somewhat on the nature of the church where the service is being held. If you are only doing a Palm Sunday service and an Easter service with nothing during the week, then Palm Sunday actually becomes Passion Sunday and you have to cram an entire week’s worthy of noteworthy activity into one Sunday (something I tried to do with my monologue “Do You Understand?”).

But if you have scheduled services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then you only have to concern yourself with what happened on Sunday and perhaps Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And with the exception of what I thought happened on Tuesday (when Jesus threw the money-changers out of the Temple, at least in terms of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; the Gospel of John has it happening at the beginning of the ministry rather than at the end), nothing much happens.

And through it all, there is Saturday, which I have come to call “The Missing Day”. I originally wrote this as a monologue but I have since worked on it to make it a short play with 4 characters to be performed on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday; if you are interested, drop me a note and I will share what I have prepared.

The problem is that, other that what is written in the Gospels, we really don’t know much about what happened that week. Of course, when this was all happening, no one bother to take any notes and, as the age-old proverb goes, if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. So we are left with the memories of one or two people forty or fifty years after it all happened upon we can build our ideas and thoughts.

And that is what I think we need to do, especially on Palm Sunday. We need to put ourselves into the places of the disciples and their friends, of the people who stood on the streets laying down the palms and cheering, of some of the visitors who have come to Jerusalem for the first time in their lives.

Perhaps we need to put ourselves in the role of the political and religious establishment. There seems to be a sentiment in the writing that this was not the first time someone had entered Jerusalem during Passover proclaiming himself to be the new messiah. Some documentaries note that the Roman authorities always seemed to be on edge when it was Passover because that was a time of possible turmoil and unrest. I recall someone saying that while Jesus was entering Jerusalem on the donkey on one side of town, Pontius Pilate was entering Jerusalem on a fine white stallion in another part of Jerusalem. If this is correct, then the tensions throughout the whole city would have been high and the authorities and their personnel would have been on high alert.

Or perhaps we should do a more modern version of Palm Sunday, having Jesus come into our city or town. How would He be dressed? What sort of entourage would accompany Him? Would there be others, proclaiming themselves as the true messiah? Would others be calling for revolution and the overthrow of the government? And were would each one of us be in all of this? Given all that takes place in our city today, with the whole idea of Christianity under attack, by those who don’t believe and those whose belief is most certainly flawed, would we even care about what was to happen.

In the end, whatever we do for Palm Sunday, we have to understand that Palm Sunday is the first of eight days during which the world changes. Only one person understood that on that first Palm Sunday and many of those who were there that day would never understand.

Our challenge is not to simply “do” Palm Sunday; it is to understand that Palm Sunday begins a transition from simply watching the parade pass us by to becoming participants in the parade and then to become leaders of the new parade. How we do that will determine what Palm Sunday means to us.

Where Is Your Focus?


A Meditation for 13 March 2016, the 5th Sunday in Lent (Year C). The meditation is based on Isaiah 43: 16 – 21, Philippians 3: 4 – 14, and John 12: 1 – 8

What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples that the poor would be with us always? Did He mean that poverty was a permanent condition that could never be fixed and that we should just accept the idea that some people will never have enough to survive, let alone live in a reasonable manner?

Or was He pointing out that the political and economic system might be corrupt and that there were those whose wealth and status came at the expense of others. Remember, in the Gospel reading Judas Iscariot wants Mary to sell the oil and give the money to the poor. We also know that John, the writer of this Gospel has a burr under his saddle when it comes to Judas so he proclaims Judas wanted to steal the money from the group’s common treasury, of which he (Judas) was the appointed treasurer.

Not withstanding Judas’ motives, that he saw the need to have money available to give to the poor suggests, at least to me, that the social support system of that time was not working. If it was, there would have been no concern about how an expensive oil might be used.

The prophet Isaiah tells the people that their God, the God who brought them out of slavery and exile, has provided for them. In a desert land where water is at a premium, Isaiah points out that God provided them with water so that they could live. And because their basic needs have been met, they, the people of Israel need not worry about that and can be more attuned to what is to come.

We live in a time that probably would have driven Paul crazy. If, as he warned the Philippians, there were religious busybodies running about then, more interested in their own appearances than they were concerned about others, how would he react today. I don’t think Paul would have cared very much for those who say that they are evangelical Christians today.

Those who proclaim themselves evangelical Christians today seem more interested in their own fortune and well-being than they do the fortune and well-being of others. Those who have taken the name of Christ have, in my opinion, taken it in vain.

You cannot say you are for Christ and then say in the same breath that you hate people or that you are willing to go to war and you feel that feeding the hungry or healing the sick or taking care of the homeless is a waste of time. But then again, many of those who say this say it is because the poor will be with us always so why do anything about it.

About six weeks ago, I wrote a piece entitled “I Am A Southern Evangelical Christian! What Are You?” in which I defined evangelism as

declaring the good news about what God is doing in the world today. Evangelism should challenge individuals to yield to Jesus, to let Jesus into their lives, and to allow the power of the Holy Spirit transform them into new creations. But it is more than that.

It involves proclaiming what God is doing in society right now to bring justice, liberation, and economic well-being for the oppressed. It means to call people to participate (nasty word there, don’t you think) in the revolutionary transformation of the world. Evangelism is what Jesus said it was: broadcasting the good news that the Kingdom of God is breaking loose in human history, that a new social order is being created, and that we are all invited to share in what is happening. God is changing the world into the world that should be and we are invited to live this good news by breaking down the barriers of racism, sexism, and social class.

Evangelism requires that we declare the Gospel not just by word but also by deed and we show God’s presence in this world by working to eliminate poverty, prevent unjust discrimination and stand against political tyranny. Evangelism calls us to create a community through which God’s will is done, here on earth, as it is in Heaven. (borrowed and adapted from Tony Campolo’s foreword to Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel: Luke and Acts; for more see “Who Are You Following?” or “What Do We Do Now?” where I consider how to apply the thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well as those of Clarence Jordan and edited).

It is not easy to be an evangelical Christian when it requires that you work, perhaps without the glory that you think should come for doing just a smidgen of the work. It is not easy to be an evangelical Christians when such efforts run counter to the expressed nature of society where self comes before community. It is not easy to be an evangelical Christian at a time when society doesn’t seem to care about people.

What was it that Sir Thomas Moore said to Richard Rich (in “A Man For All Seasons”

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.

Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?

Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.

It isn’t a matter of what society thinks; it never was. It is a matter of knowing in your heart that you have accepted Christ, that you cast away all that you were before, and that you walked with Christ. And you have walked with Christ to the Cross and you kept walking afterwards, carrying the message of hope and promise throughout the land.

It is not easy; even Paul knew that. But he also knew that keeping his focus on Christ was what he had to do.

Where is your focus?