#DoorToDoor is the reflection for January 24, 2016. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses come, it is a yearly reminder to check ourselves as Christians. When Jesus knocks on the door of the Synagogue in his home town, he lays out his plan for how we ought to approach others as Christians. Mark Kurowski further articulates how we can live that vision today. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #Sermon #Homily #Mary #JesusReadingInTheSynagogue #JehovahsWitness #GoodNews #Poor #Outcast #PoolMembership #EternalLifeInsurance #Evangelism #LGBTQ #Flint #Prison #MSAWordfortheDay#MySpiritualAdvisor
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/24/2016 The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please pause this audio and read Luke 4:14-21.
The other day, I got my yearly check up at the front door from the Jehovah’s Witnesses – when it was 35 degrees outside. I admire them. I really do admire them. I, myself, have gone door to door to greet people in the name of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there is a stigma with those who go door to door and rightfully so. The Jehovah’s Witness approach is not too dissimilar from the approach of Grace Baptist Church in a community where I once lived. In fact, most of the door to door stuff is done in one of two ways.
The first way is like the Kirby vacuum salesperson, or a Comcast salesperson, who has some deal that I cannot refuse. The approach is like this: I have an eternal life insurance policy to sell you. If you want eternal life, all you have to do is become one of us. It is a deal you cannot refuse.
The second way is the way of the community pool membership I have experienced. There once was a community where I lived that required 5 positive references from existing pool members for you to get in. In other words, you had to be just like everyone else and everyone had to know it. The door to door message in this light is like this: unless you become one of us you will not have an eternal membership in God’s pool.
Both of these memberships are not the Gospel. “Gospel” means “good news.” Having someone come to your door and says, ‘you are on the outside looking in’, is not good news. That is not the message of Jesus Christ as he returns to the Synagogue in Nazareth to announce the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah.
We seem to focus on this passage, which usually extends to verse 30 after the people of Nazareth, who were so in love with Jesus, suddenly take offense at him and want to kill one of their own. He had stepped out of line. He had announced that he was an ‘anointed’. The word anointed has synonyms. We know them. They are the words “Messiah” and “Christ.” For the people in the synagogue on that day, Jesus was announcing that he had been chosen to be a messiah who would bring good news to the poor, announce release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Now, you would think that would be good news, but hardly ever is someone hailed as a genius in their own community until it is evident from other communities and their recognition. We often recognize the genius of those in our midst with admiration after they have gone on to receive accolades elsewhere. The old adage, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, is usually how we treat those around us. We often are the source of beating down those we love, or those in our community, rather than lifting them up. So, if someone in our community says, “Hey, I have been anointed,” it is regrettable albeit understandable that we would reject them because we knew how they were back in the day. All that aside, Jesus does have good news and we “Christ-ians” ought to listen to it.
Jesus says his ministry, and the ministry of those who follow him, will proclaim good news to the poor. In general, the poor will be of concern to those who follow Jesus Christ. The Torah and Prophets are replete with references for how God hears the cry of the poor. Poverty comes in many forms. I am not sure who is more poor, the person who has no money or the person who cannot see that another is limited by the fact they have no money.
Those who follow this Christ, this Anointed, will be people who announce release to the captives and set the oppressed free. This has two fronts. The first is that we are to visit those in prison. How many of us have done that? How many of us can tell each other when the visitation hours are for the local jails, the nearest state or federal penitentiary? How many of us have friends in low places? The second front is social injustice that denies people, even those who are our enemies, the necessary services to not be in need or to have their voice heard.
When I think of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, IN that was targeted by a reporter and became the poster child for the intolerance of people in Indiana against those who were LGBT, I have to wonder. I wonder if the way that people think Christians think about people who are LGBT would be better if we had been more concerned for the welfare of LGBT people. Having served in a church that housed a ministry to AIDS patients when the spread of HIV was still a dangerous mystery, I can tell you that we, even when we tried to serve the LGBT community, were not kind. Although I understand the teaching of the Scriptures, I am not without mercy. It is not hard for me to feel the searing pain of rejection that they must feel and felt.
We are Christ-ians. We are people who are supposed to be like our Savior: announcing release to the captives and to set the oppressed free. We cannot do that with hateful condemnatory language spilling out of our mouths. Any approach we have must be with the knowledge that first we are sinners. We are not different than anyone on the other side of the door. If there is a difference, it is that we know we are forgiven, they may not. Our advantage is bathed in humility and comes out on the other side as a gift, a mercy, to be given away with gentleness and kindness.
We are people who serve the Anointed whose ministry grants recovery of sight to the blind. Recently, I have been praying for people, laying hands on people, and asking the Holy Spirit to heal them. We don’t do that enough. We don’t touch people to have them healed. I already talked about this a couple of weeks ago. The other side of this is blindess, too, comes in many forms. Humanity tends to be myopic.
When I read through the emails from the Michigan Governor’s office in dealing with the lead contamination in the water of the City of Flint, which was under State receivership at the time, it struck me that there was not a concern for the people as much as there was concern over who would be blamed for the crisis. If we still have children who are being exposed to lead poisoning-in 2016, lead poisoning-then shouldn’t the focus be on solving the problem now? My point isn’t to condemn them, it is to show that we have a habit of looking at our life, our world, our family, our life and how we made it and then using that as blinders to the needs of others.
It seems if we suffered, and hated it, then we want others to suffer and hate it. No! That is not how it should be! We should want others to NOT have to suffer like we suffered. We should want others to have a better life than we had. We should never want children in a City, no matter how badly it is managed, to ever be in danger of being poisoned.
Even more, it is a challenge for us to see the personhood of people with whom we disagree. Just look at Facebook. I think that is all I need to say. People have hurts, needs, crosses they are not talking about. More than any other cross is the cross of self-hatred, self-condemnation, and self-defeat. We are never enough for ourselves. The shame is that often, we project what we are feeling onto God.
It is not God’s word or idea that we are not good enough for him. It is when we were ungodly, sinners, enemies of God, that He had his Son die for us. God did not hate the world. No! God so LOVED the world, that he sent his only Son,….to save the world. It is BEFORE we do anything to earn God’s favor that he loves us. It is by grace that we have been saved. The sun has been placed in the Solar System to shine on the evil and the good. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.
It is so often in spiritual direction when I tell my clients to wake up every day and let the idea that God loves them before they can do one thing, that they break down in tears. I can do it because I follow the Anointed who says that this is the year of God’s favor, favor before we can ask for it, before we can do anything for it, before we can think we have or have not done enough to deserve it. God’s favor is the foundation upon which we stand. It is the ground upon which we walk. God’s favor is the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the life we live. Before you think, talk, walk, or do, God loves you. (Repeat that).
So, this message of the Anointed, the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus is this: to proclaim Good News to the poor, announce release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. One of the ways that we think of our Lord Jesus is as the Great Physician, who heals us our ills, our sins. In that light, my friends the Jehovah’s Witnesses are guilty of salvatory malpractice. That means that there is an even greater need than ever for us to get out there and knock on the doors right behind them.
We should revisit going door to door with a new message, Jesus’ message: Thank you for opening your door to me. I am here to let you know that God loves you. If there is any way we can help you in your life, please give us a call. Here is our card. Bless you and have a good day. Amen.
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