Surf’s Up Guest Preacher: Don Bergland
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37, Luke 6:32-36 February 23, 2020
Big Idea: It is not that the church intentionally became marginalized in our culture. It is that for the church we have encountered mission drift.
I was once attending a pastor’s teaching day and the teaching and conversation of the day centered on the concern that the level of Biblical illiteracy continues to be on the rise in local churches. Deeply troubled by this teaching; one of the pastors decided to see if this was true in his church. So he decided to “drop in” on the 3rd & 4th grade class. Surprised the teacher introduced him to the group of boys & girls. After talking with them for a little bit he decided now was the time to check up on their Bible knowledge. So he suddenly asked, “Does anyone know who tore down the walls of Jericho?” Well Billy – the one who is always in trouble quickly raised his hand and cried out, “I promise it wasn’t me; I think Susie did it.”
Well before long the class quickly became chaotic with children accusing one another of tearing down the walls of Jericho. The pastor in disbelief simply stared at the teacher shocked by what he was hearing. The teacher quickly quieted down the kids and said, “Pastor I want you to know that I can vouch for every kid in this class, if they said they didn’t do it then I fully believe they didn’t do it!”
The Pastor was stunned and at a loss for words. So he quietly left the classroom muttering to himself, “I can’t believe that my church is filled with biblical illiteracy in the children’s department. I have to change everything we are doing in Sunday school.”
Sensing this was a major crisis for the church he called for an emergency board meeting following the church service. At the board meeting he carefully went over what he was taught on the pastor’s teaching day and then told them the whole story about what happened when he went to visit the 3rd & 4th grade class. At a loss as to what to say next he simply paused and waited for the reaction from the board. After an uncomfortably long period of silence one of the long-time board members spoke up and said, “Pastor we’ll probably never know who tore down that wall but the less said about it the better. Next week we will take up an offering and rebuild it and let it go at that.”
Yeah – and I just want you to know that joke has nothing to do with the sermon today. I don’t even know why I told it because I know someone is going to call Pastor John and ask who it was that tore down the walls of Jericho and how much it cost to rebuild it.
Perhaps we should center our attention on the scripture text this morning. I will be reading from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10 verses 25-37 from The Living Bible.
One day an expert on Moses’ laws came to test Jesus’ orthodoxy by asking him this question: “Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?”
Jesus replied, “What does Moses’ law say about it?”
“It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you shall live!”
The man wanted to justify his lack of love for some kinds of people, so he asked, “Which neighbors?”
Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road.
“By chance a Jewish priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Jewish Temple-assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.
“But a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night. The next day he handed the innkeeper two twenty-dollar bills and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I’ll pay the difference the next time I am here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the bandits’ victim?”
The man replied, “The one who showed him some pity.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
This is the Word of the LORD for the people of the LORD. Will you please pray with me?
The title of my message is, “Surfs Up”. And in being real with you I want you to know that the title is actually stolen from a chapter in one of my top 10 favorite books. The title of the book is, “If it Ain’t broke, Break it!” This isn’t one of those church growth books. Actually it is a business book that the author, Robert Kriegel wrote in 1991. And in his book he writes about the coming waves of change and that as business owners we need to catch the wave or we will be passed by. I don’t think Robert realized what a prophet he was. For if you like me are part of the Boomer generation you have witnessed tidal waves of change. And if you like me have found yourself lost as to how to do something on your, “Smart and yet not so smart Phone” and had to ask your children or grandchildren – those who are part of that Millennial Generation – for help perhaps you – like me – have had to endure them rolling their eyes as they help you.
Perhaps the best way to understand some of the waves of change we have witnessed would be to invite you to watch a clip of the, “Ellen Show”. Now I am not recommending you start watching this show; but this clip so captures some of the changes most of us in this room have seen. You see, there has been this pushback (eye rolling) against the Boomer generation. So one day Ellen decided to invite a Millennial (those who are doing the pushing back) to the stage to do a few simple tasks. She is to fold a road map, look up a phone number in the yellow pages and then to call, “Golden Muffler” on a rotary dial phone. Tasks that for many of us in this room, used to do all the time. So let’s see how she manages these tasks.
Video Clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=updE5LVe6tg
Perhaps what has become most difficult living through such tidal waves of change has been to see what has happened within the church universal – the Bride of Christ. One of the big changes we have witnessed was the movement from the modern age to the Post-Modern age. That journey has left so many in the church drawing lines trying to manage a generation that believes, “Truth is relative”.
And although Robert Kreigel was writing to the business culture, the message was the same for the church. And this morning one of the uncomfortable things for us as the church universal is that we haven’t managed the change so well which has left the church marginalized in an ever changing culture. And so we find ourselves either wishing for the, “good old days” or simply confused and concerned about the future of our church. In being real with you it leaves you and I feeling really uncomfortable.
So, my hope today is that through this story of Jesus we can find an initial foothold as to how we as the church are going to remain relevant in a sea of change. Now if you have grown up with some of the great westerns you watched on TV as well as growing up in the church the scripture text is yet another one of our favorite stories in which Jesus – the good guy – does battle with the bad guy – the religious leaders and once again Jesus wins riding safely off into the sunset.
However, today want to invite you to look at this story in a different way. You see this story starts with the expert in the Law of Moses wanting to know what Jesus believes is the pathway to heaven. Jesus – the master teacher – asks the lawyer what he believes will get him that, “Golden Ticket” into heaven. And to our surprise the lawyer’s answer is correct. That the pathway to heaven is found in how we love God and our neighbor. Something that we as follower of Jesus know. However, the tension comes when he asks Jesus, “Just who is my neighbor”. For you see Dr. Luke records where the man’s heart truly was when he writes, “The man wanted to justify his lack of love for some kinds of people.”
There are a couple of things I want us to note. You see when you read a story or parable of Jesus it is a wide open invitation to use your imagination. Imagining how this wounded and robbed man looks and the appearance of the various actors in the story. And perhaps you like me – when you get to the end this story you find yourself breathing a prayer – thankful – that we are not like the first two actors. The truth is we would want to be the hero because – we all want to have some heroic moments in our life. And yet I would caution you to want to be the Samaritan in this story because his actions are extremely costly. More than just costing him financially his actions mess up the plan he had for the day. It cost him the energy to take care of this wounded man. And don’t miss that the man puts the Jew on the donkey and walks into town.
I want us to quickly take this story one step further by inviting you to look through lens of each person and the roles they play. For instance, consider:
▪ The Jewish Priest who had an important role to play in his community. It was his task to meet with those who would be coming to the synagogue. It would matter that he was on time and ready to lead his congregation in worship and study. It is very important that he remain pure to be able to offer sacrifices on behalf of his people. So maybe it was the urgency to be early, or to remain pure that caused him to pass by this wounded person. (care for the church)
▪ And the Temple worker – although showing enough compassion to look at the wounded man, chose to continue on. Perhaps he had a little more cleaning of the facility, or that there were chairs that needed to be set up, coffee to be made and the appropriate snacks were set out for the fellowship time. He too felt that it was more important for him to fulfill his duties rather than care for this fellow Jew.
Although we might smile at thinking that such things would cause one to pass by a person in need, it is interesting to consider how those who are part of the church might respond if the things you have come to expect of your church; simply weren’t available to you for worship. Oh then things that a church consultant hears when it comes to expectations of the pastor and staff. Here is where things get uncomfortable. You see, I believe that the Holy Spirit is real and active in our lives. And that there are those moments when we sense a nudge from the Spirit as to how we respond that causes concern. For too often we dismiss the nudge saying were busy – or that we aren’t too sure as to how to respond – or that responding to that nudge might put us in difficult or messy situations. In all honesty, for many of us in this room it tends to scare you.
To catch a wave (surfing) is all about timing. You don’t want to miss your moment. And yet how often have you missed our moment of practicing loving our neighbor, because we over analyze (homeless person spending our money) or over spiritualize things that cause us to miss our moment. And when we miss our moment it often leaves us feeling regret so or we find ourselves wishing for the good old days when life was simpler. And what this does is that it numbs you to the tension that Jesus is trying to work into your life when it comes to loving others.
You see, the message behind this story is that Jesus is calling us to look at how we live out our life on this planet through a different lens. Here Jesus is teaching us two things. First is that Humanity is carries the highest value. That when we look at those in the church and in our community we are to see them through the lens that that everyone has the thumbprint of God in their life. We see this in the knitting together in the womb. Secondly Jesus is telling us that love trumps the fear. You see there is one player in this story that we haven’t talked about. It is the wounded man on the roadside. I pretty sure that a man that was beat up and left half dead was frightening to look at. He might scare you and leave you wondering if there is anything you could do for him.
Here is what you need to know. That wounded Jew wasn’t concerned about the style of worship or the snacks that were going to be served that day. Because people who have been beat up by life rarely walk through the doors of a church because of the color of the walls or the banner hanging outside. I’m not so sure he gave much thought to those who passed him by. What he experienced is that those hated Samaritans are a whole lot kinder than he ever knew.
You see one of the biggest temptations churches face is to build or change a few things inside the church believing that will result in young families coming through the doors. We must resist the temptation to paint the walls of the nursery and buy some new toys, change our worship service to look more like the mega church to bring young families into the church so your church will survive. This simply is not the answer. It is how you learn to go out and serve in your community – it is about how you love your neighbor that keeps a church from closing its doors. Perhaps a good way for us to understand this is to consider another story in the Bible that is actually reflective of the story Jesus is telling. You can find it in the Old Testament book of Ruth.
Ruth gives us a clear picture of what loving your neighbor looks like. Ruth knows what selfless devotion is. She was able to see beyond her own circumstances to see an elderly woman who was in a difficult place. Don’t miss that it was not an easy for Ruth to stay with Naomi. After all, even when she says she is staying, it is Naomi who continues to try to convince her to go home. There was no reason for Ruth to stay except that she had taken her love that she had for her late husband and extended it to Naomi. And that was it – Naomi had nothing more to say. Ruth was choosing to leave behind the life in the big city, the friends she had made while growing up, and the life she had come to know as normal. Choosing instead to adopt a life of living as an alien in another community.
Actually it is at this point and then through the next chapter that we see this story becoming reflective of the story of the Good Samaritan. You see here in this story we have one who has been mistreated and hurt. And though Naomi has kinsmen redeemer’s no one is coming to her aid. It will only be through the love and care of a foreigner that she will be redeemed. And Naomi will not be an easy person to love. In fact, as you continue to read through the remainder of chapter 1 you will discover that she becomes your worst nightmare of a grumpy neighbor. Upon her return to Bethlehem not only does the community see the “grumpiness” on her face but Naomi lets them know that they have every right to call her grumpy. For the Bible tells us that when the neighbors came out to greet her she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter (Mara). The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.” (Ruth 1:20-21 The Message)
No one would argue with Naomi about her bitterness. Her story is a story of a life that has been hit with one major blow after another. And her only friend is a foreign woman; who Naomi fails to identify when telling her neighbors about her story of emptiness; who reminds her about the son that has been taken away too soon.
But this got me to thinking about what it takes for me to be a grumpy neighbor. In fact; what does it take for you to become a grumpy neighbor? Is it when leaves from your neighbor’s tree fall on your lawn? Or when your neighbor’s dog is doing his business on your lawn and then you stepping in it when you are mowing your lawn? Maybe it is when a person with too many items in their grocery cart is in the express lane; or not knowing how to scan their items on the self-checkout lane? Or someone cheats you out of a great parking spot at Costco? Or is it those moments when you feel that life is no longer treating you fairly?
Ruth is the Good Samaritan in this story. You see the Jews who were listening to Jesus’ parable so deeply hated Samaritans that they would really struggle to believe that their religious leaders would walk past a fellow Jew and that only a Samaritan would stop to help. So the Jews in this small community would have a hard time seeing this Moabite care for a Jewish widow. They hated the Moabites who had oppressed the Jews years earlier. And yet it is Ruth that stays with Naomi in her bitterness and begins to show love and compassion to Naomi. Here in the story of Ruth we see a woman that saw the food running out and made the decision to do something about it. Without complaining she goes out to glean in the fields. And let’s not miss the danger of going to work in the fields as a widow. The dirtiest of water was for those who gleaned and the fresh clean water would be for the paid workers. The only food a gleaner could count on for the day was what they picked from the field. It was common for the workers to take advantage of the gleaners and abuse them. This was the world that Ruth was stepping into when she went to work gleaning. Even when Ruth came back to town late that evening, we see her she not only giving Naomi all that she gathered but she gives her the extra food from the meal she shared with Boaz as well. It is only when Ruth shares with Naomi the events of the day that we begin to see a glimmer of hope coming back into Naomi’s life.
Now throughout the book of Ruth we see a two-fold story. One story is a story of redemption. But the redemption is not limited to Naomi. Here we see that there is redemption for Ruth, Boaz and the nation of Israel too. You know when I read this story I want to be like Boaz or Ruth. In fact, I think if we are really honest with ourselves we would all admit that we would like to be the hero of the story. The one who is cares for and loves even the most difficult of people. The truth is we are rarely like Boaz and Ruth and all too often we are more like Naomi.
The second story we witness is a story about loving one another. In the Gospel of John chapter 13 Jesus is in the upper room with His disciples and he has just told them who it would be that would betray him. And then he begins to tell them that he is going away but he leaves them with a final instruction. He tells them, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35 NLT) Here Jesus is telling us how you love our neighbor; how you love and care for each other will be the defining way that the world will know that we have chosen Jesus Christ as LORD and savior. For the Israelite nation and for the church today the message is the same. Your testimony to the world is going to be through how you care for the widows and orphans. How we care for the marginalized and abused. (Fourth Commandment)
How we serve and love each other in our community today will be as Jesus says, “Proof that we are His disciples.” In fact, as you consider these words of Jesus you can’t help but to think of how our culture holds tightly to these words. For whenever there is push back against the church and Christianity it is often found in how we move to grumbling, “painting angry signs”, failing to love one another. Now Eugene Peterson would tell us that the reason why the book of Ruth is sandwiched between Judges and first and second Samuel is that it is there for our encouragement. You see in our everyday ordinary life we tend to feel insignificant and we disqualify ourselves from belonging to or playing a part in the story of God. Although God has invited us to have a part in the story, we feel that we don’t have enough talent or abilities to teach or lead a Bible study even though the Holy Spirit encourages us. We fear that if we can’t teach like Rick Warren or Beth Moore we refuse to take such a risk. Again we shrink back in fear.
But then you read the end of the story of Ruth who was an outsider, who lost her first husband in death and has been reduced to living in a foreign land gleaning fields and caring for someone who was filled with bitterness. She was an insignificant person in a community of God’s chosen people. And yet she becomes significantly woven into the story of God because of her faith and her willingness to risk so much. Listen to the end of the story.
“Boaz married Ruth. She became his wife. Boaz slept with her. By God’s gracious gift she conceived and had a son. The town women said to Naomi, “Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel! He’ll make you young again! He’ll take care of you in old age. And this daughter-in-law who has brought him into the world and loves you so much, why, she’s worth more to you than seven sons!” Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot. The neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s baby boy!” But his real name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.” (Ruth 4:13-17 The Message) I think Eugene captures the story of Ruth best when he writes, “Ruth makes it possible for each of us to understand ourselves, however ordinary or “out of it” as irreplaceable in the full telling of God’s story. We count – every last one of us – and what we do counts.” (Eugene Peterson)
So here is the deal. Take courage, the “surfs up”. Sadly, we the church have become marginalized because in the history of the Bride of Christ we were busy painting lines believing that was how we were loving others. But the really good news is that living in sea of change has given us – the church – an incredible opportunity to love our neighbor.
Please understand me, following these words of Jesus will bring us to places of discomfort. You see, when you begin to lead with love and grace it is costly. Have faith, because the truth is at the end of the day the Good Samaritan had a great story to tell. And I believe we all want to have great stories to tell the next generation.
When I consider the story of the Good Samaritan I realize:
➢ I have allowed religious routine to take keep me safe in a sea of change
➢ God is nudging me to move out of my comfort zone
➢ What I do matters in the ongoing story of God’s His amazing grace and love