Matt. 18:1-14 “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire. Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”” NRSV
I was reminded that there were two things we should not discuss in public… Religion and Politics. I agree whole heartedly. I believe we need a whole lot more of talk of Jesus and his teachings and stop the other stuff. In fact, we need a lot less talk and a lot more walking, searching, and reaching out. Covid-19 has taught me that evil tries to isolate us, get us alone or at least make us feel we are alone. In a sense evil becomes a parasite, it can only exist if it has a host. It is in the isolation that evil becomes stronger. Evil sucks the life out of us or at least it tries. Evil tries to distract us, first by small things then it intensifies its presence and attack. Covid-19 has tried to suck the life out of us…out of the church…out of our worship…out of our fellowship…out of our education. It will not defeat us nor will it prevail!
I believe that God has countered it with a reminder that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that drives us, that motivates us, that fills us, gives us hope, peace, and joy. We recognize love through the Holy Spirit. But God also, knows that in our isolation we become vulnerable and so he, as the Good Shepherd, searches for us until we are found. Just as we are called to go and search for those in need; hungry, lost, facing injustice. We still have significant ministries to perform.
The pictures painted and the images conjured up are soothing to the soul. The story of the shepherd who searches for one of the hundred sheep emphasizes active and vigilant care of a loving, caring, and protective God. Sheep are a frequent image for God’s people and God is their/our shepherd … Ps 23, 100:3, Matthew 2:6, and 9:36. The way of the cross, of countercultural practices, requires a supportive community. In such relational care, God’s loving will is done. The story itself is a story of promise and reconciliation, hope and joy. But today…. evil is pounding on the door.
We have an opportunity in front of us, all of us. The battle lines etched, the heat is high, and the swords have been drawn. The opportunity to show who we are … Christians… by our actions, words, and love.
I was shopping in a store back in 2016. We were browsing around and were relatively new to Lake City. The elections were close at hand and I was looking at deodorant (the image is burned into my mind) and a family was standing close to me and another lady walked by with the choice of her candidate on her t-shirt. The father of the family was wearing a political hat of the opposite and his child turned to him and said, “Dad, look, there is one of those horse’s ____!” Oooooops! There was no question where the child, probably of eight years old, heard and learned this vernacular, as well as sentiment. Dad was tongue tied, the child’s mom, who was wearing a T-Shirt with an ornate cross and the words of her church on the back of it, was covered in a brilliant flushed red and scolded the child. I won’t tell you the church’s name (it wasn’t ours.... whew)!
I am reminded always, with little grandkids around, that I need to be very careful what I say. I need to be full of positivity, love, and care. Regardless of the sentiment that is gushing in my heart. Yup, even pastors can get caught up in the moments of these days and with social media all around us we are ever so tempted to take the bait and click the share button…add our “those darn _____!” After all it’s just a link and “I feel” it needs to be heard. I know I can change their mind even though it might be a little rude and demonizing post.In the words of my daughter….NOT!
Holding up a mirror to one’s face is quite revealing. It is not for the faint of heart but an action that needs to be done. Paul uses that mirror image, that reflection, quite frequently because he knew everyone was looking and judging. Is this the face of Jesus being reflected or the mom wearing the church named cross-bearing shirt?
Jesus warns us of what the consequences of our actions…our words…have. If you think that it is not applicable to you … well… take a close look in the mirror. I know that for most of you Jesus is reflecting back, that’s why it is so easy to love you folks. For some of us, our social media betrays us or worse yet…portrays us. Can we put our posts up on the projection screen before worship and show our loving, caring, and compassionate selves…that we are proudly representing FPCLC... proudly professing the teachings of our Savior? I know that I failed miserably.
We can use social media for the furthering of God’s kingdom, or we can follow the ways of distraction. We can spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or we can spread the news contrary to it. We can be drawn down the path of and be eaten up by the culture of the day or we can live in the culture and reflect Jesus and the ministries he calls us to do. It is our choice, our freewill.
At FPCLC, we’ve made it very easy to share our worship, our music, our thoughts, even our sermons. So easy that all you have to do is share with the public and you’ve covered all the bases! The posts can be put up anywhere! Friends, that is the new reality we live in. God has made it easy for us to go out, to reach out…To reflect Jesus’ face!
I’ve been reading the book, and encourage all y’all to read it as well, “Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics” (Rev. Eugene Cho, David Cook publisher, 2020). I found myself getting caught in each story, each lesson. I have also limited my social media to liking food pictures, sunsets, beaches, water, and sharing our church’s ministries. I hope you can join me by watching less tv, less cultural social media, more sunsets, and more reading of the bible and related books. You’ll feel better…I promise.
I look forward to seeing all y’all soon. I pray that we can soon get together in some fashion. We need to be, and I believe we are, the beacon on the hill. The beacon of hope, of joy, of peace, of love…the light in the darkness. We will be safe, we will be fruitful, we will further the kingdom of God in these times of adversity. Stay focused on the Good Shepherd and listen to his voice! AMEN!