loren Eric Swanson: Jack Jezreel--Day 2

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Jack Jezreel--Day 2

I will end with some practical strategies to address some of the themes I brought up yesterday. I am going to start with two scripture passages. They take the themes and they give us an exhibit A and an exhibit B. Luke gives us two examples of how Jesus invites people into this possible relationship. It is the same story, but one ends up in a disappointing way while the other ends with an incredible response. In order to set the context for these two meetings I am going to give a bit of history.
Israel at the time of Jesus was occupied by Rome. Rome owned the smaller countries to “c. pillage.” Rome got rich through cheap land, goods and labor. The way Rome did this was through a strategy of taxation. Taxes are not like they are today. . Roman taxes: Roman tax collectors good get rich. These positions were auctioned to the highest bidder. The only people allowed in the door were not Romans but Jewish. How do you conquered people conquered? “Divide and Conquer.” Rome drove Jews against Jews and was associated with such things as poverty, division and destruction.
The other thing Rome would do is to sit down with the conquered elite and say, “If you want to keep your positions, there is one condition - you get along with us.” Two thirds of the people were now land-less. God had the great covenant with Israel in which all the people would participate in the economy by owning land. Deuteronomy 15:4 says, “There are to be no poor people among you.” You are to organize yourself in a way that everyone is taken care of. Jesus said that He did not come to break the covenant but to fulfill it. Jesus is speaking to a divided community. There are economic and political implications of a relationship with God. Note: Jesus response to John the Baptist’s question. There is a large crowd following him. The people did not have much to drop.
Two The Biblical prophets preached powerfully against sin. We Catholics do this as well, but not in the same way. We have defined what we call a “serious sin”. The conditions of a serious sin are first, it must be a serious matter. Second, it must have been done with sufficient reflection. Third, it was done with the full consent of the will. Basically it had to be nasty and when you were done, you clicked your heels.
The prophets used the word, sin it was about what a people do. It was not associated with malice, but with blindness. They didn’t even see that what they were doing was wrong.
This is much of what we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to help people see what is currently unseen. Often people’s sensate systems are shut down. Slavery in our nation’s history was a good example of this. You can read in the journals of Christian slave owners. They record things like this, “I sometimes wonder if the black man with shackles around his neck is really a human being. Others in town say that it is acceptable to own slaves, so I guess I can too.”
Between the slave master and the slave, who is blind? Obviously it’s the slave master. It is not an utter and complete blindness though. There is an obvious economic benefit for the one who is blind. His blindness helps him get rich. John Newton, the famous slave trader who after coming to Christ spent his life putting an end to slave trading, penned these words in his song, Amazing Grace, “I once was lost and now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Our task in social ministry with those who come to church week after week is to help them see what has been previously unnoticed by them. We just can’t tell them, “Feed the hungry or go to hell!” How do we do this? By getting them near the people in the margins.
What is a church for? It is a place where people’s hearts can be enlarged over and over and over again. It’s a place where I can love people bigger today than I could a year ago. I can love people I was previously unable to love. I am capable of a love I have not known before. If that isn’t happening to our people who come week after week to church, then they aren’t truly converted. Conversion is not a static thing, it is a process defined by an enlarging capacity to love.
Spiritual VenturesFormation
Exhibit A Luke 18:18-23
A rich young man asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” You need to know that two-thirds of the land in Galilee had been dispossessed in the time of Jesus’ ministry by the Romans and those who collaborated with them. The rich got along with Rome. Jesus responded, “Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. (To the poor in the crowd, this is good news.) Then, come and follow me.” The man went away sad, because he had many possessions.
The venture Jesus invites the rich young man to is a venture of giving away. Jesus is referring to two kinds of spiritual ventures. I am going to use gestures. The first is the reign of God. It is a life characterized by compassion, generosity, sacrifice, justice, charity, etc. This is the great venture of self give-away. God needs us to love each other.
(The rich young ruler asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Eternal life in the Greek is really a life lived in the here and now which is lived so well that it intersects with God’s life which is unbounded by time and place. It is as good as life can be lived! It is so rich with passion and satisfaction that death doesn’t bring it to an end. The paradox of such a life is that true satisfaction is not found in stuff. It is found in relationships and that which brings true life to people.)
The second spiritual venture looks like this gesture. Jesus does not recommend it, but it is the only other possibility. It is characterized by three words, me, my, and mine. Physically, you can’t do both at the same time. This is a venture of hoarding, grabbing, keeping and collecting. We are either looking out or looking in. You cannot give up and hoard at the same time. Those who lose their lives and those hold on to them will lose them. On a given day we will be given multiple invitations to hoard and very few to give away.
The rich young ruler was a hoarder and he went away grieved, because he did not want to give away what he had. How hard it is for the rich to enter in the same sense as “entering” a conversation the reign of God. When you are rich In the gospels there is only one reason for the rich, so they are to be holy distribution centers. There are to make sure wealth goes where it is supposed to go. (Example of Blasphemy) Stunning text, Acts 4:32ff. With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection. “I surrender all.” It is not just about stuff, but it is about stuff. The only things we take the heaven are the things we gave away. Comparison of funerals - When I go to the funeral of a holy “generous” person it “rocks.” My uncle was a man like that. I have never been to a funeral – where large IRA or expensive antiques are acknowledged – nobody cares. The whole culture is consumed by hoarding and protecting.
How many times does Jesus use the word church in the 4 gospels? 2 times. The reign of God? – 92. The reign of God in the gospels generally? - 142. The church is not the goal. The reign of God is the goal and the church is the tool to the see the “reign of God.” The church is at the call of the reign of God. Without the call the church can become self-absorbed.
Exhibit B The problem with transformation in the church is that we simply cannot do it. Only God can. I cannot say to you, “be changed!” God alone can change people. We cannot do transformation in others if we could our kids would be different! We can’t even think of changing ourselves.
Though we cannot do transformation, we presume to do what we Catholics call “formation.” This would be discipleship, spiritual growth, etc. in your churches. We do formation with a view towards transformation. But it is more than education. There are things we do to promote personal growth in our members to make them true disciples of Jesus.
There is an obvious relationship between the transformation we cannot do and the formation which we can do. I want to use and agricultural image—that of a farmer. A farmer can drop seeds into a carpet, a gravel parking lot, the dirt in a subdivision, and in good, rich soil. If the farmer does that and returns in a month, what will he find? He will most likely find that there is nothing to find in the first three places, but he will probably find healthy growth from the seed sown in the rich soil.
The key implication for us from this story is deciding what kind of soil we are going to invite people into. In the right contexts, seeds sprout up heartily when sown in good soil. The same is true with people.
What are some good examples of good formation? St. Francis of Assisi lived an extraordinary life. Does anybody know when St. Francis began his conversion experience? It was the first time he kissed, embraced a leper. What had previously been unthinkable to him became what he described as “sweetness and light.” Francis encounters the very presence of God.
through which you realized that there is a wonderful new part of life to experience there. How many of you came back unchanged? My daughter went to Haiti to work in an orphanage full of terminally ill orphans. Most of what she did while there was hold and care for and love on little babies who were dying. She came back a changed person. She learned to understand Jesus through the eyes of dying children. Abundant life is drawn into a person who extends his life to others who are suffering. How many of you have had an experience that took you “across the tracks” “The poor are not lazy.” Kneeled to look someone in eye. Being with them was osmotic. I begin to understand why? I care about the person.
The challenge of the North American church is that we are rich. Rich does not worry about whether we were eat the next day. The poor don’t know. (Story of the church library.) Jesus says don’t waste your time. Don’t get preoccupied with stuff. We don’t see others.
Two spiritual ventures
Luke 18:18-23 Exhibit A
Rich young man asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” You need to know that two-thirds of the land in Galilee had been dispossessed in the time of Jesus’ ministry by the Romans and those who collaborated with them. Jesus responded, “Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come and follow me.” The man went away sad, because he had many possessions.
Jesus is referring to two kinds of spiritual journeys. The first spiritual journey God does not need our love He needs us to love each other.
The venture Jesus invites the rich young man to is a venture of giving away. It is a life characterized by compassion, generosity, sacrifice, justice, charity, etc. This is the great venture.
The other is a journey of greed and selfishness - of hoarding, grabbing, keeping and collecting. It is characterized by three words, me, my, and mine. We are either looking out (Matt: Make this a live link to Amazon and externally focused church) or looking in. You cannot give up and hoard at the same time.
The rich young ruler was a hoarder and he went away grieved, because he did not want to give away what he had. How hard it is for the rich to enter the reign of God. (In the same sense as “entering” a conversation).
On a given day we will be given multiple invitations to hoard and very few to give up.
Those who give their lives will find them those who hold on to them will lose them
How hard is it for the rich to participate in the kingdom of God? In the gospels, there is only one reason for wealth that is to see that everyone has what they need. Acts 4:32ff With power There is very compelling about surrendering all Even if you earned it, it is not yours. When I go to the funeral of a holy “generous” person it “rocks.” My uncle was a man like that. I have never been to a funeral – large IRA expensive antiques – nobody cares. The whole culture is consumed by hoarding and protecting.
How many times is the church mentioned 2 The kingdom of God - 92 “the reign of God” - 142the church is not the goal the church is the tool to the “reign of God.”
Luke 19:1-10 Exhibit B
Fourteen verses later in Luke 18 you find the story of Zacchaeus. This is the same story with a different ending. He was the moral equivalent of the Grand Dragon of the KKK. Sinner because he was a tax collector. Jesus responded by saying that salvation had come to his house
He was rich from the pillaging and the dispossessing of people. He responded to meeting Jesus by giving generously to the poor and by paying back the people he cheated with interest. His wallet was a symptom of his growth. It was really about the growth of his heart…increasing his capacity to love. Any authentic conversion capacity to love bigger than we could before.
This is a classic example of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. (Insert the drawing of the enlarging hearts.) Jesus responded by saying that salvation had come to his house.
(What is a church for? It is a place where people’s hearts can be enlarged over and over and over again. It’s a place where I can love people bigger today than I could a year ago. I can love people I was previously unable to love. I am capable of a love I have not known before. If that isn’t happening to our people who come week after week to church, then they aren’t truly converted. Conversion is not a static thing, it is a process defined by an enlarging capacity to love. We need to invite people into an across-the-tracks experience. It is the only way they will ever grow their hearts. The true test of agape love is this; can I love someone who cannot love me back? Do I find myself spending more and more time with these kinds of people? )
This is a classic example of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. It means that your heart grows and your arms grow to embrace new people and new geography. This is the movement to be converted…towards transformation and spiritual maturity. This is a picture of true conversion. It is demonstrated in the growing size of a person’s heart. It can be seen in a person who has a greater capacity to love today that he did a year ago. His or her love just gets bigger and bigger. This kind of love takes us to the broken places. Talking the talk is only important to the extent of your walking the walk…period. To what extent am I just using Jesus words? Those who lose their lives gain them. Those who keep their lives lose them. It means that as your heart grows and your arms grow to embrace new people and new geography. If I plot where my life was lived home, school and tennis club and there were trips to Hawaii. What happens is the The “push pins” of my life would change. “I followed someone there.” I want to follow Jesus, look where Jesus went. The trips became different.
Spiritual Transformation
The problem with transformation in the church is that we simply cannot do it. Only God can. I cannot say to you, “be changed!” God alone can change people. We cannot do transformation in others if we could our kids would be different! We can’t even think of changing ourselves. For twenty years I have prayed the same pray, to become more patient.
Though we cannot do transformation, weThis is the movement to be converted…towards transformation and spiritual maturity. We can’t change anybody. Who changes us? God, The Holy Spirit. I cannot change ourselves – I am going to become a more patient person – and we become. Don’t have a minister of transformation. Christian education – called “formation.” Church does presume to do what we Catholics call “formation.” This would be discipleship, spiritual growth, etc. in your churches. Weand can do formation with a view towards transformation. But it is more than education. There are things we do to promote personal growth in our members to make them true disciples of Jesus.
There is an obvious relationship between the transformation we cannot do and the formation which we. What can the church do to give people an experience with God. Formation can do. I want to use and agricultural image—that of a farmer. You can’t make seeds grow by yelling at them. You must but them in something. I can drop seeds into a carpet, a gravel parking lot, the dirt in a subdivision, and in good, rich soil. If I return in a month, what will he find? He will most likely find that there is nothing to find in the first three places, but he will probably find healthy growth from the seed sown in the rich soil.
The relationship between transformation and formation is the same as the seed and the soil. We but people in “graces way.” The key implication for us from this story is deciding what kind of soil we are going to invite people into. In the right contexts, seeds sprout up heartily when sown in good soil. The same is true with people. What are the best soils that lead others to an expanding capacity to love?
What are some good examples of good formation? St. Francis of Assisi lived an extraordinary life. Does anybody know when St. Francis began his transformation experience? He was a rich Italian. It was the first time he kissed, embraced a leper. What had previously been unthinkable to him became what he described as “sweetness and light.” Francis encounters the very presence of God. Seeds can be planted in different soils and wait a few months and see different results. Relationship between formation and transformation is the same between soil and growth. We put people in grace’s way and the What are the best soils that leads them to an expanding capacity to love.
How many of you have made the choice to be with the poor in that place. How many of you came back unchanged? How many were raised in a rich home. The rich does not worry if they will eat the next day. About half of the world lives that way. How many of you have had an experience that took you “across the tracks” through which you realized that there is a wonderful new part of life to experience there. Jack kneeled to look someone in eye. Being with them was osmotic. “The poor are not lazy.” I begin to understand why? I care about the person.
There are more texts that warn about the dangers of wealth than about prayer. The challenge of the North American church is that we are rich. Rich does not worry about whether we were eat the next day. The poor don’t know. (Story of the church library sections on prayer and dangers of wealth.) Jesus says, “Please don’t waste your time. Don’t get preoccupied with stuff. It will not satisfy.” Luke 12 - build bigger barns grows rich for himself. We don’t see others.
Early church councils dealt with the question, “Can rich people be saved?” The answer was yes but if they give most of it away. Why? Because this is world where 40,000 will die today of starvation (¾ are children). (John the Baptist’s instructions.)
The obstacle of embracing the life Jesus asks of us is the same old justifications for why I will not “cross the tracks.” I say I believe in Jesus but I am not willing to go where Jesus has gone. Does Jesus talk with rich people and pay attention to rich people? Yes. Great love tilts to those in needs. The Holy Spirit calls those who have to give to those who are in need.
The story of Francis has to do with journeys. The gospels, Jesus is sending people out, sending them on a journey. The Bible is a map. You have to step into its pages. Not just read, but follow. 87 times Jesus says follow me. Go where I go. See what I do. Do as I do.
Jack’s daughter’s experience in Haiti – My daughter went to Haiti to work in an orphanage full of terminally ill orphans because of chronic malnutrition. Most of what she did while there was hold and care for and love on little babies who were dying. There were 40 cribs and in each crib 2 or 3 babies. She held a baby boy for 45 minutes. She was to move on to other babies. She came back a changed person. She learned to understand Jesus through the eyes of dying children. We see the eyes of Jesus in the eyes of the poor. If we see the world through the eyes of the poor we see how the world is structured against them.Luke 12 Build bigger barns grows rich for himself
Early church council dealt with the question, “Can rich people be saved?” The answer was yes but if they give most of it away This world 40,000 will die today of starvation (¾ are children).
Same old justifications for why I will not “cross the tracks.” Does Jesus talk with rich people and pay attention to rich people? Yes. Great love tilts to those in needs. The Holy Spirit calls those who have to give to those who are in need.
The gospels are sending people out, sending them on a journey. Not just read, but follow. 87 times Jesus says follow me. Go where I go
Jack’s daughter’s experience in Haiti – We see the eyes of Jesus in the eyes of the poor. If we see the world through the eyes of the poor we see the world is structured against them.
Here is (for what it’s worth) the gospel according to Jack. Every single person in a church ought to have a relationship with someone across the tracks—with marginalized people. Our church bulletins should have at least 25 opportunities to love others who do not have the capacity to love them back. We don’t do this stuff to prove that we are holy. We do it to put ourselves in grace’s way to allow the poor to teach us what love is all about. (Putting oneself in grace’s way is akin to putting oneself in harm’s way. To put oneself in grace’s way is putting ourselves in positions where God will intersect our lives). In the process we will end up getting more than we are giving, and we are changed in the process. What the vulnerable teach us is that we too are human, and that we all desperately need God. When we do youth ministry in Jesus words and trips to the beach we tell them that church is about. We need to . What will give them experience with the mission.
Charity and Justice
The great love expresses itself in many ways – charity and justice. Jack explained the difference between charity and justice with the following story.
A man was weeding in his garden one day. He noticed in the creek behind the field what appeared to be a body. He ran to the creek and discovered that in fact it was the body of a woman. He pulled her out of the water barely alive. He carried her to her home. He nursed her back to health and a month later sent her on her way.
The next month while he was again weeding in his garden, he noticed what looked like 2 bodies floating down the creek. He ran to the creek and pulled two men near the point of death to the bank and called for help. He took care of the two until they were healthy enough to go on their way.
The next month, while weeding in his garden, he saw three bodies floating down the creek. Again he did the same, but this time he realized that there is a problem up the stream that needs to be fixed. The movement from charity to justice begins when we start walking upstream. The gardener brought mercy to the immediate situation, but mercy though good, was not enough. Fixing whatever the problem was upstream is a picture of justice
The point of the story is that sometimes when you are doing social outreach, you must realize that you can deal with symptoms (mercy) without dealing with the causes (justice). Both are important, but they must often function together
One question, “Why are 2/3 of the people Vietnam Veterans? Why are people with full-time jobs going to soup kitchen? We become Involved in “living wage campaigns.” When you move from charity to justice it becomes more controversial. It affects the wallet or the pocketbook.
Q and A
Generosity without sacrifice – There are different ways to do charity – from distance to along side. The problem is that privilege never recognizes itself. Jack gave the example of political history of Africa.
How do you deal with justice and politics? Jesus saw faith, economics and politics as all interconnected. God wants to redeem the whole world, individuals, communities, economics, and politics.
Question about Justfaith – It is a religious non-profit – it is a thirty week program. It is an intensive program. Tyranny of small expectations – people are busy – It is a matter of priorities. The average American watching 14 hours of TV a week. In the fall of 2006 we will offer a Christian ecumenical version.
Liz presented a toy truck to describe a model. She dismissed the group to a working lunch to create their dream models of what a wildly successful externally focused ministry would look like.
Report Outs on Dream Models
Jack’s Encore
When I was 25 I joined a Catholic Workers Community. I quit my job, sold my house and my car and moved in with the poor to live and work among them. I worked in a soup kitchen. I said to myself, “I’m pretty holy for doing this.” The rich kid had given it all up to go and work with the poor. After two weeks of peeling potatoes in the soup kitchen, I simply felt like I was the same person I was before, except for not having a home and a car.
After two years of working there serving people I really did feel different. What characterized the way I felt was that I had really come to love the people I was with. The broken, wounded and vulnerable had taught me so much about love and my own humanity. So much of who they were flowed into me.
I fast one day a week, and there are two significant things that happen to me when I fast. The first is that I get really hungry. The second is that I become more spiritually attentive. I’m reminded of how it must feel for half of the people in the world who worry every day about where they are going to get their next meal.
We need to invite people into an across-the-tracks experience. It is the only way they will ever grow their hearts. The true test of agape love is this; can I love someone who cannot love me back? Do I find myself spending more and more time with these kinds of people?
The test of my growth is this: Is my heart larger today, with an increased capacity to love, than I was twelve months ago?
The great love expresses itself in many ways – charity and justice
Story of caring for woman. Two bodies and caring for them. Three bodies What is going on upriver logic of love moves us from charity to justice. One question, “Why are 2/3 of the people Vietnam Veterans? Why are people with full-time jobs going to soup kitchen? When you move from charity to justice it becomes more controversial. It affects the wallet.
Q and A
Different ways to do charity – from distance to along side. Privilege never recognizes itself. Example of going to Africa. How do you deal with justice and politics? Jesus wants to redeem the whole world.
Justfaith – religious non-profit –thirty week program. Tyranny of small expectations – people are busy – watching 14 hours a week of t.v. Fall of 2006 christian exumenical version jack@justfaith.org
Liz presented a toy truck to describe a model. She dismissed the group to working lunch to create their dream models of what a wildly successful externally focused ministry would look like.
Report Outs on Dream Models
Jack’s Encore
The rich young ruler asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Eternal life in the Greek is really a life lived in the here and now which is lived so well that it intersects with God’s life which is unbounded by time and place. It is as good as life can be lived! It is so rich with passion and satisfaction that death doesn’t bring it to an end. The paradox of such a life is that true satisfaction is not found in stuff. It is found in relationships and that which brings true life to people. There is an experience so rich that it would cause us to conclude that we could not imagine ourselves doing anything else. Giving ones life away results in sacrifice, but people describe it paradoxically in terms of abundance.
Every single person in a church ought to have a relationship with someone across the tracks—with marginalized people. Our church bulletins should have at least 25 opportunities to love others who do not have the capacity to love them back. We don’t do this stuff to prove that we are holy. We do it to put ourselves in grace’s way to allow the poor to teach us what love is all about. (Putting oneself in grace’s way is akin to putting oneself in harm’s way. To put oneself in grace’s way is putting ourselves in positions where God will intersect our lives). In the process we will end up getting more than we are giving, and we are changed in the process. What the vulnerable teach us is that we too are human, and that we all desperately need God.
We so frequently think of social ministry as twisting someone’s arm behind their backs to do something they don’t really want to do. People who actually give their lives away for others say, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” You can’t look at it

4 Comments:

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At Tuesday, September 06, 2005 6:55:00 PM, Blogger Johnny Canuck said...

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At Wednesday, September 07, 2005 7:13:00 AM, Blogger Steve Van Diest said...

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