This past Sunday as I was preaching about the traumatic events of last week and relating them to Luke 10:25-37, Parable of the Good Samaritan, I upset some people when I retold Jesus' story using "a Donald Trump supporter" (DTS) and "a Bernie Sanders supporter" (BSS). In my retelling the DTS is riding his bike on Highway 287 and is struck by a car whose driver is unaware of the accident. I come upon the scene, see the crumpled bike, see the injured DTS, but pass by because I have an important worship service to lead at the church. A priest (Grey Eagle's version) or Pastor John of the LP Assembly of God (Long Prairie's version) sees the bike and the downed rider but passes by to get to an important youth group meeting. The third person to come by is the BSS who sees the results of the accident and rushes in to render aid (while calling 911). The DTS is saved by the willingness of the BSS to be his neighbor.
Please note that I did not bash either supporter or the candidates. (I kind of bashed myself.) My only intention was to illustrate the extremes that Jesus used in his story and how that would have scandalized some of his hearers. Samaritans and Jews did not like each other, yet one saves the life of the other. Jesus did not pass judgment on who was the better person. One becomes the neighbor to the other or, seen in a different light, they become neighbors together. I can imagine how some of Jesus' listeners may have been a bit upset with his story. Would it have been better if I had the BSS as the one hit by the car and the DTS the one to render aid? I don't know. Would it have been better if I left DT and BS out of the story? No, because it would have lost the lesson (or the scandal) of the extremes.
A lot of what Jesus said in his day caused pain; they were scandalous. The words he chose and the actions he took caused people to be scandalized (stumbling block in most translations) and some left him (John 6:66). Paul said that when we preach Christ Crucified we cause people to be scandalized (1 Corinthians 1:23). I think that 2000 years later and having heard the stories so often, we have lost the scandal of who Jesus was, what he said, how he died, and the ultimate scandal of being raised on Easter.
To those whom I caused offence, I am sorry. I apologize that what I said caused pain. That was not my intention. Please feel free to call me if you wish to talk about it.
On a lighter note: Our churches were designated a "Pokeman Go" spot. It is an app sort of like "geo caching". When someone who is playing goes to the spot they are supposed to collect something, but I was unprepared for this and have nothing to give at Peace United Church. For those working at the GE Church preparing for the garage sale, if someone stops by ask them if they are playing Pokeman Go and offer them a treat (there are some in the youth cabinet in the kitchen).
We begin a new sermon series this week called "Hope for the Future". Worship specialist Marcia McFee, designed this series for the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. It does not follow the Lectionary, which assigns lessons for each Sunday over three years. Each Sunday for the next eleven weeks we will read the assigned Gospel Lesson and the particular lesson for that Sunday of the sermon series.
One of the images that Ms. McFee uses is that of the fruit tree. Who are the most hopeful people in the world? Farmers. For the average farmer that plants and harvests annual crops, there are many months between planting seed and harvesting produce. For the owners of vineyards it takes up to 3 years following the planting of shoot to harvesting usable grapes. For an apple orchard owner who plants standard sized apple trees it takes six to ten years following planting for the tree to produce edible apples. A farmer planting apples seed has a lot of hope for the future.
The first sermon in this series is "A Future with Hope". It's lesson is from Jeremiah 29:10-14. Things may seem hopeless and it may seem that God has abandoned us. But God is never finished with us because God has plans. God will give us a future with hope.
The Gospel Lesson is from Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus visits Martha and Mary in their home in Bethany (no mention of their brother Lazarus). One of the stories we know so well. But do we? Where in this story will we find the Kingdom of God and a Future with Hope?
Have a great week everyone! Watch out for the Pokeman Go players.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor