September 14, 2019

Outreach Tests Our Love (Proper 24c)


We are like the lost sheep that has been found. Someone has reached out to us at various times in our lives to re-connect us to the church and inclusion in God’s Kingdom on Earth. We have found meaning, purpose and a new spiritual life of joy in Jesus. The Readings challenge us to get up, go out, find and bring others home to Jesus. They teach us how to do this by:
·      Being Discerning but not judgemental
·      Being Loving, patient and forgiving
·      Being Courageous in outreach
·      Remembering apathy is a failure to love our neighbour

1. Being Discerning but not Judgemental
Jesus is giving a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in the parable of the lost Sheep:

·      They had set themselves up as judges over the people and spent all their time focussing on rules and interpretations of the Law
·      They did not love God or their neighbour
·      There was no love, patience or forgiveness for sinners – only determining appropriate punishment
·      Un-forgiveness had eaten away and destroyed their souls
·      They had died spiritually put themselves outside of God’s Kingdom
·      Religious pride separated them from both God and neighbour
·      They would never go out, find and bring the lost back to God

2. Being Loving, Patient and Forgiving
Jeremiah reminds us that God had been reaching out to people for 4,000 years. The Old Testament is a history of God reaching out in love through Abraham, Moses and the prophets. His goal was to draw them into a day to day love relationship with Him of love:
·      Paul’s letter to Timothy reminds us of Jesus continuing this work in reaching out to Paul – the most famous persecutor of Christians
·      Paul, like many of us, had been overwhelmed by the dramatic way in which Jesus displayed his “…immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him…” (1 Tim. 1.16)
·      The love, patience and forgiveness of God had broken through Paul’s intellectual defences and pride,
·      Having experienced personal forgiveness, Paul knew he could depend completely on the grace of Jesus Christ to keep him in God’s Kingdom
·      His experience of the Holy Spirit as guide, teacher and healer had given him a completely new life – the old Paul was dead
·      The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in forgiveness was a completely new concept that he was determined to share with people anywhere

3. Being Courageous in Outreach
The work of prophets, pastors, priests and teachers is to warn people of the consequences of failing to respond to God’s love in reaching out to them. We live in a time when speaking the truth of Christianity regularly and often leads to persecution:
·      Globally more Christians were killed for their faith last year than at any time in history
·      Persecution has driven Christians underground or out of many countries
·      In Canada Christians who remind people of  harsh Biblical warnings against abortion, euthanasia, false teachings, pagan religions, sexual immorality and unbelief have been persecuted as criminals
·      My trip through Greece, Turkey and Albania changed my life by making Paul’s example of courageous outreach in the face of persecution and hardship real.

4. Apathy in Outreach is a Failure to Love our Neighbour
In our time it is dangerous socially, politically and professionally to say things about religion that could be interpreted as insensitive or hate speech. We excuse ourselves from outreach because “we do not want to offend anyone” – or we have to “respect their viewpoint”
·      This is a failure to go out into the night, find the lost sheep and bring them home to Jesus and an eternal spiritual life of joy
·      If we really love people we are compelled to share the good news of Gods’ grace, love, forgiveness and healing

Outreach tests our love

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