While we did not post a Sunday Worship Blog yesterday, we do want to comment on the Service.
The theme for the day was “Voices From the Crowd”. Guest preacher Austin Hornyak used two scriptures to set up the day. Leviticus 19:1,2, 9-18 is counsel to the Israelites to leave what is left in the fields after the first harvest so that the poor can come and glean, followed by the “Ten Commandments”. Matthew 5:38-48 is part of the “Sermon on the Mount”, and Austin pointed out the “love your enemies” line as the thing most remembered of all the sayings of Jesus said. Austin took the Matthew text and “crowd sourced” it by sending a series of questions to people he knows who don’t attend our church – and most of whom don’t attend church at all. He presented their voices to us as those that need to be listened to. They represent the “younger people” churches are always trying to attract (“anyone under the age of 45”).
To round out the service, Jenny Robbins sang two spirituals that gently and powerfully made us pray My Lord, What a Morning!
What a dilemma for the Christian Church – to be in ministry with and for people without creating a ‘bait and switch’ mentality. Austin used email as a noninvasive way to engage people such that they were not threatened or made to feel as if he was after something other than their honest opinions. He mentioned that the pastor in a church is often the least effective when it comes to engaging folks outside the church – I suppose this is true because clergy are perceived as being ‘professionally religious’ rather than personally convicted. His challenge to us was to remind us of the need to be honestly, lovingly, sincerely in touch with our neighbors.
Questions like: What is evil? Are there limits to loving your enemies? Who are your ‘enemies’? How would you answer those questions? Who are your enemies? What is it that puts them in that category? What does it mean to forgive them, or to love them?
Another question that might be worth pondering is this: For whom are you the ‘enemy’? Why might that be so?
Jesus managed to ask the hard questions and to teach the tough lessons without turning off the crowds. Austin pointed out that the only folks who really got upset were the religious authorities who had already answered those questions for themselves. Perhaps their unease with Jesus had to do with the way he was able to show them their answers didn’t really have much by way of integrity.
It was a good Sunday. And we hope it will be a good Monday for you, too.