Daily Riches: The Approachability of Jesus (Shannon Jung)

“People were bringing even infants, presumably those so young that they needed to be carried, and other children to Jesus ‘that he might touch them.’ Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers and wanted to gain some of that for their children. However, that is partly to impose our more caring view of children onto first-century people. The literature on how children were viewed then suggests that people then did not value children very highly. Children were, in one interpretation, seen to be on the same social level as slaves: with few rights, open to abuse, and lacking protection under Jewish law. Other, more moderate views are that children were merely treated with indifference. . . . Clearly there is more than a metaphor here; there is an emotional image for us who would be disciples to imitate. There is something about Jesus that is a blessing, a hospitality, an approachability, a charisma that draws others into him. Luke the author wants us to get that image. . . . No one can merit or achieve the kingdom; it must be received without merit, as a child receives everything. . . . We, like the disciples, are to welcome as Jesus welcomed. We are to follow the example of Jesus, who called the marginal and the despised to himself. What we can do out of gratitude is to call the socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ. Like the early church, we are to transform society by not just accepting but seeking out the outcasts and the marginalized. We are to treat them as Jesus did the children. . . . Ministry to, with, and for those who are on the margins is our response to God’s welcome of us. . . . What is the quality that commends children? Precisely their dependency. Their dependence on adults mirrors our dependence of God; that is one of the marks of the kingdom, which belongs to them (v. 16b). Here is exemplified the equal unworthiness, marginality and dependence of us all before God.” Shannon Jung

“Whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it.”
Luke 18:17 NLT

Moving From Head to Heart

  • What would a church look like that called the “socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ?”
  • How would that impact it’s philosophy of ministry? . . . congregational demographics?
  • Have you ever been an outsider? Are there many socially rejected people in your congregation? . . . in your list of friends?

Abba, thank you for our approachable Jesus.

For More: Feasting on the Gospels, Vol. 2 by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, eds.

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Daily Riches: Christianity’s Apologia for the Weak (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Have you ever seen a greater mystery in this world than poor people, ill people, insane people–people who cannot help themselves but who have to rely on other people for help, for love, for care? Have you ever thought what outlook on life a cripple, a hopelessly ill person, a socially exploited person, a coloured person in a white country, an untouchable–may have? And if so, did you not feel that here life means something totally different from what it means to you, and that on the other hand you are inseparably bound together with such unfortunate people, just because you are human like them, just because you are not weak but strong, and just because in all your strength you will feel their weakness? Have we not felt that we shall never be happy in our life as long as this world of weakness from which we are perhaps spared–but who knows for how long–is foreign and strange and far removed from us, as long as we keep away from it consciously or subconsciously? …Christianity has been blamed ever since its early days for its message to the weak: Christianity is a religion of slaves, of people with inferiority complexes; it owes its success only to the masses of miserable people whose weakness and misery Christianity has glorified. It was the attitude towards the problem of weakness in the world, which made everybody followers or enemies of Christianity. Against the new meaning which Christianity gave to the weak, against this glorification of weakness, there has always been the strong and indignant protest of an aristocratic philosophy of life which glorified strength and power and violence as the ultimate ideals of humanity. We have observed this very fight going on up to our present day. Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its apologia for the weak.–I feel that Christianity is rather doing too little in showing these points than doing too much. Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offence, more shock to the world, than it is doing. Christianity should take a much more definite stand for the weak than to consider the potential moral right of the strong.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Where is the Christian apologia for the weak today?
  • Has the Christianity you know “adjusted itself … to the worship of power?”
  • Is your church standing for the weak? Are you?

For More: The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog. I appreciate it! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Far Too Simple Command to Love (Jonathan Martin and Thomas Merton)

“God loves you…without disclaimers. God loves you…without conjunctions. God loves you…without an addendum.” Jonathan Martin

“We have to resolutely put away our attachment to natural appearance and our habit of judging according to the outward face of things. I must learn that my fellow man, just as he is, whether he is my friend or my enemy, my brother or a stranger from the other side of the world, whether he be wise of foolish, no matter what my be his limitations, ‘is Christ.‘  …Any prisoner, any starving man, any sick or dying man, any sinner, any man whatever, is to be regarded as Christ–this is the formal command of the Savior Himself. This doctrine is far too simple to satisfy many modern Christians, and undoubtedly many will remain very uneasy with it, tormented by the difficulty that perhaps after all, this particular neighbor is a bad man, and therefore cannot be Christ. The solution of this difficulty is to unity oneself with the Spirit of Christ, to start thinking and loving as a Christian, and to stop being a hairsplitting pharisee. Our faith is not supposed …to assess the state of our neighbor’s conscience. It is the needle by which we draw the thread of charity through our neighbor’s soul and our own soul and sew ourselves together in one Christ. Our faith is given us not to see whether or not our neighbor is Christ, but to recognize Christ in him and to help our love make both him and ourselves more fully Christ.  …corrupt forms of love wait for the neighbor to ‘become a worthy object of love’ before actually loving him. This is not the way of Christ. Since Christ Himself loved us when we were by no means worthy of love and still loves us with all our unworthiness, our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. …What we are asked to do is to love; and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbor worthy if anything can. Indeed, that is one of the most significant things about the power of love. There is no way under the sun to make a man worthy of love except by loving him. As soon as he realizes himself loved–if he is not so weak that he can no longer bear to be loved–he will feel himself instantly becoming worthy of love. He will respond by drawing a mysterious spiritual value out of his own depths, a new identity called into being by the love that is addressed to him.” Thomas Merton

From Head to Heart

  • Why do we find so many reasons not to love?

Abba, teach me to love.

For More: Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton

Daily Riches: Recognizing Christ When He Comes (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edwin Robertson)

“How often have you thought that to see Jesus would be marvelous, that you would give everything you have to know that He was with you. …Jesus knew that His followers would want to see Him and have Him by them in human form. But how can this be? He told a parable about this—the scene of the last judgment when He would divide the nations as a shepherd divides His sheep from the goats. He said to those who were truly His flock of sheep … Come you who are blessed by my Father… I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. When [they] …asked in surprise, “When? Where?,” He answered, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me. …With that we face the shocking reality. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He asks for help in the form of a beggar, a down-and-out, a man in ragged clothes, someone who is sick, even a criminal in need of our love. He meets you in every person you encounter in need. So long as there are people around, Christ walks the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls to you, demands of you, makes claims upon you. That is the great seriousness of the Advent message and its great blessing. Christ stands at the door. He lives in the form of people around us. Will you therefore leave the door safely locked for your protection, or will you open the door for Him? It may seem odd to us that we can see Jesus in so familiar a face. But that is what He said. Whoever refuses to take seriously this clear Advent message cannot talk of the coming of Christ into his heart. …Christ knocks!” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Look! I stand at the door and knock.”
Revelation 3:20
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Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Jesus claims powerful solidarity with the poor and disenfranchised. What is your attitude toward them?
  • Will your desire for safety keep you from “opening the door” to a needy person?
  • Consider the meaning of Christ’s coming in this light. Have you understood it?

Abba, stretch my heart to make room for the ones you love.

For More: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons edited by Edwin Robertson

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Thanks so much for your support of this blog! If you liked it, please share it. Merry Christmas everyone! – Bill

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