Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mary and the Good Samaritan: Bridging the gap between Christian service, and the Gospel.

I've recently been in a dialogue about the importance of Christian service and making sure is does not swamp out the proclamation of the Gospel. The question is basically should Christians be known for their acts of mercy, or the Gospel. Or as D. A Carson puts it "the debate (is) between those Christians who say that we should primarily be about the business of heralding the gospel and planting churches, and those who say that our responsibility as Christians extends to the relief of oppression, suffering, and poverty in all their forms." This Sunday I had the pleasure of listening to Jeff Greenman, Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies and Professor of Christian Ethics at Wheaton College, preach at HoneyRock camp. Jeff's sermon came from Luke 10, and focused on the stories of The Good Samaritan, and Mary and Martha. The sermon reminded me of the forementioned dialogue, and stressed the missing primary business of Christians, listening to Jesus. The following is adapted from his sermon.

The Parable of the good Samaritan shows the way of Jesus.

The good Samaritan is our exemplar, our model. How can we "go and do likewise" like commanded by Jesus? The answer comes from the following story with Mary and Martha.

There are many false lessons that have been extracted from the story of Mary and Martha. The story is not about:
  • Mary as the symbol of contemplation over action
  • Mary as the symbol of the love of God over the love of people
  • Mary as the symbol of the Gospel as superior to Law
  • Or Mary as the symbol of Christianity being greater than Judaism
Rather, the actual concern of the text is found in verse 40.
40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."
Martha was distracted. The Greek implies Martha was distracted by service.

Mary is the Prime Exemplar of Attention to Jesus.
Mary takes the position of a student to Jesus. This was a radical ideas, of a women as a student of a rabbi. Yet her sister Martha, is pulled away from Jesus. She is trying to be a good hostess, she doesn't want to be rude, but she doesn't stop to listen. She is worried and upset, she's grumpy, and she even tells Jesus off.

Distracted Service
To be the good Samaritan, we must be like Mary. We must first listen to Jesus before we serve. Otherwise we will see service as duty. Commentators have heaped tons of scorn on Martha. But how often have we been like Martha, going through the motions, yet not paying attention to Jesus. Those of us in ministry are often the worst at this. We focus so much on doing the work of God, we forget to listen to Him. There is nothing wrong about service or busyness, but we must first listen.

We all know what it is like to be like Martha, I hope we can all learn to be like the Good Samaritan, it means we must first learn to listen like Mary.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Road To Jericho

As third millennium American Christians, we often find ourselves distant from the stories told in the New Testament. Think about it, how many Christians would still follow Jesus if he told them to sell all their possessions, leave their families, and live a life as a homeless disciple? Jesus warned his disciples that they would have no place to lay their head, That they would have to pick up their cross and follow him. I would venture to say many would decide that the radical life change brought by following Christ would be a bit too much.

Yet this is the example we see in scripture. The church of Acts "sold their possessions and belongings and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need." Few churches discourage helping others. We are all for the idea. Everyone wants to give to charity, to make their "difference", feel good about themselves, and not have to get dirty in the process. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, and was told that we all fulfill the Great Commission by giving to the Cooperative Program. After seeing how CP money was spent, I soon realized that was a poor excuse for missions. Short-term mission trips can be another way American Christians can get their do-gooders rush without any real commitment or life change. I'm not saying all mission trips are useless, but it cannot be a substitute for missional living.

We must be willing to live missionally. This goes beyond charity and forces us to become friends with the poor, the down-trodden, and the oppressed. Charity is popular, it is even used to sell merchandise. (Think (RED) ) The celebrities are constantly toting their own charity, even playing charity gameshows, but they rarely get into the trenches with those the money goes toward. This is a higher standard we are called to as Christians. Jesus was mocked by the religious leaders of his day for hanging out with tax collectors, lepers, and gentiles.

So find a simple way to get involved in the lives of your neighbors, and the oppressed. Rather than just flipping a coin to someone less fortunate, invest your time into their life. Take an interest in those around you. There is not one set way to go about this process. The stories in the Gospels and Acts are a great starting point. You may also want to check out the following:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

America's Dairyland

Courtney and I have finished our first week here at HoneyRock Camp, in Three Lakes, WI. It has been great so far. Our first group of campers will all be over 55! I've been working with the construction and maintenance department. Courtney is working in the office doing marketing. We'll get pictures up as soon as I find my SD card reader. So far we've been on a boat ride, seen a porcupine, ate some cheese curds, and ate Soda Pops, a restaurant with a selection of 150 sodas.