Posts Tagged Jesus

An Apostolic Care Act – Bill Leonard* – Baptist News Global

Bill LeonardFirst a confession: As a result of recent healthcare debates, Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress got me to listen to Jesus in a way I’ve not listened before. And apparently I’m not alone.

On June 9, representatives of some 34 diverse religious groups signed onto a letter urging senators not to cut Medicaid as a lifeline to those with health needs. (Medicaid funds 64 percent of nursing care patients and 54 percent of childbirths in the U.S.)  The document declares: “Access to affordable, quality health care should not and cannot be a privilege; it is a requirement rooted in faith to protect the life and dignity of every person.” Signers include NETWORK, a Catholic justice lobby; the Islamic Society of North America; the Union of Reformed Judaism; and denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Presbyterian Church USA and the National Council of Churches. (No Baptist communions are listed.)

I’ve long been haunted by the 10th chapters of Matthew and Luke, passages in which Jesus sends out his first apostolic reps, the Twelve (Matthew) and the Seventy (Luke). They are lessons in gospel minimalism, the first inkling of how Jesus understood and enacted his witness in the world, trusting those folks to help take the Story on the road. Teaching new generations of seminarians compelled me to consider the calling Jesus extended, the message he instructed them (and us) to declare, and the messengers’ inevitable vulnerability.

In classes and ordination services, I’ve warned would-be ministers that the “sent ones” are vulnerable from the start. Jesus advises: “Don’t take purse, shoes, a change of clothes, or an ATM card [postmodern update]. Depend on God’s Beloved Community to sustain you.” He even throws in: “And when you are arrested.” Not if, but when. That alone should scare a bit of the persistent hell out of us. I even got the part about their message: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven [God’s New Day] has come near.’”

But after years of making a big deal out of Matthew/Luke 10, I mostly missed the depth of the passage, the first element of Jesus’ commissioning. “He gave them authority,” Matthew writes, “over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and cure every disease and every sickness.” Going out, they are to “cure the sick, raise the dead [?], cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Jesus demands that they confront human suffering as readily as they declare God’s good news!

Holy Obamacare! Two thousand years later, our nation confronts questions over caring for those who need healing from “preexisting conditions,” require cleansing from years of chronic pain — physical, mental, spiritual — and those whose demons of alcohol, opioids, or arrogance need to be cast out. No, we can’t raise the dead, but can we keep folks from dying too soon, or get them to hospice so they can die with dignity?

We still don’t know what our government will do about the Affordable Care Act, but we do know that from the very beginning Jesus mandated an Apostolic Care Act of all who would follow him, who would work for and with people who are suffering, overlooked, and underserved. Whatever else, the Jesus Story has both physical and spiritual implications.

National health care conversations and controversies force us to reexamine our own churchly mission and ministry. What if health care legislation becomes so draconian and human need so great that churches have to initiate or expand community clinics, not because Obamacare is repealed, but because Jesus requires it? Even that won’t be enough. A friend reports being in a meeting where someone declared that if churches would only do their duty, health insurance wouldn’t be necessary. To which my friend responded: “When you start doing surgery in the fellowship hall, call me.”

Some Christian communities are responding with their own initiatives. Medi-share is a Christian based program that asks participants to select the monthly amount they wish to contribute, and, if they do not need it themselves, to contribute it toward the care of others persons in the system. The needs of participants are published online and contributions to their health care are funded to them directly from Medi-share. I don’t know how effective this is, but it illustrates a faith-based alternative.

My own hesitancy to claim Jesus’ first-century healing admonitions inured me to the depth of his concern for persons’ physical well-being and its continuing imperative. He won’t let any of us off the hook. At the end of Matthew 10 Jesus sweeps us up with a minimal mandate for all disciples: We may be unable to hit the road for the kingdom, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, cast out demons, or get arrested for the gospel’s sake. But we can all give “a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” in the church and the world.

Indeed, in behalf of the “little ones,” we may even need to get prophetic. In Prophecy without Contempt, Cathleen Kaveny says that prophets provide a “kind of moral chemotherapy … a brutal but necessary response to aggressive forms of moral malignancy.” Should legislators link healthcare cuts with tax breaks for the rich, some prophet might remind them that Original Sin is a preexisting condition.

*Dr. Bill Leonard spoke at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston. He speaks with a clear voice.

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Religion in an Age of Intolerance – Linda K. Wertheimer – Author, Faith Ed

Q&A for Dr. Mitch Carnell’s blog – from Linda K. Wertheimer, author of Faith Ed, Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance (Beacon Press) ; www.faithedbook.com

Hmer 2

  1. How can those of us in different faith traditions effectively communicate with one another?

Answer: “We can learn from some of the techniques teachers use when giving lessons about the world’s religions. In Modesto, Calif., for example, all high school freshmen take a required course in world religions, and the beginning lessons include instruction on how to speak respectfully when talking about an unfamiliar faith.  Don’t start out by saying, “Gee, what your religion does sounds strange. Why would you do that?” Instead, say something like, “That tradition sounds interesting. Could you tell me more about it?”

Show interest and curiosity, not derision. Some people are brought up in a religion that teaches that their faith and religious path is the only way. It’s fine to believe that, but when meeting a person of another faith, realize they may feel the same about their faith. It can be very offensive to a Jew when a Christian says what I heard throughout childhood: “You don’t believe in Jesus? You’re going to hell then.”

I belong to a multi-faith book club of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Each month, we read a book, typically related to one of the three faiths, and discuss it. We have an appointed discussion leader and some ground rules. We always speak with respect about all faiths. We avoid being judgmental. We can express our opinions about the book, but we don’t criticize the traditions of another faith. Our goal is to learn about each other.  The more we can look at people of different faiths as an opportunity for learning, the better. The biggest problems come when we look at different religions as the “other.” There should be no “other.”

  1. As a Christian, what is the most important thing I should know about Judaism?

Answer:  Let me first preface my answer with a caveat. Yes, I am Jewish, but I am not a scholar of Judaism. I’m expressing my personal opinion, which may be different than that of other Jews. I can’t pinpoint one important thing, but it would be good for all Christians to truly understand that Christianity in fact sprung out of Judaism. Jesus Christ was a Jew. Christians and Jews have similarities in some of their beliefs. The Jewish holy book, the Torah, is the Old Testament. Genesis is Genesis, the same book of the Bible, for both of us. Where our religions differ is on the place of Jesus in our faiths. To Jews, Jesus was a minor prophet. He is not a part of our teachings. So know that we have much in common, and yes, we have big differences, too. When it comes to basic values, we share a lot, including, of course, the Ten Commandments.

Hmer 1

  1. As you know my passion is for civility in the Christian community; however, my greatest desire is for a much broader approach to include other faith groups. What suggestions do you have for me in this regard?  Think local would be my biggest suggestion. Judaism has three major branches, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. It’s impossible to find one figure for Judaism. I’d reach out to other houses of worship in your community and connect with the religious leaders there. Many communities I visited have interfaith councils made up of different clergy. That’s always a great place to start to make connections. These councils sometimes sponsor public events, such as interfaith Thanksgiving services; talks on what happens when we die and what different religions believe; and community break fasts after Yom Kippur or community iftars at the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims. Book clubs, too, are a great way to bring people of different faiths together. To me, whether the rabbi is current or retired doesn’t matter. Find the person ready and willing to form an interfaith partnership.
  2. In the larger Christian landscape membership is on the decline in the United States in favor of an increasing category called “Nones.” Is this a problem in Judaism and if so what can we do?

Yes, Jewish leaders are just as worried about losing Jews to the “nones” group as leaders of other faiths.  Jewish organizations have been reaching out to the younger generation in a variety of ways, including with social activities and long-established trips to Israel for young Jews. For those interested in this topic, I recommend a new, fascinating book by Katherine Ozment, Grace Without God.

  1. Is, Faith Ed being used as a discussion in other faith groups?                                                                                                                                                     Faith Ed has grabbed the attention of many different faiths. Since it came out in August 2015, I have given talks at churches of many denominations; Jewish temples of different branches; and interfaith groups. Adult education groups at churches have invited me to speak, and I have led discussions with them about the experiences of religious minorities in our country. We also have talked about some Americans’ fear of their children learning about Islam or any other faith that is not their own. It has been heartening, though, to see how many people of different faiths care about improving their own religious literacy and their children’s understanding of different religions in our country and world.

Many church groups I’ve spoken with see this topic as a social justice issue. They are distraught about the growing Islamophobia in our country. They also are upset about the anti-Semitic incidents I describe in my book and the incidents that have happened since then. Jewish and Muslim groups naturally already had those concerns. I have more talks this fall with interfaith groups, so I see these conversations only continuing to grow. At the front of my book, I include a quote from Mahatma Gandhi from his book, All Religions Are True. Where do I see these conversations going? I hope people believe what Gandhi did so fervently: “I hold that it is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others’ religions as we would have them to respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.”

 

 

 

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Sinning and Then Follow Me by Nicola MENZIE- christian Post Reporter

ovember 10, 2014|3:11 pm

Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church recently shared that he believes that Christians for too long have been putting unnecessary focus on telling people what not to do instead of simply asking people to “follow Jesus” in order to make disciples.)

Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina, speaks via a pre-recorded video during The Nines 2014 online conference held Nov. 3 and 4. The annual event was presented by Leadership Network. Noble, claiming that tax collectors and sinners were viewed as “scum of the earth” in first century Palestine during Jesus’ time, insisted that still today, “All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, we have certain categories that we label people in, as far as sinners.”Top of Form

 

The founding and senior pastor of the multi-campus NewSpring Church in South Carolina spoke on the topic of Christian Civility for The Nines 2014 online conference last week, which was themed “Culture Clash: When Church and Culture Collide.”

The aim of this year’s online conference was to highlight areas churches have to “deal (with) now or later,” such as same-sex marriage, inclusive culture, and Christian civility, which was Noble’s point of focus.

Sharing a brief message titled “Follow Jesus and Be Nice,” the megachurch pastor used Matthew 9:9 as an illustration of his point that some Christians have been not been following Jesus’ example of making disciples.

The passage found in the first four books of the Gospels tells of Jesus calling on Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him and be one of his disciples.

The passage, in context, is highlighted below:

9 As Jesus went on from there (his own town), he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“You could literally look at this verse and say, ‘Jesus saw Matthew sinning.’ And it wasn’t like your average, ordinary everyday run-of-the-mill sin. It was tax collecting, the worse sin imaginable in the ancient world,” said Noble, who went on to explain how this verse “gripped” him and affected how he has done ministry.

“Jesus did not ask Matthew to stop sinning. He didn’t say, ‘Stop tax collecting and then follow me,'” explained Noble. “He said, ‘Hey, Matthew. I want you to follow me.’ Because Jesus knew something. Jesus knew that if he could get Matthew to follow him, eventually he would walk away from the sin he had become enslaved and addicted to.”

Noble insisted that the challenge for any Christian leader dealing with any issue is not to convince people that they must stop sinning, but to convince them of their need to follow Jesus.

“If people are pursuing Jesus, they cannot pursue sin,” said Noble, adding that the Christian church for too long has been in business of behavior modification. “It has not worked,” he claimed.

Going back to Matthew 9:9, Noble shared that, based on the four Gospel accounts, he believes Matthew followed Jesus “because Jesus was actually nice.”

“Jesus was a likable person. Jesus was the person that everybody else wanted to hang around,” explained Noble. “So I believe, as a church, we can and should tackle issues of same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, immigration issues. Name a controversial issue, I believe we should tackle it, but I believe the emphasis should be on challenging people to follow Jesus, and being nice.”

“I believe if we do that, we’ll make a greater difference that we ever thought imaginable,” said Noble.

Noble, whose multi-campus church gathers more than 32,000 weekend worshippers, was among 130 scheduled pastors, church leaders, and parachurch directors that appeared either via pre-recorded video or live webcast during the free, two-day Nines conference. The annual online conference, first organized in 2009, was presented by the Leadership Network, and presented discussions on: The Church and Same-Sex Marriage, The Church in an Inclusive Culture, The Church and Christian Civility, The Church and Changing Sexual Norms, The Church and Social Justice, and The Church and Immigration.

Last year, Nines organizer Todd Rhoades was criticized for including only four women among the event’s 112 listed speakers.This year, the number of female guests was 14.

Speaking to the concern of diverse representation of speakers and viewpoints, the Leadership Network insists in its Diversity Statement: “We strive to create a respectful, diverse group of speakers and contributors for our online events that allow for these different perspectives and points of view. We do this through invitations to a wide variety of prospective speakers from a broad range of ethnic, racial, gender and age ranges.”

The Nines conference has been known to attract thousands of viewers. The Christian Post was not able to obtain viewership numbers for this year’s event before press time. Learn more about The Nines online: http://thenines.tv/.

Follow this Christian Post reporter on Twitter namenzie

 

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Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbean

            No, that is not a mistake. For so many years of my life, I depended almost entirely on my hearing and that is what I heard as a child, “Jesus wants me for a Sunbean.” It didn’t make any sense. I didn’t know what a sunbean was, but if Jesus wanted me to be one I was ready. I knew that He would show me what to do. The truth is that I probably didn’t know what a sunbeam was either. We lived in a small town and were poor. We couldn’t afford sunbeams. We just had plain old sunlight which I couldn’t stay out in anyway because of my fair complexion.

            Gradually I came to the realization of what a sunbeam really is, but it really didn’t matter. I was already hooked on what Jesus wanted. Over these many years I have stayed hooked. There have been so many times that I did not understand why things were happening as they were, but that childhood faith got me through. I knew that if I just waited Jesus would shine a light for me to follow. It’s a funny thing about faith. Just as Jesus told us we don’t need much because he will supply the rest. If we commit just to being that little sunbeam, He will make the light bright enough for us to see and for others to follow. In the meantime that mustard seed of faith will continue to grow.

            At the end of my time, if I could choose what my legacy would be that would be it. I would like to be remembered as someone who tried his best to be a sunbeam for Jesus.

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