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Sep 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 25, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning and welcome to the RefleXion Community.  Peace be with you!

Tonight at sunset begins Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish new year 5783 in their High Holy Days, and the beginning of what is called the 10 days of Awe, which ends on Yom Kippur.  These are often delivered as days of repentance, to be seeking reconciliation with people you have wronged, and we could all take this under advisement.  And here is another layer of the meaning and purpose of Rosh Hashanah. 

During this time, Jews commemorate the creation of the world; and the Jewish nation recalls its responsibilities as God’s chosen people.  We’ve all heard that phrase “the chosen people,” haven’t we?  Have you thought about what that means?  What were they chosen for?  Not as much chosen for salvation; but chosen to be in a special covenant with God.  They were chosen to receive the Torah, the Law, to learn to rely on His provision (remember the wilderness years), to be led by the Shekinah Glory, to be a kingdom of priests, and of course the privilege of bearing Jesus, the Messiah.  The Jews had a particular purpose with obligations and duties which flowed from a willingness to accept their status and God’s purposes for them.

What about Christianity?  You know, so often, we think about our calling as individuals—and that’s good: “What has God called me to do?”  And isn’t it also critical to ask what we as His people in the new covenant are called to be?  Do we know what our covenant is?  This week I have enjoyed remembering the great privilege we have and the wonder and mystery of the Church Age.  Jesus said that He chose us; we didn’t choose Him.  Peter says we are a chosen people; again, I’m not talking about chosen for salvation, but chosen for a particular purpose.  As the Jews had a particular purpose, what is our purpose?  And how are we ministers of the new covenant and the glory of it?  We have special privileges and spiritual blessings meant to be used for the world. As the Jews, we, too, have a particular purpose with obligations and duties which flow from a willingness to accept our status and God’s purposes for us.  Let’s remind ourselves of that as we enter this new season.  Be blessed!  Let’s pray:

Thank you, Lord God, for calling us a people under the Name of Jesus.  We want to lean into that calling with a willing mind, a whole heart, and a free spirit.  Thank you for Your mysterious ways – ways far above our ways – and ways we can trust.  Lead us Spirit in the Way everlasting, for Your Kingdom, by Your Power, and for Your Glory.  Amen  

Morning Talk: Jim Calhoun

In the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians Paul spills the beans. He tells a secret. He reveals a mystery.
In chapter three he tells us there is a mystery of the Gospel and then spills the beans.
And this is the mystery: that Gentiles were included in the plan all along, from the beginning.
“Fellow heirs”
“Members of the same body”
“Partakers of the promise”
(Eph 3:6)
This was a surprise. This was a surprise even if it shouldn’t have been.
The history of the Jews and the stories of the Scriptures showed this over and over.
From time to time, maybe most of the time, the Jews lost this thread of the story.
From the chosen people to the best people.
The Jews were chosen to worship God and to be a light to the nations.
They had a special work to do for the benefit of the whole world,
but often this degenerated into thinking they were special.
A move away from God. A retreat into pride.

So the notion that God loved the whole world just the same as he loved the Jews seemed silly, impossible, wrong.

The story of Jonah
There are a lot of people who still think that God loving others in the way God loves them is silly, impossible and wrong.
The sin of empathy.
So Paul discovered, or rediscovered, the mystery and spilled the beans:
The Gentiles, including most of us,
including most of the people on Earth through all of history,
are loved and wanted and pursued and rescued and held up and held together by God.
Just as it was always intended, just as it should be.

Let’s just pause and take a scope of who this includes: Everyone.

Please take note:
Jesus didn’t call us because we are better than other people.
And we aren’t better than other people because Jesus has called us.
There is no essential difference between us and anyone we meet.
This requires a little care in handling.
It is true that some people perform admirably while other perform poorly through life.
Some wander from the path of righteousness this way while others that way.
We can and ought discern better ways from lesser ways.
We can and ought promote better ways and discourage lesser ways.
All of this is well.

When we go wrong is thinking another human is less worthy of a human
because they are not on my team, holding my particular
theology, or culture, or appearance.
Sometimes we want to be merely the arbiters of truth.
But it isn’t enough.
Other times we want to be the guardians of justice.
But it isn’t enough.
We can’t fall into the trap of baptizing our resentments, our anger, our hatreds.
We can’t fall into the trap of some form of Christian Supremacy.
It is so ugly.
So depraved.
So lost.
It is a betrayal of everything Jesus has been for us.
In truth we are stewards of Grace. We gather up and distribute God’s grace.
We gather it up so we have a sufficient amount, but we don’t keep it to ourselves.
We don’t hoard it. We don’t withhold it. We distribute it to a world in need.
We distribute it to our neighbors.
To the people we rub shoulders on the daily.
To our enemies even we share grace.

This brings us to a sad a difficult truth.

There has been a great turning away from Jesus.
It is on two fronts.
We often think of the reality that fewer and fewer people go to church and identify as
This I think is the result of a more painful, far more dispiriting reality.
Many still in the Church have replaced a vibrant, experiential life of living with God
with the defense of Christendom and the battles of the culture wars.
They focus on issues of truth and justice and have left aside the greater concerns of grace and mercy.
Somehow, and for reasons of their own, some of our brothers and sisters
have lost the thread of the story.
This matters.
There is an odd phenomenon that comes when people are fixated on truth and justice.
Not every time, nor with every person, but often enough that we need to take note.
We need to understand that often winning becomes paramount.
And the need to win will justify any tactic.
So some people lie to defend the truth.
They manipulate facts, make false claims, muddy the waters, deceive, promote unfounded
conspiracies, refuse to use the best evidence, all to “defend the truth.”
And they will cheat to defend justice.
Make false accusations, commit fraud, hide essential information, plan attacks, create
divisions and factions, stir up envy and resentments to defend justice.
When you hear Christians calling for change in our society, in our communities, in our politics, make sure it looks like Jesus.
Make sure it seems like they are full of the Holy Spirt.
That they are kind and gentle.
That they love their enemies in meaningful and tangible ways.
That they are patient and under control. That they tell the truth.
That their words and actions embody the joy of being Christ’s own.
That their ways of doing things match up with what they want to accomplish.
That their plans and dreams exclude manipulations, shows of power, coercion, violence and force.
In short, when someone claims to be acting in the name of Jesus watch them and
ask yourself if they lead and end with love and they are filled with grace.

Chuck has been teaching from Luke about prayer.
I wanted to offer this talk as a side bar to his work.
So all of this so far is the necessary preliminary.
Martin Thornton on prayer:
A Faithful Remnant
Proficient Christians

Paul’s prayer
(based on the fact that in Christ there “is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28)

Paul prays for the Ephesians knowing they too are stewards of grace.
“that you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”
“Christ may dwell in your hearts”
“rooted and grounded in love”
“to know the love of Christ” in all fullness
And “be filled with all the fullness of God”

This is what it will take to be stewards of grace in the days that are ahead of us.
This is the grace we will need to refresh us, to encourage us and to motivate us.
If I am going to be honest, I have given this talk once already here in Reflexion.
It was a shorter form to be sure.
A few weeks ago when I filled in for Nancy I prayed the prayer printed out.
The thinking I shared today, and more, was welling up in me as I prepared the prayer.
The prayer:
Heavenly Father
In this age and in this land
Where we have tried to bring your kingdom by power and force
Where we have abandoned your path of loving others
Where we exchange truth for lies.
Renew our experience of your good great love,
Compel us to love each person we encounter,
In our private lives and
In our public lives,
With the very love you pour into us
Grant us a compassion that is robust,
Remembering those it would be easy for us to forget:
The dismissed, the outcast, the rejected, the troubled, the unlovely
Those without homes,
The destitute,
Those born in other lands,
Those born in other neighborhoods,
The stranger,
The refugees whose homes are torn apart by war and violence,
Those held prisoners,
The old and the sick,
The orphaned and abandoned,
The misused and abused,
The fearful and angry,
The addicts,
The mentally ill,
And all who have none to care for them.
Help us to bring healing those who are broken in body or spirit,
Even the resistant, the belligerent, the arrogant, the ignorant
And to turn their sorrow into joy.
Move the hearts of every man and woman,
Who claims your name,
So the barriers which divide us may crumble,
Suspicions disappear,
And hatreds cease;
That our divisions may be healed,
And we may live in justice and peace;
Grant all this, Father,
for the love of your Son,
who for our sake became poor,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

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