“I believe I’ll testify,
While I have a chance
I believe I’ll testify,
While I have a chance
I believe I’ll testify,
While I have a chance,
For I may not have a chance,
I’m not sure why this gospel tune,
Popped into my head this week
Especially for this sermon,
But maybe I imagined,
The least of these,
Marked and identified for their sins
Running back to the outcast communities where they existed
LISTEN! I actually was invited to sit,
And eat today!
With that Rabbi whom everyone is talking about
That Rabbi, who heard and looked into my eyes
Who heard my cry
Who told me that my sins are forgiven!
Who shared bread, broke bread,
Sat with US!
“I believe I’ll testify…”
And so they were witnesses
Sharing the Good News
That regardless of how humanity
Had rendered their existence, invisible
God had not
God had sent God’s Son
To share LOVE.
And maybe, just maybe,
They were able to experience a little selfish joy
Because while Jesus acknowledged them,
The Pharisees were grumbling!
(pause, share with them the story about the time when during testimony sharing at my childhood home Lutheran church, my mother had stood up to give her testimony, and if you know Mother-she is not shy about sharing the Good News and how the Gospel is proclaimed in her life. I don’t remember the specifics about what Good News she was sharing, but as my Mother was a deacon in her church, she was sitting at the front of the church, speaking. My sister Jessika and I were sitting at the rear of the church, and earlier a woman had come in right behind us. We didn’t recognize her and greeted her as a guest. So as my mother was speaking, suddenly we heard this woman start to criticize and grumble about my mother’s story! My sister and I jerked and froze, as this woman kept mumbling under her breath, so absolutely amazed that someone would be angry about hearing a testimony! When mother finished, and as the church said its amen’s, this woman walked out of the service. It was only then did we turn around to watch her retreating figure and looked at one another in utter astonishment. It also took every fiber of our being not to turn around and defend our Mother. We were in utter disbelief.)
Why do we grumble,
When we hear Good News,
A praise report?
Why do we open our mouths
To fix words of harshness
Grumbling and mumbling under our breath,
While that one which was lost,
Is sharing joy.
And instead of joining into the amen chorus
We are speculating!
That they are just perpetrating,
Because nothing is ever going to change:
They will still be out on the corner begging,
They will still be out on the corner, relapsing
They will still be out on the corner, getting arrested
That they can never get their lives right,
Although we have never been in their situation
So we clearly do not understand
How the darkness of violence, addiction, self hate,
Does indeed have the power
To render our souls, dry and decimated
Until all we can be identified as,
Is the curse we bear on our scarred bodies
If we are going to be truthful with ourselves
We are jealous, envious
Of another’s transformation,
That we felt that they weren’t worthy
Their sin was too great,
Although our apathy,
Is far worse
Than any sin that they could commit.
“This man welcomes sinners,
And eats with them.”
The Pharisees and scribes
Did not get it!
For all their intelligence and knowledge of the law
They just did not understand why,
Jesus was breaking the rules
And being that relentlessly rebellious guest.
Sitting with sinners?
Sinners had a different connotation and meaning then,
Sinners equaled an unforgiveable outcast
Defined by the LAW
Being in the company of sinners was an abomination
So excluding them from the wider community
Was sanctioned by the LAW
And so Jesus sitting down
And sharing a meal,
Because sharing a meal was not just this fast paced,
30 minute race before continuing work
Sharing a meal
Was, is and always should be
A moment of building community
Of immersed in important relationships
Jesus uses this moment of relationship building,
Even to those who are grumbling,
Who consider themselves the never lost,
Reminding both them and us
How truly connected we are,
Beyond the status and the class we created, to divide us
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep
And loses one of them,
Doesn’t he leave the 99,
And go after the lost sheep?”
Many of us are familiar with this parable,
Of a loving God who will not abandon us
Miss something VITAL in this story,
Lost in translation:
The shepherd leaves them
In the Greek it reads,
EN TE ERAYMO
In the desert
Defenseless, out in the open
It is not the idealized version
Where sheep are quietly grazing in green, pristine pastures
And the shepherd is only going as far as the treeline,
To the border of some property
To gather back one lone sheep.
The shepherd abandons the flock
In an uncultivated area
For an unspecific amount of time
Fending from themselves
In order to seek
In order to rescue
This one who is lost
I wonder if we realize,
When we sit in those places of privilege and judgement
That at one point in our lives,
We were that ONE
Who had been abandoned
Seen through humanity’s lens as just a waste of life,
Jesus recognizes us,
As children of the Creator God
And Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord
LEAVES THE FLOCK
TO COME SEE ABOUT US!
We can understand it more this way,
A quote, I came across in a commentary
“If the one is sacrificed,
In the name of the larger group,
Then each individual in that group
Has no security
That their lives mean nothing.
When the shepherd pays a high price
To find the One,
He thereby offers
The profoundest security
To the many.”
In other words,
The Good News of Jesus Christ for us
Is that Jesus is constantly
EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US!!
Because God does not rest
Until all of God’s Children
Regardless of our sins
God created us whole!
God seeks to keep us whole!
God actively extends forgiveness
And because time and again,
Jesus is going out,
Bringing home those who are lost-
And by the way,
Let’s be clear
We are going to stray, wander and lose ourselves
We are both saint and sinner!
So when Jesus goes out,
To bring our sisters and brothers in Christ, in Faith and in Love home,
While Jesus is out,
Extended the grace and forgiveness from God
We are called to be GOOD STEWARDS and GOOD SHEPHERDS!
We must welcome those home with joy!
We must join in their rejoicing
And then we are called to CARE for them!
Enfold, envelop and encourage them,
Because it is NOT EASY.
Battling the darkness and the sadness in this life IS NOT EASY
The Good News is that,
When we come home
Jesus opens His Arms,
From the Table of LIFE!
So then when we leave this place,
We can’t help but sing,
I believe I’ll testify!
Thanks Be to God.