Well good evening. I’m back! And I’m tired! I’ve had a full day. You guys have given me a full day and I will invoice you tomorrow! This evening I want to talk to you and I hope that it will be a little more conversational. This morning we talked about from 1 John our motivation for missions. First of all, we have a hard time really understanding our motivations at all anyway. And that’s okay. And not to be contemptuous toward ourselves about that, but actually to understand the kindness of God and to allow the kindness of God to just say, “You know what? Okay, my motivations are mixed. I’m selfish a lot. And you know what, because I’m created in God’s image there’s a lot of joy that I have in just being connected with others and that’s a good thing, and that’s within me,” and blessing a lot of things that are within us as well. But the motivation for missions is, the motivation for sharing our faith, is so that our joy might be complete, that our joy might be full. In other words, salvation, if we want to share our faith so that someone might come to know Christ, we’re really wanting them to come to know Christ because Christ is the only one, and the only news that can help the walls that divide us come down so that we can actually connect with one another in vulnerable love. The aim of our charge is love. And love is not a one-way street but a two-way freeway where both we are giving and receiving.
And that joy is the motivation for our missions because you know why? It is good to enjoy people. It feels good to enjoy people, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. And doesn’t it make you just rest a little bit more knowing that that is our main motivation for missions? That you don’t have to become a superstar, you don’t have to read an autobiography and do all the things that these men and women did, but what makes you a great missionary lies deep in the fabric of your being because you’re created in the image of a God who loves to enjoy you, loves to enjoy God in the fellowship of the Trinity and created you and He loves to enjoy you. Yes, we are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but we are also created to be enjoyed by Him forever. How does that make you feel, that He enjoys you, He delights in you? He’s up in heaven while you’re sleeping waiting for you to wake up. “Look at my little girl. Look at my little boy. Watch what he and she are about to mess up today!” Right? And it’s just a wonderful thing that this joy is a motivation.
We hear joy when we hear Paul and we see joy in Jesus. “For the joy that was set before him.” The only problem is, is that most of us really don’t have a capacity for joy. We don’t really know what to do with it. C.S. Lewis wrote a lot of stuff on joy because joy is a really hard thing to handle. Amen? And the reason why we don’t really enjoy joy, we don’t really handle joy very well, is because we don’t do the hard work of sorrow that accompanies joy. Sorrow is the shovel that digs the heart out so that joy can fill in the cavity that sorrow digs out. If you don’t do sorrow well, you can’t do joy well. We heard it – “If we have ears to hear” – David talked about sorrow and joy when he was up here. He talked about having to leave his little girl. That’s sorrowful. What I long for is to be with my little girl and see her face, but I am not able because of my limitations, because of my poverty, because I can’t be in two places at once, I’m not able to be in the same place.” What I long for and what I’m actually able to have are not connected and the middle road between those two is called sorrow. And what will we do when we are sorrowful when we have these longings but we are dependent upon another to meet those longings, we are dependent on the free actions of others to actually meet our longings and desires? We are dependent on others for joy.
Now that’s complicated in a world where we are limited and it’s complicated in a world that’s subjected to futility, but because of Christ, we can actually take part in that. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to actually read Hebrews chapter 13. And what I’d like to do today is explore why we don’t have a capacity for joy and some things that we can do to dig out our capacity for joy so that when other people come to us we can actually soak them up and enjoy people. Chapter 13, verse 1:
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say,
‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Heavenly Father, we ask by the power of Your Holy Spirit and through the amazing mediation of Your Son, I ask that You would illuminate our eyes are hearts and ears so that we might see and hear and behold wonderful things from Your Word. Let it be so, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Remember Your Leaders
When he says here, “Remember your leaders,” what he’s saying here is – I’m reminded of what Paul, when he writes Timothy, he says, “I long to be with you.” Do you hear that? He has spent time with Timothy training him in the Gospel, and he can’t be with him geographically. And he says, “I long to be with you so that my joy may be full.” And so Paul is doing sorrow well. He’s communicating his longings. He’s communicating his desires. Isn’t that a good thing? And Jesus, when He, right before He was about to die, I’m always amazed by thinking about this, he decided to have dinner with His friends. I mean, if the crucifixion is on your calendar for the next day, would you want to have dinner with your friends? He did. And they sang a hymn together. And guess who was in that room? Judas was in that room. And so Jesus felt the tension between, of enjoying the people in that room but also knowing that one of them would betray Him and that all of them would actually forsake Him, even Peter. How do you and I deal with people that we know have betrayed us or even will betray us? We have a hard time even staying present in the same room. We have a hard time even making eye contact. But Jesus dined with them; He longed to be connected with them. But He was also sorrowful when He knew that the betrayals would happen when the distance would happen. He did sorrow well. He did joy well.
What I want to do is I want to build these categories and help us understand these categories and the categories focus on verses 10 through 14. If you look here, it says, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” And so you have this, these categories of there “inside the tent” and then there’s “outside the gate.” And the writer is talking about how we have an altar and that altar is the cross of Christ that was burned outside the camp. But there are those that like to remain inside the tent. They remain inside the tent, inside what I’m going to call the fortified city, the fortified camp, where everything is very predictable. The sacrifices are done. Everybody prays the prayers and everything is very predictable and manageable. Listen to what one commentator says:
“This letter may not have been written to a company of Christians who are about to apostatize, but rather to an insular Jewish-Christian group who had become exclusive and isolationist in their attitude keeping the Gospel to themselves. Afraid of drawing attention to their distinctive Christian message, they had minimalized it, living too much in the Jewish part of their Christianity. In this way, they had built secure walls around themselves, ignoring God’s purpose that they should be a missionary, people. It is an attractive interpretation and if the thesis is correct, the exhortation to go forth to Him outside the camp has even more striking appeal. In that case, it is not addressed to heroic Christians who have been cast out of the synagogue but too hesitant Christians who prefer to stay within it.”
Inside the Tent
I hope you see the categories here. There’s inside the tent and then there’s outside the camp. And that word tent, the inside of the camp, that word is a fortified city; it’s a fortified camp. And I hope that you and I, I hope that we can build these categories because, like I said this morning, we have these longings but we don’t want to trust that these longings can be met by someone else. And so what we do is, we build these fig leaves, we build these fortresses, we build these fortified camps where we then start to manipulate our way through life. And we start feeling like we need to actually take over because we don’t trust that God or anyone else can actually receive us with kindness, give us kindness. And so we’ve got to begin meeting our own needs and so we have these fig leaves. We retreat, we protect ourselves, we depend on ourselves for our own self-protection and gratification; things like that.
There are the fortified camps and then there’s outside the camp. If you can think back in those days, life inside that tent, inside that fortified camp where the Jews were very safe and secure – I think of a military base. Now when you go into a military base or when you go, let’s just say you’re going to boot camp, what is the first thing that everybody does when they go into a boot camp? Everybody gets their head shaved, right? Everybody puts on the same uniform. Everybody learns how to march. Your feet have to move at the same time. It’s like, “Left, left, left, right, left.” Everybody follows the same code. Everything is safe. Everything is predictable. Nothing is lost. All of your belongings – in the box. Your bed has to be made at the perfect time. You wake up at a perfect time, at the right time; you eat a meal at a right time. You only have a certain amount of time to eat that meal and after that’s over, off to do push-ups at the same time. Right? Everything is very predictable. Why? Because when you are trying to stay safe, anything out of the ordinary, anything unpredictable is very scary. Amen?
Be Strengthened by Grace
Look, it’s the reason why we love taking control of life. We don’t like anything to be lost. We have the same place we put our keys when we get home. We have the same routines that we have. We make friends that follow the same cultural norms that we do. We like to retreat into these fortified camps where everything is safe and predictable and where we are not vulnerable. Fortified camps are the things that we are devoted to, that promise us protection and gratification. The writer talks about here, it’s, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” See, he’s talking about the heart; he’s talking about the soul. To be strengthened by grace. Grace means that you are special and you didn’t do anything to merit that. You are the apple of God’s eye. He delights in you, He enjoys you, not because of all the things you’ve made of yourself but because He just loves you. Deuteronomy – “I love you because I love you. I’m watching you while you sleep because you’re absolutely beautiful. And guess what? While you’re asleep, you’re not manipulating the world to make yourself be someone you’re not.” Isn’t that the most humbling thing that he loves you while you’re sleeping, not while you’re doing things? “Be strengthened by grace,” that His eyes over you are kind.
“Do not be strengthened by foods which have not benefitted those devoted to them.” And I’m going to add to that – foods or anything in creation that you can manipulate; anything in creation that you can devote yourself to. Anything that we devote ourselves to, to try to keep ourselves safe, to try to keep our world in order, to try to keep everything manageable and predictable. Anything that we’re devoted to – are you ready for this? That’s not personal. Because you can manipulate creation, you can manipulate even your Bible studies. You know? You can set the clock. You can read. You can gain knowledge. You can do all of these things. And now I’m kind of digging up all in our business because these are the sort of fortified cities that we have. Right? But here’s the thing. If you devote yourself to a person, if you devote yourself to Christ, you can’t manipulate Him. He doesn’t follow our rules. There’s no, “if, then” with a person.
I’m going to break away from my outline real quick and just let you know that I’m a bit jumbled in my brain right now. Can you pray for me? Because I feel like I’m having a hard time communicating. I really want to do well. I want to finish this day out well. That is my desire. And so I’m communicating my desire for you, but my body is just like, “Scott, I’m about to tap out here!” You know? So let’s try to get through this together, okay? Because I need to hear this Gospel as well.
The Purpose of Our Fortified Camps
The original purpose of our fortified camps is to fulfill our desires, alright are you ready for this – without being vulnerable. We actually think we can have our desires met without being vulnerable. That’s the lie. That’s where we miss the mark. That’s the purpose of them. They promise that. We have all sorts of fortified camps. We have doctrine camps, right? Where we are so cuddled in our fortified camp, not outside the camp where things might get a little bit chaotic, but we have – here’s the thing, you can’t look upon this with all contempt. It’s only contemptuous what we have when we just cling to it, but when we tuck away, let me ask you who’s on your bookshelf. Are there any other cultures on your bookshelves? Can we listen? Do you find yourself only teaching and only reading the people that you agree that are good for you to hear? You might have a mentally fortified camp. Are you threatened by other ideas? Does it make you a little uneasy when someone from a completely different culture – I mean, how many authors from Japan are on our bookshelves?
Shusaku Endo, his work on the life of Christ, A Life of Jesus – has anybody in here read that? Endo on the life of Jesus. The creativity and the history that he knows to actually bring to a portrait that he paints of Christ – I’ve never seen anything or heard anything like it. African-American authors like the Harlem authors back, you know decades ago – James Baldwin – I’ve never read anything more anthropologic, just more beautiful in describing humanity. I’ve never read another author who could describe his heart so well, what he was doing, and is so kind with himself to be able to describe the things that were a bit off but also the things that were good. When we tuck away in our fortified camps we don’t even hear that. We don’t even have them on our shelves. Who do we have on our shelves? Everyone that’s got the same uniform on as we do, everything that’s got the same ideas that we do; everybody that’s marching to the same beat of the drum.
Our Situational and Geographical Camps
We have situational camps, geographical camps. There’s no criticism here, but we build societies that are very homogenous where everyone is pretty predictable. We live in neighborhoods where everyone follows kind of the same rules that we follow, where vulnerability is not even an issue. Everything can be controlled, everything can be predicted, everything can be…And we have even camps that are existential in nature where, in our relationships, we tuck away into the recesses of our own heart and we will not give ourselves to anyone. We won’t describe our feelings. We won’t communicate our desires. That’s why one reason I think he says, “Let marriage be honored among you all,” when he’s talking about this because marriage isn’t a place for you to manipulate your way with another person to meet your own desires. Marriage is a place where your desires are actually discovered. Marriage is a place where the walls are so strong around it, your fortified cities can be exposed and demolished and you freak out and you’re still safe. Right?
How to Recognize Them
But how do we recognize these camps? So let me sort of paint this for you. Our hearts are longing because we’re actually experiencing sorrow. Right? What we long for, we’re not getting. And so what we do is, we build these worlds around us where we think we can manipulate our ways to meet our longings. Do you see that? And so here’s the thing. We’re longing for a filet mignon, but we’re dependent on other people to get that filet. But we have the means by which we can get Cheetos. Okay, now you’re seeing examples that I give in Trinity Gardens because everybody likes Cheetos. Hot Fries! Everybody likes Hot Fries in Trinity Gardens! And so you know, but we have the means not to get the filet but we can eat Hot Fries all day long and the second we get a little bit hungry – Hot Fries! Hot Fries! Hot Fries! – because we can’t handle being hungry for any length of time. And so we never allow our hunger to grow at all and therefore we’re not sensitive at all to things that smell good and things that are good – to the filet as the aroma of the filet is cooking off in the distance and we can actually smell it but we can’t smell it because we’re smelling Hot Fries. So we have no capacity for joy because in our fortified camps we’re just sitting there snacking all day long because we don’t trust that our longings are going to be met by another. I hope that makes sense!
How to Surrender Them
And so we need to recognize those fortified cities so that we can surrender them. We need to know that we actually have them. And here is the wonderful grace of God – that fortified camps don’t last. They do not work. What does he say? “Let your heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods which have not benefitted those devoted to them.” Things that you devote yourself to other than Jesus, they will not, in the end, benefit you. So how do you know that you’re in your fortified camp? How do you know that you’re tucked away and not making yourself vulnerable? Let me ask you some questions. Alright? Are you ready? Do you get defensive a lot? When somebody criticizes you, do you get critical back? If you do, you’re in a fortified camp. Do you find yourself critical and oversimplifying people? Are people described by one-word names – tax collector, sinner, criminal, this or that? When we oversimplify people we know we’re in a fortified camp. People are complex. People are beautiful. There are more reasons – when you see an African-American being shot by a police officer in Minneapolis, if you find yourself going, “Well if he would have just obeyed the cop that never would have happened. I obey the police and it never happens to me.” You know you’re in a fortified camp. It’s more complex than that. What about the twenty times when he was a kid and he obeyed and he found his face shoved in the cement? It’s more complex. There’s history there.
The Need for Diversity
I’m about to get a little more particular. Do you have diversity in your life? Do you have people that don’t look like you? Are there people that might not have the same values or follow the same cultural norms or rules that you do? You might be in a fortified camp. Authors, neighbors, people that will speak into your own heart – do you have people that will speak to your soul? It’s a real question. People that see you, they know you, and they speak to your soul. I’m going to dig a little deeper now. In your missional efforts, are you always the giver and never the receiver? In your missional efforts, is it even a category that you’re going because you are the one that needs to receive? Then you might be in a fortified camp if receiving is not an option; if you’re always the teacher and never the one taught. Because you know love goes both ways. Do you become agitated when the person you are loving doesn’t respond the way you want them to or expected them to? See, this is why working with the poor is so crazy. It exposes your fortified camps all over the place because poor people never respond how you want them to. They don’t play your game. Right? “Wait a minute, I gave you this! You didn’t appreciate me!” Something like that. “The way I wanted to be appreciated!” You might be in a fortified camp.
Fortified Camps Lack Profit
Do you struggle with anger? Do you struggle with lust? We get angry when our fortified camps don’t provide what we long for. So you remember the older son when he came back, right? And he was like, “What’s going on?” In the prodigal son – Luke 15. He was like, “What’s going on? Everybody’s celebrating inside.” And there’s a celebration happening. And he’s asking the servants because the servants know but the older brother doesn’t. And he’s like, “What’s going on inside?” And the prodigal, the one who didn’t follow all the rules, is actually getting a celebration. He’s being celebrated. The prodigal is being enjoyed. The prodigal is being loved. Everything the older son desires and longs for are being enjoyed by the one who was lawless. Right? And so the father comes out and the father says, “Come be with me!” He entreats him. “Come be with me! Come stand next to me!” And the older son, in his anger, you know what he says? He says, “I’ve followed all the rules! I’ve never disobeyed any of your commands!” Can you hear the fortified camp? “Here’s what I’ve done in order to get what I desire. And what I desire is, man, I wish you would have killed a young goat and I wish you would have thrown me a party with my friends!” Those are good desires, but he went about getting the desires in a manipulative way. And guess what? The manipulative way didn’t pay; it didn’t benefit him. And he’s looking in on a party with a person that didn’t follow any of those rules and he is enjoying and he is experiencing what he actually longs for. We get angry when our fortified camps fall apart and they don’t provide, they don’t benefit.
Here is the blessing of your anger, because when you get angry now you know you’ve got one.
Did you know that you can look upon your anger not with contempt but with kindness? That’s a strange thought, isn’t it? What do we do in our cultures when we get angry? We’re like, “Good Christians aren’t supposed to be angry! I don’t need to be angry.” But if you know that God is kind and compassionate toward you, the most endearing words of the father came after the son got angry with him. Doesn’t that speak to your heart? So when you get angry in life, it’s probably because something you’ve devoted yourself to, other than Jesus, didn’t pay, didn’t produce.
Son, You are Always With Me
And so instead of becoming contemptuous with yourself or becoming contemptuous, actually let the father’s words guide you down into your soul. And it’s not necessarily what you’re mad about. I always say and tell people it’s what you’re sad about. And the father didn’t enter into that critical mind. He didn’t enter into that contemptuous language. He said, “Son, you are always with me and whatever I have is yours.” In other words, “You didn’t have to do all of those things. You could have just asked me.” But do you see how vulnerable that makes us? “I desire to be in a relationship with you. I desire to be enjoyed by you. I desire to be loved by you but if I leave it up to you to meet those desires, you’re free to not meet them as well and I don’t know if I can handle the pain.” That’s vulnerability. And we have a Father that will always meet our deepest desires.
How to Leave Our Fortified Camps
So how do we come out of our fortified camp? Jesus invites us out into what I’m going to call sacred space outside the camp. And there’s a reason why I’m going to call it sacred space. Ed, can I ask you a question? When am I supposed to be finished here? Okay. Alright, I’m going to get pretty vulnerable with you here because my camp is to be knowledgeable, it’s to be wise, it’s to be able to see and understand deep truths and be able to communicate them simply and well to people. That’s what I’m good at. That’s where I’m gifted. And that’s where I feel safe and protected and that’s where I feel like I’m not going to be harmed. But there are conversations in my marriage that are very difficult for me to have. And so when my wife, in her beauty, comes to me and begins to talk about ways in which I need to grow or ways in which, on a good day ways in which I need to grow, on a bad day ways in which I’m not being a good husband! All of a sudden, everything in my mind gets cloudy. And when she’s saying, “What’s going on with you?” all of a sudden I can’t say a word! I say, “I don’t know” a lot. Is anybody with me there? Does anybody know what I’m talking about? Say, “Amen,” if you do! Okay good; you’re with me!
And so I’m talking to my counselor about that. I go and see a counselor a couple of days later and we’ve had this argument and in the argument I am confused and I can’t describe anything that’s going on, especially anything that’s going on in my heart. And I’m telling him this. And he goes, “Wow. That’s sacred space.” And I’m like, “What? What are you talking about?” And he was like, “That space where everything feels chaotic, unpredictable and lost for you – and guess what? That’s outside the camp, and that’s in the wilderness. That’s where Jesus is. It’s called sacred space.” That’s where transformation happens. That’s where my longings can no longer be met by my manipulations because I can’t knowledge my way to be satisfied there. And so I have to trust that the longings of my heart and the safety and security will have to be met by another. And my testimony is, is that Christ has met me there. And I have felt His presence there and it’s real.
And so how do we come out of our fortified camp? We go out into sacred space. We go out into the place outside the camp where Jesus is, where His blood was shed, where He pays for our sins, where we know that Jesus, because of the joy that was set before Him, He made Himself vulnerable, He made Himself seeable and hearable and touchable all because of the joy that was set before Him. For the joy of being in fellowship with you, He made Himself vulnerable. He lived in the wilderness. He never retreated back to the camp and stayed back there with hidden motives in order to protect Himself. He made Himself killable.
I keep going back to what was the tension in Jesus’ heart when Judas kissed Him on the cheek. Can you feel that? What a wilderness. Not necessarily a physical, geographical wilderness, but what a heart wilderness when someone that you love and you’re longing to be in relationship with them because they are an image bearer and he comes up to Jesus and He feels the warmth of Judas’ cheek on His cheek and He doesn’t go, “Get away from Me!” and He doesn’t just sort of fatalistically go, “Just go ahead and do what you’ve got to do!” He’s actually, Jesus is in the tension, His heart is being wrenched out of all the sorrow. At that time, He’s a man of sorrows because at one point He’s going, “Do what you have to do so that My Father’s will can be satisfied and be done,” but at the same time, “Judas, please, no!” And it’s this tension of wilderness where everything feels like it’s being pulled in two. And we’re not just totally dismissing someone and we’re not going running after them, but we’re staying in the tension and we’re trusting in the free actions of others to meet our desires or not. I hope that communicates. But when we know that the grace of God is with us, that there is no darkness in Christ, we can actually move outside, outside the camp. Why? Because that’s where Jesus is.
Now, this is how the author here starts inviting us outside the camp. And I’m going to start in verse 1. We’re going to walk through that and then we’ll be done. “Let brotherly love continue.” In other words, don’t let it recede, don’t let it reduce; don’t take yourself away from vulnerable connection with others where love can actually be established between me and you. Let’s enjoy one another. Don’t, in your fear retreat, but knowing that you’ve been paid for, take a step out there and be vulnerable. Let brotherly love continue.
“Don’t neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” Not people that you know and are predictable, but strangers; people that you don’t know. Aliens and strangers; immigrants. Those who we have no idea if they’ve got hidden agendas in their back pocket or not. We have no idea who they are but when we see them we’re like, “You’re an image bearer; I’m intrigued by you. But you’re a stranger; I have no idea what you’re going to bring to me.” Can you see the tension that the author is inviting us to? Don’t neglect to show hospitality to strangers. Don’t neglect to put yourself out there to strangers and give to strangers, but remember, it’s a two-lane highway. Listen how amazing the writer brings it in here. “For thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Oh my gosh!
It’s like there’s a tornado. If you’re a stranger and you’re coming down to be with me it’s like a tornado coming my way. You don’t look like me. I have no idea what you’re going to do with me once you come over here. I’m intrigued by you because you are an image bearer of God. I’ve been doing this whole sorrow thing and therefore I’m very sensitive to your presence. I’m very sensitive to what you might bring into my life that I can’t get anywhere else because you are a special image bearer. But you’re like a tornado. And man, when I see a tornado, I want to go run off into the cellar. I want to go deep down into the ground. I want to lock it down. I want to go up under the stairwell and put a mattress over my face. But at the same time, I want to look out the window and see it. Is anybody like that? You want to hide from it but you want to see it. I guess nobody else is like that. I’m like that! I want to see it but I want to hide from it. Strangers are like that because he says you might entertain an angel. In other words, you might be graced by the presence of an angel. He keeps you in the tension. You’re like, “Oh my gosh! There’s a tornado coming! I want to run! But oh my gosh, you might be an angel so I need to come close!”
And you’ve got this picture where two worlds are colliding. There’s the darkness coming and it’s only dark because we have no idea what’s coming. And we’re walking out to it outside the camp and guess what happens where the two kingdoms collide. You get a rainbow when the sunshine and the darkness meet. You get a rainbow there. That’s where Jesus is. That’s covenantal space. That’s paid-for space.
Remember Those in Prison
“Remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them.” In other words, we need to be able to feel the pain of those in prison. Why do we need to be able to feel? Because prisoners are sorrowful. What they long for is on the other side of the bars. I went to see – somebody you can pray for is Broke. B-r-o-k-e. It’s Punkin’s brother. He’s the only person in this world with a Trinity Family tattoo. He’s got “Trinity” on one side of his leg, “Family” on the other side of his leg, and our logo on his kneecap! And he had that done in prison! And I go and I visit him just last Sunday and he’s talking to me about what he longs for in his own language. Do you know any prisoners because prisoners break laws? If they don’t break, you know, just laws, they’ll break cultural laws or even civil laws that we put in place. In other words, we don’t really know what’s going on with them. We have to be in a relationship with them. And so here again, we’re invited into that. “And those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.” And so you see how the writer is inviting us into that sacred space.
We can go into that sacred space because that’s where Jesus is. I hope I’ve given you an idea that, in our fixations, we try to protect ourselves but when we open ourselves up to relationships – guess what? People aren’t predictable. But we can move forward in vulnerability in our relationships. Why? Because Jesus paid for us. And as we surrender our fixations and as we surrender our fortified camps, we open ourselves up to sorrow. Our longings that are now not being met by ourselves but we’re trusting that they’ll be met by another. And guess what happens when you open yourself up to sorrow like that? It grows. And your longings grow. And then all of a sudden when an image bearer of God comes close to you, you can feel it. And you can enjoy them. And we can enjoy them. That’s the beatitudes. I just gave you the beatitudes. Surrendering your fortified cities is called meekness.
What would it look like if we allowed ourselves to vulnerably enjoy strangers? That’s the question. What would it look like if we allowed ourselves to vulnerably enjoy people that don’t look like us? What would it look like if we confessed that in this room we have a special display of God’s glory, but not the only special display of God’s glory? And what would it look like if we confessed that over across the street there’s a whole community that glorifies God in a whole other way? And unless you open yourselves up to a vulnerable relationship with them, there’s a wonderful display of God’s glory that you can’t get anywhere else. And so before you go across the street, you have to say, “You know what? I’m going to put a sign up on my whole giving thing and I’m actually going to receive and open myself up to the possibility that I have everything to gain across the street.” What would it look like if we opened ourselves up to vulnerability and we went over there and just fell flat on our face when we tried to do relationships with strangers? And guess where relationships are built? When you fall flat on your face with relationships? Isn’t that great news? Because I fall flat on my face all of the time!
Alright, First Pres, it is with great joy that I’ve been with you all day today. Your smiles, your encouragement, have filled my heart. And I will say that as I drive home either late tonight or tomorrow morning – I haven’t decided yet – it will be with sorrow that geography will separate us. But I’m coming back Tuesday afternoon and I’ll see you Wednesday. Let’s pray!
Father, we thank You for Your Word that gets into the deep parts of our lives. It’s a sword. Swords cut, Lord. But one in the hands of a compassionate Father also heal. And so, Holy Spirit, give us the grace to believe that You are kind. Holy Spirit, give us the grace to know that we can take a step outside our fortified camps into sacred space. Give us the grace to listen to ideas of others. Give us the grace to go to places that might be uncomfortable. Give us the grace to step out even in the fortified camps of our own heart and just talk to our spouses or our friends in vulnerable ways that we never have before. And Jesus, meet us there. You are always with us. You will never leave us or forsake us and that is what Your Word has just told us. We trust You. Amen.
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