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To Be Ordinary Radicals ~ Third Sunday after Pentecost


June 5, 2016
Introduction
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know the gospel I preached isnt
human in origin.
I did not receive it or learn it from a human. It came through a revelation
from Jesus Christ.
~ Saint Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (Chapter 1: 11-12)
Notice what the psalmist and Saint Pauls have in common today. Psalm 146:
3 4 note that we should not put our faith in that which comes from human leaders;
for their plans and advice is not to be counted on.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;


on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Saint Paul, on the other hand, tells us that he has put his trust in the eternal, the
Holy One. His guidance and what really matters comes from above.

So these two

passages really compare and contrast where we can choose to place our trust and
faith.
We must never forget nor take for granted the wonderful gift that we have
been given. It is something precious and most of all sacred. We have been given
this Good News this Gospel from Jesus and a picture of God clarifying all our
misconceptions. For example, in todays first reading

(I Kings 17:8-24) the widow

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pictures God as vengeful and punishing saying to Elijah, Have you come to me to
call attention to my sin and kill my son. (Implying Yahweh is killing her son through
Elijah in verse 18.) Then Elijah in his prayers, sees Yahweh as capable and willing
to bring evil upon this family. (v.20) Even the prophet understands God as one who
would inflict harm on his people for some reason.
We see the scripture filled with some very confusing information ~ genocide,
stoning, child sacrifice, and poor treatment of women. But the scriptures are the
story of humanitys journey of faith, understanding of God, and relationship with
God. Then Jesus comes to provide the fullest and most accurate revelation of God.
Simply stated, if you want to know what God looks like and how he thinks,
look at and listen to Jesus. If you want to know what values are important to
God, listen the words and teachings of Jesus; watch him and how he interacts with
others and all types of people: young and old, rich and poor, residents and
foreigners.
Jesus came to teach us how to live and help us rise above our humanness
with all of its limitations. We are reminded of this each time we celebrate Holy
Communion and each time we read the Holy Gospel. This is our great challenge
and our ultimate goal as Christians, to internalize and to live out these gospel
values.
But the problem is that we must see the Gospel as something given from the
Divine but we like Elijah wrestle with it faced with our own hang ups and baggage
in tandem with worldly values and allegiances competing for our attention,
forgetting we are members of the Kingdom of God first and other obligations come
second. (Missing Sunday Church for shopping, ball games, etc. is really not an

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option if you are a believer. Two years ago I provided a Saturday service for those
who said they could not attend due to work ~ only one person working Sundays
attended.) Jesus notes that wherever your treasure is there will be your heart. (Mt.
6:21)
What or Who Do We Put Our Faith In?
The best evidence for this is in declining church attendance in our
nation. Last night on CNN (June 4, 2016) it was reported that at least 25% of
adults in the United States consider themselves as atheists non believers in
anything. Most notable is the decline of Church attendance are young adults.
Shane Claiborne, a United Methodist who is part of the New Monastic Movement,
says, If we lose these folks, it will not be because we did not entertain
them but because we did not challenge them enough. (Claiborne, S. 2016.)
United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon noted on the 10 th Anniversary of 9/11 in
Christianity Today that, American Christians may look back on upon our
response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat When our people
felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross. (Cited by
Wallis, J., 2013, p. 135.) To be clear, I am not criticizing patriotism, I am not
saying we should not be support the troops, and I am not criticizing being
patriotic. But how would the tenor of things have been different had we
had responded in prayer, reflection, and through the lens of the Cross
first? We have become a very divided, angry, and bitter people. What
would our nation be like today had we leaned on the Cross? Perhaps we
will never know.

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We Are Called to be Ordinary Radicals
It is now time, more than ever, for us to consider what it is that God wants of
us. As a parish we must consider why we are here. What is our purpose and reason
for being? For that matter each one of us must ask these questions.
We must hear the call to become Ordinary Radicals. (Claiborne, S.,
2016, p.40-41.) When I hear the word radical it brings back images from the 1960s
and early 1970s but what if we instead had the images of a tax collector, fishermen,
a young girl of 13 who said yes to an angel, and a woman named Mary the
Magdalene (who was not a prostitute, by the way.) These are images of ordinary
people who were inspired by a carpenter from Nazareth who dared to see the world
differently filled with possibilities for a new order and was willing to die for this so all
could have life.
Radical comes from a word that means root, like a radish. To be radical is to
get to the root of the message and take it seriously. My job is in part prophetic to
hear God and to challenge myself and each of you. I am called to challenge the
status quo that which is just the norm we have grown to accept as merely OK.
The question I am to put forth today is do you take the Gospel seriously
and not as great saints and martyrs but as ordinary folks? (Claiborne, S.
2016, p.19.)
The Lure of Safe Christianity
The problem with saints and martyrs is the Church has sanitized and
sentimentalized them making them safe. Saint Francis has been sent to the garden
to welcome the birds instead of telling us to embrace God above all else. Mary

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quietly stands with head bowed allowing us to forget that saying yes to God can
cause us to have our hearts pierced, too. We leave John Wesleys picture in text
books so we can forget that he claimed the world to be his parish, that way we can
remain in our safe churches insulating ourselves from the rest of the world.
We long for the good old days. I remember my home parish, White Oak
Grove UMC with fond memories, the nice people and the close knit community. I
occasionally drive by it and feel badly as it is closed and empty. We reached out to
the local nursing home once a year at Christmas and forgot about them the rest of
the year, assuming that was what Church was meant to be. We were a comfortable
place filled with nice people and tucked away from those other people. Those other
people also Children of God and missed opportunities to share the Gods love.

I am wondering what some of those folks thought of us held up in our Church


ignoring them so. Did they feel judges or just ignored? Did they feel we did not
have much of a message worth sharing? Did they think it was an elite club that
would not accept them? Gods children are everywhere and it is up to us to show
them how much they are loved by our example. That is what Ordinary radicals do.
Safe Christianity also takes the form of Black & White Thinking and
considering In & Out Groups. You know who is saved and who is not. Those who
have the right beliefs and the wrong beliefs, right practices and wrong practices.
These too keep our world nice, tidy, and safe. But Jesus calls each of us to step
out of the comfort of our boats (Mt. 14:23-33) to step on waters of not
knowing in order to love, serve, learn, and grow as people of faith.
Conclusion

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During the past six to three years I have been dragged out of my boat and
especially the last year. Mother Teresa said you Cannot understand the poor
until you understand what poverty is like. (Caliborne, S., 2016, p. 47.)
Mother was absolutely correct and I have seen it in my students at Southern State
in poverty in Appalachia, during the Great Recession, and in talking with people who
have been or are homeless. I understood job loss through losing my own job and
working with other dislocated workers.
Then during the last year in reading the Gospel, I have been forced to hear it
differently in light of all of these experiences. I have been dragged kicking and
screaming from my boat. Some people may find what I have said today very
difficult but the truth of the Gospel is never safe nor convenient. John Wesley once
said, If I was not run out of town, I wondered if I had really preached the
Gospel. (Paraphrased: Claiborne, S, 2016, p. 41.)
If the Church the People of God do not step forward who will? It will not be
politicians of any persuasion, brand, or party. Who will be to voice for those without
the voice ~ the elderly, the mentally ill, the under employed, the children, the
disabled, or those so limited in skills and learning abilities they no longer can earn a
living wage in this new highly technical work place. Who will step forward? Who will
respond to Gods call if not us?

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References:
Claiborne, S. (2016). The irresistible revolution, Living s an ordinary radical. Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Wallis, J. (2013). On gods side, What religion forgets and politics hasnt learned
about serving the

common good. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazo Press.

Readings for this Sunday, The Revised Common Lectionary Year C:


Old Testament: 1 Kings 17: 8-24
Psalm 146
Epistle: Galatians 1: 11-24
Gospel: Luke 7; 11-17