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An invitation to live in

UNITY
Based upon the principles found within
Job 38: 4-7, Galatians 3: 26-28, & Mark 10: 42-45
Delivered at Riverside UMC, Oct. 18th 2015
by Colin P. Hart

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Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world:for I was hungry and
you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a
stranger and you took Me in;I was naked and you clothed Me; I
was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least
of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

You may have heard our country is in the middle of a War on


Religion. It may surprise you to learn that I agree with this, but I
do. This war, however, is not is not the us against them
battle that we see flashing across the screen of our news channels
or plastered on the billboards and bumperstickers that clutter our
commutes with messages of division and segregation where our
religious liberties are being unjustly held hostage by some outside,
menacing, political force. No. This is a self-inflicted, inner-turmoil,
civil war. A war where we, as Christians, are neglecting the lives we
were called to live turning our backs on the earth and the people
around us, choosing to live under our labels of restriction and
exclusion. When we fight against the lives of community,

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inclusion, and unity that God has intended for us defining
ourselves by rigid walls and rules of what we are not, whom we
will not associate with, what parts of Gods good creation are of
value to us each time we are not acting kindly and justly towards
the least of theses in our lives, we are waging a war on the true
religion that calls us into practical, // humble //servitude, and
constant, open-armed unity.

When John asked me to speak for Laity Sunday, I took my sweet


time getting back to him with a definitive answer not because I
didnt feel like I was being called to share (quite the contrary, in
fact, the Holy Spirit had been tugging on my heart for quite some
time telling me that there was a message I needed to deliver and
here was the perfect outlet in which to do so), no, I was hesitant
because I felt scared. Scared of delivering this message. Scared of
its complexity, scared of its simpleness, scared of its implications
for my own life, scared of how it would be received. I had to
remind myself Riverside is my family a safe place and that the
church and Riverside does a fantastic job of embracing this idea
is intended to be a community of the free sharing of ideas,

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beliefs, and that shying away from what is difficult is exactly what
the message I was feeling called to share was about. So I accepted.
I accepted, and I came to you today to talk about how we, as
Christians followers of and emulators of Jesus Christ, the most
inclusive, welcoming, socially-active, and justice-seeking religious
figure in history we cannot isolate ourselves on the sidelines of
and schismed world, battle-torn from inequality, prejudice, unfair
judgment, the mistreatment of Gods earth, and the abuse of his
people.

Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least


of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

In the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and other prophets, God


did not just condemn his people for their idolatry, but for their
neglect of the marginalized. After condemning his people for their
worship of idols in Isaiah 1:17, God emphasizes: Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead
the case of the widow.

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And yet, we push for increased legislation that continues to give
power to those with much and jeopardize those who are already
oppressed. The wealthier are becoming wealthier. Our poor
worldwide only grow in number and in desperation risking
whatever it takes to try and seek asylum when we, as followers of
Christ should be actively seeking them out to welcome them with
open arms, a warm blanket, a nourishing meal, and a cup of water.

From todays scripture reading: There isneither Jew nor Gentile,


neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all
one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

And yet, we discriminate based on race, on gender, on sexual


identity, on class, on nationality, on whatever man-made label we
can slap on a person. As a straight, white, male born un-
handicapped into the middle class, I have essentially been playing
life on easy mode. It is so simple for me to look around at those
who are struggling and judge them, but I have been gifted life on a
silver platter. There are those who, because of the unequal
treatment of people who dont fit our idea of normal, must

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constantly fight simply to find the same opportunities I take for
granted every day.

Again, the bible urges us to break down our false divisions and
move towards unity: Blessed are those... whoexecute justice for
the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. Psalm 146:5-7

On the shelves of the supermarkets in the US we have 2.5 times


the amount of food we as a nation could eat if each of us took
home and ate all we needed. Globally, we only consume 1/5 of all
of the raw calories we produce. And yet, we hear claims of a
global food shortage. There is no shortage. There is no
distribution. We hoard our food until it spoils, then we throw it out
at an alarming rate. If food waste were considered a sovereign
nation, the pollution it would produce (from all that unnecessary
spoilage) would rank 3rd in carbon-dioxide emissions globally.
Recall the story from Luke 12 where the landowner decides to
build bigger and bigger barns for his bumper crop rather than
share with the poor? We are far beyond the building bigger
barns stage. We have created whole burgeoning industries around

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taking care of all the food we waste while millions die annually of
starvation.

We think of those without as lesser, but Acts 10:34 reminds us that


God is not one to show partiality. So why do we? Why do we
give the best seats at the table and in our hearts to the wealthy,
the powerful, the lucky? And relegate the poor, the disabled, the
foreigner, those who have nothing to offer us into the corners, the
periphery, of our table, our concern, our focus.

James would look at us now and reiterate the question he asked


nearly 2000 years ago, Have you not madedistinctions among
yourselves, and become judges withevil motives? James 2:4 It is
human nature to judge it is a survival skill that helps us sense
danger, perceive threats, and navigate a chaotic world, but if we
cannot rise above our base judgements, we are not living the
fullness of life intended for us through Jesus Christ, who was,
himself the last to judge even those accused of the greatest of
sins. Recall, his interaction with the woman caught in the act of
adultery. And yet, and yet, we continue to section off whole

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demographics of society that we see as untouchable, unclean,
unworthy, and unfit of our consideration. Recall that Paul tells us
in Acts 12:28 that God has shown me thatI should not call any
man unholy or unclean. Every time we exclude, and do not invite
into unity, were trying to one up God.

Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least


of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

I would like to quickly note that Riverside has an impeccable


record of social action our involvement in the Crop Walk, //
Kids Hope, // All Pro Dads, // Operation Classroom, // the
wells in Baoma Sierra Leone, // Sarah Turners work in
Eleuthra, // Trunk or Treat, // Second Harvest, // Muncie
Mission, // Habitat for Humanity, the list goes on and on. In fact
it was this mission heart, this humble servitude, this valuation of
community that first drew Emily and me to this congregation. But
are we called to something bigger? Something beyond our walls
that we could never have dreamed of ? I dont know. All I know is
that our world, our nation, our state, Muncie, IN is in need of

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healing, forgiveness, and unification and Riverside UMC is fertile
soil ready for seeds of justice, kindness, and gentleness to be
planted. And once planted, only God can know when and where
those seeds will take root, and bear restorative fruit to nourish all
who hunger and thirst.

Speaking of seeds and planting, our Christian isolationism does


not stop with social injustices. Not only do we cut ourselves off
from our fellow humanity, we have removed ourselves from the
rest of Gods creation. We use his earth as we see fit for our own
purposes under our own laws and dominion. Yes, the book of
Genesis outlines that humans were given authority over the earth
and everything in it, but we have abused that authority and
betrayed that trust put in us. God the Father, our model for perfect
authority and leadership, rules with love, compassion, and the
tender touch of a skilled gardener. We take what we have been
given and squeeze all we can from it for our personal gain, leaving
nothing for generations to come come and the earth with no way
to replenish itself.

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Recall the passage from Job read for today:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurementssurely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

One of the most beloved scriptures, John 3:16, states familiarly


that For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and
only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but
have eternal life. Notice it does not say, For God so loved the
people of the earth... and especially not For God so loved
people of the earth who are exactly like you. No. But the
ENTIRE earth. For it is through that love, that love that we are
invited, no implored to be a part of, that ALL of Gods creation is
set free. We cannot call ourselves Christians and not advocate for
the preservation and restoration of the earth that has been

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entrusted to us the earth is the Lords, and everything in it. How
rude and dishonest guests we have been, destroying and stealing
what has been left in our care.

Theologian Carl F. Henry notes that While Scripture does not set
forth specific lines of ecological action, which may vary with time
and place, it does adduce fixed principles that indicate that God
was not content to create a chaotic wasteland but rather a habitable
universe and that he expects his designated stewards to maintain it
that way. The way we treat our creation is a reflection on the way
we view its creator.

Eco-Theologian Thomas Berry acutely points out that, Earth is


not a collection of objects, but rather a communion of subjects.
It is not a bunch of things to be bought, // sold, //
subjugated, // drilled, // mined, // polluted, // blasted //,
depleted, // tilled, // dumped, // leveled, and treated as we
please. It is an integral part of our faith community. Recall that
Even the rocks themselves will begin to sing the praises of the
LORD. Once again, we have conveniently isolated ourselves from

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the parts of the world that do not fit our economic goals or social
agenda. We demand more and more from diminishing resources
without consideration for developing alternative methods of usage
and conservation that would allow us to re-enter a worship of
harmonious communion with all of Gods living earth.

Hear again the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: You
know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it
over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among
you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be
slave of all.For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The world is fragmented. Its environment lies baron in broken


shards. Its people huddle in dark isolation. In the midst of this
war, how can you provide healing, shine a light... how can you
bring unity?

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