Easter is the Victory Day for the Church. It is the day when Death stands defeated. The Tomb is empty. Christ is RISEN. HE LIVES. Love reigns. Jesus walks the earth - until all His followers have seen Him, touched Him, heard Him, and know the Promise is true, and has been fulfilled. Beyond this day, ALL IS A POSSIBILITY. Love is the answer for the world.
The Church, the Body of Christ, the company of those who know Him, love Him and are filled with Him, are on the march.
Not just sitting in church. Not just praising the Lord: but living Jesus' love, filled with His life.
Our answers are different from the world's. We don't have to just go along with what the world says is the fair way, the humane way, the just way.
When the woman caught in adultery is about to be stoned to death, Jesus says to the crowd, "LET HIM WHO IS WITHOUT SIN CAST THE FIRST STONE." And they are ashamed. They remember their own sin. They drop their stones. "Does no man condemn you?" Jesus asked the woman. "No man, Lord," she answers. And Jesus says, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more." A stunning response.
Stormy Daniels, accuser of our president, is interviewed by Anderson Cooper, about an affair with Mr. Trump ten years ago. The press is eager to make a case. Millions watched the show. How will the world decide?
Daily shows pick up the scandal. Public Radio's Joshua Johnson invites three women to converse about it. One, an adult film maker; another runs an escort service; another is a prostitute. All in the "sex trade."
All involved in selling sex to our society. They speak for their industry as needed to be fairly treated, dealt with justly - just like any profession.
Just when our society has become aware of sex trafficking across our country, and around the world. Young people literally stolen into the business of selling their bodies for others' sexual pleasure.
No one lifts up the meaning of sex, except that it is about pleasure. Not about persons. Not about human lives. Not about commitment to another. "Sex workers" should be able to pursue their profession safely.
Indeed. Compassion and caring for people is Jesus' trademark. That is the work of His people, the Church. But, Jesus and His Body, the Church, is about the meaning of sex. The meaning of human lives. The value of people. The value of their minds and hearts. About the power and importance of their spirits.
God created Adam and Eve to be partners in life. To love each other, and in that love to come together as one body, one spirit, and so create other human lives, their children. Jesus said the way it was to be was that "a man shall leave his father and mother, and be united with his wife, and they become one flesh."
Sexual intercourse is about becoming one with another in love, and in such a way as to pass on the wonder of other human lives, in children. And stepping outside that bond is betrayal. It is "cheating" on the one to whom you have pledged your life, your love, your all.
The sex industry is about drawing people away from those commitments, and into lies about freedom, and doing life "my way."
It undercuts the core and foundation of human society, the community of God's children on earth.
This self-centered understanding of sexuality in human life has already prevailed in the philosophy and morality of America's understanding of life. The Christian and Biblical view of life, that had been understood as basic to the public and private life that the Pilgrim and Puritan journeyers had brought with them to America, has been subtlely overtaken by the sexual revolution in thinking in the 1960s, combined with the ideas and understandings of feminism. Out of these has come a general and pervading view of social and political understandings, called "political correctness."
With this, faith understandings, Biblically-based ideas, have been increasingly viewed as alien, outmoded, no longer to be worthy of a place in our thought or public discussion.
So the moral framework that for so long prevailed as the order for human life and relationships has been dismissed as old-fashioned and irrelevant.
It could be added that it is too subtle, too deep to warrant attention.
But, as the media, political, and even educational leaders of our 21st century society articulate their answers to the moral and social dilemmas of this new day, the reasons rise for why sexual harassment or taking advantage of another are bad, come down to answers like "it makes people uncomfortable," or "their personal will or choice is being invaded." They have lost the awareness of a moral framework that embraces us all. There is no rudder to steer us. There is no compass to guide us. There is nothing greater than ourselves, to guide us.
The Church, that for 2,000 years has been that guide and framework, to hearing a call - if we will listen - to step forward, to assert itself, to dare, as Jesus did, to speak at corners or on mountainsides, to whomever will listen, the eternal words of life that God has given us, as His children, for the order, and fulfillment, and success of a life of love.
So I say it even on this one little website, to perhaps a few interested friends, that it is we ourselves, who are called to challenge all around us to think, and pray, and speak to our responsibility in the world.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Today was the big rally day, led by high school young people of Parkland, Florida, and students across America and the world. Eight hundred marches, worldwide. Thousands gathering, stirred to rage by school murders that won't stop.
The sounds more shrill and threatening. Congress, legislators, and politicians everywhere were warned. Progressive groups funded the travel and the marches. What will come of it?
How should Christians respond to the murder by guns crisis? My mind turned to Jesus, coming out of his remote mountain home in Galilee, picking up recruits from the seashore one by one, inviting them to follow. They became twelve, and "left their nets" and their lives, and walked with Him, and watched Him, and learned from Him for three years.
The question grew in their hearts: Who was He? Finally they knew. He had been sent from God. And yet, He was only one. And they were only twelve. And in the end, they were afraid, and fled. And this one lone man, their friend and Lord, was taken, unjustly condemned, and crucified.
He still was only one. And lawless hands were able to kill Him, defeat him, and take Him from the tiny movement He had started. The "powers that be" killed Him, buried Him, ended Him, they thought FORVER.
But of course, history knows it was He Who defeated them. For He rose, alive, and the movement began to spread over the world.
The fact is, He still lives. He still leads. And He gave mighty spiritual power to those who returned to His side, and gave their own lives following Him.
He had taught them something different for confronting evil and overtaking the world. He taught them Peace - "that passes understanding." Love, that couldn't be resisted. That changed hearts and relationship. He taught loving your enemies. He taught forgiveness. He taught laying down your life as the way of winning.
Is His way not still possible? Doesn't His Way still work? Couldn't that be our contribution in this critical time in the world's life?
I went to another doctor's office today. At the reception desk was posted a small colorful card with the word "Kindness" displayed prominently. Clearly it was a watch word displayed as a motto for that office, a quality of life, a spirit of communication by which that treatment center intended to live.
Indeed, the woman at the desk was radiant with smiles and a verbal willness to help all who approached her. She offered me a seat and coffee while I waited to be called by the doctor. Someone had decided on an attitude to typify that office. I am grateful because a word and the person smiling behind it put me at ease.
The Apostle Paul calls Jesus' people to consciously adopt such a spirit for their lives. To the churches of Galatia, after listing the dark "acts of the sinful nature," says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control... Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galations 5: 22, 24, 25)
Sitting later at my favorite Starbucks, with a small espresso, I noticed on a bulletin board on a near wall, an arresting quotation, which said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
Indeed. What does the spirit of kindness call us to, if not to a life of attention to others, serving others, loving, healing, caring about, and, for, others?
All around us are people needing to be cheered, encouraged, lifted up, thanked, loved, blessed. They are down for reasons we don't even need to know. But, even the slightest sign of caring will encourage them and bless them on their way.
At this stage of life Molly and I are not able to make the journeys back to Africa for our healing retreats that meant so much to us for over twenty years. But we can still help with the Pilgrim Center's retreats here at home that are helping people find forgiveness and freedom for their lives.
Even in these last days of Lent, we are privileged to be on a team helping leaders of a church in St. Paul find forgiveness and reconciliation. What an honor, and a joy!
And of course every day, everywhere we go, we can say a word, and direct a smile toward those around us. We are all among those "called to kindness."
Bless you as we walk the last steps with Jesus toward the cross, and the crown, which are God's work of love in the world today.
Last Sunday, Molly and I went to church on our city's northside, to Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church. Molly insisted we go. She is often deeply right in instincts, her hunches about how Christians should behave in relation to other Christians.
Years ago, she had said, "You go off to Africa to be with fellow Christians there - to befriend them, help them, serve them, but right here in our own city and state are numbers of people of the Native American people, who feel themselves The Invisible, The Forgotten, the left out people of our society. Why don't we find a way to go to them?"
So we did. We had been receiving a monthly newsletter from The Dakota Association of Churches, out in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. "Why don't we go and see them?" she asked.
There were about 15 of those churches, gathered under the United Church of Christ denomination in tiny communities called Red Scaffold, Green Grass, Faith. Their pastors were Milo Ironwood, Leslie Bobtail Bear, Richard Charging Eagle, and Leonard. The group was shepherded by a white couple, Rev. Ray and Shirley Berry, who had given their hearts and lives to these lonely Indian pastors and their small, often struggling churches.
We also had an Ojibwe friend, a retired Episcopal minister, George Ross and his wife Angie. They lived in Cass Lake, and had served Episcopal Churches there and in Red Lake and White Earth.
Our first journey to visit them, as a little caravan of white folks from "the Cities," was north to George and his people, and then west into North Dakota, and down the Missouri River to Cannon Ball, and there to the churches of the Lakota Sioux.
We were welcomed in all those churches, although in their historic experience their great enemies were the American government and the American (white) church.
Yet, through Ray Berry's great shepherding of us, we became friends and came to have ties with those pastors and the people of their churches. Our visits were annual for over twenty years. We went for a spring weekend. We went to their churches. Our teams spoke to them from their hearts. They became dear to many of our people.
We were a rag-tag group of pilgrims. The relation is still there, especially through George Ross, who very much cares.
In the meantime, over those 20 -25 years, we went to Africa, to lead retreats of reconciliation in the genocide countries of Rwanda and Burundi. Eventually seven countries became home to us through Christian friendships with new friends in all those places.
Richard Coleman, gifted pastor of Wayman Church, went with our Pilgrim Center one year to Africa. He and Mary are our friends. They've helped with retreats here in Minnesota. Their tie with us is particularly through prayer. They prayed for me in the middle of the crowd at a Minnesota Prayer Breakfast just before I was to have surgery for melanoma cancer. They had great power in prayer. God gave me healing, despite the apprehension of my young surgeon. So, there is a wonderful "tie that binds."
Try going to one of the many churches of our city that is a mix of people, or that is made up of Congolese, or Nepalese, or African American, or Native American people.
They would love to have you step into one of their pews some Sunday soon. You would be so welcome. It might be a door of great friendship and healing for you.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES