Sermon January 25, 2009 : The DNA of Congregation Lion of Judah
- Presenter: Gregory Bishop
- Date: January 25, 2009
- Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA
Mark, chapter 10 starting in verse 17, it’s interesting you know because in an incident just before Jesus had encountered many little children, you know this time when the little kids were coming to Jesus, and the disciples said: “Don’t bother the Master,” and Jesus said, “let the children come to me, the kingdom of God belongs to such as this, a little bit of a lesson on what it is to be a childlike and how Jesus sees us. Starting in verse 17, it says that Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him, “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered; “no one is good –except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Verse 21, and this is where I want to focus today, it says, Jesus looked at him and loved him, “one thing you lack,” he said. “Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me,” at this the man’s face fell. Because he had great wealth. And that’s what Jesus wanted teach about how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Father, I pray in Jesus name that you are speaking to me, speaking to us through this message, I thank you for who you are and for your eyes that both brought me here and that you are with us today, in Jesus name. Amen.
What a story huh? There is a lot we could to talk about, a lot that the pastor will be talking about in terms of earthly treasure, and heavenly treasure. What I want to focus on is the dynamic, the interrelation dynamic between Jesus and this particular man. First of about how he comes to Jesus, he comes running up the bible emphasizes that, that he comes running to Jesus and he falls down on his knees, so he’s really coming in front of God, he’s not just approaching, he’s running up to Jesus and says, “Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus right away starts dealing with some misunderstanding that he consents that this young man has and he says, “why do you call me good? No one is good,” he clearly sees that this man doesn’t really understand what Goodness is in a lot of ways, and then he says, you know the commandments and goes down the list, right? And now what about what the young man says, “All of these I have kept since I was a young boy.” Yeah, right. Sure you had! That’s what I want to put in there, Right? But Jesus doesn’t respond that way. He doesn’t say, give me a break, pal. You don’t have any idea… he doesn’t lay this truth from him, he doesn’t look at the man with critical eyes, who do you think you are, saying you obey the commandments and you have enough?
The bible says that Jesus looked at him and loved him, and I love that moment, you know when the Word of God includes details in the scripture is for a purpose. What Jesus sees about your talent, what’s the next line, there’s one thing you have, you need to sell everything and give to the poor, the man was tortured by that call. Jesus knew he was about to administer some very painful medicine to this young man, he knew he was about to put his finger on one of the most sensitive, difficult, raw nerves that this man could've had. But before he does it, Jesus looks at him and loves him. I want to focus on that moment because the book of Mark does that, the gospel writer, he focuses on the looks of Jesus in a lot on different moments, like when the Pharisees were angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. The gospel writer, Mark, here emphasizes that Jesus looked in anger at them, ‘How dare you be angry that because I healed someone on a Sabbath?’ There is another moment where someone says, ‘your mother and your brother are looking for you’. And the book of Mark says that Jesus looked around and said, ‘look at these people here,’ I can just imagine him making eye contact with each one, and said, ‘here you got my brother, my sister, my mother, right here’. Jesus was connecting with people, eye to eye, there’s all kinds of other moments where this happens, some pretty heavy moments.
I love the one where the woman in the crowd sneaks upon Jesus and touches him, and you know, the woman who had a flow of bleeding and it was illegal for her to touch a holy man and she touches Jesus in the crowd and was healed. The bible says that Jesus stopped in the crowd and looks around and said, ‘who touched me?’ Looking, looking, looking... ‘What do you mean, who touched me? You are in the middle of a big crowd pressing in’, and he says, ‘No, no. Somebody touched me and I’m going to keep looking until I find them’ and then she came out and then he connects with her, and He says, ‘daughter, your health has been healed, you go in peace.’ Jesus has the ability to connect to the person within the crowd, to see them in all of their complexity, in all of their confusion, in all of their weaknesses and difficulties.
And I think part of what really touches me about this moment is that Jesus was looking not only into this man’s eyes, but was looking into his soul, and he loves what he saw there. Here is a man who was of great wealth, from his family background and it was going to be difficult for him to respond to what Jesus had told him to do and Jesus could see the struggle he was having and the struggle he was going to have and he looked at him with compassion. And just compassion but not pity, not criticism, not even a sort of a malicious delight, ‘I’m about to let this guy have it’. No- no, on the contrary, he looked at him and loved him and – I love you so much that I’m not going to let you get away with this attitude that you have. You have to deal with this, He looked at him and He loved him. And that’s what I want to talk about the eyes of Jesus, the way Jesus looks at people. Eyes of mercy. For me this is one big element of what I like to call the DNA of CLJ you know, that kind of works, right? In English at least, the DNA of CLJ, I think what you’re going to hear in these services what we do, in English services, and we’re going to continue to do it, is sort of hit a key central theme that makes Lion of Judah what it is, what it is this church.
And that’s what I hear, if I’ve heard correctly, pastor Roberto preached on the widow, what was the text again? The widow from, where was the town? Sarepta, that’s the one; who didn’t have anything and God filled the things. That’s Roberto’s favorite text, he’s been preaching on that for 25 years. Because he lives that text, believing that God is an awesome guy and, you to step up behind the resources and He provides and that’s how God has worked with Roberto and this church over the years and we’re right now about to take the biggest gamble ever pushing all the checks over the table, that’s part of the DNA of CLJ. That’s part of what we do here.
This theme that I want to talk about today, the way Jesus looks at people and the way he calls us to look at people. I also believe it’s one of the most fundamental components of what makes Lion of Judah what it is. It’s something that I don’t hear pastor Roberto preach about a lot but it’s one of the things that he lives, perhaps as well as any other ministry that I’ve been in here, not just to focus on the person, right I mean, comes from the church but it comes from him, from his attitude in a lot of ways about how do we look at people, how do we see them. What are our eyes like when we see people like the rich? You know I think often we judge over external appearances. We see this rich, he looked like he had he’s act together, he was wealthy, he was sincere. He was Godly, he wouldn’t have said he obeyed all the commandments unless he had been a pretty decent person, you know. He was a nice person, a likeable person, but Jesus knew inside the problems underneath the surface. How many of us know, that all of us come with a –I think the word is baggage? We’ve got baggage, we’ve got issues. Some are really obvious, right? We have big baggage, some say, you want to hear about baggage? Others are very good at disguising it and that’s okay too. They do –people cope with their issues in their own way, but everybody comes with some sort of struggles.
One of my favorite proverbs is one that says, ‘each heart knows he's own sorrows and no one can share its joy’. There is a saying in Spanish “cada persona es un mundo” -every person is a world to himself. The fact is, each person comes with a whole universe of experiences, of thoughts and of feelings and values, the potential to be heroic is Godly and also the potential to be childish, and selfish. We all come with a bundle of contradictions, a bundle of things that are confusing, even we don't understand it all. Sometimes we hear people say, ‘oh, I know exactly how you feel’, and then you just hear about the things they've been through and usually that comes with a very good heart, their desire to draw from their own experience to connect with you and to help, you know, build a bridge with you. And that usually comes from a very good motivation, but we know that the reality is, nobody can really understand how you feel, right? Except you and one other. We serve a God who doesn't just see us but who knows us.
I love that moment where Jesus is with the disciples and I think Andrew goes to get Nathaniel, right? Was it Andrew and Nathaniel? One of the guys goes and gets Nathaniel, and he's under a tree and Nathaniel says, ‘can anything good come from Nazareth, why should I even bother meeting this guy?’ Then he comes, and Jesus says “behold the true Israel to whom there’s nothing false, there is no guilt, there is no trickiness.' And he says, ‘how do you know me, rabbi?’ And he says, ‘I saw you when you were under the tree.’ And the fact is that he probably couldn’t even see the tree so it’s a miraculous scene, but on top of that, He can see him there, not just sitting there, He saw the heart of the person sitting there. Our God sees us and He really sees into us and He knows us and He understands us. So, I imagine that woman –the bleeding woman coming before Jesus, just so terrified and the way Jesus looked. I can just imaging looking into her and He said, ‘My daughter, mi hija, go in peace, your faith has healed you’, He knew just what she needed, not just physical healing but emotional healing.
Jesus sees people, God sees people, and this is just not only in the New Testament, it’s all over the bible, today I just happened to be reading some Psalms, this was just part of my devotion, I wasn’t studying for this and of course when you think about what you’re going to preach you’re certainly thinking about what you’ll talk about. But I was reading in Psalm 31, “let your face shine and your servant. Save me, in your unfailing love." In my alarm I said, ‘I’m cut off from your sight’.” And the idea that I want to know that God sees me; I have a one and a half year old, who is very insistent that we see him at all times, just him. In the next couple Psalms later it says, “from heaven the Lord looks down and sees the man in his dwelling place.” In the verse 18, “the eyes of the Lord are after the ones who fear him.” It’s constant in the bible, right near the beginning after the creation, what does it say? ‘God had just finished making everything’, what does He say, and God looked his son and everything he had made, and He said, ‘behold it is very good’.
So God sought in the beginning, there is a story in the book of Genesis that definitely you should look at it later, but there is a proverb that says, ‘the eyes of the Lord are everywhere watching over the wicked and the good’. When God appeared to Moses, what does he say, do you remember the encounter? Moses, he ran away from Egypt, he’s in the desert for 40 years, then the burning bush, the voice starts speaking to him and he says, ‘I have seen the suffer of my people in Egypt’, it’s all throughout God seeing people, God seeing what they’re going through. God seeing what they’re feeling and caring about what they’re going through, God seeing us inside. And I love the fact that He knows that we’ve all got our stuff, we've all got our issues. I think by looking at it this way, I look at my shoes and ‘oh, I forgot to shine these shoes today’, there’s a reason, cause I’ve been walking Boston for a while, you don’t walk through life without getting stuff up a bit.
One of the fundamental values I believe of the gospel and of this church is accepting people with all their marks, with all their scars, with all their stuffs, with all their problems seeing it and knowing you’ve come to the right place. That this is what we’re here for, we’re here for people, the gospel is here for people, and I like the fact, you've heard the phrase ‘the Achilles heel’, no? I don’t know my mythology too well, but I guess that’s okay, right? I’m supposed to know the Bible not mythology, but Achilles was apparently this great Greek warrior but he had one piece of his armor of course, that tendon, if you’d get that heel you’ve got him. That was the one point, we all have our Achilles tendon. The apostle Paul, what did he have? Do you remember the apostle Paul? He had his thorn, his aguijón en la carne, he has his thorn in the flesh, and he said, you know I asked God to take it away, and I hope you’d ask God to deal with your baggage and He does but sometimes He says, ‘you know my power is perfected in your weakness, my grace is sufficient for you’, and then Paul starts saying, you know, it is okay that I have a thorn, maybe is okay that I’m not perfect like the super apostles, right? They can seem all perfect, because in my weakness God’s powers is made perfect. So I’m going to boast upon my weaknesses so God’s powers can perfect in me, God's treasure is contained in what kind of vessel? The jars of clay, right? Because we may be beaten but not defeated.
We carry around in our bodies the mortality, the death of Jesus so that the power of the resurrection would also be demonstrated in us. It is in humanity that God shows he has the power to raise the dead, and bring the death apart from us. God sees us and he knows that, he sees our hearts. And I think that there are different characters in the bible, right? Different ones that we can relate to, we all have been talking about biblical heroes as examples for us, none of these heroes are perfect. None is perfect if we think about it. Timothy, I think Timothy is one of my favorites. the apostle Paul had to tell him God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of love, why did Paul had to write that, unless timothy struggled of timidity and he needed to hear it and the apostle Paul just like Jesus, looked at him and loved him and told Timothy you’ve got to deal with this, you’ve got to deal with your timidity. If you’re really going to do what you have to do. He looked at him and he loved him.
There are other characters in the bible, Peter, any negative things to see in Peter? You think Jesus was blinded, was shot when Peter did all his crazy stuff? You know sometimes Jesus got angriest with his most key leaders, he had to really get out to them, Peter the one who denied the Lord, the one who was weeping afterwards, Peter the one who was impulsive and cocky, he was the one that Jesus looked at him and said I see your weaknesses but I also see that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, he didn't just see the weaknesses but saw the potential. Those are part of the eyes of mercy, eyes of mercy are eyes of faith, because we see all the people with all this baggage but we also see that in this vessel of clay Gods treasure is going to be displayed, and so you see with eyes of faith, and you see that in every case. John and James, the guys who Jesus nicknamed, anyone know the nickname for James and John? Sons of thunder. Why, because they were the ones who caught fire in Seneria, they were the ones whose mom came to Jesus, and said can you do a favor to my kids? One on the right one on the left, that’s James and John. They wouldn't have family dynamic, interesting family situations, that’s okay that’s biblical. The disciples had family, stuff that they came with, and Jesus saw sons of thunder, James and John, his most intimate circle, Peter, James and John. Thomas, I wonder how Jesus would have looked at Thomas. I can just imagine the smile, I can just imagine, there you go. I hate you and I love you, what am I going to do with you, Thomas? I can just imagine that look. We’ve seen the weaknesses and loving him not just in spite of his doubt, but maybe even a little bit more because of it. You’ve ever thought of that, you see someone and when you see their weaknesses, somehow, I don’t know, they’re even more lovable because they’re more human. I want to see Jesus looking in that way, through the whole Bible.
Abraham, started as Abram. We know Abraham did not lead a perfect life, remember the little incident with his wife where he said she’s my sister and some guy came and almost took her away, you know. Abram, but God saw this is not just Abram, this is Abraham and he will be the father of many, many nations, he saw his weaknesses and he loved him and he saw his potential. Jacob, Jacob. From tricky lie to tricky lie, trying to swindle his way to God's presence, and God stopped with him, not just for 6 months, not just for a year, but for decades and decades of his baggage, but God saw Jacob and God had a plan for Jacob, and eventually they had to get out right. The angel and Jacob, they had that big wrestling match and his name changes from Jacob to Israel, he struggles with God and overcomes, God saw him and loved him. And we can go down the list, Moses, self-confident, kills an Egyptian, and lives 40 years in the desert. I loved Gideon he’s one of my favorites. Gideon, he’s there hiding and God calls him and Gideon says but wait a minute I’m from the smallest tribe and I’m from the worst family in the smallest tribe and I’m the black sheep of that family, and God says I see that but God is with you mighty worrier, go with this the little strength you have, God saw him and loved him. And he goes right out on then. Samson, Samson, it’s hard to put with Samson, year after year, generation after generation but God had a calling for Samson. Samuel, the prophet Samuel, one of the most amazingly anointing man, anointed King David, and the king’s son, you know he’s son grew up to be rebellious, he had family problems, God saw that, God saw that.
And it goes to King Saul, the first King of Israel, a tall and impressive man, but so insecure inwardly that he hid among the baggage at his inauguration day, he didn’t want to go out and take the oath, he was hiding back, I don’t know behind a pillar or someone, and he had to call him out of there, he was so insecure and then his insecurity ended up becoming pride and proud and building a monument, God saw Saul and God loved Saul. King David, we all know David’s weaknesses right, but God saw he had a heart after his own, God sees in people, from the very beginning I think about how the bible started, Adam and Eve, after they blew it and God comes in the form of the morning looking for them, and where are they? Who remembers where Adam and Eve are after, they’re hiding in the bushes and trembling and covering themselves in leaves, and God sees them, he could have left them trembling but he seeks them out. God’s heart is out to see us in all our weaknesses and love us and now that’s not about making excuses for people, we don’t make excuses for sin, we certainly don’t make excuses for hypocrisy and double life, God is a holy God is an awesome God, He deals with this, but what is it that really helps people change.
The bible says in the book of Romans, is the loving kindness and mercy of God leads us to repentance when someone looks at you with love and acceptance it motivates you to change for them, who are the teachers you perform best for when you are in school? Okay, the hard ones but the ones you love, you’d just do anything for them. The loving kindness of God leads us to repentance. It produces change it produces transformation is not about excusing is not about pampering someone in their problems, the Lord isn’t looking for faults, it means he look at people, as the saying, zits and all, I can say that English I have no idea how to say that in Spanish and he loves us just like that. That's part of the DNA of Lion of Judah, it’s accepting broken people who come with lots of internal contradictions and sins, and problems and struggles and marches against them and letting them come into this sort of… I compare it to the nursery where you… like a children nursery, but where you plants, a green house, where all the windows in that sunshine is in and the sunshine is in and it is sort of a tropical environment simulated, those plants grow. When people come and plant themselves in the church of God and seek the blessings of the gospel and breathe an atmosphere of mercy and forgiveness, and generosity, they change, has anybody here experienced some of that change in their life. We see people come from you name it, demons coming out of people, coming out with their witchcraft, sexual immorality, violence, drug addiction, physical illness, mental illness, you name it, family devastation, planting themselves in the beauty of God’s loving kindness in that hot house and they start changing. It works. The gospel works, the blood of Jesus works. The eyes of Jesus transform us and I like to hope that this rich young ruler never forgot the way Jesus looked at him. You ever had that? When someone looked at you in a certain way, that you just never forget. A certain look, I hope that that look stayed with that man and that one day he thought you know it scares me to death to leave my inheritance behind but I know that I can trust Jesus and I hope he came back and followed him, we don’t know, we can only hope. And I think the story is somewhat left it open because that was to be left open for us, what would we do? Would we respond or would we stay right in the way but this is part of the atmosphere of this church, and when we do that, when we first of all realize that God looks at us that way then we are empowered to look at others that way.
There is a verse that says with the measure you use it will be measured to you, we usually use that verse when we’re talking about ties and offering, give and it will be given to you, I got to look at it, is a good verse. Luke 6, if you got your bible, let’s look at it. Because this sums it up. Luke 6, 37. It says do not judge, and you will not be judged, Luke 6, 37. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned, forgive them and you will be forgiven, give and then will be given to you, a good measure press down shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap, but with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Now usually we use this verse when we talk about financial giving, right? And that’s okay because I think it relates. But really the context here isn’t directly about money, it’s about how we treat other people, do we approach people with generosity and tolerance and a willingness to give them a second chance, or maybe a third chance, or a fourth or a 77 chance that Jesus talks about it. Or do we approach with those critical eyes? I think this is particularly hard for people who are very discerning, people who are insightful because people who are naturally gifted with ability to have insight tend to be tempted to be critical because you meet people and you just can’t deny the fact that you see they’re all messed up and then you don’t trust them and maybe you've learned the hard way and that’s what you need to do to survive because some moments you have been trusting and people have hurt you, so you’ve learned well I better be discerning or people are going to hurt me. And so, you learn learned to have that critical eye. Sometimes is very hard for people with a critical eye to develop not just a critical eye but a generous eye. And I think of the way a doctor looks at you, you ever feel uncomfortable in the doctor’s office, you feel so exposed the doctor will check you out you know but they’re looking at you with an eye towards healing and if they’re good professionals you feel safe in their presence. A gifted discernment, an ability to be discerning which I think many people have, needs to be accompanied with a gift of mercy and generosity so you look and you see these weaknesses but you don’t see to it criticize, you see it to heal, you see it in a way that’s merciful that’s caring that heals like I see that this person's got so many problems but I know that God can work on that because I know I have a lot problems and God is working with me. And I don’t’ know if you’ve experience this, but when we are hard on other people what usually comes around, you know that, what goes around, you know, comes back around. We have that tendency when we are very critical and hard on other people typically people will not cut out some slack when it is our turn, when we need mercy. And it works the opposite way, as we give mercy, as we give second chances, as we forgive and we look with those yes of love and of prophetic faith of what the person can become, people are inclined to generate that sense of good will and mercy towards us. It is a decision but it produces a whole atmosphere of healing, but it does start with that.
Now, and again, I say this, not that I like talking about pastor Roberto, and I know he's not listening because he's preaching somewhere, but one of my favorite things about his ministry is he has a real gift of discernment. That’s one of his primary gifts and when he looks at a person and he really does know you, pretty quickly, you can run but you can’t hide. He scans, he knows what’s there, but God has given him so it’s not just discernment, but extreme gift of discernment but that is mixed with a gift of mercy and a gift of faith and prophetic ability to see also, “Wow, this person’s got potential, this person got potential.” Leaders in our church know this, that I could say about 99.9% of our leaders in this church are people who have some really good reason why they shouldn’t be leaders, something is wrong in everyone of us in some way. And, so we’ll be in leadership meeting talking about a new potential leader on something, and of course everyone’s got reasons this person got that, he got that, he got that, but then we all look at each other but well, what about us? Which one of us would pass this test? Zero. Every one of us is a gamble, that God took, and the pastor is willing to take, a gamble who is willing to take, I’ll take this gringo kid give him a chance to grow as a pastor, I’ll take this chamaco, we’ll take these people, we’ll give ‘em a chance and give a second and a third and a fourth, depending on temptations, give so many changes. But that’s beautiful, is something I love about this church, something I love about this ministry, something I want to be part of my life, and I never want this church to lose and the thing is all a subtext this is not something we always talk about from upfront but is something that is practically lived out, it’s something, it is the rule of the land here, this is a place for everyone who come in now, and the thing is also a place a church is like a hospital, you are rubbing soldiers with other sick people, sometimes you are hurting to each other, comes to their territory, is part of being in a healing community but given the opportunity and to come impartially, because the door is so wide open, we’re going to have more headaches more than a church where everything is so nice and orderly and everybody’s got their act together, no, no, we’re going to have more headaches than we’d have otherwise, but it’s worth the headache and is all worth coming around and seeing God, how do you see me, how do you see this person that’s before me and do I see them in all like you do? And so it all comes down at how we see God seeing us.
I love one of my favorite Old Testament stories is the woman named Hagar, who she was the other woman for Abraham, she was the maid servant. God made the promise that Sara you’re going to have children, and they thought how are we to have kids? They thought, well, we’ll just use Hagar, and that’s when the word ‘used’ is very appropriately used, she was being used to fulfill a purpose so she had Ishmael and God was like, that wasn’t my plan, so this poor woman she’s a slave to begin with, next thing you know she’s the other woman, no necessarily because it was her own choice, then she has a kid, she’s hated by Sara, of course, her son is hated, and doesn’t even take to be part of Gods promise, or at least the main promise that God had for them. She is a victim in the true sense of the word. She finally decides I’m going to run away, she runs into the desert and I love the dialogue. She sits there, she puts the kid under a tree, I can’t bear this, she sits there feeling completely alone, completely alone, there’s no one with her, no one on her side, and the Angel of the Lord comes and says, Hagar, where did you come from and where are you going? She says, I’m fleeing from the house of my master, yet she doesn’t answer the second part. She knows from where she’s coming but has no idea where she’s going. And then God says, I have promises for you too, and your son will also be great. And God had promises for Ishmael, too. And God had promises and a purpose for her. And she touched and she name a certain well, the well of the God- in Hebrew that means, "This is the God who sees me." And then she says, I can’t believe it, I have seen the one who sees me and still lived to tell the tale. And she returned and had a hard life but a life with God’s blessing and care for her. Have you yet seen the God who sees you? Do you know that God is looking at you? He knows the complexities, He knows the contradictions, but He also knows the calling He has for you, and when you see those eyes then it makes it more possible for you to see other people that way. I want to see the world that way, I want to see my God that way, I want to know if he’s watching me, because when he’s looking at me I know I have nothing to hide, but I know He loves me and I know He knows where He is going to take me. So let’s pray about that.
|Sermon delivered by Gregory Bishop
taped January 25, 2009 at Congregation Lion of Judah