Tag Archives: Millenial Generation

Post-Resurrection Christians in a Pre-Christian World

 

Text:     Luke 3: 1-6

 

Charles Dickens began his novel about the French Revolution:  A Tale of Two Cities, with the words:    “These were the best of times, these were the worst of times….”

Luke, the gospel that is every historians favorite, might have began his gospel with similar words.     If we could go back and see how life was lived in those times we might agree that they were “the worst of times”, while the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, signaled the coming of the  “best of times” with the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God on earth that he proclaimed.

Into the  “worst of times” came John the Baptizer—-preaching a “message of repentance” to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  We might ask how  a “message of repentance” prepared the way for Jesus?    Was it because people were so bad and sinful?    No—–it is because we misunderstand the word “repentance” these days.   We have come to understand it as “feeling sorry for having disobeyed God” or “regretting the bad things we have done.   That was not the meaning of repentance in John’s day.   In the Greek the word is metanoia— and it’s meaning is “turning around”.    John was urging people to be willing to turn around and go in a different direction—the direction Jesus was coming to proclaim— to turn toward the Kingdom of God.    The Kingdom of God was breaking in on earth—-this Kingdom is not “heaven” or “pie in the sky bye and bye”—-the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed was a new way of living—-a very different way of living.   We see glimpses of   the way of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed  throughout  the gospels .   Jesus proclamation of the Kingdom of God set  the business of living in this world in the conventional way on its head in many ways: 

  In God’s Kingdom, Jesus said:

  • Blessed are the poor”—-not the rich.
  • Blessed are the meek”—-not the powerful. The meek will inherit the earth instead of the conventional expectation that the powerful and rich will do so and then pass it on to their heirs.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers—-they, not the army generals as in Jesus time, will be called children of God
  • You have heard ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WHAT THE WORLD WOULD BE LIKE IF GOD RULED IN EVERYONE’S LIFE.

These are descriptions Jesus gives and many more of the way life in the Kingdom of God will be different.

The gospel writer, Luke, carefully dated the coming of the Christ by referring to who ruled at the time.   Let’s start our examination of “bad times in Palestine” by looking at those who ruled:

  • Emperor Tiberius:   The stepson of the great Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. He was never accepted by other Roman leaders because he was not considered a natural heir. He was neither well-loved nor respected.
  • Pontius Pilate:   had risen from a “middle-management” position to become procurator of Judea in 26 A.D.   He had a gift for antagonizing his Jewish subjects. He knew his hold on Judea was tenuous, so Pilate made up for that weakness by periodically unleashing his soldiers on the citizenry, crucifying hundreds at a time of those who challenged him.   He was feared and despised.
  • Herod Antipas:   A dangerous ruler, designated “King of the Jews” but ruling only with the power of Rome behind him.   He spent a lot money on building cities and pagan temples to impress the Romans—levying high taxes on the Jewish peasants to pay for them. . A paranoid ruler—-feeling everyone was out to get him—he murdered many of those around him he suspected of treachery or even those who spoke out against his evil ways such as John the Baptist whom he beheaded at this wife’s request and gave the head to her on a platter.
  • Caiphas and Annas:   Caiphas was Annas’ son-in-law and together their loyalties lay more with maintaining their shared place of power and wealth they had won from the Romans who appointed them rather than loyalty to God and God’s people.

These rulers in these “worst of times” for the Jews ruled over a culture that:

  • was organized into political entities that included city officials, territorial governors, and heads of state—-all of whom drew their support from the high taxes levied on the peasants
  • Was organized around the worship of many pagan gods.
  • Was designed to support the political and economic power of those who were rich and powerful who lived by different rules and standards than the common people.   Among those rich and powerful were the temple priests and the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • A culture where about 1 to 2% the population of the Empire were rich and powerful; those who worked for and supported them about 5%  and the other 93% were peasants living a subsistence life or below—just enough to barely live on and survive.   [When Jesus taught his disciples to pray saying—–“Give us this day our daily bread” and “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” he was speaking of the two most constant worries of the peasant class—-food and freedom from debt. If you had no food, you starved.   If you couldn’t pay your debts, including your high taxes, you were thrown in prison and if you had land it was seized by your creditor to satisfy the debt.
  • A Culture where the religious structure and leaders worked in concert with the political/governmental power of Rome to maintain their wealth and power and carry out their temple agenda that kept them wealthy.
  • A culture where many people were lost and perished every day—a violent culture.

 

DOES IT SOUND FAMILIAR?   The similarities to our country today are apparent:

  • We also are a country where the rich and powerful live by different rules and standards than the common people and where those with money and power have become popular status figures.
  • A country where 10% of the people have 60% of the total income with the other 40% of the money divided among the other 90% of the population.
  • A country that worships many pagan gods—-we just call them by different names—-money, power, pleasure, comfort, sports, etc.
  • A country where people with no conscience kill and rob on a daily basis.   Where life is cheap.   A country whose children kill and maim their teachers and fellow classmates. A country where multiple murders are committed in movie theaters and at marathons. We live in a country where violence is commonplace.
  • A country where the wealth of a Beverly Hills exists in stark contrast to the filth and poverty of a Watts in the same city of Los Angeles.
  • A country where the lonely and the aged, the poor and the mentally challenged, the children with no access to health care and not enough to eat, the homeless, and the misfits of society remain largely unseen and uncared about.   Programs to help them, such as affordable health care and extension of Medicaid benefits are the first ones cut from government budgets or discarded for political reasons.   We reduce food stamps and aid for struggling families in order to reduce the federal deficit—–while huge corporations that contribute to re-election of our legislators continue to receive tax breaks and other benefits they do not need.
  • We live in Kansas—-also a place where children go to bed hungry, without health care, and are homeless even though both parents work—-but for indecently low wages that can’t support their families—and we still support those who have made the lives of these vulnerable people worse and fail to speak out about the lack of fairness and the injustice of the wage system that gives business CEO’s 250% higher wages than those who work for them.
  • A place where religious leaders are too often in close collusion with political and governmental powers in order to get their limited negative agendas taken care of legally.
  • This is a country ruled more and more by men and women whose only aim is to do whatever is necessary to stay in power, whether right or wrong does not matter, —-like modern day Herod’s and Pilates

THE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP GROUP OF MY CHURCH RECENTLY DISCUSSED OUR NEED FOR A VISION FOR THE CHURCH.   SURELY PART OF THAT VISION MUST BE A VOICE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS LIKE THAT OF JOHN THE BAPTIST SAYING “TURN AROUND FOR THERE IS A BETTER WAY THAN THIS WAY OF GREED AND SUFFERING THAT YOU ARE WALKING”—-IT IS THE WAY OF JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD THAT JESUS PROCLAIMED.” 

  IT IS THE MISSION OF OUR POST-RESURRECTION CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY TO PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD THROUGH WHAT WE DO AND WHO WE ARE AS GOD’S PEOPLE.    We need to show them that better way through the lives we lead as Christians. .

There are many people wondering in the wilderness of drug abuse, of broken relationships, of too little income, of homelessness.   There are those who have given up hope and struggle from day to day to fight down the urge to end their lives.   There are those filled with anger who want to strike out at the world that abuses them and uses them.   These wanderers in the wilderness are young and old, rich and poor, male and female, all skin colors; but they all feel vulnerable in a world that seems to have gone crazy. They are trying to raise families in this world where even the schools are unsafe for their children. They are not aware of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.   They are waiting for someone to show them, not tell them, a different way—-a way that will give them and their children hope and happiness and a new beginning. They are waiting for us to show them by our lives how to follow the Great Commandment of Jesus:   “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself.   That is a vision for the church—-To live the Great Commandment in the community that surrounds us.

For people are wandering around in this wilderness today, having lost their moral, emotional and economic way—–yearning for something better and not quite knowing what that something better is.   They are yearning for Jesus to show them the way—-a different way of living that leads to a society where all of God’s people are treated equally, fairly, and lovingly.   Jesus proclaimed that way.   He lived that way.   THE CHURCH IS JESUS’ BODY AND NEEDS TO SHOW THAT WAY TODAY.    AND WE CAN’T JUST “TALK ABOUT IT” WE NEED TO “WALK THE WAY!”

Listen to what one of the Millenial Generation wrote to you and me….Post-Resurrection Christians……

Do you know, Do you Understand

That you represent Jesus to me?

 

Do you know, do you understand

That when you treat me with gentleness,

It raises the question in my mind that maybe Jesus is gentle, too?

Maybe he isn’t someone who laughs when I’m hurt?

 

Do you know, do you understand

That when you listen to my questions and you don’t laugh,

I think, “What if Jesus is interested in my questions, also?

 

Do you know, do you understand

That when I hear you talk about arguments and conflict and scars from your past

That I think, “Maybe I am just a regular person

Instead of a bad, no-good person who deserves abuse?”

 

If you care, I think maybe God cares—

And then there’s this flame of hope that burns inside me,

And for a while, I’m afraid to breathe

Because it might go out.

 

Do you know, do you understand

That your words are His words?

Your face, His face to someone like me?

 

Please be who you say you are.

Please, God, don’t let this be another trick.

Please, let this be real.

Please….

 

Do you know, do you understand

That you represent Jesus to me?

 

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Walking the Walk

 

I’m a “people-watcher”.    I like to spend time while sitting in a car or in the Mall waiting for my wife to finish shopping  just watching people!     One thing that I watch is how they walk.   Have you ever done that?   Think about the way YOU walk and the way OTHER PEOPLE walk.   Can you tell who someone is from a distance by seeing how they walk?    Most people can.   Some stride.  Others Swagger.  Or Swing, or strut, or shuffle, or waddle, or ramble or amble, or scuff the soles of their shoes.   YOUR WAY OF WALKING IS ONE OF THE UNIQUE THINGS ABOUT YOU AND TELLS THE OBSERVER A LOT ABOUT YOU.

The Department of Homeland Security has noticed this also.   There are now two federally-funded, gait-recognition technology projects under development at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.   “Gait recognition” aims to detect, select, classify, and identify any individual based on the way she or he walks.   This is seen as a possible way to detect known terrorists at up to 500 yards away.   It is still a “work in progress”, but is showing a lot of promise.

But this isn’t a new thing.    Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul pointed out that people look at whether we “walk the walk” more than how we “talk the talk.”   In other words, THEY BOTH STRESS THAT WHAT WE DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT WE SAY!

In the 21st chapter of Matthew, Jesus told the chief priests and elders in the temple a parable when they asked “by what authority do you do these things?”

Jesus told about a man who had two sons.   He went to the first son and told him to go to work in the vineyard.   The son answered  “I will not go!”    But later, the first son thought about it and changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard for his father.  The father also told the second son, “Go to work in my vineyard today”   The second son said:   “Yes, father, I will go.”    But he never did go to work in the vineyard that day.

Jesus asked those questioning him, “Which of the two sons did the will of his father?”  They answered:   “The first son.”   Jesus told them—-truly tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.   IN OTHER WORDS—-THE SONS ARE JUDGED BY WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DID AND NOT WHAT THEY SAID!   And you will be judged in the same way, he told the priests and elders!!

In II Thessalonians 1:1-4; 11-112, Paul says something very similar.   He says that he and Silas and Timothy give thanks to God for these brothers and sisters because:   “your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.   Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions you are enduring.!

Why is Paul proud of his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica?   Because of their ACTIONS.   The love they show and demonstrate for each other that is seen by all.   The steadfastness they have exhibited as they endure persecutions and afflictions.   PAUL IS PROUD OF THEM NOT FOR WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, BUT FOR WHAT THEY ARE DOING!!

DO PEOPLE RECOGNIZE US BY HOW WE “WALK THE WALK” OF FAITH?

They’ll know we are Christians by our love” goes the song.   People who watch us determine what faith in Jesus Christ is all about, NOT by what we say to them but by WHAT WE DO TO EACH OTHER!   They will know we are Christians by the way we live, by the way we talk, by the way we “walk the talk.”   If our faith is real, observers will sense it—-they’ll see it!   If its real, they might even ask how they, also, might “walk the walk” of faith.

An ancient term used to describe Christianity was “THE WAY”.    We can’t “talk the WAY”—-we must “walk” the WAY.    It is the way of Jesus as we carry out his great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF!”

Those who study communications tell us that if there is a problem in communication between verbal and non-verbal—-the non-verbal communication wins almost all the time.   90% of communication is non-verbal—-and therein lies the problem that we as followers of Jesus Christ need to examine today.   WE MAY SAY WE ARE CHRISTIANS, BUT ARE WE ACTING LIKE CHRISTIANS?     Are we walking the Christian life, or just talking about it?    Observers will believe what they see over what we might say.   Can those who observe us see any difference in the way we live that identifies us as folllowers of Jesus on the WAY?

This question is especially being asked by two of the present generations who are watching the church very critically—-the Busters and the Millenials.

The Buster generation grew to young adulthood in the shadow of their “Boomer” parents—-Boomers refers to the huge wave of children born after WWII.    The Busters, the children of the Boomers,  are the first generation to face the possibility that they may not achieve as much as did their parents.    The defining moment of their generation is often chosen by them as the tragic explosion of the space shuttle “Challenger.”    That was the moment when they watched the fragile illusion of “In Science we Trust” and “in Technology we trust” blow up in their faces.

The Millenials are those who became adults around the turn of the century—-who are 18-30 years old today—-the children of the Busters.   They therefore share many of the characteristics of their parents, as the “leaves don’t usually fall too far from the tree”.

  • They are very open to “honest” or “real” spirituality.   According to polls—86% of Millenials believe in God.   They don’t want to listen to talk about God—–they want to experience God in their lives. They believe that God is in the world and not just in church buildings—that God can be experienced in a variety of settings!
  • They distrust institutions, including the church, and will not get involved in an institution unless the institution is  actively involved in trying to meet the crucial needs of today’s society. They say they are “spiritual” but not “religious.”
  • They think “talk” is cheap—-the airways have been full of it ever since they were born. They want their talk translated into action.   They have excellent “Fake Detectors”.   They value honesty and can deal with contradictory ideas.
  • They are techno-savvy and are heavily into electronic technology as a key part of their daily lives.
  • They are inclusive and non-judgmental of all people—this applies to homosexuality, abortion, global poverty, environmental issues, immigration, other faiths, etc.
  • They exhibit an authentic spiritual longing for a better sort of Christianity that practices the teachings of Jesus.  They feel that Christianity is supposed to be a religion of love, forgiveness and practicing what Jesus preached and modeled.
  • Relational community, intentional practice, and experiential belief are important to them.
  • Even though they are connected electronically they yearn for connectedness in a community.
  • They have opted out of the “rat race” but not out of the “human race”.
  • They deal with paradox and with contradictory ideas well—they recognize there is no absolute truth and that things are not black or white but shades of grey.

JESUS MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST BUSTER/MILLENIAL.   Consider some of the evidence:

  •  He never did join the rat race of his day.
  • He wasn’t into the religious institutions of his day.   Rather he resisted much of what passed for “religion” in his day.
  • He was itinerant—-much of his preaching and teaching was done in the countryside and villages of Galilee.    He didn’t try to build large churches.   He didn’t care about “members” or numbers of members—-he chose only 12 disciples to be his close friends and shared his life with them.
  • He assumed his public ministry late in life He was probably about thirty years old, but in a culture whose life span was about 40 years of age.   .
  • He was inclusive and reached out in compassion to those who were on the margins of society—the social outcasts, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, the widow, the orphans—-and defended them against the “uppity” and “in crowd” of the rich and powerful.
  • He was critical of the domination system that rewarded the few at the expense of the many. So his biggest problem was with the Roman authorities and the religious institutions and authorities of his day.
  • As someone has put it—-Jesus majored in forgiveness and minored in dogma.

IT IS THIS JESUS THAT CONFRONTED THE MEALY-MOUTHED QUESTIONS OF THE PRIEST AND ELDERS AND CHARGED THEM WITH AS “ALL-TALK, NO-WALK” TYPE OF SPIRITUALITY.

There are many people hurting in the world today.   Hurting because of drug abuse, broken relationships, too little income, homelessness!     There are those who have given up hope and struggle from day to day to fight down the urge to end their lives.   There are those filled with anger who want to strike out at the world that abuses them and uses them.   These wanderers in today’s wilderness are young and old,  rich and poor, male and female, all skin colors; but they all feel vulnerable in a world that seems to have gone crazy.   How is the church of Jesus Christ speaking to their needs?   Are they even on our radar?We need to ask ourselves: ARE WE SO BUSY TRYING TO SOUND GOOD, LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD AND MAKE GOOD THAT WE DON’T ACTUALLY EVER DO GOOD?,

 

SO—-HOW IS OUR FAITH WALK WITH OUR LORD?

The current younger generation is calling the church to become what it says it is.   They may have problems with organized religion, but they recognize Jesus as one of them.   Are we offering this Jesus to them through our churches and our lives?  If we do, and we show them Jesus in our actions, they will join with us in our work for the Kingdom of God. This generation is open to spiritual growth.   The key to reaching them is the key to reaching every generation—-IT IS TO LIFT UP JESUS IN THE FULLNESS OF HIS LOVE FOR HUMANITY AND TO DEMONSTRATE JESUS IN THE FULLNESS OF OUR LOVE FOR HUMANITY.

And we look today at too many people who call themselves Christians, that are focused only on themselves, who are caught in traffic on the fast track, who are cut off from community because they are too busy or too indifferent to get involved.   THE BUSTERS & MILLENIALS LOOK AT THOSE CHRISTIANS AND SAY—“WE DON’T SEE YOU DOING MUCH!   We’re hearing a lot of talk, but where is the action?   What you are saying about loving Jesus and following him and the Great Commandment to “love God with all your heart, soul and strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself?—-we don’t see that in your ACTIONS from day to day.”   Guess which these observers will believe—they will believe our actions not our words.

LOOK AT WHAT PEOPLE DO, NOT AT WHAT THEY SAY, Jesus taught.

Jesus offered a Way to experience God as a Father who loves and cares for his children—-directly with no priests and sacrifices or rabbi’s involved.

He saw the religious authorities as “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.”   Jesus skewered the traditional religious authorities as being “all-show” but “no-go”. He uses the culturally unclean and  reprehensible “tax collectors and prostitutes” as examples of obedience to God in this week’s text, because they listened to him and changed and transformed their lives, while he saw the religious authorities, the traditional symbols of piety and obedience as morally wrong and spiritually empty.   Those religious authorities therefore sought to kill him and eventually did so.

Are people observing us “walk the walk” and not just “talking the talk”—-or are we causing confusion by the gap between what we SAY and what we DO?

Is our faith walk recognizable?   Both up close and at a distance, or even when our backs are turned away?   Can it be seen and known over time?   Is it consistent?

Can people catch sight of our faith walk and begin to understand it over time—-how we behave, how we act, what we do, speak volumes about who we are and whose we are to those around us.   It identifies the quality, reality and the depth of our faith in God.

ARE WE KIND, MERCIFUL, GENEROUS, PATIENT, CHARITABLE, COMPASSIONATE, UPLIFTING, SHOWING LOVE CONSTANTLY EVEN TO THE UNLOVABLE? .

God’s hope for the church is like Paul’s hope for the church in Thessalonica.   Paul observed their faith, love, patience, endurance and resolutions that were visible for all to see.   Their walk with Christ was clearly identifiable.   So must the church today clearly walk with Christ in the eyes of those who see us day by day.

If our faith is truly about love, then we are called to live that faith, and to walk the walk of love every day to the best of our ability.   People in the community around us will see our compassion, our charity, our strides in feeding the hungry and reaching out to the outcast.   They will see our endurance.   They will see us reaching out to the unloving and the unlovely in Jesus name.   They will witness our love for one another as we seek to support each other in troubled times, or when we visit an elderly shut-in, or someone in the hospital or take the time to help someone in need.

You see the words of this poem are really true.   It is one that the present generations demands and echoes and responds to:

“I’d rather SEE a sermon than hear one any day,

I’d rather one would walk with me, than merely tell the way.

For the eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;

Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear….

And the best of all the preachers are the one who live their creeds,

For to see faith put in action is what everybody needs….Amen!