Pivots (2016.03.20 Sermon)
March 21st, 2016 | John Chandler
On Palm Sunday, Chris Morton shared some reflections on how to make Jesus our king.
Quotes or resources mentioned:
- “Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped….“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
- Two thousand years ago a man was born into a family of carpenters in occupied Palestine. He was a small-town Jew, born in a bad time for Jews. Their land was no longer their own, and they had been made to bow before a succession of conquerors who had diluted their proud culture and, as many would have said, infected it. His name, as everyone knows, was Jesus of Nazareth— or, as the Jews of his own day called him, Yeshua. As everyone knows, he preached a message of mercy, love, and peace and was crucified for his trouble. This unlikely character has long been accounted the central figure of Western civilization. Even now, as we cross to the beginning of the third millennium since his birth, we count our days by his appearance on earth; and, though our supposedly post-Christian society often ignores and even ridicules him, there are no serious suggestions for replacing him as the Icon of the West.
But this book is part of a series on cultural impact. And the great question about Jesus must always be: Did he make a difference?
- But the “ideas and acts” have been hurled across the centuries; and whenever an individual or gathering has had the courage to confront the Gospel anew, the society of its time has experienced transformation. When the apostles and martyrs were gone and Christianity had compromised itself by becoming part and parcel of the Roman state, some men and women remembered the desert of the Jews and sought it out as the natural place for a meeting with God. These hermits and anchorites became the first Christian monks and nuns, purifying a religion that would otherwise have devolved into mere political appendage and social decoration, not unlike its cultic pagan predecessors. But the desert people rediscovered the earth-shattering encounter with God that had occupied the lives of figures from Abraham to Paul; and they gave the West a consistent tradition of spirituality and mysticism. When the medieval papacy was growing into the most splendid irreligious despotism the world had ever known, a young man whose fun-loving friends called him “Francesco” stripped himself naked in the public square of Assisi in Umbria and dedicated his life to Christ’s poor, definitively separating true religion from pomp of any kind and giving the Western world a conscience it can never quite get rid of. When in the late seventeenth century George Fox and his fellow Quakers began to read the gospels, Acts, and letters of Paul, it seemed to them as if no one had ever read them before, for they rediscovered there the blueprint for Christianity as the radical “society of friends” it had once been and the theological courage to oppose slavery, prisons, capital punishment, war, and even the unholy union of church and state.Through the history of the West since the time of Jesus, there has remained just enough of the substance of the original Gospel, a residuum, for it to be passed, as it were, from hand to hand and used, like stock, to strengthen, flavor, and invigorate new movements that have succeeded again and again— if only for a time— in producing alteri Christi, men and women in danger of crucifixion. It has also produced, repeatedly and in the oddest circumstances, the loving-kindness of the first Christians. Malcolm Muggeridge, the supremely secular British curmudgeon, who cast a cold eye over so many contemporary efforts and enterprises, was brought up short while visiting an Indian leprosarium run by the Missionaries of Charity, the sisters founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He had always imagined secular humanism to be the ideal worldview but realized, while strolling through this facility, built with love for those whom no one wanted, that no merely humanist vision can take account of lepers, let alone take care of them. To offer humane treatment to humanity’s outcasts, to overcome their lifetime experience of petty human cruelties, requires more than mere humanity. Humanists, he realized with the force of sudden insight, do not run leprosariums.
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes