Grace and Acceptance - Sep. 11, 2022
Pastor Mike (00:01):
This tells me when I read this, that God is outrageously generous. God is outrageously good and compassionate to all people.
Hannah Hunter (00:16):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with the gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of digital reach here at the gathering place in Palm Beach gardens. This week. Pastor Mike brings us a message on God’s universal grace and love. Not only does God pour out his grace upon everyone, whether they believe in him or not, he loves them as they are where they are and for who they are. And we are expected to cherish them as he does
Pastor Mike (00:42):
Today. We’re, we’re starting a new message series, and we’re gonna be trying to answer some questions in these talks that will be happening over several weeks. Basically, what we’re trying to answer is what is this place like? What do we mean when we say we are the gathering place? What kind of church is this? And what kind of church will we become? And then the other big question I have is is that, what do we actually expect to happen when we choose to faithfully live out our mission, which is to extend God’s redeeming love, you know, there’s questions that we ask ourselves a lot, especially when we have, you know, big events that happen in our lives. And we ask ourselves, you know, why did I respond that way? Or why do I have this behavior that, you know, whenever, you know, this happens, I respond like this, even though sometimes I know it’s not right, but yet I still do it.
Pastor Mike (01:51):
We ask ourselves this question as individuals trying to understand our behavior and try to modify it. But also as a church, as a body, we ask ourselves the same question. Like why do we do these things? And, and how can I be on that path of health and, and do those things that are actually good and life giving? Well, you know, psychology explains it this way. They say that, you know, when, when something happens to us or when an event has happened, you know, there’s some responses that happen. First of all, um, we, we, we tell, we have some thoughts and we tell ourselves, you know, this is why this happened. We, we process those thoughts. And then as the more we process and reflect on what has happened, we get some feelings about those thoughts. You know, now, now we have some emotional feelings and connections to those events and, and, and with the combination of those thoughts and a combination of those feelings, we begin to act, we actually do something.
Pastor Mike (02:56):
So let’s now back at pull things back a little bit, and just look at this past week, you’ve had a lot of events and things that has happened in your lives. There’s been things that has happened in our country. There’s things that have happened in the world. And so some of the big things that have happened this week, that, you know, first of all, on Thursday, September 8th, queen Elizabeth II, she died ending a 70 year reign, a 70 year and 214 day reign, longest reigning living, Monarch reign in history. Now we as Americans, you know, we, we have a different response to the queen. There’s a Queen’s death. You know, we, we have different feelings. I remember when I was serving in Moscow, um, I got really close to, to people that were from the United Kingdom. There were a lot of people that, that I, that I worked with, that I, that I served with in Moscow that, you know, I mean, I mean, they, they were British and they had just a, a different kind of attachment to the queen.
Pastor Mike (04:00):
In fact, I remember celebrating my, my first Christmas in Moscow and I was invited to the home of, of some people that were from great Britain. And they said, come and celebrate Christmas. And I remember on Christmas morning, we had this English breakfast, which is not like American breakfast. Let’s just say that. Um, but, but it, but, but it was English breakfast and, and I did enjoy the company. Um, but also, um, they did. So they were like, we’re gonna listen to the Queen’s Christmas address. And I’m like the Queen’s Christmas address. Um, what do you mean? And they, and all of a sudden they, they pull up the TV and every year the queen would give an address, you know, to her subjects, um, and wish them a Merry Christmas and, and speak about something with the, the Christian faith. And, and, and, and it was a big deal for them to have this personalized greeting from the queen of England.
Pastor Mike (04:53):
And I’m like, okay, that, that that’s a little bit different. And, and as I, you know, got more acquainted with my British friends and get, and got a little bit more, um, familiar, not from a historical point, but just from a, a personal point of understanding, you know, uh, queen Elizabeth II. And now after we, um, you know, right now there’s a lot of talk about her life and, and people are doing a lot of reflecting and trying to understand most will say that, that she is this great example of faith. I mean, she was a very devout Christian. She was an example of duty and she was an example of service. But also we understand that with her dying, I mean, this, this marks a, a turning point, another page is turned in history and we’re, we’re in a new era and what’s gonna happen next.
Pastor Mike (05:43):
A lot of us have questions on it because she’d certainly influenced her world. And many of us are asking what, what will happen next? So that’s one big thing. The second big thing is that today, September 11th is the 21st anniversary of the things that had happened. That tragic event that happened 21 years ago, where lives were lost, where, I mean, it was a national tragedy, became a, a global tragedy. And we tell ourselves that we will never forget, because this is, this is a, an important marker in our, in our nation’s history and also, um, in global history, but particularly how the event AF informs and shapes our identity as Americans. And so the question that we have to ask ourselves when we’re reflecting on, on this event is, you know, what are we choosing to remember, or what are we choosing to carry forward?
Pastor Mike (06:51):
We remember the victims and, and how their loss right now still affects their families. We remember in honor, this the sacrifices that were made by many people, the, that the acts of patriotism, the, the United efforts of like the whole world, trying to come together and respond to these evil actions. But, you know, there was also some negative things that came up out of this, and sometimes people wanna perpetuate these things in response to these events. Some of it is racism, racial, profiling, religious bigotry. I mean, the rise of Islamophobia. I mean, it, it went this like crazy in a certain degree. I mean, even when I remember people would say, you know, when ID, when I would go into an airplane and they would say, if I see someone that didn’t look American or particularly looked Arab by, I, I started having these kind of thoughts.
Pastor Mike (07:50):
And we wrestle with these, these, these things, these, these acts of heroism and these, these beautiful things that we celebrate. And then also some other stuff that maybe has been in our country a long time, but now has another expression of it. Or maybe it’s some things that kind of had a re a renewed expression. And, and we’re not so pleased with him. We’re like, well, what do we do with this? I remember a little less than 10 years ago, I took my, a trip to New York city. And it was my, my first time, like not just like passing through an airport, but actually exploring New York city. And, and I remember I stayed there a few days and, you know, you’re trying to figure things out from like the, the, the subway systems and getting around. And one of the things that, that surprised me about New York city, cuz everything I saw in New York city, you know, we have these stereotypes of people say, oh, that’s just how new Yorker behaves.
Pastor Mike (08:42):
And, and, and, and usually that’s a negative connotation of how a new Yorker behaves. And, and we think about the life being very fast paced, uh, the city that never sleeps. But we also think that in New York, you know what, like, like people are just rude because it’s like the big city. Well, my experience was like completely different. I found people to be extremely helpful and I encountered all types of people, all different nationalities. And, and again, that was my overall experience. And I, and I remember one of my friends, um, said to me, I asked him afterwards and he’s from Brooklyn. And, and, and, and I asked him, I said, you know, like I was, I had this mental picture of what New York was gonna be like, you know, fast pace, which it was, um, overcrowded, which it was. Um, but people that just didn’t care about anyone and, and my friend from Brooklyn said, yeah, he goes, New York, you know, can be that way.
Pastor Mike (09:40):
And it was really bad at times he said, but I don’t know. He goes, I can’t explain it to you, pastor Mike. He said, but something happened to us after nine 11. And now this is 10 years ago, but he said that we started to see each other and people started actually caring about each other a little more than, than we used to. So here’s one thing that I understand, the things that we lift up, the things that we celebrate defines our culture. And so today, as we are going to be answering that question, you know, what is this place or what is God calling the gathering place to be? We’re gonna look at a text that I believe is gonna be one of those foundational cultural defining scriptures. And it’s in mark chapter four versus one through nine. So if you have your Bible, I wanna invite you to open it up.
Pastor Mike (10:30):
Um, we’re gonna be reading this together. So the words will be on the screen. And I wanna invite you to read it out loud, but please, you know, take some notes. I want you to visit with this and, and reflect and think of, and, and think about this text and think about what I’m saying. Let’s read this together out loud. Again, Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in, sat into, out on the lake while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge, he taught them many things by parables. And in his teaching said, listen, a farmer went out to sew his seed as he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on Rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no root other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying 30, some 60, some a hundred times. Then Jesus said, whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.
Pastor Mike (12:07):
I’m sure if you’ve been in church for some time, you might have heard this parable taught and preached on before, but let’s, let’s step back a little bit and try to understand Jesus’ context. What was going on in Jesus’ world. What was some of the background stuff playing in, in Jesus’ life? So we’re gonna do just a quick overview of some events that had shaped the, the, the, the mindset of the ancient Israelite during Jesus’ period. The first thing that happened in history, and you can, and this actually kind of goes along with your Bible. So if anyone wants kind of an overview of the old Testament, this is kind of like also an overview of the old Testament, because this is, are some major events that happened, um, in the lives of the Israelis. First, the covenant was given to Abraham, and that was this eternal covenant that God gave to Abraham that said, I’m gonna make you to be a people, a father of many nations.
Pastor Mike (13:08):
And this covenant is an eternal covenant. And, and because of this covenant, the people of Israel have their identity, but they also not only have an identity, but they have their understanding of a place because this is when they were promised their land fast forward, as they’re trying to live out that promise eventually the Israelites next big event, they, they moved to Egypt, read your Bible. If you wanna find out how they moved to Egypt, but they ended up in Egypt and eventually they became slaves in Egypt. So the experience of, of a chosen people now in a foreign land under slavery is shaping who they are in shaping their identity. Next major milestone that happens is the Exodus or they deliverance of the people. The biggest religious, uh, holiday or ceremony that comes out of this experience is the Passover, the Jewish Passover, um, which they get, they get set free.
Pastor Mike (14:07):
Some of us who are familiar with some of the movies that we saw on TV, we we’re familiar with the giving of the 10 commandments. Um, but what also follows is this period of wandering through the desert. And so this period of wandering through the desert and trying to find their way back home to their promised land, I mean, this, this, this culminates in the first like five books of the Bible, then later on, what we see is we see the people learning, trying to get back into their land. We see them, you know, living among people that are different than themselves and, and how to reconcile that. We also see just in general terms of how the kingdom of Israel rises, divides and falls. What does the fall look like? Basically invaders from, uh, from Babylon come in and Jerusalem is sacked and people are brought into exile.
Pastor Mike (15:05):
So in your Bible, as you’re reading these things, you, you, you start learning about different histories that, that tell about these experiences, but then also you see some interpretations of these histories through the, the, the prophets and the Psalms about, you know, what, what was God doing in all of this? And we also see some, some promises and some of the promises are that, Hey, you know, we will get back to our land, which is also another part of their history. When the, when the Israelites leave exile or living in Babylon, and they come back into their territory and they say, okay, how are we going to live? And so this, basically these events summarize the old Testament and the old Testament is basically how the Israelites, what they wrote down and this different genres of writings from histories, historical books, poetry, songs, wisdom, literature, prophetic literature of how they understood their experience of what was God doing in the midst of these events.
Pastor Mike (16:08):
It also tells their thoughts. It tells their attitudes and biases they have toward other nations. Um, but also this is something really important. So these feelings, these thoughts, L lead to explain almost all the other actions that follow the Jewish people. And in fact, for us Christians, how we understand these events informs our actions. In fact, um, as CR what’s amazing about the old Testament is that the old Testament, I mean, it’s sacred text for both Jewish people and for Christians, because we believe that is inspired. We believe that it is telling us something. It helps us to find meaning in our current context, as we look at our current context, through the lens of the scriptures, and we say, what is God saying to us right now when we are experiencing this? So when we’re going through stuff in our country, when we’re going through stuff in our city, when we’re experiencing things in our family, we take the scriptures and we say, God, what are you saying to us?
Pastor Mike (17:14):
And then God, what am I supposed to do? So all these events shaped Jesus’ people up to the, to the reading of the text that we had, but also let me add just one other thing. During Jesus’ time, the Israelite were living back in their land and they were living under Roman occupation. And so their ultimate desire was, Hey, we wanna, we wanna live into all of God’s promises, but their thought patterns, we’re like, okay, what got us here? And what do we need to do differently to, to get out of here and to live in this land of flourish, the flourishing land that God promises, but one of the unintended consequences that has happened. And I still feel like we feel it’s consequences today is that instead of the holy scripture, bringing in life to humanity and to culture and to shape things for good, what happens was, is a culture of fear, shame, guilt, exclusion, and alienation rises up. I’m gonna say that again. So what comes out of this unintended consequences is fear. Shame.
Pastor Mike (18:40):
Fear is God gonna punish me. If I do something wrong. If I, if I miss the mark shame, I broke God’s commands, and now I’m afraid I’m not accepted. I’m not worthy. I’m not good enough guilt. I’m gonna suffer severe consequences for my action exclude. If I don’t want to do all these things, I gotta, I gotta be separate. I can’t be like anybody else. And in fact, if there’s anybody in my life that has done this, I should not have any fellowship with them. Alien nation. Now, what we’re saying is that there’s a total separation. So the, the good guys live in their own world of what their version of the good guys are. And we have to stay away from all people. So, I mean, it alienates the Jewish people from the, the whole rest of the people, the world, it, it actually starts having further alienation among just the, the different sects and, and Judaism.
Pastor Mike (19:51):
And all of this is rooted in some wrong thinking. It’s rooted in some negative and destructive emotions. It’s rooted primarily in a misunderstanding of God, a distortion of God, and a distortion of the kingdom of God. So when I talk about these things of fear, shame, guilt, exclusion, and alienation, does any of this sound familiar with what we experienced today, or when we think about modern day religion, or we think about sometimes modern Christianity, does this sound familiar? Because I hate to say this sometimes, even though we mean the very best our brand of Christianity can be very exclusive instead of promoting God’s love. We can, there sometimes a lot is fear is promoted in the name of Christianity, instead of you know, saying, Hey, about forgiveness. We there like shame sometimes inadvertently proclaims guilt. Many of you been raised in Christian context, where there was, it was more guilt driven than grace driven.
Pastor Mike (21:06):
And then these, these topics of exclusion, sometimes we, Christians, we don’t realize how exclusive we are, but when we, when we really see it is when we start asking our, our, that question is like, who are your friends? Who do you interact with in the world? How do you interact with people that have a, a different belief system than you? And what happens is we, we realize that we don’t know how to be close with people that think different than us, and then alienation, instead of seeing people as, okay, we are all children of God made in God’s image, that there is some common elements of the kingdom of God working in our lives. I mean, we, we, we alienate ourselves from everybody. We crave this, us and them kind of culture. So when Jesus first talks about this parable of the so, um, that’s what we call it, right?
Pastor Mike (21:59):
Um, the disciples did not understand, and they couldn’t understand what Jesus was talking about in parables. And so Jesus explains the meaning of the parable in mark chapter four, verses 13 and 20. And that’s what we’re going to next. So it’s, we’re still falling along. I hope you’re still tracking with me, but let’s pick up on verse 13. Then Jesus said to them, don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? Let’s stop right there for a moment. We read this so fast, right? We, we jump, we just wanna hear the meaning, but Jesus is saying slow down, pump the breaks here. Don’t you understand this parable? How then when you understand any parable, I think this is something that we need to pay attention to because Jesus, we know the majority of his teachings were what, how did Jesus talk? Right?
Pastor Mike (22:58):
He taught in parables. And Jesus is saying, if you cannot get this parable, if you don’t get this concept, how in the world are you gonna get everything else that I’m gonna teach afterwards? This is very important. Verse 14, the farmer sows, the word. Some people are like seed along the path where the word is word is sewn. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sewn in them. Others like seed sewn on Rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others like seed. So among the thorns, hear the word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful, others like seed sewn on good soil.
Pastor Mike (24:06):
Hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop. Some 30, some 60 and some, a hundred times what was sewn. So here’s the question I asked this parable, right. Is so important. It’s the key to understanding ending all other parables. Now let’s do some reflection. Now, what is Jesus talking about in this parable? You’ve heard it read. You’ve heard it interpreted and I’m sure this is not the first sermon you heard on this. Well, someone like to just kind of shout out some stuff of what Jesus was probably talking about and don’t be afraid. Okay. Whatever answer right or wrong. We’re just gonna name some stuff. Okay? Okay. He’s talking about the word of God. What else talk about the seed. What is this? What is this parable about growing your faith? I heard someone I’m listening or not listening about what you do with the word, what you do with the word, or don’t do the word or don’t do with the word. So I’m in the same place as you, for years. I’ve always thought. And I’m just summarizing what I thought. Okay. That this parable was about the condition of our hearts. And I always saw about the condition of my heart. You know, what kind of soil am I? Right. Um, it’s a response to, to God’s word in my life. Now, hold onto that understanding for just a moment and let’s play the tape forward.
Pastor Mike (25:47):
If this parable is only about the condition of our hearts and about our behaviors, right? Here’s what happens. We start creating these boundaries of who’s in and who’s out. Are you good soil? Or are you bad soil? Okay. We, we start creating other boundaries of, of guilt. You know? I mean, if, what if I’m one of those Christians that, that has like the shallow root? What if I don’t have some depth in me and man, and if I’m a shallow soil person, how do I get more soil? I mean, am I supposed to get more soil, then get the word of God. I mean like, what am I, what am I supposed to do with that? And then you feel real guilty about being a responsible human being. There’s a tension there. Right. You know, because Jesus says that the thorns of this life choke the world and he, and he tells what the thorns are.
Pastor Mike (26:45):
You know, he is like the cares, which we all have cares. Right. And then he says about desire of riches, say, yeah, we could, we could handle that one. Like, I don’t wanna be rich. I don’t wanna be rich and all that. But then we get mad the preacher, when he talks about giving and tithing and says that it’s obnoxious in church. Right. Um, but what I’m saying is that a lot of this, this understanding that, that I’ve preached in the past that I have heard and learned in the past. And I do believe that, you know, those are really good examples of man practical life application, but there is a danger to this because it gets very work based. It gets very us based because then, you know, all of us like to imagine ourselves as like, I’m the one with the good soil, right? I’m the one that should produce this crop. I mean, be this environment where God could just plant his living words in me and what should come out of my life is fruit that 30 fold that 60 fold that hundred fold.
Pastor Mike (27:46):
But what do we do when our life doesn’t produce that? What do we happen? We have have these seasons when just life just sucks. It happens. Right. You know, things don’t work out, you try to do everything you can. And just things just, it just messes up or you don’t see, like, you know, the, you don’t, you don’t have the feelings like you used to have, or, or maybe just like you, maybe you feel there’s a distance. What do you do with that? And so my concern with this is that that perspective, while it’s been faithfully taught and preached for for years can give a perspective. That’s very unhealthy. And then the next question is if we have this mentality, this whole workspace thing, um, you know, uh, there’s people that are shallow. So now we’re like, kind of in, we’re like Christian dirt inspectors, you know, we just wanna inspect everybody’s dirt in their life.
Pastor Mike (28:43):
I, now, now this, this is really important. What kind of a community, what kind of a church will we create when we have that kind of worldview? What kind of city we’re gonna create? If we’re gonna be Christians that are, we’re gonna be pumped in with all this information about there’s people that are good. There’s people that are bad, the in and out there’s, there’s shallow Christians. And then there’s these Christians that are very deep and I’m deep and mature. Christian, have you ever heard any of this before? I know I have, but what kind of community does this produce when you hear this? What kind of community does this produce? How does it make you feel? When I, when I talk about that, if, if, if that’s like the meaning and purpose of the Christian life, how do you feel? If you say that I’m a part of a church that views the primary teaching, cuz Jesus said, right? That this parable, if you can’t understand this one, you won’t understand others. How do you feel being part of a faith community like that?
Pastor Mike (29:52):
What are you feeling right now? When I’m talking about this, I see some head shaking. What, what does that mean? It feels sad. Singular culture, a singular culture, judge judgment. I don’t know it was a, it’s a community that I wanna be a part of. And yet we’ve been teaching this and some of us have been living into this unknowingly and not realizing the consequences for quite some time. Maybe if we, we, you know, we’re just like those Israelites been reading the text from perspective of fear, shame, guilt, exclusion, and alienation. The good news is there’s another way of understanding this parable. And that’s how I want us to get to. So what is the name of this parable? You can check your Bibles. Usually the most Bibles have a, a heading on it. Parable of the, so parable of the sewer. So here’s one thing that’s like really interesting. Okay. This text has been around for, you know, over like 2000 years. It is the, I mean, just a thing of all the English translations there are about in the, the Bible, right? Hundreds of English, translations, thousands of translations throughout the world of this text, that’s been around for 2000 years. And it starts from like the, the church and apostolic fathers. They put this, this subheading, this label on it, parable of this. So, and here’s the thing. This text is always meant to be about the sewer and not the soil.
Pastor Mike (31:34):
Yeah. You said seed, which Jesus gives that out. The word of God. But, but it’s, it’s, it’s even more deeper than that. It’s more deeper than just the seed. It’s more deeper than just the, the, the soil and yes. Okay. It does a great job of explaining our world. It explains the complexity of the human heart, that, you know, the human hearts in very different places. Our people are in very different places. So we got this complexity at a macro level. We also see, um, you know how that like, okay, there’s the evil in the world. We talk about Satan. We talk about riches and distractions. Like all these things in our world, it talks about, but that’s not the main point. The main main point is that this parable teaches us about the nature of God. It’s telling us about the nature of God and what God is doing in our world. It tells us about how, even though our world is complicated and our world is broken, that God is still doing something everywhere. And so when you hear this, now you heard the story, you know the story, what does this tell you about God? And remember Jesus said, now this is important. Jesus said to them, verse 13, don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parables?
Pastor Mike (33:02):
So what does this tell you about God
Speaker 3 (33:07):
Pastor Mike (33:08):
God’s universal? What else?
Speaker 3 (33:12):
There’s no magic formula.
Pastor Mike (33:14):
Well, there’s no magic formula. Yeah. The world is complicated. They mean people are very different. What does it tell you about God
Speaker 3 (33:23):
Pastor Mike (33:24):
Everyone? Huh? Words
Speaker 3 (33:25):
Pastor Mike (33:26):
Everyone. The word is available to everyone.
Speaker 3 (33:29):
I said, he spreads his love
Pastor Mike (33:30):
Everywhere. He spreads his love everywhere now. Yes. I mean, please hear me on this. This is really important. And this is important for the future of the gathering place. I think it’s important for Palm beach county. This is important. This tells me when I read this, that God is outrageously generous. God is outrageously good and compassionate to all people. Do you hear me? All people, despite the brokenness of the world, despite wherever the level of our soil is, or, or, or, or even despite some of the temptations we have in our lives that doesn’t stop God from being good. God is active. God is actively planting this saving truth. This, this word of God, that is not corruptible. That will not return void. God doesn’t know any kind of boundaries or any kind of limits it’s countercultural to us today. But can you imagine how countercultural it was to people who actually knew something about farming?
Pastor Mike (34:34):
Just think about that. If you know anybody that, that, that, that, that, that survives by farming. What do they do? I mean, they plan, right? They save up money to somehow to, to get seeds for the, for the next season. Right? They, they, they, they, they plot out a land. They say, this is where it is that we put, we put our, our best seeds in the best soil. That’s been cultivated and nourished and ready so that we could get the best kind of harvest. Right. That’s how an agri, a grand culture thinks. Right. That’s how normal people think. Right. But here we see that God is throwing this seed everywhere. I mean, it’s, it’s kind hazardous, right? It’s kind of hazardous of this. You know, he’s throwing it on the wayside, he’s throwing it in the thorns. He’s throwing in places where the birds are, where are the scarecrows? None of this stuff is bed shed.
Pastor Mike (35:33):
I mean, do you realize like, yeah, like for us, it doesn’t hit so close to home, I guess, other than saying, like, Hey, let’s give everybody the password. The, the, the, the, the love of God is like this, you know, you know, he had a bank account with a bunch of money. And what he did was he printed out his online banking password, and he, and, and also had a transfer money and he distributed it everywhere. And when anyone, anyone tried to call and ask for help or whatever, he, he gave it to him freely. Would you give your password or social security number out to anybody? No, it’s ridiculous. Right. You know, would you do your password? 1, 2, 3, 4. I’m not, well, maybe some of you do, but, but you wouldn’t do this kind of stuff. Right. That’s how ridiculous what Jesus said, but why waste this seed is because God loves everyone and this has to be foundational inside of us.
Pastor Mike (36:32):
So what Jesus is doing is, is actually reclaiming something that is in Jewish tradition and, and I’m terrible in my pronunciation of Hebrew. So I’m gonna try to say it and butcher it, and then I’ll spell it. Ava Raba. So it’s a H a V a H R a B B a H. And what this is, and if you missed it, listen to the podcast, um, what this is, is God’s great love for all. It’s like the old Testament version of agape love that unconditional overly generous kind of love. It’s rooted in Psalm 1 45, verse nine. The Lord is good to all. He has compassion on all he has made. So, and, and Hasidic ju Judas. And I was talking to a, a Jewish friend this recently, and we were talking about this subject and, and he is like, man, he goes, this, this is, this is what we, we, we’re trying to reclaim.
Pastor Mike (37:40):
And, and he, and he, and he says that, you know, this concept that God is good and compassionate to everyone, the nature of God, but actually in Hasidic, uh, Judaism, they have like a story that, that kind of warns people says, Hey, you gotta be careful though. And it’s about the stor. And they say that the stor is only nice to their own and not to others. And I wonder why maybe this is one of the reasons why you and I have a hard time loving people that are different than us, or accepting people or interacting in the world or, or, or being generous about God. Because, um, you know, we have this, this distorted understanding of, of the core nature of who God is. So this is not some new teaching that Jesus brought. It’s a teacher that Jesus said, it’s time to re reclaim this because this got lost in all the events and thoughts and, and, and feelings that the Jewish people were experiencing.
Pastor Mike (38:42):
This got lost. And even in today in contemporary Judaism, they’re trying to reclaim this. There are people that are talking about this. And so this understanding that God is good, and that God is compassionate to all people is foundational to understand every parable in the new Testament. It’s a foundational to understand the old Testament. And yes, it is obnoxious. It is obnoxious, cuz it’s so generous. It doesn’t make sense. It makes us feel uncomfortable. When we talk about trying to live it out, it, it is obnoxiously generous. It’s it is so just like, Ugh, it’s so good. It puts us off because it’s like, can anybody be really that good? You know how it is when you work with somebody it’s a goody tissue at work and all that. And you feel like they’re just, they’re just kissing butt and stuff. You know, you’re like, you know, like, no, it’s, it’s, it’s it’s, it’s like it’s too good.
Pastor Mike (39:37):
It’s too kind. You know? And it goes against our, our sense of justice cuz you know what? We, we want people to be punished for their actions. But, but this is saying there’s kindness. It doesn’t excuse the actions, but it still shows that God wants to be in relationship. And God wants to connect with people. It’s too compassionate. You see the way we see God and understand ourselves as a faith community, it directly, it directly impacts the way that we live out our faith and engage our world. You see, when we have this understanding, we, we start seeing people differently. We start understanding that people are not meant to be fixed, but they’re called to be loved. And we see that God, you know, calls us because God is ridiculously generous. We are called to be ridiculously generous and we don’t live in a fear and scarcity mentality, but we know that all of our supply, all our source comes from God.
Pastor Mike (40:35):
And so we live into this. We, we trust that God is good. We trust that that God will somehow care for us and care for our world. How many churches, you know, that are, are plagued with this other type of mentality. You know, many times, sometimes even churches. When we, when we look at mission and we plan what we’re called to do we say, how does this affect us? How do we benefit it? And instead we need to ask in our question, are we living in faith? Does this? This is what we do actually demonstrate that we have faith, that our God is good and compassionate and generous to all people. So we gotta start asking ourselves some different questions about how are we being a blessing in this city or is what we’re doing is what I’m learning in church and how I’m worshiping God.
Pastor Mike (41:24):
Is it a, is it helping my city or my, my neighbors to prosper? Is this what, what I’m learning here helping to create genuine community. I mean, real community where people can belong and be welcome. And when I say belong and be welcome, I’m talking about, can we condition ourselves to be like Jesus, where we actually are, are comfortable. And we get our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs and we can see other people and that we can listen to other people and actually know them. Be loved instead of just moving on to the next best thing or just, or kind of just moving into living in our, our hypo hyper egocentric kind of world.
Pastor Mike (42:09):
Do we really mean what we say? I guess that’s the question, you know, it’s so cheap. You know, I hear this, you know, we’re called the love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbors as ourself. But we make it so cheap when we don’t practice this. Like, like when I was say writing this and, and reflecting on this, like one of the words came as radical inclusion. I’m like, you know, I mean, it’s like, Lord, what do you mean? You mean everybody? Let me ask you this question. Do we have a vision of what it actually looks like when we say that this church it’s mission is to extend God’s redeeming love. I’m hoping that what I’m speaking about today is starting to cultivate some vision about what it really means about how we align our hearts and our lives with, with God, if we don’t have some vision and we don’t try to have some desirable outcomes.
Pastor Mike (43:11):
And we don’t say, you know, this means that that we’re loving the people, that they don’t even believe the same thing we do, but we’re still gonna be kind and we’re still gonna be in friendship with them that I’m willing to listen to other perspectives that when people come in and say, you know, I love Jesus, but, but I don’t follow all the commands or I can’t figure it all out. Or, or some of my life doesn’t reconcile perfectly the Bible. Can I still belong here? Can I still belong here? When, when, when, if, if you peel back the veneer of my life and you see that everything is just totally screwed up, that I’m a, I’m a messed up parent. You know, I, I, I, you know, I don’t do my finances all perfectly. I still got unforgiveness and anger. You know, I, I still have all these struggles in my life. I doubt I don’t understand things. Can I still belong here? If we cannot answer that, if we cannot see a picture of, of this community, living this out in reality, that you know what extending God’s love is just a cheap, meaningless, this little trendy phrase. That’s just trying to be cool and means absolutely nothing. And my prayer is that as we reflect on these things and we wrestle with Jesus teaching that that extending God’s redeeming love means something so much more. What would this church look like
Pastor Mike (44:32):
If we actually lived this, what do you see? What’s your vision? What do you see?
Speaker 3 (44:39):
Pastor Mike (44:40):
Heaven. Let’s get more specific.
Speaker 3 (44:43):
Pastor Mike (44:44):
Speaker 3 (44:46):
Pastor Mike (44:46):
Pastor Mike (44:48):
What else wrestle with this? What would it look like if we lived this? So here’s what Jesus says. This is how the kingdom of God works. We gotta get, understand the kingdom of God, March chapter four, verse 26, 29, we’re landing the plane. He also said, this is what the kingdom of God looks like a man scatter seat on the ground night and day. I mean, this is amazing this night and day. I mean, Jesus was clearly a carpenter. Whether he sleeps or gets up the seed sprouts and grows, though, he does not know how all by itself, the soil produces grain. First, the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel and the head, as soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come. You see, we gotta trust that God is involved in our world because God is generous. God is compassionate and God is good to all of God’s creation. And we gotta trust that the kingdom of God is everywhere. And if we can get ahold of this kind of understanding, it will shape everything we do going forward. This is foundational to understand what it means to extend God’s redeeming love. And I’m hoping that you get a, a little bit of a vision. Let’s talk about this a little bit more. Let’s reflect on it. Let’s wrestle with this because you know what?
Pastor Mike (46:11):
I believe that a, a right understanding that aligns with what Jesus was teaching will actually offer this world that we live in, that people have had all kinds of good experiences and also harmful experience. But we can have a, a real meaningful way to respond to people who live in Palm beach gardens or respond to people that live in our county to respond to people’s hurts and pains and complexities of this world in a very good, a very generous, a very gospel centered way. I mean, this is what salvation is. It’s becoming whole touching. Every area of our lives. It’s becoming complete. This is what extending God’s redeeming love is all about. Amen. As we close, I just wanna reflect on a few things. When I look at my life and I try to do this on my own power or strength, I realize that I fail miserably.
Pastor Mike (47:24):
And it’s easy to say, you know what? I’m not gonna do this. I’m just gonna stay in my comfortable Christianity, but you need to do this. It’s part of who you are and who you’re created to be because we are created in the image of God, you and I are children of God. But that truth means nothing. Unless our soul is awakened to God’s grace in our life and in our world, until you experience God’s grace and you experience God’s love what happens is you have a different lens of processing your action. You know, these things that happen to you, but what would happen if we, you know, when you have your events? You know, we, we, some of us had some hard childhood. Some of us had some hard adult years. You know, some of us are having some things they’re going through right now, but what if we process and understand these things that, that God is with us and that God is good and that God is generous and that God is kind.
Pastor Mike (48:20):
And yet God desires everybody to prosper. Even my, my enemy, cuz he loves them too. Then if we can start process that it changes our feelings, we have a different attitude about what we’re experiencing and what we’re encountering. And that changes our action. But a catalyst to that event is personally receiving God’s grace. We can acknowledge it’s there, but until you experience, remember when I was a plumber, I don’t like electricity. And then when I experienced electricity, I was rep piping a house and I, and I hit a hotline. I experienced electricity <laugh> and it has changed me forever until you experience Jesus and his goodness and its forgiveness and how he loves you and wants to be with you only then is it you’re able, not by your strength, but by his grace working with you. And, and by that experience and that that thought process or those feelings are you do, they translate into actions that are good and healthy and, and that are good to your neighbor. So we all need that. And so I just wanna invite you if you’ve you’ve experienced it before, but maybe your love has gone cold and the feelings are not there. They’re just stuck in the thoughts or something you never experienced before. All you have to do is just say, just come clean before God and acknowledge this truth. That God loves you.
Pastor Mike (49:48):
God’s not angry with you. God wants to be with you. And so to say, Jesus, I am sorry. Forgive me. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. And, and Lord, I receive your gift of salvation. I believe that you want to make me whole and you want to heal me and so have your way. And Lord help me to share this love with others. Amen.
Hannah Hunter (50:18):
Hey, beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of digital reach here at the gathering place in Palm beach gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm beach area, we would love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday worship service at 1115, for more information about our community and faith, check out our website at the gathering place. fl.org. Thanks for listening.