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A Chance

November 10th, 2013 No comments

“A Chance” (Ruth 2)
by Pastor Peter Goerzen
June 23, 2013, Grace Hill Mennonite Church

Death, Desperation, and Determination
The book of Ruth is a timeless old story about the human experience of hardship, death, and adversity; of the dangers and difficulties of sojourn and resettling in a foreign land; of hard work and harvest; of courtship and birth; of everyday heroics of kindness and loyalty; of steadfast love and redemption. Its cast is few; its story is simple; its message is profound. It is a story about the common experiences of human existence, but more than that, it is a story about the steadfast, yet quiet presence of God in the course of the myriad of experiences, trials, sufferings, and joys of life.

The story begins in the midst of crisis. There was a severe famine in the land, and a man named Elimelech from the town of Bethlehem, which literally means “house of bread,” does what many people do when they can no longer find their daily bread in their own land. He decides to move. And together with his wife Naomi and their two sons, Elimelech travels to the land of Moab.

But before long, Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi a widow with two sons in a foreign land. These two sons marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Yet soon these two sons also die, leaving Naomi a widow in a foreign land with two foreign daughters-in-law. An isolated woman in a man’s world far, far from home.

Having received word that the Lord has once again filled the houses of Bethlehem with bread, Naomi decides to set off for her homeland. Naomi blesses her daughters-in-law, praying that the Lord may show them the same steadfast love that they have shown her, as they return to their mothers’ houses and seek new futures with new husbands.

Orpah and Ruth, Naomi’s daughters-in-law, refuse to leave Naomi, but Naomi tells them that she has no future, and they have no future with her. She will not be able to find a new husband and will not be able to provide for them. Looking back on her life: an alien in a foreign land, burying her husband, then both of her children, she comes to the conclusion that the hand of the Lord has turned against her. Why would her daughters-in-law want to continue in such a life?

Orpah chooses to return to care for her family of origin. Ruth, however, refuses Naomi’s urgings to turn back and binds herself and her fate to Naomi, in the famous words of loyalty and kindness, “Where you go, I will go; where you live, I will live; your people shall be my people, and you God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

Seeing her determination, Naomi says nothing more.

A Turn of Chance
So the two of them together return to Bethlehem, yet even in the house of bread, all is not well. “No longer call me Naomi (which means pleasant), but Mara (which means bitter). I went away full; the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has brought calamity upon me?”

There’s nothing pleasant about it! Naomi has suffered much. She has lost much. She has returned home unrecognizable as the woman Naomi who left. She is vulnerable as a widow in a man’s world. She is deeply discouraged and profoundly hurting, and finds not comfort and hope, but bitterness and abandonment in God.

Yet even as Naomi remains in the bitterness of grief, loss, and shame, Ruth has set off in hope of changing their fortunes in life.

In an agricultural economy, people without land were especially vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, and starvation. Crop failure, illness, accident, or death could cause a family to lose possession of their land. There were also certain groups of people who almost never possessed land, including widows without male sons or married daughters, orphans, and immigrants.

Ruth is an immigrant, an orphan, a widow, and poor. She is among the most vulnerable. She decides to make use of the provision in Israelite law that required landowners to leave the corners of their fields unharvested, and to leave some of the crop behind for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant. She heads out to follow the barley harvest.

Well, by chance, the storyteller says, the field where Ruth is harvesting turns out to belong to Boaz, a well-to-do landowner who happens to be related to Elimelech, Ruth’s deceased father-in-law, the late husband of Naomi. Well, you know the rest of the story of this chance encounter. Boaz is deeply moved by Ruth’s heroic steadfast love for Naomi. He brings her under his protection and care and reserves an additional portion of the harvest for her. When Naomi sees Ruth’s good fortune, she exclaims, “Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”

A Turn of Chance
And so it is that Naomi’s and Ruth’s fortune, after many bitter years, take a favorable turn. And all this happens, the storyteller tells us, by this “chance” meeting in the field of Boaz.

But isn’t it an odd thing that the very turning point in the story, the moment when Naomi’s and Ruth’s years of struggle and sorrow begin to ease and hope shimmers on the horizon of their life again, this the storyteller calls mere chance?

Are the people we meet in our life place before us by happenstance? Are the most significant events in our life mere chance? Do married couples come together by luck of the draw? Do we give our hearts to Jesus for the first time by mere chance? Is it luck that determines whether life is pleasant or bitter?

Well, God has given us as human beings, created in the divine image, freedom – free choice. God cares so deeply about having a true relationship with each of God’s children that God, at great risk, has given us freedom to choose that relationship. We are free to make choices in this world, are we not? We are free to choose whether to walk with God or not. We are free to choose whether to do good or to do evil. We are free to choose selfishly or selflessly. Even if the very voice of God would speak clearly and directly to me and tell me exactly what God wants me to do, I would still have the choice of obeying or disobeying God’s command.

We continue to learn how our choices affect others, how the choices we make affect people around the world, and how the choices of others around the world affect us. It’s a scary thought that we don’t control our own destiny, that in fact, the pleasantness of life is in some significant way determined by the often capricious choices of human beings, that when another person chooses against the will of God, I may suffer, and when I choose against the will of God, others may suffer.

Life is precarious, uncertain. Some bodies survive cancer; others succumb to it. Some survive natural disaster; others perish. Some lives are claimed by violence, disease, and affliction. Some are born with congenital disabilities due to environmental factors, parental choices, or a whole host of causes that escape our understanding. Some good, hardworking people fail and fall into hardship.

It is as Ecclesiastes put it:

Under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them. (Eccl. 9:11-12, NRSV)

Naomi lost her husband and her two children. Chance and the time of disaster. We don’t know why. We don’t know how. Naomi doesn’t understand it. All she understands is that she hurts. Her best guess is that for whatever reason, the hand of God has turned against her. Is even God capricious?

Do we live in a world where the best we can say is what Friedrich Nietzche said, “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Is life just about minimizing our own miserableness in a world of chance and survival? Getting ahead while we can before the other shoe drops and the wheel of fate turns again and gritting our teeth once it does?

God of Life
If that is the case, then Ruth is foolish indeed. In a world of chance, her odds of finding a pleasant life with Naomi are slim indeed. A Moabite, feared and hated by the Israelites, a widow in a man’s world. Truly, chance would find us all fools to invest our lives in prayer, to give ourselves in service to others, to trust in God instead of hedging our bets against a turn of luck. If our happiness in life really did depend on chance, one would expect the happiest people to be those who chance upon wealth and prosperity. But researchers have found that the happiest people aren’t found in the world’s richest nations, but by far in Latin America and Africa, regions plagued by poverty and violence.

No doubt God is mysterious, beyond our understanding. Naomi didn’t understand her suffering. She didn’t ask God why, and the storyteller doesn’t say one way or the other whether God was indeed the cause, as Naomi imagined.

You will remember that Ruth is a book about the quiet presence of God in human life. Likewise, the storyteller of Ruth is quiet in describing the presence and activity of God. In fact, in the entire book, only two times does the storyteller, the author himself or herself, directly describe the presence and activity of God: once at the end of the story, when Ruth and Boaz have a child, the storyteller tells us that it was the Lord who made her conceive. And once at the beginning of the story, when fertility returns to the land of Bethlehem, the storyteller informs us that it was the Lord who had given bread to the people.

Well, this doesn’t say much, but what it says is profound. Whatever else anyone may say about God, what we know is that God gives life, and God preserves life. And in a world where God gives life and preserves life, can it really be said that circumstances leading to the preservation of life are mere chance? Because Ruth meets Boaz, she and Naomi will not starve, and a child will be born

Preparation and Opportunity?
Well, perhaps what the story means in saying that the meeting of Ruth and Boaz was by chance is like what the famous Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi used to say, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Maybe, then, finding happiness in life is about hard work and patience. Maybe it’s like the old saying, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

With harvest beginning all around us, we know the importance of hard work. The harvest doesn’t just happen. Someone has to care for the land, sow the seed, ready machinery, and put in long hours for there to be a successful harvest. Ruth and Naomi don’t survive just by chance. Ruth had been harvesting from early morning until late evening. Ruth doesn’t finally secure her future beyond the harvest by just waiting for fate to smile on her. She massages the system a bit and quite forwardly proposes marriage to Boaz. Boaz, for his part, finesses the inheritance customs for the marriage to happen.

Hard work matters. Human action matters. Preparation matters. Absolutely! But if that were all there is to finding security in life, then Ruth has chosen poorly. Even with a stranger’s kindness, she can only procure enough grain for a few weeks, and what if drought comes again next season? The life of following the harvest was precarious at best, a risky choice for a woman, and a grave danger to a foreign woman, as Boaz was well aware. No, no, had Ruth been concerned to provide for her own security, to “help herself,” the best option she had as a foreign woman, Moabite widow, was most likely prostitution.

The Quiet Providence and Presence of God
Instead, she and Naomi take their chances with God, the giver and preserver of life. They take the risk of putting themselves into the hands of God and seeking refuge under the wings of God. It is a risk, and it does require hard work, but when the storyteller calls it chance, it sounds much more like an ironic understatement, a nod and a wink to draw the listener to reflect on the real, yet quiet, providence and presence of God behind this so-called “chance” meeting of Ruth and Boaz, and behind the ordinary, everyday experiences of our lives, meals and harvest, journeys, the random people we meet throughout the week.

Maybe one of the most important thing we can do as people who risk the mercies of God is to be diligent in identifying the quiet providence and presence of God in our everyday lives, and responding accordingly with gratefulness and generosity and steadfast love.

Isn’t it strange that when Ruth comes to Boaz’s field and falls at his feet, he says, “May you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for protection.” Apparently Ruth doesn’t quite get it, because you’d expect her to say, “May I continue to find grace in the Lord.” Instead, she says, “May I continue to find grace in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me.”

Naomi seems to have been a little confused about it as well, saying “Blessed be he by the Lord, whose steadfast love has not forsaken the living or the dead.” But it’s unclear whether she means the Lord’s steadfast love or Boaz’s steadfast love.

But really, neither Naomi nor Ruth is confused. When human love is pure, kind, and just it is a manifestation of the very love of God, and it should be difficult to distinguish the two. Rather, when Ruth meets Boaz, she meets the steadfast love of God, and finds comfort, kindness, and refuge under the wings of God and meeting God’s steadfast love never comes by chance.

In fact, the meeting of Ruth and Boaz isn’t the turning point in the story of Naomi and Ruth, because God’s steadfast love was there before. God’s real, yet quiet, steadfast love was there when Ruth decided to bravely risk all in steadfast love, loyalty, and kindness for Naomi, a point hidden from Naomi in the grief of her bitter loss.

A Chance for God’s Love
This is, you see, a story about human life, loss, and love. But more importantly, it is a story about the quiet presence of God in and through human life. When God’s love is operating in human life, no meeting is ever by chance. The labors of farmers this week, which will fill the hungry, are not by chance. Nor is the fertility of the field. The kind words you will speak this week are not by chance. In fact, as people in whom God’s spirit dwells, no meeting can ever be by chance. But every meeting is a chance for God’s steadfast love to wash over the story of human life.

Who will you meet this week? Will you meet a Naomi, who has tasted the bitterness of suffering and loss, who is without hope and needs your kindness, a chance for you to share God’s steadfast love? Will you meet a Ruth, whose steadfast love will turn your bitter experiences to the pleasant joys of life? Will you meet Ruth, the Moabite, the foreigner, the immigrant, bravely seeking a future for her family in a strange and potentially threatening land, and it could be a chance for your act of kindness to will introduce God’s steadfast love to her life when she needs it most? Will you meet Boaz, the landowner, kind and gentle, who will rescue you from danger, and will lead you to find comfort in the wings of God’s steadfast love.

God’s steadfast love is throughout the story of Ruth, in simple acts of kindness and loyalty, in laws designed to protect the vulnerable in society, in the fertility of the land, in the birth of a child who would become the grandfather of King David. How fitting that Jesus came into this house and lineage of costly steadfast love.

The story of Ruth ends with Naomi, who lost everything but God’s steadfast love, holding Ruth and Boaz’s son Obed, father of Jesse, father of David. She never knew that in young Ruth’s kindness and loyalty, she would discover God’s love, and neither did Ruth as she acted in kindness, loyalty, and love, a love that would become the house of Christ.

Ours is a story of God’s quiet, faithful, compassionate, gentle, loving presence in human life. May we ponder the many, many quiet ways God’s love brings comfort and joy to our lives, and may we be attentive to those meetings that seem to us to be by chance, random, everyday, or ordinary, that may be a chance, a gateway for God’s surprising and steadfast love to wash anew over human life and embody the life of Christ.

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Bringing Jesus Home

June 18th, 2013 No comments

“Bringing Jesus Home” (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Eph. 6:1-4)
by Pastor Peter Goerzen
June 16, 2013 (Father’s Day), Grace Hill Mennonite Church

Today, on this Father’s Day, we give thanks for our dads and for all those in our lives who have loved us steadfastly and justly, who have nurtured us, cared for us, watched over us, provided for us, taught us, and set for us an example of what it means faithfully and humbly to follow Jesus. We just heard a description of such a parent, such a father, from Ephesians. And I will read you a story about one such father from Mark’s Gospel.

[Reading from Mark 5]

Faither’s Day: Raising up Men of Virtue
I’m fortunate enough to have been raised by a dad like this. And I hope, really hope, that you were too. The famous author, pastor, and longtime jail chaplain Richard Rohr often tells about his encounter with another chaplain who was overwhelmed in her first year of chaplaincy on Mother’s Day.1 The inmates kept coming and coming and coming asking for Mother’s Day cards. And so she kept running to get box after box of cards for the prisoners to send to Mom.

And so as Father’s Day approached, she decided to get ahead of the game and she ordered an entire case of Father’s Day cards. But that case is still in her office. Not a single inmate – not even one! – asked for a Father’s Day card. It wasn’t that they were orphans; they’d just never been fathered. Not a single inmate had a dad – not just a biological father, but any positive male influence at all – to write on Father’s Day.

It seems to me that the best way to honor the spirit of Father’s Day is commit ourselves to providing our world with men and boys-who-are-becoming-men – dads, grandpas, uncles, brothers, mentors, teachers, and role models who have an integrity of character that values the commitment and responsibility of steadfast love; that practices respect, care, and compassion for the vulnerable rather than exploiting them for personal gain or pleasure; and that regards others as better than oneself; and that shows forth the fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.2

So, being Father’s Day, this morning’s message is especially for the brothers of the congregation – the men and the boys-who-are-becoming-men, and for those who raise, care for, teach, and love boys and men. That’s certainly not to say the sisters of the congregation are unimportant! The world also desperately needs women and girls-who-are-becoming-women who reflect the goodness and grace of our creator, and who share God’s unending love and compassion. But that will have to wait for another Sunday. If the box of Father’s Day cards collecting dust in the chaplain’s office is any indication, men have some special catching up to do – or at least some special attention to be given to the true challenges of being men who reflect Christ in our culture.

So I invite us to ponder what this story of the father named Jairus, and the words of Paul from Ephesians 6, have to tell us about relating to the little ones, to the vulnerable and weak, to those who do not possess the power and privilege that we as males in our society have.

A Successful Man?
Jairus was a well-respected man. He was a leader – literally a ruler – of the synagogue, the local religious gathering. He was in charge of selecting the readers and teachers of the synagogue, and he exercised authority to determine whether what was said and taught was proper. If he didn’t like a teacher in the synagogue, he could choose a different one, a better one. He was the man with the answer, with the sound judgment. He was proactive, decisive. If there was a tough decision to be made, he made it. He had a measure of autonomy.3 He was his own man, as they say. He had his own little fiefdom. He had achieved much, no doubt through much hard work. He was the very picture of a successful man.

At least that’s what our culture tells us it means to be a successful man – to climb the ladder of achievement and success; to be respected by one’s peers; to be admired by one’s family and community; to exercise authority and dominion over others (foreman, manager, CEO, general, governor, quarterback, reverend); to be a leader, a ruler of one’s own little fiefdom.

I recently heard a Christian college president who was asked what kind of graduates he hoped his college would produce. He didn’t say, “The kind of people who will be servants to the least among us.” He didn’t say, “The kind of people who will care for the prisoner, the hungry, the crippled, the poor, the blind and the lame.” He didn’t say, “The kind of people who will lay down their life for friend and foe alike.” He didn’t say, “The kind of people who will live and love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us.” He didn’t say, “The kind of people who will love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbors as themselves.”

He said, “I hope we are producing graduates who could become president of the United States.” The leader – ruler – of the most powerful nation on earth. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with being president, but that’s what it means to be a successful person – to date, a successful man – in our culture. Self-made, admired, respected, powerful, decisive. In control.

Dominating the less powerful
We men are conditioned to speak and act with confidence and authority. We are taught to flex our muscles and put them on display. In athletics, in academics, in politics, in entertainment, in the workplace, in the bedroom, we are conditioned to believe that the word “dominate” is a good word. As if the world needs more dominant males. Little surprise that the prevailing image of masculinity of the past 50 years on the silver screen has been James Bond, suave, sophisticated, authoritative, completely in control of every situation: politics, villains and their henchmen, lovers’ bodies, tellingly and demeaningly referred to as “Bond girls.”

But no president is in complete control of the country. No CEO can determine the fortunes of his company. No quarterback can determine by himself whether the team wins or loses. We are not in complete control of what we think we should be. Jairus was only one among several leaders, and the people went their own way. And so, many men, jaded and disillusioned by powerlessness and failure in the world of politics and careers, turn to the little ones, the vulnerable ones around them, those who are less powerful, children and often women, to exercise their authority over, their control of. Little wonder people aren’t getting rich selling Father’s Day cards.

That’s why those of us who have had positive male influences in our lives, like Jairus – dads, grandpas, uncles, brothers, mentors – should be especially grateful today. Ours is a very special privilege, though we often take it for granted. That’s also why today is a difficult day for many people. There are many men who are yearning to share a father’s kind, patient, nurturing, guiding, steadfast love with a little one, but for whatever reason have been unable to do so, while other men with little ones in their care so casually shirk their responsibility and abuse their power. And there are many who are yearning to know a father’s kind, nurturing, steadfast love, but never have.

Wounded Spirits
For many people, male figures in life have been absent – or worse than absent. Between 1/4 and 1/3 of girls and 1/6 of boys are sexually abused by age 18 by an older male. Most of these are family or close friends. Sadly, there is little variation for those who grow up within the church and those who do not. The very ones who are supposed to be teaching and modeling the unsearchable depths of the love of God are the ones who manipulate trust, abuse power, and distort love.

The words of our call to worship from Psalm 103 will have been challenging for many because they have not experienced a man’s compassion: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who worship him” (v. 13). For some who have not had a positive male presence in life, referring to God as “Father” is immensely comforting and healing.

But for many, referring to God as “Father,” as Jesus most often did, is not to imagine the good, comforting, steadfast, protecting, just, and compassionate love of our God, but to imagine God as cruel, manipulative, or absent and to evoke many painful memories and images. Tragically, so deeply wounded is the spirit that it simply cannot respond to the word “father” with anything but fear, pain, anger, or resentment until healing that can only be called miraculous takes place.4

To those who would so deeply wound the little ones – the weak and vulnerable – that they become afraid of God or angry at God instead of drawn to God, Jesus’s words are clear and direct: “If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who trust in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

I do hope I’m not discouraging you, but this is the reality of the world in which we live. If you are one whose trust has been violated, whose spirit and body has been wounded by someone in authority or power who was supposed to teach you about God’s love rather than betray that love, please know that Pastor Katherine and I are both a safe place to come. Please know that you’re a good person and it wasn’t your fault. Please know that God loves you with a love that is pure and true and wholesome.

And if you are struggling to exercise power and authority in a way that empowers rather than dominates, in a way that shares God’s love rather than manipulates it, if you are tempted, please come see me, not to be judged, but to seek the healing and transformation and true freedom and wholeness that can only come from God.

You see, the good news, the great news, the amazing news in all this discouraging and disheartening stuff, is that we were created for so much more than this.

A love that risks all, gives up all
Jairus was a powerful man. He was a man in control. He was a ruler in the synagogue. He was in charge of making sure that what happened in the synagogue was in accordance with the ancestral tradition.

Jesus had alienated many in the synagogue by healing on the Sabbath in front of the rulers of the synagogue. In fact, so enraged had some people in the synagogue become over this that they began plotting to destroy him. Jesus was quickly becoming very unpopular in the synagogue. Not the kind of person a self-respecting ruler of the synagogue would permit to speak. A threat to power. A challenge to authority. No surprise most religious leaders met Jesus with macho hostility.

But Jairus was a father who did reflect the unsearchable love of our God whom Jesus called “Father.” He was a ruler, yes. He was powerful, yes. But rather than puffing out his chest and stubbornly clinging to his authority, he did the very best thing that any father, any parent can do: he humbly bowed at Jesus’ feet and earnestly and continuously invited Jesus to come to his home, to his daughter.

He, the ruler of the synagogue, his own man, went himself to Jesus and in front of the whole crowd, bowed before him. What would become of his status? What would become of his esteem in the community? His own family and friends who have gathered to grieve his daughter’s death meet Jesus with ridicule and take him for a laughingstock. No doubt also this father who put his trust in Jesus. If he became like many of Jesus’ followers, even his very life was in danger. So deep is Father Jairus’s love for his daughter that he is willing to risk all and give up all for her.

That is the picture of our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us. A love that risks all and gives up all for us. A love that comes not to be served, but to serve and to save the many. A love that doesn’t consider power something to be grasped and manipulated, but something to be released that others may be empowered. A love that willingly gives and even suffers, that the vulnerable may find healing and hope. “Walk in Love,” Paul said, “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2).

Bringing Jesus home
Paul was addressing a people in a culture far more rigidly patriarchal and male-dominated than our own. And to these men of relative power and privilege – husbands, fathers, masters, Paul says to exercise power and privilege in the way Christ exercised power and privilege – by giving it up and giving oneself for the sake of the weak and vulnerable. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her – not by lording over your wives as everyone else does. Fathers, don’t enrage your children – don’t abuse your authority like others do – but nurture them in the teaching and instruction of the Lord.

The word Paul gives to fathers has connotations of nursing children. Fathers aren’t to lord their authority over their children (that’s what the world does), but to nurse them in the teaching and instruction of the Lord. That’s the best way for us to bring Jesus home to our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our siblings, and all little ones who are vulnerable. To model for them the life and the love of Jesus and lead them into that life.

Jairus brought Jesus home for his daughter that she might be made well – literally, that the might be saved and live. What more could we wish for our children? Even in the face of death and ridicule, Jesus encouraged him, “Do not fear; only continue to trust.”

When we are bringing Jesus home to our children, we can indeed keep on trusting that this is the single most important thing to do to provide for their well-being. Our children will experience pain and hardship in their lives no matter how much we try to protect them from it. When we bring Jesus home to our children, we give them their source of healing and strength amid the many pains of life. When Jesus is in the home, our children have an anchor of hope and a sure foundation amid the violent storms of life in this world, and a joy for the life to come. When Jesus is modeled in our homes through steadfast love, through encouragement, through humble servant leadership, through gentle correction, then our children see the teaching and instruction of the Lord and learn to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us.

Jairus found that to be truly masculine means not to exert authority over others, but to find an inner authority, an inner morality, and inner love, a Christ within and yield to that authority and be shaped by that authority. May we who are men and who are becoming-men become like Jairus the good father, and more importantly, like Jesus our Lord and Teacher, our Christ who lives within us and show forth his fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

May we all bring Jesus home today, and always, that all the little ones in our lives will know the unsearchable depths of his love. Today is a day to thank God for those men who have brought Jesus home to us, and to pray that we might be so humble as to be willing to risk all and give up all to do so for others. The little ones of the world so desperately need men – and women – who will bring Jesus to them. May his spirit and life be found in us – for our sake, and for theirs.

Notes:
1. E.g. in Richard Rohr, Wild Man’s Journey: Reflections on Male Spirituality, 85-86.
2. The NT has several lists of virtues that are vital for character ethics. See also especially Matthew 5:1-12, and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Also Rom. 14:17; 15:4-5; 2 Cor. 6:4-10; Eph. 4:2-3, 32; Php. 2:2-3; 1 Tim. 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 3:10; 1 Peter 3:8; 2 Peter 1:5-7.
3. The plural in v. 22 suggests that Jairus may have been one of several “rulers” of the synagogue. He was not entirely autonomous, but he was powerful.
4. There are many non-male descriptions of God in the Bible that can be helpful in experiencing God’s healing love. God’s image is described as being reflected in both male and female (Gen. 1:27). God as Mother who gives birth to the people (Deut. 32:18; Num. 11:12; Isa. 42:13-14; 46:3-4). God as mother eagle (Deut. 32:11-12; cf. Ex. 19:4). God as nurse (Isa. 49:14-15). God as fierce mother bear (Hos. 13:8). God as master and mistress (Ps. 123:2). God like a mother with a weaned child (Ps. 131:1-2). God giving birth to creation (Job 38:8-9, 28-29). Divine Lady Wisdom (Prov. 1:20-33; 8:1-36; also 3:13-18; 4:5-13; 9:1-6; Job 28:12-28). God as comforting mother (Isa. 66:12-13). Jesus as mother hen (Luke 13:34; cf. Mt. 23:37). God as woman searching for lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). Holy Spirit giving birth (John 3:3-8). The OT word for “Spirit” is feminine. The words “womb” and “compassion” are linguistically related in Hebrew.

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Knowing Jesus, Loving Jesus

August 26th, 2011 No comments

“Knowing Jesus, Loving Jesus” (John 14:1, 12-24)
By Pastor Peter Goerzen
May 29, 2011, Grace Hill Mennonite Church

Audio: “Knowing Jesus, Loving Jesus”

Faith is a decision we make once, and something we decide every day. No transcript is available. Enjoy the audio!

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