Life Lessons from Luke: Valuing
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 31, 2022
Ecclesiastes 1:12-23; Luke 12:13-21
It was a great jacket. My parents had gotten it for me in high school for traveling to Colorado to go hiking and backpacking. It was a Land’s End down puffer jacket that was light weight and warm down to about zero degrees. I held on to the jacket through all the years we lived in San Antonio when I never wore it. When we moved here, I thought, great, a chance to use it. Yet it just hung in our hall closet waiting to be used. Then came the Polar Vortex and I pulled it out, but it seemed to have shrunk because it was tighter on me in my 60’s than it was when I was in my teens and early twenties. I was not sure why, so I purchased other warm jackets to use in Michigan winters. Then, several years ago, I noticed that our assistant custodian was coming to work in the winter wearing a lightweight jacket. He was without a car and so was taking the bus. Instantly, I thought of my down jacket hanging in the hallway closet. I should give it to him…but then I thought, but I may need it. I wrestled for several days with what I ought to do. Then with great reluctance, I took that jacket, filled with memories of family trips, brought it to work and asked our assistant custodian, “Hey, here is a down jacket. Would you like it?” He was thrilled. I was sad. And so, as I read this morning’s passage, I asked myself, why do we humans do that? Why do we give so much value to things…to possessions, to down jackets, that we are loath to part with them even if we no longer need them?
The answer that came to me during the week was that everyone needs a Kerby. When I say a Kerby, I don’t mean a Kirby vacuum cleaner. I mean a Kerby the bear. For those of you not familiar with Kerby the bear, he was our son’s comfort stuffed animal for several years of his early childhood. Kerby went with him everywhere. Kerby traveled on short and long trips. Kerby traveled to church and to the homes of grandparents. Kerby was hugged and loved almost to death. In other words, Kerby was our son’s protection against the existential dread of a big scary world. Kerby was that thing that could be counted upon when nothing else could. And this existential dread does not go away. The world is always big and scary. It is scary because we wonder if our lives have meaning. It is scary because we wonder about death. It is scary because there is little we control. The result then is that we go and find our Kerby and give it value, so that we can find comfort and security in life.
If we want to see what this hunt for Kerby looks like all we need to do is turn to Ecclesiastes. The writer of Ecclesiastes spent his entire life looking for his Kerby to deal with his existential dread. The writer applies his mind to finding wisdom…but decides it is all vanity and chasing after wind. In fact, it is in his wisdom that he realizes that the Kerby of wisdom does not work to give him the security and comfort that he desires. He then tries accumulating wealth and comes to the same conclusion. He then tries power, gardens, slaves, wives, wine, and sex and each time comes to the same conclusion that these cannot give him the security and comfort for which he is looking, and thus have no real value. They are all chasing after wind. This conclusion carries over to Jesus’ conversation with the man whose brother had cut him out of the inheritance.
Jesus was teaching when a man yelled at him over the surrounding crowds and asked Jesus to intervene in a family dispute. The family dispute appears to be about who gets what in a matter of inheritance. Jesus could have ignored him, but Jesus being Jesus, never missed an opportunity for a teachable moment. This teachable moment does not end up being about the legal interpretations of Torah when it comes to how a family divides its inheritance. The teaching has to do with finding our Kerby. Listen again. “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Jesus then proceeds to tell the story of a man whose Kerby was a new barn filled with grain that he could never possibly eat. The man was using the grain to give him comfort and security. Surprise, surprise though, the man dies and thus the grain brought him neither. Jesus implies that possessions, Kerbys, will not last…which brings him into alignment with the writer of Ecclesiastes. This then raises the question, is there anything which we should value which can give us both comfort and security?
The answer is yes, there is something that has real value and will give us lasting security and comfort. But to find the answer we need to turn to Chapters 12 and 13 of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In this part of Paul’s letter, he chastises them for looking for Kerby among their Spiritual gifts. What I mean by this is that the Corinthian Christians were bragging that their personal spiritual gifts were the best gift and thus proved that they were better than those who did not possess that particular gift. In other words, their spiritual gift was of such value that it gave them comfort and security. Paul is not pleased with this use of gifts and then reminds them that there are only three gifts that last. These are faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of those is love. And in fact, the Apostle claims that without love, nothing else matters. Then Paul goes on to explain that love is love when it is given away. Love means acting for the other and not for self. And love gives us comfort and security because through love we connect with the God who is love and the source of our being. Love gives us comfort and security because it connects us with the Son, who is love and the source of our salvation. Love gives us comfort and security because it connects us with others whose lives are changed, and through whom other lives might be changed in a never-ending cycle of love. Thus, paradoxically, the only thing of value we have that can give us comfort and security is something we give away. It is something that we do for others. Our Kerby is love.
There is nothing wrong with seeing possessions as having value. Their value can be in the memories they carry, in their function, or in their beauty. All of these things are a reminder of the goodness of God’s creation and the things that we can create. The issue becomes when we pretend that possessions offer us ultimate value, which they can never do. My challenge to you this morning is to go home and find something that you don’t really need; something that has become for you a Kerby, then give it away as an act of love. And in so doing allow the love of Christ within you to connect you to the very source of life, our God who is love.
Life Lesson from Luke: Praying
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 24, 2022
1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 11:1-13
I was coming around the corner on one of my daily walks when I spotted the deer. There was a large buck and a large doe standing in my front yard. My first thought was not about the fact they had probably just eaten whatever flowers might have been growing there. My first thought was about what magnificent animals they were and perhaps I ought to take a picture. However, before I could lift the camera from my pocket, they were off like horses breaking from the gate and headed straight toward me. I was a bit shocked at their direction until I saw who was behind them. It was Henry. Henry is the large labradoodle that lives across the street. He had spotted the deer and the hunt was on. Then right behind Henry was Henry’s boy, Wensley who was running almost as fast. That moment was one of contemplation that just when we think we have domesticated our animals, Henry, not the deer, something happens to remind us that our animals are more than pets. They are at heart still wild and dangerous…hunters just waiting for the right moment.
That image kept coming back to me this week as I read the story of Jesus’ teaching on prayer. It occurred to me just how much we have domesticated this prayer. We pray it every Sunday, sometimes with all the depth of a grocery list. Our Father who art in heaven, don’t let me forget the avocados. As I have told you in some past sermons, this was the bedtime prayer in my house. My mom would pray it with each of us before we slumbered off. But what if…what if…this domesticated prayer is just as wild and dangerous as Henry? What if this prayer is just waiting to be set free to change us and to change the world? Let me explain what I mean.
This is a wild and dangerous prayer. This is a dangerous prayer because we are praying for the Kingdom of God to be made a reality here on earth. I am not sure what most of us have in mind when we pray for the Kingdom of God, but it would require a radical reorganization of the world if it were to come. Our current economic structure with billionaires at the top and a billion impoverished people in the world would no longer be the way of the world. Instead there would be a sharing of all resources so that no child went hungry, no family went homeless, and no nation sent its armed forces to oppress others based on the whim of a single leader. The world would become what my wife, Cindy, calls “Star Trek World,” in which there is not only enough for all but that what is available is shared. That is a wild and dangerous image.
This is a wild and dangerous prayer. This is a dangerous prayer because we pray for our daily bread. I realize that many of you may be wondering, John, how in the world can praying for our daily bread possibly be dangerous? The answer is that this part of the prayer strikes at the center of the human ego and banishes the myth of self-reliance, and the human tendency to believe that we are the captains of our own ships and the masters of our own destinies. One of the great myths that we humans tell ourselves, is that we don’t really need God. Or we only need God in emergencies like the fire hose with the words on the glass cover, break in case of emergencies. Other than that, we see ourselves as independent of God and therefore independent of others. We are islands of personal sufficiency. But the moment we pray, “God give us our daily bread,” we are admitting that we are not in control. We are admitting that we need God and all that God gives, which forces us into humility and gratitude. This is a wild and dangerous prayer.
This is a wild and dangerous prayer. This is a wild and dangerous prayer because when we pray for God to forgive our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us, we run the risk of forcing ourselves to cease judging. What do I mean? I mean that part of human nature is judging others. We look out at the world and decide who is worthy; worthy of God’s love; worthy of our love; worthy of a good job or benefits; worthy of being seen as a human being; worthy to be treated well or poorly. This judgment then causes us to look down on certain people and blame them for all the ills of the world…while we know we don’t deserve any blame because we are inherently worthy. All this comes apart when we ask for forgiveness. When we ask for forgiveness, we realize that maybe we are not as worthy as we had assumed; that we are those who live by grace, just like all other human beings. This is a wild and dangerous prayer because it forces us to cease judging others.
This is a wild and dangerous prayer. This is a dangerous prayer because we ask God not to bring us to the time of trial. This is dangerous because it forces us to see that God is not any more domesticated than Henry. What I mean by that is that often God becomes no more than a giant Santa Claus in the sky, allowing us to sit on his spiritual knees and ask for whatever we want. This is a comfortable God. This is a domesticated God that we guide and direct more than who guides and directs us. But when we pray that God not lead us to a time of trial we are opening the door for a wild and dangerous God to emerge; a God who might push us to our limits; a God who might call us to work for this Kingdom that God is bringing; who might call us to forgive those whom we don’t want to forgive; to admit that we need God. God might call us to work for peace and justice even when it is uncomfortable. This is a wild and dangerous prayer, but the most wild and dangerous thing is about to come, and that is the end of this section of Luke’s story.
What I have noticed about this section of the passage, verses 5-13, is that the church has tended to disconnect it from the previous section containing Jesus' model prayer. We talk about the Lord’s prayer and then we talk about constancy in prayer as if they are completely disconnected. The church has wanted to see this portion of the prayer as saying, if you are willing to pray hard enough, and long enough, God will give you what you ask, including perhaps, even raising someone from the dead as Elijah did. I would argue that that is a mistake. I would argue that Jesus and Luke linked these statements for a reason. The reason is that we are not supposed to spend all our time praying for stuff, but that we are to pray for the things that he taught. I say this because the Kingdom, daily bread, forgiveness, and trials were at the heart of his ministry. For in fact, in Jesus, the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world. In Jesus people were being fed and Jesus asked his followers to feed others on his behalf. In Jesus people were being forgiven and we were to forgive. In Jesus, people were being put in uncomfortable places for the Kingdom of God. We are to continuously pray these prayers so that God will bring them about in our lives.
We are called to pray. The challenge for each of us is to pray Jesus’ wild and dangerous prayer so that we might be transformed, and that the world would be transformed through us. My challenge for all of us this week is this, to ask ourselves, am I willing to pray this wild and dangerous prayer, and allow God to answer it?
Life Lessons in Luke: Choosing
Rev. Bethany Peerbolte
July 17, 2022
Isaiah 30:18-22; Luke 10:38-42
I have a theory. I think Jesus was actually a very clear and detailed teacher. The reason his lessons come off as vague in scripture is that the disciples were terrible at remembering what Jesus said. Hence, moments like this where Jesus says, there are many things but only one thing is needed, and Mary chooses correctly. Like WHAT is the one thing, JESUS!? No need to leave us guessing, tell us the one thing. What was the thing Mary chose, and then we will choose that thing also. Alas, all we have is one thing.
Complicating matters further there is a significant translation debate around the thing Mary chose. Translators either have Jesus saying Mary’s choice is better, or he says Mary’s choice is good. There is a big difference there.
If Mary has chosen the better part, it implies that Martha has chosen a lesser option. “Better” hints at the existence of a hierarchy, or even a right and a wrong way of doing something. Better is always how it was when I was growing up.
The second flag that better is not what Jesus meant is if that is true and Jesus believes Martha has chosen something that is not worthy, it seems odd that Jesus doesn’t correct Martha’s actions. It wouldn’t be shocking for Jesus to redirect behavior. After he protects a woman from being stoned, he turns to her and redirects the choices she had been making. We don’t see Jesus make a correction with Martha.
For these reasons many translators consider the word “good” to be closer to what Jesus meant. And I agree. “Good” allows for Mary to have chosen correctly and for Martha to have also chosen correctly. One is not better than the other, they are both good choices.
There is nothing wrong or better about either choice. Jesus honors both women in the choices they have made even though the one thing they chose to do is not the same thing.
Mary and Martha are different people and Jesus knows what will inspire them and what will drain them, and that those things are completely different for each sister. Jesus also knows that the values of the community make it easy for Martha to choose to be the host, while the things that bring Mary joy are not seen as worthy choices for a woman to make. I would bet Mary often found herself either in trouble for not staying in her place or forced to endure the draining work her sister naturally enjoyed.
Mary choosing to sit and listen to Jesus was a rebellious act. Mary chooses to do the thing that will feed her soul despite what anyone else thought. She chooses her own well-being. To her sister, this looks like a selfish choice but Jesus points out that Martha expecting her sister to do something simply because it is what Martha prefers to do is also pretty selfish.
By refusing Martha’s request, Jesus is declaring that a woman’s place is in the classroom, AND he is saying a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Jesus wants them to choose that which will feed their soul, choose the thing that uses their unique gifts, and choose what will lead them to a deeper relationship with God. As long as they both had the opportunity to look left, and look right, and hear the voice say “this is the way, walk in it” then it’s all good.
The shiny images and idols Isaiah dreams about us scattering and saying “away with you” are still around. We see the silver and gold over there and we go over there. We don’t always listen for the voice to tell us which way; we see a way that is successful and we go for it.
We’ve all done it. We all have at least one choice that we made because it was cool or we thought it would get us closer to a personal goal. For some of us, there is picture evidence: 80’s hair, 90’s fashion, and those Sears family portraits. They seemed like the right choice at the time - those other people look cool. Picture evidence might be bad but there are worse consequences. Choices made under peer pressure or working somewhere that required out-of-character behavior to get the promotion. The silver and gold facades of success and fitting in and doing what people want us to do are so shiny we don’t even notice that there are other options.
That thing you have been beating yourself up about, turn the other way. That’s probably not your path. That goal you set that you keep slipping back on, take a moment, look around. Maybe there is another way to get there. There is so much in this world that will encourage us to barrel through and endure. None of those voices are Jesus’ voice.
Jesus says there is value in the hustle and there is value in rest. What brings them joy, might not be something you enjoy. It’s okay to choose the things that will be good for your soul. As long as the choices come after looking left and looking right and listening for “this is the way.”
Life Lessons from Luke: Loving
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 10, 2022
Leviticus 19:9-17; Luke 10:25-37
Most of us know the story. We have heard multiple sermons on the tale. The characters are familiar. It begins with Jesus being asked about the greatest commandment. Jesus turns the tables on the questioner, but ultimately, they both agree that the greatest commandments are to love God and neighbor. At that point the questioner, a legal expert, asks a follow-up question. Who is my neighbor? At that point Jesus tells a story. There is a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho, a very dangerous journey. He is beaten by robbers and left for dead. Two of his fellow countrymen walk by and ignore him, moving to the other side of the road. One of these men was a priest and the other a Levite, meaning someone who worked at the Temple alongside the priests. Finally, a Samaritan comes along and helps the man. Then Jesus asks the legal expert, who it was in the story who was a real neighbor. The legal expert says, “The one who showed him mercy.” Or, in other words, it was the Samaritan who was the neighbor, implying that even enemies are our neighbors. But what if…what if the legal expert would have asked a different question? What story would Jesus have told then?
I ask because there is a second question that goes unasked in this conversation and that question is, what does it mean to be a neighbor? I would posit that this is in fact a much more complicated question. It is more complicated because life is complicated, and every human interaction is different from the one before. It is easy to say, “Hey everyone, even my enemies are my neighbors,” pat myself on the back, and go home and have a mint-julep on the porch, knowing that I get Jesus’ point. It is a much more difficult thing to say, well, here is how I treat them as neighbors. Even so, back to my questions of what it means to be a neighbor and what sort of story Jesus would tell attempting to illustrate what being a neighbor looks like. What I would like to offer for your consideration this morning is a framework for answering the first question, what does it mean to be a neighbor, and then suggest that Jesus might have told the same story in illustrating what being a neighbor looks like. I will do both these things by weaving together one idea and three Biblical stories. The one idea is that to love neighbor is to love like God loves. The three Biblical stories are the Exodus story, our passage from Leviticus, and the Good Samaritan story. Ready? Here we go.
First, loving like God means providing. The Exodus story is a powerful reminder that it is God who provides for God’s people. God provided them with water from a rock. God provided them with manna and quail to eat. God provided them with clothes that never wore out. The concept of God as provider is a central theme in the Exodus account. We can see this same sense of providing for neighbor in the Leviticus text. Farmers are not to reap all their grain but are to provide some for the poor and landless. Vintners are not to harvest all the grapes but are to leave some for those who have none, in essence providing the thirsty with wine. Both actions mirror God’s provision in the wilderness where God’s people were aliens and had no access to the necessities of life. Finally, the concept of providing is woven throughout the Samaritan story. First the Samaritan provides for the man’s physical needs with bandages, oil, and wine. Then the Samaritan provided for the man’s food and lodging. If we are to love like God loves then, we need to ask ourselves how are we providing for those who are our neighbors? Again, providing can be accomplished in a wide variety of ways. The central question is, how am I providing for at least some of my neighbors?
Second, loving like God means protecting. We return to the wilderness and the vulnerability of the Hebrew people as they left Egypt. Though they may have had some weapons with them…the story is not clear…they would have been no match for the Egyptian army, which was one of the most powerful armies of that day and age. The odds were not good that the Hebrews would escape. Yet somehow, they did. And they did because God protected them. God protected them by parting the seas. God protected them by allowing them to cross the sea on dry land. God did so by inundating the pursuing Egyptian army in the waters of the sea. It was God’s protection that saved the people. While the idea of protection is not quite as clear in the Leviticus passage, it is there. God’s people are to protect their neighbors from theft, falsehood, being defrauded, from wage theft; or being harmed because of stumbling blocks, or injustice, slander, and oppression. Protection is also part of the Samaritan story. The Samaritan protected the man by taking him to a motel, paying his rent, and ensuring his fair treatment, thus protecting the man from further harm and starvation. If we are to love like God loves, the question is how are we working to protect the vulnerable around us? Again, there are multiple ways to protect our neighbors. The central question is, how am I protecting the poor and the alien?
Third, and finally, loving like God means forgiving. I realize that this may seem like a stretch on all fronts, yet I believe that forgiveness stands at the heart of each of these scriptures. We begin again with the Exodus. After God protected the people by freeing them from Pharaoh’s army; after God had provided for the people with water and food, the people chose to create and worship a golden calf, rather than God who had saved them. God should have left them in the desert, but God doesn’t. God forgives them and continues with them, even if God made the journey a bit longer than originally intended. The passage from Leviticus reminds the people of God that they are not to hate, take vengeance, or bear a grudge. These injunctions imply that someone has been harmed and that there is someone in the community who has committed the harm. The only way to remain as neighbors is to forgive. Finally, we come to the Samaritan story. Where is the forgiveness here? It is the story itself. The Samaritans hated the Jews because the Jews had conquered them, oppressed them, and destroyed their Temple. The very fact that Jesus would have a Samaritan helping a Jew was a demonstration of the extent of the forgiveness the Samaritan offered to one who might be his enemy. If we are to love like God, the question is, how are we offering forgiveness to those who have harmed us? Again, as before, there are multiple ways and opportunities for offering forgiveness to our neighbors. The central question is, how am I offering forgiveness to those near and far?
Over the past few days, weeks, and years we have found ourselves surrounded by the news of mass shootings, political disputes, war in Ukraine, drought in the west, inflation, and hunger around the world. The temptation is to withdraw, build walls, and care only about ourselves. The temptation is to set aside our call to love our neighbors. Yet, I believe that these are the moments when we need to be even more engaged in loving those near at hand and those far away. I believe this not only because it is the second great commandment, but because none of us ever know what the fruits of such love might be. The love we offer just might change someone’s heart and life and send them in a different direction. My challenge this morning is for all of us to ask ourselves how are we loving like God in loving our neighbors?
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 3, 2022
2 Kings 2:9-18; Luke 10:1-20
Are any of you who were here last Sunday experiencing a little bit of cognitive dissonance? Oh, so what is cognitive dissonance? It is the psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. In other words, it is the conflict arising from this morning’s words of Jesus:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 Indeed, at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.”
This is in contrast with the words of Jesus last week when he rebuked his disciples for wanting to rain down fire and brimstone on a couple of Samaritan cities that would not receive Jesus. So how do we understand the change in attitude? How do we reconcile the saving of one group of people and the seeming condemnation of another? And then on a final question, what do we do with the demons and the devil in this passage? The answers my friends lie in context and commissioning. Let me explain.
The story for this week is about Jesus commissioning seventy-two individuals to go out in pairs to all the towns where Jesus was planning to go. They were to be humble and content with whatever accommodations and food that were set before them. They were to offer the peace of God to the people who accepted them. They were to cure the sick, and above all to say to the people, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” It is this phrase that gives us our first clue as to how we deal with our cognitive dissonance. What the disciples meant by “The Kingdom of God has come near you,” is that the rule and reign of God was once again being established on earth and it was being established by Jesus of Nazareth. This rule and reign was to be a time of peace, hope, love, joy, and compassion. It was to be a time in which everyone got to sit under their own vine and fig-tree and eat the produce of their hands. It was to be the time, as Jesus taught his disciples to pray, that things on earth would be like things in heaven. This was a transformative moment, and all persons were invited to participate.
The second clue as to how to deal with our cognitive dissonance comes from the context in which these words and this invitation into the Kingdom of God are being offered. The context as I have spoken about before is that of a growing hatred, anger, and violence in the Galilee, Jerusalem, and the entire nation. There was a growing move toward rebellion not only against Rome and the Roman client rulers, but against the religious leadership at the Temple, whom many Jews believed to be corrupt. This anger and hatred were beginning to drive individuals and groups to open acts of rebellion, but even more, to organizing for a revolution; a revolution that would ultimately bring about the deaths of thousands of Jews, the destruction of the Temple, and eviction of the Jews from their homeland as had happened under the Babylonians. Jesus could see all this developing and he knew that unless the people chose a different path that they would suffer greatly. So, for Jesus it was a choice that all cities and communities would have to make. Either they would accept the invitation to be part of this inbreaking Kingdom of God, in which God’s love and peace became the center of their lives; or they would choose the way of the world, a way of violence and destruction, which is evidently what Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had chosen. They had chosen not to repent, meaning to turn from the ways of violence and destruction and toward the Kingdom of God of love and peace. Their end then would not be good and the judgment would come in this world in real time. Thus, Jesus’ words of warning are not some end times judgment on the people of those cities. He is not bringing fire and brimstone down from heaven. He is showing them what will happen if they continue their current path.
What does this have to do with us? The answer is rather straightforward. We too have been commissioned to invite people into this inbreaking Kingdom of God. Just as the seventy-two were sent out into the world to invite people into this way of being people of love, compassion, and peace, we are called on to do the same. Our commissioning matters because we too live in a time of growing anger, hatred, and violence. We too live in a time in which people are turning on one another. We too live in a time in which the nation is divided. And it is into this difficult moment that we are called to come with message of love, hope, peace, compassion, and justice. We are commissioned to be those who offer hope amid all that the world can bring against us. I understand how difficult this commissioning can be. It is easier for all of us to see the “other” as the enemy; to cast aspersions on people we have never met; to believe the worst rather than the best about others. There is a certain satisfaction in those feelings. But those are not the tasks to which we have been commissioned. Instead, we are commissioned to be the light in the darkness. To be a people who pursue peace rather than anger. And when this task seems hopeless and overwhelming, we need to turn to the end of this text about the demons and the devil.
What I mean by this is that the power of the Kingdom of God is greater than the power of hatred, anger, and violence. When the disciples return, they speak of their victories over the demons, meaning the powers of this world that take hold of people and communities and wreak havoc. When Jesus said he saw Satan fall, he is not speaking literally but figuratively of the evil falling to the power of God’s love and grace. In essence, Jesus is saying that nothing can ultimately stop this Kingdom of God from coming into the world and changing everything.
My friends, this morning I want you to know that there is hope. There is hope because the Kingdom is coming. There is hope because Christ is here. There is hope because the Spirit is at work. My challenge to you this morning then is this, to ask yourselves, how am I living out my commission to offer people an invitation into this inbreaking Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ?