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Different Judgment

This was the first sermon I’ve ever preached to an empty room. I preached my first sermon during our “Shelter in Place” order in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ve reluctantly withdrawn to our homes and withheld ourselves from our dearest friends.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine found himself in a major airport. He coughed and witnessed a woman cover her mouth and nose and slink away. We live in days when you can be judged by your cough. Too loud, too forceful, too uncovered and you’ll be viewed with suspicion.

Judge Not

There are few verses more well-known or more often cited than Luke 6:37’s, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” More often than not, it’s invoked in defense. “You have no right to judge me! The Bible says, ‘Judge Not!'” Yet, we make judgments every day. Everything from coughs to character is subject to judgment.

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May You Live in Interesting Times

There is supposedly an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” Maybe you’ve heard that before. The truth is, it’s a lot of bunk. It sounds real, though, so it gets repeated a lot.

Crisi-tunity!

May You Live in Interesting Times - Crisis/Opportunity

Equally sketchy is a quote from a speech by John F. Kennedy in 1959. Kennedy said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.” At the risk of contradicting my father’s favorite President, I’m afraid JFK’s Chinese must have been a bit rusty. As with the old saying about the Chinese curse, “it ain’t necessarily so.”

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Different Blessings

One of the old songs we used to sing quite often was “Make Me a Blessing.” Do you remember it? The chorus often still gets stuck in my head. I remember it sounding something like a calliope on an old merry-go-round.

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

Different Blessings

Different Blessings

As Jesus continues his “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke 6, he turns to a series of blessings. But there’s a problem. These blessings don’t look much like blessings!

“Blessed you who are poor.” Really, Jesus? “Blessed are you who hunger now?” But we’re hungry, Jesus! “Blessed are you who weep now?” Why on earth would Jesus call such people blessed?

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Different

Different

The image above is somewhat iconic; the lone fish swimming against the school of other fish. It’s a feeling we’ve all likely had at one time or another. Rather than going along with the crowd, we’ve found ourselves with different motivations, different priorities, and on a different path.

And for believers, it’s a different Lord

When Jesus called Simon the fisherman, he left his boats and nets and followed him. When Jesus called Levi the tax collector, he left his tax collecting booth and followed him. Their lives took a sudden turn in direction and definition. They would no longer be known for the things they had formerly done. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when answering the call to follow Jesus means going in a different direction than the crowd around us.

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Extraordinary Things

In Luke 5:17-26, we read the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man. That’s an amazing miracle, but that’s not extraordinary.

In the story, the house where Jesus is staying is packed, so the people who brought the man had to tear a hole in the roof and lower him down. That’s an impressive commitment to a friend, but it’s not extraordinary.

As Jesus encounters the man, after his friends have lowered him in, while the people are all waiting to see a miracle, Jesus does something truly extraordinary.

He tells the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”

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