4th Lenten Weekly Challenge

26 03 2007

March 25th – 31st – Fifth Week of Lent

Journey into the Brokenness of God’s Family

“Americans by and large work together, shop together, and play together, but they do not worship together.  If we are at our core spiritual, then the fact that we seem unable and unwilling to relate to one another elbow-to-elbow in the pews of the local congregation reveals how fragile the integrity of the church is.”

It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in our Christian life.  We are segregated by race, by age, by economic class, by denominational affiliation and by theological perspectives as we gravitate towards others who think and worship in the same way we do.   Often instead of living together in unity and love we are separated by prejudice and intolerance.

Yet the golden rule of Christianity, what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8) is “love your neighbor as you do yourself”.  At a recent conference Pakistani theologian Charles Amjad Ali reminded us that we are all prejudiced.  What changes in dialogue with others is the focus of our prejudice.  He then challenged us to consider “Can we be prejudiced towards justice, equality and respect or do we always live primarily with the prejudices of exclusion?”

God is much bigger than our culturally bound viewpoint.  All people are created in God’s image and worthy of being treated with respect and understanding.  I do not believe that we will fully understand who God is or appreciate the incredible sacrifice of Christ on the cross until we learn to see these events through the eyes of others who come from very different viewpoints than our own.

Scripture Luke 10: 25 – 37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Accept the Challenge

Begin your weekly meeting by discussing your discipline from the past week.   What was the most challenging aspect of your week?  What new insights did you gain regarding your use of the earth’s resources?  In what ways have you been tempted to take short cuts over the week and rationalized your use of resources? What permanent changes are you considering making in your life in order to reduce your impact on the earth?

Now focus on your new discipline for the upcoming week.  Discuss your prejudices.  What ethnic and religious groups do you struggle to understand?  What theological viewpoints are you intolerant of?  What other prejudices separate you from God’s people.  Talk about ways to bridge to these different groups during this week.

Here are some suggestions that you might like to consider.  In each situation ask yourself:  What are the life experiences that have molded their view of faith?  Where do you have beliefs in common?  What are the differences?  What are the foundations for unity and respect?

  • Plan to get together with someone in your church who has a different theological perspective than your own.
  • Make this specifically a time to listen to their ideas and learn from their understanding of faith.
  • Visit a church of another denomination or worship style that you have never been a part of before.
  • Visit a church from a different ethnic background that you are unfamiliar with.
  • Visit the web and check out the theological discussions of indigenous peoples in country.
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