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Where we find ourselves - The United Methodist Church, part 2: I came to call sinners

So a friend of mine always says,

“some people need to see the light, others need to feel the heat.”

Which are you? Do you need light and is that enough? Or do you need the heat - the refining part of God’s love? Or do you need both?

We need to both - we need clarity and we need reality. We need both head and heart. Right? Jesus was full of grace AND truth. Both/and is what we need in this time and place.

So I would like to start with some larger, general principles. Things that bind us to Jesus. Jesus brought the Kingdom of God, the church that was established was for the sake of the Kingdom. And that church, will always be skewed by humans, and will move the to the ways and paths of an institution. So I would like to go back to the source per se. To get the picture of who Jesus was and why he came. What the Kingdom is all about. If we can get clearer there, we will find clarity as we navigate what the church was made to be and what the church currently is (and what we do about it).

So there are a few passages I want to look at, but this one is a good place to start.

15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners? 17 And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” — New American Standard Bible: 1995 update (Mk 2:15–17).

Jesus throughout the Gospels has this quality about him and his connection to sinners. Those that were sinners - seen by both the religious and the sinners themselves as sinner - were indeed sinners. It was not appropriate to share a table with sinners. Yet, Jesus did and the sinners seemed to love Jesus. Jesus was attractive to sinners that were broken and set aside in a different category. That is indeed who Jesus is.

Jesus came to call the sinners, not the righteous. Just as the well does not need a doctor, but it is the sick that does. So sinners need Jesus, and the righteous do not. I think this can be taken two ways: 1. There were legitimately righteous folks throughout Scripture, that sought God and practiced faith (see Abraham). So Jesus, just as he illustrates will leave the 99 sheep that are well, to get the one that is lost. 2. This can be taken as those that do not see themselves as sick/sinner do not go to the doctor/Jesus. They might indeed need what Jesus has but because they think they are good without a Jesus, they do not hear Jesus’ call.

Okay - so I am not forming an airtight case for some agenda here. I am not for sure at this point where I fall in all of this mess. I know this though, I want to be with Jesus. I want to see those in the world as Jesus sees them. I want to see the church as Jesus sees the church.

And if I am going to see with clarity, I need to understand that Jesus came for me. I was a sinner when Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). I was lost and not able to see the truth. And now, I can see because Jesus has touched me. And yet, I still have blind spots, that keep me from seeing the whole picture.

I need to see into my blind spots. I know if you or I rush into fixing the institutional church without sitting with Jesus and saying, “change me, lead me, guide me, shape me and remake me how you will” then we will not be able be able lead like Jesus. There is simply no way. And these principles that Jesus lays out, well they inform the Kingdom. I love the reminder many times over by Alan Hirsch - the church was created to carry out the Mission of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not here to serve the church.

My friends, I am torn. I dove into many videos this week that were making ‘their’ God- based argument for why you should leave the UMC and why you should stay. I feel the restlessness and I am seeking God in this.

I invite you to sit for while today at the table with Jesus. Listening and watching what He does and says to sinners and the righteous.

And ask, where am I?
What is Jesus saying to me?

Grace and strength for you on this journey.


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