serving Towson, Morgan State and UMBC

Blog

Jesus leads us out of abuse and the places that trap us

Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on May 9, 2017 at 12:15 AM

John 10:1-10

1 Peter 2:19-25

 

It’s Good Shepherd Sunday- a time when pastors talk about Jesus’ desire to protect and lead us in this life. To call us back when we’re going astray and keep us on the pathways that lead to life. The one who carries us on his shoulders when we have been beat up by the world. It’s a nice thing to get to preach on, a comforting reality. And I’ve got a great story about how stupid sheep can be and how I, as a 21-year old with no livestock experience, had to rescue a sheep stuck in a fence in the middle of downtown Philadelphia. But as much as that would be fun, there’s been something getting in the way for me this week.


 

And it’s not anything going on in the world, although that is a place where we desperately need a Good Shepherd to guide us and protect us. This week it’s some words in our Bible that have been getting in the way- those words we hear from 1 Peter today. Because they have been used in horrible ways that betray the love of Jesus for all people.


 

Now, we try to sanitize them a bit by leaving off the first verse which says, “slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” This is who the passage is actually spoken to and we know the violence that was done with those words. We know they were used to encourage those who were imprisoned to be obedient and subservient in a system that was never God’s will for them. And I think the church knows better than to publicly speak words which have been used to justify evil toward our brothers and sisters.


 

But the words we hear this morning are not much better. Did you hear them?

 

For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.


 

And I will tell you that I struggle to read these words in my Bible, because they seem to justify abuse and encourage submission to it rather than resistance. And not to endure suffering for courageously following Jesus and taking the punishment that you knew would result. This passage encourages Christians to endure suffering that comes as a result of just living your life in a situation where you don’t have much power.


 

And although I can’t find anything that will explain away these words that seem to fly in the face of Jesus’ loving intentions for our lives, it has helped to understand the community to which Peter wrote this letter.


 

Peter lived in a society where Christians seemed suspicious and dangerous, subversive to the way things were. Their equality among themselves, their sharing with each other, their ultimate allegiance to God rather than the emperor- these are things that didn’t sit well with the world around them. So Christians were seen as a threat and the world would take any excuse to do away with these Jesus followers. So Peter is writing to a community of Christians struggling to survive and hold onto their true identity in Christ.


 

And it seems like that community was made up of mostly folks who weren’t the rich and powerful. Many of them were servants and they lived at a time where there wasn’t much of any chance of overturning the social order and staying alive at the same time. And if they, as a persecuted minority, tried to overturn the social structure, they were likely to be killed and the Christian community would be destroyed.


 

So, Peter was writing to try and encourage the church in the midst of the unjust world they lived in and help them continue to be the church and pass on the faith to future generations. Just before our passage, Peter reminds the church of the truth that they stand in- that they were a people made free in Christ. And they get to make a choice about how they will use that freedom- for good or for evil. So, in these in-between times, where they knew the equality and freedom of God’s kingdom but couldn’t live into it, Peter encourages the church to keep holding fast to faith in Jesus and following as best they’re able.


 

And that meant refusing to return abuse for abuse. It meant refusing to threaten or harm others when they treated them badly. It meant being loving even when evil was done to them. This is the way of Christ. And, as Peter says, by doing right when you have no earthly reason to, you might silence the ignorance of the foolish.


 

Peter wanted to give his church the power to do the one thing they could- choose to follow in the footsteps of Christ in a situation they couldn’t change. To use their good conduct to witness to Jesus and shame those who would treat them harshly. To resist the abuse by refusing to let it overtake their soul. And to identify their suffering with the suffering of Jesus to find enough strength to carry on. Because there are some moments where the only alternative is to endure.


 

And in those moments when we’re barely holding on, knowing that Jesus suffers beside us and has gone before us is a thing that saves us. But just because Jesus stands besides us doesn’t mean we stay stuck in abuse.


 

Because we are living in a different moment from Peter’s. We are privileged to be living in a moment where abuse is understood for what it is- utterly against God’s intention for anyone and something to be resisted rather than endured. Identifying our suffering with Jesus’ should never be a reason to stay trapped in a situation where God’s abundant, beautiful life is clouded out by abuse.


 

Because we have a Good Shepherd who is calling out to us by name. And that name is always beloved. Jesus calls out to us to remind us that we are treasured ones made with a purpose. Jesus calls out to those facing abuse and to all the rest of us who have forgotten our names. Who have gotten used to the names the world calls us. Who have gotten used to being named by the work we do, the work we fail to do or the times we have messed up. And hearing that name again is something I need to hear often.


 

Every night, my 5-year old and I bless each other by making the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads and saying, “Hannah, you are a beloved child of God.” “Mommy, you are a beloved child of God.” And, because my daughter has the gospel message deep in her soul, she asked us to add something to that. Now every night we also remind each other, “Mommy, Hannah, God loves you even when you make mistakes.” It is a blessed reminder to hear every night.


 

Because Jesus doesn’t just call to us to make us feel good. He calls us in order to lead us out. Out from the places where sheep get trapped or attacked. Out from the places where sheep are threatened. For those who are abused, that leading out sometimes happens through hands like ours- by recognizing and helping children, spouses and the elderly who are abused by those who profess to love them. Or when we advocate for migrant farm workers and others who are abused in their jobs.


 

And thanks be to God, Jesus also leads us out from the places where wayward sheep wander because they get distracted or want to go their own way. To lead us out from the things that attack us and into the green pastures and beside the still waters.


 

And Jesus leads us out by going before us. Like one who makes tracks in the snow for us to follow- to know exactly where to put our feet, to make the road easier for us and ensure that we won’t get lost. He leads us out by teaching us the good ways that lead to life.


 

By teaching us to forgive those who don’t deserve it. By teaching us welcome the stranger even when we fear them. By teaching us to love in the face of evil. And teaching us how to suffer, if we must, for the sake of working for justice and love for our brothers and sisters.


 

 

Jesus walks the road ahead of us- walking through the dangers before us so that he can be the one to bring us through. So that he can bring us to life abundant. And thanks be to God for that.

 

Categories: sermon

Post a Comment

Oops!

Oops, you forgot something.

Oops!

The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In

2 Comments

Reply RichardBut
5:34 PM on July 31, 2017 
Удалим негативные отзывы о Вас и Ваших товарах и услугах!, разместим положительные!
Привлечем клиентов новым эфективным способом и дешевле чем яндекс директ и гугл адвордс.Только целевой трафик и Только для Вашего сайта!
Снимем видеотзывы о Ваших товарах и услугах!
Прежде чем купить товар или услугу люди читают отзывы!
Разошлем инофрмацию по более чем 150 000 доскам объявлений.
Если Вас заинтерисовало данное предложение напишите нам [email protected] и мы обсудим всем детали и обменяемся контактами!
Если Вы не хотите получать больше письма от нас отправьте нам письмо с темой "Отписаться от рассылки"
и мы больше Вас не побеспоким!
Reply VirgilChamn
6:02 AM on August 5, 2017