Sermons

Summary:

Jesus did two things that turned the major institutions of his day against him:

First, he pointed to the real condition of the institutions of his time: In Matthew 23:13-32 he says, "How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You travel across land and sea to find one person who will change to your ways. When you find that person, you make him more fit for hell than you are. How terrible for You! You guide the people, but you are blind. You say, 'If people swear by the Temple when they make a promise, that means nothing. But if they swear by the gold that is in the Temple, they must keep that promise.' You are blind fools! ...How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You give to God one-tenth of everything you earn - even your mint, dill, and cumin. But you don't obey the really important teachings of the law - justice, mercy, and being loyal. These are the things you should do, as well as those other things. You guide the people, but you are blind! You are like a person w!

ho picks a fly out of a drink and then swallows a camel! How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, but inside they are full of things you got by cheating others and by pleasing only yourselves. Pharisees, you are blind! First make the inside of the cup clean, and then the outside of the cup can be truly clean. How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You are like tombs that are painted white. Outside, those tombs look fine, but inside, they are full of the bones of dead people and all kinds of unclean things. It is the same with you. People look at you and think you are good, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and evil. How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets, and you show honor to the graves of those who lived good lives. You say, 'If we had lived during the time of our ancestors, we would not have helped them kill the prophets.' But you give proof that you are children of those who murdered the prophets. And you will complete the sin that your ancestors started. You are snakes! A family of poisonous snakes! How are you going to escape God's judgment?" The church leaders turned against Jesus because he exposed their idealized version of reality which was that theirs was the only true church which God would bless.

The second thing Jesus did was to point to the ideal of the Kingdom of God. The political leaders turned against him because his idealism was dangerous to their idealized reality, which was that the Roman Empire was the greatest empire that ever was and ever would be.

Realists idealize the real and are the ideal idealists. Idealists realize the ideal and are the real realists.

We don't usually execute idealists who make us as uncomfortable as Jesus made the institutions of his day. We just dismiss them with pejoratives like "radical" or "extremist" or "crazy" or, in our kinder moments, with "Oh, the idealism of youth. They'll be more realistic when they grow up."

So, what does all this about idealizing the real and realizing the ideal have to do with integrity? Let me ask you this - Who had integrity: the institutional leaders who built their lives around an idealized reality or Jesus who sacrificed Himself to realize the ideal of the Kingdom of God?

Let me ask you another question: Do we have integrity as individuals and as a church?

We build our individual and institutional lives around the 5 P's of human pursuit - Prosperity, Pleasure, Power, Prestige and Prominence.

The world defines prosperity as "The one who dies with the most toys wins" to which God says, "If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me. Those who want to save their lives will give up true life. But those who give up their lives for me and for the Good News will have true life. It is worth nothing for them to have the whole world if they lose their souls."

The world defines pleasure as "If it feels good, do it" to which God says, "Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you what you want."

The world defines power as "I'm in the drivers seat and the bigger the engine I control the better" to which God says, "'My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.' I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ's power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong."

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