Jul 9th: A Commission for Compassion, with Rev. Larry Porter.
A Part of the Series:
A Commission for Compassion with Rev. Larry Porter. Series: One Thing A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 25:31-46.
Join us Sunday as our guest Rev. Larry Porter asks how we might answer Christ’s call to serve others as we serve Jesus, through compassion and service. Our faith inspires welcoming all people with equal dignity. Together, we are called to transcend divisions and spread hope. Discover a faith not bound by borders, a faith that transforms lives to transform our world. We ask how we might become God’s heart, hands and feet.
Hi, my name is Larry Porter, I am a retired Presbyterian minister for 34 years service was privileged to go to three different churches had wonderful experiences there, went to seminary in San Francisco and graduated, and have served with many, many people who’ve reminded me how important it is to realize that the church isn’t the person who stands in the pulpit. But it’s the whole body of Christ in that congregation that comes together and finds a way to work together, reaching out into the community. So today, I want to focus not simply on the role of leaders, but more importantly, on the roll that each one of us you and I together have one we find a way to touch the community, where people say afterwards they really cared. They had compassion for us. It’s a joy to be with you, this time to share in the Word of God. As the waves of astonish people from Jericho crashed into the waves of expectant people from Jerusalem, the resulting crust lifted Jesus up and catapulted him through that psalm doors of the holy city in triumph. What would he say? And do next? Meanwhile, the Jewish authorities began to plot the arrest and death of Jesus saying, it is better for one man to die than for all of us to perish. The Roman officials wondered if this would be the start of yet another bloody revolt by the Jews, they would have to put down. What Jesus knew, and they couldn’t comprehend was that this would be his last six days of life and ministry, before he would be rejected by the same people who cheered him, condemned by the Jewish authorities, and put to death by the Roman captors. It would be his final opportunity to teach his disciples their core truths and give them their marching orders for after he was taken away.
So his words and deeds in this final week are especially important to us today. Mark 1228 to 34 says, When the scribes went to Jesus during the argument with the Sadducees, he saw how well Jesus answered them. And so he asked him, which commandment is more important of them all? Jesus answered, the most important is listen Israel, the LORD our God is the only Lord. So Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second most important commandment is this. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. No other commandment is greater than these. The scribe said to Jesus, teacher, that was well said, You’ve told the truth, that there is only one God and no other besides Him, to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus heard how wisely the man answered, He told the man, you’re not too far from the kingdom of God. After that, no one dared to ask him another question.
On the first day after his triumphant entry, the authority tried the authorities tried to use trick questions to bring him down. But Jesus has answers, lifted them up, and lifted up the deep truth of God. The plot to destroy him began in earnest with an expert in Jewish law, I asked him knowing that there were 613 Different laws that had to be fulfilled. What is the most important Jewish commandment? Jesus amazed everyone with his answer. He quoted Two Old Testament scriptures in a brand new way. First, he quoted Deuteronomy six four through five. Listen, Israel, the LORD our God is truly one God. You shall love the Lord your God, with all of your heart, soul and strength. This was the central creed of Judaism, and was faithfully recited by every Jew every morning and evening. The second quote came from Leviticus 1918. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. These two very familiar passages for the very heart of the Jewish faith, and captured the focus of the law and the prophets. The vertical mech command links us to God, while the horizontal command links us to one another, and together they form a perfect cross.
They’re linking heaven and earth. They not only epitomize the law and the prophets, but as Jesus promised, they fulfill them. They are God’s great commandment to us to be the kind of covenant community that works, and would be worthy of being called that universal body of Christ. This is God’s goal for the church. And for each of us as Christians, the legal experts said, You are right, do this is better than to offer animals or sacrifice. Jesus commended him saying, Go and do this. And you will be okay.
Matthew 25, verses 31 through 46, Jesus lays out the plan. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him, he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right, and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right Come, my father has blessed you inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me. Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him. Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? Or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see was a stranger and take you into our homes? Or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? The King will answer them. I can guarantee this truth. Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed you did for me. Then the King will say to those on his left, get away from me. God has cursed you go into everlasting father was prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes. And you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me. They too will ask Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you? He will answer them. I can guarantee this truth. Whenever you fail to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you fail to do for me. These people will go away into eternal punishment. But those with God’s approval will go into eternal life.
It was just two days later, Jesus gave them for the plan for how they were to live in that badly divided cruel world under Roman persecution. Now that they had the grand design, it was time for them to receive the grand plan that would do such a monumental task. Matthew 25 is a set of three parables dealing with being prepared fully using your talents that you’ve been given and reaching out to those in need. In today’s reading, Jesus speaks about the time when each of us will stand before the throne of God be held responsible for what we have done or not done in our lives. This theme of accountability runs throughout the Old Testament, especially in the prophets. And it is clear this central theme in this passage. This is how we are to act as the church through whom he continues to reach out into the world. The different groups he lists, the hungry, the sick, the grieving the poor, the prisoners, they were all too common in Roman occupied Judea in his time. But Jesus also knew that his followers would suffer all of these things during the persecutions that were to follow. He is not only telling them how to act in the first century, but he’s also telling the church that the way they reach out to the world in his name was show their true faithfulness. James challenges us saying, you tell me about your faith with your words, but I will show you my faith by my actions. Without actions, words are useless. As Christians settled into new towns, their neighbors quickly noticed the differences in the way they acted. Showing Hi more Oral character treating women, the poor and slaves with dignity, loving one another and reaching out to those in need. These actions were so much better than the world they knew that they came back to listen to their words about Jesus teachings and his life. And many believe this is not a call for works righteousness.
But it is a call for righteous works. In the fourth century AD, a Roman officer by the name of Martin of Tours, came to a city one night in the dead of winter. As he came to the gates he saw a poor beggar sitting there, crying out alms for the poor alms for the poor. Martin stopped, looked at the beggar and said, I don’t have anything I can give you. But I can do this. He took off his old worn ready looking cloak, and he cut it in half, gave half the cloak to the beggar, and kept the other half for himself as he went inside. That night, when Martin laid down and went to bed and fell asleep, he had a dream. In that dream, Martin saw a throne room, Royal and regal. And on that in that throne room was a throne, on which Jesus said, When the nations or one of the angels came to Jesus and said, Lord, why are you wearing such a ratty torn up, torn old cloak like that? Jesus said, It was a gift.
And he just said, Who in their right mind would give you half of a cloak that is torn and ripped and soiled and nasty? Who would do that? Jesus said, Martin, of tours, my brother Martin put into action. what so many of us only talking about you saw someone in need, and he reached out. The first time Diane and I came to First Presbyterian Church and Ben, were immediately impressed by the warm welcome that we received. I believe you can tell within the first 10 minutes of visiting a new church. Whether or not you might want to return to it is simply depends on how you’re welcomed. This church strives to be a Matthew 25 congregation, we welcome people into worship. And we reach out to touch this community, here and beyond. There are about 70 Different groups using our facility in one way or another during the week. We are a congregation who is known as a church that cares about and celebrates all people. It doesn’t stop at our doors. loving our neighbors is clearly seen here. And I was deeply impressed by the church’s global outreach emphasis. Today, we celebrate our outreach to our brothers and sisters in Burundi, as ever as shared with us earlier, through our partnership together. So very much has been accomplished in these last eight years to help three boardwalk communities become more self sustaining, and self reliant. bobois people now have citizenship papers, giving them the rights to health care and other rights of life. The bobois children now attend school and uniforms with backpacks and are being accepted as peers. Crops are being harvested three times every year, bringing beans, potatoes, corn and rice to the table, providing good nutrition. Education is a top priority of almost 300 children in school. HUD homes are being replaced with new brick houses. But the work is not done. We’re continuing our partnership. And there are so many other ways we can support this amazing effort bringing joy, contentment and hope to our friends at Burundi. Jesus has no other physical body in this world of except ours. We are his eyes. We are his ears. We are his heart. We are his hands, and we are his feet. When we give ourselves to serve others, we show them that Jesus is in us and we are all blessed.