6/30/02, P6A

“The Least, the Last and the Lost”
Matthew 10: 40-42

hank God we are free! Free to pay taxes and stop at red lights. Free to come to church. Free to travel to any beach we want to this summer. Free to pay thirty-seven cents for a first class postage stamp or to pay our bills and write letters on the internet. We are also free, for a while anyway, to repeat the words, "Under God," as we recite our Pledge of Allegiance. Actually, we are free to continue to include God when we say it in our churches even if the San Francisco judges make us leave it out at public events. English actress Lynn Redgrave said her concern is if it all spills over into England, "Who will we ask to save the Queen?" As in, "God save the Queen!"

We are a free people Under God, and are glad of it! We Americans have always wanted to share our freedom with everybody else. Our family has snaked its way up the narrow spiral stairwell to the torch in Lady Liberty's outstretched right arm. There we gazed out over New York Harbor where many of our forefathers first saw the welcome mat of freedom in America. Below, just underneath her sandals, is a broken shackle symbolizing the overthrow of tyranny. We read the poem, "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, which says in part:

"Give me you're tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

When this poem was placed there, in 1903, there was a fantastic spirit of hope in our United States. Good times prevailed to the point that some theologians thought that we might just bring in the millennium of peace through politics. The Wright brothers Methodist Bishop father told them that they could never fly, but the bicycle repairmen did it anyway. In that era of hope, many of the churches taught that it was our manifest destiny to bind up our brothers and sisters wounds, to extend the helping hand and to be a good neighbor. We had learned this from our Savior and we had a vision of reaching the whole world for Jesus.

In his own time, Jesus set the world spinning in a new direction by proclaiming that every person is our neighbor. What a wonderful world it would be if every person acted that way.

The word "neighbor" had formerly been used in the Old Testament to refer to fellow Israelites. What a wonderful place Palestine would be if modern Jews could come to think of their Arab co-inhabitants of our ancient Holy Land as neighbors. And what if Palestinian Arabs could begin to see Jews as human beings who are their neighbors and thus, worthy of life?

In the New Testament, Jesus extended the concept of Neighbor to include segregated Samaritans. (Lk. 10: 29-37) In our Gospel text for today, we hear Jesus extend the concept of "Neighbor" to everyone, even the least person in society.

This revolutionary new social concept has resulted in world wide charity efforts by the Church and by extended religious organizations. Humanitarian groups such as, "Doctors Without Borders," and even the government sponsored "Peace Corps," have their roots in the concept that all human life is sacred. Methodism has established thousands of hospitals, homes and educational institutions world wide because we hold dear this high concept of the dignity, sacredness and value of human life.

Relatively recent innovations such as the ease of world travel and electronic communications have aided in the breaking down of barriers like language, cultural differences and have helped us understand each other's religious differences. But standing paramount in this march toward equal justice for all is the clarion claim of "The Man of Galilee"-- that all of us are brothers and sisters.

What an even more wonderful world it would be if Christians could find a way to reach everybody everywhere with the Good News that God loves us all as sacred individuals and wants us to experience the joy of salvation; No longer slaves to sin, but free to live life in all of its fullness.

It has not been that Jesus has filled us up so much as he has changed our notions about fullness. We used to think that what we needed was more toys, but along the way we have learned that what we really need is more of Him.

We have received more of Him by engaging more in the ancient Christian disciplines of worship, prayer and Bible study. In recent years we have grown in our faith through spiritual growth weekends, Lay Witness Missions, television ministries and within the United Methodist Church over two-million believers have taken at least one DISCIPLE Bible Study. However, one of the most freeing things that has happened to Christianity in America has been the overcoming of bitter spiritual/emotional deep held feelings of racial prejudice. This has removed many conflicting moral struggles within people's hearts and has enabled us to get beyond race hate and the guilt, acknowledge or suppressed, that prevented spiritual growth. Indeed, in today's world persons are finally able to be each other's equals in Christ's Church, and in society. Thus, we are drawing closer to Jesus' teachings of brotherhood/sisterhood. Our American precept of "One Nation Under God," and "United We Stand," have finally begun
Our challenge is to become an ambassador for Christ to the Least, the Last, and to the Lost. May the Good News of God's love, and our love, bring the whole world to Him!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

6/30/02, P6A