Thursday, July 31, 2008

Matthew 15:1-20 - Clean Hands, Clean Heart?

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward

August 3, 2008

In my home country, the USA, it’s very common to see signs in public bathrooms that say: “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” I generally feel good about that.

But this week I saw a picture of a different sign. It has detailed instructions on how to wash hands: “1. Wet, 2. Soap, 3. Wash, 4. Rinse, 5. Dry, 6. Turn water off.” This sign does not make me feel good. It makes me wonder what kind of people this restaurant has hired, people who need a step-by-step guide to wash their hands.

Then, I saw this cartoon. I hope you can read it. The first sign says, “Employees must wash hands.” Then, the second sign says, “Non-employees really ought to wash their hands, too.” I like that.

In today’s story, Jesus gets in trouble because his disciples – or his “employees” – don’t wash their hands before sitting down to eat.

Let’s read the story in Matthew 15:1-20.

I like playing poker. I used to have a regular poker night with my friends from university. I think our church should have a charity poker tournament sometime. All we need is someone to plan it. (Talk to me later if you’re interested.) One of the best parts of poker is raising the bet. I love to push in a pile of chips and watch the other players squirm and try to decide whether they should stay in. This conversation is kind of like a poker game, there are several rounds of betting.

The Pharisees start off by making a big bet. They are betting that Jesus won’t openly defy the traditions of the elders. Every good Jew obeyed the elders, and the elder’s said you have to wash your hands before meals.

Eating a meal was a sacred event, and it was important to be ceremonially clean before eating. This whole “clean” and “unclean” thing was huge for Jews. It was all about being separate from everything that was dirty, or sinful, or common, or non-Jewish. Holiness was expressed by separateness.

Before any meal, there were water jars ready for hand washing. The minimum amount of water to use was enough to fill one and a half egg shells. First, you hold your hands together with the fingertips pointing up, and pour water over the hands starting at the fingertips. The water must get all the way to the wrist or you’re still unclean. Then, you turn your hands the other way, and let the water run down to your fingertips. If it doesn’t go all the way, you’re not clean. Then, you rub your hands on your fists. If any of the water from your hands got into the water jar, the whole jar was unclean, and you had to get new water. The super-strict Jews did all of this several times throughout the meal.

The Pharisees start out the betting using the big chips. The big shots came from Jerusalem to confront Jesus about this. Jesus has quarreled with the Pharisees about the rules relating to the Sabbath (the day of rest). But, those were just the local leaders. In this passage, people are coming in from the head office. It would be kind of like the President of KNU stepping into my English classroom to question what I’m teaching the students. This is a BIG deal!

Why is it a big deal? Because Jesus is rocking the boat. Generation after generation have passed down these oral rules, and Jesus is casting them aside. Who does he think he is?! If this rule goes, what’s next? Something had to be done! The Pharisees are betting that Jesus will back down or else be discredited before the people.

Jesus calls their bet and raises the bet. He says: “Hey, get over yourselves. Your traditions aren’t as important as you think they are. And, by the way, your traditions aren’t as good as you think they are. Your traditions actually get in the way of obeying and worshiping God.”

Then, Jesus raises the bet again. He says these religious leaders are actually a bunch of fakes – hypocrites – stage actors, people putting on a show for others. To make it even worse, he quotes Isaiah, saying that their whole system of worship is fake. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce.”

This is HUGE! No wonder they killed him!

But even that isn’t enough for Jesus. He raises the bet again! First, Jesus calls the crowd over and makes sure everyone is listening. Then, he says that what goes in your mouth doesn’t make you dirty (or unclean). What comes out of your mouth makes you dirty (or unclean).

Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound right. I remember something about clean and unclean foods in the Old Testament.

Let’s read Leviticus 11:1-23.

OK, folks, most bugs are out – no roaches or ants, but you can eat all the locusts you want!

But seriously, you need to get this. Jesus says none of these rules we just read really matter. This is HUGE! Jesus is wiping away a thousand years of traditions. Jesus is basically cutting out almost two whole chapters of the Bible - nearly all of Leviticus 11 and 2/3 of Deuteronomy 14. Eating the right kinds of foods was and still is a big, big deal for Jews.

During all of this, the disciples are sort of standing on the side with their mouths hanging open, cringing at every word: “Oh, I can’t believe he just said that! Did he just call them hypocrites? Oh, no, he didn’t just throw Isaiah at the Pharisees?”

They step into the middle of the poker game and call a time out: “Um … excuse us Jesus … you were maybe getting a little carried away there … Do you realize that you offended the Pharisees?” (And the word for “offended” is “scandalized.”) “Do you know that you just caused a scandal?” The Pharisees were the most religious people around. They were the heroes of the people, but Jesus just stuck his tongue out at them and called them losers.

Jesus “goes all in.” He pushes in all his chips. “Yeah, so what. They are weeds in God’s garden, and God is going to pull them out by the roots.”

What? The Sunday School teachers are weeds? The Bible experts are trash God is going to throw away? Woah!

Jesus keeps going: “They are blind guides. If you follow them, you’re all going to end up in the ditch together, dirty and lost.” Yikes! That’s pretty harsh. Maybe true, but harsh.

Peter seems a little lost. He says, “Um, Jesus, could you explain to us that ‘parable’ again? What were you trying to say when you said ‘people aren’t made unclean by what they eat’?” For Jews this was a basic fact. Unclean food makes you unclean. Peter seems to think this is another one of Jesus’ difficult parables. He can’t be saying what it sounds like he’s saying.

Jesus says, “Oy vay! Look guys, food just becomes poop. Your body gets what it needs and flushes it away. It doesn’t change who you are. It doesn’t change what God thinks of you. It doesn’t say anything about your heart.

“On the other hand, what you say and do is important. What you say and do reveals who you really are. What you say and do flows out from your heart. Worry about the big stuff, the 10 Commandments kind of stuff. Don’t get all tied up in the little nit-picky rules. They don’t change anything.”

The disciples still didn’t get it. An angel had to appear to Peter in a dream years later, for Jesus’ disciples to really get this message.

Read Acts 10:9-36

The rules about unclean foods and unclean people were roadblocks in the path of God. Some of the very rules of the Bible had become barriers to God. God’s people were so worried about being contaminated, becoming unclean, that they couldn’t really function as God’s people. They couldn’t go out into the world and tell people about God’s love and grace because they were always worried that their clean, nicely pressed religious clothes would get stained and dirty. They couldn’t help the people who needed it most because they were too afraid to offend God by breaking the rules. God had to take drastic action to set his people on the right path again.

What’s the point? What’s the point of all this? God wants our hearts not our rules. God cares about our hearts. What matters most to God? Love God. Love people. Are we loving God and loving people? If not, then nothing else really matters. It doesn’t matter how good you are at keeping the rules. It does matter how good you are at loving people.

Jesus is saying that holiness – or godliness – is not being separate from sinners and from the dirt of our world. Holiness is being so full of love that loving actions flow out of our hearts. God wants our hearts, so that our lives will put God’s love into action.

What about us? How do we fit in here? How does this story apply to our lives?

First of all, we need to slow down and consider the possibility that we are on the wrong side of the line here. There was once a Sunday School class that studied Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:10-14). The Pharisee said, “Thank you Lord that I’m not like that sinful tax collector.” The tax collector said, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” After a long discussion, the teacher closed in prayer: “Lord thank you that we are not like this Pharisee.”[1]

It is easy for us to point our fingers at those judgmental legalists over there. It’s easy to forget that we have our own sets of rules that we expect people to follow if they are “good Christians.” We have spoken and unspoken rules about lots of things that aren’t so clear: membership, giving, quiet time, the right kind of music (inside and outside of church), alcohol, tobacco, beliefs, clothes, church attendance.

Let me tell you a story about one of those. About 10 years ago, I started attending a new church, and one of the greeters there was named Bob. Bob was a great guy. He had a heart of gold, but he was pretty rough looking. He was overweight. His hair was curly and kind of went every-which-way, except where he was balding. He chewed tobacco, so his teeth were yellow, in addition to being crooked. Bob often wore a hat supporting NASCAR, a t-shirt, and blue jean shorts – even in the winter. And Bob was a mechanic, so his clothes often had grease stains on them.

But every Sunday, Bob would be standing outside the school where our church met. As soon as we got out of our cars, Bob would wave to us and smile his big, yellow smile. Rain or shine, hot or cold, Bob was always there, welcoming people to come and worship together.

At first, I wasn’t too happy about this. I thought surely they could find somebody better to be the first person we met every Sunday morning. Surely there was somebody who was cleaner or more attractive.

After a year or so, I invited my cousins to come to church with me, but they said they couldn’t come because they didn’t have anything nice to wear. Our little social rule of dressing up for church had become a barrier for my cousins to come to God.

That’s when I started appreciating Bob. As soon as my cousins saw Bob, they would know that they could fit in at this church. Bob was like a walking billboard: “Everyone is welcome here!”

It’s so easy for us to look at the outside. It’s so easy for us to focus on the little things people do or don’t do. But for Jesus, it’s all about the heart. Keeping the rules, and doing everything by the book, won’t get us very far with God. God wants our heart not our rules.

Focus on the basics: Love God and love people. This week (today if possible) do ONE thing to show love to someone you wouldn’t normally show love to. Maybe there’s someone around you who breaks your rules, someone you would normally count out and stay away from. This week, one way you can follow Jesus is to do something real and practical to show that person God’s love.

Maybe this song will help us understand what Jesus is talking about. It’s called, “Enough.”

I’ve had enough of

Playing church

Just pretending

Singing without living

Arrogance and elegance

Pushing people out

Forgetting what life’s all about.

I’ve had enough.

I want no more.

More than enough.

We’ve had enough.

We want no more.

But I’ll never get enough of

Total honesty

Sacrificial love

True humility

Laughter and grace

Joy that’s real

Friendship that heals.

I’ll never get enough

Of the Father’s love

Of Jesus’ life

Of the Spirit’s power

Every minute, every hour,

I’ll never get enough of You.

God, give us more of You.

Make us real.

Make us true.

Make us free.

God, give us more of you.

I can’t get enough.

I want more.

More than enough.

We can’t get enough.

We want more.

God, give us more of you.

God, we’ll never get enough of You.

God, give us more of you.

[1] Douglas Hare, Matthew, Interpretation, (Louisville, KY, USA: John Knox, 1993), 175.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Family Update

OK, so here's the latest scoop on our family.

Emma handled the return to Korea pretty well. Her teacher at her preschool said she was speaking in English for the first few days. Emma's Korean returned to normal just in time for summer vacation. The school is closed for two weeks in the summer and winter.
On Tuesday morning, Emma came into our bed for a little while. When it was time to get up, she said, "I think I need to throw up." Sarah rushed her to the bathroom just in time for Emma to puke in the sink. Emma spent most of Tuesday either puking or sleeping. Our friend Helene got the unsavory task of cleaning up after Emma while we were at English Camp. Today, Wednesday, Emma seems to have gotten over the vomiting, but she still slept most of the day. Around 3pm, she started to show life again, and she felt good enough to request McDonalds for supper.

Sarah and I are working at KNU's Summer English Camp. It's actually kind of fun. In the afternoon today, I helped with the sports festival. We had all kinds of relays (balls, hula hoops, human wheel barrels), and the kids and adults had lots of fun watching the chaos of colliding balls and bodies. Good laughs all around there.
Sarah is busy administering her annual makeover to our home that follows our trip to the USA. Every year, she buys some new material or other decorative touches, always under the guidance of her artsy sister Elizabeth. She has installed some new shelves, and she is planning new pillows for the couch and new curtains for our room.

My back pain is back. Sunday night, when I was laying down to go to sleep, suddenly shooting pain went from my left shoulder blade to my neck. This is very similar to what happened this winter, so I decided to take action immediately. I went to the doctor on Monday morning, and she said it's probably just a muscle problem. Unfortunately, it is likely to recur. She prescribed some muscle relaxers, and she said regular stretching will help. There's no more shooting pain, but I'm still stiff.
I recently found out about the fall soccer tournament for Nazarene "youth" in Korea. Here "youth" is defined as anyone under 30, so I still qualify. We're trying to field a team from our church, and some of my buddies from pool night might also play. The first game is in late August. I'll keep you posted.

Also, Sarah, and I just finished reading Open House by Elizabeth Berg. It was an Oprah Book Club book, but we weren't overly satisfied. The basic story is that the lead character's husband moves out and files for divorce. In the process, she has to rediscover who she really is. She makes some new friends and tries some new things and grows quite a lot amid all the grieving. The biggest downer for us was that when her husband tried to reconcile, she spurned him (based on her newfound self-knowledge and confidence). However, at times, the writing was excellent, especially in getting at the emotions of the lead character. It was so realistic that I wonder if the author wasn't being autobiographical occasionally. I'll give it 3j's. It was OK, but not great.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Death of Ivan Ilych - Tolstoy

This week, when I was picking up my commentaries for Matthew from the KNU library, I chanced upon The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. I wasn't too excited about a book solely about the death of the main character, but I picked it up because I'm trying to read as much of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as I can. Also, it is only 70 pages, so I though it would make for a quick read.
It was a quick read. I'm already done, after only a few hours of reading.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the book. It was actually not as depressing as a book about death might appear to be.
It is basically the account of a man who reassesses his life in the face of death. In a beautiful scene at the end of the book he finally admits that living by societies standards does not actually qualify for a good life, and that all along he had been suppressing his subtle inclinations to go against the flow of society and do the right thing even if it was not quite the "proper" or "decorous" thing.
When he finally repents to his wife and to God, he finds piece on the door stoop of death. And, a bit axiomatically, moves toward the light - which, in the book, is not nearly as cheesy as it sounds here.
At about half way through, I decided that this would be a great book to use as required reading for a pastoral counseling class. It kind of gives an insider's look (though admittedly fictional) of death, something none of us has ever experienced.
I'm at odds about whether to give it 4J's or 5J's, but I'll give it 4J's. It is very short, and all though it was entertaining and moving. It wasn't fabulous.

Scrabble, Scrabbulous, and the New World

This week I started playing Scrabbulous (an online version of Scrabble) on Facebook with my sister, and I'm planning games with my grandma, my mom, and some friends. Yes, that's right, both my Mom and my Grandma are on Facebook, but I'm still using Sarah's Facebook ID.
Scrabble was the game of choice at my grandparents' house when I was growing up. Now with this online version, we can play with people who are far away, and we don't have to wait on each other to figure out their own plays.
It's great, and a lot of other people think so, too. Some 2,000,000 people have registered to play this game on Facebook, and 500,000 play it every day.
Scrabbulous was invented by a pair of Indian brothers, and the owners of Scrabble are not happy! The game has small advertisements that attach to the screen when you play, so with that much play, they are raking it it.
See this article for the basic facts.
And see this article by a techie online magazine for a new-world, post-modern perspective. The rules are changing.

It seems to me like innovation is changing all the way around, and this is just a classic example.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Matthew 14:22-33 - Walking on Chaos

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward

July 27, 2008

Last week, we studied the story of Jesus making a miracle out of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed 5,000 people (or 15,000 depending on how you count). Part of the core Christian message is that we ourselves are the raw material for miracles. God can take any one of us and do something amazing.

Today, we read the story of someone who accepted that challenge.

Let’s read Matthew 14:22-33.

v. 22: So Jesus just finished feeding thousands of people with one Happy Meal. This would be a pretty cool miracle anywhere, but in Israel under Roman domination, food was sometimes hard to come by. Naturally, the people are pretty excited about this new leader who can produce banquets.

When John tells the story, he says the people were ready to make Jesus king by force (John 6:15). “You don’t want to be the Messiah? Too bad! We need somebody like you!”

Jesus sends the disciples away. At this point in the story, they were probably ready to make Jesus the King and start the revolution, too. Maybe Jesus just can’t handle fighting against them, too.

So Jesus puts them on a slow boat to Gennesaret and dismisses the crowd. I wonder how he got them all to go home. Who would want to leave a guy who can pull pizzas out of his pockets? Maybe he used something like “the force” from Star Wars, “You want to go home now. You do not want to stay.” Who knows?

v. 23: But Jesus finally got to go up the mountain and have some quiet time with God. Let me just make a side note here. If even Jesus needed some quiet time to talk with God, don’t you think that you and I probably need it, too.

v. 24: Meanwhile, back on the slow boat to Gennesaret, the disciples are having trouble. The Greek text says the waves were harassing or torturing the boat. Those are some pretty mean waves!

This would be kind of bad and scary for any of us. Maybe we would lean over the side of the boat, and our stomachs would toss up that miraculous meal from Jesus. But to really understand how this would have felt for the disciples, we need to do a little history work.

Remember the beginning of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). The earth without God’s presence was a dark and chaotic sea. Sound familiar?

The biblical story pictures God literally forming the earth’s foundations atop the sea – holding back the chaos with the land. Land and sea are symbols of a constant struggle between order and chaos. Remember our Call to Worship: “You set a firm boundary for the seas, so they would never again cover the earth” (Psalm 104:9).

Israel’s neighbors had stories of ancient gods rising out of the roaring oceans to do battle with each other. It was common belief that the seas and oceans, as the symbols of evil and chaos, were the homes of demons and spirits and ghosts. The sea was the doorstep of hell. (Think Davey Jones’ Locker times 1,000.)

So, when the disciples get stuck in a roaring wind, and their boat is tortured by the waves, this is a big deal. It is as if the deep, dark forces of evil are stirring up to suck them down to the place of the dead.

v. 25 Then, Jesus comes walking toward them on the water. Now, I want to ask questions like: Did Jesus have to walk up and down the waves? Or did the waves make kind of a smooth path where he was walking? Did the splashing of the waves make him all wet, or was he miraculously dry with his hair flapping in the stormy wind like a romance movie?

But, this is more than just a cool magic trick. This is a deep symbol, an enacted parable, a living drama. Jesus is walking on the sea! Jesus is walking across the roaring, foaming symbol of chaos and evil! There’s nothing but Jesus and the dark demons of the deep, and Jesus walks across the face of evil, grinding his heals as he goes. In the Jewish world, this would have been one of the supreme symbols of Jesus dominance over the powers of evil.

This symbol gets even more interesting, though. Jesus walks in dominant defiance over evil, but he allows evil to continue to rage. There is Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee during a wild storm. The wind is howling. The rain is falling in sheets. The waves are crashing all around him, lifting him up and down. He has the power to stop it all (as we’ll see later), but he just walks through it. Instead of immediately eliminating the symbols and signs and expressions of evil, Jesus walks through the heart of chaos with dominant power and continues to let chaos rage.

v. 26 The disciples, however, are not immediately convinced of all of these theological truths. Their first thought is: “Ghost!” This is completely natural for them, right? They’re on the sea. This is where they believe the ghosts and demons live. Something is out there in the storm – must be a ghost (or worse)!

v. 27 Immediately, Jesus says, “Chill out, boys. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

v. 28 The disciples are unconvinced. I mean, how many times have you seen your Sunday School teacher or pastor walking across the water on a stormy night? They think this might be some kind of demonic trick.

This summer lots of people from my mom’s side of the family were visiting my grandparents in Arkansas. We all stayed in a hotel because there just wasn’t enough room at my grandparents’ house. At night the adults would stay up talking and playing games, and some the kids stayed in the room watching TV or sleeping. My uncle was very clear with his 10 year old son, Isaac, “Do not open the door for anyone but your mom or me!”

When he came back after a while and knocked on the door, Isaac asked, “Who is it?”

My uncle said, “It’s your father.”

Isaac said, “What’s your last name?” My uncle thought that was pretty smart.

An hour or so later, my aunt came to the door, and it was the same routine. “Who is it?”

“It’s your mother.”

New question this time: “What did we have for lunch?”

She was not quite as patient: “Let me in Isaac, right now.”

Peter decides to ask an identifying question, kind of like when you have to call your bank. “What’s your mother’s maiden name? What was the name of your pet when you were 12 years old?” But Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

That’s a pretty strange security question! “If it’s really you, tell me to jump into this deep, swirling mass of evil. Then, I’ll know you’re really Jesus.” Huh?

Again, we have to do a little history work here. Way back in the spring, we talked about what it meant to become a disciple. A disciple was not just a student learning from the rabbi. Ray Van der Lan, a scholar of Jewish history, explains that a disciple “wants to be like the teacher, that is to become what the teacher is.” As the rabbi taught, the disciples “listened and watched and imitated so as to become like him.”[1] A rabbi only accepted someone as a disciple if he actually believed this kid could be like him. Peter wants to be exactly like his rabbi and do everything his rabbi does, so he says, “Me, too. Me, too, Jesus. Command me to be like you, and I’ll know you’re my rabbi.”

v. 29 Jesus says simply, “Come.” No words of advice. No helpful hints. Just, “Come.”

And Peter climbs out of the boat. I wish I could see that! Did he kind of jump full of confidence? Or did he sit on the edge and try to barely touch the water with his feet? Did he give a few push tests too see if his feet would go in? Once he got up on the water and started walking, what did it feel like? I imagine it felt kind of like Jell-O or those little jelly candies here in Korea – kind of wobbly but firm enough to stand on.

So there’s Peter, walking on the water, and the storm continues to rage. The waves are rolling, and the wind is blowing, and Peter is standing with his Rabbi in dominant defiance of the forces of chaos and evil. Again, notice that the chaos doesn’t go away just because Peter obeyed Jesus. Peter walks with Jesus into the face of chaos.

v. 30 Peter’s doing great … walking on water … being a miracle … he’s part of the living drama of Jesus defeating chaos. Until … he starts to look around at all of this chaos: “Boy, that wind is strong – kind of have to lean into it. Holy cow, these waves are big! Somehow they look bigger without the boat!” Then, suddenly, slowly, his courage fades. His faith turns to doubt, and he starts sinking in to the water.

So what was Peter doubting? Peter didn’t loose faith in Jesus or Jesus’ ability to walk on water. Jesus was standing there right in front of him practically dancing on the waves. Peter didn’t doubt Jesus.

Peter doubted himself! Peter doubted that he could be like Jesus. “What am I doing out here? I can’t walk on water!” Peter didn’t doubt Jesus. Peter doubted that he – Peter, the fisherman - could be filled with the power of Jesus. He was fully confident that Jesus could save him (Lord, save me!), but he didn’t believe Jesus could empower him.

v. 31 Jesus reaches out immediately and grabs Peter. Then most English translations say something like, “O, you of little faith! Why did you doubt?” I’m not a Greek scholar, but I wonder if a better interpretation would be more gentle: “You’re a beginner at faith, that’s why you doubted.”

Either way, the important point is that Jesus didn’t reject Peter just because he had doubts. Despite our doubt or failures, Jesus is there reaching out his hand to pull us up every time we need him.

v. 32 With the waves still raging and the wind still blowing, Jesus and Peter climb back into the boat while it rocks up and down. But as soon as they get in the boat, everything stops. The wind stops. The waves stop. All is at peace.

v. 33 And the disciples say, “Woah! Woah! You really are the Son of God!” And they worship him.

OK, so what about us? Where are we in this story? How is this story in our lives?

It’s pretty easy to identify the times when we are in the boat and the storm is raging around us. We’re rowing against the wind, and progress is slow. Problems with our marriage, problems at work, problems with our kids, cancer, knee trouble, back trouble, too much debt and not enough money, too much work and not enough time, too much food and not enough exercise (me!). Not to mention the bigger world problems that seem far away for most of us: hunger, AIDS, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, war, poverty. Chaos still rages in our world.

We are all in that boat. Sometimes, it feels like the waves of life are harassing us, maybe even torturing us.

Maybe in these times, faith is remembering that Jesus is out there walking on the water. Jesus is walking across the face of chaos with dominant defiance. Jesus has the power over all storms and all chaos and all evil. He may not quiet this storm, not right away. But he is here. He is with us, and he is stronger than the chaos.

But sometimes, that is not enough. Many times staying in the boat is not enough. We hear the voice of Jesus calling us into the chaos where he is. Jesus calls us into the swirling, raging winds and rains of hunger, depression, poverty, sickness, injustice. Jesus is there, and he calls us to join him. Amazingly, Jesus is there amid the deepest, darkest storms, and he doesn’t make the storms go away. Instead, he calls us to walk with him into the storms because there are people there, sinking in the waves, losing their faith and losing their lives. Jesus calls us to join him out in the storms, to walk on the face of chaos, defying its power, and reaching out with him to take a one hand at a time and lead them back to the boat.

What would it look like for us to get out of the boat and follow Jesus? Maybe it will mean going on and supporting more mission trips. Maybe today, when you are eating lunch, you’ll talk about something real, something from your heart. Maybe before you go to lunch, you’ll look around and invite someone new in our community to join you. Maybe getting out of the boat will mean visiting an orphanage and playing with the kids. Maybe it will mean increasing your giving here. Maybe getting out of the boat will mean stepping outside of your church circles and making friends with people who aren’t going to come here. Maybe it will mean speaking for justice when your company wants to do something wrong.

Whatever it means for you, when Jesus calls you to get out of the boat, get out of the boat! Go! Believe in Jesus power to work miracles through you, and go!

And someday, maybe tomorrow, maybe a long long time from now, Jesus will physically step back into this world, step back into our boat. And when he does, everything will be calm. Chaos will be gone. The sea will be as smooth as glass (Rev. 4:6). And we will worship him, “You really are the Son of God!”

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12).

[1] Ray Van der Lan, “Rabbi and Talmidim,”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Walking on Water Prank

I found this on YouTube. I might possibly use it on Sunday. What do you think?

Weird Water Tricks

I found this video while researching this week's text about Jesus and Peter walking on water. How in the world does he do this?!!
He is in Monrovia, Liberia, by the way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ONE Prods US Senate to Save Millions of Lives

All year long, both houses of congress in the USA have been debating how much we should spend on a program called PEPFAR. ONE has asked members to send letters or emails to our representatives and senators to encourage them to pass the PEPFAR funding with significant increases or at a minimum no decreases.
Here is ONE's summary of the benefits of PEPFAR:
This new PEPFAR is going to do a whole lot of good for millions of people. It will provide care for 12 million AIDS patients, including five million orphans. It contains massive increases in investments in fighting TB and malaria, two diseases that are at their most devastating in the world's poorest countries. And in places desperate for doctors and nurses, PEPFAR will provide training for 140,000 new healthcare professionals.
(To read the whole article, click here.)
Thanks to ONE's prompts through email updates, I have sent several emails myself urging my elected officials to vote in favor the bill and against several of the amendments to weaken it. It has been a long journey.
There was significant debate and politicking throughout the process. At several points PEPFAR was in danger of losing all or large parts of its funding. But today I got an email from ONE that the US Senate finally approved $48 million in funding for PEPFAR!! Hooray! Hallelujah!
This is a classic example of the power of individuals (who organize together) to influence the course of history. If you are not yet part of ONE or its equivilent in your country, please sign up to participate in future campaigns like this. If you are from the USA, click here. If you are from another country, click here and scroll down.
(And to my conservative American friends, please note that all 20 of the US Senators who voted against this program to save millions of live in the world's poorest countries were Republicans. What does that say?)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tanzania Update

Well, folks, our Tanzania trip is quickly approaching. We fly out in 19 days.
I had a good meeting today with Chris Hodam, our team leader (and a graduate of Southern Nazarene University). He is squaring up the details about tickets, visas, insurance, grounds fees and other expenses. We have now purchased all of our tickets (at the unexpectedly high cost of 1.8 million won or US$1,800), and we will be flying out on August 9, late at night.
Our team will have a total of 11 people. 8 will fly out from Korea on August 9. Two are already in Tanzania (Alfred, who is Tanzanian, and Jackie who is having a summer holiday there). One, Chris's dad, will fly out of the USA. We have 4 Americans, 1 Canadian, 2 Tanzanians, 1 Chinese, and 3 Koreans.
By the way, for anyone out there in the KC area, Christ Community Church kindly sponsored our trip as their good neighbor offering for the month of June. They raised $1302 for us. That really, really helps!
We also have some new information.
Based on our current information (which doesn't count any donations to come in through the church offering baskets in the past few weeks), we only have 3,674,000 won ($3,674) left to raise to meet our goal of paying for all of the grounds expense for our team in Tanzania (and 100% of the costs for our college students).
We have 2 more fund raisers coming soon. Next Sunday, we have a coin drive, which I'm hoping will bring in around 2 million won, and the following Sunday we have a spaghetti dinner. Between these two and other individual gifts, I think we can make it. If you are not a regular part of our church, and you'd like to help, you can give me cash (if you're in Korea) or click the "Donate" button on the right.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Matthew 14:13-21 - Do You Believe in Miracles

This is my sermon for this week. I'm sorry, but I didn't have time to write a manuscript or make copies for people in our church. Jet lag and vacation lag made getting back into the pastoral groove pretty difficult.

Anyhow, here's the outline:

KNU International English Church

Josh Broward

July 20, 2008

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Matthew 14:12-21

Glad to be back – summary of trip

Continuing with Matthew series

- Each gospel writer tells different stories.

o Luke – Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son(or Lost Son)

o John – Jesus washing the disciples feet and resurrection of Lazarus

o Mark – the half-healing – Blind man sees “trees walking around”

o Matthew – visit of the Magi (wise men)

- Every gospel has Jesus’ baptism, death, and resurrection (and a few other events: triumphal entry into Jerusalem, clearing of the temple, being anointed by the sinful woman, Peter’s denial of Jesus)

- AND – the feeding of the 5,000 – the only miracle in all four gospels

There must be something significant about this story – something that is core to the Christian faith, central to the Christian way of life.

Read Matthew 14:13-21.

Let’s work our way through this passage.

v. 13

- bad news – John the Baptist has been killed. (You’re next, Jesus!)

- taking a break – Jesus needs a time out, a retreat

- crowds follow

v. 14

- If you had followed me to America last month …

- But Jesus is much better than me. He has compassion on them and heals their sick.

v. 15

- disciples: “Time to quit, Jesus. Send them away.”

- Faced with limited resources and great need, the disciples decide it’s time to quit for the day.

- Have you ever felt like that?

o Global hunger

o world crises

o the environment

§ Guy who criticized my blog – “It’s impractical; there’s just not enough!”

- Mark: Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have time to eat (6:31).

- Just being practical

o We need rest.

o They need food.

o Not enough of either.

- Accepting their limitations

- Usually a good thing - usually something I recommend -

o balance

o rest

o can’t save the whole world – not today

v. 16

- Jesus: “You feed them.”

- Jesus sees possibility and abundance.

v. 17

- The disciples see limitation.

- Only 5 loaves and 2 fish.

- Not enough!

v. 18

- Jesus: “Bring them here.”

- Jesus sees possibility.

v. 19

- Jesus blesses the loaves and fishes

- Disciples pass it out

o What were they thinking?

o How did they do it? Half a loaf each? Who got the fish?

o “This isn’t going to last long!”

v. 20

- Then comes the miracle!

- There’s enough food … way more than enough food!

- How did it happen?

Barbara Brown Taylor asks good questions:

§ Did Jesus multiply the loaves all at once?

· BAM! – a mountain of food!

§ Or did it happen as the loaves were being passed through the crowd?

· As you reached out to take the loaf, did it sort of jump in your hand and get bigger?

· Or did new loaves appear while no one was looking?

· Maybe when you set yours down, it doubled.

§ Or maybe, when the disciples started passing around the bread, other people started sharing the food in their pockets or traveling bags, slipping it in when no one was looking

· All kinds of bread – white bread, wheat bread, sourdough, pumpernickel, rye, raisin bread, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, pita bread, bagels, muffins, ddok – a little of everything

· All kinds of fish – tuna, anchovies, sardines, bass … Maybe even a little lamb or beef wrapped in a grape leaf

- Some people say the miracle was getting people to share, not producing more food.

v. 21

- 5,000 men

- Plus the women and children

o one woman for every man

o 1-2 kids for every woman

o 15,000 to 20,000 people

- How did it happen? Who knows?

- All we know for sure is …

o All had enough!

o 12 baskets of food left over!

§ (Where did the baskets come from?)

What is it with Jesus and stories like this?

William Willimon: Jesus seems to like stories of abundance. Jesus seems to like going over the top.

- John 2: Jesus’ first miracle – Wedding feast

o Party ran out of wine - limitations

o Jesus turned water to wine – 180 gallons; 680 liters – of the best wine they had ever tasted - possibility

§ That’s a lot of wine. Nazarenes aren’t even supposed to think about that much wine!

§ No wonder people called Jesus a drunk!

People see limitations! Jesus sees possibility!

- Luke 15: Prodigal Son

o Younger son: runs away and spends all of his inheritance, half his father’s wealth.

o Older son: That’s it; he’s finished; not part of our family - limitations

o Father: welcomes younger son back with a huge, expensive party. There’s enough to go around. Let’s celebrate! - possibility

People see limitations! Jesus sees possibility!

- Luke 10 – Good Samaritan

o Man robbed and beaten

o Priest and Levite – pass him by

§ too busy

§ almost dead anyway?

§ Limitations

o Samaritan

§ Helps the man

§ Takes him to an inn (think hospital)

§ Here are my credit cards, my checkbook, everything. I’ll be back in a week to give you more. Make sure he’s well.

- That’s a little much isn’t it?

People see limitations! Jesus sees possibility!

There are needs all around us. Some of the needs in our world are huge! Overwhelming!

Sometimes all we see are our limitations.

- not enough time

- not enough money

- not enough love

- not enough people

- not enough of everything

Jesus sees miraculous possibility in every one of us.

Jesus sees miraculous possibility in everything we have.

Do you believe in miracles?

Marvin Gaye: “I believe in miracles … You sexy thing!”

Do you believe in miracles?

From Jesus’ perspective, you are a miracle waiting to happen.

From Jesus’ perspective, your money, your time, your love are miracles waiting to happen.

If you don’t believe you can be a miracle, you don’t really believe in miracles.

If you don’t believe your money or your love can be a miracle, you don’t really believe in miracles.

Amazing thing!

This miracle started with someone who was willing to share.

- Matthew doesn’t say where the food came from (maybe from the disciples’ food, or maybe even they weren’t ready to share yet)

- John: a little boy volunteered the lunch his mommy sent with him

- What if …

§ No one was willing to share?

§ The little boy had not come forward?

§ The disciples decided they didn’t want to share?

- What if …

§ We decide not to share?

§ We decide to keep what we’ve got to ourselves?

§ We decide not to give ourselves to Jesus and his way?

My friend Jeff has a tattoo of the 5 loaves and 2 fish on his back. I never really understood why he would choose that image. It seemed kind of random. I think I’m starting to get it.

Part of the core Christian message:

We are miracles waiting to happen.

Our things and our time are miracles waiting to happen.

We are like that little boy.

We are like those little loaves and fish.

If we will just give ourselves to Jesus, he can make miracles happen through us!

If we will just give ourselves to the world around us, Jesus will make miracles happen!

You are a miracle waiting to happen!

I believe in miracles! I believe in you. I believe in God’s power to change the world through you. I believe in God’s power to change the world through our time, our money, our love, our community.

I believe in miracles!

Do you?