Sunday, October 28, 2012

Touching Base! Part 186

Jeremiah was a bullfrog? - Part 4
Who Wears the Jacket?

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

[Hey, just before you jump into this TB, let me remind you that Ken Vissers (one of our International workers from Honduras) is with us today, Sunday, Oct. 28th. He will be meeting with people who may be interested in one of the missions trips this February or March, after both services.]

You would no doubt agree that all of humanity has the ability to determine who is in or out, who belongs or should be gone. We develop this “sensor” from a very young age, and it can lead to school yard bullying even bullying in the office. In our text today, there is definitely one who doesn’t belong, someone who is an outsider. Yet we should be shocked that he doesn’t belong because he is in a place that should feel like home, a place that, in fact, should have a welcome mat out for him.

Text: Jeremiah 20:1-6
Who is on the outside in this story?
On Sunday I used the analogy of my lumberjack jacket to illustrate who was “counterculture”. Who is counterculture, or who wears the jacket in this story?
What in this story illustrates that Pashur is not acting alone?

Pashur, in fact, is only the tip of the iceberg. He is the embodiment of a whole system that stinks. Read the following verses and see how systemic this corruption is in the prophets, priests and kings.
Key verses: Jer. 2:26,27,
Religious leaders – Jer. 14:14; 23:10,11,14,21
Kings – Jer. 22:11-19

Leadership, says Harvard’s Ron Heifetz, “ the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand.” The leadership of Judah was sprinting at a record pace. And in the midst of all this, there stands Jeremiah, wearing the jacket of counterculture, not fitting in, in fact speaking out against it.
Has God ever called you to wear the jacket? Ever found yourself confronted with a system that stinks?

Here is what I find interesting: Jeremiah finds himself in a place that many of us have found ourselves in. No, not in the role of prophet to a nation, but in a place where we see (or maybe have even been hurt by) predatory leadership, compromised role models, or corrupted systems. They may not have beaten you and put you in stocks, but their fall from grace, their compromise may have re-stocked or refueled your cynicism/pessimism towards leadership.

If you are in a small group think about the following categories I referenced on Sunday and ask the question- Are there any leaders in these categories that stoke your cynicism towards leadership?
Business - think of what is being unveiled in Quebec these days.
Sports - one word – Armstrong.
Church - I am sure you can think of a few religious leaders who have stoked your cynicism.

Ever found yourself in the green, yellow or red zone? Bet you have!

So what do we do? We just become a cynic, red zoned! Is that a healthy place to live? The story reminds us that people/leaders will fail us - prophets, priest, kings, athletes, politicians, business people, and religious leaders. But there is something Jeremiah knew, that there would come a Leader who would be worthy of our trust and worship. Who would likewise stand in the temple and not belong, would be seen as an outsider, a threat to the establishment. Jeremiah said of this leader in v.23:5. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” While other leaders and people we look up to have feet of clay, this leader would excel where so many had failed. This leader would be a prophet, priest and King all wrapped up in one and He too would wear the jacket of counterculture. He would not end up beaten and in stocks but beaten and on a cross and rise again!
Prophet- Matt 21:10,11, Priest- Heb 10:11,12, King- John 12:12-15

Big Idea: Jesus wears the jacket (the jacket represents being counterculture and not fitting in). swimming upstream in a downstream world. In a world of fallen leaders, broken systems, Jesus stands wearing the jacket, worthy of our trust. Some of us may have gone through or be in a season where it feels like Jesus is the only credible leader in your life.
Ever gone through that?
What do you say to that person?

Let me give you one example of how counterculture Jesus was and why He is worthy of our love and worship.

He told the truth, was the Truth and He lived out the truth, in contrast to the leaders of Jeremiah’s day and many in Jesus’ day. Check out John1:14, 8:32, 14:6,16:12 17:17 8:32

The truth He spoke would radically challenge our perception of who is in or out. It was truth that would make many people miserable before it would make them free.

Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstoff observes that throughout world history, human beings by nature tend to be tribal. We don’t think of “outsiders” as having the same worth and rights. What counts for the emergence of this moral subculture that says every human being has rights?
His answer- the teaching of the Scriptures, which clarified and made available to all the world through Jesus that every human being is made in the image of God and loved by God. (Resource: John Ortberg, Who is this man?)
The idea of equality was not self evident to the ancient world.
There are gradations of talent, intelligence and beauty, Martin Luther King Jr said, but “there are no gradations of the image of God.”
Jesus wears the jacket. He stood counterculture to the prophets, priests and kings of Jeremiah’s day and His day.

Celsus, one of the early critics of Christianity, said that all they could draw to themselves were “stupid, ignorant, weak people.” Slaves, women, and children. He was concerned that the way of the “hero”, the excellence and greatness that had taken centuries to emerge would be lost. (Ortberg, p.83)

Why is this good news? Because some of us are so aware of our sin, our brokenness and our hypocrisy, that we are afraid to come to Christ. But you can be assured this prophet, priest and king who wears the jacket will not oppress the hard-pressed, or exploit our weaknesses but will instead embrace us as we come to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus said (John 8:32) “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is that Truth! Life-giving, hope-filled Truth!

Finally, every culture, every generation has leaders that fail us, priest and pastors that disappoint, artists that mislead, politicians and business people that are predatory, distractions that will tempt you and me to fall into the dark waters of cynicism, pessimism and the toxins that go along with that. You may even have been put in stocks of some kind. My advice? Keep your eyes on Christ! For Jeremiah’s prophetic words have been fulfilled.
Jer. 23:5. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.

How does one keep their eyes on Christ in a day and age where leadership in many spheres of life seems so compromised? How does keeping our eyes on Christ guard our hearts from being toxic?


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