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The Odd One Out

Easter 2018  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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From: https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/stories-about-acceptance/
Mugger Hugger, By Randi Skaggs, Louisville, Kentucky
By Randi Skaggs, Louisville, Kentucky
“Get me some money, lady. You wouldn’t be the first person I killed.” I considered running, but I’m slow. So I did what I do best when I’m nervous; I just started talking. I said, “I don’t have it as bad as you do, sir, but I am sleeping on my floor right now, and all I ever eat are ramen noodles, not that I lost any weight or anything.
“You know, people from Kentucky call and they say, ‘Oh, my God, New York City.’ I don’t have the heart to tell them I’m just a cliché, the kid who moves up here to change the world with her theater. I’m not gonna change the world. My theater stinks, really. I miss my mom, and I miss porch swings and sweet tea.
“So would you please not kill me, so I can just go back home where I belong?” He looked at me funny, and then he pulled me into a bear hug. It was my first human contact in months, actually.

Acts 3:12–19 ESV
And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,

1 John 3:1–7 ESV
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

The Odd One Out

I had a weird series of conversations with people this week because of hockey. I tend to avoid being on social media when there is a big pro sports event because I just don’t like pro sports. Please don’t take that as a cue to try and win me over to football or hockey, by the way. I’ve owned this about myself and I’m ok with it. You be you and I’ll be me and we can still be friends.
But because I don’t like pro sports, I also don’t always know when there is a big pro sports event until it’s too late and I find myself reading friends’ facebook posts trying to figure out what in the world things like “hat trick” and “Crosby” mean.
This happened to me just the other night. It was late, I was getting ready for bed, and, making fun of myself, I posted something about “Looks like there is a sports ball thing happening today.” I was totally making fun of myself and my cluelessness. And most people took it that way and we joked around about it. But some people - who passionately love watching hat tricks and Crosbys - felt like I was making fun of them.
But some people - who passionately love watching hat tricks and Crosbys - felt like I was making fun of them. This is one of the reasons I have such a dramatic love-hate relationship with things like facebook. It’s hard to convey real intentions or to intuit them when you can’t see a person’s face or hear their tone as they are saying something. As many of you heard at BIble study last night, I feel strongly about the importance of words and how we use them and they get disturbingly misused and misinterpreted online.
This is one of the reasons I have such a dramatic love-hate relationship with things like facebook. It’s hard to convey real intentions or to intuit them when you can’t see a person’s face or hear their tone as they are saying something. As many of you heard at BIble study last night, I feel strongly about the importance of words and how we use them and they get disturbingly misused and misinterpreted online.
This whole exchange led to some interesting and uncomfortable conversations about feeling left out and different. It’s hard to figure out how to communicate with people when all they are talking about is something you don’t understand or have any interest in. And it’s also hard to figure out how to be passionate about something without making other people who aren’t interested in or learned about that thing feel left out.
It doesn’t have to be about liking or not liking hockey. We all know what it’s like to feel left out or misunderstood or out of the loop.
Maybe it’s your weird pastor talking about crossfit all the time and assuming you know and care about what she’s talking about
or your neighbors having cook outs without you because you don’t have kids the same age as theirs or because they don’t have kids and you do
or your family friends forgetting to invite you on an outing because you live in a different neighborhood than most of them
or your family friends forgetting to invite you on an outing because you live in a different neighborhood than most of them
or people scheduling fun things on Sunday mornings at looking at you like you have 5 eyes when you say you cant go because you’ll be at church
or being the only person you know who’s never seen the Sopranos or Game of Thrones or some other show people assume everyone has seen
I could probably go on, but I don’t think I need to. We all know what it feels like to be left out of something. Most of us remember middle school.
If such huge misunderstandings can come about because of something as simple as a game on TV that some people like to watch and other people don’t. . . No wonder the early church felt left out. If something as simple as a game or a picnic can cause so much hurt and misunderstanding, no wonder something as important as religion can cause so much hurt and misunderstanding in the world.
Being a Christian can feel like being a hockey fan trying to convince someone who doesn’t get it that it’s totally cool and you should try it. Sometimes it feels like you’re the one who doesn’t get it and all the world talks about is hockey.

The World Didn’t “Get” Jesus, Either

Being a Christian can feel like being a hockey fan trying to convince someone who doesn’t get it that it’s totally cool and you should try it. Sometimes it feels like you’re the one who doesn’t get it and all the world talks about is hockey. Either way, it can surely make you feel like a puzzle piece that isn’t quite the right shape.
From the very beginning of the Christian church, Jesus’ followers have struggled to find our identity and where we belong in time and space because we are called to such a different way of life than everything around us. The people around us don’t understand it. They don’t understand this way of life because they don’t understand Jesus.

Jesus was misunderstood by nearly everyone around him, and Christians must learn to expect the same. This is not a happy thought for many of us, who want so much to fit in and to be appreciated by everyone around us. But John is uncompromising: if we are the children of God, the world will not know us or understand us.

: “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
“The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
: “But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.”
”The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
Jesus was murdered because the world didn’t understand him or his message and after Jesus’ death and resurrection, people didn’t just not understand his words, they didn’t understand - DON’T understand - the difference that made. Redemption is lost in the shuffle.
Jesus suffered because the world did not understand him.
They went to scripture. They had the OT, we now have that and the NT
Last week, I asked you if Easter really matters. For many people. . . it doesn’t. Many people have yet to see the impact of Easter in the world. That’s not their fault. They just haven’t seen it. If it’s anyone’s fault they haven’t seen the difference Easter makes, it’s our fault.
Jesus suffered because the world did not understand him.
And self-proclaimed Jesus followers don’t always handle that well. Sometimes, in our feelings of being left out, we’d rather shout down the people who misunderstand rather than try to listen to them. Sometimes, in our conviction that everyone SHOULD understand how great Jesus is, we wind up being offended by the people who refuse to see it our way.

“Where Everybody Knows Your Name. . .”

It’s hard to be gracious in these sorts of disagreements, especially when the topic is something as high stakes as faith. It’s difficult to maintain grace and compassion when we’re feeling left out or weird. We struggle to hear the ways others feel left out when we’re busy feeling left out ourselves.
That’s what is really at the heart of all of this: we all just want to fit in. We all want to know that we belong somewhere. We want to hear everyone happily say, “Norm!” when we walk in the room.
tells us that there is a place where everybody knows your name: God’s family, the body of Christ. We are so beloved that God doesn’t just accept us, God adopts us into the holy family. We are children of God. It doesn’t matter who else we fit in with or don’t fit in with.
In a world where we are still so sinful as to hurt one another over something like who does or doesn’t like a particular activity, there is much to hope for that God has not yet revealed. But one thing that God has revealed is that God loves us so much that we are called “Children of God.”
Your identity is not wrapped up in who agrees with you or what groups you or others do or don’t belong to. Your identity is “child of God.”
We may not know what the future holds, but we know what God has given us now: God has told us, “you belong.”

In a culture of individualism, we belong to a community, the body of Christ. In an age that seeks security through violence, we seek solidarity, forgiveness, and peace. In a society that finds personal identity through social networking, we find our true name in baptism and in following Christ. We are odd, and we smooth over our oddities at our peril. When we feel right at home here, we should wonder whether we have traded the joy of divine love for the comfort of social acceptance.

Grace in the World: What does it mean to be like Jesus?

Seeing Jesus in the Eyes of Others

Grace in the World: What does it mean to be like Jesus?

Jesus was misunderstood by nearly everyone around him, and Christians must learn to expect the same. This is not a happy thought for many of us, who want so much to fit in and to be appreciated by everyone around us. But John is uncompromising: if we are the children of God, the world will not know us or understand us.

It’s hard to live our weird life without being bossy or obnoxious about it. But it’s totally possible! Even when we are just excited about something we love, those who don’t understand it might take us the wrong way, but there is grace and there is confidence in knowing what our true identity is centered on.

In a culture of individualism, we belong to a community, the body of Christ. In an age that seeks security through violence, we seek solidarity, forgiveness, and peace. In a society that finds personal identity through social networking, we find our true name in baptism and in following Christ. We are odd, and we smooth over our oddities at our peril. When we feel right at home here, we should wonder whether we have traded the joy of divine love for the comfort of social acceptance.

The source of our oddness is the love of God that makes us into God’s children.

And there is grace and confidence in knowing what other peoples’ true identity is centered on as well.
Others see Jesus in us, not because we try to change them, but because we try to change the world for them after seeing Jesus in them.
When we choose to see others as children of God - not as likers of this or that or followers of one thing or another - we find ourselves acting in ways that go against the sinful ways we often are with one another.
“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
Mother Teresa

Yeah! Looking Like Jesus and Welcoming Others into the Fold

I’d like to end with a story from Tony Campolo - the mentor of my mentor and an all around great person. He’s one of those people you know sees everyone around him as a fellow child of God.
Just because not everyone knows right away it’s Jesus they are seeing in you doesn’t mean they aren’t seeing Jesus in you. So keep being weird and different and remember who your true identity is formed by.
Joe was a drunk, miraculously converted in a street outreach mission. Before his conversion he'd gained a reputation as a derelict and dirty wino for whom there was no hope. But following his conversion to Christ, everything changed. Joe became the most caring person at the mission. He spent his days there, doing whatever needed to be done. There was never anything he was asked to do that he considered beneath him. Whether it was cleaning up vomit left by some sick alcoholic, or scrubbing toilets after men had left them filthy, Joe did it all with a heart of gratitude. He could be counted on to feed any man who wandered in off the streets, undress and tuck him into bed, when he was too out-of-it to take care of himself.
One evening, after the mission director delivered his evangelistic message to the usual crowd of sullen men with drooped heads, one of them looked up, came down to the altar and kneeled to pray, crying out for God to help him change. The repentant drunk kept shouting, "Oh God, make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe!"
The director leaned over and said, "Son, wouldn't it be better if you prayed 'make me like Jesus?'"
After thinking about it for a few moments, the man looked up with an inquisitive expression and asked, "Is He like Joe?"'
Do others see Jesus in you?
By Dr. Tony Campolo, http://www.tonycampolo.org
Repentance as truth telling, as witness. We are called to call out sin. It’s about a changed mind, a new way of seeing, of truth-telling.
Easter gives us the confidence to do this difficult work because if death has been conquered, what is left to fear? We have somewhere to fit in, but instead of nit-picking at those who aren’t “in”, we spread the good news that all are welcome.
God, by the power of your Spirit, give us the strength to live out the message we have heard today. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Joe didn’t fit in. Joe was different. He had a past many would look down on. And yet, in his compassion and kindness for fellow children of God, he looked so much like Jesus, he was nearly indistinguishable from him.
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