Jon Burnham preached this sermon from Romans 8:26-39 on July 27 (OT17a) at St. John's Presbyterian Church
We are all aware of the rising price of basic foodstuffs such a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. A few weeks ago, The Guardian newspaper in London featured a satirical story about a G8 gathering of global elites. The purpose of their conference was to address the global foot shortage and mass starvation of humanity. The article from Tuesday July 8, 2008, read:
As the food crisis began to bite, the rumblings of discontent grew louder. Finally, after a day of discussing food shortages and soaring prices, the famished stomachs of the G8 leaders could bear it no longer.
The most powerful bellies in the world were last night compelled to stave off the great Hokkaido Hunger by fortifying themselves with an eight-course, 19-dish dinner prepared by 25 chefs. This multi-pronged attack was launched after earlier emergency lunch measures - four courses washed down with Château-Grillet 2005 - had failed to quell appetites enlarged by agonising over feeding the world's poor.
The G8 gathering had been seen as a "world food shortages summit" as leaders sought to combat spiraling prices of basic foodstuffs in the developed world, and starvation in the developing world.
But not since Marie Antoinette was supposed to have leaned from a Versailles palace window and suggested that the breadless peasants eat cake can leaders have demonstrated such insensitivity to daily hardship than at the luxury Windsor hotel on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
After discussing famine in Africa, the peckish politicians and five spouses took on four bite-sized amuse-bouche to tickle their palates. The price of staple foods may be soaring, but thankfully caviar and sea urchin are within the purchasing power of leaders and their taxpayers - the amuse-bouche featured corn stuffed with caviar, smoked salmon and sea urchin, hot onion tart and winter lily bulb.
They have told their people to tighten their belts for lean times ahead, but you feared for presidential and prime ministerial girdles after the chance to tuck into further dishes including milk-fed lamb, roasted lamb with cepes, and black truffle with emulsion sauce. Finally there was a "fantasy" dessert, a special cheese selection accompanied by lavender honey and caramelized nuts, while coffee came with candied fruits and vegetables.
Leaders cleverly skated around global water shortages by choosing from five different wines and liqueurs.
Earlier, the heads of state had restricted themselves to a light lunch of asparagus and truffle soup, crab and supreme of chicken served with nuts and beetroot foam, followed by a cheese selection, peach compote, milk ice-cream and coffee with petits fours.
Fresh from instructing his population to waste less food, it can only be hoped that Gordon Brown polished off every single morsel on his plate.
Andrew Mitchell, the shadow secretary of state for international development, said: "The G8 have made a bad start to their summit, with excessive cost and lavish consumption. Surely it is not unreasonable for each leader to give a guarantee that they will stand by their solemn pledges of three years ago at Gleneagles to help the world's poor. All of us are watching, waiting and listening." (Patrick Wintour and Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, Tuesday July 8, 2008)
We are watching, waiting and listening for something that will never happen. The elite globalists who would rule our world have no sympathy for common people and no intention of helping the poor. In this sense, although they be fabulously wealthy, they have no class. Compare their self serving attitude to these stories about the attitude and behavior of some people whom the global elites would consider to be so-called commoners.
Booker T. Washington struggled against deep-seated white prejudice to establish his Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. One day, as he passed the mansion of a wealthy woman to whom he was just another black, he heard her call out, "Come here, boy, I need some wood chopped."
Without a word, Washington peeled off his jacket, picked up the ax and went to work, not only cutting a pile of wood but carrying it into the house.
He had scarcely left when a servant said, "That was Professor Washington, Ma'am." Abashed, the woman went to the Institute to apologize. Replied the educator: "There's no need for apology, madam. I'm delighted to do favors for my friends." The woman became one of Tuskegee's warmest and most generous supporters. Washington refused to be disturbed by insult or persecution. (Clarence W. Hall in Everyday Greatness by Stephen Covey, 345)
Here is another story of a person the globalists would consider a "commoner" who displays some uncommon wisdom. This story is cited in the book Everyday Greatness by Stephen Covey. This anonymous story teller relates how his mother solved a difficult conflict with her neighbors.
Our family of eight had a nice plot with a vegetable garden bordered by lilac bushes. A tenement in back of us was populated by folks who used to throw their trash--old shoes and socks, an assortment of things--into our garden. My older brothers and I thought that these people--they weren't called polluters then--should be told off.
Mother, who had never got beyond grammar school in the Old Country, and who had never heard of "psychology," told us to go out and pick lilacs. Then, she directed us to give each of the dozen families in back a bouquet, and say our mother thought they might enjoy them.
Somehow, a miracle happened, no more pollution. (As told to Leo Aikman, Atlanta Constitution, cited in Everyday Greatness by Stephen Covey, 345)
That story illustrates the benefits of following what Christians call the golden rule. Jesus said: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In other words, if you want some respect, show respect to others. And if you can manage to show a little love, that is even more powerful. For love is the most powerful weapon of all.
Raised in an abusive home, a young woman felt bitterness toward her parents. But when diagnosed with breast cancer, she determined to love them in spite of the past.
Each morning as she left for work she'd tell her mother she loved her. Her mother never answered.
Then one day, after about three months, the daughter was late for work and rushed out of the house. Her mother hurried to the door. "You forgot something," she yelled. "What?" the young woman asked. "You forgot to say I love you." they embraced. They cried. They healed. (Bernie S. Siegel, Prescriptions for Living, 349)
If we want to address the powers that be, speaking a word of justice, we must also get our own house in order. One of love's finest rewards occurs when enemies are made into friends.
He drew a circle that shut me out--
heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in. (Edwin Markham, cited in Everyday Greatness by Stephen Covey, 345)
The question before our congregation is how we will show hospitality. Are we drawing a circle that shuts people out of our fellowship? Or are we drawing a circle that takes people into our church family? Hospitality is the key ingredient in this recipe. We show hospitality when we greet the visitor. We show hospitality when we let people be who they are even as we challenge them to become more than that through Christ. Let's intentionally draw circles that take people in.
I saw an example of this kind of community support for the individual at the Lafabah celebration. Lafabah is an organization of West Cameroonian tribe members now living in Houston. They celebrated their 20th anniversary in Houston on Friday evening in a ballroom in the Crowne Plaza West hotel. As I watched the crowd of 200 or so Camerooni and other African expatriots, I witnessed a community where children were welcome and supported, the women and men support one another and the children and young people. As part of the ceremony, a tribe member flew in from Paris, France, to present an award to St. John's Presbyterian Church for our support of the tribe. I was honored to receive this plaque on behalf of our church. Some of you may recall that Lafabah used our church facilities for a conference in which they jump started a medical university in Cameroon. Leonie and other members of our congregation are part of Lafabah. Their energy, creativity and sense of community are an example of the ultimate power of love.
It's not: "I think, therefore I am." It's not: "I shop, therefore, I am." It's this: "I am loved, therefore I am." This sense of community goes against the grain of our consumerist culture where each person is weighed and measured according to how much tax income they will provide the government or how much they produce and consume in the society. We are human beings made in the image of God. That is what we must remember and demonstrate if we are have any hope against a global elite who views us as sheep to be manipulated for their own personal gain.
The current attitude of the global elite toward ordinary people is nothing new. The Ceasar's and Senate in Paul's day was corrupt and showed disdain for ordinary people. When he wrote his letter to the Romans, some in Rome, which in Latin in Roma, thought of themselves as living in the city of love, since "Roma" spelled backwards is "Amore," meaning "Love" in Latin. Ancient Rome envisioned herself as a city that embodied love, perhaps seeing herself as a god named love. But her attitude and actions toward the people in the streets provided little evidence of love. In such a place, Paul's message of being loved by the one true God made him a dangerous citizen. Paul's brand of Christianity elevated slaves and common women and men as children of God.
When we live out the radical love of God for us, we too, may become dangerous citizens. We may become dangerous to the global elite, the G-8 clubbers, who lavishly feast while admonishing us to fast and while millions of humans die of starvation. Authentic Christian discipleship is as counter cultural today as it was in ancient Rome. When we find ourselves by losing ourselves in loving service for others, the powers that be do not know how to handle us. We become less open to the brainwashing of the media. We find ourselves turning off our TV sets and tuning into serving others. We find ourselves less swayed by the immoral dictates of a top-down culture. Yes, Christianity is dangerous to the elite globalists who would run our world.
That is a scary thought for American Christians. We are not accustomed to being in opposition to our would-be rulers. There may even be some danger for us in this adventure. But God will be will us. As Paul puts it in Romans chapter 8: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (v. 38-39)
This is a challenging time to live. Many millions of humans face the prospect of physical starvation. Other millions seek spiritual nourishment. However, I am bullish about the future of humanity and the future of this church. As we continue to reach out to love the world from the Christ within us, our future is secure. Our recipe for success is based on a feeding a starving world with a heaping helping of God's love. God's love is the ultimate security for our world, for our church, and for ourselves. Let us not be deceived into seeking security anywhere else but in God's loving embrace. Divided, we fall. United, we stand. Community is the key to the survival of our species. Community is the key to our survival as a church. Community is the key to our survival as individuals. We must support one another and all human beings. This is the love's dictate. This is our ultimate security.