City of Refuge

The cities of refuge have to be one of the most intriguing things to me in the Old Testament. God commanded his people as they were establishing themselves in the promised land by tribe to each have a city of refuge outside the parameters of the city. These cities were to be a place for people who had killed another to escape. It was not a place to go be innocent and free of guilt. It was a place of protection. Why protect the murderer? These places were for them to escape those who avenge the victims. It was God's justice. Wait, what?

God knows our revenge is always more emblazened and severe. God protects from unequal severity of revenge. The murderer, though in refuge, remains under judgement for his wrong. That is until the acting priest dies. (ps, another interesting reality is that the cities of refuge were always maintained by the priestly tribe. The mission of the cities of refuge should be the mission of pastors, ministers, and followers of Jesus.) Like us, they were under judgement until our High Priest died to free us from under the burden of judgement.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a ministry to my neighborhood (Oak Park/Tahoe Park). The ministry is called, City of Refuge Sacramento. While it is not a hiding place for murders, it is a place to reach into a community to which high crime and poverty is attributed. It is a ministry which attempts to infiltrate in community to make efforts toward this freedom out from under the burden of the judgement.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/58339643 w=500&h=281]

CIty of Refuge - BT FInal from Better Together on Vimeo.

Break down the warrior

money I need constant reminders of God's upside-down kingdom. Even I, a selfish man, oddly enjoy being reminded of God's kingdom, which strengthens the stumbler and breaks down the warrior. There is still a weaker side of me, which is relieved to know a God who lifts the poor and needy from the ash heap and hurls them into TBN-like chairs of gold like princes. Being reminded of that kind of kingdom with God's kind of justice makes me want to be needy. Because God sends poverty and wealth . He humbles and exalts. But he exalts the poor and humbles and breaks the wealthy and self-righteous.

God's kingdom lifts up the poor and breaks down the wealthy and self-righteous. I can only pray that God may break me down where needed, that I may be poor and lifted up some day.

1 Samuel 2:4-5, 7, 9

"The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.

It is not by strength that one prevails.

The richest least of these

I found the least of these in our rich America.  Huh?  How could that be possible?  Where could you have possibly found the least of these here?

Jesus tells the Disciples, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, naked and you did not clothe me.”  Then they ask Him the same thing I could here at the university.  “God, when did I ever actually see you hungry, thirsty or naked here?”  There are no least of these here, God.  They pay good money to be here.  These people don’t ever go hungry or thirsty, and it is illegal to be naked in public should they even desire to do so.  Where are the least of these among me here?

God would answer me to tell me I am swimming in a sea of people who are hungry, thirsty and naked in their soul.  How am I meeting those needs?  What do the least of these look like in the culture around me?

Are we only hungry for food?  Do we only thirst for liquid?  Do we only need clothing to cover us?  I am sure our hearts would bleed with all sorts of answers to that question.  Of course we hunger and thirst for all sorts of things.  Many of us hunger for purpose.  We thirst for passion.  We are hungry for some sort of understanding.  We are thirsty for someone to recognize us; for someone to affirm us in our pursuits and existence.  We all want to be clothed in someone’s concern for us.  We desire to be covered by some sort of care from anyone.  We are all hungry, thirsty, and naked souls.

More importantly, the least of these surround me on all sides each day.  But Jesus’ question still lacerates my heart today.  “What have I done for the least of these among me?”  Not much!  This kills me not only because it’s a condition on my heart, but because is literally my JOB to do something for the least of these among me.

I fear that I refused to give to them what they needed.  I fear I did not clothe many if any friends in affirmation.  I fear I did not feed many if any friends’ hunger for understanding or purpose.  I fear I did not quench many if any person's thirst for passion or someone else’s active concern for them.

I fear there were too many hungry, thirsty, and naked souls I passed by for an entire year with miniscule interest.  I fear the least of these among me saw me too BUSY for their hopes, fears, concerns, aspirations, dreams, doubts, disappointments, and loneliness.  And its my job, not only as an pastor but as a Christian.  I must love more.