Bread – Outcasts

August 11, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 11, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 14:1-20; Acts 21:1-14; Mark 10:1-16; Psalms 94,95,97,99,100

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In today’s reading from the second book of Samuel, the woman, speaking God’s words, says to the king “But God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.” 2 Sam. 14:14

From time to time, people so misbehave outside the rules of the tribe, the family, the church, or the city, that they must be banished, they must be outcast. Sometimes they are banished to prison. Sometimes to another part of the world. Sometimes, as in the case of the prodigal son of Scripture, to eat with the pigs. Sometimes they are just fired, if the particular group banishing them happens to be an employer. In the case of a club, sometimes the membership privileges are revoked. In a church setting, we might call it being banished from participation in communion or excommunication.

How do we feel when that happens? On the side of the people doing the banishing, generally it is a combination feeling of relief, anguish, worry, and loss. On the side of the banished, it is generally a feeling of anger, sorrow, depression, worry, and general upset. Both the banisher’s and the banished worlds have been changed.

There are three paths which the outcast can take. They can continue their downward spiral into degradation and death. They can “grow up” and become independent in spirit, but losing all ties to the group they used to be a member of. Or they can be restored to full relationship with their prior tribe, family, church, job, or other group. What makes the difference?

I think the difference is in two people. The first, the outcast, must come to grips with what he or she has become, must turn away from that, and must turn toward home. The second, the banisher, must come to grips with whatever actual or perceived injury has occurred to self, must set it aside, and must forgive. The first we call repentance and the second, forgiveness.

This passage from Samuel is a statement of simple truth which God fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Where there is no way to obtain restoration with God through earning it with good works, there is a way through Jesus Christ, beginning with our repentance and our acceptance of His forgiveness.

The first banishment occurred when we were ejected from the Garden of Eden, when our personal relationship with God was broken by our sin. But “God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”

The question is not whether God has devised a means; the question is whether we will take advantage of those means. And for that, we need not only God’s means but His power. And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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© 2015 GBF

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Bread – Outsiders

November 26, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, November 26, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 12:1-10; Eph. 1:3-14; Luke 19:1-10; Psalms 119:145-176,128,129,130

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In today’s reading from Zechariah, there is this sentence: “And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Judah may not surpass that of Judah.” Zech. 12:7

What is being talked about here? What is so special about “tents” that the people who live in them would be given salvation first?

That question got me to thinking about outsiders. After all, the people who lived in Jerusalem lived inside of Jerusalem, and the people who lived in tents outside of Jerusalem lived outside of Jerusalem. The outsiders (those who lived in tents) get salvation first; the insiders get it second.

We spend most of our lives working to become insiders, to get into the place of power, of prestige, of wealth, of security, of influence, of respect. We get jobs at the right businesses, go to the right schools, join the right societies and clubs, try to get invited to the right parties, drive the right cars, live in the right neighborhoods – all in an attempt to become an insider where we want to be.

And what do we find when we become an insider? That we are outside of the next group, event, place, or people we want to be.

But God says that salvation first comes to the tents, then to the city. First to those living outside, then to those living inside.

In the gospel from Luke today, we read about Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, who is your classic example of being both an insider and an outsider at the same time. He worked in an important position for the government, was the “chief” tax collector, was rich, and was in position to influence many things. However, he was also an outsider because most people probably did not think highly of him (you would not want to be called a tax collector back then) and shunned him. Many tax collectors were official thieves, and therefore people thought of them as criminals. Many people were poor and therefore shunned the rich. Finally, Zacchaeus was “small of stature,” and I will leave it to you to dream of the number of jokes he was the butt of.

However, Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house, Zacchaeus responded in gratitude and obedience, and Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9. Jesus brought the outsider inside because “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10.

Notice that the outsider did not become the insider because he wanted to be an insider or because he undertook special efforts to become an insider; he became an insider because Jesus invited Himself to his house and Zacchaeus responded with gratitude.

Who do you think knows they need salvation more, the people in tents or the people in fortified cities? Who do you think knows they need salvation more, the sinner or the “saint?” Who do you think knows they need salvation more, the outsiders or the insiders?

Do you feel like an outsider today? Do you lack influence, power, money, health, a job, respect, or even hope?

Well, welcome aboard. We are all outsiders until Jesus invites Himself to our house … until He reveals to us His truth and His love. “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace…” Eph. 1:5 He brings us from the outside into the inside, from being lost orphans to being adopted sons through Jesus Christ.

I said earlier that the phenomenon of becoming an insider is that you realize that you are an outsider. While we are inside the world, we are an outsider to Christ. When we become an insider by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we become an outsider to the world.

We are all outsiders and we are all insiders. The question is where.

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© 2014 GBF

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