February 21, 2010: “Surprised by God’s Blessing?”

Posted on : Feb 18th, 2010 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

I’m still in shock and angry over a phone call I received last week.  Tracy Lewis called and asked us to hold her brother in prayer.  Her brother and a friend had stopped in a convenience store on their way home from work and as they were leaving the store they heard gun fire.  Instantly Tracy’s brother felt one of the bullets hit him.  He was shot in the back and the bullet went completely through his body and exited through his chest.  Fortunately, Tracy’s brother was not killed or paralyzed.  They rushed him into surgery and closed is wounds.  After some healing, he’ll be “OK.”  Well, as “OK” as one ever is after being shot!

The police assume her brother was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and most likely got caught in a gang-initiation rite.  What is so amazing to me is that this level of violence is so acceptable “in parts” of our city.

A couple years ago we had the privilege of hearing the Rev. Howard Dotson share with us about his ministry of pastoral care with families whose children had been shot and killed due to gang violence in the MacArthur Park and east LA area.  Howard’s pastoral care ministry with these families began in a rather strange way.  An infant child was killed by a bullet that was fired by one gang member at a member of another gang.  The mother, as one would only expect, was inconsolable in her grief.  Howard was called to provide her pastoral care.  He ended up officiating at the child’s funeral.  At the funeral when the funeral director arrived with the child’s body in a small casket, Howard discovered that there was no one there to carry the child’s casket.  There was virtually no one there except the grieving mother and her other children.  Howard soon learned that when someone is killed in a gang-related shooting in our city, people don’t come to the funeral out of fear that members of the gang may come to “take out” (kill) those who might be witnesses of the previous murder.  After that experience Howard decided he would no longer let these families grieve alone, so he provided pastoral care to every family around his church who lost a child or family member due to gang murders.  To his horror, he couldn’t keep up with the number of families whose children were killed.

I can’t imagine living in a neighborhood where there are shootings and killings every day.  What really angers me is that there are certain parts of our city where this is accepted.   Those “parts” of the city are the places where the population is either predominately African-American, Latin-American, poor or immigrant.

Can you imagine what our politicians’ reactions would be if a child were shot and killed almost every night on the streets of Bel Air, or Brentwood, or Malibu, or Pacific Palisades?  Every available police officer in LA would be displaced there, and if necessary, our city leaders would call in the National Guard and impose martial law to stop the killings.  But it’s not Bel Air or Brentwood or Malibu or Pacific Palisades where this violence is occurring.  It’s in communities where African-American and Latin-American people live.  It’s in communities where lower income people live.  It’s in communities where immigrants live.  Fortunately, there are people in our communities who care enough to step forward and be peacemakers, even when our politicians and civic leaders don’t.

Jesus gave us this message:

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.

That’s when you discover who you really are,

and your place in God’s family.

Matthew 5: 9; translation: The Message



This Sunday’s Scriptures:

Matthew 5: 1-12

(The Beatitudes)

From “The Message” adapted by Kobie and Dan

You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught them. This is what he said:

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God.

4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6You’re blessed when you never give up in the struggle for justice.  Great is your joy when you experience God’s justice in human relationships.

7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God’s all-inclusive love provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into your understanding of the way God wants us to live.

11-12“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—even give a high-five—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Isaiah 11: 1-10

Isaiah offers a prophecy for a new way of life in which there will be peace with all people and with God. “The lion and the lamb shall lie down together.”

Then a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse [the family tree of Jesse]; from Jesse’s root, a branch will blossom: +

The Spirit of God will rest on you-

The spirit of Wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and strength,

The spirit of knowledge and reverence for God.

You will delight in obeying God, and you won’t judge by appearances, or make decisions by hearsay.   You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.

With a single word you will strike down tyrants; with your decrees you will execute evil people.  Justice will be the belt around your waist – faithfulness will gird you up.

Then the wolf will dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;

and the calf and the lion cub will graze together,

and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear;

Their young will lie down together.

The lion will eat hay like the ox.

The baby will play next to the den of the cobra,

and the toddler will dance over the poisonous snake’s nest.

There will be no harm, no destruction anywhere in my holy mountain*

For as water fills the sea, so the land will be filled with the knowledge of God.

On that day, the root of Jesse will serve as a symbol to the peoples of the world – nations will flock to you, and your home will be a place of honor.

+Jesse is the family lineage of King David, suggesting that a new “David,” not simply another failed descendant of David, will come into power.

*Mount Zion, as the seat of power, is emblematic of the entire country.