Good morning, it is Thursday, July 1, 2021
Welcome to a new month! I read a poem today that I want to share with you. I shared it a few years ago on my Facebook page and it popped up today as a memory.
But first let me ask you a question. This is for my church-going friends. When a stranger shows up to worship with you, what do you do? Do you welcome them with a smile and a handshake? Do you smile and walk by without saying a word? Do you skirt around the pews or chairs to have no contact at all? Does how they are dressed impact the way you greet them, if you greet them at all? If they were dressed nicely in designer clothes versus in a dirty skirt or pair of jeans does it influence what you do next?
I attended a small church in Lane County many years ago. It was expected that you would put on your best dress. It was expected that men wore suits with a tie. It was expected that women wore nylons. You would never attend church in anything less.
One day I was standing against the wall in the foyer between class and church service. I was watching people mingle when something caught my eye. There were two women that were visiting. They were wearing blue jeans. I watched as three female church members looked them up and down and put their heads together and started talking. There were no smiles. There was no warm welcome. There was no greeting. Only judgement. The nerve these women had to enter the house of God in pants!
I will never forget that day. I will never forget the impression it made on me. I felt icky. It has been 40 years and I still remember every detail of that moment. I have no idea what we discussed in class, and I have no idea what the preacher talked about in the sermon, I only remember the sermon I saw in the foyer of that little country church. It made me sad, and it changed my thinking.
God does not care what we look like on the outside! He only cares what we look like on the inside!
“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
Have you ever heard the expression “Practice what you preach”? Did you know that expression comes from the Bible? Matthew chapter 23 is what I call the ‘woe’ chapter. Jesus was talking to a crowd of people regarding the scribes and Pharisees and how, verse 3, “…they preach, but do not practice.”
Beginning in verse 13 he starts to get serious “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”
Verse 16 “Woe to you, blind guides.”
Verse 23 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
Verse 25 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
Verse 27 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
Verse 29 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
Jesus is calling them out on their actions.
Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”
God cares more about our heart-action than what we decide to put on to cover up our nakedness.
“For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28 ESP
Strong words! Do you think Jesus was trying to make a point?
John 13:34 ESV “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Jesus did not say love the loveable. He did not say love only those who are good to you. He certainly did not say love those who dress according to your standards or the standards set by a church.
1 John 4:21 ESV “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
My prayer for us today is that we can truly love the unlovable. That we can, without judgement, embrace the people that God has put in our path.
Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Jesus said I am giving you a new commandment; LOVE.
Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
I love the English Standard Version “Outdo one another”
Dictionary definition for Outdo: be more successful than, surpass, outshine, overshadow, outmaneuver, outthink, upstage, excel, exceed, top, beat, better.
If ever there should be a competition it should be here: Love one another.
Shoes in Church by Doug Warburton
I showered and shaved................ I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat................ In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer............ As I closed my eyes.
I saw the shoe of the man next to me....... Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side......... I thought, 'Why must our soles touch?'
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine.. But it didn't bother him much.
A prayer began: 'Our Father'............. I thought,
'This man with the shoes, has no pride. They’re dusty, worn, and scratched.
Even worse, there are holes on the side!'
'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on.
The shoe man said................. A quiet 'Amen.'
I tried to focus on the prayer....... But my thoughts were on his shoes again..
Aren't we supposed to look our best. When walking through that door?
'Well, this certainly isn't it,' I thought, glancing toward the floor.
Then the prayer was ended............ And the songs of praise began .
The shoe man was certainly loud..... Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters........ His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear.. The shoe man's voice from the sky.
It was time for the offering........ And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached.... Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out.......... What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft 'clink' as when silver hits tin.
The sermon really bored me.......... To tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man... For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service........ As is the custom here.
We must greet new visitors, And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow........... And wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer........ I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark..... And his hair was truly a mess.....
But I thanked him for coming.......... For being our guest...
He said, 'My name’s Charlie............ I'm glad to meet you, my friend.'
There were tears in his eyes......... But he had a large, wide grin..
'Let me explain,' he said............. Wiping tears from his eyes.
'I've been coming here for months...... And you're the first to say 'Hi.''
'I know that my appearance...........Is not like all the rest.
'But I really do try....................To always look my best.'
'I always clean and polish my shoes...Before my very long walk.'
'But by the time I get here........They're dirty and dusty, like chalk.'
My heart filled with pain............ And I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize.......... For daring to sit so near
He said, 'When I get here............ I know I must look a sight.'
'But I thought if I could touch you....Then maybe our souls might unite.'
I was silent for a moment............. Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison.... I spoke from my heart, not my head.
'Oh, you've touched me,' I said.......'And taught me, in part'
'That the best of any man..............Is what is found in his heart.'
The rest, I thought,............... This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am.... That his dirty old shoe touched my soul.