The Rev. David Rivers, senior pastor, First Christian Church, 1000 Kentucky St.:
The first time I actually sat and read the Bible I was 20 years old. I had a lot of assumptions and biases about what I was getting ready to encounter. Yet I found these sacred writings full of fascinating characters marred by imperfection, yet still pursued God.
There was one character that surprised me most. It seemed that he was an either/or guy — you loved him or you despised him. Why? Well, he bucked the status quo of his day and broke what seemed like the most common rules that governed the community. He purposefully chose to spend time with people who lived on the fringe of society. It seemed that his compassion surpassed the standard, evidenced by his spending time with the lesser people groups of his time — women, children, the diseased, the demoralized.
One aspect that I especially appreciate about him was how extravagant he was in welcoming others. He seemed to include all people — but had a keen attentiveness to the ones not customarily embraced by the community. When he used harsh words, they were not words to rub salt in the wounds of broken people but words that cut through the self-righteousness veneer people surrounded themselves with to rationalize their unloving actions and beliefs.
As you can surmise, this lesser-known character is Jesus, as he’s revealed in the Gospels. Too often in our world today, Jesus is presented as the cosmic policeman judging the outsiders and nit-picking their lives. Yet the Jesus revealed in the Bible is God dwelling among humanity and challenging the status-quo of all of our laws and customs. That same Spirit resides today, challenging the self-righteousness of our faith and inviting us to run to the broken, the hurting, the marginalized and the forgotten to welcome them with grace and love.
— Send email to David Rivers at email@example.com.
The Rev. Marshall Lackrone, pastor, Calvary Temple Assembly of God, 606 W. 29th St. Terrace:
This person is almost overlooked when we read about Paul’s conversion, but he plays a very important role in this story. His name is Ananias.
God asks Ananias to go and pray for Paul, and he is not thrilled with this request. Ananias tells God about Paul, who is now Saul the Christian killer. As if God didn’t know about Saul. (The Scripture says it best in Acts 9:11-16 (NLT).) Well, Ananias had his marching orders, but would he go? He did not want to go because he was afraid that he might be the next victim of this crazed Christian killer.
But the next thing we read is from Acts 9:17 (NLT), “So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”
It goes beyond the imagination to think Ananias calls out Brother Saul! With these two words he acknowledges the wonder working power of Salvation — to be able to save and change a man completely, inside and out. God can do it again, since Jesus never changes or never fails.
— Send email to Marshall Lackrone at firstname.lastname@example.org.