Jesus’ Party Platform

Grab the popcorn; lay in the peanuts; oil up the tailgate. Take up the TV Guide. Check your local listings! Pre-season’s almost over, let the games begin. Oh, root for the Redskins, rave about the Ravens, stick with the Steelers, keep up with the Cowboys. It’s all good. Only these are not the games, the competition I have in mind. No, I’m thinking more about the conventions, campaigns and party pow-wows soon to bring us to a day of decision. The news is already flying! It’s hard to keep up. But this message is not about the NFL, or the DNC or RNC either. See, all the buzz swirling around these every-4-year conventions of the body-politic have set me to praying and thinking about platform. As in, what’s our Platform? We hear the word at election time, but it’s a matter for all time. Platform is what folks are standin’ on, convicted of, committed to as they ask us to decide for them. Platform’s no stranger in church. Every week, almost every pastor everywhere stands on one, to bring the gospel. Platform. Even beauty queens now have platforms! (One such, in Western Maryland, recently had hers make the news. Her platform: reduce domestic violence. Unfortunately, she was recently arrested for assaulting somebody at their home. It’s important to be true to your platform. It’s just not always easy.) For weeks, we’re going to hear a great deal about platforms. So what’s your platform? Ours? What are you standing on and standing up for, in the name of Jesus? As a church, shouldn’t we be pretty clear about what we might call Jesus’ party platform… the foundation, the floor, the framework on which our Gospel Life truly rests?!

Paul, the last Apostle to whom Christ appears in resurrected person, describes the Jesus Party Platform in 10 planks. Here goes.

  1. Love from the center of your heart; don’t fake it.  Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
  2. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
  3. Don’t burn out. Keep yourself aflame.  Be an alert servant of the Master, cheerfully expectant.
  4. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
  5. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
  6. Bless your enemies. No cursing under your breath.
  7. Laugh with your happy friends, share their tears when they’re down. Get along. Don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies without trying to be the great somebody.
  8. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.  Don’t insist on getting even. God is in charge of justice.
  9. If your enemy’s hungry, buy him or her lunch; if this person’s thirsty, provide a tall drink.
  10. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Drawn from E. Peterson’s The Message, Romans 12: 9-21

We’ve known each other 10 years now. I pray we are close enough to ask each other this. Are you willing to run for eternity on this platform? Am I? Are we willing to stand on this; be known by it? Love from the center of your heart; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. At the absolute core of our being, dare we, do we love? Not the mushy, sappy love. Not the country-western, rock and roll, hip hop, big band or ballad love. I mean the Jesus Love. ‘Anything for you love. Betty Meadows, ‘close as Presbys get to bishops, took a summer that changed her utterly. She went “under cover” 3 months, working as a Waffle House hostess. She met Christ. She saw genuine love. A van broke down in the parking lot, July 4th, with a family from Ala. Not a garage/mechanic in sight. A waitress called her boyfriend. 15 minutes later, he fixed their van: for a cup of coffee. “The risen Christ in the mechanic and the waitress,” writes Betty. A lawyer set up shop in the Waffle House, offering legal help to the needy for little or no pay if they couldn’t afford it. “Day after day this lawyer sat there, smoking his cigar, meeting client after client, turning down no one. The risen Christ in the lawyer.” A woman hobbled into the restaurant, a cast on one leg, and with other medical needs. The police had just arrested her boyfriend for drunk driving. They’d impounded his truck. She had nowhere to go. None of the restaurant staff could give her a ride to the bus station. She called her landlord, an hour and a half away. He dropped everything, and drove over to pick her up. Betty said to him, “How kind of you to drive so far for one of your tenants.” Puzzled, he said, “Why wouldn’t I? The risen Christ in my landlord.” Jesus himself sums it up. “Let your light so shine, that all may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Is love our platform?

Love from the center. No faking it. That’s our platform. Astonishingly, hate’s on it too. It’s not just OK. In Jesus’ name Paul commands it, literally! “Hate… what is evil!” Hate what is sinful because you love God. And God will not abide evil. We never get to hate others; our singular situation is to hate sin. Our calling is to reject anything that separates or (merely) calls us away from the presence of God! We’re not just to be upset about it. We’re to get up and get away from it. Now! Don’t wait, don’t stop, don’t take time to pass “Go” and collect $200. GIT! It’s Jesus tellin’ the devil to get away when Peter wants to keep him from the cross. It’s the school board member who steps down rather than tolerate corruption. It’s using the V-Chip on your TV with a house full of kids. Your home gets no reception for what degrades and a “signal received” message for what is acceptable. It’s making the “default setting” on your own heart a desire for God.

We stand by our “hold on” platform. Hold on to good. ‘To friends, to hope in hard times, to prayer. Friends and prayer are hard enough to hold onto. Friends inevitably disappoint. Prayin’ takes patience I lack. ‘Sound familiar? But hope… that’s hardest of all. Both political parties tell us they're the side that’s all about hope. (Their greatest/only hope is that we won’t pick the other guys!) Currently there are 32 NFL teams tied for first place with a perfect record! ½ will discover imperfection the first week! Hope’s hard in things little and big. Unless we hope in the cross of Christ. Here is the only place on earth where love never runs out and hearts never run cold or run dry. The cross holds firm. Stand on it. Stand up for it! You know, we get a hope-check every week here. It oughta be the most joyful moment in the service. We get a weekly window to open our souls to the never-runs-out, never-runs-dry hope of the cross. We usually call it: the offering. It’s our visible, tangible time to abandon every shred of relying on ourselves and lean entirely on the cross. It’s our time to put fear aside and celebrate. In God there will always be enough! We dare not take this casually, for the sake of our own spiritual health! Read the stats here. Too many of us miss the celebration. To allow a deficit in our giving is evidence we suspect a deficit in God’s. The best spiritual medicine for worry is generosity. Trust frees us! It allows us to focus our hope in Christ, not our own (false/fleeting) securities. ‘You want a fuller fall, a campaign for compassion this election year, a sense you’re helpin’ bring the Kingdom on earth Christ has us pray for? Look to your giving. Red Cross, fine. Habitat, how happy. Run, walk or buy cookies from the kids… great. But start with the church. The Body of Christ. Because you promised. And because holding on to hope means letting go of every assurance except the cross.

Oh, we can catch up much of the Jesus Party Platform in a single word. Bless! Bless those in need with help. And those who feel like strangers with welcome. Bless your enemies with your prayers. Bless your friends. Laugh and cry with them. Give your heart away like Christ, especially to the lonely-hearted. Bless with forgiveness. It’ll make everybody beautiful, starting with you. Be a healer. It’s a blessing and a benediction. Just one little story catches the meaning. You know, we’ve been asking school supplies to bless kids. Well, kids bless too. Pat Summey was a first year, inner-city school teacher. Thanksgiving! A canned-food drive. Each class decorated a box for contributions. The kids came in with their cans daily. Cans piled up. Exciting! The last day one first grader smiling broadly plopped a big can on top. Pat noticed the white label, “Commodity Boned Chicken.” A tear came. She realized this as government issue. That child had no way of knowing his family had been chosen to receive food from the drive. He just wanted to share in the act of blessing someone else (in need). Pat says for 35 years she’s remembered this. It has been her platform to be blessed to give a blessing ever after.

Let this be the fall… when you and I fall in love with Christ.

And fall in line, standing on and standing up for his platform.

Love from the center. Hold On…by giving.

Rejoice in friendship and forgiveness.

Bless, for you are blessed in the cross of the Savior.

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