Scandal

Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 16:21-28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Scandal: an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.
There is actually a television show with the same name, “Scandal.” The hero or heroine or maybe I should say main protagonist is called Olivia Pope and she is a “fixer.” She, along with her team have the job of fixing scandals sometimes before they even become scandals.
 Someone will come to her with a problem that would be a scandal, and she goes to work and fixes it sometimes before it is known and the public outrage happens.
 The word “Scandal” has a long origin. It comes from the Greek word “scandalon” which you find in the bible. Interestingly enough the Greek word, scandalon, is translated as “stumbling block” and has a different meaning that what we ascribe to the word scandal today.
 I think “scandal” is an interesting word. Who decides whether something is a “scandal?”
How much public outrage does there have to be in order for something to be a scandal?
Is a scandal subjective then?
For instance the current French President Emmanuel Macron when he was in high school fell in love with his married teacher who was 25 years his senior and eventually she divorced and married him.
 I am not trying to judge. All I am saying is that in some countries that would have been a scandal that probably would have kept him out of office, but not in France.
 In fact I know of a situation where in Canada a male older teacher and a female student started a relationship while she was in high school and he was married. Later on he divorced and they were married.
The difference was that in the meantime he went to jail for Canadian laws are stricter about teacher-student relationships which in Canada is called an abuse of trust and abuse of trust has a higher age limit 18 than age of consent which in Canada is 16.
I am not trying to argue the rights and wrongs of the laws but just that what is considered a scandal can vary.
 It also seems to me that when it comes to scandal the media may try to make things which may be wrong or suspect into a big issue because it sells.
There may be a fine line between media giving us the the whole truth and blowing something out of proportion.
 But maybe going along with that is the baseness of the human populace that likes sensationalism, that likes salacious gossip, that doesn’t like the truth neat, but likes the truth with a lot of embellishment and sometimes likes lies more than truth if it is really naughty stuff.
 Fake news may be better than real news if its juicy and spicy and scandalous and puts people down or delves into their secret naughty lives.
  Why is it we like that?
 I think it is because we have egos and the ego can be selfish and self-protective. And this selfish and self-protective feeds on drama to make us look superior to others.
However, the stronger our ego is, the more unhappy we are, really.  Because we continually need ego food to stay strong.  We need constant supply of reinforcements to our own feelings of superiority based on how we look, where we live, how much money we make, our title and positions in society, who we associate with, what kind of car we drive etc.
The stronger our ego is the more we condemn, criticize, judge and delight in the scandals of other, because it make us feel better.
But it is a lie. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The ego is the false self. The true self is the nature of God within you. The Christ that lives in you. What you were created to be: loving, caring, joyful, peaceful, a healer, a reconciler.
But we learn to live in the ego, because we think we are protecting ourselves from any and all hurt.
 But Jesus says it is better to take up a cross and lose your live and endure hurt, so that you find life, your true self.
We must crucify the ego, so the true self can be born.
But it is hard.
We love scandal because it makes us feel righteous and superior.
We love to blow things up into issues often about things that are really issues.
We do that because of the hurt in our lives, which isn’t healed. And so instead of addressing the real hurt in our lives and forgiving those who hurt us and moving on, we let that story of pain fuel our moral outrage at others and turn things into issues that don’t necessarily have to be issues.
 Let’s get rid of all the confederate statues in the Southern United States. Let’s get rid of all the statues of our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald.
 The danger in this is that it is mostly fueled by a sense of superiority and public outrage.
There should be reasoned discussion about history and a recognition of our faults and sins. There should be reasoned discussion about who we commemorate and how.
But sometimes when we turn up the fires of moral and public outrage we have to be careful that our egos don’t run wild and instead of casting the log out of our own eyes, we are more worried about the specks in other people’s eyes.
I remember an episode of the Waltons. That is a tv show from a long time ago about a family in rural Virginia during the great Depression and World War 2.
In one episode outraged people decided to burn every book that was written in German, because of the war.
John Boy Walton tried to reason with the people, saying that this was not the way. He reached down to try and rescue one of the books and realized it was a bible written in German.
 When we are in public outrage, we cannot forgive, we cannot heal, we cannot reconcile, because we are right and the other is so terribly wrong.
The French Philosopher Rene Girard talks about “Scandal” as a trap.
Let’s give a kind of example. When countries are morally outraged by North Korea and its armament goals, and they decide to have provocative war games and build up their arsenals…then the North Korean’s are outraged and send rockets over another country…
 The trap is that the world is increasingly becoming more unsafe while each side is doing more supposedly to make itself safe and declare its own rightness.
Jesus called Peter a Satan and a scandal. Scandal is translated Stumbling block.
That is what a scandal is: it is a stumbling block, it is a temptation to sin.
Jesus was tempted by Peter’s offer. “
“No, no. no Jesus” says Peter, “you are not to suffer, you are not to die…instead you are to be morally outraged by those Romans and you are to attack them and kill them and defeat them.”
 And Jesus was tempted like any human would be tempted to attack and kill and defeat the enemies.
And believe me the Romans were enemies who had done some pretty nasty stuff. Crucifixion was just one of the nasty things that Romans did.
But Jesus said:
Get thee behind me Satan. I am going to live my true self, which is my Godself. I am going to be the child of God I was created to be and instead of violence and hate and fighting and beating and killing and destroying and winning….
I am going to forgive and I am going to love, and I am going to reconcile and I am going to heal…
And if you truly want to be my followers you are going to do the same…
And it you suffer and die because you love and work for peace and reconciliation, then that might be the cost for finding your true self, your Godself, for reclaiming your identity of child of God.
I don’t know what or who scandalizes you. I saw some pretty mean things were said about Melania Trump the other day because when she and the President went to Houston she was wearing high-heeled shoes.
I am not sure if she was supposed to wear Hip waders or Hunter Wellies, but I commented on facebook. “Who cares what she wears? Let it go. Don’t Judge.”
 Really, we want to turn what Melania wears into a scandal???
 I can think of lots of ugly things in this world that happen to people. I know of people who have undergone horrible things.
Rape, torture, abuse, starvation, abandonment, war, injustice…
We could go on and on with a list of the ways people have hurt other, how people have broken boundaries, or used people…
 But it seems to me that if we want to minister to people then we need to have another stance that than of moral outrage.
 Listen to some good words from Paul:
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
If someone comes into my office and wants to speak to me about something that they have done wrong.
 My stance is not to be scandalized.
I don’t cry out: “Oh my God, you are the most evil person in the world.
You did what?
I can’t believe it.
You wore high heel shoes to a flood zone.
You are going to hell for sure?”
 No my stance is to be patient, to understand, to sympathize, to even walk in that person’s shoes. To build rapport so there is a safe place for that person to confess, to find forgiveness, to realize that there is hope, that they can be different.
A prostitute went to visit a counsellor one time. She was feeling pretty bad because she had involved her own child in the sex trade.
The counsellor listened. He suggested that maybe she should go to a church and find forgiveness.
Her reply was: “Why would I do that? I already feel bad enough. I don’t want to feel any worse.”
 You see she was not expecting, love, patience, kindness, sympathy or forgiveness from the church.
She was expecting moral outrage and condemnation.
And that is why the cross is a scandal.
 We are scandalized by the radical forgiveness of Jesus. We don’t forgive everyone.
We are scandalized by some suggestion that we should be non-violent, that we should not fight against our enemies and defeat them.
We are scandalized by the radical inclusion, not just of the poor and the downtrodden, although to tell you the truth there are probably a lot more church people who don’t want the street people in the church than let on.
…but we are scandalized by Jesus’ inclusion of traitors and the purveyors of the sex trade, and the morally impure and people of other faiths and religions.
 Nowhere does it say that Jesus told people to forget their own religion and convert to Judaism or Christianity. A couple of times he spoke about those from other religions as having great faith.
 We are scandalized by the words of Jesus who criticized those with wealth, especially those who don’t share it..
“To whom much is given, much is required.”
And sometimes we in the church have been scandalized so much that we change the message of loving one another, and forgiving all including our enemies, and not judging, and being non-violent, and living in peace, and sharing our wealth, and welcoming all….
….into a totally different message that goes something like this:
If you don’t believe the correct Christian doctrine you are going to burn in hell.
Sometimes I am just like Peter:
 “No, no, no Jesus, you just can’t forgive those people. You can’t share with those people. You can’t be reconciled to those people. You can’t accept and welcome those people.
You have to beat up those people. You have to condemn those people. You have to get rid of those people.
You can’t suffer and die and be persecuted and tortured. You can’t be a loser. You have to win.”
 And maybe Jesus suggests it is better to suffer and be tortured rather than hurt and kill.
It is better to be killed than it is to not love.It’s been eleven years since Terri Roberts’ life changed forever.

In October 2006, her 32-year-old son Charlie walked into an Amish school in Lancaster County and shot 10 young girls, killing five of them before killing himself.
“I heard the sirens and heard helicopters,” Roberts said. “My phone was ringing and it was my husband and he said, ‘You have to get to Charlie’s right away.’ And I looked at my husband with these sunken eyes, just saying, ‘It was Charlie.’
“It could not be,” she said, shaking her head and with tears in her eyes. “It truly was. It was our son.”
Roberts’ initial reaction was that she had to move away. But the Amish came to her the night of the shooting to say they wanted her to stay.
Some of the victims’ families attended her son’s funeral.
“There are not words to describe how that made us feel that day,” said Roberts.
“For the mother and father who had lost not just one but two daughters at the hand of our son, to come up and be the first ones to greet us — wow. Is there anything in this life that we should not forgive?”
(From CBS News)
Is there anything we should not forgive?
We must confess, sometimes we’d rather be scandalized than forgive. Sometimes we want to express moral outrage, not forgiveness.And Jesus says: Get thee behind me Satan.

If you want to follow me take up your cross, and forgive and share and love even if it hurts.
Amen.