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17 And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His dis ciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from th e seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseas es, 18as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were he aled. 19And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all. 20 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciple s, and said: "Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. 22Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. 25Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. 26Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.Luke 6:17-26 Every Sunday I come here, and before the service starts we have the anno uncements, then in between there and our Call to Worship, I ask you to go throug h a fellowship ritual each week by saying, Greet someone, and tell them youre happ y to see them here today. This is a practice that is very common, particularly i n our denomination, known as passing the peace. We had the same practice while I was at my last appointment in Seneca, and it was a continual headache, and a Wor ship Committee nightmare. At Seneca, we had the ritual located in the middle of the service. Most people seemed to enjoy it, but some considered it a disrupti on, complaining that its too long, or that it gets me out of a worship spirit. At one of our meetings, a committee member, who had already expressed he r dissatisfaction with it, suggested, Lets put it at the end of the service, and i t can be the last thing we do. Someone asked, But wouldnt that in essence eliminat e it? After all, those who will stick around for it will not be many in number, a lot of them want to go get a place in line at the restaurant. Just on a hunch I asked the woman who had suggested it, Thats what youre hoping to accomplish, isnt it? And with that direct question, she frankly admitted that was her intention, and explained her feelings once more. The practice was eventually rescued by w hat I referred to (though not openly to them) as the bladder bunch. It turns out that three or four people in the church had found a functional use for that time slot. These people had problems with overactive bladder, and while everyone el se was enjoying fellowship, they were elsewhere getting much-needed relief. For them, with the strategic timing of the fellowship ritual, it had come to serve a functional purpose. One of those members was our lay leader, and a member of the committee, who wound up being the one whose opinion held sway with many of t he members. I guess pastors never know quite what to expect from one setting to anot

her. But I wonder what they would have done if they had heard me do the same as one pastor I recently read about? When they had the customary Passing the Peace , the pastor said, I want you to stand and greet someone, and tell them, In the nam e of Jesus Christ, you should go to hell. Now, as you may guess, that pastor had a point to make in expressing it that way. I had serious thoughts about announ cing it that way after announcements this morning. But once I stood at the pulp it, the flesh got weak and I backed out. I would guess all of you are familiar with the phrase WWJD. Well, when it comes to telling people about Jesus, what would He do to reach them? Where w ould He go to find them? We have one clue in the written form of the original A postles Creed, which some churches still retain, but I think most have moved away from. Just after it states that He was crucified, dead, and buried, this version states He descended into hell. Tradition has it, based on 1 Peter 3:19, that He went and preached to the souls in hell, saving those who would believe in Him. So what that pastor was actually saying was: if Jesus was willing to go to hell for others, then so should we be willing to follow Him there. Along that line, I can truthfully say, I would not be standing here toda y had it not been for eth eefforts of those who were willing to go into my perso nal self-created hell and pull me out. One was a pastor who was there for me at the return was a lifeline for me in a lot of ways. I have a brother about a ye ar older than me, who was around, it seemed, at all the right times with all the right words to say. Chances are that there is not a single person here today who does not kn okw at least one family member or friend who is trapped in a personal hell on ea rth. And the sad companion truth to that one is, that most of us are either too busy, or too complacent, to care enough to do something about it. There, now Ive gone and done itIve made the pastors #1 pulpit errormotivation by guilt. Guilt is one of the poorest motivators you can possibly find. You s ee, if we answer this call to go to hell as a response to our own guilt feelings , what will happen is that the gas in that guilt train will run out very quickly . And when it does, and our motivation leaves town, we will feel even more guil ty than before. We will refuel the train with a larger tank than before, and we start a guilt cycle that becomes a personal hell of a completely different vari ety. We have just had another celebration of an annual holiday we call Valent ines Day. We do this to rekindle and renew the joys of human love. And I hope t hat somewhere in the midst of giving thanks for that love for one another, that we have remembered and rejoiced in that great love that God has toward us. But more than that, I hope our hearts are stirred and motivated by that love of the Father, to go out and make a difference wherever the opportunity presents itself to us. That daily presentation to us of opportunities is a mixed bag, its somet hing that comes to each of us individually in very different ways. The opportun ities will be different for each one, and the will of God in relation to the des ired response from us will be different. For my own part, Ive been reminded recently that charity indeed starts at home, as the old saying tells us. And Ive started something this year that I re ally have not done, and really should have done a LOT soonertaking field trips wi th the kids. It all started with Kenneth. Most of you know already that he is in a special placement class at Black Street Elementary School. He came home te lling us about a field trip they taking to Charles Towne Landing, and he was so excited that for once it finally caught my attention. I told Lynn about it and it must have struck a chord in her to discover I was going, and she decided to m ake sure to get off work that day and come along. We had a great time, of course, but it was an unexpected event, as usual , that will stay with me. We were just enjoying the day, having a good time wit h these kids, all of whom are in the class for behavioral problems of one kind o r anotherand MOST of whom are having behavioral problems because of negative situ ations in the home environment. One of these kids was a chatterbox who had alre ady made friends with Kenneth, and he spent the morning chattering away with us.

At the middle of the day, they stopped for lunch, and as we sat around in the grass with the group, Brandon caught me totally off-guard: Yall are my favorite p arents. I didnt know what to say, so I just simply asked him, Why do you say that? He replied, Because you go places and do things with us. Now, that may have been no big deal for someone else, but it was for me, and I had to hide my face from him for a bit so he didnt see the tears. I have no idea what Brandons home environment is, what issues this little guy has had to face, or what kind of personal hell his young life may have been. But theres no better feeling in the world than knowing that for that day, for that moment, no matter what else happened, I had, without even realizing it, made a huge differ ence in a little boys world. But what REALLY struck me about it was: that field trip that day was all we had done. And that was all it took for Brandon to dec ide that we were his favorite parents. And Brandon doesnt know it either, but he has had a tremendous effect wit h his words. I told Lynn later that we would have to go on field trips with Ste phanie and Robert as well, because, as I told her, its only fair. But I was lying about being motivated by the fairness issuethere was a little spark of something else that got kindled that day by a little boys words. You know, I wish I could say that doing that sort of thing was represent ative of how my life has been. But to be truthful, I have to say that its the ex ception, and there are more times I can point to in similar situations, when I d id not respond. And most of the time, when that door opens and we hesitate, and watch it close againthat chance is forever gone. Let me say, I realize I have g one against the grain of what this passage is saying; the passage basically say s You are blessed even when your circumstances seem to say the opposite. But I th ink it is just as valid to get from these words, that you are also blessed when you respond to similar circumstances; Yes, its an unusual way of putting it, to say that we are called to go to hellto enter into those dark places in peoples liv es and let them know they are loved. This day comes to us the same as any other day comes, with doors of oppo rtunity waiting for us to discover whats behind themeven though some of them look like they open into hell. For the opportunities that come your way: will you w alk in? or will you let it close, and the opportunity for blessing close with i t?