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25 August 2010 Issue

1. A Testimony

2. Essay: Can One Righteous Person Save the Community?

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

1. A Testimony

I grew up with a Christian mother and father and every Sunday I was in church learning about love and faith and all of the values that I hold dear and close to my heart. Two years ago I was on a trip to St. Louis with my youth group. We were at a convention called the Nazarene Youth Conference, or NYC. I was so excited because the whole week was about worshiping God and helping others. There were 10,000 Christian youth who came, and we all brought cans of food. We raised enough food for almost 10,000 families and it was one of the best weeks of my life. One night we were walking through the streets of St. Louis taking in the sights and admiring the calm air of the city when a man crossed our path with a handful of flyers. He offered me one. I took it. My life was changed. The man was giving of his time to pass out pamphlets provided by the Christian Vegetarian Association. I’ll never forget that first night after I read the brochure and realized how many amazing benefits result of a vegetarian lifestyle…

I was sitting at dinner with friends in the giant gymnasium where we ate all of our meals. There were almost ten thousand people surrounding me. Noise was everywhere, and a once-frozen Salisbury steak was on my plate. I took one bite, and I felt sick. I could not take one more. I pushed the plate away from my body and have never eaten the meat of any animal since that day. After we left the cafeteria I called my youth group together and told them that I had become a vegetarian. They all had questions, and I had barely any answers because it was still all so new to me. All I knew was that this was something that I needed to do. This was part of the person that I needed to be… My biggest challenge as a vegetarian is also my greatest reward. As a strong Protestant Christian, many of my church family do not understand why I am a vegetarian… I hope to share God’s love around the world, and I want everyone to understand that God loves all of his creations…I hope and pray that I will be able to continue sharing how powerful living a vegetarian life can be.”

2. Essay: Can One Righteous Person Save the Community?

Last week, I reflected on Genesis 18, in which God tells Abraham that God will spare Sodom if there are 10 righteous men in the city. God departs from Abraham before we learn what would happen if there less than ten, or even one. This question is pressing, because there are good reasons to believe that human civilization is at great risk of collapse because our resource use is not sustainable and because there is a growing ecological crisis. Like Sodom, human greed and hard-heartedness threaten to destroy humanity.

Can less than ten, or even one, righteous person save us? While there is great diversity within Christendom regarding the relationship between Jesus and God and regarding the meaning of stories about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, I think a common denominator among all Christians is that Jesus was righteous. Will Jesus’ righteousness save humanity from self-destruction?

Though I am doubtful that humanity will show the compassion, respect, and justice needed to meet our global challenges, I think that the legacy of Jesus’ ministry gives us a shred of hope. Jesus taught that we should focus on God and God’s realm, that we should treat our neighbors as ourselves, and that we should show love and compassion. These principles, if taken to heart, would encourage people to be mindful of how all their choices affect other individuals. At a bare minimum, humanity must cease torturing and murdering innocent creatures to satisfy taste preferences, for fashion, for entertainment, for unnecessary scientific experiments (which, arguably, describes the vast majority if not all experiments), and the countless other ways humans abuse animals. If this is too much for humanity, then it seems that humanity has no hope of meeting the greater challenges involved in treating each other with compassion and respect. We must learn to share with each other and to cease striving to dominate each other – difficult lessons to learn. If we (humanity in general) can’t find it in our hearts stop tormenting animals for trivial reasons, then how can we find ways to leave peacefully with each other? Conversely, if we find ways to rationalize tormenting animals unnecessarily, it is easy to rationalize injustice for humans when doing so seems “necessary” for national security or maintenance of our standards of living, for example.

In my view, being Christian involves much more than declaring oneself reborn in Christ. It involves striving to be Christ-like, to have the same mind as Christ (see Philippians 2:5). Even if we aim to follow Christ in all our ways, we will still err out of ignorance or personal weakness, but a world of people dedicated to live as Christ lived (whether or not they call themselves Christian) will be far more likely to see humanity and the rest of God’s creation thrive. I think that, in large part thanks to Jesus, we have access to the knowledge of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9), which can bring about the realm of God. Will we use that knowledge, or will we perish?

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

Daniel, God’s Man in the Field (Part VI)
http://www.all-creatures.org/sermons97/s6aug89.html .

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