Boy Scouts

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Boy Scouts

Ezekiel 34:17-23

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.”

One of the basic tenets of the Boy Scouts of America that I remember from my very short time as a Cub Scout was that we are to leave a place better than we find it. It is not the first rule of Boy Scouting, but it may well be the underlying purpose behind it all. In fact, this tenet alone could probably be taken up as a life purpose for us all, not just a purpose for Boy Scouts.

It is a little sad to me that I can recall several major pop artists (Michael Jackson and John Lennon for example) who put this purpose to music, while they may or may not have actually lived it out themselves. But all too often it comes across as a very soft and passive approach to life, sounding like advice to a person who is told, if you cannot do anything else, at least try to be a nice person. This tenet was not meant to be something to do if you cannot think of anything else. It was meant to be a first purpose for existence.

Contrast the idea of leaving the world better than you found it with the idea of “carving out a name for yourself”, perhaps reminiscent of those who carve their names on tree trunks as children and on concrete buildings as they grow older. Carving is a basic predatorial attempt to mark your territory – to take something forcefully as your own. You do not have to have any leadership skills to do that. You just have to be strong and fear-inspiring. While the two ideas are not mutually exclusive (you can do both), taking something over does not guarantee it will be better for your ownership and responsibility for it. Often, as in the example of the bigger sheep mentioned above, all the show of force does is ruin the watering holes for everyone as they are used and abused faster than if there were no leadership at all.

The temptation in leadership is to try to remain objective and take yourself out of the equation. If you are responsible, surely you should not be judged by the same standards as the sheep around you. Yet in order to actually leave the place better, you have to do just the opposite. If you would put yourself in the place of judging others, you must find honest and accurate ways to judge yourself first, because your own footprints matter, and sometimes they are even larger than those around you. You and I, as leaders are very much either part of the solution or part of the problem, and no one gets to sit back apart, above and exempt from influence and responsibility. It is the wise leader, the true leader, who recognizes their place in every system they touch and owns up to the brokenness they find around them by making the active, intentional choice to leave it better than they found it.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Benediction

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Keeping Your Priorities Straight While Changing the World – The Fourth Priority- Leave Each Place Better Than You Found It

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“And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.”

Mark‬ ‭1:29-45‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There was a lot that Jesus did during the course of His ministry that may not have fit right into His mission of delivering us from the spiritual bondage we were held under. For example, Mark tells us that the second challenge He faced in His ministry, after facing down the evil spirits that approached Him, was helping relieve the physical sickness and injury that the people faced.

Physical brokenness often seemed to go hand in hand with spiritual brokenness, and many people believed that they were intrinsically linked. If you were sick, it was because you were a sinner. If you got hurt, it was because you were not good enough for the blessing of God. This has been a perennial belief that keeps coming back like a bad patch of weeds. Jesus had healing for the asking and He rarely gave any behavioral stipulations to those He healed. On and individualistic level, it may seem perplexing and contradictory to say that spiritual problems and physical problems are closely related, but one does not necessarily cause the other. If they do not share a causal relationship, how are they related?

The truth is, they do share a causal relationship, but not on and individualistic level. We live in a world full of billions of other people and their spiritual problems reach out and touch us causing us problems as well, both spiritual and physical. Likewise, our own sins have consequences for more than just us. They touch everyone. We all live in the same mess, no matter who or where we are in this world. So, when you look at the big picture, across the entire world, and across all of time, then yes, there is a causal relationship between sin and physical brokenness – but it’s all wound up like a wad of string the size of our world that we will never be able to fully unravel.

Jesus didn’t try to unravel it all. He started at the heart of that mess, dealing with the spiritual malady we all are affected by, and then He began to untangle one small piece at a time. Jesus did not finish the job, nor did He intend to. Instead, He showed us how we too, once we find the origin of our own sin problem, can begin unraveling the consequences around us, in the lives of those whose own lives connect with ours. Like the old Boy Scout motto, Jesus taught us to leave each place a little better than we found it.

We rarely can find the root sin cause of suffering in the lives of those around us, but we can be a witness to our own, when we find those links… But even then, our own sin is the the root cause of our suffering. The root cause originated in the Garden of Eden and had multiplied and compounded over time, long before it ever reached us. Again, it is not our job to unravel the whole thing. Jesus has dealt with the root cause and as we receive healing in our lives from the consequences of sin (whether or not that sin was of our own doing or not) we can pass that healing along to those around us. Jesus didn’t heal everyone and neither does He expect us to, but I think He will hold us responsible for those He brings into our lives. Our fourth priority is to work to clean up this collateral damage that sin has caused in our world, wherever we find it, and leave this world better than we found it.

Goat Song

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Stamp! Stamp! – the restless son                        Clamp! Clamp! – the tethered colt

before beliefs beset between                                luna’s low laugh lauded

a startled flock                                                            lifting palms

unending train                                                            trampling coats

ripples riddled Adam’s bane                                 crowded by a flock of goats

Tramp! Tramp! – the dying day                           Chomp! Chomp! – the bitter teeth

could coo the crowd carrying                              mincing meanings made for mercy

a heaving hand                                                            burning in

upholding hope                                                           the outer cold

dancing down a slippery slope                              for payments made in blood and gold

Bleat! Bleat! – the charming chest                        Flake! Flake! – the broken bread

drinking droughts of dreadful dross                    needed nought known by none

infusing face                                                                   flayed to feed

outpouring lies                                                             and hunger heal

to cover over sightless eyes                                   crushed beneath the tragic wheel

Trip! Trap! – the fathers gruff                                 Stomp! Stomp! – the vineyard press

ripen rivaled rustic rib                                              angered action aim appall

seeking green and                                                        spewing lies

losing truth                                                                     choking true

feeding famished toller’s tooth                               a multitude against the few

Clip! Clap! – the shaved slave                                  Chop! Chop! – the butcher’s block

sinning strongs and saving salt                               waiting with a weary world

in buried births                                                              in hungry cold

raising Cain                                                                      to feed the flame

a vengeance for a neighbor’s pain                          with a lamb who bears the name

Fleet! Feet! – swift to shed                                         Bleed! Bleed! – the paschal son

torrid tired trying trust                                              forever filial faith is found

for given much                                                               for goats in shame

they take the more                                                       this lamb was slain

no entry yet they bar the door                               to break the power of evil’s reign

Creak! Creak! – the ancient gate                             Crack! Crack! – the ancient gate

nimbly numbly naming now                                    drenched in drops of death destroyed

none called right                                                           and Love’s first light

all sent left                                                                        shines in the gloom

their purity within bereft                                           while goats reborn from barren womb

sing praises at an empty tomb

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