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Sermon: The Joy of Bethel: Christ Centered Community

OK, you shouldn’t have this much fun in church, but we did! What does it mean to be in community with Jesus and each other? We answer that question AND another TV show theme song. We end with our closing song (included) that is a classic!

Article: Unconditional Love

Franciszek_Gajowniczek_(Auschwitz_5659)Fr.Maximilian_Kolbe_1939

Prisoner #16670

Unconditional love is uncommon. Sure it is easy to love those who love you. I can even see loving those who are nice to you. It is very different to love a stranger or even an enemy.

We all know the words of Jesus that relate to this very concept: If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Matthew 5:46-47

It is far easier to put your head down and mind your own business or even to work at not hating those who give us a hard time. Yet Jesus doesn’t say, “Just don’t hate people.” The call isn’t to some middle ground like the 38th parallel that separates North and South Korea and is referred to as the demilitarized zone (DMZ). No, there is call to a love that is active not just in words but in our actions too.

I can’t help but think of prisoner #16670 of Auschwitz Poland. He was arrested and imprisoned for printing anti-government pamphlets as well as hiding and protecting Polish citizens of Jewish descent.

Five months into his incarceration several inmates escaped. In retaliation, the deputy camp commander randomly chose ten men to die as an example to others who might be contemplating escape. When prisoner #5659 was selected, he cried out that he had a wife and children. In that very moment, prisoner#16670 volunteered to take this man’s place.

Prisoner #16670 was Father Maximilian Kolbe. He survived fourteen days of starvation and no water. He was promptly given a lethal injection after surviving what should have killed him.

Later Father Kolbe was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Prisoner #5659 survived four more years in the concentration camp before he was liberated. His name was Franciszek Gajowniczek. He was reunited with his wife Helena and he lived until 1995.

Father Kolbe actively loved Franciszek by offering his life in place of his. In 1994, Gajowniczek visited the St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church of Houston, Texas where he told his translator Chaplain Thaddeus Horbowy that “so long as he … has breath in his lungs, he would consider it his duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe.”

The truth is most of us, if not all of us will never be in a position to make a choice like that. However, the example of selfless living, loving and dying is a reminder that loving all others is not as difficult as what prisoner #16670 did for prisoner #5659. Come to think of it, the Roman prisoner named Jesus did the same thing… but for humanity. Loving others seems easy in comparison. We all need a little perspective once in awhile, including myself.

God bless,
Pr. Ben