Oratory Cheek

Speeches from the great cheeky one.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Looking towards the redemption of all creation and trying to find myself whole and moving within it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Friends: Vol. 3: Friendship of God/ with God

Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to a friend. (Exodus 33:11)

II Chronicles 20:7 & James 2:23 both refer to Abraham as God’s friend.

Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear him. With them he shares the secret of the covenant. (Psalm 25:14)

God offers his friendship to the Godly. (Proverbs 3:32)

I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. (John 15:15)

However, in Matthew 11:19, Jesus is called “a friend of the worst of sinners.”

What is wrong with Jesus? Only the good are supposed to be allowed the privilege of hanging with the G.O.D. Peep this: Sociologists and writers have looked at the patterns of friendship-building in high schools in America and have found three basic friendship groups. They call these “Alphas”, “Betas”, and “Gammas” – the first three letters of the Greek alphabet. Gammas are the social groups that are neither popular nor want to be popular. They pretty much exist on their own. Betas, on the other hand, are not popular but would die to be popular. They are also known, sadly, as wannabees. Betas practically worship the Alphas. Alphas are the popular ones – the jocks, cheerleaders, the talented and beautiful. And God is The Alpha. He’s the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the Alpha of alphas. And look, he’s not fratting around with the alphas or even the so-badly-wanna-get-to-know-the-Son-of-God-I’m-gonna-wizz-my-pants betas, the spiritual and political leaders of the day. He’s hanging with the lowly, despicable, fashion-less, ugly gammas. He’s even hanging with those that don’t have any friends, like that scum bag Nicodemus.

“Here he is,” the good folks, the alphas and betas say, “Jesus walks with the hustlas, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers. Jesus walks with them?” And they mention it as an accusation, as something shameful. “Oh, there’s our savior, cavorting around with the worst of sinners in all the public places. Oh, Lordie, Lordie.”

What has changed? In the Old Testament, God was friends with Abraham and Moses, giants of the faith, right? The founders of Judaism and thus Christianity. And the disciples, now there’s a godly group, right? They started the church. And God’s saying that he reserves his friendship for those who fear him; he reserves his friendship for the Godly. You would think that only the alphas and the betas can be his friends, right?

So what has changed? God? What… is he running for president? He can’t make up his mind? He read popularity polls? [He’s got some dude in a vest and tie saying, “Um, God, see here, your popularity is slipping in the middle class 16-24 year old female demographic with that latest earthquake. I really think we need an image over-haul, God. You need to be seen as friendly.”] God’s not a man that he should change his mind! Eternity is in the palm of his hand. You see, not only is he the Alpha, he’s also the Omega. God don’t change because he don’t need to, because he is all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, and all-true. His promises are true and they never change. So, what has changed? Us? Have we become better and more worthy of God’s friendship? (Look entreating for a genuine answer.) Nooo. The same stupidity and selfishness that was there when Adam & Eve took the advice of a talking snake with legs and ate some “magical” fruit to become gods is still infecting us – only now it’s compounded exponentially. [The best and the brightest people in the whole world get together in large, important rooms and say stuff like: “If we make bombs that can destroy entire cities, we’ll finally have peace on earth.” Or: “I get it: we can make veal for lonely, lazy people with little taste who like to watch tv yet don’t have enough patience to actually wait or cook.” Who in the world is buying these tv dinners? I fit all of those categories, and I can’t stand that stuff.] Ladies and gentlemen, we haven’t changed a bit; we’re just more stupid.

What has changed is our understanding of God and his approachability – his friendliness. You see, when Jesus came, he set the prisoners free. God had always been a friend of the selfish and the stupid [otherwise known as “Us”]. When Abraham was called to follow God, he was a common pagan worshipping common gods. I tend to think he had some family issues. Unfortunately, these pagan gods and issues followed his family around wherever they went. Moses was reckless. He murdered a man and then buried him in the sand. [Buried him in the sand? “No one will ever find this body in the sand.” C’mon—even serial killers have enough sense to bury people under their houses – or at least in the fridge. Houses don’t move!] Moses then has the audacity to run from God for forty years, breaks stone tablets with God’s own commandments on them, strikes a rock twice when God tells him to hit it only once. The disciples ran, fled, hid, chopped off a guy’s ear, were filled with unbelief and fear even after Jesus called them his friends.

Again, God didn’t change but our understanding of God’s approachability did, especially as God came to earth in the form of a man, Jesus. Jesus merely said, “Follow me.” That is the same initial command that he gave to Abraham. Following God really has gotten no easier, but Jesus comes alongside us to help us to die to the world and live for God. It is not an easy friendship that God offers us, but it is a complete friendship, one that is true offered from the one who is true. And in trying to get our attention to make us understand the severity of the command of following him, Jesus went to the dregs of society, to the ones who were far from him, to the sick and imprisoned and became their friend, their real friend, offering himself with every bit of himself that he can offer. Notice that after Jesus calls the disciples his friends, he says that they did not choose him, but that he chose them. He pursued them; he wooed them. That is love, the true backbone of genuine friendship.

It is here that we realize that God desires to come and fill the empty spaces in our lives left by our friends. He fills them with love. He fills them with himself.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Friends: Vol. 2, When Friends Leave

Read Vol. 1: Our Circle of Friends

Calamity strikes: where'’d my "friends"” go? (Job's story.)


It is not an enemy who taunts me - I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me - I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-14)

A trouble-maker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

There are "friends"’ who destroy each other... (Proverbs 18:24a)

My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My neighbors and my close friends are all gone... My close friends abhor me. (Job 19:13)


Job's friends just had to open their fat lips after those seven days. Always looking for an answer, not so much that Job would be made well, but so that the puzzle of Job's dilemma would be solved and they would prove themselves right. I don'’t believe that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were acting as true friends in this moment. They were not Jonathans, they were more common, more human, I think. Not bad people, not even necessarily wrong (although God did accuse them of darkening his counsel with foolishness), just too self-absorbed to really offer the assistance and true friendship that Job needed at this crisis of his life.

And, yes, we have friends as such. We know them. Sometimes, we are them. I know myself better than any other person on the whole planet not named "God." And I know I fall into that trap myself. I become frustrated too easily. I don’t know the best thing to do for my friends'’ benefit. It'’s like a war: what's good for him or her against what'’s easy and feels good for me. Their genuine welfare, this is my confession, oftentimes is less a concern to me than the fact that they appear to be faring well. I tend to care less about how my friends are really doing and really feeling than the fact that they not go moping around like a sad fish caught in a hook. But, that's the situation they're often in. The danger is, we believe what we perceive and we perceive what we believe. She's in a bad mood? Snap out of it! She'’s depressed? Give her some Prozac. He's distracted? Give him some Ritalin! Medicate, hide, get over your problems; – just keep them away from me.

You see, I - in this state - care more for my own perception of happiness than I do for my friend. There is no love there. Therefore, we drift apart; there's a rift, a breakup, a chasm, a great divide, a canyon cut with a razor's edge.

And darkness comes to fill the empty spaces.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Friend: Our Circle of Friends. Vol. 1 of 5

Genesis 1-2

Verses and Biblical context:

And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.”… So the Lord God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adam’s ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam. (Genesis 2:18, 21-22)

Story of the friendship between David and Jonathan

There’s a story of a prince, a young man readied to inherit his father’s throne, and his friend – a lowly, poor, animal-worker who was also a musician, teenager and giant-killer. This is a story of how their friendship and loyalty were greater than the son’s own desire to be the next king. And greater than his own father’s wishes. Because the prince, the giant-killer, and the king all knew that the giant-killer would be the next king if the common people, the military and God had anything to say about it.

So the king tried to kill the giant-killer. The prince talked him out of it—the first time. The prince didn’t know about the second assassination attempt against his friend. And when his friend told him, the prince could not believe his ears. So, he waited to see if the king would be upset if the giant-killer did not show up at a party where he was supposed to be murdered. The king was upset – very, very upset – and honestly told his son why:

“If David lives, he will be the king instead of you. Don’t you care? I’m doing this for you!”

Jonathan is, of course, upset. So upset that he doesn’t even finish his supper and runs away. Before Saul the king takes away his cell-phone, though, Jonathan runs to warn David and pledge his loyalty to him.

Three of Job’s friends were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to demonstrate their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. And no one said a word, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (Job 2:11-13)

It’s a good and right thing to have friends and we see that right here in the beginning of the Bible, in the beginning of the story of our lives and where we meet with God. God himself goes through the effort of creating a friend for Adam.

But nearly every time I hear that section of scripture quoted, as a single adult male [who also happens to be attractive and witty], I feel slighted, like people are wagging fingers at me. “Get married... get married.” Come on, cut me some slack. It can’t possibly be that this passage says that every man needs a wifey, every woman needs a hubby. What strikes me here is that God says that it isn’t good for a man to be alone – not necessarily that it isn’t good for the man to not have his soul-mate, or to find a fine female with a fine figure, or someone to make him complete while emptying his wallet [which is, of course, what they do. Some men have said that for a woman to fulfill her purpose-driven life means that some man, somewhere, will go bankrupt]. But that’s what we’ve limited it to recently: Eve was a perfect soul-mate who fulfilled all of Adam’s longings and then, while he’s napping, she does the dishes and laundry. [Of course, laundry in those days was pretty light, ‘cuz y’know, they didn’t have any clothes.]

“It isn’t God for a man to be alone.” Adam was created perfect. The Lord created Adam in his own image and then said he was good. Yet, Adam was not complete on his own. Adam was a creature created to be aware of his needs. He breathed not because someone told him to, but he needed to and found it came easy. He also found that he needed companionship, camaraderie, friendship. Of course, Eve was a dime.

Adam and Eve filled the earth with other companions and later we see some great examples of friendship, including Jonathan and David. Job had just lost his family and his skin was completely covered in boils and scabs. Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar spent a whole week with Job in the middle of his misery without saying a thing. It’s for times such as those and times such as these that we were given friends.

Why another one?

I'm creating this blog for space reasons, mostly. I want to have a sort of living, active archive of my speeches, sermons and some of my more favorite lessons.

My regular blog, left cheek, a word-play turn on Jesus' answer to wrath has so much going on it already. I have a feeling that most of my regulars aren't in a postion to have to suffer a three page outline on any sort of basis. This way, if they or anyone else so desires, they may be able to peruse and hopefully, be uplifted, challenged, edified or any of these other evangelical buzz words that basically mean, "Hallelujah! I need to keep followin' Jesus!"

If you desire to borrow any thing here, I only ask that you leave a note and give credit where credit is due (O, and don't steal wholesale. Of course, if you did, I would suggest you lift from Jonathan Edwards, St. Augustine, St. Paul, Spurgeon, y'know, one of the greats.)

Anyway, soon to post.