Malachi 1:6-2:9 - my sermon notes.

About a month ago I somehow made contact with a Syrian Kurd fighting ISIL in the small (now famous) border town of Kobani. He later moved to Mt Sinjar/Shengal. This is a slightly edited version of my sermon from yesterday where I tell the story of how that connection ended.

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I had a big week this week. 

You know how I’ve been in contact with a Kurdish fighter against ISIS. I mentioned him a couple of weeks ago. We have a nice rapport together and he has been very kind in answering some of my questions.

This week he tweeted his final tweets. On Tues he wrote that IS militants were doing a massive push, and reminded us all to pray for Yazidis. There was silence from his account for two days. I sent him a few private messages. 'are you ok, bro?' 'What’s happening?' 

Suddenly a new voice comes on. ‘Hevallo, me, Simo, Brother Tigrisi is seriously injured. pray for him. He kill 7 daesh (Arabic for ISIS). Allah save.’

These must have been fighters on the mountain with him. ‘No bother Tigrisi.’

I posted this online and let a few people know. 'Look he’s been seriously injured'. I’m quite upset, but I figure that this is a worthy story to get out there. 

'What are his injuries?' I ask. 

‘He lost much blood and left hand.’

His left hand?! How crushing, but this is even more of a powerful story. Here's a man who literally gives his left hand to save the Yazidis! What a sacrifice!

A few other people are asking questions, I pass on the news. 

In any case, I’m becoming a contact person. 

And then he died. 

Whoever was with him posted “brother tigrisi is dead” 

“we are too fucking late. he is dead. I need a break. Done.” said one of the people I was talking to.

I figured that his young guy has died under my watch. I should take some responsibility in getting his story out. 

And so that’s what I did. 

I posted a few times about what he achieved - that he killed 86 IS and that people should spread the news.

They did.

Meanwhile, whoever was with him started switched his page into a private memorial page. I’m not sure why, maybe it was a respect thing.

But I thought that “No. this man’s life will not be forgotten.” and I chose some really great excerpts from my conversations together. Look at what he was like, he was a true hero. I pushed it. As is right. As I should: his death brings attention to Mt Sinjar. 

The following tweets are screenshots from private dialogue between us a couple of weeks before. My tweet comments are in the captions below. 

Last line: *check*

Last line: *check*

These #TwitterKurds can be kinda tough. 

These #TwitterKurds can be kinda tough. 

 

And you know what happened?

My account went nuts. Seriously. Ping. Ping. Ping. My phone is going CRAZY! “Oh man, that’s so sad.” “Thanks for letting us know.” People are asking for his name, and I’m trying to help. All these people from all over the world are trying to help me find out his name. 

The story is heading out. This guy is getting the recognition he deserves, and I am the one getting it out there.  

@Ezidipress is the main Yazidi advocacy account with several thousand followers and she contacts me and tells me that they translated my conversations into German. There is a few Spanish translations aswell. People are making music video tributes with mashed up quotes, emotive music and pictures of fields. 

Eventually I get overwhelmed by the kindness of people and the sadness of loss and my own tiredness and sense of responsibility. I find myself weeping and cursing, alone on my computer at 2am. “I don’t want to do this. I didn't even want to do social media at all.”

All the next day, my phone is pinging every 10 mins. Occasionally I press a button (retweet) to signal my approval. It’s good, people are spreading the message. Tigrisi and Mt Sinjar are getting the attention they deserve. 

But then...

The next evening a kurdish activist (@r3sho) who I have followed for a few months starts ranting against the whole campaign.

“Whoever started this fucking Tigrisi Witness attention whoring should be tied up and beaten.”

me: er, what?

@r3sho keeps going for 11 tweets about how unlikely it is, and how much damage it is doing to genuine Kurdish activism. How there are records of martyrs that are fastidiously kept. He is angry at the abuse of sincere martyrdom, that this is a mockery of such a high sacrifice.  

[read these from the bottom up]

[read these from the bottom up]

This dude starts talking to me, personally, mostly because I am the one behind all the pushing. Despite his frustration with the campaign, he is kind to me. 

He persuades me that it’s fake. 
Bits and pieces that probably shouldn't have added up at the time, started crumbling away. I had just been filling in the gaps and compensating out of pity…. it all started to come crashing down. It was fake. The death was a fake. He didn’t kill any ISIS. My opinion is that he was a well-meaning thoughtful kurdish young man, who got carried away when he was being treated like a soldier. 

So I deletE everything. I contact people who contacted me, and let them know. I pushed it out there, and almost as suddenly I am shutting it down, FAST.

There is one more retweet after this then the whole movement stops. 

And now I'm emotionally exhausted and I need to have a sermon to preach in 24 hours.

This story is all I have. 

Tigrisi Witness claimed to be a protector of the poor and vulnerable. He claimed to have offered the ultimate sacrifice. And he would have gotten away with it. But there was a true and genuine sacrifice that it was imitating. And his wasn’t good enough. It didn’t compare. In fact it actually *harmed* the very cause that it was seeking to support. 

The priests and people were going through the motions. People were bringing offerings to the priests, and the priests were approving of them. It’s just that they were poor quality. They seemed like good sacrifices, but they were not. They were not good enough. 

Not good enough for God

Now can we set aside something for the moment. 

Set aside the condemnation in this verse: [slide]

Lev. 22:21 When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. 

And note what I have underlined. If you want to offer something to God out of love for him, make sure it is perfect. 

Everyone benefits when you offer imperfect animals. 
- The flock benefits - impure get culled, pure are left
- The priests benefit - they get plenty more to eat
- The sacrificers benefit - the unblemished flock is more expensive

But God doesn’t benefit. 
God feels like he is treated like an unlikable being. 

“Mal. 1:8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.”

God resents them. 

Mal 1:13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty.
     “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD.  14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations. 

You know when I was campaigning to honour this soldier, everyone felt good. I felt like I was doing the right thing, the people promoting the message felt like they were doing the right thing. TigrisiWitness wherever he was, probably thought it was good raising awareness for Sinjar. 

But the message of Kurdish activism didn’t feel good. Because it wasn’t real. The message got harmed. And ultimately everyone lost out there. 

you might feel good about being Christian. You might love coming to church and telling people you are Christian, and all that. But If you aren’t feeling the burden of faith in struggling to make every moment count, you are offering a faulty product to God. 

Don’t settle for a substitute. 

Romans 12 tells us that Christians are offering our whole lives as living sacrifices to God. What sort of sacrifice is yours?

Don’t settle for second best. 

Being a Christian is hard work. And it’s constant work. Clean off the blemishes. make sure you are unblemished by sin. We aren’t like the lambs, they were born that way. We are able to remove our blemishes. With God’s help. 

You don’t have to be perfect to be accepted by God. You are forgiven through Christ. But you do have to work. 

You don’t like someone. That’s fine. You don’t have to like everyone. You have to do the hard work and make sure you fight any resentment toward them. 

Something about your life is dissatisfying, you have to do the hard work to make sure you are still thankful to God. 

You also have to do things properly:
If you are serving, you must do so thoroughly and deliberately. 

If you are praying, you must push yourself to pray more heartfelt prayyers. 
Or more theologically sound prayers (don’t just pray for friends, family and work - pray for what God wants in the world, for the gospel). 

If you are bringing a sacrifice to God. And if that sacrifice is your whole life. Bring him your best. Don’t settle for a cheap substitute. 

Epilogue

I have already planned what I would say to Tigrisi Witness if I were to run into him again. 

You don’t need to have a more exciting life. Concentrate on what you do have. don’t worry about how boring it is. God has given you this life to honour him with it. He has given you many people, and friends and family. It doesn’t need to be more exciting. You just have to make the most of each moment. Do that instead.