Holy Week Blog 2015, Wednesday: When His Heart was Troubled

John 12:27-36, NRSV

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[e] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah[f] remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”


It had to be discouraging for Him. He taught them, did miracles among them, explained it seemingly every way he could, and still they didn’t really believe. He was facing the cross, and in a few short days all of them would forsake Him, and he knew it. And still He trusted. Still His prayer was for the Father to be glorified in Him– even (and especially) in His death. Still He’s drawing them to believe.

It’s impossible for us to really understand where Jesus is coming from here in this passage. All I think I can really say is that I’m reminded of what Romans says when it calls us to have the faith of Jesus… even (and especially) when we face trouble.

So.

Lord God, I pray for the faith of your Son. I pray when we face troubles, you would grow something in us that’s like Jesus. I pray that your name would be glorified in our lives. I pray for perspective, that you would show us a little bit of the bigger picture, so our light and momentary troubles could be seen as just that. I pray for the light, that you would indeed light our way forward. In the name of your Son, by the presence of the Spirit I pray.

Amen.

Blessings,

Mark

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Lentblog 2015, Day 34: Christ in Us.

Colossians 1:24-29, NRSV

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25 I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.29 For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.


Kind of a back-to-basics message in this passage for me tonight. Paul waxes eloquent a little about his commission to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles… to share the big mystery that has been revealed after being hidden for so long. What’s profound to me is his statement in v.27  of what the mystery actually is: The Mystery is Christ in us. Paul talks a lot about people being “in Christ.” But here he speaks of Christ being “in” us.

The other main thing in that verse is this, methinks: The hope of glory is Christ, not us. Christ in us is the hope of glory. It’s not a human-made thing. It’s not us pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, trying to better ourselves. The best stuff really does come from outside ourselves. If it is human-made, or somehow it becomes a thinly-veiled form of humanism or something, then it’s not the Gospel. The power of the Gospel comes from Jesus. Paul admits as much in v.29 when he says his stuggle is powered by the energy inspired by Christ.

That’s a good reminder of the fact this whole thing really does rest on his strength and not ours.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015 Day 1: Joel 2:1-2; 12-17: On Confession, Repentance, and the Means of Grace

Hard to believe it’s Ash Wednesday already. I write this with not a little guilt, because I told myself I was going to blog a lot more this year, not just during Lent. And that didn’t happen. But here we are, anyway… another LentBlog begins. I’m a little behind the 8-ball this week- it’s been terribly busy- and I haven’t chosen a scriptural book to read during Lent this year.

I was asked this weekend to preach an Ash Wednesday Gathering, and I chose the OT Reading in Joel as a text. I KNOW this is a no-no, and I will not be doing it again, because preachers who use their sermon texts devotionally are headed for trouble, but for tonight, I’d like to post what I’ve wrestled with a little from this Joel passage. Here is my sermon script for tonight. May it edify:


Joel 2:1-2; 12-17
There’s bad news in the congregation… Or at least there was among God’s people on this day.
It turns out God’s people don’t always live as God’s people… And these folks were really terrible at it.
They had a sin problem… See, they kept breaking commandment number one. They kept forgetting. They kept serving other gods. Serving themselves. Forgetting every single thing they had was from The Lord. Even their religious practices became nothing more than a thinly veiled “Look at me!”
They kept committing the same. Old. Sin. Day after day. Week after week. Even year after year. And it seems in this passage God has had enough. And that’s bad news.
We don’t do that, do we? We don’t ever get in a self centered rut, do we? None if us ever get stuck in a pattern of struggle, sin, confession… Struggle. Sin. Confession. Do we?
Here’s this passage from the Prophet Joel who comes along and says, “enough.” The day of The Lord is coming. And his judgement is about to fall on folks… Like us.
He elaborates for another 9 verses about how bad the Day of The Lord will be (the lectionary reading edits it out)  and thankfully he doesn’t leave us there.
He inserts the word, “yet.” Yet can be a really good word. Kind of like “but” (example a little) A lot can turn on “yet.” “Yet” is a hopeful word. A word that means there’s more to come, and the more that comes isn’t necessarily bad.
Yet. Yet even now. After all this. After all your struggle. After all your failures and faithlessness. Yet even now…
…you can return to The Lord with all your hearts.
Really cool word in the Hebrew here: “shuv” (say it, elaborate)
They never really returned…. They never really repented (and turned). They never really shuv-ed. Sure, some prophet would come along and point out their sin and they might even confess it… Might offer sacrifice… But they never returned. They never really repented. You can confess your sin all day long. Week after week. Month after month. And never be free. Confession has to lead to repentance and repentance must lead to transformation of our lives, or we get nowhere and we stay stuck. You must shuv. it is not God’s will that your spiritual life be an endless struggle, dealing with the same old junk over and over again. It could be that God wants to change us, replace our cold, hard hearts with hearts of flesh and then write his law on them so we can love him undividedly. Wholeheartedly. With integrity. And you don’t have to sit there and struggle. You must shuv.
Turn to someone and say, “it’s time to shuv to The Lord.”
How do we shuv?
-replace old patterns of life with new ones.
-call a fast. Assemble the people. Gather even the babies together. Repent. Shuv. Return. Rend your hearts, not your clothes.
-The season of Lent provides us with a perfect opportunity to do just that.
-here’s the key though…. There’s a catch: All this confession, repentance, fasting, soul searching, spiritual discipline… We must practice them as Means of God’s Grace. They are means to an end, and the end is transformation. you can Do all this stuff and if all it ever is is a thinly veiled “look at me and how Godly I’m trying to be” you will only wind up back at square one. Struggling again with no real change. It’s not you who changes you. It’s God who changes you.
And that’s why before we receive the ashes and begin this lent journey, we are going to come to the table tonight.

We followed this with communion, then receiving the ashes. I think it was helpful.

I’ll have a full devotional reflection tomorrow night.
Until then,
Blessings,
Mark

LentBlog ’14 Day 4: A Short Reminder

(Apologies for this not posting last night… not sure why it didn’t, but here goes…)

Hebrews 2:10-18.

Nothing too profound tonight… at least if by “profound” you mean something extremely important said in a new, catchy, or wordy way. After reading all the BCP (Book of Common Prayer) readings for today, the Epistle again stood out. I almost blogged about my sermon passage this morning, but I figure that would be cheating. So I’m sticking to the discipline– this part of the blog is supposed to be about my engagement with the BCP passages… so here goes:

Lest we forget, the reason Christ has the power over sin and death is because Christ shared in our flesh and blood. He experienced the judgment of sins (not his) and died that way. He was made perfect through sufferings… yea, even death. But forget this not: that’s where our hope comes from, and nowhere else.

Nowhere else.

Christ is the Anknüpfungspunkt. He is the point of contact. And in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. record needle

Lest we forget, and allow our “Christian” stuff (services, gatherings, activities, songs, worship, sermons, ecclesiology, polity, leadership practices, catch phrases, and bumper stickers) to forget this One who was made perfect through bloody, suffocating suffering and become nothing more than Godless exercises in human group dynamics, sociology, and psychology.

Anyway. This is what this passage is saying to me tonight. I think our “Christian” stuff could be so much more… and maybe less.

Blessings,

Mark