LentBlog ’14, Day 43: Discerning the Body.

1 Cor 10:14-17, 11:27-32

Thinking tonight about what it means to “discern the body” during Eucharist. For sure we need to remember we are not alone and pay attention to the church– the Body of Christ. And Paul is all over the Corinthians for not paying attention to the poor at the table.

But there’s something else happening here, too:

We must discern the Body of Jesus.

Broken.

Bleeding.

Spent.

Powerless.

Poured out.

Obedient even unto death….

….on a Cross.

Simply put, our position in the church is not a power trip… it’s a death, and the death is ours.

So that we might be raised.

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count as loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

 

 

Blessings on Maundy Thursday,

Mark

 

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LentBlog ’14, Day 42:

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

No real clue what to write about this passage, except maybe to say it shows Paul’s burden for a seriously dysfunctional church. He refuses to give up on them, and is always trying to figure out how to talk to them about the Gospel, as well as when.

Maybe there’s a time and place for everything. Maybe Paul’s being right about their issues didn’t mean it was the right time to go to Corinth and say so.

I think I have more to learn about that one.

Maybe I’ll just leave it at that for this one.

 

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 40: On Grace- Conduits, not Cups.

2 Corinthians 1:1-7

Check this out:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. NRSV

Here’s the dynamic: Paul praises God, who consoles him in his sufferings. God helps Paul, and Paul in turn helps others. God’s help for Paul in his suffering results in Paul helping others in their sufferings.

I’m reminded of a thought my friend Oliver Phillips once said while preaching at the church I pastored. He said, “God’s grace is always on the move. It’s always going through you on its way to someone else.”

Dr. Charles Gailey, missions prof at Nazarene Seminary when I was there, used to talk about us becoming “conduits of God’s grace.” A conduit is a pipe… its pipepurpose is to facilitate the flow of water (or something) from one place to another. As the pipe fulfills it’s purpose as a conduit, it winds up being full itself… but it’s a different kind of  “full.” It’s a full that is being filled, not just a static, full vessel. The fullness experienced by the conduit is one of continual renewal and re-filling.

And I see that dynamic in this passage. See, we tend to thing God wants to help just us. As if answering my prayer or meeting my need is the point of this whole thing. That’s a bad tendency. If Paul really means what he says here, God’s consolation for Paul (grace) is working through him to help others. It’s not just for him… it’s always on its way to someone else. And it is impossible to a) acknowledge that fact and b) participate in it if we are so focused on ourselves and our needs that we ignore the other. We need to recognize our role as conduits, not cups.

It’s almost as if Paul is really serious about the faith being way more an “us” thing than a “me” thing.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14: Day 38: I’m Longing for Resurrection.

2 Corinthians 4:13-18

This is a highly edited post. Maybe someday I’ll publish what I wrote here first, but for now, I’ll let Paul do the talking. He says it better than I did anyway. For all those reading this (all like 2 of you),  if you’re in the ministry and might have had a really tough road to walk in part of your journey of the ministry life, hear the Word of the Lord:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.  

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.     NRSV

 

We feel a Resurrection coming. We’ve been waiting for it. Longing for it. Begging God for it. Trying our best to live towards it. Searching for it. Imagining what it will be like while trying not to miss the God-filled life moments we’re living in the present. Always carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus so that his LIFE might be shown in our bodies, too. I’m ready for that second part. Maybe you are too.

 

Know this: Easter is coming.

 

Blessings,

Mark

 

 

 

 

 Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles 
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

LentBlog ’14, Day 35: “We are not peddlers of God’s word…”

2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6

So, today the Book of Common Prayer Epistle reading abruptly ends it’s 1 Corinthians foray and jumps right into 2 Corinthians 2. One of the things that makes 2 Corinthians cool is Paul ratchets his rhetorical devices up a notch. The heart of his argument, however, is always the same: He’s proclaiming Christ. No more. No less. His authority as an apostle comes from no more and no less than Jesus. Paul reminds the Corinthians here that he really has nothing to prove. If he proclaims Christ, the results will speak for themselves.

What is hitting me about this particular passage this evening is Verse 17:

 For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence. Cheesy

NRSV

I wonder how many churches, clergy, Christian retail stores, and the like would fit, if we were honest, into the “..like so many” category. I’ve said for a long time I DO NOT believe being in the ministry is similar to being in sales. But a lot of folks treat it like it is, and that has caused so much division, confusion, and straight-up BAD theology that it’s not even funny.

God will not be reduced to a marketing campaign or sales pitch. God is not a product to be sold. The Kingdom is not a commodity.

Instead, the God who reveals himself to us in Jesus makes Himself self-evident.. and sometimes he does that through us.

Tonight, this passage serves as a reminder to me: Do not give in to the rampant pragmatism that really does view the Gospel as a product to be sold and evangelism is a sales-pitch.

We are called and equipped to embody a better way.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14 Day 34: All things to edify.

1 Corinthians 14:20-40

I’m engaging this passage from 1 Corinthians 14 tonight, and it just keeps coming up: All things are to edify the body. Chaos is bad. Everyone for themselves, doing their own thing, is bad.  When the church gathers, having order is good. Exercising our gifts together is good. But it’s not a “to each his/her own” kind of thing. It’s an “us” thing.

“In thinking be adults.” (v. 20). The other thing this passage is saying to me is centered on being intentional. When we gather, it’s a good thing to engage the whole experience with everything we’ve got, including our brains. So many times folks get caught up in the emotional aspect of a worship gathering… taking stock of how we feel during a certain part of the gathering etc. I think if we could find ways of partnering the depth of emotional stuff with a depth of thinking in our theology, we might really be onto something.  I think our people want to engage God at a deeper level… and not limited to a deeper emotional level. I think they want to think deeper thoughts so they can live more authentic spiritual lives.  I think that means we have to be intentional about how we are discipling people in our worship gatherings. In this passage, Paul says something like, “whatever you do, don’t do it willy-nilly. Be intentional. Be organized. Do everything for the maximum edification of the whole group.”

I think we can do a much better job at this.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14, Day 33: On tongues speaking, community, and bad bugle playing.

1 Corinthians 14:1-19

Disclaimer: I’m not really going to go into the whole Charismatic tongues-speaking thing in this post. I find myself in agreement with my faith tradition (The Church of the Nazarene) on this one, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

What can maybe be said here is that Paul pretty much bashes the idea of some unknown prayer language as being preferable in the community. He doesn’t say it doesn’t exist, but he does reaffirm the idea that everything must discern the body. For someone to have some awesome secret prayer language (or something) does nothing for the church without considering the other.

In other words, it’s not just Jesus and Me.  Every spiritual gift involves the community, and to separate one gift out, such as tongues, and make it somehow a private thing isn’t the point. It’s about community and the edification of the church Without love– a self-less, other-considering love, this prayer language thing is like a bad bugle player.trumpet

Have you ever heard a kid trying to get a sound out of a trumpet for the first time? I have. Lots. And it isn’t pretty. And yet Paul says for a bugle to fulfill its function, there has to be a distinction between notes– not just a big, a-tonal “PPPBLHPHLPPHHH!!!!”Such a sound is chaos, and isn’t much fun to listen to. Such is the gift of languages without considering the other. It’s just a big blubbering mess without discerning the body. So it also is wit all the other gifts: they are for the edification of the Body, not the “Cheez-its and me” show.

Sensing a theme yet?

And who knew? Maybe Paul was a bit of a music guy.

Blessings,

Mark