LentBlog ’14, Day 45: Now, we wait.

No catchy little devotional thought tonight. I’ve read the passages for this evening and engaged them the best I can.

But Saturday is the time to wait.

To acknowledge the despair the disciples must have felt…

….Because they didn’t know Sunday was coming.

To walk into the darkness that begun on Friday and LIVE THERE for two days…

Live the despair. Live the darkness. Live the hopelessness.

 

And we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

 

Mark

 

 

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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

 

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 ’14, Day 41: Even Paul went through it…

2 Corinthians 1:8-22.

Holy Week is in full swing. It’s not even Wednesday and I’m bushed tonight— so this is going to be pretty short.

Here at the beginning of 2 Corinthians, Paul spends some time explaining to the church at Corinth why he has not come to visit them. And here we find a peculiar quartet  of verses:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, 11 as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. NRSV

 

I wonder what Paul went though in Asia. I wonder what happened to him. Probably I could look it up, reference stuff in Acts and maybe find out. Whatever it was, it was terrible: a death sentence, even. So utterly crushed that he despaired of life itself… and it couldn’t have been fun.

But rather than sit there and bellyache about it, Paul shares what he learned through the experience. He learned it’s a bad idea to rely on himself. Relying on the One who raises the dead is what got him through this terrible trial.

I think we/I could learn from that. We really do worship the One who raises the dead. That puts our sufferings in a different light, no matter how severe they may be.

Think about it…

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 39: A Touch-Base on Ordination

1 Timothy 6:12-16

Today I’m sticking with the BCP Epistle reading because it’s not from Romans– not that mind Romans, mind you, but I blogged it last year.

So this passage from 1 Timothy is a change from the Corinthians stuff… but it’s good.

Here’s Paul writing to Timothy, at the end of the letter where he gives his charge to Timothy as a minister. Paul pulls out some big rhetorical guns here… the stuff in 2 Corinthians keeps appealing to Christ as the source of Paul’s authority. This Timothy passage includes one of the strongest references I can remember to the authority of Jesus:

In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ… 

As I read this passage, I’m reminded of the charge General Superintendent Nina Gunter gave to Stefanie and me at our ordination. It seems Paul is trying to have the same effect on Timothy as he reminds him of the confession he made “in the presence of many witnesses.” And then Paul reminds him of the authority behind his charge.

And I’m reminded how serious this ministry life really is. Here at the beginning of Holy Week, I’m reminded of the confession Jesus made before Pilate… a confession that got him crucified, but also a confession which results in our salvation. I’m reminded this ministry life is not just a job or something… it’s real-deal Kingdom stuff. May we never, ever take that for granted again.

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