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

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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 36: On Veils and Jesus

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

 

Boy, am I tired this evening, and I’ve got a lot on my mind… Annnd this passage from 2 Corinthians 3 isn’t particularly ringing my bell tonight. But the purpose of this blog isn’t to write something earth-shakingly profound each night, but to be accountable for engaging these daily passages, so here goes.

I just finished leading a study of Exodus, and we worked through the whole Moses/veil passage. The idea was the presence of God would descend upon the Tent of meeting. Moses would go in the tent to hear from God. Moses would come out of the tent with his face glowing because of the Glory of God. Then Moses would cover his face with a veil, shielding the people from the intensity of God’s Glory. The thought in this passage is the reason for the veil was because the people were hard-hearted and couldn’t stand the intensity of God’s Glory. That’s true in the Exodus passage, too. They were a whining, complaining, mostly faithless, idolatrous, stiff-necked people. It’s not a stretch for me to imagine God’s Glory being too intense for them to handle. And according to this passage, it’s still to intense for them to handle.

Only in Christ is the veil removed. Only in Jesus does the fullness of God dwell bodily among us. Christ is the image (Greek word: ICON) of the invisible God.  No one has seen God, but Christ has made Him known, and we have seen His Glory… the Glory as of the only Son. (John 1). Only in Christ is there a possibility for the veil to be removed… which means, Christ not only brings the fullness of God to the table, He brings the possibility and capability of comprehending God in the first place. I guess, to me, this means we better be careful saying we know anything about/of/from God outside of Jesus.

 

That’ll take our humanistic-trending theology down a notch or two.

 

Blessings,

Mark

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 32: Can These Bones Live?

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Going again with one of the RCL passages for today (this time the OT reading) because the BCP passage skips to Romans just for the Sundays in Lent.

This is a fascinating passage concerning the (seeming) demise and impending restoration of God’s people. It’s got me thinking about the church.

I look around the church landscape about me and I see a lot of bones. Or at least, churches that look at themselves as a bunch of dead, dry bones. In the vision, God asks the prophet, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Dry Bones

I think there’s good news in this passage for the church…  The answer is yes, but there’s a catch:

They can’t live without help.

They can’t do it on their own.

When God tells the prophet to speak to the “breath” in verse 9, the Hebrew word is ר֜וּחַ, “Ruach.” Same word translated both “Wind” and “Spirit” elsewhere in the OT. The same word is used interchangeably as both wind and Spirit (capital “S”). For these bones to live, they must be given life by the Spirit. They can’t do it on their own. That means all the church growth, church health, re-visioning, restarting, refocusing, re-branding, re-marketing,  restructuring, re-organizing and re-anything-else-you-can-think-of strategies in the universe can’t bring these bones back to life. Only the Spirit can do that. It means we have to quit trying to solve theological problems with systems answers.

It’s going to take a miracle to raise these bones from the dead.

And I’m really OK with that (though it matters not whether I’m OK with it or not), because it takes a miracle for the church to truly exist in the first place. The true church never was a human-made endeavor to begin with.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14, Day 31: On Love as the Greatest of these..

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

It’s a crying shame the most common place we hear this passage read is at weddings.  Just a short reflection on the Love chapter:

This passage means more when you look at it in-context with what Paul is doing in the letter. It’s helpful to remember Paul is writing to a church with divisions, sin issues, and an inflated sense of its own righteousness. They’re puffed up with pride as they boast of their spirituality or the superiority of the particular faction leader they are following.

Paul has been systematically destroying these attitudes in the letter to this point, and here he delivers the knockout blow. In the midst of all the unity-in-diversity talk about spiritual gifts and how we’re supposed to seek the better gifts etc, Chapter 13 comes along and says without love, none of it matters a hill of beans anyway! You can get everything right that he’s talked about in the letter so far, but if you’re missing love, you’re goose is cooked. As for prophecies, they will cease. Tongues will be silenced. Without love, they didn’t matter in the first place.

It makes me wonder how much time, money, effort, and energy is spent in today’s church on things that flat-out won’t matter if we don’t embody the agape love of the Lord. From worship wars to new buildings to new ministries to board meetings. From disciple-making to community involvement to paving the parking lot to reaching Millennials. Without love, all of it is just clamoring over nonsense.

Well played, Paul.

Heaven, help us.

 

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14, Day 30: Ouch.

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3

Just a short reflection tonight…  Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth, which seems to have a pride problem, being convinced of their own spiritual awesomeness while engaging in all kinds of sinful behavior and experiencing divisions all over the place. They don’t discern the body during the Eucharist meal. They brag about which teacher they’re following when they should be following Jesus. They’re a real mess. And in the midst of addressing this mess, Paul gives a list of some of the various gifts in the church. And I can just imagine some folks in Corinth hearing vv 27-31 saying to themselves, “See! I knew I was something special… I’m a prophet… and you’re a mere languages guy.” In the midst of all this unity in diversity talk and explaining how the different gifts fit together, Paul drops a bomb on them, seemingly out of nowhere:

Now I will show you a still more excellent way… See, If I can do all that stuff, but don’t have love, I’m as brash and short-lived as a cymbal crash. I’m nothing. And all the folks patting themselves on the back for the awesomeness of their giftedness just got taken down a notch or two.

Ouch.

 

Blessings,

Mark