EasterBlog 2014! He Is Going Ahead of You…

If you’re reading this and haven’t heard it proclaimed yet: Christ has risen! Happy Easter!

I woke up this morning with two quotes in my head, both words of angels/messengers from the resurrection narratives in the Gospels.

The first from Luke 24:5:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

And the second from Matthew 28:7

“Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee…”

 

Those words are sticking with me today. From the first announcement of the resurrection (in Matthew) Jesus reminds his disciples he’s going ahead of them, in their case, into upGalilee. He is risen. And he’s going ahead of you. Get up and get going. Following Jesus means you can’t hang out in the graveyard anymore or hide behind a locked door for fear of the bad guys. (Apologies, sort of, for synthesizing the Gospel accounts here!) Following jJesus also means he’s out ahead of us. Having blazed the trail through sin and death, he continues trail-blazing. He’s calling us toward the future. Toward his mission. Toward folks who haven’t met him yet. Towards the poor. Towards the powerless. Towards those who desperately need to encounter the Good News. Towards our enemies. And he’s not calling us to go anywhere he hasn’t already been. He is risen, and he’s going ahead of you.

Why would you hang around the cemetery among the dead when Jesus is on the move? Get going! Easter means he’s alive! And Jesus’ life and mission aren’t separable… Jesus is always on a mission. Follow him. Get out of the graveyard and get going. He’s already in Galilee doing stuff. What are you waiting for?

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LentBlog ’14, Day 44: Black Friday

John 19:16-42

Nothing but silence for tonight’s passage. I’ll let it speak for itself:

So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew[d] is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth,[e] the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,[f] in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

25 And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows[g] that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

The Burial of Jesus

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. NRSV

And now we wait.

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 ’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 37: On Clay Jars and the Source of Theology.

2 Corinthians 4:1-12

This passage is pretty special to me. Not just because Paul makes his argument so well… but that it reflects and informs a major theme my theological life.

See, I believe quite strongly as a pastor-type that one of our primary roles is that of theologian. (Lots to unpack there, but I’ll spare you.) I believe everything the church says and does is first of all theology: Words from/of/about God.

I also believe Barth is right in Evangelical Theology that all (ALL) theological words are preceded by the Word (that is, Jesus) who inspires them, provokes them, and makes them possible. All theology is in response to the Word which comes to us first. And for our theological words to be anywhere close to accurate visa-vis God, they must be inSpired in the moment.

And I think that’s what Paul is saying here.

He’s in the middle of this case where he says his words are not his own. He isn’t peddling the Gospel like a vacuum cleaner salesman. The authority comes from Christ himself.

And so we have 2 Corinthians 4:

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 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. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.  NRSVclay pot

We have this treasure… this Gospel… this Word from/of God… this theology… in a clay jar to prove it’s not from us. It’s not ours. It’s not even really on-loan to us. It’s given by the Father, through the Spirit and in Christ, to us in the moment. 

That’s why I’ve always said stuff like, “I think God might be saying….” Because I might be wrong. The power and authority are GOD’S, not mine.

And I think us theologians need to hear that every once in  a while.

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 22: Practicing what He Preaches

1 Corinthians 9:1-15

Having just finished a section where he talks about refraining from meat sacrificed to idols for the sake of the broader community, Paul launches into a a section where he commits  a preaching “no-no:” he uses his own life as an example. We’re told in our preaching training “Never make yourself the hero of your own story,” and it’s true. But Paul does it here because he’s building a case. Oh, and he’s the Apostle Paul, so I guess he can get away with a “no-no” or two. 🙂

This entire passage is an example of Paul laying down his rights and freedoms as an Apostle in order to reach the people in Corinth with the Gospel. He has laid down most all of his rights as an apostle while among them, so they might be led to Jesus, not himself.

Paul practices what he preaches here. The best way to reach the most people in Corinth was evidently not to come to town guns blazing, conquering all in the name of Jesus. Rather, he came in weakness, not because he had to or because of any lack of authority or power, but because it was the best way to spread the Gospel.

Sometimes I wonder what that might mean for us these days.  What would it mean for us as clergy to think way on outside the boc?

 

Hmmmm.

Blessings,

Mark