LentBlog 2015, Day 22: Submit.

Ephesians 5:21-33, NRSV:

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body.[b] 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.


After all that has been said about this passage… all the male appeals to scripture for women to just shut up and submit (or something). All the ways folks have bent and proof-texted snippets of it to prop up their sexism…. I’m not really interested in taking those perspectives apart tonight. Though I do believe this text does, in fact, take them apart. I think I’ll simply invite the 3 or 4 of you who are for some reason reading this to contemplate verse 21:

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

No frills. No big theological treatise. Just think about v. 21. And remember it serves as the heading for the entire passage.

Now let’s get off our high horses and start loving our spouses.

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog 2015, Day 18: It’s That Neighbor Thing Again….

Ephesians 4:25-32, NRSV

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,[b] as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.


This one’s tough, because here in this typical Pauline virtue list I hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 22: Love the Lord with everything, and love your neighbor.  I hear the sermon on the mount: Bless those who curse you, bless and do not curse… And that’s tough for me sometimes, especially visa-vis those who have gone out of their way to hurt, damage, or slander you. See, the catch with this whole love your neighbor thing is you don’t get to pick and choose who is your neighbor. Your neighbor is just as much the person who might have hurt you the most in this world as it is the nice grandma-type neighbor who bakes cookies for your kids.

So yeah. This one’s tough for me, because this is not some pie-in-the-sky, unattainable vision for Christian utopia or something. These are Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus, trying to get through to them what the “grown up” Christian life looks like.  That means it’s God’s will for my words to be gracious, even to the “neighbor” who talked junk about me recently to a friend. No room for bitterness. Be angry, but do not sin. Be a people who speak the truth in love. Don’t grieve the Spirit. Forgive as we’ve been forgiven.

Just like everything else in Christian life, methinks to live that out consistently will take miracles of God’s grace. Lots of them. So I find myself asking the Lord to keep having at me. Change me into the type of person who actually embodies this stuff. Make our church into a people who embody this stuff. Come, Lord Jesus.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 13

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,[g] 15 from whom every family[h] in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

NRSV


I’m wondering what it might mean to be “rooted and grounded” in love. It’s late, and I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts going here… but to be rooted and grounded in something seems to carry with it a certain steadfastness… like a tree whose roots run deep. When a thunderstorm comes along, it might get the crud kicked out of it, but if its roots are deep and strong, it needn’t fear being uprooted. The tree’s roots form its foundation, and they’re also how it gets fed.

So what does it mean to be rooted and grounded… in love? For our strength and daily bread to come from love? Hard concept to pin down, love. It’s always on the move. It’s a relational term, not positional. You can’t hold love in your hand or easily quantify it. Love happens only in relations, between us and God and our neighbors. What does it mean to be “rooted and grounded” in something that’s nearly impossible to nail down?

I’m not too sure. But I suspect it has a lot to do with being in Christ… in the Spirit…

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

LentBlog ’14, Day 26: Consider the Other

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

Are you sensing a theme yet? I am. And it won’t be too long before Paul whammies them over the head with it: Christians are to live their lives with a constant consideration of others. Paul’s not speaking of a passing thought that thinks about other people every once in a while. He’s build to a point where he’s about to say a life lived without discerning the body–  that is, without significant consideration of others, either as the church gathered or scattered–  is idolatrous and sinful.

The short version: You ain’t the center of the universe, Jack.

At the core of the divisions found in the church at Corinth is the idea that each individual is sovereign and should live autonomously. 

It’s also at the core of the divisions we find in our churches presently, particularly in the West.

So here’s Paul spending another half a chapter trying to kill the bloated leech, and I find myself wondering what our churches would look like if we really lived like this.

Something to ponder…

 

Blessings,

Mark

 

 

LentBlog Day 42: Waiting.

Not much to say tonight… I read Romans 16, which is mainly personal greetings and a really neat benediction. Paul again makes it pretty clear the Gospel is available to everyone, for which I am thankful. He names Pheobe as a leader in the church, which is another place that would perhaps silence the “women can’t preach” camp if they actually read it.

But while there are some things I could write about from Romans 16, on this Easter-Eve I’m feeling pretty subdued. Mostly I’m waiting. Waiting on tomorrow to come. waitingWaiting for Resurrection on a couple of different levels. Waiting for newness of life. Waiting for the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead to cut loose in our lives once again and raise us, too. Waiting for the purple and sack-cloth of Lent to give way to WHITE!

And most of the time I don’t do to well waiting.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel. Captivum solve Israel.

 

Blessings,

Mark