LentBlog 2015, Day 15: Everyone has a part.

Ephesians 2:2-13; NRSV:

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,

“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
    he gave gifts to his people.”

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended[a] into the lower parts of the earth?10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.


Thinking some more about the church as I read this portion and beyond… and I think what I’ll say won’t take too many words tonight. Simply put: everyone has a role to play in the church. The point of these roles is to make disciples to train and equip folks for Kingdom life. It’s all for the edification of the church, because the whole is what’s important, not individual promotion or something. Not everyone’s role is the same. That’s OK: God designed it that way. But that doesn’t mean someone’s role is less important because it’s different. What comes to mind is how the gears and other parts fit together in a quality timepiece. gears1Some gears are bigger than others. Some are visible at the surface. Others are hidden underneath the layers of other parts. Yet all of them… ALL. OF. THEM…. are vitally important to the functioning of the whole. Remove one of those hidden, small gears and the whole thing stops working. And there are also no parts who aren’t vital to the whole… no freeloaders or tag-alongs… each part has it’s job to do within the whole.

Something to think about….

Blessings,

Mark

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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?

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 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

LentBlog Day 34: Don’t Be Conformed…

Romans 12:2.

I have to admit, I read this today through my lens. My lens is that of a pastor in the Nazarene tradition, Seminary grad, married to a pastor, having seen some of the best and the worst the church has to offer in a life of ministry…

My mind goes to a fellow pastor and mentor of mine. He told me a couple years ago that he’s begun to realize he’s spent the last 30 years of his life worrying about the wrong stuff. He’s looking at the remaining years in ministry (may they be numerous!) and is determined not to spend them “worrying about roofs and parking lots.”  I identify with his deep sense of God’s call to be involved in the transformation of lives, not just the building of an institution.  I see my friend living out Romans 12:2. I see him breaking the mold his generation of pastors and church leaders have squeezed him into (and he would admit he was a willing participant).

So I’m reading this through my lens tonight. And sometimes I think “conforming to the pattern of this world” could be talking about more than just blatant sinful behavior or something.  I think it might be, in this case tonight, speaking of patterns of church life that just might be shooting at the wrong target. And maybe, just maybe, a Kingdom Way might do it very differently.

I was talking to another friend this week whose church has spent a ton of money on their facility recently, most of it borrowed. And while the facility is impressive to be sure, the thought that crosses my mind is if we put all our financial eggs into the attractional, facility- and program-driven, Sunday morning attendance basket, and yet we didn’t make any disciples, then we’ve blown all that money. Poof.

To think differently means something’s going to have to bust us out of this mold. God must transform us by the renewing of our mouldminds. My mentor-friend has spent significant time recently rediscovering his passion for the deep theological work that forms the foundation for pastoral ministry. He’s reading new stuff and old stuff. He’s sharpening his sword, so-to-speak. The renewing of his mind is transforming his approach to ministry, and it’s busting him out of that 1990’s Church-Growth mold. Thanks be to God!

I don’t know how many pastors read this blog. My suspicion is not many, because not many total people read it, I think, according to the statistics. But I will say this: If you’re reading this and you’re a pastor, may this passage from Romans 12 rock your paradigm as it has rocked mine. May none of us be content to spend the Divine Calling on our lives building roofs and paving parking lots.

Blessings,

Mark