Holy Week Blog 2015, Thursday: …Before the World Existed.

John 17:1-5 NRSV:

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,since you have given him authority over all people,[a] to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.


The Lectionary reading for Thursday is all of John 17, and believe me, there is a lot upon which to reflect from John 17. As I read, though, I couldn’t get past verse 5. Jesus is completing his mission, preparing to go back to the Father (albeit through the cross and Resurrection). And he prays, ” Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.” And I gotta say, that verse is a trip to me tonight. This is not only a mere human praying this. Jesus had glory with the father before the earth even existed. Now, we believe that is true theologically… The Son is co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit… but for some reason it does me good tonight to sort of hear it from his own lips. 

It’s encouraging to know the Christ was coming before the world was created, let alone before we sinned.

It’s encouraging to me Jesus exercises faith, and goes though with the plan even though he knows what’s going to happen.

It’s encouraging to know that whatever happens tomorrow (on Good Friday), Resurrection is coming. Glorifcation is coming. Death is not the end.

Blessings

Mark

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LentBlog 2015, Day 6: The same power…

Ephesians 1:17-23

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God[f] put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

NRSV


Paul continues his prayer of blessing and thanksgiving (which is typical Pauline letter structure) by reminding them of the “immeasurable greatness” of God’s power. What hit me about this part of the passage was that the power Paul prays will be evident to the Ephesians was the same power God put to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead. Same power. The same Spirit, the same power, the same live-giving, grave-defeating, all-loving power that raised Jesus from the dead can be Power Memeactive… in me.

I already knew that. And I regularly pray that the same Spirit that raised Jesus would raise me, too. But this caught me again tonight…. and I’m reminded during the beginning of this Lent season that resurrection can’t happen without a death. Easter happens only because Good Friday happened first.  Lest we think that the power we’re talking about here is not without sacrifice, we’re kidding ourselves. We will be raised with him… if we die with him (see Romans and the baptism imagery there). So this is power, for sure… but power redefined. And in our culture we like power. We like to wield power. We like to be powerful. The weak are weak because they do not have power.

But Jesus comes along and reminds us that power redefined is NOT a power trip designed to satisfy our need to be right, or important, or blessed, or something. It is the power of the Resurrection that happens… after Calvary. Because of that, it’s power redefined. And that’ll really bake our noodle if we think about it.

Blessings,

Mark

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 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 15: The Body Plan.

1 Corinthians 6:12-30.

For a moment when I read this passage tonight I wasn’t sure what to write except the obvious… “Don’t commit sexual sin.”

And then a strong reminder hit me, so here we go.

May I just say, at the risk of offending, perhaps, I become slightly annoyed whenever I hear any version of the phrase “…saving souls?” Christ came to save souls. The church is to help save souls. How many souls were saved, etc…

One thing passages like this (and indeed the whole of Scripture) teaches us about salvation is that it’s not just our souls that Christ came to save. Salvationthe church, the sacraments, the Christian life, resurrection, and eternal life are not limited to our disembodied souls or something. It for certain includes all of ourselves, which includes our bodies.Image

I’ll never forget Dr. Darius Salter, a professor we had at Nazarene Theological Seminary, who said, “God has always had one plan for redeeming the world: the Body plan. That’s plan “A.” And there is no plan “B.” I think we sometimes forget this and lapse into a sort of Gnosticism when we talk only of the salvation of our souls.

This passage in 1 Corinthians is one of the zillions of passages that emphatically states our physical bodies are part of the salvation God has for us. “Our bodies are members of Christ…” “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…” Notice he did NOT say, “Our spirits are members of Christ.” He says shun fornication because sinning in this way is sinning against the body. This whole passage is about Paul’s insistence that the members of the church at Corinth honor God with their bodies. One of the things that means is avoiding sexual sin.

Something to think about… What would it mean to honor God with our physical bodies? Obviously it would mean not doing certain things, but my mind takes it a bit further. I wonder what it would mean for me to proactively do certain things to honor God with my physical body. After all, the Creed says “we believe in the resurrection of the body.” The big deal about the incarnation of Jesus is he was fully God and fully human, which included his body.

Not sure I’ve got many answers to this one yet, but I feel in my bones this might be leading to at least asking some of the right questions…

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

 

 

LentBlog Day 33: The Living Dead.

Romans 12 (Focusing on v.1)

SO MUCH TO SAY IN ROMANS 12 I don’t quite no where to start… so I’ll start at v.1, yeah?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The words “spiritual worship” here are τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν. λογικὴν has the same root as logos, so a better translation might really be something like “reasonable.” λατρείαν means something like “service,” but its uses are talking about liturgical service. Service to the temple etc. Worship is a pretty good translation, though “act of worship” maybe captures the thought better. Think “liturgical act” here. So Paul might be saying something like this:

“Look, I beg you, offer yourselves as living sacrifices… holy and acceptable… THIS is the only act of worship that makes sense.

So let’s just get this said, shall we? Where does “I don’t like that ___________” fit in that definition of worship? How does that definition somehow confine worship to a worship gathering? Where does “I go to church because I like _________” fit with that? Where does “I’m not getting fed” or “I want to be uplifted” fit here?Where does church hopping fit? Where in this definition of worship does getting my way fit? Where does the almighty sovereignty of the individual fit here?

Fact is, they don’t fit. None of them do.  We’ve all seen those attitudes and even embodied them from time to time… sometimes even in worship gatherings (or after them…). And while we may call them a lot of things… “Authentic worship” is not one of them.

Paul keeps hammering away in Romans the way of Jesus is the way of life through death.  And like it or not, the death is ours, as we identify with Jesus, die daily, pick up our cross and follow him. Me Church doesn’t fit that paradigm. orthodox

Paul says, in light of all the mercies of God… who redeems Jews and Gentiles who go from the faith of Abraham into the faith of Jesus… it’s time to get yourself out of the way. Offer your very self, every day, to God.

I am so thankful the attractional, seeker-sensitive, market-driven movement in the church is going the way of the dinosaur (Except perhaps in certain places where the church seems to cling to 1994 for dear life). I think there’s something better. Something more authentic. Something that will last. Something that has a voice in our culture. Something deeply, truly worshipful. I’m thankful to be a part of it, and I’m excited about where it will lead.

Blessings,

Mark