LentBlog ’14 Day 18: Touching base with Grace.

Romans 5:1-11.

Pulling out the RCL Epistle reading instead of BCP for today… Just when we had a nice little 1 Corinthians groove going on, the Sunday readings insert Romans. Not that Romans is a bad thing, but still.

This post is going to be short and sweet, I think. There’s a lot happening in the passage, but the way it’s hitting me tonight is pretty basic. It’s reminding me this whole Christian, God interacting with humanity thing begins with the grace of God, which gives us what we need and not what we deserve. grace

While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. Don’ forget that. God makes the first move, every single time. And God’s motivation for that move is love.

Lest we begin to think we’re all that, or that we’re pretty smart, or that we either made the first move or were deserving of the move God made toward us, passages like this remind us: We’re not.

I want to live this week learning how to better live in the flow of that Grace.

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog ’14 Day 4: A Short Reminder

(Apologies for this not posting last night… not sure why it didn’t, but here goes…)

Hebrews 2:10-18.

Nothing too profound tonight… at least if by “profound” you mean something extremely important said in a new, catchy, or wordy way. After reading all the BCP (Book of Common Prayer) readings for today, the Epistle again stood out. I almost blogged about my sermon passage this morning, but I figure that would be cheating. So I’m sticking to the discipline– this part of the blog is supposed to be about my engagement with the BCP passages… so here goes:

Lest we forget, the reason Christ has the power over sin and death is because Christ shared in our flesh and blood. He experienced the judgment of sins (not his) and died that way. He was made perfect through sufferings… yea, even death. But forget this not: that’s where our hope comes from, and nowhere else.

Nowhere else.

Christ is the Anknüpfungspunkt. He is the point of contact. And in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. record needle

Lest we forget, and allow our “Christian” stuff (services, gatherings, activities, songs, worship, sermons, ecclesiology, polity, leadership practices, catch phrases, and bumper stickers) to forget this One who was made perfect through bloody, suffocating suffering and become nothing more than Godless exercises in human group dynamics, sociology, and psychology.

Anyway. This is what this passage is saying to me tonight. I think our “Christian” stuff could be so much more… and maybe less.

Blessings,

Mark

EasterBog!! He is Risen!

He is risen indeed.

I gotta say it– Lent was good for me! Honed some disciplines, thought deep thoughts, dreamed new dreams, and my journey through Romans was awesome… Maybe Exodus next?

 

And now, to move forward, trusting that the power that raised Jesus from the dead can raise us, too.

Really thankful, particularly today on Easter, for God’s call on my life. Easter is kind-of the SuperBowl for preachers, and each Easter it’s  an honor and privilege to stand in front of folks and share the Good News.

Happy Easter,

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 41: It’s Friday…

From Matthew 27:

 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

NRSV

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Then Revisiting Romans 6, in snippets:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death…

For if we have been united with him in a death like his…

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed…

For whoever has died is freed from sin.

But if we have died with Christ…

10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all…

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

NRSV

The life we have in Christ only happens through first identifying with his death. Easter doesn’t happen without Friday.

Found myself serving communion tonight at the beginning of Tenebrae gathering and had a deep, deep sense of this truth wash over me. Folks must have been wondering why I was in tears as I served them, but I couldn’t help it.

I simply can’t get over how deep the rabbit-hole goes with Jesus. He really demands my my life, my soul, my all.

It’s Friday.

But Sunday is coming.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 40: Toward the future…

Romans 15:1-6.

As I read Chapter 15 tonight, the first part jumped out at me a little. Particularly vv. 5-6:

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

NRSV

So the question for me becomes, how can we move forward, particularly in American Christianity, and live this out?  I’ve gone on and on in various places on this blog about how the church doesn’t seem to be living up to this standard. It’s well-documented. American culture regards church people as one of the main groups of people who do not get along. They’re right. We know it, if we’re honest. Blah Blah…

The question is, how do we move forward? How do we become known as people who love God and their neighbors wholeheartedly instead of being known for fighting about worthless issues?Chalice

I think it takes Romans 12:1-2. I think it will happen when groups of people all over the place begin to discover they want to be transformed into the image of Jesus by the renewing of their minds through daily self-LESS living more than they want to be entertained by a Sunday morning circus-act. More than they want to get their way on the color of the chairs. More than we want to fight for our rights, our desires, and our felt needs.  We’ve simply got to want Jesus more.

I think that’s where I’m at. I want myself and any ministry or church we might lead to be authentically Christian more than I want to have the hip new thing. And I want to spend my time, effort, energy, and gifts working with people who have that kind of hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Care to join me?

Blessings on Maundy Thursday.

Mark

LentBlog Day 39: On Faith…

Romans 14.

So here I was tonight, cruising along, reading Romans 14, understanding what Paul is talking about here in regards to eating or not eating certain stuff. I was imagining what the Jewish Christians in Rome must have thought to see a Gentile Christian chowing down on a pork chop or something.  I’m tracking with him when he admonishes the ones who don’t eat not to judge those who do. He warns those who do eat not to belittle those who don’t. It’s a pretty vanilla chapter for a 21st Century Christian. Don’t pass judgment… don’t belittle… don’t do anything that would cause a brother or sister to stumble… I’m reading, and tracking, wondering what I’m going to write about tonight when… BAM!! (Or as Nick would say, “KA-BLOOEY!!”): the very last verse of the chapter explodes onto the scene and really makes me think.kaboom-wide

 But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

And it occurs to me that Paul is saying something like, “Eating something is not the point… whether you eat or abstain, it’s still sin for you if you don’t do it from faith.” I am reminded of what Paul means by “faith” here… We’re talking the faith of Abraham and the faith of Jesus here. The faith that is reckoned as righteousness. The faith that trusts the unseen.

And I find myself humbled by that verse…  Personally, in my family, and in the church. How much of what we do in our life could we say doesn’t proceed from faith? How many places do we, maybe without even thinking about it, slide into the driver’s seat and call the shots without even thinking about what the faithful action would be? The answer to that question scares me a little… because it narrows for me the places in our lives where we are still compartmentalized. It brings into focus yet again the idea of holiness of heart and life… that God wants to sanctify all of me, not just part, so that everything I do proceeds from faith.

Blessings,

Mark