LentBlog 2015, Day 20: Living an Exposed Life

Ephesians 5:6-15, NRSV:

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them.For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Sleeper, awake!
    Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”


I’m reminded of a photography class I took in high school, back before digital photography really existed. We had these interesting devices called film cameras, dark rooms, and enlarging machines. I guess it’s all pretty primitive now, considering what used to take 1/2 an hour in a dark room now takes 5 clicks on PhotoShop (or paint.net, which I recommend) and hitting print. See, we used to have to tightly control how much exposure to light the film or the paper received. Too much exposure ruined what happened in the dark room.

Light does that, you know. It tends to really mess with what happens in the dark. In real life, light exposes things… makes hidden things visible. There’s no hiding the dirt when the light gets turned up. No more pretending things are clean when they really aren’t. This is the life to which passages like this call us. It’s an exposed life. One where there’s no more hiding, because everything has come to light. No more secrets hidden away in dark corners, shamefully (or not) glad the light hasn’t shown them for what they are.

I think the grown-up life in Jesus means walking in the light. Even welcoming it. Letting God heal those things that are too shameful to even mention. No more shame. No more hiding. No more hypocrisy. No more explaining away our willful sinful behavior using stupid cliche’s like, “I’m not perfect… just forgiven.”  It’s groups of people, living exposed, dancing around in broad daylight, unafraid to be seen for who we are, because who we are is being made holy… like, really holy… by the grace of God.

Are you living exposed?

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog 2015, Day 5: A Church with a Reputation

Ephesians 1:15-17.

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[e] toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 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…

NRSV


I read more than just these three verses tonight, but the later section spoke of something I want to consider more tomorrow and hit in another post.

What kinda got me tonight was when Paul says he has heard of the Ephesians’ faith in Jesus and love towards all the saints. It turns out the Christians in Ephesus had a reputation. In their case, having a reputation was a good thing. I was reminded of the passage in John 13 where Jesus taught his disciples the world would know they are his disciples because of their love. Sounds like the folks at Ephesus were known by their faith and love. Not a bad rep to have.

In light of this, can I say what I’m tired of and convicted by this evening? I’m tired of hearing about churches (and larger denominational structures) who have a reputation of unfaithfulness and not love. I’m tired of hearing about churches where dysfunction is rampant because folks love getting their way more than they love the Lord and their neighbors. I’m tired of the reputation churches have as places where people fight over stupid non-essential junk. I’m tired of some churches that flail around, beating the air with their fists, because sometimes their pastors are asleep at the wheel. I’m tired of seeing churches who are being led out of fear and not faith and love. I’m tired of hearing from my non-Christian friends the reason they aren’t involved in church is because of how the church lives out its so-called faith. ::end rant::

I’m convicted by these verses, because I am so. totally. ready. to pastor a church with an Ephesians kind of reputation, and our church plant isn’t off the ground yet. I’m convicted because I, too, live out of fear sometimes… fear of failure, among other things.

So let me ask you, so you can join me in this self- and church- examination: What’s your church’s reputation?

Blessings,

Mark

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 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 24: On History Repeating Itself

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Paul jumps into a new thought, intended to further take the Corinthians to task for their overconfidence. He reminds them of the story of God’s chosen people, how they all followed the pillar of cloud when coming out of Egypt and how they all crossed the same Red Sea. They all ate the same manna and quail in the desert, and they all drank water from the same rock. He’s doing a comparison here between those events and the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. He reminds the church the chosen people were all partakers together, and yet some of them (ok, a lot of them) perished in the desert because of their disobedience.

Most of the time it was idolatry of some form. Sometimes it was complaining or sexual sin. The individual stories he’s referencing can be found in Exodus and Numbers. Regardless, Paul reminds them of the peoples’ past failures in order to guide them away from the same failures in the present.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The same is true of us.

Oh, we’re perhaps not tempted to make a golden calf or something, but we are most certainly tempted with idolatry. We are most certainly tempted to become complainers when we don’t get our way or when God’s work in the world seems weird to us. We are most certainly tempted by sexual sin pretty much everywhere we look.

The people in early Israel were not exempt from temptation to sin and its consequences just because they had gone through the Red Sea and eaten manna.

Neither are we exempt from temptation to sin and its consequences just because we are part of the church.  Come to think of it, this passage is another spot that pretty well shreds the idea of eternal security, but I digress…

The good news is we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, but it’s going to take diligence, attendance to the means of grace, and a whole lot less spiritual pride.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog ’14 Day 19: In Perspective…

1 Corinthians 7:25-31.

This is an interesting passage, and I had to read it a few times for something to jump out at me. Paul is writing to folks who haven’t been married here, and he gives his advice rather than a command from the Lord. I think it’s noteworthy this is his self-stated opinion he’s giving here and not direction from the apostle.

Even more noteworthy than his opinion regarding his preference for remaining single are the reasons why he might counsel folks in this way:

29I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (NRSV)

I don’t think Paul is advocating a sort of escapism here, where we get our heads in the clouds and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. He’s already hinted that isn’t the case a chapter or two ago. I think he is, however, advocating putting all our relationships in the correct perspective, namely, the systems of this world are not the main thing.  Marrying isn’t a sin, says Paul… but the key is not to let it become another form of idolatry.

I’m reminded of a sermon in Wesley (ask me to find the citation later if you want to know where it’s at… It’s late. I’m tired, and my Wesley library is on the other side of the house.) where he cautions people not to love their spouse or their children with an idolatrous kind of love… where they become something that take’s God’s place as #1 in our lives. How many times have I heard someone say something like, “I live for my kids.” or “My wife is everything to me.” I think Wesley, and Paul before him, would see idolatry in those statements, and I agree. Don’t get me wrong… I love my wife and my 2 sons. I would take a bullet right now for any of them. I am committed to becoming a better husband and father. They are massively important to me. Hendrickson Pic

However.

They are not my everything. I do not live exclusively for them. The Gospel calls us to live towards Christ and for Christ to be our everything. Anything else is idolatry.  And I think only when things are in that right perspective… when God, self, family, and neighbors are in the right relationship with each other… do we have a shot at being truly Christlike as spouses and parents.  It’s commandment #1, baby… No other gods before the Lord.

 

Blessings,

Mark

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