LentBlog 2015, Day 31: The incarnational, reconciling, upside-down, way of Jesus.

Colossians 1:18-20 NRSV:

18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.


So much in these three verses. The profound incarnational statement of verse 19. The idea that in Christ all things, whether on earth or in heaven, are reconciled. (This of course means that Jesus’ goal isn’t just to save our disembodied souls or something… salvation is cosmic… everything gets to be redeemed. Take that, Gnosticism.)

Then the upside-down way God makes peace… not through power, superior strength, or show of force, but through the cross.

Worth thinking about, y’all.

Blessings,

Mark

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Lentblog 2015, Day 17: The Truth Is In Jesus.

Ephesians 4:17-24; NRSV

17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


So here Paul launches into the “complaint” part of his letter. It’s consistent with what he just told them: Look y’all, it’s time to grow up. What jumps out at me is verse 21:

” For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus.” I’m reminded of some things we tend to believe in my tradition, at least when we’re true to our tradition and haven’t been theologically morphed into sort of baptistified Nazarenes (Apologies to any Calvinist-leaning friends reading this… however the truth is we really do believe some significantly different things).  We tend to believe that truth exists. And His name is Jesus. Now what that means is that truth is not something I can sort of objectively hold in my hand outside of what happens in Jesus. That also means truth doesn’t exist outside of God’s self-revelation in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John reminds us that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. And the Spirit reveals Jesus, who reveals the Father.

Here’s an example: When Modernity (or the Age of Reason) says something like, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” I guess I don’t really believe that anymore. Let me explain… it’s not that I don’t believe that “all [people] are created equal” isn’t true. It’s that I do not believe that bit of truth is self-evident. I believe wholeheartedly that for us to understand what it means to be created equal, that truth only happens in Jesus.  This little experiment called America states in the Declaration of Independence that it’s “self-evident” that all are equal. And then we’ve lived out the last 230-something years proving we don’t really understand what that truth means. I think it’s because we got the source wrong in the first place. I think it’s because we really do believe we can come to truth without Jesus. We can know something because it’s self-evident. But we’re wrong, and we’ve been wrong from the beginning. Truth is in Jesus, which makes our knowledge of any truth at all totally dependent on him. Truth is a Person, no a data set.

We make the same mistakes in the life of the church. We’ve turned theology… theology for Pete’s sake… into a set of propositions to be learned, memorized, and agreed with. It’s facts and data points to be assented-to. And again, we’re wrong. That might be the ‘Merican way, but it’s not he Way of Jesus Paul is speaking of here. Truth is in Jesus. Knowledge of the truth, let alone living it out, happens in relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Such a reality, I think, would really fry our bacon if we really thought 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 45: Now, we wait.

No catchy little devotional thought tonight. I’ve read the passages for this evening and engaged them the best I can.

But Saturday is the time to wait.

To acknowledge the despair the disciples must have felt…

….Because they didn’t know Sunday was coming.

To walk into the darkness that begun on Friday and LIVE THERE for two days…

Live the despair. Live the darkness. Live the hopelessness.

 

And we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

 

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 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 41: Even Paul went through it…

2 Corinthians 1:8-22.

Holy Week is in full swing. It’s not even Wednesday and I’m bushed tonight— so this is going to be pretty short.

Here at the beginning of 2 Corinthians, Paul spends some time explaining to the church at Corinth why he has not come to visit them. And here we find a peculiar quartet  of verses:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, 11 as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. NRSV

 

I wonder what Paul went though in Asia. I wonder what happened to him. Probably I could look it up, reference stuff in Acts and maybe find out. Whatever it was, it was terrible: a death sentence, even. So utterly crushed that he despaired of life itself… and it couldn’t have been fun.

But rather than sit there and bellyache about it, Paul shares what he learned through the experience. He learned it’s a bad idea to rely on himself. Relying on the One who raises the dead is what got him through this terrible trial.

I think we/I could learn from that. We really do worship the One who raises the dead. That puts our sufferings in a different light, no matter how severe they may be.

Think about it…

Mark