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

aslan_on_table

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

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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 32: Of Beautiful Feet.

Romans 10:14-21.

This passage is pretty straightforward for me tonight. It gets me back to the call to ministry on my life.

It goes like this:

Sending –> Proclaiming –> Hearing –> Belief –> Calling on the Name of the Lord –> Salvation.

paul mosaic

So faith comes through what is heard, and what is heard  is the word of Jesus (or maybe word about Jesus… though word of Jesus I think is better). Lest we forget the truth of the Word of the Lord… that he invades human existence and reveals the Father by the Spirit… we are reminded that the word we proclaim having been sent is not our own. It is the incarnate Word that is Jesus. Jesus must be embodied in our words. At that point, they’re not really our words to begin with. I’m reminded of a quote from Al Truesdale from NTS: “God-talk that is really first of all man-talk is not God-talk.” God-talk must be first and foremost Christ-talk. Trinity-talk. Words given by, inspired by the Word among us.

Only then do the words of those whose feet are beautiful, when they are heard, bring forth belief and this salvation.

 

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 31: The Word Is Always Near You.

Romans 101:1-13

I have had a blast looking at this passage tonight. As I read, I heard Paul taking folks down a notch or two, and it would do us well to hear him: This righteousness that comes from faith says, “Don’t try to elevate yourself too high, reaching for the heavens” (how many of our worship gatherings have as their sometimes-stated goal to “touch heaven” or “bring the glory down?”) and don’t go too low, perhaps in some sort of false humility. Instead, the righteousness that comes by faith says:

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

This is the phrase that jumped out at me. The Word is near. The Word of faith that Jesus is the Christ and has been raised.

The Word-become-flesh is near us. Emmanuel. God-with-us. We must simply look around.

Now, that verse intrigued me so, I decided to research it a little, even though it’s 10-something at night and I’m pretty tired. I had to hear what Karl Barth said about it, so I found my copy of Romans and found his work on Romans 10.  Here’s what he said, in part:

Far too transcendent, far too important, far too full of significance is the Word of God by which the Church is constituted! We cannot endure it– even though it be heard by human ears and proclaimed by human lips!– save when it is trumpeted forth in the final question and in the final answer. The Word is nigh unto us. Wherever we cast our eye, the dynamite is prepared to explode.

(Barth, Romans,  Oxford University Press, 1968, p 381)

piercing

The Word– the incarnate, in-breaking, invading Word of the Lord in Jesus through the Spirit– is near us. And that is not necessarily a safe thing. Aslan, says Mr. Beaver, is not a tame Lion.

Look around. The dynamite of the Kingdom is ready to explode. That is a scary, exciting, refreshing, wild, renewing thought for me tonight. The Kingdom is not safe. But “safe” is not what we’re called to. Movements that change the world are not safe. The Movement that will redeem the world is even less so. 

I wonder what would happen if some of that dynamite went off?

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 29: Go and Make DISCIPLES.

Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus_Disciples_icon

I’m deviating from Romans again tonight because I’ve got something on my mind from yesterday that I need to share.

I went and visited a man in the hospital yesterday who is in his 80’s, in suddenly very poor health and nearing the end of his life on planet earth. He’s probably what most folks would consider an old-school Nazarene guy. As we were talking and praying together, he said something pretty profound:

“I am so glad,” he said, “that after I got saved, my brother and my pastor took me under their wing and showed me what being a Christian really meant. I really didn’t have any idea what it was all about, and I’m glad they showed me. They discipled me, really. And I’m glad.”

When he said this, he sort of closed his eyes, laid his head back on his pillow and let out a sigh of relief though a great big, contented smile.

And right there I was reminded of the Great Commission from Matthew 28. Probably this particular post is for the more evangelical-leaning folks among us, but if you’re reading this and you’re not an evangelical type, keep reading, ok? I think it’s important.

The commission with which Jesus sends his disciples into the world says, “Go and make disciples.

It does not say, “Go and hold a big crusade so you can convince a bunch of people to pray the sinner’s prayer.”

It does not say, “Knock door-to-door asking people if they’re going to heaven, then scare them into some kind of mental decision.”

It does not say, “Make the ‘Number of Conversions This Year:’ line on your pastor’s report the top priority.”

It does not say, “Go carry a sign, yell on a street corner, or Facebook your brains out telling people they need to get their ticket to heaven.”

No, it simply says, “Make disciples.” Baptize them into the life of the Triune God. Teach them how to live a life that follows Jesus. Know you’re not ever in this alone.  Now go and get at it.

I think making disciples looks a lot like the life my friend in the hospital has lived. A couple folks walked with him for a very long time and taught him. He was their apprentice. They walked through tough days and awesome days, teaching him the way of Jesus. In the process, he was forever changed, and now approaches death with a smile on his face.

Now, admittedly, every story has a beginning. We have those moments of justification/regeneration/rightification. No doubt. But they are only the beginning of the life of a disciple. I am so glad God is moving our theology past notching our gunbelts when someone “gets saved” and back to long-term, community-based, life-lived-with, relational discipleship. I’m convinced it’s our commission and calling.

Blessings,

Mark

 

 

LentBlog Day 23: In all things… (AKA: God did not take your child.)

Romans 8:28-30

Can I just say right off the bat it really bugs me to see this particular passage misinterpreted? Everywhere from mainstream Christian media to the local church, so many people try to flippantly explain away really tough stuff… and this is one of their favorite passages. Everything from God caused the Haitian earthquake to punish sinners to “God needed your child in heaven more than we needed her here.” It makes me want to bash my balding head against the wall. The logic is: all things work for good, which must mean God causes all things, which means God killed your baby, and you’ve just got to accept that… after all, “his ways are not our ways.” God is in charge. God calls the shots. EVERYTHING happens for a reason, so essentially,  get over it.

Not sure that’s what this text, or the whole of Scripture says. Now, some Christians, and some in other religions, believe in various forms of predestination… If it’s written in Allah’s book etc… but my tribe doesn’t subscribe to that notion, and I’m glad.suffer

One of the ways to translate this passage is, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” I am deeply indebted to Professor Al Truesdale for his treatment of the problem of evil. Essentially he says this: God may not ever answer the “why” question. We might not ever know why a tornado wipes out one house and leaves another intact. We may not ever know why children get cancer and die before their time. But what we do know is that God gives an answer when people suffer: God gives his own self in Jesus by the Spirit. God’s answer to suffering is incarnation. It’s suffering with us. Living and dying as one of us. And being raised, so we too can have newness of life in Him. (Sounds like Romans, eh?)  In everything God works. Revealing God’s self. Offering hope. Walking with. Transforming death into life.

And remember this: God working in all things is not the same as God causing all things.  Remember the “sighs too deep for words” from yesterday’s passage? The Spirit utters them because he is the paraclete… the one who comes alongside us when and where we suffer.

Blessings,

Mark

 

LentBlog Day 22: Too Deep for Words.

Romans 8:26-27: 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Drums

(NRSV)

This passage is really good news for me, because sometimes I feel like I say a lot of words but don’t really say anything. At the same time, there are times I sit down at my drums and pray through rhythm and wind up saying a whole bunch with no spoken words at all. I’m convinced that music is a theological language.  (So did Karl Barth, by the way.) There are moments in the sounds and pauses, the crescendos and the pianissimos that I know I’m expressing my core to the Lord, and He is speaking to and through me.

Again here it’s about interacting with the Trinity. When we pray, whether we use words or not, we’re invited into the very relationship of Father-Son-Spirit. Being in that dynamic is the point, not saying the right mantra or getting the words just right. We pray with our lives. We pray as ourselves. This isn’t to say we needn’t be careful about our words. What it might mean is using less words is not a bad thing. Extreme extroverts like me need to hear that.

It’s also encouraging that when the words simply aren’t there, God hears our prayer just the same.

And to that  I say cha-chudda-chudda chiggada chiggada buzzzzzzz….. tap.