Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3/29/15---We're on a Journey...To a Holy Place

Mark 11:1-11 tells the story of Jesus' entry into the holy city of Jerusalem. Most of the text, however, relates to the arrangements for this hugely political event. 7 verses are spent on arranging the right transportation (a colt)  in to the city while 4 deal with his entry.

It is made clear that Jesus planned the entire occasion advance. He has arranged for the colt, and even the signals for the disciples to use with those who were watching the colt. So Jesus did this, knowing exactly what he was doing.

And what did he do? He rode into the most important city of his day, on a colt.

The surprising juxtaposition of humility, represented by the colt, and power, represented by the shouts of the people, dominate this text. Jesus wore no crowns or jewels, and he did not enter this holy city with an entourage of supporters. He met those who supported him there as they shouted "Hosanna, Hosanna!"

Jesus began his journey into the holy city at the Mount of Olives, the location where many thought the final battle for Jerusalem's liberation would begin. But he did not make provisions for battle, but for a journey into the city; he did not order the weapons of war, but a colt for riding on.

If we want to approach something holy, we better do it intentionally, and humbly. To approach God must be to embrace humility. That is where our abilities come from; that is how we can follow Jesus; that is what means to be a child of God.

The entry into Jerusalem may be seen as a sort of political jest in which Jesus denies domination and embraces humility. He is not going there, after all, to be exalted among the powerful, but to die on a cross for sinners...

Monday, March 16, 2015

3/22/15---We're on a Journey...With a Promise

So....we are smack dab in our journey of Lent together. Right now, you may be feeling the difficulty that this season can bring. You may be feeling accomplished because you have kept your goals, and are growing in your commitment to what God has led you to do for these 40 days. Perhaps you are feeling like you can't keep up with the promise you made to God, or you are struggling to keep it.

Wherever you are, let the words of Jeremiah 31:33 comfort you and bring you hope:

"I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."

God has made us this promise. And it's a big one. God has promised to be our God, and to have us as the people of God. We are God's, and God is ours. 

Notice the first part of the verse, too. God's instructions are to be engraved on our hearts, as opposed to stone tablets, which are subject to deterioration. God is putting God's instructions within us, because we are permanent. We have eternal life if we are truly the people of God, so these instructions are put in a place that lives on. These instructions are put in a place where they have life. They are put within us.

But if we wish to be the people of God and inherit eternal life, we must lose our current, temporary life:

Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 

John 12:25 reminds us that we have a choice to make. "Hate," here, does not mean that we are not grateful for what we have in this world. This is a question about what we will follow after. Will we pursue recognition, congratulations, money, popularity, favor, and comfort? Or will we pursue Jesus? Will we pursue the way that God has illuminated for us in Jesus?  Are we willing to lose our life to save it? 

God's ways are in our hearts. Christ showed us the way. The Holy Spirit guides, protects, and can inspire us to follow it. Will we follow the promise?

Monday, March 9, 2015

3/15/15----We're on a Journey...By Grace

The following pieces of Scripture are probably familiar:

Ephesians 2:8-10

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

 John 3:16-17

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

The connection between these passages is that this life we have, this journey we're on, the salvation offered us by God through Jesus Christ, is all a gift. It's all grace.

What would it look like if we treated everything we have, every opportunity we have, every place we go, every person we meet...as a gift for us from God?

In John 3, we see Nicodemus wanting Jesus to give him a sign in order to provide him with faith (don't we do this???). Jesus responds to him, a Pharisee, that he must be born again. This confuses Nicodemus, and so Jesus explains what that means to him. Faith is not easy, folks, but it provides a way for us to be transformed by the grace of God into people of God. It is not based on signs, but a relationship with God that transforms us.

Paul explains to the church in Ephesus that this faith, by God's grace, actually has the power to save you. A true faith that changes the way we live, saves us. In giving we shall receive eternal life; by faith we may always have that relationship with God.

See you on Sunday!

Monday, March 2, 2015

3/8/15---We're on a Journey...Committed to God

This Sunday's Scriptures include the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-17) and Jesus in the temple (John 2: 13-22) where he drives the money changers out and turned the tables.

Both of these texts make me feel a bit queasy. Do I follow all of these commandments? Am I more like the money changers? Am I truly committed to God's ways?

I know that these texts invite me to a deep relationship to God and those around me. The texts place the ways and will of God over and above the world's ways. We are given direction to be in the world but not of the world; to live differently...

...but the world's ways are everywhere, difficult to overcome. The Ten Commandments are given to a nation who needed specific direction on their journey to becoming people of God, and they are given to us for the same reason. Jesus' actions in the Temple make it plain to us that the world will try and taint God's holy place; God' world.

The Ten Commandments were given so that the Israelites may become people of God, who are committed to God's ways over and above the world's ways. Jesus' actions in the temple signal a new age: one where the world's ways are denounced and literally overturned, in favor of God's new reign. The temple is replaced by the temple of Jesus' body, which is a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection and its embodiment in the celebration of Holy Communion.

Lent calls for a time of repentance. We are called to turn back to God, who called the Israelites and us to a covenant relationship with God and each other. God is no longer worshiped in one central location, the temple, but everywhere, through Christ's dwelling in each of us.

This is why things change in the church: because the church is always being led by a God who never stands still. This is comforting to me, as I embrace changes in my own life. This comforts me, who will probably see things change in church, in our denomination, and in our Church universal a time or two.

Although these texts make me queasy, they ultimately point me to a God who is committed to me, to the church, to the Church, and to you. God gave us ways to commit to God, through law, through Christ, and through Church. God keeps up the promises God made and is making to us. But that doesn't include standing still.

See you Sunday!