"For now we see as if through a flawed pane of glass..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

Monday, February 29, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 20


February 29, 2016 ~ Day 20

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 7:7-11 ~ “Ask, Seek, Knock”. Another passage that’s often misapplied. While virtually every resource relates the saying to prayer, its misapplication makes prayer little more than a magical incantation: a way of manipulating God or manipulating reality or some other means of “getting what we want (or need).”

On the other hand, I’m remembering James 4:2, “…you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask.” And I think of a child growing through those “terrible twos”—“I do it myself.” The child is testing his independence (as well as her parents’ patience!)

I know I can be pretty stubborn, sometimes, and hate to give in and ask for help (or directions).

I acknowledge that God gives each of us pretty much all we need to negotiate life; nevertheless, I can be pretty oblivious sometimes. Sometimes I need to seek focus, or ask for awareness or to knock for insight into how to apply the gifts and strengths God already has given me.

But sometimes, I experience the limit of my abilities. In those times, I am seeking, asking and knocking for what I need to navigate the unknown. Whether in the acknowledgement of abilities or in the emptiness of inability, ultimately, I must acknowledge my dependence upon God.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 19


February 28, 2016 ~ Day 19

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 7:6 ~ “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” This is a most troubling verse, made even more troubling by its position immediately following the passage condemning double standards.

In Rabbinic writings of the period, dogs and pigs were metaphors for gentiles; and at least once Jesus made such a reference (Matthew 15:21-28).

I’m going to go out on a limb here; so follow me carefully. It will be difficult for some of you. It’s not easy for me.

Jesus was called, “Rabbi,” and we may thus assume he was schooled in rabbinic tradition. We also acknowledge him as Christ, and Christians generally tag his baptism and wilderness temptation as the point at which he became fully aware of and accepted his calling as Messiah/Christ. There also is evidence throughout the New Testament that from the temptation in the wilderness to the final surrender in Gethsemane, he struggled to know how to embody the fusing of divinity and humanity that was his calling (and which I believe is the calling of all who choose to follow him).

All this will be difficult for many who are uncomfortable with any portrayal of weakness or uncertainty or struggle in Jesus. But the evidence is ample: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NRSV). The “yet without sin” does not reduce the impact of the “testing”; rather, it magnifies the significance of his victory over sin.

Franky, unless Jesus struggled and questioned his calling, he offers no point of contact with which I can identify and follow; thus, he remains a gnostic apparition, and I have no idea how, as a human, I can relate to him. So I’ll accept his struggle and simply trust in that final phrase, “yet without sin,” as the evidence of his divinity.

So, here is where I’m going to stand until I see convincing evidence otherwise: Jesus continued throughout his ministry to grow into his identity as Christ, the Son of God. Early in his ministry he was rooted in rabbinic tradition and believed he was sent only to the Jews (Matthew 15:24, et. al.). Thus, his early references to gentiles as dogs and pigs. But he remained open to God’s revelation, and increasingly extended God’s grace (unconditional love) and restoration to all people.

I pray that I may remain even partially as open to God’s ongoing revelation in my own life and ministry.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 18


February 27, 2016 ~ Day 18

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 7:1-5 ~ This first verse may be the most misunderstood, and certainly the most misapplied verse in the Gospels. In practical application, the overwhelming understanding of this verse, at least insofar as I have seen and heard it applied, is simply, “Don’t judge.” And by that is universally understood, “Don’t react negatively to anyone else.” Period. That’s not it; nor is it a simple verse to understand.

First, in the original language of the New Testament there are two words that can be translated, “to judge.” One means, literally, to condemn. The other, the one used in this verse, means “to discern”, to differentiate, as between good and evil. While the former refers to the sentencing of the guilty, the latter refers to the application of standards.

As is so often the case the misapplication is the result of yanking the verse—or a part of it—out of context. The larger passage is not directly related to judging, but rather to the standards by which we judge. Bottom line, it’s about hypocrisy: criticizing others while there’s dirt under our own fingernails.

The key verse is not verse 1, but verse 3, “Take the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye.” Insofar as judging is a part of the meaning, the application would be, “don’t judge others by any standard different than the one by which you judge yourself.”

How many people do you know who are harshly critical of almost everyone else’s driving; but who then drive 85 mph in a 70 mph zone? And then become outraged if ticketed for excessive speed?

Judgmentalism is sinful; but, there are other verses that address it more directly than Matthew 7:1.

If I am to follow Jesus, I cannot live by double standards.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 17


February 26, 2016 ~ Day 17

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew: 6:25-34 ~ Today’s teaching is about worry. It’s a waste of time. Easy to say, right?

The passage, possible one of the most familiar of Jesus’ sayings, summarizes and concludes a longer discourse about priorities and motivations. And who can quarrel with the conclusions? Armani suits and Givenchy gowns can’t hold a candle to the lilies of the field!

We humans have made—and continue to make—life much more complicated than I think it ever was intended to be. Our economics, based on credit, hang around our necks like Silas Marner’s albatross; our schedules and calendars are spinning out of control, hurtling too many of us toward mental and emotional crashes! Our need for status and our insane win-at-all-costs competitiveness drive wedges of division between even the closest of friends.

And in the midst of the madness comes these words: “Don’t worry.” Incredible.

And the words continue: “consider the lilies… consider the sparrows… stop and smell the roses (or the coffee).” Unbelievable!

And then the passage ends, “Instead, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Do I really believe that?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Saturday, February 27, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 16


February 25, 2016 ~ Day 16
My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
Matthew: 6:22-24 ~ The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Garbage in/garbage out? Maybe. But, what is a healthy eye or an unhealthy eye? And does the relative health of my outlook change reality? Again, “we see through a glass darkly.”
I did a quick reading in about a dozen English versions, and the word translated here as “healthy” (NRSV and several others) is translated in other versions, “good” or “sound.” The word, in the original language, is “ἁπλοῦς” (pronounced “ah – ploos”), and only the oldest versions, (KJV, Darby, ASV, et. Al.) translate it literally, “single” or “simple,” implying honesty and integrity, the opposite of duplicitous (“two-faced,” “double-dealing,” “deceitful,” etc.).
Thus, “if you see with integrity, your whole body will be full of light; but if you see with a double standard, your whole body will be full of darkness.” The contrast is the crux of this section, which began with, Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. And the call for singularity extends through the concluding remarks, No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
So much for a “prosperity gospel;” however, the word “wealth”, like the word "healthy" is more directly and accurately translated in the older versions, “mammon.” It refers to virtually anything related to this physical world.
William Wordsworth captured the spirit of these closing words:
The world is too much with us, late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
If I am to be a slave, at least if I follow Jesus, I can choose my master.us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— Little we see in Nature that is ours; Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)
‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,
Jim


My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 15


February 24, 2016 ~ Day 15

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 6:16-21 ~ The conclusion about fasting matches the conclusions about almsgiving and prayer: do it in secret, and your Father in heaven, who sees in secret, will reward you. An abundantly recurring theme in Jesus’ teachings is the condemnation of doing things for human praise.

Jesus’ “Do not store up treasure on earth” saying wraps up the conversation about not doing things for show. And the conclusion is, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My question is, “Which comes first: the treasure, or the heart?” Do we put our treasure where our priorities are; or does our treasure form or priorities? I remember a preacher once saying, “Show me your checkbook and I’ll tell you what your priorities are.” I’m not sure. I’ve generally taken Jesus’ statement to mean that our heart will follow the money; but, what if the “treasure” is not monetary?

Most human misbehavior can be traced at some level to an unfulfilled need for personal affirmation. When that need is not met, well… Some people will do anything for a little attention.  And much is being written and spoken about rearing a generation of “trophy kids”. I understand the need to tone down the excessive competitiveness, especially in regard to preadolescent children; but, the “trophy kid” generation is now entering the work force, and is forcing a complete reorientation of management and supervision models.

A poster that’s making the rounds on Facebook says, “Integrity is doing what’s right, even when no one is watching.” Do I trust Jesus’ promise that my Father in heaven will reward me? Do I trust it enough to not be disappointed if I don’t get a “Thank You” card for every good deed?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim


Thursday, February 25, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 14



February 23, 2016 ~ Day 14

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

On day 13 I noted how Jesus connected piety with almsgiving. It was the first time I had noted that connection, and the new insight broadened and deepened my understanding of piety. If my spirit is in synch with the spirit of God (which is the purpose of piety), then one way my piety will find expression is in almsgiving.

Today’s text Is much easier to link with piety. Matthew 6:5-15 contains a teaching about prayer, and the primary message is almost identical to the teaching about almsgiving: don’t do it for show. Do your almsgiving “in secret;” do your praying in your room with the door shut.

In his disapproval of ostentatious prayer, Jesus seems to refer specifically to public prayer. On the other hand, I can’t help jumping to Luke’s Gospel and remembering Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, both of whom prayed in public. But, the one who was “justified” was the one whose posture and demeanor was bowed and humble.

We associate prayer with kneeling and bowing our heads, which are physical postures of humility. Prayer from virtually any perspective is an expression of humility in which we subordinate ourselves before God, expressing praise, thanksgiving or petitions. Prayer and begging are not altogether different.

Think of times when you’ve observed people praying in public venues other than organized worship (e.g., in a public restaurant). What did their posture seem to communicate?

Have you ever prayed in public venues other than organized worship? What do you think your posture communicated to those who observed you?

It gives me pause. Can praying in public be counterproductive to our Christian witness? While we have to take into account the attitude of the observer, which we can’t control, this text, along with Luke’s parable, suggests it depends upon our posture, which always is in our control.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,
Jim


Monday, February 22, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 13



February 22, 2016 ~ Day 13
My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
* * *
Matthew 6:1-4 ~ Concerning Almsgiving
Does it seem strange to you that Jesus begins a teaching about almsgiving with a reference to the practice of piety? Have you ever considered piety and almsgiving to be related?
A strong faction sees almsgiving (charity) tied, not to the piety of the giver, but to the worth of the recipient; and, apparently that faction judges very few to be worthy recipients. It’s not a new perspective.
As I note in prior blogs, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann submits that the Hebrew Scriptures are presented in a testimony/counter-testimony format, much like a courtroom scenario with multiple competing voices—each claiming to have the authoritative, correct view.  
The testimony is the ancient wisdom that good is rewarded and evil is punished. The application (e.g., Job’s friends) is used to explain why bad things happen to people: the presence of poverty or suffering is proof of sin. The victim is to blame.
The counter-testimony (represented by Job and by later prophets) advocates for the victim and argues that the traditional wisdom is unjust. The debate in Job hinges on God’s response to Job’s friends: “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).
Here, the voice of the victim is heard for the first time in a world context “in which it was exceptional for the voice of the victim to be heard at all. These were the ones who formerly were scapegoated, condemned and dehumanized, but who Jesus saw and loved. This is the cry of the least of these.”[1]
Of course, some will take advantage of any display of generosity. They are not true victims. But, convincing data says they represent a tiny portion of those who seek charity, and, since I nave neither the ability nor the right to judge who is a true victim, I will give alms, anyway.
Yes, government should not be the primary agent of charity; but no other source is doing it adequately. So, until churches and civic clubs and trusts and foundations and individual philanthropists can match the need, I will advocate for public assistance for the victim.
Jesus took sides in the debate. He opted to advocate for the victim. If I am to follow him and become more like him, I will do the same, without concern for the worthiness of the recipient.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)
‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim


[1] Derek Flood, Disarming Scriptures: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did (San Francisco: Metanoia Books, Kindle edition), Location 592.







[1] Derek Flood, Disarming Scriptures: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did (San Francisco: Metanoia Books, Kindle edition), Location 592.

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 12



February 21, 2016 ~ Day 12
My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
Matthew 5:38-48 ~ These teachings may be among the most difficult of all Jesus’ teaching. Never retaliate? Never? Turn the other cheek? Really?
Give to everyone who begs from you? Won’t that just reinforce their life-style of irresponsibility? or is it really my business to evaluate their level of responsibility--to judge their worthiness to receive my charity? And what if they don't measure up to my standard? Did Jesus qualify his statement; did he leave me an "escape clause?"
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” This “ethic of limited retaliation actually was an improvement over the previous ethic of unlimited retaliation, which usually led to escalating retaliation. But now this: “Never retaliate!” Yeah, but...
And how about this: “Love your enemy?” But what if my enemy is a Muslim terrorist? or a child molester? What if he raped and murdered my daughter? Don't I get a 48-hour "kick-out" clause?
Surely Jesus wasn’t serious! He was just a naïve idealist, and his teachings are straight from “Never Never Land!” You try to live like that and people will take advantage of you! You try to live like that and people will destroy you!
You mean, like crucify you?
Hmmmm. This following Jesus thing may be more difficult than I anticipated.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)
‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim




Sunday, February 21, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 11


February 20, 2016 ~ Day 11

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 5:27-37 ~ in these ten verses, Jesus’ teachings about adultery, divorce and oaths can be summed up quickly: “your behavior is but a reflection of what’s in your heart.” Pure thoughts and intentions virtually never produce sinful behavior. Theologian, Paul Tillich, says that sin always is a state (of mind—a condition of the soul) before it is an action.

At my age takes consistent effort to sustain any degree of physical fitness, and If I slack off from regular exercise for as little as a week, the aches and stiffness are back. My mind and my awareness, on the other hand, seem always to be in hyper drive! It seems as though I’m always the disciplinarian: over my body to keep it going, and over my mind to keep it from running away!

In the early days of personal computers, there was a phrase, “garbage in, garbage out” (sometimes in the form of the acronym, “GIGO”). A computer can’t output anything that isn’t first input. The human mind is not altogether different, although it’s more a matter of degree, because the human mind is always in “input” mode—even when we sleep.

Cut to the chase: the way to manage my behavior is to discipline my mind and my awareness. While my mind is always on “input mode”, and I don’t always have control over what goes in, I do have control over what I access. That’s why, if I am to follow Jesus, it’s so important to make time daily for intentional input: reading and study (in addition to sermon preparation), and prayer.

My primary hope in prayer is to align my will with God’s will. It’s a daunting task, and sometimes I actually make a connection. Still, there is value in the effort, even when the connection is not made. Life is more about the journey – and about whom I follow. If I follow Jesus, I don’t need to worry about the destination—or about my behavior.



Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Friday, February 19, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 10


February 19, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).
* * * * *
Matthew 5:23-24 (NRSV) So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Now Jesus has quit preaching and gone to meddling! I remember when my college suite mates got into a tiff that lasted several days, and almost came to blows on a couple of occasions. When one of them discovered he had been in the wrong, he apologized and extended his hand in reconciliation. The other suite mate looked at the proffered hand for a few seconds, and then retorted, “Hell! I’d rather be mad!”

He was teasing, of course, and then accepted the extended hand; but there is a growing environment in this country that can be expressed by my suite mates tease: “Hell! I’d rather be mad.” It's called "righteous (or self-righteous) indignation;" and it feels soooooooo good!

Jesus jumps right in the middle of that attitude. In 55 years as s a pastor I have encountered relatively few conflicts that were totally one-sided. Usually, both persons in any conflict bear partial responsibility. The saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” Most of the time it also takes two to fight; and yet, I have absolutely no clue how many times I’ve encountered interpersonal conflict in which one or both parties feel it’s the other party’s obligation to apologize. Few people are willing to stand accountable in times of conflict. It’s always the other person’s fault (“It all started when he hit me back!”)

Some people relish their anger and wallow in it. Jesus is having none of it. Notice that he doesn’t say, “When you remember that you have something against your brother or sister.” That’s the way we want it to be; but Jesus reverses it: “When you remember that your brother or sister has something against you.” No matter who is at fault, if I am to follow Jesus, I will initiate reconciliation! Always!

And note: in the midst of a religious culture that valued faithful adherence to a rigid liturgical and offertory system, Jesus gives reconciliation a higher priority than liturgical faithfulness! The prophets, notably Amos (5:21-24, et. al.), Jeremiah (7:1-7, et. al.), Hosea (6:6) and Isaiah (1:11-17, et. al.), had preached that priority 800 years earlier; but the message hadn’t been heard.

Has it been heard yet? Would I just “rather be mad?”

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NRSV)
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim

Thursday, February 18, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey -- Day 9


February 18, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

The Sermon on the Mount continues: Matthew 5:17-20.

The Scribes and Pharisees were uber conservative, known for their self-righteous legalism. They believed it was possible to live a perfect life, and were pretty sure they were doing so. The trick, they believed, was to obey all the rules. There was a teaching that said if all of Israel would keep the law for one day, Messiah would come. But the distinction had become very vague between the laws of God and the rules of the Pharisees. And they weren’t the same thing!

From early on it seemed to them that Jesus played fast and loose with the law. Social conventions (including religion) tend to become ends in themselves, at which time they generally become counterproductive. Such was the case with the Scribes and Pharisees in their obsession with perfection.

The Pharisees obsessed over observing the letter of their rules and then boasting of their righteousness. Jesus said they missed the point. The tail was wagging the dog. He said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 20).

Jesus didn’t discount the law; indeed, he said the dotting of every “I” and the crossing of every “t” would be kept with integrity “until all is accomplished” (vs. 18). Until what is accomplished? What was God up to? Obviously the Scribes and Pharisees didn’t know—in spite of their attempts to make it all happen through their own efforts.

I’ve read the last chapter; so I think I know. But, could it be that my efforts to figure it all out fall as short as theirs? Perhaps I should simply celebrate the mystery and follow Jesus, trusting that where he leads is where God’s purpose is accomplished.

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NRSV)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey -- Day 8


February 17, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 5:13-16 (NRSV) “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Jesus isn’t commanding us to be salt or light. He is describing who we are, if we are his followers. We are salt. We are light. The only question is (1) whether we’ve “lost our taste,” or (2) whether we’ve hidden our light. I think there’s a third factor in the equation. We are light; but we choose the source we reflect or radiate.

I remember a preacher once saying, show me your checkbook and I’ll tell you what is important to you. I can spend time with your kids and tell a lot about you. We are light.

Do I reflect Jesus, or do I reflect the materialistic values of a culture in which “image is everything?”

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NRSV)

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey -- Day 7


February 16, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

In yesterday’s phase of this Lenten Journey Jesus called his disciples with the words, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Cool metaphor; but what does it mean? The disciples used nets; but when I catch fish I set a hook in the fish’s jaw and yank and crank while the fish thrashes and splashes in an attempt to get away. In fishing for people, shall I use baited hooks, like a carnival hawker or a used car commercial on TV? I’m not sure that metaphor works for us today. I hope not.

But follow the text (what a concept!). Immediately following the call of the disciples there is a general summary of the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry. It includes going among the people, teaching, preaching “the good news of the kingdom” and healing the sick. Is that what he meant by “fishing for people?”

Then Chapter 5 of Matthew begins with what we call the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with what we call The Beatitudes. I’ll not use space to reproduce it here; but read it. In those eleven verses Jesus describes nine qualities of human behavior that are blessed. These eleven verses are among the most beloved verses of Holy Scripture. They establish a standard of value by which we can all compare our own lives. Am I “poor in spirit?” I know I have mourned. Am I “meek”; do I “hunger and thirst for righteousness” in my life?

I’m drawn to these values. I’m not “hooked,” but I am enfolded in a net of grace as these words draw me closer to who I want to be.

Can I cast that same net?

“Lord, I want to be like Jesus

Ina my heart, ina my heart…”

 “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NRSV)

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Lenten Journey 2016 #6


 February 15, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like. ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 4: 18-19 (NRSV) As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

One of the great mysteries about Jesus, at least for me, is that the families of the disciples are rarely mentioned. Jesus called them to leave their jobs and follow him. OK for the disciples. They can scrounge and do day labor to earn the necessities; but, what about the families they left behind?

I sang with a gospel quartet for twelve years. We sang several concerts most weekends, and spent a week of our vacation touring each year. We released two albums, and promoted two singles nation-wide. Our singles made some significant charts and enjoyed valuable air time in several radio markets in the southeastern states, but we were not able to spend the time traveling and promoting them; so their impact was short-lived.

One of our group was single, and another was retired. Both of them favored either quitting our jobs or taking an extended leave of absence (without pay) to take the quartet on the road. But, two of us had families with kids still at home, and no source of income other than our jobs.  So we stayed put.

When I’ve focused on God’s call upon God’s people, I’ve virtually always said, “Whom God calls, God equips.” Was that the principle at work when Jesus’ disciples left their jobs and went on the road with him? Would that have been the principle at work had we left our jobs and taken our quartet on the road? How do I discern the difference between God’s call and my ego?

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Do I have the faith to do that?

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NRSV)
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim







Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Lenten Journey 2016 #5


February 14, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey: Exploring the Gospels to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like? ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

Matthew 4:10 NRSV ~ Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

I grew up with an image of Satan as “the booger man:” a horrid, evil, hurting creature. As a child I had frequent nightmares about “the old booger man.” But here in this text he doesn’t appear horrible; no horns or forked tail or pitchfork. No creature like that could ever tempt anybody. As in the Adam and Eve story in Genesis, even though he comes as a serpent, Satan nevertheless is “beguiling.”

And note in this text he comes with a Bible under his arm! Satan quoting Scripture (Psalm 91:11)? [That really shouldn’t be surprising. People have manipulated the Scriptures since before the ink was dry!

It’s easy to take away the message here, as it relates to my Lenten Journey. Jesus resisted temptations. Not just any temptations. Every temptation related to some political manifestation of Jesus’ calling: (1) to do whatever it takes to be popular—populist, beloved leader; (2) to be a dramatic headliner, making a big splash and eliciting awe and admiration; (3) to hold power over vast expanses of real estate—an expansionist. We could probably relate the names of several current politicians to each of the temptations.

Jesus could have used any, all or any combination of the temptations for good. But his response was clear: “Be gone, Satan!” His sense of God’s presence and calling took precedence.

Am I focused enough on my sense of God’s presence and calling that I am not distracted? Have I even identified God’s claim and calling upon me?

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 NRSV)

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 NRSV).

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim