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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Summary of My 2016 Lenten Journey


40 Concerns if I am to follow Jesus and become more like him
(A Summary of My 2016 Lenten Journey)

  1. In what ways am I being counterproductive in my effort to reflect or radiate the presence of God? (Matthew 1:23)
  2. Am I a source of anxiety for those who misuse power? (Matthew 2:2-3)
  3. Does my witness portray a God who favors one ethnic, cultural or political people or ideology (namely, mine)? Or do I follow Jesus and present a witness for all (and “all” means “all”)? (Matthew 2:10-11)
  4. Am I stuck in trying to do things right, and need to shift to doing the right thing? (Matthew 3:13-15)
  5. 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? (Matthew 4:10)
  6. 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? (Matthew 4: 18-19)
  7. Am I “poor in spirit?” I know I have mourned. Am I “meek”; do I “hunger and thirst for righteousness” in my life? (Matthew 5:1-12)
  8. Do I reflect Jesus, or do I reflect the materialistic values of a culture in which “image is everything?” (Matthew 5:13-16)
  9. Could it be that my efforts to figure it all out fall as short as the Pharisees? Perhaps I should simply celebrate the mystery and follow Jesus, trusting that where he leads is where God’s purpose is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-20)
  10. No matter who is at fault, if I am to follow Jesus, I will initiate reconciliation! Always! (Matthew 5:23-24)
  11. Life is more about the journey – and about whom I follow. If I follow Jesus, I don’t need to worry about the destination. (Matthew 5:27-37)
  12. Maybe this following Jesus thing is going to be tougher that I expected. We’ve read the last chapter, and we know how it turns out. Oh, yeah: the resurrection and the ascension… But before those things there was a cross. You go on ahead, Jesus! I’m going to look for a short cut! (Matthew 5:38-48)
  13. Jesus advocated 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. (Matthew 6:1-4)
  14. 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, maybe it depends upon our posture which always is in our control. (Matthew 6:5-15)
  15. 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? (Matthew 6:16-21)
  16. 16.   If I am to be a slave, at least if I follow Jesus, I can choose my master. (Matthew 6:22-24)
  17. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Do I really believe that? (Matthew: 6:25-34)
  18. If I am to follow Jesus, I cannot live by double standards. (Matthew 7:1-5)
  19. At first, Jesus believed he was sent only to the Jews; but he remained open to God’s revelation, and increasingly extended God’s grace (unconditional love) and restoration to all people. May I remain even partially as open to God’s ongoing revelation in my own life and ministry. (Matthew 7:6)
  20. Whether in the acknowledgement of abilities or in the emptiness of inability, ultimately, I must acknowledge my dependence upon God. (Matthew 7:7-11)
  21. If I am to follow Jesus, I will seek opportunities to be proactive in justice, mercy and humility. May I do so without coming across as arrogant. (Matthew 7:12)
  22. If I am to follow Jesus, I will receive life openly and honestly, confident that God already has given me the resources to live fully and effectively. My quest will be to find and activate with gratitude those resources within me. (Matthew 7:13-23)
  23. If I am to follow Jesus, I will not pile up prerequisite requirements for those who want to join the journey. The intention is not to make it more difficult. (Matthew 7:24-28)
  24. If I am to follow Jesus, I will be as indiscriminate as he in dispensing help to people. (Matthew 8:1-17)
  25. Have I considered the cost? Am I willing to pay it? Or am I just along for the ride? (Matthew 8:18-22)
  26. Jesus, I want to follow you, even when I don’t believe what I’m seeing. Can we come back to those hard parts later? (Matthew 8:23-27)
  27. If I am to follow Jesus, what demonic forces must I confront? What spirits of darkness imprison people, distorting truth, disrupting productive efforts, dividing people and pitting them against one another? And, am I prepared to receive ungrateful responses to my faithfulness? (Matthew 8:28-34)
  28. The cliché says, "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship." Am I clinging to some doctrine as a substitute for faith? How does my doctrine get in the way of following Jesus? How might it mislead others? (Matthew 9:2-8)
  29. I say I want to follow Jesus. To whom am I extending grace? Am I offering grace only to those I consider worthy? (Matthew 9:9-13)
  30. Am I stuck in a rut of liturgical and theological habit? How hard will it be to follow Jesus and become more like him, if I never ask, “What new thing must I consider? What new way must I try? What if I'm wrong?" (Matthew 9:14-17)
  31. I’ve always believed that being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) means that we have potential that has never been experienced in human life other than Jesus. Is it possible that part of what it means to be “in Christ” is to unleash increasing degrees of that potential? What untapped potential lies within me? How can my following Jesus open me to accepting the gifts I have yet to discover? (Matthew 9:18-26)
  32. Jesus’ message is “a message of transformation through service, sacrifice, and selfless love for our neighbors, enemies and selves. A message of humiliation and simplicity as the way of abundance and eternal life. Christians were never meant to be the ones in power. In fact, history shows us that anytime Christianity is given a position of power and influence, it quickly departs from the Gospel of Jesus—because a Christianity that is given worldly power is not Christianity at all. Christianity is the religion that proclaims a God who humbled himself and entered into creation, taking the form of a servant—who touched the untouchables and spoke sharp truth that exposed those in power. Christianity is a religion centered on the subversive power of love and sacrifice, not on the love of power and wealth.”[1] (Matthew 9:27-34)
  33. "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" (I Corinthians 1:25). If I am to follow Jesus, it becomes clearer and clearer where that will lead. (Matthew 9:35-38)
  34. To follow Jesus is to engage in a work that exceeds human resources. To be faithful to Jesus we will need help from the “Lord of the harvest;” and praying for that help apparently will be an ongoing part of following Jesus. (Matthew 10:16-42)
  35. Ideologies, whether religious or political, become divisive when they become ends in themselves. I have been critical of those who prioritize ideology over people; and yet, If I am to follow Jesus I will advocate and live a consistent ideology. As a result, I can expect opposition from many directions, including those closest to me. But, of course, Jesus’ ideology is all about people: loving them (even one’s enemies), serving them (the cup of cold water), inviting them into the kingdom and giving oneself up on their behalf. (Matthew 11:1-6)
  36. What cherished doctrinal and spiritual understandings might Jesus confront in me? Am I clinging to understandings that make me stumble over him? Am I willing to leave them behind and follow him? (Matthew 11:7-19)
  37. As I endeavor to follow Jesus and become more like him, what are the fruits by which I am known? I think it was Coach John Wooden who said, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Am I humble enough to take up Jesus’ yoke of servanthood and to forgo all those aspirations of greatness and recognition and power? (Matthew 11:20-30)
  38. What rules have I chosen—or erected—to hide behind so I can feel justified in withholding mercy and justice? (Matthew 12:1-21)
  39. If I’m not confident about the sin against the Holy Spirit, I certainly am clear about what fruit I should bear. (Matthew 12:21-37)
  40. Is my relationship with God too private? Am I missing the bigger picture of God’s universal love? (Matthew 12:1-21)


[1] Brandon Robertson, “To the Dying Church from a Millennial,” Sojourners, https://sojo.net/articles/letters-dying-church/dying-church-millennial. May 8, 2014.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 40


March 20, 2016 ~ Day 40

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 12:1-21 ~ The Sign of Jonah is a clear messianic reference. We can find ample evidence in the Gospels of Jesus’ self-awareness as the Servant of Yahweh, represented in the Servant Songs of Isaiah; however, this is Matthew’s only report of Jesus’ saying anything related to his burial. At his trial his accusers refer to his statement about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days; however, of the four Gospels, only John puts that statement on the lips of Jesus.

It goes beyond the scope of these devotional meditations, but it is possible that the three-days-in-the belly-of-the-fish/three-days-in-the-belly-of-the-earth statement is added by the evangelist, who already has witnessed the resurrection. Without verse 40, the discourse moves smoothly to connect Jonah, not with the fish but with the repentance of the people of Nineveh, who repented as a result of Jonah’s preaching.

Two points: (1) Nineveh was the capital city of Israel’s bitterest enemy; yet, the people repented and God spared them. Thus, the people of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will rise up to judge the unrepentant current generation of Israel. (2) In the previous chapter Jesus says virtually the same thing to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, condemning them for their lack of repentance in comparison to pagan cities, Sidon and Tyre.

In context, notwithstanding the reference to his own burial, the current passage is at least a continuation of the diatribe against those who cling rigidly to their laws for their justification and who refuse to consider any possibility that the reach of God’s love extends beyond Israel.

Jesus concludes, “…something greater than Jonah … (and) … Solomon is here.” The prophets of Israel left little doubt that God’s embrace was intended for “all nations”, and that Israel was called to be the beacon of light that would draw “all nations” to God. Those with influence, however, never fully acknowledged that “something greater than Jonah and Solomon,” namely, the universal intent of God’s embrace and Israel’s servant role as the medium of that embrace. In essence, they saw God as their private genie.

Is my relationship with God too private? Am I missing the bigger picture of God’s universal love?

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 39


March 19, 2016 ~ Day 39

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 12:21-37 ~ More controversies with the Pharisees—a standoff in which Jesus demonstrates some convincing logic, then follows up with one of the most difficult and mysterious sayings in the Gospels.

There are Pharisees connected with virtually every religion. They are the ones that have it all figured out and reduced to a mathematical formula: do this and don’t do that and you’ll “get it right.” Rules and rituals equal justification.

Jesus starts with a different premise; thus, his logic is different. Jesus doesn’t begin with rules, although he affirmed “the law and the prophets” (they’re not the same as rules and rituals). Jesus begins with a concept of righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees.

It’s interesting that in the original languages of both the Hebrew and Christians Scriptures, the same word is translated “justice” and “righteousness.” Based on their scriptural roots, those two words mean essentially the same; thus, a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees is a righteousness based upon justice, rather than on rules and rituals. So said the prophets. So said Jesus.

In this passage, Jesus casts out a demon, but the Pharisees, who already have judged him because he won’t cow-tow to their rules and rituals, say he did it by the power of the prince of Demons.

Jesus response is incredulous: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? Then he asks, “By whose power do your exorcists cast out demons?”

What follows is that troubling saying about the “unpardonable sin.” Theories abound as to what Jesus intended by this saying; but, they all are speculation. The only qualification Jesus uses is that it is a sin “against the Holy Spirit”. What distinguishes a sin against the Holy Spirit from any other category of sin is left open. I will point out that Jesus did say that people will be forgiven for “every sin and blasphemy” except this one. Every sin and blasphemy.  

When in doubt, look at context: (2) the casting out of a demon and a subsequent encounter with Pharisees who confront him with poorly conceived, illogical accusations, (2) a discourse about a divided house not standing and (3) any who are not for me are against me. I suggest that the latter statement is tied to the previous discourse, implying that Jesus’ “house” is not divided.

Perhaps, then [and like virtually every other suggestion, this is speculation (but informed by my understanding of Scripture and of Jesus)], the “unpardonable sin” relates to division within the “house” of Jesus.

The conclusion of the passage seems crystal clear by comparison: “A tree is known by its fruit.” Jesus doesn’t explain this metaphor/parable, but, while I generally like to let a biblical writer speak for himself, I can’t help thinking immediately of the “Fruits of the Spirit” listed in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If I’m not confident about the sin against the Holy Spirit, I certainly am clear about what fruit I should bear.

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, March 28, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 38


March 18, 2016 ~ Day 38

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 12:1-21 ~ Picking grain on the Sabbath—unlawful? Healing on the Sabbath—unlawful? The rigid legalism of the Pharisees generally is what happens when rules take priority over people.


In response to the first confrontation Jesus referred to Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

Israel had turned to dependence upon rules and rituals for their justification before God, and ignored the poor, the widows, orphans and the other powerless. The prophets of Israel, even as early as Samuel (15:22ff) left little doubt that God called for mercy and justice. The sacrificial system was their idea! They adopted it from religions of the surrounding cultures. Take a look at Isaiah 1:11-17, Amos 5:21-24, Jeremiah 7:3-7, Daniel 3:39-40 and other similar passages, if you know them. If your Bible has cross-references, follow them up.


In the second confrontation, Jesus responds with a simple, “Isn’t it OK to do good on the Sabbath?” But legalistic Pharisees did not see “good.” They saw only the volumes and volumes of laws and rules by which they managed their lives so they didn’t have to do good. (“I gave at the office.”)


The Pharisees were so indignant that anyone would dare question them that they conspired against him, how to destroy him.


So Jesus went elsewhere, where his healing ministry was accepted for what it was, and Matthew says Jesus was living out Isaiah’s prophecy in his first Servant Song (42:1-4). The Servant of the Lord will reach out to “all nations” in truth, justice and mercy.


What rules have I chosen—or erected—to hide behind so I can feel justified in withholding mercy and justice??


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 37


March 17, 2016 ~ Day 37

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 11:20-30 ~ Woes (the opposite of blessings) are pronounced on the cities that have rejected the good news of the kingdom. In chapter 10 the disciples have been sent out to proclaim that “good news;” and now we read that the message was not entirely welcomed!



The religious leaders of the nation rejected the King and His offer of the Kingdom. In the first place, he denounced them for their sin and hypocrisy, and they did their best to stir up the common people to reject him. In the second place, they wanted a political kingdom of their own making—a kingdom that would extend their power and control. Jesus’ kingdom was about serving.


And so, Jesus says, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” His words are confirmed by history: his kingdom has been received by people from virtually every ethnicity. It no longer is exclusively a Jewish movement.


Jesus then goes into a prayer of thanksgiving that the kingdom is being received by those for whom it was most intended, namely, the powerless.


Finally, the passage ends with the familiar saying—all too often taken out of context—“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (vs 28-30)


The burden of serving is always easier than the burden of sustaining control and power. Someone is always challenging those in power—for many reasons.


In the closing invitation Jesus is calling again: “Come… Take my yoke.” The first articulation of the call was, “Follow me.” That’s a term applied to students. Interns. Apprentices. Now the apprentices are being offered a partnership.


I think it was Coach John Wooden who said, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Am I humble enough to take up Jesus’ yoke of servanthood and to forgo all those aspirations of greatness and recognition and power?


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, March 18, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 36





March 16, 2016 ~ Day 36

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 11:7-19 ~ “To what shall I compare this generation?”

Strains from the opening tenor aria in Handel’s “Messiah” come to mind:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:
‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord!
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!’”

Had there been any residue of doubt concerning Jesus’ self-awareness as Messiah—at least as far as Matthew is concerned—that doubt is removed in this passage. John is the messenger of Malachi 3:1. He is “the Elijah who is to come” (Malachi 4:5). And Jesus leaves no doubt as the esteem in which he holds John.

But then Jesus shifts his attention to those toward whom he has been addressing his “good news of the kingdom”:

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

“We played ‘wedding’ and you wouldn’t dance; we played funeral and you wouldn’t cry.” What does it take? John was an aesthete and you called him weird. I involve myself in life, and you call a drunk and a glutton. What is it that you really are expecting?

We have rigid fundamentalists, and we have amoral liberals (sic). But nobody seems to have a clue.

Has anything changed? And yet, the closing comment of this text is, “Wisdom is known by its deeds.” A tree is known by its fruit. What's so confusing about that?

What fruit does my life bear? Paul offers a list of the fruits that are born of the Spirit. I don’t think Paul’s list is exhaustive, but it includes, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

As I endeavor to follow Jesus and become more like him, what are the fruits by which I am known?

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, March 17, 2016


March 15, 2016 ~ Day 35

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 10:16-42 ~ The Commissioning of the Twelve Continues

There’s a lot of content here: realistic warnings about what kind of reception the disciples can expect; encouragement in anticipation of persecution and instructions on how to respond (“flee to the next town.”)

There are some unclear comments about rewards for hospitality: welcoming the prophet; welcoming a righteous person, giving a cup of cold water. There’s no explanation of those rewards; but the suggestion is that the reward is consistent with the hospitality.

My eye is drawn, however, to a troubling section; what appears to contain a poem or a hymn: 34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35 “For I have come to set a man against his father,
    and a daughter against her mother,
    and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household

At first glance it seems to say the purpose of Jesus’ presence is to create havoc and division in human relationships. I am at a loss to understand that consistent translation from one English version to another.

When I read the text in its original language, the prepositions can validly be understood to reflect “result” as much as “intention”, e.g. “The result of my coming will be a sword…” Such an interpretation is more consistent with the overall teaching and ministry of Jesus.

Jesus did come to confront the misdirected orthodoxy of his own faith. And in this election year we all know that the natural consequence of ideological confrontation is to divide of people against one another. Jesus’ witness is clear, and those who follow him will be opposed—even from within their own families.

Ideologies, whether religious or political, become divisive when they become ends in themselves. I have been critical of those who prioritize ideology over people; and yet, If I am to follow Jesus I will advocate and live a consistent ideology. As a result, I can expect opposition from many directions, including those closest to me. But, of course, Jesus’ ideology is all about people: loving them (even one’s enemies), serving them (the cup of cold water), inviting them into the kingdom and giving oneself up on their behalf.

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, March 16, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 34


March 14, 2016 ~ Day 34

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 10:1-15 ~ The Commissioning of the Twelve

We can get hung up on some details; and, to be sure the details are important at some level. For example, why did Jesus tell the twelve not to go among the Gentiles or among the Samaritans, but only to the “lost sheep of Israel?” [We’ll discover later that in his humanity Jesus’ faithfulness led him through several levels of understanding his own calling. One such movement can be seen in his early intention to go only to the “lost sheep of Israel” and his subsequent understanding that he is sent to all people.]

I know. Some will say it’s blasphemy to suggest Jesus was ever anything less than omniscient. That’s why we won’t go into detail at this point.

There are other distracting details. What grabs my attention is the open-ended instruction to “proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’(vs. 7). What does that mean? I’m pretty sure I know what those who heard it thought it meant: they thought it meant they were about to go to war with Rome, and that Messiah would lead them to victory and restore the kingdom of Israel to the glory it enjoyed under David.

What Jesus really meant probably never will find consensus agreement among Christians.

Maybe it doesn’t need our consensus. Maybe it just needs our obedience. Is it possible that the meaning of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is so many-faceted that it can have a variety of applications? Is it Possible that the Baptists and the Presbyterians and the Catholics and the Pentecostals all have valid proclamations?

In the context of this passage of Scripture, I think the least we can infer is that in the kingdom the sick will be cured, the dead will be raised, lepers will be cleansed and demons will be cast out. Moreover, in the kingdom, those who serve will do so with no guarantee of success or even of compensation. Those who serve in the kingdom are instructed not to linger over failures; instead, shake the dust off your feet and move on.

It’s not anything at all like they expected: a restored kingdom of David. It’s something totally new; in fact, it’s never been tried before. It’s been preached for centuries by the prophets; but it’s never been tried.

If I am to follow Jesus, it will have to be on the same basis: no guarantee of success or even of compensation. For me, the hardest part might be to refrain from pouting when I’m not successful. But, Jesus didn’t send the twelve out to be successful. He sent them to be faithful. God will take care of the harvest.

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 33


March 13, 2016 ~ Day 33



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 9:35-38 ~ “My house is full, but my field is empty.” So went the lyrics of one of our favorite songs when I sang with “The Disciples Quartet”. It was a paraphrase of this passage of Scripture. When Jesus made the comment, it was not, as it may seem, an indictment of the ineffectiveness of the leaders of his faith; nor even of their hypocrisy.


Indictment is the interpretation that has been preached for generations, but with counterproductive results. The call of Jesus is, “Follow me and I will make you to become…” The general tone of preaching this theme has been more or less browbeating: “You’re not doing enough! Shame on you!”


NOTE: Jesus made this statement to his disciples, not to the public, nor even to the leaders of his faith. It appears to me that it was not said in a tirade of browbeating, but rather as an observation of how extensive the needs are. He didn’t dump a guilt trip on them; indeed, he asked them to pray to the “Lord of the harvest” to send workers into his harvest.

To follow Jesus is to engage in a work that exceeds human resources. To be faithful to Jesus we will need help from the “Lord of the harvest;” and praying for that help apparently will be an ongoing part of following Jesus.


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, March 15, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 32



March 12, 2016 ~ Day 32
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 9:27-34 ~ Jesus heals two blind men and a demon-possessed man, and the people were amazed; but the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
I am struck by how detractors virtually never give credit where credit is due. Political candidates and pundits and wannabees find the tiniest scrap of scandal and wave it like the national ensign if it implies the slightest discredit to their opponent. On the other hand, their candidate can do no wrong.
In the text, Jesus already has triggered the ire of the establishment with his message of “enemy love” and grace to all people, including Gentiles in general and Romans in particular.
They’d heard enough. They began with the assumption that they were right, and they no longer were listening, nor did they care what Jesus might say. He dared to challenge their passionate hatred of the Romans and nothing he would do for the remainder of his earthly life and ministry would be considered valid or good by the establishment.
Some things never change.
Within the last hour I read an article that brought into focus some things I’ve felt and thought for years, but had not clearly articulated. The article identifies Jesus’ message as “a message of transformation through service, sacrifice, and selfless love for our neighbors, enemies and selves. A message of humiliation and simplicity as the way of abundance and eternal life. Christians were never meant to be the ones in power. In fact, history shows us that anytime Christianity is given a position of power and influence, it quickly departs from the Gospel of Jesus—because a Christianity that is given worldly power is not Christianity at all. Christianity is the religion that proclaims a God who humbled himself and entered into creation, taking the form of a servant—who touched the untouchables and spoke sharp truth that exposed those in power. Christianity is a religion centered on the subversive power of love and sacrifice, not on the love of power and wealth.”[1]
"The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" (I Corinthians 1:25)
If I am to follow Jesus, it becomes clearer and clearer where that will lead.
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] Brandon Robertson, “To the Dying Church from a Millennial,” Sojourners, https://sojo.net/articles/letters-dying-church/dying-church-millennial. May 8, 2014. [NOTE: in the second sentence of the quote I would have said "humility" instead of humiliation. Humiliation was the result of Jesus' choice to be humble.]



Friday, March 11, 2016

My 2016 Lenten Journey--Day 31


March 11, 2016 ~ Day 31

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 9:18-26 ~ The focus was on Jesus—on his miraculous touch. “Touch me daughter, and she will live.” “If I can touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”

But, in both cases, Jesus turned the focus back on the one who had been afflicted: “Your faith, has made you whole.” “She is not dead but asleep.”

In light of this insight (which I don’t recall noting prior to this reading), to what extent is it Jesus’ touch that does the healing, and to what extent does Jesus’ mere presence release within us what already is there?

I’m exploring new territory here (at least it’s new to me); but, I’ve always believed that being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) means that we have potential that has never been experienced in human life other than Jesus. Is it possible that part of what it means to be “in Christ” is to unleash increasing degrees of that potential?

What untapped potential lies within me? How can my following Jesus open me to accepting the gifts I have yet to discover?

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 30


March 10, 2016 ~ Day 31



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 9:14-17 ~ It comes from all quarters; in this case, from the Apostles of John, who was, in turn, a follower of Jesus. In fact, it was John who baptized Jesus. “Why do you do it differently than we do it?”

I’ve frequently noted the tendency—it seems an increasing tendency to me—for Americans to fall into a pathological “I’m right” syndrome. There seems to be a culturally engrained inability for people to consider, “What if I’m wrong?”

But, as I read this text I see that it’s not a new phenomenon.

It’s a symptom of a lack of trust in grace. We pay lip service to grace. We sing of its “Amazing” qualities. But then, when the chips are down, our trust really—really—is in the way we do things: the religious vocabulary we choose, the rituals we repeat, the symbols to which we point, the Bible verses we've memorized (and the English version in which we've memorized them), etc.

I recall a conversation in the early ‘70s. The director of the pre-school program in our church was “old-school” Pentecostal. I don’t remember how the conversation began, but it involved comparing “the way we do things.” At one point, as I recall, she asked, passionately, “But have your ‘prayed the blood’?”

I had to admit I didn’t know, because I’d never heard that phrase. Well, that did it. I was weighed in the balances and found wanting—because I didn’t say the right words.

In this text, Jesus is announcing a new age. Everything must be reevaluated in the light of the present reality. The infamous, “we never did it that way before” is invalid. One does not put new wine in old wineskins.

And, if I may sneak a preview of the last chapter, Jesus is “the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15): the one who said, “Behold, I am always making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5) Always, he said! (Actually, it's the imperfect tense, which implies ongoing, incomplete action, i.e., "I am always making all things new" or "I keep on making all things new".) Faith is never a "one-and-done" matter.

Am I stuck in a rut of liturgical and theological habit? How hard will it be to follow Jesus and become more like him, if I never ask, “What new thing must I consider? What new way must I try? What if I'm wrong?"

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