Ashes to Fire series continues as Tim preaches on John 20:1-18 about living the resurrection reality in our world today.
(one correction: Rabbouni is, of course an Aramaic word, NOT traditional Hebrew)
I feel challenged to continue to understand and live out our ministry in the world as defined by the Gospel and the Missio Dei (mission of God), not by every cultural debate and divide. Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, how will the church embody God’s righteous reign in and for the world? Jesus is Lord, not any political or cultural mindset. Both justice and righteousness matter intensely to God. Like Jesus we take our stand with and among real people where they live. But we actually kneel, submitting to God’s kingdom, confessing our own shortcomings as we profess a clear faith in God and enter into loving relationship with our neighbor. We cannot compromise God’s revealed vision of morality (but must confess that we, too, have failed) and we dare not compromise God’s revealed vision of love (even as we admit that we have in the past).
Jesus on the cross was demonstrating the incredible power of a new kind of love. Violently abused, he suffered for the sins of others. Tortured by an ancient military Empire, he suffered with conquered and marginalized people everywhere. Hanging on the cross he asked the Father God to forgive his enemies, for they did not understand what they were doing. Can we rightly live with anything else in our hearts?
In this week Christians call Holy, as we remember Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, may we join Jesus’ continuing mission to embody the righteous rule of our loving God. May that be a surprising sign in our world of something better yet to come…
Palm Sunday worship: 10:30am
Good Friday Communion Service: 6:30pm
Easter Sunday- Fellowship Breakfast: 10am, Resurrection Celebration: 10:30am
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, beginning Holy Week. Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem for the last week of his earthly ministry. Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time to shouts of praise and prayers for the deliverance of God’s people. Hosanna is essentially a Hebrew prayer for deliverance: something close to “Save, I pray!” The people longed to be delivered from Roman cruelty. And Jesus was arriving to set them free. But it was a different kind of freedom he came to bring. Jesus experienced the political problems that every resident of Judea and Galilee experienced. But he knew he needed to attack evil at its source: the stain of sin in the human condition. There would always be another conqueror, but there will only ever be one savior. Jesus was a king of a different kind, a king who would lay down his life, absorbing the full violence of an empire to set his people free from sin. Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord to bring full salvation to everyone. From slave to emperor, from laborer to President, everyone needs Jesus. Thank God, he came to save us!
Yesterday was an interesting day. My first destination was interesting: the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana. A Jewish man who is a follower of Jesus and a member of our church invited me to a luncheon with an introduction to the Passover Seder meal. I felt extremely welcome as perhaps the only Gentile in the place. They were all interested in my ministry and family. It was a very meaningful presentation on the events of Passover and a sacred meal which remembers God’s mighty acts in delivering His people from slavery. Then we shared a lunch together loosely based on the elements of a full Seder meal. Nice. God’s theme of redemption did not begin in the New Testament and I gained a richer appreciation of God’s early redemptive work as recorded in the Old Testament. Everything in the New Testament builds on this foundation.
I got up from my chair and drove 4 hours to watch Iowa defeat Indiana State in the first round of the NIT. All the while, I was sitting next to one of my best friends. Lon is a Christian Counselor with ministry training who has a keen interest in theology and happens to be married to a girl my wife and I grew up with. It’s endless what we have to talk about. Our discussion turned to Rob Bell and the controversy surrounding his new book. If you know theology, my opinion is that Rob Bell is trying to be like Paul Tillich, a theologian from the 1950’s. He wore big plastic glasses and started writing a series of popular theology books. The most famous was The Courage to Be, which, in my opinion was very similar in topic and impact to the new What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Bell. Tillich’s book was not really aimed at academics. It wasn’t full of long footnotes because it was trying to have a conversation with the thinking public. He went on tours, gave lectures and became a pop culture icon. When he visited the campus of the University of Chicago it was pretty big news. TCtB focused on the sense of God that all of us have in common. It became part of a larger conversation. Frustrated many, encouraged others. So I think Tillich is Bell’s template. He’s talking past the academics, trying to speak to a different audience. Now that would be fine, but here’s the problem.
Since Bell left the pastorate he never mentions being part of a community of faith. A lot of Bell’s recent public comments seem to be based on how the church needs to keep up with the world “just because.” In talking about gay marriage he said “that ship has sailed” and the church needs to affirm people where they are. No biblical justification offered. So, while I’m not one of these alarmist people who freaks out every time Bell does something new, I am a bit more concerned about the foundation of his ideas lately. I would like to hear some public comments about how he’s attending a church and serving others and in conversation about the stuff in his books somewhere besides book signings. I’m not actually going to purchase and read this book until I know more about Bell’s context. But the man does know how to come up with fresh language for talking about what he believes. Preachers should take note of that.
This brought me to reaffirm a couple things I’ve always believed. First, what Christians believe has to be grounded in what we understand the Bible to be saying. We need to give the Bible authority to speak into our lives no matter what year it is, or we’re just making up our own religion. Second, what we believe has to be continually lived out with others in the church. We are called by Jesus to be a community. I’m naturally held a accountable knowing I’ll have to see my friends there who may ask me how it’s going. If I fail to attend, someone will notice and check on me. We all need that encouragement to be faithful. By being present and caring, I do the same for others. And when we have disagreements we can talk about it based on the Bible until we get it right.
You can’t really get Jesus in a package that doesn’t include the church. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about God with my faith community.
Zion is the new album by Hillsong United. This album contains the most layered and well-produced music the group has ever created. It meshes with today’s radio sounds, but finds it’s own voice. Try it, I think you’ll like it.
This group’s music is new to me, but I love what I hear! Hymns have been reimagined for today in a very artful way. One album has even been remixed by Derrick Webb. It’s so great to hear these amazing lyrics in a fresh way.
Also new to me is Josh Garrels. Right now you can get his music for free at the above link. I’m still working my way through his material, but so far I am challenged and inspired. Get it while it’s free. If you can afford it, give him a tip!
Ashes to Fire series now through May 19th
Palm Sunday Worship: 10:30am March 24, 2013
Good Friday service: 6:30pm March 29, 2013
Easter Sunday Fellowship Breakfast: 10:00am March 31, 2013
Easter Resurrection Celebration: 10:30am March 31, 2013
Pentecost Event: 10:30am Sunday, May 19, 2013
Church fellowship meal: 11:30am Sunday, May 19, 2013
I’m thinking today about how God works in the world. It seems like there’s no end to the variety and depth of God’s work. The physical creation is mammoth and beautiful. The human spirit is deep and amazing. And people trying to live together can inspire or destroy. For Christians, the gospel is the story that pulls all this together. The season of Lent is a time set aside to make sure that gospel story is defining the boundaries of our story.
There’s no question that brokenness defines our world as it is and to some extent all of our lives, individually and together. That’s why we need the gospel. God says the brokenness is so deep that only God’s love can heal it. God says the creation groans and longs for salvation, so God has invited us to care for it, individually and together. God says people are meant to share life together, to be on a journey that’s going somewhere.
Life on our own has left a valley of ashes that clog us up, threaten our world, and hide our potential. God is calling us to be alive with a cleansing fire that brings warmth and light. God is calling us to walk in that transforming light together.
So let us leave behind the valley of mediocre living in the cold, filthy, dark. Let’s leave behind coming together to build the empire of “us” vs “them”. Let’s leave behind using up this world so that it’s resources feed our temporary wants.
Jesus entered our world to serve us, to call us together, and to send us out to serve the world. In Lent, we can identify the sources of ash in our life and trade them in for the sources of fire. We can lay aside our own control and submit to holy discipline. We can lay aside false goals and false stories and embrace God’s vision for life. We can lay aside our independence, choosing to be in relationship with God & others.
All of this gets us ready to celebrate the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We celebrate it best not with a holiday. We celebrate it best by living into this new reality, which can fuel a holy fire that lights this world with love. Lent comes before Easter because repentance comes before new life.
I’m thankful to be part of a church family on a journey together to live Jesus’ continuing mission in our world. I’m thankful to be part of a huddle of fellow pastors who love and pray for each other. I’m thankful for a family I can serve and love. These all make me thankful for the cycle of Lent->Easter->Pentecost. It’s an opportunity to live on purpose. Lent=Repentance, Easter=new life, Pentecost=living God’s mission in God’s power. This continual process eventually writes me fully into the gospel story and helps me invite others along. Ashes to Fire. It’s the story of our faith. Come truly live your life, if you dare!