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…
Matt. 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Right now it seems that we are surprising each other with how different our perspectives can be on political and spiritual/moral issues. It can be shocking and uncomfortable to realize how differently others view the same things. I fear it drives us apart because we crave commonality. But sometimes we’re mistaken if we assume that our faith is more genuine because we came to a conclusion with which we’re more culturally comfortable. Others may be diminished in our eyes if we find we don’t agree. We assume that the way we processed a question is “the Christian way”. Different conclusions must come from false or worldly methods. But is that really always true? I’m not suggesting there’s no right or wrong. But maybe the good news can’t fit into one political perspective. Maybe it’s bigger than that.
In the case of the Chicken controversy we’ve split things even more. It’s not your view on marriage, it’s whether you totally support or strongly oppose the political activities of a restaurant chain. This is now the litmus test for both “sides”. “Eat mor Chikin” vs boycott the chicken. As I said in an earlier post, I’m putting the chicken on probation. Ate there a few days ago, but not on the big chicken day. Probably gonna wait a bit now to see how they handle the new attention. Dan Cathy and I agree on the definition of marriage. I support what I’ve seen of his interview. But I don’t support absolutely everything about what he’s done. And I’m not going to be pressured into doing so.
Matt. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I for one wish the Christian community was half as organized for the Great Commandment and Great Commission as we are for culture war responses. I’m glad we care about something. Do we care enough about the most important things? Have we reconsidered “who is our neighbor”, lately? How do we live truth before them? What’s the BEST way to show the world what we value? The goal is not a world with more fried sandwiches and fewer comfortable gays. The goal is more truly transformed Christ-followers serving up the good news to their neighbors. It may seem more fun to eat mor Chikin to make a statement. It takes a lot more than that to make a disciple. We have one commission. We are under one holy commandment to love. Truly, it’s not about the chicken. Let’s please not make it about the chicken. There’s so much more to be and to do.
Today’s Ashes to Fire readings included the following from 1 Corinthians 9:10b, 14:
It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop … In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
This serves as a reminder of the inherent value of preaching the gospel…May preachers, congregations, and seekers never take it for granted. Any time the Word of God is opened and proclaimed by one who has prayed, studied, and prepared it is a supernatural event. I’ve told my preaching students: as preachers we want to remove all barriers to clear communication, being stewards of the Lord’s message and servants to our people. But we should not become arrogant so that we notice the flaws and mannerisms of other preachers rather than being in awe of the Word that is being proclaimed. May preachers count it a sacred privilege both to proclaim the gospel and receive it, whenever possible. May we study to show ourselves approved and rightly divide the Word of truth. And may we preach the gospel every week, not just isolated sermons on passages. Let the passage of the day be set in the context of the whole good news: the radical optimism of grace. May it provide food for souls and energy for kingdom living.
In the same way, may congregations never view preachers as hired hands who do religious tasks or run spiritual errands for them. May the preacher be paid. But may the preacher’s highest priority be to faithfully study and proclaim the gospel. This gospel must be proclaimed in a way that creates an environment for disciple-making. And may the life of the congregation be shaped around the disciple-making mission created by that good news. And may preachers lead the way in making disciples.
The passage above mentions paying preachers enough to make a living. Pastors can do their best work when the church feels a burden to take care of their needs. In this way the gospel is honored. And honor is important. When finances are slim, churches can be creative; finding ways to share the sacrifice and support the ministry.
The gospel is the foundation of our salvation. It is the very form of our life together. May all who preach proclaim it faithfully. And may the church always honor those who give their lives to it as God receives all the glory!
Engage the Word
When Jesus walked the earth, the Bible teaches us that God was walking the earth in human form. So a lot of people think that means God wasn’t in heaven while Jesus was here. But passages like today make it clear that’s not true. In the baptism scene we see or hear Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all at once. New Testament writers never try to “explain” the Trinity (the Three-In-Oneness of God) they simply show and tell us what happened. I won’t attempt to fully explain it. But all three (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are required to talk about God. Wouldn’t we expect God to be more complex than us?
I have a new friend who’s son was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. He could throw the ball or run effectively on any given down. Now in college, coaches are training him to be a slot receiver. So technically he’ll be a triple threat on special plays! Let’s call him Vince. There’s only one Vince, but inside of him there’s a quarterback, a running back, and a slot receiver! He can’t be all three at once like God, but we get the analogy.
And here’s the point. At all times God is a triple threat. Sin had no chance against a Father who wants to forgive, a Son who’s willing to lay down His human Life, and the Holy Spirit who could pass the Spiritual power of resurrection on to human beings. The first verse you learn is often: “God is love.” For that to be true, the trinity is helpful. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like three centers-of-being in God. All three are actively loving each other at all times. All three have equal powers but they subordinate themselves in role and function in order to deliver humanity from our fallen condition.
Jesus had self-imposed human limitations. He had to learn and grow just like us. But when he came up out of that water he realized fully that in some mysterious way he was a powerful part of a triple threat that would overcome sin, death, and hell!
And he went to war against the devil, and ignorance, and fear, injustice, hate, hunger, violence, and sin.
He overcame temptation, put Satan on the run and began preaching the Good News. I don’t know what you’re facing today. But if you take Jesus’ message to heart: “Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near!…” you’ll find the King is a triple threat to overcome all obstacles; self-inflicted or otherwise. The power to change your life and, through you, your world is nearer than you think!
So what does God want you to do today? Who can you bless? What habit can you break? How could you begin serving your church or neighbor? Have no fear. The three-in-one has got your back!