Palm Sunday 2013 sermon on living with Jesus as our King, a sign 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!
Well, the more we know the less we know. Scholars in ever widening circles are questioning the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ wife, which appears to be a late forgery using quotes from the Gospel of Thomas. The ethical questions abound beginning with the “owner” desiring to sell the document. I agree with those who wonder why we didn’t learn of this document while it was still in Egypt if it’s legitimate.
Karen King reveals her bias against logic when she states:
Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried, although there is no reliable historical evidence to support that, King said.
The more accurate statement is that no reliable evidence exists to suggest that Jesus was married. It’s clear some scholars want Jesus to have been married for a variety of reasons. We keep hearing of bone boxes and tiny fragments which always turn out to have little value. If Jesus was married it would have been a big deal and any children would have been celebrities of divine status. In short, we would know. Those who claim it would be a theological problem therefore it would have been covered up are wrong. If Jesus was going to be a manufactured and managed image he would look more like the Gnostic image of a god only seeming to be present on earth. The twisted logic that produces a married Jesus from a Coptic gnostic fragment boggles my mind. The biblical gospels have a fully human Jesus with a functioning body and close relationships. Even after the resurrection he eats and gives and receives touch. The early church insisted that people remember he was in a physical body and fully human. If any gospel was going to have Jesus married it would have been the canonical gospels. But he most likely wasn’t because despite mentioning all this other normal human relationship stuff, they don’t mention it. If you can accept that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, what’s the stretch to say he had children? The medieval Roman church might have had a reason to support celibate clergy through a celibate Jesus, but that was a later development. The unmarried Jesus had already been with us for centuries.
To summarize: I don’t think Jesus was married to an individual woman. I think he has always been married to his mission and to God’s people, the church. He blessed marriage and affirmed it as a celebration of the miracle of life. I don’t think I believe that because the church has something to hide. There is nothing simple about the Trinity or Christology. A married Jesus would be no more difficult to teach than many other difficult doctrines. As usual, we project our cultural dilemmas onto the ancient world and ancient texts. I don’t even think the likely forged text is actually saying Jesus had an earthly, physical wife for reasons I explained last time. One has to supply a lot of missing letters to come up with that! But gnostics had a much greater theological motive for having a celibate Jesus than orthodox believers did. Their motive simply seems to be telling the truth. He wasn’t married.
In this case, ironically, it doesn’t seem to be the church that has something to hide…
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.
Special thanks to my friend Lonnie Marshall for this link. How would you like N.T. Wright commenting on your blog? That’s what happened to Jamie Smith. Click the link above to see his questionable review of Wright’s book, then scroll down to the 10th Comment. None other than N.T. “Tom” Wright responds. I had the same response to Smith’s review. It seemed to not understand the context of some of the terms Wright uses in his book. Maybe it’s not his best book overall, but his carefully nuanced point, about the Creeds never having the purpose of replacing the full Gospel accounts about Jesus’ life and ministry, is well taken. He’s not attacking the creeds. He says them daily/weekly. He also prays the Lord’s Prayer which does a nice job summarizing Jesus’ ministry emphases. Creeds plus Gospels equals very fully formed faith. Here, here, N.T.! I agree, I agree!
This isn’t just a scholarly question. It gets right down to how we make disciples. People should be reading the story and living the story as they learn the creeds and get formed in faith.
I may not agree with many of Wright’s political examples, but I agree with his theological and textual points and think he’s asking the right questions about how we worship and do spiritual formation. What do you think?
After Day 1 & 2 feedback from users I would encourage any Christian who wants to explore the Lenten and Easter seasons to pick up this daily devotional guide. It’s well-written. Takes you through the Daily Office plan for reading through the Bible, pulls highlights from these readings, and offers brief guides to prayer for each day. With your Bible in hand, you can go as deep as you want. On days you’re seriously pressed for time you can keep the discipline going by pulling from the highlights and praying. Along the way you have several opportunities to journal your progress and prayers. Inspirational Art. Prayers from past spiritual giants. A very complete portable guide to Spiritual Growth!
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!
The Gospel of John says in the first chapter: “And the Word became flesh and ‘dwelt’ among us.” This is a key verse for lots of reasons. But it also may be a clue about when Jesus was born. The word “dwelt” means “pitched his tent”. That’s interesting. Every Fall Jews still celebrate Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths (tents). “live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.” (Leviticus 23:42-44) In Chicago, a tent has been on display to honor this tradition. The Exodus was a great event. It was the paradigm for God’s salvation, delivering his people from bondage.
Today’s Engage the Word reading was from Luke 2:1-40. The angel said Mary would miraculously become pregnant and deliver a son named Jesus, whose Kingdom will never end. Jesus means “Yahweh Saves”. Matthew tells us he would “save his people from their sins.” So we’re reading a Christmas story in October! Weird? Not really. If John is giving us a clue, Jesus may have become flesh and pitched his tent during Sukkot! Dwelling among us as a sojourner. One who shared life with us, then gave his life away. One who leads an Exodus out of the bondage of sin! One who saves us from our sins and from ourselves.
There are good reasons to celebrate his arrival at the darkest point in the year, because he was the Light of the World, overcoming the darkness. But it’s not bad to read and celebrate his arrival now, too! How amazing that he became human. Living among our tents. Leading us finally home.
So remember you’re just a sojourner here. The fullness of the Kingdom is yet to come. Let’s draw together as the community of faith. Let’s be disciples. Let’s make disciples who make disciples. He’s still full of grace and truth. Let’s keep sharing the Good News and living toward the Kingdom! Don’t get too comfortable. There’s much to do and we’re not home yet!
“And can it be, that I should gain an interest in the savior’s blood. Died he for me, who caused his pain? For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love. How can it be? That Thou my God shouldst die for me?”
Good Friday Service 7pm
NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene