Category: Discipleship

Second Sunday of Easter: The Epistle Passage – The story is also in our hands

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8)
I remember or am reminded that the world we live in now is not the world we are destined for. While it seems as if we spend forever in this world – that is because we are here for our entire life time. If that sounds rather paradoxical, you can understand why it is not something that humanity carries around in its upper most consciousness.
What exacerbates our “forgetting” of this fact is that we are actually so far from the Jesus/God event that we are used to living at a distance from the Divine. The apostles and first century believers had it in the conscious mind that Jesus was “just here” and would be back “some time soon.” Now that the “Alpha” part had come and gone, the “Omega” should be showing up soon – shouldn’t it?
And if I am reminded that the world we live is only a precursor to the world to come – the other side is believing that the end of all things will be after my life is ended. While I may (and do) hold out hope for a better way in the future beyond this reality, the current world is the only one I can be sure I will be aware of. So if my life is to be lived well, I have to live it well now! And that leads to the question, what do I want my life to be like now? And what missteps am I willing to do in order to have an “enjoyable” life now, but by doing take a chance on messing up my “life” in the world that is to come (maybe). There is the even greater paradox. So it is actually a relief to me to remember that this world is “not my home – not where I belong”.
Because when I remember that the stress and disappoints in this life will not translate to the life to come, I find I can manage this world. Things may not be perfect on this side, but things will be perfect in the future. But what will that future look like? I do not know.
The next “natural” statement to make is that I am assured of the life to come because of Christ’s death – which is a strong theme in this passage. BUT is it Christ’s blood that “freed us from our sins”? Or is it our belief in Jesus the Christ and the Lord God who sent to the earth the Divine’s Own Son? Yes, still thinking about that theological statement. I am ready to lay it aside; we chose what we will believe in, informed by the Spirit who guides us. We hope that our beliefs are authentic and true to what Jesus taught. We study and discern, examining statements, theologies, and philosophies. And we pray! We pray mightily! I pray, beloved reader, that your story and journey in Christian faith provides what you need for this world. And prepares you for entry into the eternal world that has been promised to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Second Sunday of Easter: Acts Passage substituted for the Old Testament – The story is in the hands of Jesus’ followers

“When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” (Acts 5:27 – 28)

In the days and weeks following Christ’s resurrection and accession the disciples had followed in his footsteps defying religious and civil authorities. And their rationale for disobedience pretty much echoed what Jesus the Christ had told them while he was on earth.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (Verse 29)
It is interesting to think about what the disciples, now the apostles, had absorbed watching Jesus interact with religious and civil authorities. Consider that the gospel tell us, in a side effects type of way, that they knew exactly what Jesus said and did when he was confronted with the high priests, Pilate and Herod.
“The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Verses 30 – 32)
Reflecting back on the issue of whether Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary and directly lead to salvation, I have to wonder what the writer of the book of Acts meant. In looking at the commentaries offered up for these passages I see that the salvation that is referred to a changing of one’s life and not a pardon for sins – as we often may think of salvation. I am going to probably be checking and double checking for at least the next week or two to see how salvation is defined and what the requirements are. What I know for sure, after having spent time pondering it, the idea of changing one’s life as part of salvation/redemption is something I am long familiar with. What I need to do is make sure I am keeping the theology of it straight and true. And keeping theology straight and true has long been a requirement of Christianity. I could digress . . . . but I won’t.
As we move from Easter forward may you think deeply and clearly beloved reader. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Easter Sunday: Gospel and Psalm Passages – Now the story is ours to continue

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (Luke 24:1 – 3)
Funeral practices vary from culture to culture, generation to generation, era to era – well, you get the picture. Ordinarily the body would have been prepared before burial, but time grew short before the Sabbath and expediency ruled. Now they had time, and wanted to prepare Jesus’ body properly. But as Jesus tried to tell them, he was bringing changes.
“While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” (Verses 4 – 9)
Other than some brief appearances and final words, really, Jesus’ time on the earth was over. All that reminded was to prepare and commission the disciples and Jesus’ followers.
“Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.” (Verses 10 – 12)
Not that it was a simple task to prepare them and raise them up as apostles and missionaries for the Word of God. The work ahead was more of that of the Spirit than the flesh and blood man that Jesus had been.
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18 )
The books of the bible that follow the gospels tell of what happened after Jesus returned to the Divine. The letters that the apostles wrote and the accounts of faith and works that they record have been a guide to believers for, well, countless generations. The lessons were learn from those letters we apply to our lives in the best way we can. Not necessarily the most effective and correct ways, but the best we can. I become more and more aware of that as the years go by.
Preacher: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!”
Seeker: “Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalms 118:1 – 2)
From the first books of the bible where the story of creation is given, through the calling of the first people of the Divine and their “wandering” story, to the formation of the Hebrews/Israelites/Judahites/Jews, and then to the prophets of the Lord God – there are lessons to be learned from the accounts and chronicles there. We take from them what our own intellect tells us and what the Divine inspires us to.
Preacher: “The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
Seeker: “There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly; the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
Preacher: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.”
Seeker: “The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.” (Verses 14 – 18)
The New Testament turns a corner and what was guessed it is more clearly explained to the reader. But still it with the hands, pen, and understanding of humanity that it is told. The Spirit inspires, but we discern. Do we discern correctly? Oh beloved reader, I have asked that a thousand times. Have we and do we discern correctly?
Preacher: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
Seeker: “This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.”
Preacher: “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
Seeker & Preacher: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Verses 19 – 24)
When I was a youngster things were clear and absolute. As I grew to adulthood I became less sure, but more determined to discern and discover. I am still discerning and discovering. Easter Sunday, however, is one of the times when things are the most clear. Jesus has risen! And reigns for ever more! What we do with that news . . . . is up to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Week – Thursday: The Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel Passage – Now with the story moving on, there is no going back

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Exodus 12:1-14)

This is what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating when they had their shared meal, their Last Supper together. Since they were mostly probably single men, or at least away from their families this Passover season, they came together as a combined household/neighbors. I do not know whether they painted the doorposts and lintel of the house where they were – maybe the door frame to the upper room where they had their meal. Neither do I know whether the remains of the meal were burned. The New Testament – the gospel passage – does not tell us. Jesus and his disciples were far removed from the first Passover celebrated in Egypt. Also far removed from the Passovers in the desert. Generations removed from Passovers in the land that the Lord God gave them. And past history the years where kings ruled over Israel and Judah. What remnant remained of the Passover is recounted in the Gospel passage.
Paul, intentionally or not, started a new tradition – Communion. He recounts what Jesus did at the Last Supper, and for future generations sets a pattern of re-creating and reliving the Last Supper. For some faith traditions the Last Supper is celebrated yearly. For others, when the occasion seems right and proper for such celebrations. And still other faith traditions took on the celebration of the Last Supper as something done whenever the faithful are gathered.
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
For Anabaptists another practice from the Last Supper was adopted and adapted. If some celebrations of Communion have been imbued with pomp, circumstance, ritual, tradition, and exclusivity – foot washing is just the opposite.
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
Humility and servanthood were the important characteristics of foot washing. That, and the desire to replicate what Jesus Christ modeled for his disciples.
“The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (Verses 2 – 4)
With Judas determined to do what he felt compelled to do, the events of the next few days were set in motion. All that was left was to prepare his disciples for those events, and bring them into closer communion to himself, Jesus.
“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (Verses 5 – 11)
Jesus washed Judas’ feet. There is no other explanation possible. Jesus washed Judas’ feet and must have already forgiven Judas for what he will do in the near future. But note what Jesus said, that this foot washing is not absolution of sin. If one has lived such a life where thought and actions are pure and clean, one only needs to cleanse one’s self from the minor dirt of daily living.
“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Verses 12 – 17)
Anabaptists would wash each other’s feet to demonstrate that between fellow believers power and influence are not to be considered. All are equal; all equally need to have the dirt of everyday living washed away; it is as much a blessing to have someone wash your feet as it is to wash another’s feet. That is why footwashing is done in pairs; you wash each other’s feet.
I wonder, beloved reader, if Judas would have washed Jesus’ feet? Would Judas have washed the feet of the other disciples? And how much must Judas have been determined to betray his Lord if after having his Lord humbled before him – he still went out.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (31b – 35)
Tomorrow is Good Friday. For some periods of my life, Good Friday meant it was not a working day. Some years I attended a worship service. Some years I spent with family. For the past decade and a half I have written about Holy Week including Good Friday. In was already into my adult years when I discovered the traditions surrounding Maundy Thursday. It is good to keep learning about the seasons of the church year, and even better to practice them. As we come to the climax of Holy Week, may you think back on the traditions that were important to your Christian journey. And what has helped to form your faith beliefs. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday of Lent 2019/Liturgy of the Palm & the Passion: The Epistle Passage – Good things to come as the season of Lent draws to a close

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5 – 8)
I am trying to navigate my way, beloved reader, through the scripture passages for the Liturgy of the Palm and the Passion which combines highlights from both Palm Sunday and foreshadowing of the Holy Week. When planning a worship service with these passages one picks and choices the passages used depending on the emphasis and theme desired. When uses the lectionary for personal study and reflection the themes and emphasizes of the passages come forth individually as each person perceives them. I am doing neither.
I trying to present a theme the draws together all four types of passage (Old Testament, Epistles, Gospel, and Psalm) and that remains true to the season of the church year. It at times can be a heady experience – and other times a bit of a headache! What I am finding is that some of the passages (or more precisely the story they tell) used this week are used again during Holy Week. And having written blogs for multiple lectionary cycles I am mindful of not getting to far ahead in the story of Lent and Easter. It is a story we know quite well, and I try to find fresh approaches.
“Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Verses 9 – 11)
Paul, the writer of Philippians (and most of the other epistles) was probably mindful too that the story was a powerful one and needed to be told well. But for him that was an advantage. Paul raced headlong into the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection because for him that was the whole point – getting to the end and the promise of salvation. The church year, however, as it is constructs carefully makes its way through the story of Jesus’ annunciation to his birth through his (it seems brief) growing up years through his travels and ministry that lead to Lent and THEN slows down even MORE through Holy Week.
If we were approaching this story as “new” news, we would not yet know WHY “ at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . . “ And you, beloved reader, being patient move through the story all with me marveling at each step and revelation. (Don’t disillusion me by telling me you are just cooling your heels until the crescendo and denouement.)
You know this is going to be my 60th year of experiencing Lent – although to be far the first 20 or 25 years I probably did not realize the significance. But still, that is a good many “been aware” years of seasons of Lent to journey through and still retain a fresh perspective. And what is more, there are still many years to come of the seasons of Lent (not to mention the other seasons of the church year) to retain and reignite a fresh perspective. Maybe, beloved reader, that is a challenge for you too. If so, let us continue to journey together for whatever years there remain – appreciating the awe and splendor of each story and scripture passage. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fifth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Gospel Passage – Looking forward to the “new shiny” life

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” (Psalm 126:1)
The week in which I wrote on the fifth Sunday of Lent was a tough week; tough at work and busy at home with new challenges and issues arising each day. I am not afraid to admit most nights I went to bed exhausted and tearful. But I got through it. The roughest day was Friday, which is supposed to be a “thank goodness it is Friday” day. Not so much for me. But I take hope that next week will be better. And that the struggles of this week are resolved. I had to make some decisions that I am hoping I will not regret.
“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (Verse 2)
What helped me greatly in getting through the week was writing on the scripture passages. It usually does. Not only do I submerge myself in scripture, but it reminds me that I am not going through this alone. That what ever else may happen, my soul and spirit are safe in the Lord’s keeping.
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.” (Verses 3 – 4)
I was very glad to get to Friday night, and to have the weekend to decompress and relax. To restore myself and spend down time with family. To remind myself why I “battle” the outside world day. And to spend time in prayer and reflection.
“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Verses 5 – 6)
I know that I am fortunate that the problems I have, although great to me, are actually small and manageable in comparison to others. I do not claim that I am ill used and oppressed. I have food and shelter – the basics of life. And I have friends and family that surround me and support me. But most importantly, I have hope for the world to come. It seems that “world to come” seems so far off. Back in the days when “End Times” were topics talked about and written about in popular and social media – it was easy to believe they were just around the corner. But with bad times evolving into worst times in our global community it seems like global relief is so far away. The “new shiny” life twinkles like a distant star, and the cloud of our “now” obscures its light so that we forget it is there waiting for us in the hand of the Divine. It is where my ultimate hope lies, and I pray it is the same for you beloved reader. Until that day, hold on to hope in the Divine and the strength of others. Selah!
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fifth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Epistle Passage – Looking backward and forward for your faith life – does it shine?

“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” ( Philippians 3:4b – 9)
Back in my youth, when gathering with others, people would ask who your parents and grandparents are/were. It was called “The Mennonite Game” and the purpose was to find out if you are related through cousins or marriage etc. Or whether the other person was related to someone you knew. It usually did not take going back too many generations to find a commonality. But to those new to the Mennonite/Anabaptist faith it was rather off-putting – as if your faith was not genuine unless you could trace it back to a common and/or well-known ancestor or spiritual fore-bearer.
Paul is saying quite clearly that such faith background and lineage counts as nothing. It is not who you are related to, who you know, or even what faith tradition you spring from. It is what you believe and how you live out that belief.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Verses 10 – 12)
If you think about it, the early Christians – who exemplified tremendous faith – did not have lineage or faith traditions to recommend them. They simply lived out their faith.
“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Verses 13 – 14)
From an early age I recognized that it did not matter who my family was – that is, whether they were from a “strong” branch of Anabaptist faith or grafted on by conversion. I knew my faith and the strength of it was totally up to me. Indeed, discovering that my fore-bearers and spiritual fore-bearer were worthy of note came as a surprise to me. And upon learning that I considered that it only confirmed why it sought a relationship to the Divine – because those around me modeled it.
Now maybe that does gain me some “brownie” points by having such good examples of Christian living in the manner that Paul lists his “attributes” – but I do not claim those just as Paul does not. Generation after generation of people have been raised in “good” Christian homes (or other faith traditions) and that has never meant that faith beliefs (true authentic faith beliefs) were bestowed upon them like the family silverware. To play out that analogy, many, many people have the allowed the “faith life family silverware” to become tarnished and break. If you have ever seen old tarnished sterling silverware that has been neglected you will know what I mean.
Maybe the season of Lent could be seen as taking out that “tarnished” faith and cleaning it and polishing it so that it gleams and glows as it did when it was new. I like that analogy very much! So I will close with that! Shalom and selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Born Disciples: On Raising Kids to Follow Jesus

Article by Natalie Frisk In the sixth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Klompstra. She was enthusiastic about two things: math and physical education. Now, I realize that these two things may be a bit of an odd combination, but Mrs. Klompstra married the combo in a way that ...
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Jesus Was Not a [Socialist]

Article by Dan Kent Our political climate right now exhausts me. The fracturing. The bullying. The ideological mobs. I feel like I’m surrounded by a hundred Towers of Babel babbling at me all day long, pummeling me with endless propaganda and page-after-page of facts. “Look at the facts!” they implore. ...
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What Does it Mean to Pray in Jesus’ Name? (podcast)

Greg considers the phrase ‘in Jesus’ name’ and unpacks what that might mean. He also shows why the phrase is important for One-ness Pentecostals. Episode 481 Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: askgregboyd@gmail.com Twitter: @reKnewOrg http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0481.mp3 Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS
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Fourth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Gospel Passage – Playing your part in the Prodigal Son parable

“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: . . . “ (Luke 15:1 – 3)
Actually Jesus told two other parables, the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin, before this one. In a way those two parables the stage for this longer parable.
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.” (Verses 11b – 13)
I remember as a young child (at least I think this actually happened) seeing this parable acted out during a worship service. It was part of those times, the 1960’s and 70’s, when churches really made an effort to reach out to the very young and engage adults in worship services and evening services that appealed to all age groups and understandings. This type of presentation made the bible come alive and really set the stage for my later interest in ministry and making scripture accessible and understandable.
“When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.” (Verses 14 – 15)
As I read further in this story I do remember seeing this parable performed – maybe not as a child but certainly at an age in my life that it had impact.
“He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘ (Verses 16 – 19)
It is at this point in the story that the value of seeing the parable performed becomes apparent – especially if the roles are well cast. If you can, beloved reader, image it in your mind an older man slightly bent from age seeing his young son come towards him – not arrogant as he was when he left, but thinner, and perhaps limping himself, with head bowed & tears in his eyes.
“So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “ (Verses 20 – 21)
The young man is not deterred or mollified by his father’s affection. He wants to make clear to his father that he was in the wrong and does not expect the special attention and affection that he once had. This is important in this story. The young man knows his sin and confesses it freely to his father.
Henry Nouwen, a great writer and an even greater man, wrote about this parable and a picture that he saw that depicts this moment, Nouwen said he could see himself in all the roles that this parable has – the father who has lost someone dear to him, the young son who has made so many mistakes, and the older son who comes later in the story.
“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.” (Verses 22 – 24)
Do you see, beloved reader, the importance of the proceeding parables? The emphasis on celebrating the finding of what was thought to be lost? But this parable takes another turn.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ “ (Verses 25 – 27)
I will confess, beloved reader, that sometimes I come before the Lord with the confess of my sinning because I want to feel the welcome that this prodigal son had. I do not sin because I wish to experience the forgiveness and welcome; I confess with out fear, however, because I know I will be welcomed back by the Lord God the Divine.
“Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ “ (Verses 27 – 30)
In the presentation of the parable that I watched as a mini play this part of the story was acted also. And again, if the roles were cast well you could well understand the anger of the older son. And his feeling that he never had is father’s affection as his younger brother did. As I think about it this section, it reminds me of that the other side of the story of Joseph might have been like, and where the anger that Joseph’s eleven older brothers might have had. One more thing – I always felt like my role would have been more of that of the older son/brother. Having never strayed as far as the younger did, I was more likely to have been the one who stayed around and acted the part of the loyal son.
“Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'” (Verses 31 – 32)
Which part do you identify with the most beloved reader? The younger prodigal son who ventured out having cashed in on his father’s good will? The older son who was faithful but never felt appreciated or rewarded? Or the father who worried and wept over his sons, never sure if they understood his love and care for them?
It is interesting to note that none of these roles seemed to fit the Pharisees and scribes. Not the young son, for they would never have confessed doing any wrong. Not the older son because he never availed himself special treatment. And certainly not the loving father who welcomed the sinning son back as a favored son. No, the Pharisees and scribes were only bystanders and probably learned nothing from the story. But we, beloved reader, we can see ourselves in any of these roles; and each role has a lesson for us. May you, in the time that remains in the season of Lent, think upon this story and the lessons it has. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Epistle Passage – Ambassadors for a new life

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (II Corinthians 5:16 – 17)
One of the things that I was concerned about during my radiation treatment was that after it ended and I had recovered – something would have changed. Be it my taste buds, my skin’s appearance . . . . my life expectancy – something would have changed. And I kind of liked my life, skin and taste buds the way they were! My skin is healed, but it is subtly different. My taste buds are back, but slightly changed. And my life expectancy? Would know about that until early April. But during the treatment and the weeks afterwards, I did learn something new. I learned that I had resiliency that I did not know I had. And that the experience added new possibilities for helping others go through this potentially life altering change. It is not a new me, or even a better me. But a changed me.
The writer of II Corinthians, Paul, can get a little dramatic. And as he sees it the change from being a non-believer to a believer can be like turning 180 degrees – it was for him so why should it not be for others. Paul goes on to explain his reasoning.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (Verses 18 – 21)
For Paul becoming a believer in Jesus Christ and a new view of the Lord God – he saw this change as radical because previously he thought believers in Jesus Christ were heretics and should be killed. From killing those who believed in Jesus to encouraging and exhorting people to believe in Jesus – I can see where that would make one feel like they were a new creation. And convince one to be an ambassador for this new way of thinking and a new life. That is, after all, the final outcome of Lent – Easter and new life.
May you, beloved reader, embrace new experiences and not be afraid of changes – as long as the Divine is leading you and under girding your life. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Old Testament Passage – In a new land and living a new life

“The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.” (Joshua 5:9)
Yesterday I was peeved because the scripture citations did not match what I felt should have been the emphasis for the day – Day of Annunciation of the Jesus. Today, however, I am very pleased. This theme, having disgrace taken away, is very much a theme of Lent. Our self-examination and determination to live more accountable lives is a part of the process of Lent. And the Hebrews have done well.
“While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.” (Verses 10 – 12)
Imagine beloved readers, the joy of being able to provide for yourself. Granted, the Divine gave them the land as a gift (and no, I am not going to go into what cost that was to the natives of the land) but they worked the land and harvested what they needed. I remember well some of the first signs in my life that I could fend for myself. Happy days of accomplishing what needed to be done, and taking care of my family. There are still days when I feel the satisfaction of providing for my loved ones. And I feel like the mistakes I made in the past have faded away. Through God’s grace and mercy, they have. Think for yourself, beloved reader, where you have succeeded and good that made you feel. And then thank the Lord God the Divine for giving you the opportunity to prove yourself! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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