Get Your Head Out of the Clouds

Acts 1:1-11 β€’ Psalm 47 or Psalm 93 β€’ Ephesians 1:15-23 β€’ Luke 24:44-53

"While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" Acst 1:10-11

Today is Ascension Day on the Christian calendar. When it comes to high holy days I think this one is largely underrated. There isn’t much fanfare in the Protestant world for this one. And yet, as I think more and more about it I think it really ought to rank as second most important behind Resurrection Sunday.

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The Words

Psalm 93; Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Mark 16:19-20

"You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Once again the call to remember the words of God and to teach them to the next generation.

As I continue to wrestle with and processed it all day yesterday and now confronted with it again today, I am struck by something. What is it that most of us teach our children? We teach them our interpretations of the words. Most of what we put on offer is our theology, our doctrine, our thoughts about the words.

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Psalm 93; Deuteronomy 11:1-17; 1 Timothy 6:13-16

"Remember today that it was not your children (who have not known or seen the discipline of the LORD your God), but it is you who must acknowledge his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm..." Deuteronomy 11:2

I am struck by the call to “remember” in connection with the emerging generation. As parents it is our responsibility to “remember” what God has done. We have lived life and seen God at work in our lives. We get to share this with the next generation.

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Gentleness Born of Wisdom

the word, 'wisdom' spelled out in scrabble tiles

Psalm 80; Isaiah 32:9-20; James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:13-18

The actual verses for the reading today in James were just seventeen and eighteen. But, I wanted to include the broader context because I think that it is important.

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The Steadfast Mind

a neon sign that says change in cursive

Psalm 135; Isaiah 26:1-15; Mark 12:18-27

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Isaiah 26:3

Over the last few weeks I have come to the realization that my pastoral work is beginning to change a bit. For the last decade or so my ministry has been largely one of quiet faithful presence. Simply put, I show up and try to be as fully present in the life of my neighborhood and town.

That is beginning to change.

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Doing Wrong for the Right Reason

a forest path with a fork

Psalm 135; Daniel 6:1-28; 1 John 2:12-17

As I read these passages together this morning the combination of 1 John 2 and Daniel 6 were particularly intriguing. Daniel had to make a decision, would he set aside his faithful commitment to his God for the sake of worldly power?

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Unity in Conflict

a grafiti wall that reads 'unity in diversity'

Psalm 133; Daniel 1:1-21; Acts 2:42-47

"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

I think that I often do not really consider what it means to for God’s people to “live together in unity.” Far too often when I think about this I think of some sort of an ideal all happy, all the time, kind of community.

Here’s the thing, that’s not reality.

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Becoming Salvation

a huge boulder in a field

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Song of Solomon 3:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

"The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation." Psalm 118:14

This little phrase, “he has become my salvation,” is pregnant with meaning. I think this morning as I recline and think at the coffee shop, the idea that the LORD has become my salvation is an idea I need to process more.

So often we think that we must earn God’s love or that we have to do certain things to make the divine happy. Yet, there is nothing that I need to do because the LORD has actually become my salvation.

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Already But Not Yet

a sign in a tree that reads, 'the best is yet to come'

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Genesis 1:20-2:4a; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

As I continue to process Resurrection Sunday I continue to be struck by the idea that was real is beyond our immediate circumstance.

Reading this passage in particular reminds me of this truth again.

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Christ is Risen!

The Empty Tomb by Jesus Mafa

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9 β€’ Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 β€’ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43 β€’ John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

"Then Peter began to speak to them: 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality...'" Acts 10:34

I have preached Acts 10 a number of times. It’s one of my favorite passages in all the Scriptures. I think it’s because I resonate so deeply with Peter and his arrogance in Acts. He’s so self-assured and cocky. He sees himself as so much better than others.

Right up until this moment.

It is here that Peter gets shocked into humility.

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Will He Rise?

Dead Christ with Angels (Tomb of Christ) by  Édouard Manet,1832-1883

Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 β€’ Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 β€’ 1 Peter 4:1-8 β€’ Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.Job 14:10-12

Holy Saturday is also known as Silent Saturday.

It is the day of fear
the day of trepidation
the day of doubt
the day of wondering
the day of silence

Where is God?

Christ has died.

Will he wake?

Will he rise again?

Is he mortal?

Incomprehensible Grace

Kakindo Crucifixion (photograph of original color work). Ntiro, Sam J., 1923-1993

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 β€’ Psalm 22 β€’ Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 β€’ John 18:1-19:42

"'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,' says the Lord: 'I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,' he also adds, 'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.' Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin."Hebrews 10:16-18

All of these readings today leave me in a mix of heartache and joy. Truly, at the foot of the cross justice and love meet. We try so hard to pull these things apart. Yet, when we stare into the heart of the cross they are inseparable.

How can “Good Friday” be good?

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Humiliating Love

Jesus washing the disciples' feet, detail of mural by David Paynter

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 β€’ Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 β€’ 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 β€’ John 13:1-17, 31b-35

"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." John 13:34-35

This comes after Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples and in so doing, humiliating himself.

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Future Joy and Present Faithfulness

the word joy spelled out on colorful boards posted in a wooded setting

Isaiah 50:4-9a β€’ Psalm 70 β€’ Hebrews 12:1-3 β€’ John 13:21-32

"When he had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.'" John 13:31

This verse jumped off the page at me today.

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The Foolish Cross

a cross draped with a purple sash against a cloudy sky

Isaiah 49:1-7 β€’ Psalm 71:1-14 β€’ 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 β€’ John 12:20-36

For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

I keep thinking about what happened that first Good Friday. We live in a culture of power. Very much like that of ancient Rome. So many Christians believe that power over is what is most necessary today for the Church. Yet, Christ is Christ because he became powerless.

The Christian faith is one of self-sacrifice.

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The Ultimate Display

Isaiah 42:1-9 β€’ Psalm 36:5-11 β€’ Hebrews 9:11-15 β€’ John 12:1-11

Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.

You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!

People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:5-9)

Today we step into Holy Week. Yesterday in Christian worship gatherings most of us acknowledged Palm Sunday. This is the day we remember Christ’s entrance into the city of Jerusalem.

Today we are back into the day to day. It’s just another Monday.

But, it’s not just another Monday.

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Jesus Stopped

an ancient crowded middle eastern street

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Jeremiah 33:10-16; Mark 10:32-34, 46-52

"Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means β€œson of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, β€œJesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, β€œSon of David, have mercy on me!”

Blind Bartimaeus is one of those famous stories. It’s one that I distinctly remember from my childhood and Sunday School.

I was stopped dead in my tracks this morning though as I read it again.

“Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet…"

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The Mind of Christ

a brain that is neon colored

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Deuteronomy 16:1-8; Philippians 2:1-11

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus...(Philippians 2:5)"

The other day I was talking with some folks about the nature of God. We were talking about the idea of an eternal and infinite God and how there was absolutely no possible way for us comprehend what that actually means. Yet, God in God’s grace determined to make known this mystery by becoming like one of us.

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To Judge or Not To Judge

a woman in front of a sign that reads, 'man is destined to die once and then face judgement'
## Psalm 119:9-16; Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23; John 12:34-50
β€œIf anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:47-50)

If there’s a gospel that I am consistently surprised by it is the gospel of John. John simply takes such a different angle from the other gospels. His approach is unique and so it almost always seems to come up from behind and shock me.

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Currently reading: Following Jesus by N. T. Wright πŸ“š

This book is so readable and accessible. It really might be NT Wright at his finest. I’m excited to discuss it at book club this month.