Monday, June 29, 2009

When unbelief meets Jesus? Mark 6:1-12

Year B, Season of Pentecost Proper 9, Ordinary Time 14 Sunday Between July 3 and July 9 Inclusive 5th Sunday After Pentecost 2009.

Read Mark 6:1-6 and watch out: God's on the loose.
This is a great story: Jesus came home and it wasn't a great homecoming. As a man it was natural for him to come home. Afterall Jesus had a hometown so why shouldn't he come back home. The tricky part of the story is that Jesus returned to his very same hometown preaching, teaching, and even healing; but the people in his hometown already knew Jesus (or at least thought they knew Jesus), and they didn't believe he had any business preaching and healing.

Reading Mark fresh this week is a great way to meet the real Jesus. He had family, neighbors, and friends who knew him; or at least who thought they knew him. Jesus, to them, had a personal history and an identity that made sense. To them when Jesus stepped forward in the synagogue and spoke with such wisdom Jesus was completely out of line and of his place.

Beyond his hometown Jesus was viewed very differently. Early on in his ministry many people believed that God was up to something, in, with, and through Jesus, because of what they had experienced first hand or heard second hand. They believed that Jesus was a daemon fighter, healer, wise teacher, and counselor. And in his home --ehh-- in his own town and in his own home synagogue the people saw Jesus as they had always known him. Jesus was Joe's boy, he was Mary's kid. That's who Jesus was and always would be; but to the people who had been healed by Jesus and to those who had witnessed others who had been made whole he was somebody special doing something that no one else could do.

Read Mark 6:7-12 and get ready to Go
Jesus didn't waste time before he sent his friends out to the nearby villages to take on the daemons. The ancient Creeds teach that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God the Father and that through him all things were made. He had power and would send them out in that same power to take on the Enemy. At some point most Orthodox Trinitarian Christians are told that Jesus is always both fully human and fully divine. It's an article of faith wrapped in questions and mystery. We wrestle to understand how Jesus fully human and fully God. But the people who met Jesus face to face recognized him first as fully human and only later realized that Jesus is God at work in the world.

The challenge in our increasingly secular culture is to invite people on the outside of the church, who often assume that they already know what the church and God are all about, to meet the very real incarnate Jesus. There's nothing like meeting Jesus first hand. You are loved and convicted at the same time. The key is to keep Jesus at the center of our faith and life so that other's might meet him. It's tempting to tell God how to act or when to come out and touch other people. We sinners (both in the church and beyond) would like God to be domesticated and predictable. But Jesus doesn't have to obey; instead he invites us to follow him.

Meeting the Jesus you already think you know is powerful. We sinners would like God to fit in a neat and tidy place in our world and our lives. But the real being who made heaven and earth won't sit nicely when we bark out the commands. The One who made heaven and earth is on the lose; Thanks be to God

Monday, June 22, 2009

interuptions = ministry Mark 5:21-43

Jesus came to earth on a mission. He was going to bring the Kingdom of God close to the people. The Good News of Jesus meets us in the middle of life's joys and pains just like Jesus met the people of Palestine in the middle of their joys and pains. Reading Mark 5:21-43 this week is a great reminder how the kingdom works and grows in the middle of our very real lives.

Jesus was on his way. He'd just crossed the lake from one place, where he'd talked with many about the kingdom so that he could go to another place to minister so that the kingdom could come near to the people. Just after he stepped on the shore he met a desperate father with a sick daughter and he went with him to help. On the way Jesus was touched by another desperate soul. A woman who'd suffered for years touched him. She,

had been bleeding for twelve years. 26She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better, she only got worse. (Mark 5:25-26 CEV)
She knew by faith that Jesus could help. He knew that something had happened. She knew that just by touching him she could be made whole. He wanted to know who had touch him. Now she was afraid. Jesus met her fear with love.

Jesus said to the woman, "You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain." (Mark 5:34 CEV)
Ministry happens in the moment when people moved by faith, need, fear, hope, or love interupt our plans. A few years ago a wise man told a group of seminarians that the real ministry of pastors happens in the interruptions. Today I give thanks that God chooses not to work around us; rather I give thanks for the opportunities that he gives us to serve in his name.


A prayer request: as a family we are learning again that we aren't in control. We've been relearning this lesson this past week. My wife's grandfather was diagnosed with cancer a week ago. In the past week he's been hospitalized, had surgery, and learned that he's going to die. In a week the illusion of control has gone away. Please pray for Lloyd and Gerry (his bride of almost 60 years too), thanks

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

With us in the storm Mark 4:35-41

..when evening had come, he [Jesus] said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side." This plan made reasonable sense; Jesus and his friends were just heading to the other side of the lake.

Jesus and his friends were going to do something ordinary that had been done before. But something changed. The water, that was smooth, got rough.

Jesus was there, with them, in the boat; but he was sound asleep. They got scared. So they woke Jesus up, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" HE DID AND HE STILL DOES CARE. Jesus didn't debate with them to prove that he cared. He just got up and told the storm, "Peace, be still." His friends, caught in awe, asked outloud, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

I'm reading Mark in the back of an hour long presentation by David Stark entitled "Stategic Leadership/Tidal Wave of Forces." As I listen to the presenation this text is a great reminder of God's presence in the storm.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jesus is right, it starts small Mark 4:26-34

Mark 4 is a great place to start the imagination growing about God's kingdom. Jesus talked about the kingdom like seed spread by a farmer. That seems reasonable; but Jesus didn't stop there. Right away he was telling about the potential in just one mustard seed. Jesus was emphasizing the potential growth that God sees for the kingdom.

I read mark 4:26-34 to a member of the church on a visit today. As she listened she held out her fingers like she was imagining holding the small mustard seed that Jesus spoke about. I held mine up too imagining that tiny seed. These two stories are so inviting to ponder and to consider.

The kingdom of God starts small and grows way beyond what is possible for humans to do alone. Jesus stories reveal just how the kingdom grows exponentially. Jesus chose earthy images to be clues revealing God's power in creation. In those clues we can see what God is up to in the kingdom. A seed doesn't double in size once a day. It explodes in growth. Remember that Jesus started with the image of the seeds being spread by a farmer and you see just how much potential there is for us to see the Kingdom of God at work in our world and our lives.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hope Matters on the Edge Romans 8:12-25, John 3:1-17

The church is at its very best when we live on the edge. God can use us the most when we are living, together in hope and faith, beyond the certainty of individual resources, at the edges where faith and hope in God meet providing us all the strength needed to follow God into the world.

Many worry about the church's relevance in our culture. George Barna, and other sociologists of religion, report of huge generational shifts in religious identity happening right now. Strong church connections are being replaced by a new more "Casual Christianity" in the United States.

As pastor I hear elders in the church asking out loud, "What can we do about this, 'Younger generation' to get them back." Most of the elders are stunned to learn in conversation that it's not just 1 generation but 2 and sometimes 3 generations in one family who are disconnected to the church. We will not invite a 3rd generation non-Christian back; the youngest unchurched folks live way on the edges of the church. We are called to go to them and tell them about the love of God revealed in Jesus. We aren't inviting them to come back; instead we are called to go to them and tell them about Jesus in hope that they will become first generation followers of Jesus Christ.

The church is at its very best not when we wring our hands over missing generations; instead God can use us the most when we reach out in hope to the edges where the church is most distant from people's lives. It takes hope to live on the edge. We humans expect to run our own power and stength. We look inside our ownselves to solve problems; but in the body of Christ we are carried, by the Spirit of God, in hope to the very edges where God needs us to spread His Good News.

Paul's first hand experience living on the edge in hope: Romans 8:12-25
In Romans 8 Paul wrote about hope from firsthand experience.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25 ESV)
God's Spirit moved Paul and he gave up his whole life to be part of something new. Paul changed dramatically when God adopted him into the Body of Christ. He was was not born into the body, none of us are. We are reborn in water and the power of the Spirit. God made Paul new again as one distinct part of a new and even greater body.

As one person Paul did everything he could to destroy the church. But God had a different purpose for Paul's life. As a reborn man he didn't he rely on his own strength, instead he found new strength as the spirit grafted him into a much larger new body. He left his old life behind. He gave up everything and the Spirit gave him so much more than he ever gave up in return.

Learning from Jesus example of reaching out:
John 3 Jesus lead a man beyond his own strength and understand to see God acting in ways that were well beyond anything he expected or even conceived of happening. The story happens like this: Late one night a man called Nicodemus came searching for the Rabbi. It's interesting to read this story intentionally, without Jesus name. There's a mysterious quality to the title Rabbi. It's a title of honor; but it's not the proper name of the Son of God. Nicodemus, a teacher himself, came with a strong sense that God was up to something through this particular Rabbi; but he didn't grasp entirely what God was doing in the person of Jesus. He greeted him,

Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do
these signs that you do apart from the presence of God. John 3:2
The Rabbi told Nicodemus,

Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (John 3:3 NRSV)
This reply lead Nicodemus to ask a question. Nicodemus may have had an answer in mind when he asked the Rabbi the question. But God was on the move in an unexpected direction.

How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)
The Rabbi who Nicodemus sought out responded with an unexpected reply. Nicodemus asked how and the Rabbi told him,

Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

We look for God to act in places and way where we think God can and should work. This Rabbi taught of a God who moves freely and boldly in our lives.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9)

We will hear from Nicodemus in John's Gospel again: when he stood up for Jesus in John 7:45-52 and when he showed up again to help bury Jesus, in John 19.

There's a gray area in our culture between a life changing faith in Christ and a state of total disbelief. Nicodemus came in the night and Jesus didn't change in order to move him to faith. Instead God changed him.