Monday, January 31, 2011

Salty and Bright Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus understood His followers. He understood that we could change the world for good, like salt and light can change the world as God works through us. Jesus spoke of his followers saying they were like salt for the earth. As he graciously addressed them He asked this question,

εαν δε το αλας μωρανθη εν τινι αλισθησεται 1897 Skrivner New Testament
Jesus tells his followers that he came to fulfill the law and prophets. We are called to be salt and light walking in God's ways. We are called not to teach other ways but to follow Christ and to invite others to do the same trusting that God has the power to transform others and us that we might better reflect his light in the world.
Jesus question has been interpreted,
but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? Matthew 5:13 NRSV
Others interpretted Jesus words
but if the salt have become insipid, wherewith shall it be salted? John Nelson Darby Matthew 5:13.
There's a dimension of uncertainty to salt in these interpretations; just as there is great uncertainty about all of us. Salt can change. Chemists say given enough voltage, heat, or the right elemental combination salts can be readily broken down. Plain water can dilute salt. But there's a more pressing question here than just plain chemistry. The question is, "Can we change?" Jesus says we are the salt of the earth but that salt isn't really salty is fit to be trampled underfoot. It's freightening to imagine that we might loose our saltiness and become insipid and fit only to be tossed aside and trampled.

Christians believe in God's redemptive power. But do we believe that God can transform any of us, even the tasteless and insipid? God's ability to change anyone serves as a challenge for us when we are ready to give up. Toss no one aside, trample anyone underfoot like worthless salt. Instead turn the challenging people over to God.
Jesus says
ὑμεις εστε τo φως του κόσμου Matthew Black Matthew 5:14
"You are the light for the world." Jesus explains these gracious words with a reminder that such light, like a shining city, ought not be hidden. Even the most challenging people need God's light.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beatitudes: an invitation to living Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 are an invitation from Jesus into life with him. It's an invitation that comes to us in whatever state or stage of life we are living in.

The word Jesus used 8 times in the Beatitudes is μακάριοι meaning blessed or happy are. 8 times Jesus called those facing struggles in faith blessed or happy.

In our world we have expectations of what will make us happy; and many of the things we think we need we will find out later don't and can't fulfill our deepest needs. In wealthy nations there can be spiritual starvation; even in our homes our actions might cut off the light and hope of another. In other nations or homes having our problems would be a blessed dream. Jesus came for us in a world full of inequality where broken spirits, dreams, and bodies can be restored with the promise that joy and blessing can be found in the toughest circumstances. The key us understanding that Jesus is inviting us to consider happiness and blessing not in our terms but rather on His terms.

In the movie Love Actually a great contrast between fleeting happiness and true joy is emphasized in short snippets that bookend the movie. In these snippets we see the two women crossing a dry and dusty African landscape carrying fire wood. The women, I first expected, would be weeping; but instead they were laughing and talking about life and their future. Meanwhile a woman and man who one might believe had everything had reason to weep.

Jesus invites us to come to him. He invites us, in this world of contrasts where spiritual starvation can occur amidst abundance and where joy can be found in disaster to come to him. In Jesus presence we find peace in struggles. It's a peace that comes from God and that God wants to seed deep into our souls. It doesn't come from within us. It comes from the Word of God that says there is new life. And that new life can start now with God through what the Gospels and the band Big Tent Revival call the Faith of a Little Seed.

Jesus words are counter cultural in any age and maybe even revolutionary in our time. He speaks words of love as he graciously seeks us out in whatever place we might be. He seeks to brings us back when we've strayed. He's inviting us to find hope first in God's forgiveness and next in God's presence in our every trial.



p.s. thanks for the prayers for my family and me. We are blessed by so many. May God bless you and yours in whatever place you might be with his Joy and love.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fishing Seasons Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus said, as his first disciples started to follow him, that they would one day fish for people. They were fisherman by trade; but Jesus was inviting them to learn from him and begin a new kind of fishing. The funny thing about fishing for people is that we often find ourselves fishing when we don't think it's the right season or that we are the best prepared.

Our lives go through many seasons. Some joyful and some tough. Knowing God's presence in the middle of all seasons is the great gift of faith given to all God's people in Christ Jesus. One of my favorite seasons in life is trout fishing season. In our lives following Jesus we'll find times to go out, caste lines, and maybe reel in someone for the kingdom of God.

Still there are often surprising times when God sends us out to fish. Most especially in our toughest seasons we can do our very best fishing on God's behalf. Consider those who fish around me today. It's winter and I live near a chain of lakes that's frozen solid on the surface; but there's still a lot of fishing going on even through the ice. Ice houses dot the lakes; each one covers a few small holes in the ice where a lines are dropped in with a luer and a little bait in hopes of snagging a fish. Each fisherman waits in the winter cold maybe alone maybe with a friend for a chance to catch a fish.

God sends us out to fish at surprising times. May he surprise you by calling you out unto the water to find new sisters and brothers to join in his kingdom.

Pax, John

PS thanks for praying for myself and my family. I continue to ask you to pray with me that God grant health, prosperity, happiness, His love, and His joy to all of us durring this season and through out our lives no matter what comes. Thanks for joining me in prayers for Siri, for our daughters Norah, Gracia, and Faith, for Siri's family, my family, and for myself.

Monday, January 10, 2011

looking for the lamb John 1:29-42

John was a prophet. Some say he was the veyr last Old Testament prophet. He spoke on God's behalf with a clear mission, to prepare the way. When Joh,

“...saw Jesus coming toward him he declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29-30 NRSV It was a true declaration. The words rang clear with the promise of God's chosen one coming into the world. Still that first time they heard John's words John's followers stayed with him.

Early on in John the Evangelist's Gospel we hear John the Baptist encouraging his followers to leave and follow Jesus. John saw something in Jesus when the Spirit of God descended upon him. This story isn't in John's Gospel, but it is in the other 3 gospels. It was a clear sign from God that he was up to something big and that Jesus was the one who God loved and was pleased with in the world. In John's Gospel we see that the Baptist was counting on this sign to help him make sense of his ministry.

...John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:33-35 NRSV

And the very next day John told his followers again about the greater one who was to follow him: Jesus.

“The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” John 1:35-28

John's followers faced a great choice. They had followed a great teacher and now their great teacher was telling them to follow another who was even greater. Our lives are filled with choices about who to follow and which words we choose to hear. One of the key challenges in ministry in our day is to have boldness about Christ but humility like John about ourselves. Martin Luther explained, John

...declared unequivocally (John 1:20): “I am not the Christ [we shall return to these words later], but I have been sent to witness to Him. I am shouting and proclaiming that He is the Light and the Life of man, full of grace and truth.” John was commissioned to point to this Christ and to lead all mankind to Him, so that he might induce all who were dead in sin and sitting in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79) to come to Him, to believe in Him, to be animated and illumined by Him, and thus to become partakers of His grace and truth. For this was the purpose of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, that all believers in Him might be justified and saved. Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther's Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ( ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957), Jn 1:17. page 125.

We are to point people towards Christ not ourselves or own ideas of God.

When people do meet Jesus they will meet him as a great teacher who often teaches through questions. John's followers approached him and he asked, τί ζητειτε, “what are you searching/looking for?” They asked next “Rabbi where are you staying” Jesus replied, “Come and See.” The invitation is still there for anyone who needs to meet God. "Come and See." Come follow Jesus; hear him teach and see him heal. Look all around you and you will never find any like him, "Come and see." It is only the beginning; many more great things will come.

pax, John

Please keep Siri, our girls, and myself in your prayers in the days and weeks ahead. I ask God to give Siri and the girls health, prosperity, happiness, joy in his presence, and his love in this time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

an unfolding story Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus story unfolded over a great number of years. Jesus unique relationship with the divine and the wonder of His birth were known for a brief flash very clearly to a small number of people at Christmas. His mother and father, the shepherds who heard the news near Bethlehem of his birth, the wise-men who came from the east, they all understood that he was someone wonderful and unexpected coming from God directly into the world. Others had a vague sense, like Herod, that a new king, a Messiah, was coming, but they couldn't tell this new born king apart from any other new born.

We catch a glimpse of Jesus' potential when, in his childhood, Jesus made a trip that Luke writes of to Jerusalem. Jesus found himself at home in the temple as if he was really at home in his Father's house. Everyone who met him was amazed by his wisdom and understanding even as a boy. And Jesus' parents were upset having feared that they had lost him.(Luke 2:41-52) And then for years there were no new signs. He grew, he lived in a family, and then a moment came.
John's ministry set the way. He preached repentance and huge crowds came to see him and lay down their sins and be baptized. And in that moment, once John's ministry had begun,

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17 NRSV

John knew he was to get the way ready. He knew someone great was coming. Jesus came to serve the father. He came and the crowds who first heard him preach and saw him heal were amazed. The people followed him wanting to be near to him. And one day we learn that He would give all glory away to die for the people. And 3 days later he rose.

We hear today that Jesus pleased the father. And we know by faith that we are pleasing in God's sight because of what Jesus has done for us and for the whole world. We know by faith that the words of the father matter for us today because we walk in faith where Christ has lead the way, through baptism, through the joys and struggles of this world, and on towards life everlasting in Him. AMEN
Pax, John.

PS Please pray for my wife Siri, our 3 girls, and myself. We are entering a time in our marriage that will require a great deal of God's mercy and love for all of us. Help us Lord to be witnesses of Christ's love for one another.