Thursday, August 25, 2011

Get in In Line Behind Jesus Matthew 16:21-28

You belong: in line behind Jesus
Jesus had a destiny 2000 years ago: the cross, suffering, and death and only after all that resurrection to new life. This side of His resurrection we understand in faith all this had to happen and did as part of God's saving plan.
Jesus' friend Peter didn't see it the same way before the cross and resurrection. Peter believed, even before the resurrection that Jesus was cristo" ouio" tou` qeou` tou` zwnto" the Christ/Messiah the son of God the living Matthew 16:16. Jesus said Peter was blessed to have such faith that came from the Father. And just a few breaths later Jesus challenge Peter's faith. Jesus was talking about His cross and that meant suffering and death. Peter wanted Jesus to stop speaking another word of it (Matthew 16:22). Jesus wanted Peter to get in line. He called Peter out with an unexpected intensity saying he was a stumbling block with his mind set on human things rather than God's plans Matthew 16:23.
Jesus strong reaction stuns us 2000 years later. Jesus' words (Matthew 16:24-26) about the cross that was coming for him and the crosses coming for us shake any pleasant understandings of God and His loving plans for us today. Jesus called Peter and now us to get behind him. We aren't going to tell God how or who to save. Instead we are to get behind God and find a new order in our lives in which God is first and our neighbors rank just as high up as ourselves. Get in line as you live in to the kingdom of God.
Pax, John

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jesus' Building Plan Matthew 16:13

After hearing Peter's confession of faith Jesus announced a bold decision. Jesus planned to build His church on him, on Peter and his confession of faith Matthew 16:18-19. Be clear about who is doing what here: Jesus has decided to build a church. And He told Peter the plan saying plainly, “ are the rock and upon you I will build my church...” Matthew 16:18

Make no mistake about it; Peter was a big part of Jesus' plan for the church. But Peter wasn't the only one who Jesus would choose. Peter was one key stone among countless others he would call. Sometimes we'll want to emphasize the keystone people of our faith believing them to be extra-ordinary people. But the truth comes clear, considering Peter, that God was at work through flawed people to build up the church.

Read in the Gospels and you will see Peter boldly confess Jesus (Matthew 16:15) and pledge the night before his death to stick with Jesus (Matthew 26:33-35). Peter sure sounded like a rock. But Jesus knew otherwise. He predicted rightly in the very same night that Peter would deny him. Peter wept when he realized what he had done in the high priests courtyard denying he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).

Jesus chose Peter and after the resurrection angles told the women at the tomb to seek out Jesus disciples and Peter to tell them him to go and meet Jesus in Galilee Mark 16:7. Jesus was still planning on Peter to be a keystone of his church; but Peter was humbled and came face to face with Jesus who he had denied after the resurrection John 21:15-19.

The key components of Jesus' plan for building the church have never been stone, wood, or metal. They are people: but not any people. They are people of faith and as a prime example Jesus chose Peter as his stone. Faith doesn't remove either human frailty or doubt. Faith doesn't mean we won't stumble and fall away, perhaps very far away, from God. Jesus chose Peter not because of who Peter especially was but because of what God the Father had done and would do in him.

Pax, John

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Woman's Bold Faith Matthew 15:21-28

Using the Crossings method

Initial Diagnosis: our external problem – with one another
Initially it's tempting to think that this story is only about a woman who needs help caring for her sick daughter. But we soon realize she has other hurts and broken dimensions in her life. If we are reflective at all we see that her problems, much like ours, are far bigger and more complicated than we admit. Jesus friends, and people today looking to get out of a hurting persons way, can find seemily reasonable excuses not to get involved. The disciple had reasons well understood in their time and place to ignore her: she was 1) a woman approaching a man and 2) she was not an Israelite.

Advanced Diagnosis: our internal problem – with Christ
What would a hurting person do? turn to God. But Jesus friends and even Jesus seems to reject her pleas. Churches and institutions meant to help can often turn away the hurting. The more complicated the hurt and the circumstances of the person's life the more clear the need for God's actions. Jesus response to her plea, “God sent me only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The plea only confirms her desperation. She is truly among the lost of the world; but she doesn't even qualify for the initial work of the shepherd.

Final Diagnosis: our eternal problem – with God
Just like this woman we come to God with nothing to offer to God and in truth needing everything. This woman sought out help and at first all hope seemed lost. She begged for help. But Jesus recognized her unworthiness. “It's not right to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs.” Matthew 15:26. She didn't hide her need, she stood on no formality or attitude of entitlement. She stood before Jesus in faith that He was capable of revealing something of God's good and gracious will in the world.

Initial Prognosis: God's eternal solution – for us
the woman responded to Jesus standing on nothing besides faith. Jim Boyce wrote wisely

This woman is not to be put off, and against all the signs of apparent hopelessness, doggedly stands her ground, persistently seeking the Lord's help, even if it is only to be in those meager crumbs that might fall from the "master's" table. And in the wonderful surprise that is the miracle of faith, she meets the gracious healing power of God's Messiah.
This is faith. Standing before God even when the disciples want you to go away. This is faith hoping in the face of opposing circumstances that God can and will transform this situation

Advanced Prognosis: God's internal solution – in us
the Holy Spirit working Faith in this woman was God's response, God's gift for her. To often we view faith as an extension of our will. But Luther argues otherwise
no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone. For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation. But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; Luther's Works, Vol 33 Career of the Reformer III, (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1972)Page 62.
Final Prognosis: God's external solution – through one another
Faith in this world is not lived out alone. Sometimes it's lived out in community and sometimes its lived out even when the community stands against it. Luther wrote of faith
faith has to do with things not seen [Heb. 11:1]. Hence in order that there may be room for faith, it is necessary that everything which is believed should be hidden. It cannot, however, be more deeply hidden than under an object, perception, or experience which is contrary to it. Thus when God makes alive he does it by killing, when he justifies he does it by making men guilty, when he exalts to heaven he does it by bringing down to hell, as Scripture says: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (I Sam. 2[:6]) Luther's Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III, (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1972) Page 62.
As we stand before God let it be in faith just as this woman stood. No person of faith can claim a special position of entitlement or honor because of what we've done. We claim only one thing: confidence that God can do amazing things. Let us be bold witnesses to the breadth and depth of God's mercy. AMEN
Pax, John

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Water Walking Kind of Guy Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus walked on water. I've seen a bunch of kids try to make it look like were. Years ago at a scout camp on a beautiful lake kids would walk out on some old pilings that lay just below the surface in one of the bays. It was a great picture to get of kids out in the lake, "walking on the water."
This was no mere trick for Jesus. There were no pilings. Indeed he was just crossing the lake when he met his friends.
Jesus sent his friends out onto the water. He sends us out onto the sea. We do not know what's next. Neither did the 12 when they went out on the water. Jesus sent them out together. He sends us out together in the church. We aren't to go into the world alone. He sends us out with brothers and sisters. He sends us out as part of a greater body. You are out there, just like Peter and Jesus' other friends were out on the water in the middle of Lake Galilee. It was late that night. Matthew wrote,

By this time the boat was a long way from the shore. It was going against the wind and was being tossed around by the waves. Matthew 13:24

There's a lot of wind and lot of waves today. There's a lot of uncertainty. The fear's real; and the kingdom of God is just as real. They were scared. Jesus called to them in their fear, "It's me" Peter called out to him. "If it's you let me come out to you."
Jesus walked on water. He healed the sick. He fed thousands. And still they weren't shure who he was. Peter asked to go out. Fear is real. Doubt is real. The Devil wants fear to be the most real thing we know so that we'll sit paralyzed. The Good News is that Resurrection and are just as real. Jesus' transforming love is real and complete.
At once, Jesus said to them, "Don't worry! I am Jesus. Don't be afraid." Peter replied, "Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water." "Come on!" Jesus said. Peter then got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward him. Matthew 14:27-29
Stepping out in faith is risky. Jesus called “Come on Pete.” Step out of the boat and live with your faith in action. But when Peter saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and started sinking.
"Save me, Lord!" he shouted. Right away, Jesus reached out his hand. He helped Peter up and said, "You surely don't have much faith. Why do you doubt?" When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind died down. The men in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, "You really are the Son of God!" Matthew 14:31-33
Maybe you think you aren't ready. Or maybe you just have to be ready whether you think its the right time or not; because God is ready to meet you out there on the water.