Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Get behind me Satan Mark 8:31-38

Jesus predicted his death more than once in Mark.  Look at Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:45 and in Mark 12:1-12 His prediction's tucked into a parable. 

The news of Jesus' looming death shocked Peter.  Christians 2000 years later are accustomed to Jesus cross.  Knowing that Jesus death leads to his resurrection.  We see this prediction differently than Peter did the first time he heard it.  Jesus' prediction sounded aweful to Peter.  He tried to stop his rabbi from saying such unsettling words.  Mark says Peter επιτιμαν αυτω warned him. And Jesus warned Peter instead ύπαγε οπίσω μου, σατανα go behind/following me Satan. 

Just who does Peter think he is anyway? 
Telling the Rabbi what to teach was a bold move, a move that presumed equality with the teacher.  Peter didn't want Jesus to die.  At first it's hard to blame Peter.  Why would you want your friend to suffer.  Truth is we don't want Jesus to die on the cross; we need him to die, to set us free from sin.  Who among Jesus followers then or now wants to see Jesus crucified?  But be honest who among Jesus followers needs a savior.  Jesus had a mission to die and to rise and we, like Peter, are to follow our Lord always, even to the cross, and through it into our death and into new life in Jesus. 

Who does Jesus think Peter is?
Peter believed he was a devoted follower.  He believed Jesus was the Christ--but he didn't then understand what being Messiah meant.  Jesus was talking about the cross as part of God's plan for Him.  Jesus was boldly inviting Peter and others to take up their own crosses Mark 8:38.  He was inviting the crowd and us to true live Mark 8:39.  This is God's plan for our old lives to end for us too.  To Jesus--Peter was one of many who he would save through his cross and resurrection.  He was one of many living stones out of which Christ's body, the church, would be built.
Pax, John

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

a lonely place Mark 1:9-15

Mark tells the story of Jesus baptism noting a heavenly voices approval,  "You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:9-10. 
Jesus' story takes an instant twist--from baptism to temptation.
Καὶ ευθὺς τὸ πνευμα αυτὸν εκβάλλει εις τὴν έρημον
And immedieatly the spirit tossed him out into the deserted/lonely place:
  The word ἔρημον/έρημος deserted/lonely sticks out in Mark's account of Jesus temptation. Many use words like desert and wilderness to describe this place. Reading Mark this year the loneliness comes clear.  The Spirit drove Jesus into a lonely place and the temptations and the tempter came for him.  Lonely places don't just exist in the wild or the desert; desolation exists as much in our minds and hearts as in any place.  Even in great cities and in the midst of "good" families there are lonely places of isolation and temptation. 
  It's in the lonely places where who we are, who the tempter is, and who God is can come clear.  Mark say nothing particuar about how Satan tempted Jesus; he says it happened.  Any adult human has temptations they've faced when alone; and Jesus, fully human, faced temptations too.  Each of us is unique and the Devil knows it and that's exactly why he chooses temptations for each of us one by one.  Satan seeks to destroy us all, but he doesn't always work to destroy us en masse, rather he picks at us one by one searching for us when we are isolated using temptations as a wedge to force us away from God and our neighbors.
  In lonely places we find both faith and doubt.  It's in moments alone when who we are before God, our sin and strengths can come clear.  A lonely moment is the moment to turn towards temptation or towards God to help you.  Faith is confidence in God's presence when we are tempted into sin and when we have no evidence, besides hope, that God is real (see Hebrews 11:1).  Faith turns us towards God's presence even when see desolation and loneliness.  Even as we face the Devil and doubt alone faith is God's gift to remind us that we are not alone; that God is with us.
May God Sustain us with faith and hope and love even in the lonely places of our lives
Pax, John

Ash Wednesday

Lent's a season that many churches set aside to reflect and remember what Jesus did for us on the cross.  And in our culture Ash Wednesday has found a place of special significance.  So what's the big deal with the Ashes? Just a little smudge on your hand or head is enough to mark you and to stick with you.  The ashes are a reminder of what we are,

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Pay attention to these words about being dust.  Ash Wednesday is much about “What are you?” as it is about “Who are you?”

Maybe you don't talk about yourself or others as dust. But chemically speaking that's what we are—ask a chemist what humans are made out of he might tell you, chemically speaking, you're made mostly of water held in a frame work of complex chains made up mostly of of carbon and calcium. But the same could be said about a watermelon. When either a human or a melon are completely dried up they are basically indistinguishable from dust. 

So what makes you different from a melon?
–biologists can point to the differences between humans and fruit by talking about the way cells in our bodies work. All cells are made up of many of the same basic compounds. But cells are not random piles of stuff, no each cell is intricately made up of these elements working together to stay alive in its own unique form.
–a geneticist could tell you how cells fit together into a body not as a jiggling jello like mass but as a small part of a complex organism. We look at the discoveries of scientists and see the grand design God has for life.

At the most basic chemical level, we are little more than dust and water. The ashes today are a reminder of of what we are and faith gives us hope for who we'll be after death. Either through decomposition or cremation, we turn back to dust.  But through faith in God we see new life is coming for all who believe. 

Our culture is fascinated by death and images of death. Books, movies and TV shows can engross us or just plain gross us out. Death is viewed as creepy, scary, shocking and sickening; but for people who believe in Jesus death is not the end of everything. Rather for believers death is the beginning. This is where faith comes in: for Christians death is the way to life everlasting.

Pax, John

Monday, February 20, 2012

Transfigured for a Moment Mark 9:2-9

There was one moment in one day for 3 of Jesus friends when everything was clear: The law and the prophets the place of Jesus in God's great plan: it was all crystal clear; for a moment. Jesus invited Peter, James, and John up a mountain with him Mark 9:2. It was there, on top of that mountain, that these three men saw glory Mark 9:3-4. Two men of history, Moses and Elijah, who Steve Berkeland argues well, were the very personification of the law and prophets met with Jesus face to face. Peter could see this was all wonderful and made a plan to build a place for 3. He didn't know what he was saying or what to do it was such a glorious moment Mark 9:5-6. But God knew what he was doing. A voice from heaven declared Jesus place in the great plan of salvation, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him." Mark 9:7 b NRSV And then everything went back to normal. Jesus told the 3 to keep quiet about it until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead Mark 9:8-9. They'd seen the big picture for a moment; and they returned to watch it all unfold not knowing the depth of suffering they would see Jesus endure on the way to fulfill this great plan. Pax, John

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Healed by Jesus' choice Mark 1:40-45

A leper came and knelt before Jesus, 
εὰν θέλης δύνασαι με καθαρίσαι
if you wish you have power to cleanse me (Mark:1:40)
This man made a great statement of faith both in Jesus' power and will.  If Jesus chose this man could walk away from their encounter whole.  Lepers, like him, were unclean and untouchable.  And if Jesus chose he could go back to society; ready to show himself to the priest no longer as filthy but as healthy and restored.

Who's got the power?
Jesus deeds proved he had power; and this suffering man came in faith that Jesus could heal and in hope that Jesus would heal him.  And Jesus met his faith and hope with action; θέλω, καθαρίσθητι I will you to be clean (Mark 1:41).  Immediately the lepersy was gone (Mark 1:42).  Jesus sent him away to the priests to prove he'd been healed.  As he left Jesus warned him: don't tell anyone (Mark 1:43-44).  But the man didn't keep quiet--he told the neighborhood (Mark 1:45).

Human's can't read God's mind or understand God's logic.  Jesus chose to heal this man out of pity but he had reasons for him to keep quiet.  I've wondered why Jesus wanted him to say nothing.  I think I understand why this man didn't keep quiet, the news was to good not to share, but I don't know why God wanted him to keep quiet.  And now Jesus couldn't enter a town without people mobbing him.  Even in the country people came from every quarter in hope that he'd act on their behalf too. 

It's clear to see, Jesus had the power; but now everyone knew and wanted access to him too.
Pax, John

Thursday, February 2, 2012

See the Power and believe Mark 1:29-39

For a couple years I read the Gospel of Mark with 8th graders. It was, for most of these young people, their longest interaction with Jesus. The most striking part of the story early on in Mark for these young people were the exorcisms.  Mark 1:21-28 details the first exorcism in Capernaum and the amazement at Jesus' power over evil spirits.  Jesus went to synagogue and a daemon recognized him.  And Jesus ordered the daemon silent and released the man from the daemon's power. 

The people in that synagogue knew Jesus had power to do great things, but it was the Sabbath and no one would travel until after sundown. 
Jesus went to a friend Simon's home in Capernaum after worship, and finding his friend's mother-in-law in bed with a fever Jesus took her hand.  Immediately she stood up free of fever and started serving. 
At sundown, less than a day after the first exorcism, people came looking for Jesus.  He healed the sick and caste out many evil spirits (Mark 1:31-33).  The deeds of power were clear.  Jesus had authority and lives were going to be changed.
Next morning Jesus went away to pray.  His friends came looking for him.  The people wanted him to heal more and set more people free from evil.  But Jesus didn't go back to Capernaum, instead he chose to go to other villages(Mark 1:38-39).  The power of God and the kingdom of God was coming near.  Freedom was coming for those who believe.
Pax, John