Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Open Hands John 6:1-21

In John 6:1-21 Jesus' friends were used by God as part of a miracle.

Open to Receive: Jesus wanted his friends to feed the thousands who had gathered to hear him teach.  His friends saw a problem--a considerable shortage of food John 6:1-4.  Jesus was testing them.  With a plan in mind He asked Philip about food for the crowd of 5000 John 6:5-6.  Humans look at situations based on the limits of what is currently in hand.  Philip told Jesus that 200 denarius, or 200 days of labor, wouldn't be enough to pay for that much bread John 6:7.
Simon Peter found a boy ready to share 5 loaves and 2 fish; but Simon Peter wondered how far this little bread would go John 6:8-9.  Jesus told them to seat the crowd.  He took bread, gave thanks and broke it.  He did the same with the fish John 6:10-11. 
The disciples came with open hands and took the bread breaking it giving the pieces to the crowd.  A miracle happened as the bread left their hands.  They had more to give.  God moved and they kept on breaking bread and giving away and God kept on providing more to give.
Open to Give:  Jesus' friends opened their hands to take bread and they kept them open giving and miraculously receiving more to give.  Keeping their hands open allowed them to participate in the miracle.  It was Jesus' will to feed the crowd and He found a way to give away more than enough.  As the disciples kept their hands open they were blessed to participate as channels for the miracle.  Had they stopped he would have found another way--but the miracle continued through them because they didn't stop.  Contrary to our selfish nature they kept on giving.
It's difficult to catch anything with clenched fists, but soft open hands can receive many things.  The great fielders in baseball and receivers in football are legends in no small part because of what they can do with open hands. 
God gives many good blessings to us; and a recent lesson for me me is to keep my hands open to keep on giving that I might later receive to give again.  It's not a simple formula like giving guarantees receiving.  Rather it's simple faith receiving from God and giving away as God keeps on giving that opens us up as channels through who God works to build his kingdom.
Pax, John

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shepherdless Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Years ago a good teacher told me ministry happens often in the interruptions of our plans and of our days.  Jesus ministry was no exception to this rule.  He was often out in the open. Even when he tried to get away with just his closest disciples crowds came looking for him.  Mark 6 make the crowd's desire to be near Jesus most clear.
Mark 6 is famous couple of miracles.  5000 men fed (Mark 6:35-44) and Jesus walking on water (Mark 6:45-52) leaving these two stories aside for a time reading Mark 6 gives a sense of the crowd yearning for Jesus' ministry along Lake Galilee. 
Mark notes that Jesus looked for a time to be with his friends, to share news of their ministry, take leisure to eat, and maybe even reflect on the loss of John the Baptist (Mark 6:30-32). 
The people hungry for a leader came looking for him.  Whichever direction he chose somebody came following the group, probably nudging his way in like a sheep needing a shepherd.  And that's just how Jesus met them; as the always faithful shepherd ready to lead and guide.  His flock is open to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Indeed Christ's body is open to all who believe.
Jesus was moved by the crowd, and he responded to that inmost feeling by teaching them about the kingdom of heaven coming into their midst (Mark 6:33-34). 
Jesus response to the crowd was gracious.  As the day grew longer hunger crept in and Jesus provided a meal for 5000 men  starting with only a few loaves and a few fish.  He sent his friends out and dismissed the crowd choosing to get away on his own.  He caught up with his friends as he walked across the lake scaring them and intensifying their faith in his power.
And reaching the other side of the lake a crowd met him, and once again he reached out to them in mercy.  Those who touched him were healed and those her heard him heard the truth. (Mark 6:53-56)  It was the interruptions that provided the moment for God to come closest.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Living Worship: 2 Samuel 6:1-5,12-19; Mark 6:14-29

We humans worship whatever we place highest in life.  From culture idols worshipped in culture --from athletes to entertainers, there's almost no limit to the individuals and objects we can lavish with love, time, creative energy, and money.  It might be an accident that a popular TV show is called American Idol--but it proves the point: God made us to worship --and if we won't seek out God and the things of God as the highest good we'll find something less than God to hold up for worship instead.  Money, power, and political ambition and more can all become the objects of our love.

We're really getting thing backwards from God initial intent.  After all God started his commandments with a simple direction: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods.” Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21.  In his Small Catechism Martin Luther wrote this means, " We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." 
This week, looking at scripture, we can find two stories of worshippers: King David and John the Baptist.  They're lives were full of worship--moments and even seasons when they put God first and foremost.
Wordle: David DancecKing David is described rejoicing in God's presence.  In 2nd Samuel 6:19-19 he dancing in front of the Arc of the Covenant symbol of God's presence in the midst of the people.  John the Baptist shunned any distraction and went out to the wilderness Mark 1:1-14.  He preached to crowds calling them to repentant and he baptized them for repentance preparing for the coming kingdom of God. 
These two very different men experienced God's presence and power in numerous and profound ways.  And they both knew and spoke of God's activity in their lives.  Both men knew God firsthand.  For David that meant a lifetime knowing God's blessings and power, judgement, wrath, and forgiveness.  For John worshipping God meant a time, maybe of few years preaching to crowds and an early death for remaining faithful.
Both men lived worshipping God and for us today both men are models of what worship really is and isn't.  Worship isn't just an hour in a week to go through religious motions.  Worship is living focused on God the maker of Heaven and Earth.  Worship for David meant the freedom to sing, to dance, and to rejoice in the presence of the holy.  Worship for John meant holding nothing back; even his earthly life.
This very same God who David and John worshiped comes today in the person of Holy Spirit working in more ways than humans know and imagine.  He comes to us and we can rejoice in all circumstances knowing that in God's presence we will find true freedom.
Pax, John

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

unaproved authority Mark 6:1-13

When Jesus walked on earth He brought the kingdom of God with; and multitudes celebrated and rejoiced in His presence.  Seizing authority over diseases and daemonic powers he released many from bondage.  He had authority; but he wasn't authorized by the religious leadership of his day (Mark 2:18-22) or by his own family (Mark 3:20-35)--rather his power came straight from God.  The church, in the same way, has authority not from people, prestige, or popularity.  Rather the true authority of the church begins and ends in the person of Jesus and our faithful service in his name.  Whenever the church confuses the authority of truth with the authority of power we fall away from the way of Christ.  But when we come humbly in service to poor and forgotten we walk in Christ's footsteps and renew our strength.

As Jesus came home with his disciples to minister and teach a second time reaction grew against him.  The people knew Jesus and his family; but they didn't recognize his power to speak.  By what right did he say these things? He was only Mary's son with the carpenter.  In whispers they likely remembered his scandalous conception.  Who was Jesus to speak (Mark 6:1-3).  There is something scandalous about being church--about broken people telling others the way to wholeness and freedom in Christ.  Anybody who knows us well knows all our sin and failures.  And the scandal and the hope of the Gospel continues into the world as we tell of Jesus who sets us free.

All believers, are called to speak the truth in love, just like Jesus did, and in the truth of the cross there is always real transformative power. As Jesus taught in his home synagogue he felt disbelief.  Other communities welcomed him honoring his ministry and wisdom.  But at home he was nobody special.  Mark says he could only heal a few in the midst of such unbelief (Mark 6:3-6).  Even in the face of disbelief he still had power.  Let anyone with eyes see and ears here what God is doing.  Even if we reject Jesus he still is at work releases the captive and healing the hurting. 

After a humbling visit home Jesus sent followers out 2 by 2 with power over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7).  He offered simple directions for travel.  Take only what you need: staff, sandals, one cloak and go.  Stay where received and leave places that won't receive you completely; knock even dust off your feet as testimony of their unbelief.   Jesus followers went to do great things--and they did.  The news was stunning--daemons caste out, the sick anointed and healed.  The Kingdom of God came close to many (Mark 6:8-13.

In the same way he calls us to go into the world traveling light as the church trusting in God's power and provision.  He sends us out to caste out daemons and heal hurting people.  He sends us to pray for the sick and anoint them.  He sends us to name evil and the daemonic forces that destroy people and stand against the enemy.   may the joy of his presence light our way today.  pax, john.