Thursday, August 29, 2013

Honor in the Kingdom Luke 14:1,7-14

Jesus has a different standard for first and last than this world does. He explained the difference by speaking about a wedding feast in Luke 14:7-11. Jesus gave a direction for his followers--don't seek the most honored seat--rather take the lowest. And Jesus wasn't just talking about a wedding feast. He was challenging human nature. It has been argued well that our nature drives us towards the first place desiring the highest and the best for our selves. If we by nature are selfish Jesus is teaching us to go against our natures in order that we might really live.

Jesus is giving us a new standard as Christians. The greatest among us, in Jesus' eyes, are those who serve. He said no less in Matthew 20:26 and Matthew 23:11. Some of Christ's followers over the centuries have caught onto this key theme in Jesus' teaching. Others have sought power, position, and human honor while disguised in religious dress. All the while Jesus Word has been boldly pointing in a different direction. He has been teaching and proclaiming his view of the world in which great people serve the poor. Jesus invites us to see His different valuation of people and the world. One of the greatest explanations of this kind of reversal of the great being the servants comes from Martin Luther King Jr in a sermon called, The Drum Major Instinct.

Sadly human society naturally runs opposite of Jesus' vision. Our Lord wasn't naïve enough to think otherwise. He taught how the Kingdom of Heaven has a better order. And that means we are invited today to live differently. We are invited today to live like his kingdom matters and like those around us in need matter. Imagine throwing a banquet--who would you invite if you were following Jesus direction in Luke 14:12-14. Jesus has offered us all a way to be great--as servants.
Peace, and thanks for reading. John

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

don't just smile politely Jesus came to set you on fire Luke 12:49-56

Its tempting to read the Bible and do anything but listen. When Jesus says,

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
it's a good idea to pay attention and not just smile politely to Jesus. The Bible isn't a book we read--the Bible is God's Word: it reads us. It's tempting to just blow right past Jesus assuming we already know what he says. Listen: His words are revolutionary and unsettling. If you think you know what Jesus says listen again,
I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! (Luke 12:49-51 NRSV)
Many people think Jesus is just an all loving guy--and that's true Jesus is all loving. But he loves us so much he wants all people to live on fire. He's not setting us on fire to destroy us--rather Jesus wants us to burn with a fire that purifies, refines, and enlightens. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the one who casts out all darkness. His death on the cross is evidence of his loves for the world. His cross and open grave are the spark that burns into a fire of transform us and our families. Jesus means it when He says,
From now on five in one household will be divided,
three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son and son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.(Luke 12:52-53)
Reading these words it's clear we make a huge mistake confusing Jesus' love for all with God accepting everything we do. Jesus came to ignite people. Who is Jesus to say these kinds things? Every person will answer this question:
  • some deny that he exists—they've answered the question Jesus to them is a nobody
  • some hem and haw at this question—they've heard something about Jesus from somebody somewhere in their past but they don't know that much about Jesus themselves
  • some can tell facts and share some of his stories and values—they are getting to know him
As believers we are becoming more familiar with Jesus. We are getting to know Jesus as our savior and our friend. We know Jesus as somebody alive and active in our lives. Jesus is more than just information and stories and values. Jesus is the person behind the stories who wants us to live on fire with him and for him. He is the one individual in the universe who came not only to teach about love but to love so completely and totally that he could embrace the whole of humanity willing to die for our sin.
Peace and thanks for reading. May God help you burn bright. John

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Immortal Treasure

Jesus always cuts to the quick in conversation; we can beat around the bush all we want be he knows our hearts before we open our mouths. There are no secrets or lies God doesn't see through immediately. There are no ill conceived plans or unforeseen consequences for God. As we listen to Jesus talk about money and treasure and all the things people strive for in this life (Luke 12:29) we hear a wonderful call to freedom in Christ.

Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:31-34 (NRSV)
Where your treasure is:
God has a way of seeing the world as it is--and God often see things opposite of how we see them. No sin is unseen to God--and no good deed is unnoticed. No injustice unnoted and no attempt to make things right goes unnoticed either. The ancient prophet Isaiah spoke on God's behalf plainly,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:17-18 ESV
God the maker of all things sees us all as sinners--sinners who could be redeemed. It is through the law that we see the crimson red of our sin us mortals who could be lost in sin--and Jesus sees the immortal you worth saving at the cost of his own life.

Who treasures you
One of the greatest and most wonderful parts of the Christian faith and life is knowing both our sin and our value to God our creator. Our value is seen in the cross of Jesus Christ. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote at the end of the poem, That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection,
I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
There is one in the universe who sees each sinner not as waste but as a creation of eternal value. There is one, God almighty, who's mercy revealed in the Cross tells us plainly that we were originally made as creatures of eternal worth. We were made with immortal souls by an immortal God. We were redeemed at the cost of Christ's own life. And the great gift to us in the middle of life is the promise of simple faith in Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews understood so very well this gift when he wrote of faith simply,
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
For the gift of faith that clings to God's love and mercy, I give thanks.
Peace and thanks for reading, John