Thursday, April 17, 2014

After3: Day 5: Jesus Didn't!

After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
 (You can read previous After3 posts here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4)

Today is Good Friday.

Today Jesus dies!

"The people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at him, "He saved others; let him SAVE HIMSELF if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen one." (Luke 23:35)

He was God's Chosen One! He could have saved himself!

The soldiers came up and mocked him, "If you are the king of the Jews, SAVE YOURSELF!" (Luke 23:36-37)

He wasn't just the King of the Jews, he was The King. He could have saved himself!

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him, "Aren't you the Messiah? SAVE YOURSELF and US!" (Luke 23:39)

He was the Messiah! He could have saved himself...

He was the Son of God. He was in the beginning. All existence came through him: the mountain peaks, the oceans depths, the distant galaxies, the pulse of every human heart. It belongs to him. He commanded seas. He regenerated matter. He cured illnesses. He spoke demons into exile. He outmuscled the Grim Reaper.

He could have saved himself!

He could have escaped at Gethsemane before Judas arrived. He could have joined Peter and taken a sword to his enemies. He could have leveled them with a word. He could have annihilated them with his presence. He could have torn his body from the cross and walked away. He could have summoned angelic legions to his rescue. He could have said, "This is enough!" and God would have ended it all, but instead he cried, "It is finished!"

He could have saved himself!

But he didn't!

He saved US!

After3: Day 4: This Bread Will Self-destruct in 5 Seconds

After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
(You can find previous After3 posts here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3)

It's the Thursday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday. Jesus and his disciples have gathered for the Passover meal, a meal Christian history deemed The Last Supper.

At The Last Supper food served as a conduit for meaning...layers and layers of meaning. First, The Last Supper was a Passover meal. You're Thanksgiving tradition has nothing on the Passover. Who cares if Aunt Flo forgot to make the sweet potato casserole. No one eats it anyway, but Israel's hope was bound up in the tradition of Passover. The Passover told the story of Israel's release from slavery in Egypt and the bread, wine, bitter herbs and lamb served as narrative pictures. But Israel did not celebrate this holy party simply to remember. They remembered so that they might anticipate. The Passover made a promised: What God did in the past he will do again. He will set Israel free.

In this meaning-filled feast, Jesus adds a new layer to the edible allegories.  The Passover bread, This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." The Passover wine, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." And with these words Jesus invites his followers to remember his death, celebrate his resurrection and live expectantly of his return every time they broke bread and drank the cup. And we haven't stop. In my tradition we receive communion, The Lord's Super, the Eucharist weekly. It is one tradition that unites an often over-fragmented and "denominationalized" Church.

The full weight of the Passover and Lord's Supper is already a lot to place on some bread and wine, but I believe that for Christ's first followers the supper on that Thursday night was also a call to mission.

There was mission in the bread.

Nineteen eighty-eight saw the remake of the Mission Impossible television series, perfect for a 12-year old boy. At the beginning of each episode Jim Phelps receives directives for his mission via pay phone, audio tape (for those under 30 please "google" pay phone and audio tape), or video. It always ended with, "This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds." The Last Supper, in much the same way, called the disciples to mission. During this final meal, Jesus gives them mission directives in both action and speech. He tells his followers:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

"Your mission, Jim..." Yes, Jesus laid out a simple yet difficult mission for his followers, yet before he ever spoke these words he modeled them. The prologue to The Last Supper begins:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

He stripped off his outer clothing, filled a basin with with water, bowed to his knees and began scrubbing the filthy feet of his followers, all of his followers, all of his followers who would abandon him in just a few hours, even the follower who would betray him. Yes, he washed Peter's feet, John's, Matthew's, Bartholomew's...and...he washed Judas' feet. He washed his feet knowing full well that he intended to betray him. Imagine the conversation at the disciples' table a month after Christ's resurrection:

"I hate the people who have turned their back on Jesus!"
"I know, Matthew, but he calls us to love them!"
"It's so hard!"
"He loved Judas!"
"I can't believe Judas! I knew he had problems, but I never thought..."
"No, remember how he washed his feet knowing the whole time what Judas was up to?"
"I know, I know. I guess that's what love looks like. That's so hard!"

I can't help but think that every time the disciples "broke bread" they received again the directive: "Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to love one another."

As you reflect on, celebrate or take the Passover Seder this Maundy Thursday remember the bread does not simply tell a story, relive salfivic moments, and anticipate future hope. It also calls you to mission...to love, and to love the way Jesus loved.

How's your love this Maundy Thursday? Ask yourself?
  • Can I wash the feet of my spouse today knowing they will divorce me tomorrow?
  • Can I wash the feet of my spouse today knowing they will cheat on me tonight?
  • Can I wash the feet of my co-worker knowing they intend to steal my promotion?
  • Can I wash the feet of the person who I know wants to destroy my reputation?
  • Can I wash the feet of the person who is going to insult my child and make them cry?
  • Can I wash the feet of the person who is going to steal from my business?
  • Can I wash the feet...
Let Maundy Thursday remind us of the difficulty of loving others. Let it amaze us with regard to Christ's great love. Let it be a constant invitation to grow in love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

After3: Day 3: Judas Loved Jesus


After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
(You can read earlier After3 posts HERE and HERE)


Today is not a regular Hump Day. It's Holy Wednesday and with another day we step closer to the moment that will rattle Creation's most distant nebula down to the core of your soul. Today we reflect on this passage:

Then one of the twelve apostles, Judas Iscariot, went to talk to the leading priests. He said, "What will you pay me for giving Jesus to you?" And they gave him thirty silver coins. After that, Judas watched for the best time to turn Jesus in. (Matthew 26:14-16)

No one names their kid Judas. No one even names their dog Judas, unless the dog chews up all the furniture, poops in the house, and likes the taste of neighborhood children. Many villains have their moment in the pages of scripture: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Goliath, Jezebel, but Judas takes center stage at history's climax. It is hard to recover from such historical failure. His betrayal of Jesus overshadows any good that he might have done in his three years with Jesus. Surely he helped someone. Surely he believed something Jesus said. Surely there was some imago Dei (image of God) in him. Perhaps, but we will always remember him as the one who betrayed Jesus. The bible even labels him as such. Judas will always have an asterisk by his name.

*Judas

The trajectory of Holy Week would have you pause today and ask yourself, "How have I betrayed Jesus?" But, I want to adjust our trajectory ever so slightly. I'm going to assume you have betrayed Jesus. God knows, along with several hundred of others, I have. I'm writing under the presumption that we all have some Judas in us. With that in mind, I want to give Judas a second look, the benefit of the doubt. 

After Judas betrays Jesus, the Jewish authorities convict him and sentence him to death. Judas receives word and...

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." (Matthew 27:3-4a)

I find Judas' reaction a bit odd for someone who wants Jesus dead. He seems genuinely surprised and broken-hearted at the news of his conviction. His "I have sinned!" sounds as much like a confession as I have heard. So, here's my take on Judas.

I think Judas loved Jesus, but he had a money problem. The biblical authors agree: Judas...was the one who kept the money box [for the disciples and Jesus]. He often stole from it (John 12:6). Judas knew better than anyone of Jesus' innocence. He figured the lack of evidence would never lead to a conviction. Judas capitalized on an opportunity: 

Hand Jesus over. 
Make some easy money.
The authorities release the innocent Jesus.
No harm, no foul.
Win-win!

But it all went terribly wrong, and when he realized Christ's blood was on his hands he couldn't bear the shame and...he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5b)

I wish Judas had hung (no pun intended) around until the resurrection. I wish his remorse had the opportunity to see the Risen Lord. I wish he could have heard Jesus say, "You are forgiven!" Betrayal of Christ always destroys, undoes, and annihilates. It is the nature of sin. Judas made a horrible choice in accepting money for Christ's arrest. But his greater mistake was assuming Christ's grace could not cover it! Perhaps if he had the hindsight of the resurrection he would be...

Judas

Rather than...

*Judas

As you reflect on your betrayal of Jesus today, yes, take it seriously. Your sin breeds destruction, but unlike Judas, you have the hindsight of Easter. Don't let guilt and shame snuff out hope. Lean into Christ not away from him. Increase church participation rather than create distance. Your betrayal does not have to define you. 

No more *** 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

After 3: Day 2: The Night Circus, Virgins, and Right Now!

After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. (You can read Day 1 HERE)

On the Tuesday of Holy Week (Holy Tuesday) tradition invites us to reflect on The Parable of the Ten Virgins. You can read the parable at length here: Matthew 25:1-13.

Once in Jerusalem, Jesus reflects on the coming destruction of the Holy City and the End of the Age. The reflections lead his followers to question: "When will all this happen and what will be the sign of the End of the Age?" Good question fellas! Wouldn't we all like to know?

But in typical Jesus fashion, instead of relaying a date and time he tells a story:

Ten virgins receive an invitation to a wedding banquet. They simply need to show up outside the banquet hall and wait for the bridegroom to arrive. If present at his arrival, he would grant them entrance. You can imagine their excitement, "We get to go to the wedding banquet!" Their minds are so obsessed with the big event...getting their hair done, finding the right dress, a mani-pedi (Yep, I actually know primping slang. Don't ask me how.)...that they have a hard time focusing on anything else. Dressed to the nines, they grab their lamps and head out to meet the bridegroom. Five of virgins remember to bring extra oil for their lamps just in case the bridegroom keeps them waiting. The other five, perhaps with their minds lost in the coming celebration, leave without the back-up oil. They arrive at the banquet hall and they wait...

 Wait...

Wait...

Wait...

Wait so long they fall asleep! About midnight (clearly the bridegroom had gotten lost in Vegas during his bachelor party) some expectant celebrant rouses the sleeping virgins from their slumber shouting, "He is coming! The Bridegroom is coming!"

"Ahhh!" Total panic. The ten virgins hastily re-primp themselves which means getting their lamps back in shape because by this time the oil was running low. The five who thought enough to bring backup oil quickly refueled their light source. They other 5 run back to town to find a store open late enough from which they could buy oil (Unfortunately, there were no 7-11's). While the 5 oil-less virgins were gone, the bridegroom arrives to enter the wedding banquet. The 5 virgins with the extra oil went in with him. The other five would return to find the wedding banquet doors shut and locked. They missed out!

Many differing perspectives exist on this fascinating story, but I believe Jesus uses the story to remind his disciples to be mindful of the mundane - for in the mundane you find the presence of God. At the end of the parable Jesus says, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour." I don't think Jesus is talking about the end of the world, the second coming, or even the fall of Jerusalem. I think Jesus is saying, "Always, especially in the routine rhythms of life, be on the watch for the presence of God to break out. If you aren't watching, you like the virgins, might just miss it!"

By neglecting the mundane task of tending to their lamps, five virgins missed the banquet. Jesus' followers were so focused on the End Times they were missing the presence of God in the present.

Sound familiar?

"I can't wait to get out of elementary school so I can have the freedom of high school!"
"I can't wait to get out of high school so I can leave home for college!"
"I can't wait to get out of college so I can start my career!"
"I can't wait to retire so I can enjoy life!"

We tend to live in the future and in so doing often miss God in the present, in the mundane. We eat lunch in our cars because our mind is already at the next appointment. We are so busy staring at our phones that we forget to look into the face of the person across from us. We start our Monday thinking about Friday!

I'm not a big fan of the pre-bedtime hour, also known as "The Night Circus!" I wish I had a walk-through kid wash where my boys just stood on a conveyer belt and headed through a tunnel. It would scrub them appropriately, brush their teeth and even give them the 30-second-before-bedtime-"I'm thirsty" drink. Most of time I end up frustrated during this hour because my mind is already on the couch. But by living in the future I miss God in the mundane: savoring the hugs and kisses, cherishing the last-minute bedtime chats, and participating in the silliness.

This Holy Week, I'm going to remember the image of the virgins. I'm going to be mindful of the mundane rhythm of the bedtime routine. I'm going to look for God there. What about you? What lamp needs your attention this Holy Week!

Monday, April 14, 2014

After3: Day 1: The Worst King Ever!

After3 is a blog series intended to help you prepare this Holy Week...to anticipate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ!


Yesterday Jesus road into Jerusalem with the Passover quickly approaching. 

Passover only heightened the Jewish masses' appetite for deliverance. Scattered Jews converged in Jerusalem not simply to celebrate the historical exodus from Egypt but to lean into history for the sake of the future. Passover anticipated the next exodus...freedom from Roman and all foreign dominion. Passover, like the famous Bonnie Tyler hit, was like living in a powder keg and giving off sparks (Oh yes I did! I just quoted Turn Around. At least you don't have to hear me sing it). In other words, Passover was charged. Something was likely to happen. Perhaps this Passover would be the moment God would raise up his Anointed One, the new King of Israel!

Yesterday Jesus road into Jerusalem draped in the image of a coming king.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, a sign reminiscent of King Solomon's coronation (I Kings 1:32-33). The festival crowds welcomed Jesus by spreading their coats before him just as they had done hundreds of years before at King Jehu's coronation (II Kings 9:13). As he made his way through the tunnel of people they sang words of hope and salvation over him: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!...who comes to save us! Among the crowd, some looked to Jesus as the coming king, the one who would initiate the New Passover.

They were right but they were wrong. Jesus was a king, but a king far removed from their expectations.

Kings assert power. Kings lead battles with weapons that maim and kill. Kings live in palaces, put their image on gold coins, demand reverence, sit on thrones, build monuments for their name, command servants, institute taxes, and eat the best food! Kings go first!

Jesus came as a king...as The King, but he came to surrender his power. He led the battle against sin by submitting to death. He lived among the people. He fed the hungry. He paid taxes. We posses no original depiction of his image. The only monument in his name is a symbol of execution, his only crown...one fashioned of thorns. He went last! 

Yesterday Jesus road into Jerusalem to die as King.

As you enter Holy Week may you walk the path of The King:
  • Use your power to give life rather than take it.
  • Don't always have the last word.
  • Forgive easily.
  • Treat your servers and cashiers as people.
  • Lift up those who are beneath you...employees, children and students.
  • Give instead of taking.
  • Boast about others instead of yourself.
  • Invest in making other people successful.
  • Celebrate others.
  • Speak encouraging words.  
  • Let someone "cut in" during rush hour.
  • Pick the least athletic kids for your summer baseball team.
  • Give credit to others when things go well and take responsibility when things don't.
  • Go last!
Yesterday Jesus road into Jerusalem.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ruminations (of the Spirit?)


It's already January 8th and I have no New Year's resolutions. I'm not really a yearly resolution guy. As I continue to grow and backslide in my faith. Yes, I wish I could say I was on a linear upward projection in Quadrant I of the x-y axis, but in reality it's more like a trip to Six Flags. In this divine dance, we call life, I'm discovering God is far less interested in my "achieving" as he is in my "becoming." I've learned spiritual accomplishments are more about me than him.

So...no resolutions for me. Instead, I've been trying to discern the Spirit's voice..."What areas of my life need to become?" Discerning the Spirit is not science. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the Spirit is talking or if it is the overdose of salsa. So...I figure if the message I'm sensing makes me uncomfortable, it is probably the Spirit.

This is a list of my spiritual ruminations for 2014...so far. It's too much to chew in one bite. Not sure where to start. Not sure if it is all from the Spirit. Some of it seems contradictory...but all of these things are stirring my soul. This is pretty random!

  1. Love your city! I'm hearing this both in my personal life and in my church leadership life. Scary, because I think it begins with praying for my city, but eventually it will lead to investing my time and energy in my city. I don't have time...which means shifting my schedule, re-prioritizing my "to do" list, and sacrificing some things I want to do.
  2. Starve your appetites! Sounds a lot like fasting. My physical appetites consume so much of my mind-space and energy...everything from food, fitness and sex. All are great and God-given for our enjoyment (and most everything in between), but many of these natural desires easily become idols. Not sure what to do with this one and not excited about some of the implications.
  3. Make time for people! I run a tight schedule from the moment I get up until about 9 PM. I throttle in 5th -gear, which means I often miss out on people. This becomes even more challenging since I'm an introvert and need some "me time" (sometimes a lot).
  4. Simplicity! I know this is the Spirit because he tells me this every year. At first it seems to fly in the face of all the other holy nudges, but I'm beginning to believe it is the fertile ground that allows all the other "stirrings" to grow. The question I always have, "How far do I go?"
  5. Talk about Sin! The Spirit speaks this into my preaching and pastoral life. I'm convinced I need to talk more about sin, repentance and holiness. We tend to ignore both the vertical and horizontal destruction our sin causes. 
  6. What is the modern "Oikos?": Oikos is the Greek word for "household." In the New Testament it refers to the patriarch, his wife, children, and servants. It served as the most effective form of evangelism in the First Century. When the head of the household converted, the rest of the family followed suit. Is there a modern day equivalent to the "Oikos," not necessarily the family, but effective ways to engage communities of people with the good news of Jesus?
I write this to encourage those of you whose journey with Jesus is more of dance than a march. I pray God will give you discernment as your ruminations turn to action. Happy New Year....a bit late.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Brokeness Speaks

Ministry is not about what I can do for you, but sharing from what Christ is doing in me. I love this quote from Ian Cron's book Chasing Francis.