Friday, March 30, 2012

The King of glory this way comes

The crowds began to really surround him as all the pilgrims made their ways to the city of Jerusalem. All along the trail there were people who had witnessed the healing of the blind man in Jericho – Bar-Timaeus – and now Jesus himself was on his way to the Holy City for what many were expecting to be an awesome showdown with the Romans, the chief priests and scribes.

May be we need to consider how Jesus made the journey. Maybe such a consideration gets lost in everything else that happens on this day of Holy Week.  Have you noticed that it was not until they got within a couple of miles of the City that Jesus sent two of his disciples to find him a ride for the last part of the journey into Jerusalem.  So he must have walked miles with his disciples before that happened, as he had so many times before.

And have you ever tried to consider the triumphant entry into the city from the donkey’s point of view. First of all there was someone on his back riding him in the midst of people shouting and waving blankets and branches which were making the road difficult to walk on and spooky to walk through since he was now bearing a burden he was afraid to drop. The people around him were boldly calling out for God to save them and to restore the throne of King David so that the good old days. A couple of people came and got him from his usual post in the street where his own would leave him for the morning while he worked in the shop. Was this a joke? Why was he taken and not some other donkey? Why should he have to bear this burden, this situation, these people, and this man?

The donkey can (possibly unwittingly) teach us what is means to be a Christian. To bear the load that we have and recognize that while the load we carry is heavy, we are in the presence of the Almighty and that is enough to motivate us to move along.

This is the moment when we might as a community consider dropping the robes of the ruler and put on the towel of the servant. We need to consider how Jesus comes to the city, to this church, to you and to and be ready, like that donkey, be faithful in what we are being drawn to. It may be hard, scary, even messy and painful, but remember this, we are in the presence and within the peace of the one who rides as King. We move with the One who is bringing reconciliation, healing and salvation to this hurt, broken, separated and dying world.

Lift up your heads to the coming King, open yours gates and draw him in O City!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rocks on the Road

Not long ago, I was remind of why we are careful and keep looking up at the hillsides around here when we are driving. There is one place near here called 'carwash rock'. Coming through that area this past weekend, I was reminded of the story below and so I share it with you.

Long ago there was a king who placed on one of his highways, a boulder. Then he hid himself nearby to wait and see if anyone would come along and remove the boulder from the roadway. Some of the wealthiest among his subjects, merchants and courtiers came to the boulder and simply walked around it. Many people loudly blamed the kings for not minding the condition of the roadway and keeping it clear, but did nothing to remove it themselves. Then came along a peasant, a poor farmer, pulling his load of vegetables. After struggle and toil the farmer finally moves the boulder out of the highway so that he could pass with his cart and vegetables. After he picks up his load he notices a purse on the side of the road with a note attached to it. Again he puts down his load and goes to the bag, retrieves the note and reads it. The note said that this bag contained many pieces of gold which the king gives to this man who took the time to remove the stone from the road. The peasant discovered that day what many of us need to learn: every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve his condition.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Look up for what you need, grace or justice

Which would you rather have in your life: justice or grace? There is a struggle that tends to pervade our humanity; we want grace beyond measure for ourselves while desiring ultimate justice, or more likely judgment, for everyone else. So many in this moment we need to recognize who and what exactly a Christian is. First and foremost, a Christian is not someone who is totally perfect but rather is someone who has found and understands forgiveness and is willing to practice it in their everyday, ordinary lives. And second, a Christian is someone who has found new life through being born again through the work of God.
The trouble that we run into in the life of the Church these days is that the average Christian seems to believe that they are “honourary” sinners. There are problems that need to be faced. There are places that are scary and difficult to be in, and the same is true of the times we live in. But we, all of humanity in general and all of within the Church seem to forget that we are part of creation and therefore we are the problem. We have forgotten that the world is in the state its in because we chose to honour ourselves above trusting and participating in life with God and in God’s real presence. So what can be done then about sin? Maybe we need to recognize, first of all that we are the ones who have walked away from God; that we are the ones who have fallen short and who have missed the mark. It is a necessary step to seeing who God sees and allowing ourselves to see who we are in the light of Christ.
Then we need to go beyond the transaction of being revealed and being forgiven our falleness into allowing God to transform us into the people that he made us to be in the first place. In short we need to be judged, to be healed and then built up into the full stature of Christ himself. How is that possible? We tend to allow the thinking in our society that grace, hope, love are mutually exclusive from sin, judgment and justice. If we make a careful examination of Scripture we discover that this is not so. Remember John 3.16? it used be everywhere when you would watch televised sporting events in particular. It was referred to as the “everybody verse.” But we can see how God justice and love coincide in just this one verse. This is how I would translate the verse: God so loved this God hating world so much that he offered his one and only begotten Son so that those who would participate in him would not died but live abundant life eternally. In effect we chose to live or not live with Christ; we judge Christ and out of the judgment God honours the choices we make.
Having to look up and see the Saviour on the Cross is to help us see who we and to consider who God is. God is at work to return what rightfully belongs to him to its rightful place. What we need to learn in this life is to look up and in spite of what we think we see, to trust him for what is ahead. We need to learn to recognize that even when we fall and come short of what God wants and intends for us both personally and corporately that God still makes the way possible. When we are not the Christians and the Church that we are supposed to be, our Jesus is still the Jesus he promised he would be. Moreover, we need to recognize that Christ walks with us through the troubles, the pain and suffering rather than removing all the obstacles so that life is easy. He is with us and he provides for what is needed to move through. He is our daily bread.
So let us look up to him who is our bread, our life and live, to wait for his grace and his justice knowing that he is with us in all of life along the way to the Kingdom and eternity.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Finding God in ordinary lives

I wonder how often the average Christian in the pew connects what they believe with what they actually do? So let me ask you, where is faith and God in your ordinary, work-a-day life? And please understand that I am not talking about coming within the Church buildings walls and the things you do for fellow parishioners... where do you see God in your ordinary life?

There are a couple of things that we need to be aware of making such an examination. For example, many in my parents’ generation would point to living out the Ten Commandments. Do we really stop these days to remember what the Ten Commandments are all about? Essentially, the Ten Commandments are there to keep you from offending God and your neighbour. This is why we are told, “Thou shalt not” do certain things. It is to protect your relationship with God and to keep your neighbour healthy and happy. Obeying the commandments will make you a nice, maybe even a good person but God wants, desires and demands more than that. God desires his people to be holy as he is holy and let’s remember here that holiness and righteousness are not about who you are, but rather about who you are relating to. That’s why we are reminded at the beginning of the Ten Commandments, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

The Law was given to a group of slaves who would be honed into being a royal possession, a holy nation and a royal priesthood for God. The Law was what people needed to know about their relationship with God and with each other to create community and there for a bond with each other.  Here are some other things about the Law that would be important to know:  

·         Of 613 Jewish commandments, 365 were negative (thou shall not) and 248 were positive (you shall).

·         Commandment is not so much a law as a ideal to be aimed towards

·         What we really need to do is ' unwrap' the commandments.

·         In the modern world, we have 35 million laws to enforce the 10 Commandments.

And all this has brought an interesting question to mind: if things were so good and if people were nice, then why did Jesus get angry and disrupt the Temple during the busiest time of the year (John 2.13-22)? It is not an easy answer but it might have something to do with what we have made of worshipping God. The Temple was the place where people from all over the earth were coming to approach God and meet with him. People had taken this meeting and made it into something else. The worship of God was being (albeit in a sort of kind way) subverted into something that was neither wanted nor intended by God.

The cleansing of the Temple was about righteous anger and about divine justice. Jesus, being God, wanted to return his people to the way things were before the sin and fall of the human race. Therefore he sought to put things right so that he could offer back to the Father what belongs to him. Thus, is it possible then that anger might show what we are truly passionate about and therefore show what we would truly live and maybe even risk dying for?

So let’s bring things to our level then. Jesus drove out the animals, tossed the tables, and upset the clergy. Why did he do that? Because Jesus wants to show us how to live the counter intuitive, cruciformed lives of the kingdom within the life of the community we live in. So what things are there in your life that need to be tossed out, tipped over, driven out with a whip or burned down? Maybe we need to see Jesus in a different light. If we change our attitude towards Jesus then maybe our attitudes towards God and neighbour will change for the better too. And if that is the case then our approach to the worship of the Almighty will begin to be more real and deepen in terms of praise, in prayer and in worship.

Remember, Jesus is leading this parade, this exodus in to the Kingdom of God. He is leading us from the old Temple that is made of stone into the new Temple made of living stones and of which we will become part. And thanks be to God for that.  Let's go and discover God in our ordinary lives.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Getting busy - living or dying

In this week’s gospel reading (Mark 8.31-38), Jesus makes the first of his passion predictions, telling the disciples that he is on his way to the City of Jerusalem and that he will be betrayed, suffer and died but then three days later, he will rise again. Peter’s reaction to this news causes him to take Jesus to the side of the road and in front of the others, begins to take Jesus to task over the notion that he must suffer and die. Doesn’t it make you wonder what it is that Peter might have said in that moment? I can imagine that he painted a great and grandiose scheme where Jesus is suppose to rout the Romans, restore his great grandfather’s kingdom and kept it there for eternity. OH! Let’s not forget that Peter and the others were going to be ministers in the government that will never fail and never fall. And you need to take into account that Peter has just watch Jesus heal a blind man and has just declared Jesus to be the Messiah. It is all pretty heady stuff especially when one considers that Jesus tells them not to tell others that he is the Messiah or about what they know.

Why does he do this? Maybe it is because of how people react when they think they have something: especially when one believes they are getting sick... our culture tells us that there is always a pill or a purchase or an action that is going to make us feel better or righter or whatever, so that you do not have to feel the way you do now.

Maybe I can make my point better this way: A few years ago, a large department store tried marketing a doll in the form of the baby Jesus. The advertisements described it as being washable, cuddly, and unbreakable," and it was neatly packaged in straw, satin, and plastic. To complete the package, the manufacturer added biblical text appropriate to the baby Jesus. To the department store executives, it looked like a sure-fire winner, a real money maker. But they were wrong. It didn't sell. In a last-ditch effort to get rid of these dolls, one of the store managers placed a huge sign in one of the store windows. It read: “Jesus Christ, reduced to half price, get him while you can.”

There is a reality at work here. People would rather build a temple than be one. There are many people who are religious and many more who are nice people. Jesus did not come and die that we would be religious or nice – he came and died that we might be holy. He gave himself that we would be God’s own possession, a holy nation and a royal priesthood. The community Jesus came to build is a work of faith both on the part of us and on the part of God not a walk into success. The secret is not in being successful, but in giving and being faithful. So maybe we need to get busy living or get busy dying so that we can move into the kingdom and into greater life that is with God, after the three days is over.