April 19, 2009

Day of Christ; Philippians 1:3-11

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 11:23 am

Paul the theologian and teacher talks about the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruits of the general resurrection. This is his insight and understanding.

Paul the pastor and follower of Jesus speaks about the Day of Jesus Christ. This is his great hope. The Day of Christ is the resurrection experienced from the inside.

The Day of the Lord:

  • When Yahweh rewards his friends and punishes his enemies.
  • When the Lord of the earth judges all who have not kept his commandments.
  • When God makes all things right, establishing his just kingdom.

With Jesus it is not a matter of being judged for what we have done wrong or have left undone but of finally being made perfect.

“… the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

“… so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced a harvest of righteousness.”

In the joy of receiving Jesus back among them the disciples had no need to ask him what it was like where he had just been. It was like what they were experiencing.

The day of Christ Jesus is coming; it is coming indeed!

March 29, 2009

You Don’t Say; John 20:19-23

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 10:07 pm

Types of sentences:

  • Statement.
  • Question?
  • Command.
  • Exclamation!
  • Pronouncement.

Example: I now pronounce you husband and wife.

Presbyterian tradition (but not clear in the Book of Order):

  • Only ordained ministers may pronounce a benediction (and only in the context of a congregation at worship).
  • Anyone may ask God in prayer to bless the congregation.
  • First act of newly ordained minister is to pronounce a benediction.
  • Benediction (together with a charge) concludes the service at the end of the liturgy (work).
  • Scriptural — Aaronic, Apostolic

But Jesus often begins with a pronouncement of blessing and ends with a charge — here and the Sermon on the Mount, and many of the stories of healing and exorcism.

And, within his pronouncement, Jesus often gives to the blessed the authority to make similar pronouncements.

Could it be that God first comes to meet with us, and begins that meeting with a blessing?

This week, when you meet someone, begin that meeting by blessing that person, silently.

February 8, 2009

Matthew 5:17-20, “Until …”

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 11:44 pm

Below are two different paradigms for worship:

“Worship is our response to God’s love for us.”

  • It is a service which we perform for God.
  • What does God require? There are right ways in which this service is performed.
  • “True preaching of the Word of God.”
  • “Right administration of the sacraments.”
  • (“Ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered.”)
  • We learn these right ways from the Bible. (Truly preached.)
  • [Kierkegaard: God is the audience, the congregation are the performers, the pastor is the director.]
  • Worship is judged by its faithfulness to its right form.
  • (Ideological, Theological, Traditional)

Worship is a meeting of God and God’s people.

  • God makes this meeting possible by coming to be with us.
  • Each of us has a longing for God.
  • How does God meet with God’s people? In many and various ways.
  • We have examples of these ways in the Bible and in our own experience.
  • Worship is judged by the experience of the worshippers.
  • (Pragmatic, Experiential, Contemporary)
  • Numbers, Emotions (during or after), Manner of life.

Listening to God’s word is aspect of our meeting with God which easiest to conceive.

The manner of life of members of a worshipping community is the most objective evidence of our meeting with God.

How does God meet with us? Our listening to God’s commands is, and always will be, a way we meet God.

October 13, 2008

“Repent”; Mark 1:14-20

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 12:00 pm

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, and James and John, does he ask them to “repent”? If so, how?

“You need to repent, then …”

  • You have sinned and done wrong.
  • You need to say you’re sorry and mean it.
  • Then God will forgive you.
  • But don’t do it again.
  • The focus is on what is wrong.
  • Repentance as turning away from sin.

“Come and begin a new life.”

  • Now is the time.
  • You can begin a new life.
  • God is here to help you; Jesus will lead you.
  • Leave the past behind; God has set you free.
  • The focus is on what is good.
  • Repentance as stepping forward into a new life with God.

Example of two step repentance: Luke 17:3-4

Repentance as grace (vs. works).
Repentance as good news.

Why did Simon and Andrew, James and John follow Jesus?
Was he irresistible, or did he just know who to ask?

Two qualifications for bringing the good news:

  • News is relevant to the predicament of the hearer.
  • News bearer is trustworthy.

“Come with me and follow Jesus”

September 8, 2008

John 3:1-17; “I Once Was …”

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 8:31 am

One great witness to the gift of being born again, John Newton:
     I once was lost but now am found,
     Was blind but now I see.
This is the gift of a fresh start with resources for living a new life.

Some people use “born again” not to signify a beginning but to signify a destination.

·   I once was wrong but now I’m right.

·   I once was a sinner but now I’m not.

·   I once was without it but now I have it.

·   I once was outside of God’s kingdom but now I’m in.

And along with this kind of witness comes this invitation:
     If you want to be like me, do what I’ve done.
Some people might feel judged by this kind of witness and invitation.  They might become defensive and push back.

But anyone who is truly born again discovers a new passion to learn and to grow, to try out the new life she has been given.  Some authentic way of witnessing to this gift:

·   I once was perishing but now I’m living.

·   I once was bound but now I’m free.

·   I once was wounded but now I’m healing.

·   I once was mine but now I’m yours.

·   I once despaired but now I hope.

And along with this kind of witness comes this invitation:
     If you want to life a new life as I am living a new life, you can be born again and see where God takes you.
This witness and invitation is more inviting, gracious.

Homework:  Fill in the blanks.
    I once _______________ , but now I _________________ .

August 3, 2008

“Standing in Grace” — Romans 4:20–5:11

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 9:59 pm

The original questions:

  • What will happen to me when I die?
  • Will I go to heaven?
  • What are the criteria for going to heaven?
  • Who else will go to heaven?

Answers often include: Judgment, heaven and hell, believe in Jesus Christ, be good, Christians, good people.

But … I find that I ask these questions less and less. And the Bible rarely addresses these questions, at least not in these terms.

These questions originate from a fear of death made conscious by the death of another, aging, danger, sickness, loss, and decline.

The other questions: If not in this life, …

  • How will God reward my faithfulness?
  • How will justice be achieved?
  • How will God fulfill God’s promises?

These questions originate from faith in God’s justice combined with experiences of injustice such as innocent suffering, failure, betrayal, abandonment, persecution, and corruption.

Answers include:

  • The great resurrection, begun by and insured by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
  • Innocent suffering is necessary part of our work on behalf of God’s justice, as demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross. Our suffering is a sign, not of God’s failure to achieve justice, but of God’s continuing work for justice.

July 7, 2008

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 9:21 am

The Kingdom of God (Matthew—“the kingdom of heaven”)
The work of God and God’s people on earth
The way God works here, together with God’s people
The kingdom of God works within all human kingdoms
God (the Holy Spirit) works within and through God’s people
God’s people work together with our God, in God’s way, to achieve God’s purposes in our world

The Kingdom of God is not like the treasure or the pearl.
It has no value.  It cannot be purchased nor possessed.
There is nothing we can do to deserve it or receive it.

The Kingdom of God is like:
A man who found a treasure, buried it, and bought the field
A merchant who looked for pearls but found one he would  ever sell
We are the treasure God has sought and found and paid everything for.

The kingdom of God joyfully lets go of everything it has achieved when it finds the next pearl.
Like the shepherd and the lost sheep
Like Jesus on the cross

The kingdom of God does not follow the ways or rules of any human kingdom.

May 26, 2008

“Life in the Spirit”; Galatians 5:16-26

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 10:04 am

     “The fruit of the spirit grows only in the garden of obedience.”  —Terry Fullam
        Yes.  The fruit of the spirit grows only when we act, work, serve, minister.
        No.  The spirit proceeds from faith and not from obedience.  (Gal. 3:1-5)  Obedience is not possible without the spirit.  (Romans 7:14–8:2)  Life in the spirit is what the life of obedience would look like if obedience were possible, if sin had no power.
        The fruit of the spirit grows only in the garden of faithful service.

Two questions of judgment:

·         Would you rather be right or would you rather be good?

·         Would you rather take credit for who you are or would you rather be who you are (without credit)?

The paradoxical fruit:  Self-control.

April 27, 2008

“Just Do It,” John 14:15-24

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 10:12 pm

     The circle of loving, seeing, obeying (loving–knowing– doing; loving–believing–imitating):

We can put faith first and imitation second, inasmuch as it is necessary for me to have faith in that which I am to imitate. But we must also put imitation first and faith second. I must, by some action, be marked in some measure by conformity to Christ, and thus collide with the world.  Without some kind of situational tension, there is no real opportunity of becoming a believer.

—Søren Kierkegaard

     This circle in the Sermon on the Mount:

  “Whoever does one of the least of these commandments and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:19)

  “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” (6:21)

  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.”  (7:21)

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like the wise man who built his house on a rock.”  (7:24)

     Regular self-examination:

  • How strong is my love for Jesus Christ?
  • How am I succeeding and where am I failing in keeping his commandments?
  • How has he revealed himself to me?  Where and when have I seen him?
  • How has my life been conformed to the life of Christ?  How is God working through me?

April 21, 2008

“Greater Works,” John 14:1-14

Filed under: New Testament — admin @ 8:42 am

Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” [vs. 8]
Who gets to say what is enough for us? Is life really about God satisfying us, our needs or desires? Might the Lord of the Universe not have other plans?

When we undertake a journey we would like to know the destination, if not the final destination at least some next place along the way. We want to know where we will end up so we can decide if we even want to begin.
But God shows us the way and asks us to trust that the place whither that way leads is good.
“Enter through the narrow gate … For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
We don’t get to make a final choice. A choice to follow God’s way is a choice to live, which presents us with another opportunity to choose the way but not the distination.

At the end of our spiritual journey we would like to see God, actually, the sooner the better.
But Jesus shifts the focus from seeing God to doing the works of God.
God will not be satisfied simply to show himself to us. God is at work and God is with us when God is at work in and through us.

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