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Faith in 15
15 minutes | 6 days ago
Amazing Terror (Easter 2021)
Bible times were simpler, but the people were not naïve. Through observation, they collected impressive knowledge on a variety of subjects. Jesus acknowledges common weather predictions (Matthew 16:2-3). The citizens of Nazareth make a back-handed comment on Joseph as Jesus’s father (Matthew 13:55, surely related to the timing of Jesus’ birth). On death, Martha, sister of Lazarus, doesn’t want to open her brother’s tomb because “he stinketh”(John 11:39 - you have to love the KJV on this verse). The women only expected Jesus to be dead. They went to the tomb for a ritual much closer to last rites than to an Easter sunrise service.The resulting shock of Jesus’ resurrection fills the women with terror. Mark uses words like fear, trembling, and fleeing. It’s impossible to dress up their terrified astonishment.Mark uses a double negative to emphasize the silence of the women who first experienced the resurrection. I chose not to spend time on it in the sermon, but many Bible scholars think Mark intended to end the gospel at verse 8, precisely to make his point: now that they know about Jesus, how can they not tell? If verse 8 is the end of the gospel, the abrupt ending matches the abrupt beginning. None of the other gospels begin or end with the suddenness of Mark. It’s impossible to go back and recreate the shock of the women for the contemporary reader. I attempted to drive home some “unsettledness” by recognizing the implications of a few of Jesus’s radical teachings.
6 minutes | 10 days ago
Maundy Thursday Reflection
This special edition of Faith in 15 is from our Maundy Thursday service. Though the audio isn't quite as good as normal, we still wanted to offer this up for everyone to be able to reflect on the importance of the day. The name "Maundy" comes from the first Latin word of John 13:34, mandatum (commandment): "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another." Jesus' commandment of love is tied to this day and illustrated in the acts of foot washing and sharing a meal with his disciples, often called The Last Supper. It is on this day that the church is called to reflect upon our commitment to follow Jesus in our love for one another.
15 minutes | 13 days ago
Truly, this Man Was God’s Son
Mark 15:25-39There are actions that disqualify individuals from certain professions:Bankruptcy disqualifies people from bankingSex offenders are disqualified from working with children. Crucifixion disqualified Jesus from being the Messiah (see Deuteronomy 21:22). Crucifixion was shameful in the Roman world. Hebrews 12:2 separates the cross into two experiences: pain and shame. The cross was designed to dehumanize.The victim was naked to shame.The location of a cross was designed to maximize crowds who could ridicule.The physical pain reduced people to begging for help and pleading to die.Crucifixion was considered obscene and not discussed. It was godless (Mark 15:33-34).See Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion. It is hard for me to preach Lent and Holy Week without utilizing something I learned in this book. Chapter Two, “The Godlessness of the Cross,” begins with this quote: "In order to speak of the crucified God we need a theology of abandonment, of dereliction, of an alienation so profound that it can only be expressed in language marked by paradox and by great daring and risk. The Crucifixion of the Son of God by one of the most advanced civilizations in the ancient world does not seem to be an acceptable or reasonable method of redeeming the world. There is something so outrageous and obscene about it that the agony in Gethsemane becomes the only comprehensible part of the whole saga." -- Kenneth Leech in We Preach Christ CrucifiedThe Centurion was a battle-hardened military man. He had seen deaths nearly as bad, yet at the death of Jesus he was moved to say, “this man was the Son of God.”The meditation text printed in the bulletin was from another indispensable resource for preaching on the cross: "The crucifixion of Jesus set men (sic) thinking more than anything else that has ever happened in the life of the human race. And the most remarkable fact in the whole history of religious thought is this: that when the early Christians looked back and pondered on the dreadful thing that had happened, it made them think of the redeeming love of God." -- D. M. Baillie in God Was in Christ: An Essay on Incarnation and Atonement, p. 184. Here is additional quotation from Jűrgen, Moltmann, The Crucified God, New York, Harper & Row, 1974:To suffer and to be rejected are not identical. Suffering can be celebrated and admired. It can arouse compassion. But to be rejected takes away the dignity from suffering and makes it dishonorable suffering. To suffer and be rejected signify the cross. To die on the cross means to suffer and to die as one who is an outcast and rejected. If those who follow Jesus are to take “their cross” on themselves, they are taking on not only suffering and a bitter fate, but the suffering of rejection. According to their own experience, the greatest Christian saints were also the most profoundly abandoned by God. The expression “cross” for the sufferings undergone in following Jesus takes its meaning solely from the cross of Christ, not from natural or social sufferings. “The cross . . . is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life.” p. 55
16 minutes | 13 days ago
Psalm 119:9-16OutlineThe old Holiday Inn commercials capture the ethos of being smart without any study or preparation.Those commercials capture the ethos of our day: “Google is; therefore, I know.” We all think we are experts because we can look up anything on the internet.Psalm 119 has 176 verses. It says 176 different ways that God’s way to live leads to life. Yet, the ways of God seem crazy to us. If the Beatitudes are the key to blessing, why don’t we seek to live according to them? If it is more blessed to give than receive, why don’t we spend as much time planning our giving as we do shopping?This passage appears in the lectionary for Lent because it represents a distinct alternative way of life to what the world suggests. Disciples must decide whether God knows better or the world knows better how to live.Proverbs 26:12 says: Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
14 minutes | 13 days ago
Numbers 21:4-9John 3:14-21Outline“Bad decisions” is an explanation of sin that works for children, but is inadequate for mature Christians.Both Testaments speak to the seriousness of sin.Forgiveness of sins is no small issue, but a relationship with Christ goes beyond forgiveness to deliverance.The story in Numbers 21:4-9 combines several biblical images related to sin: serpents, death, deliverance.In John 3:10-15, Jesus makes plain the connections in the story from Numbers. Only now he tells us the full story: we are saved by a savior on a cross, not a serpent on a stick.Anyone involved in a 12-step group recognizes we cannot save ourselves and need to be rescued from sin. Those of us not in such a group can recognize the same need for rescue from sin’s power.Other comments:The idea for this sermon began as I noticed churches in impoverished areas with the word “deliverance” in their names. There aren’t many suburban or upper-middle class churches where people think in terms of being delivered from sin. Forgiveness seems a much safer concept to us.Perhaps impoverished people have less resources to throw at their problems. They see their captivity to sin before we see ours. This thought inspired the phrase “middle class misdemeanors” as our concept of sin. I’m indebted to The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge for a greater appreciation of Christ’s victory over the powers hostile to God.
13 minutes | 13 days ago
The Good Samaritans
Luke 10:25-37II Chronicles 28 contains the key ingredients for Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan: the wounded in need of care, binding wounds and clothing the naked, Jericho, and kindness shown by Samaritans to Judeans. The inspiration for this sermon comes from The En-Gedi Resource Center. If you enjoy Bible Study, bookmark this site.
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