I owe you my life

16 Apr

Have you ever seen one of the those movies where one person saves the life of another and the person who is saved says,”I owe you my life, I am yours to command.” I have seen them and usually the person who has been saved the fairly annoying until they can do something equally important for the other person.

I wonder if we ever consider Jesus in that way, that literally, Jesus has saved our lives. Not only in terms of our eternal life, but the life we have here and now.

The reading from Colossians on Easter Sunday is straight and to the point.

3 1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Isn’t this passage great, particularly how Eugene Peterson paraphrases it. Christ is the one who has saved our lives and we owe him our lives and we have the honor/joy/hope of living it for God.

I think of the truly beautiful things in our world – not just nature – but things like Handel’s Messiah, or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or Gandhi’s work to free India. These are incredible things that were done with a focused on Christ perspective.

Now, I know I will never do anything great like people I mentioned, but I can do small things that reflect the Christ-life here and now. Being kind, even on a bad day, working for peace – if only between church members-, helping to feed the people around me – if only for a day.

I know you can do God-inspired things too. Things that you have gifts and graces for and that God has made real to you. Mostly, as the passage says, don’t look down at the ordinary life around you; look up to the extraordinary life in Christ. Enjoy your resurrection life to the fullest. Peace

Everyone is Invited

15 Apr

Easter is coming and I will blog on the scripture that are prescribed for this coming Sunday. I think I know by heart each of the gospel’s unique announcements about the resurrection of Jesus, yet the other readings for the day fade in my memory.

The reading for this Sunday for the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is really interesting. And probably one you will not hear on Easter morning. In Acts 10:34-43 Peter is talking with a non-Jew. Up until this point the good news that Jesus proclaimed has been for the house of Israel. In fact all religions at this time where based in the one group/tribe/nationality for which they were created. There was nothing universal about any religious of this time. To be born in a country was to have a particular belief system about how creation occurred, how to worship, and the moral code of that people. Even if another country where conquered and the people taken as salves it was not expected that those salves would take on the belief-system of their conquerors.

This reality of the ancient world smacked me in the face this morning as I read the first part of the Acts passage.

34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

What was become Christianity was the first belief-system that moved beyond tribal lines and invited everyone and anyone to become an integral part of emerging faith community. The passage continues by re-telling the central story of the Christian faith to these new non-Jewish people.

37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.

39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

Peter, who is the speaker in this passage, has just received a vision from God. The vision used animal included in the old Kosher law to symbolize that the segregation the excluded the house of Israel from every other tribe of people are no longer in force. The boundaries have been broken down and everyone is invited. To emphasizes the point the Holy Spirit is poured out upon these non-Jewish folks, as it had been on Jewish folks on Pentecost.

44-46 No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

God broke the boundary of life and death and then the boundaries that we erect between ourselves were destroyed forever.

This is not to say that I think everyone should be a Christian. It is to say to God has invited everyone to be my brother and sister in love. With God extending the invitation who am I to refuse to welcome.

The cosmically changing, earth shattering, infinitely amazing event of Easter reflects the true grace and power of our God. I pray we do not dwindle it down to bunnies and new flowers. Peace.

Spring is blooming

14 Apr

Good morning friends,

Outside my bedroom window trees are blooming. Spring has finally arrived here and it is feeling a bit like summer.

I thought I would catch you up on a few details in my life. Last week I took Mom and Dad to see Noah. It was an interesting movie. The person who made the movie expended a lot of energy discussing if human being were un-redeemable. The antagonist, a descendant of Cain, was ungrateful for the creation God had given, believed that he was there to claim dominion over creation and use it for what he wanted – grabbing and killing were his way of life. The protagonist, Noah, was grateful for creation and believe that he was caretaker of it. The movie was accurate in that the generations from Adam/Eve to Noah were not to eat the animals, but could give them as burnt offering to God.

I believe that the film maker made it clear that human beings have destroyed God’s creation with violence. Noah who thought that he was suppose to destroy all human and just save the innocent (the animals), changed his mind when he looked at a baby and saw love. [would Noah have continued his plan to kill all humankind if had not had a baby to look at and just had his teenage and young adult sons??]

I think the non-biblical stuff made some interesting special effects, but it clouded the question of why human beings so often choose hate and violence rather than God’s grace and caring. Why does sex and violence sell and God-love not??

In this holy week, where we dare to follow the path of Jesus to the cross, think about how often we choose anger, or jealously, or pettiness over the humble walk with God. Peace.

Here’s one of my questions

12 Apr

Okay, of the two people who viewed yesterday’s blog, none of them had any questions about the last 48 hours of Jesus’ life. So, here is one of mine. I have always wondered about the time in the garden during Jesus’ prayer.

36-38 Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

Most people know that Jesus prayed for the circumstances of that night to change so he could avoid the pain to come. Maybe because I grew up knowing that part, it doesn’t intrigue me as much as the sleeping disciples.

40-41 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42 He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”

43-44 When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.

45-46 When he came back the next time, he said, “Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it? My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s get going! My betrayer is here.”

My question is, would events unfolded differently that night if the disciplines had managed to stay awake? I know they had a long meal with lots of wine, but it is clear that their leader is really upset. Would they have been more prepared to engage the difficulty that Jesus was facing? I guess one of the reasons this has been a question for me for a number of year is because I think I am often asleep/not paying attention and I miss critical events.

Here is to being awake and in the present moment. Jesus wanted his friends praying for him. Let us see if we can be prayerful during these coming days.

Peace

You pick it

11 Apr

OK, as I said yesterday the passion portion of the reading for Palm Sunday goes through Matthew 26 and 27. I really don’t know what to write about and have no energy to write about all of it.

So, here is your task for the day. First, try to remember what you know about the last meal Jesus eat with his disciples, his prayer time in the garden, his arrest, trial and death. Then read chapter 26 and 27 slowly and see if your memory matches what is in the text. This should’t take more than 15 minutes, so I think you can handle it. Finally, what are the questions that come to mind. If you send me any questions I will respond to them tomorrow.

Here’s what I think. The first identification of myself or others is as a child of God. And my understanding of how to live out that identity is as a Christian (because I was born a white, Protestant American). And the central belief of that faith is that Jesus gave us an example of how to life in God’s presence, was killed, and transformed death into new life. That being said, the events in Matthew 26 and 27 are essential to our faith.

Enjoy your day. I pray you can find a way to live deeper into your faith.

Peace.

Judas

10 Apr

Well friends, this is over 200 blog postings for me! And using the lectionary for blogging reflections for Palm Sunday is interesting. For the ‘Passion’ side of this Sunday the gospel reading passage includes just about all of chapters 26 and 27 of Matthew – events before the last supper going up through the crucifixion.

I might do some of this text next week, but for this morning I am going to focus on the story about Judas in Matthew. In the beginning of Chapter 26 Jesus tells his disciples again that he is going to be betrayed and killed. During a dinner party, a woman comes up to anoint Jesus with a very expensive bottle of perfume. This is the end of the line for Judas, whatever he was thinking about what this event, he made a deal with the authorities to betray Jesus directly after this incident.

26 1-2 When Jesus finished saying these things, he told his disciples, “You know that Passover comes in two days. That’s when the Son of Man will be betrayed and handed over for crucifixion.”

3-5 At that very moment, the party of high priests and religious leaders was meeting in the chambers of the Chief Priest named Caiaphas, conspiring to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. They agreed that it should not be done during Passover Week. “We don’t want a riot on our hands,” they said.

6-9 When Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of very expensive perfume. When the disciples saw what was happening, they were furious. “That’s criminal! This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.”

10-13 When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured this perfume on my body, what she really did was anoint me for burial. You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.”

14-16 That is when one of the Twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the cabal of high priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?” They settled on thirty silver pieces. He began looking for just the right moment to hand him over.

What do you think Judas’ motive was for betrayal. I wonder with Jesus speech about not worrying about the poor whether Judas thought he had lost the crux of the mission? Did Judas think Jesus was becoming arrogant by letting this woman anoint him with very expensive oil – in the middle of dinner?? Maybe Judas thought; “We have created a monster, this guy is getting ridiculous.”

Judas made the deal. In Mark’s gospel there is no word of what happen to Judas after he ‘kissed’ Jesus in the garden. It is consistent with Matthew’s gospel it is told what happen to Judas with a reference to the Hebrew Scriptures. This story is at the beginning of Chapter 27.

27 1-2 In the first light of dawn, all the high priests and religious leaders met and put the finishing touches on their plot to kill Jesus. Then they tied him up and paraded him to Pilate, the governor.

3-4 Judas, the one who betrayed him, realized that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, saying, “I’ve sinned. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.”

They said, “What do we care? That’s your problem!”

5 Judas threw the silver coins into the Temple and left. Then he went out and hung himself.

6-10 The high priests picked up the silver pieces, but then didn’t know what to do with them. “It wouldn’t be right to give this—a payment for murder!—as an offering in the Temple.” They decided to get rid of it by buying the “Potter’s Field” and use it as a burial place for the homeless. That’s how the field got called “Murder Meadow,” a name that has stuck to this day. Then Jeremiah’s words became history:

‘They took the thirty silver pieces,
The price of the one priced by some sons of Israel,
And they purchased the potter’s field.’

And so they unwittingly followed the divine instructions to the letter.

Judas regrets his actions and hangs himself. It is interesting in Luke’s version (Acts 1) he splits into like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) who lied about how much they had to give to the ‘new christian commune.’ I suppose that it is not important how Judas died, he choose to betray a friend and regretted his actions. It is ironic that both he and Jesus died the same day, but one receives our contempt and the other receives our worship. Death is a constant. It is how we live that makes the difference.

Here’s to living a great day on the journey. Peace.
Here’s to living a great day.

The First Affirmation of Faith

9 Apr

The epistle for Palm Sunday is one of my favorites. It is a beautiful affirmation of who Jesus the Christ was and is. It is thought to be an early hymn of the Christian community: Philippians 2:5-11

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

If we listen to the first sentence on this passage, Paul’s says we are suppose to think the way that Jesus thought. Apparently that is not difference between ourselves and Jesus in terms of the way we think. So, even if there are differences between what Jesus or I could do, there is no difference in what we can put in our minds. So, the way to ‘think’ and live a selfless, obedient life is open to us.

9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Jesus is honor because of his obedience. We are called to worship Christ and praise him. We are to say the way God wants us to live is the way that Jesus lived and bring honor to God’s name when we live that life.

The Christian journey is one of humility and obedience. We often don’t get that part. Peace,

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