Palm Sunday 2013 sermon on living with Jesus as our King, a sign of something better yet to come…
I feel challenged to continue to understand and live out our ministry in the world as defined by the Gospel and the Missio Dei (mission of God), not by every cultural debate and divide. Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, how will the church embody God’s righteous reign in and for the world? Jesus is Lord, not any political or cultural mindset. Both justice and righteousness matter intensely to God. Like Jesus we take our stand with and among real people where they live. But we actually kneel, submitting to God’s kingdom, confessing our own shortcomings as we profess a clear faith in God and enter into loving relationship with our neighbor. We cannot compromise God’s revealed vision of morality (but must confess that we, too, have failed) and we dare not compromise God’s revealed vision of love (even as we admit that we have in the past).
Jesus on the cross was demonstrating the incredible power of a new kind of love. Violently abused, he suffered for the sins of others. Tortured by an ancient military Empire, he suffered with conquered and marginalized people everywhere. Hanging on the cross he asked the Father God to forgive his enemies, for they did not understand what they were doing. Can we rightly live with anything else in our hearts?
In this week Christians call Holy, as we remember Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, may we join Jesus’ continuing mission to embody the righteous rule of our loving God. May that be a surprising sign in our world of something better yet to come…
The 2nd 50 pages have been full of surprises as well, but I’ve found more common ground with Stanley.
I like and have used the image he borrows from The Gospel of John “full of grace and truth.” John uses it in chapter one to wrap up the Logos passage in describing the essence of Jesus. Stanley uses it as a mantra for ministry decisions. He says they are not driven by policies. Instead they have nearly endless conversations with people and make decisions. I have to say that those who advised me to setup policies so we don’t get bogged down and criticized for decisions were not as “right” as I thought. Often the broken and messy situations in the lives of real people are our best opportunities for ministry. We need to get bogged down in the details. We need to engage with them where they are. I used to go by policies. Now I get involved.
I’ve gone to court to get someone released without bail. I’ve listened to couples describe situations they never taught me about in school. I’ve been lied to, used, rejected, and blamed. I’ve also been loved. Most importantly I’ve learned to do better at making sure people see the fullness of grace and truth as we understand it. I’ve tried to teach our leaders the same and they’ve reminded, challenged and taught me as well. And this was quite a process o transformation. It’s still a work in progress.
So I really resonated with Stanley’s big picture here. He’s done a far better job on a bigger scale of developing a place that lives with these real ministry tensions, especially on issues of homosexuality and divorce.
But then he throws out his procedure on baptism and frankly it’s just wrong. He says on page 81: “You have to allow us to video record a three-minute version of your story to be shown on Sunday morning in order to be baptized. No video, no baptism. We don’t have any verses to support that. But baptism is central to our worship and arguably our most powerful evangelism tool.”
It’s this kind of stuff that keeps popping up. Stuff where even the sacraments must submit to promotional convenience. And all his talk of messy truth gets undermined. I’ve done video, audio, written and live testimonies. We’ve worked hard to let the reality of the person’s story and of the gospel dictate the format. Public? Yes. Profession of faith? You better believe it. But some people have aspects of their journey which make video a personal challenge too great to overcome. And it basically weds baptism to a certain technology. I’m an early adopter of tech, but I can’t swallow this one. I loved his example stories. Some of them were incredibly similar to ones I’ve had the joy of participating in. But too many stories are edited out for non-biblical reasons. This causes me to question a lot. Can you tell I’m stoked by this one?
But…still it’s only 100 pages in. Now we’re arriving on the doorstep of Spiritual Formation. This is what I came for. I’ll extend grace and get off my high horse to see what I can learn in Section Three: Going Deep. Rethinking Spiritual Formation.
Thanks for reading.
Matt. 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Right now it seems that we are surprising each other with how different our perspectives can be on political and spiritual/moral issues. It can be shocking and uncomfortable to realize how differently others view the same things. I fear it drives us apart because we crave commonality. But sometimes we’re mistaken if we assume that our faith is more genuine because we came to a conclusion with which we’re more culturally comfortable. Others may be diminished in our eyes if we find we don’t agree. We assume that the way we processed a question is “the Christian way”. Different conclusions must come from false or worldly methods. But is that really always true? I’m not suggesting there’s no right or wrong. But maybe the good news can’t fit into one political perspective. Maybe it’s bigger than that.
In the case of the Chicken controversy we’ve split things even more. It’s not your view on marriage, it’s whether you totally support or strongly oppose the political activities of a restaurant chain. This is now the litmus test for both “sides”. “Eat mor Chikin” vs boycott the chicken. As I said in an earlier post, I’m putting the chicken on probation. Ate there a few days ago, but not on the big chicken day. Probably gonna wait a bit now to see how they handle the new attention. Dan Cathy and I agree on the definition of marriage. I support what I’ve seen of his interview. But I don’t support absolutely everything about what he’s done. And I’m not going to be pressured into doing so.
Matt. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I for one wish the Christian community was half as organized for the Great Commandment and Great Commission as we are for culture war responses. I’m glad we care about something. Do we care enough about the most important things? Have we reconsidered “who is our neighbor”, lately? How do we live truth before them? What’s the BEST way to show the world what we value? The goal is not a world with more fried sandwiches and fewer comfortable gays. The goal is more truly transformed Christ-followers serving up the good news to their neighbors. It may seem more fun to eat mor Chikin to make a statement. It takes a lot more than that to make a disciple. We have one commission. We are under one holy commandment to love. Truly, it’s not about the chicken. Let’s please not make it about the chicken. There’s so much more to be and to do.
Today’s Ashes to Fire readings included the following from 1 Corinthians 9:10b, 14:
It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop … In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
This serves as a reminder of the inherent value of preaching the gospel…May preachers, congregations, and seekers never take it for granted. Any time the Word of God is opened and proclaimed by one who has prayed, studied, and prepared it is a supernatural event. I’ve told my preaching students: as preachers we want to remove all barriers to clear communication, being stewards of the Lord’s message and servants to our people. But we should not become arrogant so that we notice the flaws and mannerisms of other preachers rather than being in awe of the Word that is being proclaimed. May preachers count it a sacred privilege both to proclaim the gospel and receive it, whenever possible. May we study to show ourselves approved and rightly divide the Word of truth. And may we preach the gospel every week, not just isolated sermons on passages. Let the passage of the day be set in the context of the whole good news: the radical optimism of grace. May it provide food for souls and energy for kingdom living.
In the same way, may congregations never view preachers as hired hands who do religious tasks or run spiritual errands for them. May the preacher be paid. But may the preacher’s highest priority be to faithfully study and proclaim the gospel. This gospel must be proclaimed in a way that creates an environment for disciple-making. And may the life of the congregation be shaped around the disciple-making mission created by that good news. And may preachers lead the way in making disciples.
The passage above mentions paying preachers enough to make a living. Pastors can do their best work when the church feels a burden to take care of their needs. In this way the gospel is honored. And honor is important. When finances are slim, churches can be creative; finding ways to share the sacrifice and support the ministry.
The gospel is the foundation of our salvation. It is the very form of our life together. May all who preach proclaim it faithfully. And may the church always honor those who give their lives to it as God receives all the glory!
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When God delivered the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh, it was a mighty act. Pharaoh did not believe it was possible. That’s how it worked. After the plagues, he let the people go, even giving them valuables to support the journey. But then he had a change of mind. He pursued God’s people to the edge of the sea. As they were essentially trapped, panic set-in. “Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert? It was better back in Egypt!,” the people cried. But Moses wasn’t buying it.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today…the LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.”
Moses was a true leader. On this day his faith was at the forefront of his mind and heart, where it could actually function. He knew that the LORD alone had gotten them this far. He also trusted that God didn’t bring them this far to abandon them now. So, he declared the simple truth that could save all of us considerable stress in life. “Do not be afraid.” Well, fear is a pretty normal response when the army of an empire is about the crush you. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm…” But they saw Pharaoh’s army! “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you WILL see the deliverance the LORD WILL bring to you today…” But they wondered why Moses or God allowed them to be in this spot. Surely it was poor planning or recklessness! And this is the same mistake we make today.
We think that being in God’s will means no problems. As soon as trouble hits, we’re ready to try something else! When circumstances surprise us, we who testify to being believers can become atheists. We act as if God doesn’t exist or at least doesn’t matter. Our first response is often to try to “figure out” how to fix our problems. But as believers, perhaps our first move should be to look to God. How often do we truly pray first? In a very real way our battle is always the LORD’s. We should never assume that God is surprised just because we are. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!”
At that moment, Moses realized why they couldn’t have faith. Because their eyes were fixed on circumstances. But if they would stop fearing and stand firm (both implying trust in God’s power) they would then “see the deliverance the LORD WILL bring. He hasn’t brought it yet. He allowed this to happen, but He has a plan to deliver us. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” This is a challenge to step up my faith. How about you? In times of challenge our frantic actions cannot deliver us. Freaking out never helps. God understands how tight things are. God has a plan. God WILL deliver us if we stop actively fearing and stand firm, watching Him work. And what wonders they saw…
So the question falls to us. Do we believe? If you’re up against it today, can you make the choice to stop fearing and allow God to help you stand firm? Can you get your eyes off circumstances and keep them fixed on God? Can you look with expectant eyes for His deliverance? Take heart. If you’re a fully devoted follower of Jesus, you’ve got one incredible captain! I’m going to Engage the Word today and let it guide my steps, trusting in God’s plan. I’ll stay on His mission, not getting distracted. I fully intend to see the salvation of my God today! Let’s believe God and experience his deliverance together!
I got a very personal email from Reed Hastings (of Netflix fame) tonight. He seems really sorry for how he hurt my feelings and all. I really appreci…what? You got it, too? Oh, I hate it when my bubble bursts like that!
Well, it brings up a point about change. The world changed so fast twice recently. Analog to digital. Then prosperous to lean times. Bam-bam! It’s enough to make an entrepreneur jumpy! Or a church consultant paranoid. Many have thought that we just need to stay ahead of the curve. Change now BEFORE we need to. Change the church culture every 18 months. Make it seem fresh. That’s one way. But a certain number of people (more so in church than other places) fall into a pattern and like the rhythm. So they don’t like change for change’s sake. It creates problems. On the other hand some of these same folks could decide that the same has become stale and they don’t like it anymore. So you can’t just stay the same, either.
But pleasing people isn’t the way to please people in the long run. In the church we have an unchanging mission. Our methods need to be flexible but solid. Not surprisingly I turn to Apple as an example here. Over 20 of the last 30 years they’ve given people the very best products they didn’t know they needed yet. They’ve managed to be out in front of the culture, exploring what’s possible with current technology without compromising their mission. They’ve found the solid ground and started building on it so they were ready when the culture caught up. They’ve managed to hold onto what’s best about tradition while keeping the experience fresh. It never seems like change for change’s sake. In the worst economy they are just about the only profitable company. More cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury. And the mission is safe.
So is there a lesson in the Netflix-Apple soup? I don’t think Reed came clean. They just sold the streaming way too cheap by originally convincing the studios it was an experiment. When it took off the deal was DOA. Now we have Qwikster! Seriously? 2 websites? Ugh! Maybe change just to shake things up is a little reckless. And maybe sometimes in the church we need to offer people something they don’t understand they need yet. But part of our calling is to help them see it. So what are some of the ways we can get out in front of culture? What is now possible that seemed impossible a few years ago? What element of our mission can be enhanced by possible changes? Then what are the solid methods and tools we can build for people to help them go to the next level of missional living? What’s the iPad of the Christian experience? It’s gonna look different in almost every local church. It’s whatever takes people from wherever they are to more closely in step with Jesus. Last time I checked, it can’t come too soon for many of our churches. I think we’ve done the iChurch, MYchurch thing to death. But a church that truly exists for its non-members? A church that’s about sacrificing all to glorify God and serve the world? If we have a solid enough foundation. If we make it clear. If we’re fiercely committed to the mission. That’s a church just about anyone would like to serve in. Some of them just don’t know it yet… How can we help them see?
The world has changed. Something has ended. But in our culture whatever is next is still waiting to happen. We look around to see everyone is waiting. Businesses aren’t hiring. Leaders aren’t quite leading. Everyone is sure what doesn’t work, but there’s little agreement on what does.
Surely for churches this is our moment. We’re on a mission that essentially doesn’t change. We can offer meaning and hope and vision and mission. Since everything else is on pause, we can make a difference.
If we stay on-mission. If we’re afraid we pause too. But why? If the good news has ever been good, it is now. Forgiveness. Love. Community. Mission. It fills this in-between time quite nicely if we’ll let it.
This Fall we’re looking to Engage the Word. But not just in private. We’re looking for ways to go public with this whole Jesus thing. Like we really believe it. Like those around us really need it. Like our calling is to serve.
As we dive back into the Scriptures, please let’s not be searching for more information. Let’s be transformed by the renewing of our minds. But let’s love God and neighbor as ourselves. With our hands and feet. Plural. Together. As one.
Let’s surprise ourselves at how well we can take God at his Word. For God so loved…through us.
Question 1: Can we decide to build our lives around the mission?
Question 2: How can the small groups we’re part of now become missional communities?
Question 3: Is God asking me to be a leader or catalyst for a new missional community in our church?
God has called. Our mission of living out discipleship as we draw others into Kingdom life is summed up in this:
To be and To Make Disciples. May our common life fulfill this mission like never before. Opportunity Knocks. Maybe life will never be the same…
Today is called Maundy Thursday in the Christian tradition. It commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his closest followers before his death. From this meal we have the Eucharist (thanksgiving) or Communion as the way to both commemorate Jesus’ sacrificial death and to experience the power of it in the present. It is considered by all or nearly all Christians to be a sacrament, a way that we intersect directly with the grace of God in our time. In our tradition (Church of the Nazarene) we call it a means of grace. So it’s not just an outward ritual. It’s a way to commune with God. We don’t emphasize anything magical happening with the elements of communion (bread & cup), but rather the act of obedience to Jesus’ command (do this…) puts us in a position where God can bless us in a special way. God uses the bread and the cup to draw us near to the center of our faith and Christian experience. It reminds us that it’s a relationship with God (expressed here in a meal) and not just a set of beliefs.
But in John’s Gospel the Last Supper commemorates the act of love where Jesus washed the feet of his followers. (John covers the Eucharist mainly in John 6). He wanted his community to understand that Jesus’ community was to be a community of servant-leaders who love and serve. You can read about it in John 13. Peter demonstrates that for some, the hardest part is being served. And so this keeps our communities of faith communities of Grace. Salvation is a gift and a calling. If we don’t keep these in balance, we lose our way.
So both traditions have been a part of celebrating Maundy Thursday. (The name probably comes from the Latin , Mandatum, which is the first word in John 13:34 “A new COMMAND I give you…, that you love one another.”) Celebrating the Eucharist/Communion and foot washing.
This year, our church is not having a Maundy Thursday service. But one could spend some time today reflecting on the meaning and significance of both of these traditions. Perhaps you’ll commemorate the powerful love of Jesus on Good Friday and receive communion on Easter Sunday. Spend time today preparing yourself for these events. Then think about how you live in community with others. If you’re not part of a worshipping community, consider connecting with one this weekend. We can’t really love one another if we’re isolated on our journey of faith. It’s in serving others that we really find fulfillment. And once we drop our guard, it feels great to be served. Let love not take advantage of others-those who are served are empowered to return the gift of life. It not only feels good, it feels right.
So there it is- Maundy Thursday. A chance in the middle of Holy Week to consider the awesome gift of love that we can share with others, if we would.
Good Friday service 7pm
NewHope Community Church
Welcome to NewHope!.
Click the above link to check out NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene. Come grow with us as we share the good news of Jesus with our world! It’s almost Easter time so there are some fresh opportunities to get connected to the church experience.
Join us Friday night April 8th as we head to a local theater for Soul Surfer a truly inspiring movie event! The cost is $10 but the experience is priceless. (Sarah & I saw a special screening in January and her comment: “The Best movie EVER!”)
Palm Sunday April 17th is a special outreach service for people new to the church experience. 10:30am
Good Friday April 22nd-brief family service helping you experience just how much God loves you!
Easter Sunday April 24th- Experience the life-changing power of Easter with your family! It’s the most joy-filled service of the year celebrating the event that changed the world forever. Let it change your world this year!
These are just a few of the ways you can discover new hope! Your journey begins at www.discovernewhope.org