October 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
The book of Habakkuk starts with a complaint about what is wrong in the world. It represents the lament of God’s people that justice is seemingly perverted and never prevails. In chapter 2, God gives an answer to this complaint. God promises a vision for this world (2:2), but it is a promised vision that “awaits an appointed time” (2:3). It requires of those who receive God’s answer to “linger” and “wait for it” (2:3). We are not good at waiting for answers. We live in a culture that does not tolerate such inefficiency. And yet, waiting on the Lord is a core Christian posture. And while we wait, we have the gift of faith. Faith is what makes it possible to wait. The righteous will live by his faith, says 2:4. Trusting God as a trustworthy God, and looking at the world in the light of God’s promised vision for the world is not easy, but it is the way of Christian living.
October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
It is remarkable (and sad) how we as the church have reversed Jesus’ intentions and postures in the world. The era of Christendom has seduced us in putting the church as center of attraction in our religion. Some call it the if-we-build-it-they-will-come syndrome. We think of the church as the host, and we lament the tendency that fewer people want to accept us as their hosts. So we continue to seek strategies on how to be better hosts (more welcoming, better programs, more effective projects, more attractive events). However, Luke 19:1-10 (this week’s Gospel text) tells a different story of how Jesus went about his ministry. When He saw Zacchaeus in the fig tree, he did not invite him to be His guest, but requested him to be his guest. That stunned the people, because they were muttering that he was gonna be the guest of a sinner. But, of course, it should not be surprising. God always meets people where they are. In Luke 10 already we saw Jesus sending out his followers to find the houses of the village hospitable places where He intends to go because God’s presence and activity will be among them in the ordinary routines of their lives. How can we as the church accept the world as a hospitable place where God is already busy doing incredible things?
October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
The Lord is trustworthy, says Psalm 119:137-144. God’s promises have been thoroughly tested through the ages (119:140). When trouble and distress come upon us, we find delight in the fact that God can be trusted throughout times when the going gets tough (119:143). In the congregation where I serve as pastor, we begin a new series of reflections on Christian life when the going gets tough (a three Sunday sermon series based on 2 Thessalonians). The understanding we need so that we may live (119:144) does not consist of more knowledge, but an integrated lifestyle of trusting God despite difficult circumstances. We do not worship God for God’s blessings, but because we trust God no matter what.
October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
Habakkuk 1:1-4 is a lament in which the writer complains that God does not listen to prayers and that the wicked seem to be winning. Why is life sometimes so unjust? These questions of 1:1-4 reflect times of uncertainty and anxiety – times like ours! But before we ponder the answers that Habakkuk provides to these questions (see this blog later this week), let us just make peace with the fact that God is apparently not only found in the high points of life. Habakkuk is a good Old Testament example of what the cross of Christ refers to in the New Testament, namely God’s presence among us during times of confusion and suffering – especially when the easy answers to the complicated questions of life seem to evade us.
October 23, 2010 § Leave a comment
Sometimes we want to shortcut the hard work of building relationships with others by treating them as mere objects of our benevolence. A member of the congregation in which I serve told me the other day how she made this discovery when she was involved in a project with a group of children. Usually there is a predetermined agenda for what should be done with the children when they work with them. However, the last time they gathered, she saw one of the kids sitting alone. She suddenly realized that she is called to sit down with him and to meet him where he is. Such moments create the opportunity for discovering what God is up to in the lives of others when you engage them in authentic relationship at the places where they are in their lives…
October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment
Fred Craddock, in his commentary on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), writes, The Pharisee is not a venomous villain and the publican is not generous Joe the bartender or Goldie the good-hearted hooker. Such portrayals belong in cheap novels. If the Pharisee is pictured as a villain and the tax collector as a hero, then each gets what he deserves, there is no surprise of grace and the parable is robbed. In Jesus’ story, what both receive is “in spite of,” not “because of.” The trap of this parable is to think I am fortunate that I am not like the pharisee. In doing that, I am actually exactly the same as the pharisee! But is that not precisely Jesus’ point that we should realize we all need his undeserved mercy?
October 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
Discerning how God is present and active in one’s own life is both very important and very dangerous. It is as important as it was for Paul (during his farewell discourse in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18) to clearly identify how God was at work in his life. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith… the righteous Judge will award to me…,” he says (4:7-8). And yet… to think that he is boasting is to completely misunderstand what Paul is doing. You just have to read further to verses 16-18 to understand that. It is indeed very dangerous if you start confusing yourself with God when you think that the power of God’s involvement in your life is something that now became yours. But Paul says, “the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… rescue me from every evil attack” (4:17-18). With his final conclusion, “To him be glory for ever and ever” (4:18). There is no room for self-assured righteousness… only an appropriate reflection back to where the glory comes from and always belong forever and in all circumstances.