We Say, “Yes, Yes”

February 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

From a 1997 Walter Brueggemann prayer based on Psalm 22:23-31:

Holy God, to whom we turn in our trouble, and from whom we receive life and well-being even in the face of death;  We gladly and without reservation assert:  You are the one who gives life; You are the one who hears our prayers; You are the one who turns our jungles of threat into peaceable zones of life; You are the one who has kept us since birth, who stands by us in our failure and shame; who moves against our anxiety to make us free.  You are the one who does not hide your face when we call.  So we praise you.  We worship you.  We adore you.  We yield our life over to you in glad thanksgiving.  As an act of praise, we submit our sick and our dead to you; As an act of praise, we submit more and more of our own life to you; As an act of praise we notice your poor, and pledge our energy on their behalf; As an act of praise we say “yes” to you and to your rule over us.  We say, “yes, yes,” Amen and Amen.

The Crucial Question

February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mark 8:31-38 represents the first of Jesus’ three predictions that he will suffer, be rejected, and die.  These predictions come in the midst of the disciples’ inability to understand who Jesus really is and what his mission on earth is really all about.  It is remarkable that after each one of these three predictions, there is a story making it clear the disciples still “do not understand.”  In fact, we have to go back to 8:17 where Jesus already asks the disciples a series of questions revealing their incomprehension of who he is.  That tendency finds its climax in the final question of 8:21, “Do you not yet understand?”  The irony is that Peter gave the correct answer to the question who Jesus is when he says in 8:29, “You are the Christ.”  But Peter does not tell us what it means that Jesus is the Christ, and when he rebukes Jesus for predicting his suffering, rejection and death (8:32), it is clear that he has no idea what it means.  The difficulty lies in associating Jesus with self-denial, taking up our own cross, and losing your life as a way of following Jesus (8:34-35).  It is just so contra the natural expectations for victory and glory.  So, it is also the crucial question for you and me this season of Lent.  Who do we say He is?  And how are we misled by conventional wisdom, natural inclination, and popular piety to truly understand what this means?

What’s In A Name?

February 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

I come from a background where names actually mean something.  It is also true of the biblical world.  Names identify and describe people.  In Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah.  What is important about these name changes is that these names redefine their identities.  Not just for the sake of change.  But to reorient their lives and to clarify their calling in life.  Their new names are the markers of God’s covenant  with them, bringing to fruition what already started as a journey of promise and calling in chapters 12 and 15.  Abram becomes Abraham so that he can become the “ancestor of multitudes.”  His new name describes his God-given purpose and destiny as God’s promise is fulfilled in his life.  This is still the meaning of our baptism.  At the baptismal font, you and I receive a name that goes beyond our biological identities.  We have become God’s children, belonging to Him, existing for His purposes only.

A Baptism That Saves

February 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

1 Peter 3:18-22 is an appropriate text to begin the season of Lent, because it takes us right into Lent’s destination as the reality of Christ’s death and the salvation of Christ’s resurrection.  The symbolism given to us by this text is powerful in drawing us into this reality and salvation.  In drawing on the story of Noah, Peter reminds us that in Christ we are, as Daniel Deffenbaugh puts it, “a new ark rising and falling with the waters of adversity, yet proceeding toward the day of peace when the chaos around them would recede and a new world would be established.”  And the water that marks our baptism serves as an appropriate symbol for what we are experiencing in our everyday lives.  Alluding to the water in the story of Noah, the water of our baptism serves as both an instrument for God’s judgment of the wicked and a means for the redemption of the godly.  This season of Lent is a special time of remembering our baptism so that we can focus on our redemption in Christ despite the waters of chaos through which we have to navigate every single day.

Ash Wednesday Prayer

February 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

Ash Wednesday Prayer based on Psalm 51:

Have mercy on us, O God.  Your love is unfailing.  Our response to your love always fails in comparison with your compassion for us.  Therefore, we are dependent on you to blot out our transgressions against you.  Please wash away all our iniquity and cleanse us from our sin, because we can never escape our sinful nature.  From the time our mothers conceived us, we were sinful human beings.  Make this a Lenten season of true repentance during which we will be able to recognize and name our evil in your sight.  We know you desire truth in our hearts.  Teach us your wisdom so that we will be honest about the brokenness of our own lives.  Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us.  When you hide your face from our sins and blot out our iniquity, we will be restored to joy and gladness for your salvation.  Please Lord, lead us into this Lenten season with lives of confession and repentance!

The Kingdom Of God Is At Hand

February 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

On the eve of a new Lenten season, it is important to yet again hear the words of Jesus when He started his ministry proclaiming the good news of God:  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).  There are two aspects to this proclamation of Jesus that are important as we enter the season of Lent.  First, if you read the rest of the Gospel of Mark and discovers how the story of Jesus unfolds, you gradually realize that the nature of God’s kingdom is entirely different from what anyone would expect.  In fact, the power of God’s kingdom illustrates exactly the opposite than would the power dynamics of worldly kingdoms.  It is the power of God’s self-sacrificial love cultivated through a journey of suffering and death at a cross for the sake of others rather than the self-centered power plays of worldly ego’s on their self-indulgent journeys to attempted victories over others.  Secondly, this kingdom of God is at hand.  It comes to us as a gift from God every single day.  It breaks into our self-indulgent worlds as God’s future among us.  Do we see it with our eyes of faith?  Do we embrace it when we catch the glimpses of its presence among us?  That is your challenge and mine today!

Never Again

February 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

This week marks the beginning of yet another season of God’s ultimate never again.  Jesus’ journey of suffering, death and resurrection is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant that through His love and mercy He will not destroy us but forever be faithful to us.  This is a never again for every day and forever, and it is a never again that was there right from the beginning.  Genesis 9:8-17 gives us one of the most profound early accounts of God’s never again:  God establishes his everlasting covenant for all generations to come between Him and all living creatures of every kind on earth that “never again will all life be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (9:11).  For us, the rainbow is the sign of God’s covenant.  And for God, the rainbow will remind Him of his covenant with us.  God’s covenant of never again is our promise every single day that God is faithful and trustworthy.  It brings peace in the midst of the violence of everyday life and it gives hope for everlasting life in the future despite the destruction of death.  May this season of Lent be a profound season of never again for you and me!

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