March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
What kind of name is above all names? In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul answers this question through what is most likely an early Christian hymn. The name above all names is a humble name that willingly empties itself of all claims to honor and glory by taking on the form of a slave serving others. This name is Jesus, Savior of all creation. He who was willing to actively pursue a mission of a slave’s death, for his persecution and execution by crucifixion was reserved for slaves and rebels against Roman rule. But this name also became ours, because our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (2:5). That is if you call yourself “Christian,” namely follower of Jesus. What does this mission look like in your life today?
March 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
According to the Gospel of Luke, the last words that Jesus spoke from the cross were taken from Psalm 31 (see Luke 23:46 and Psalm 31:5). This psalm is also associated with the death of Stephen, the Christian martyr (see Acts 7:59). Therefore, Psalm 31 is often used at funerals and associated with occasions of death. However, this psalms is actually about the life of a believer. It is a psalm about trusting God no matter what. A dominant metaphor in this psalm is hand: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (31:5); “My times are in your hands” (31:15). God’s hand of care, protection, and salvation is in contrast with the hands of the enemies (31:8, 15). Trusting God’s hand to be stronger than the enemy’s hands is based on previous experience of God redeeming the one praying (31:8, 22), and that God has proven himself to faithful (31:3). The hand of God turns out to be “a spacious place” or literally “a broad place” (31:8). On the table in my office lies an autobiography of Jurgen Moltmann, a prominent theologian of our time. The title, “A Broad Place”, is taken from this verse. A spacious or broad place is a place of safety and security. May you also experience your life to be a broad place in the palm of God’s hand.
March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
A central question in the Gospel of Mark is the one Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say I am?” The confusion about Jesus’ true identity, and to therefore fully understand the consequences of following Jesus, is a core theme in this Gospel. Mark 14-15 brings the confusion to its climax. The religious leaders, Pilate, the crowds, and soldiers are all confused about who Jesus is. But even more surprising, the disciples are equally confused. There are plenty examples throughout the entire Gospel, e.g. how they never understood the mystery of the reign of God expressed in the parables (4:10-13, 34), or how they questioned who Jesus is in the miracle of calming the storm (verses 40-41), or when Peter rejected Jesus’ self-understanding as one who must suffer and die (8:27-33), and after the other two passion predictions where the disciples respond inappropriately (arguing over who is the greatest in 10:30-37 and asking to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand in glory in 11:32-40). No wonder that Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal are integral parts of the passion story in Mark 14-15. The biggest challenges for us, as we prepare for yet another Holy Week, is whether we truly comprehend who Jesus is in our world today. Where would you find Him today and how can you participate in what He is doing?
March 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
We start preparing ourselves this week for the Holy Week journey next week. The main question during this preparation is whether we are willing and able to identify with the Suffering One. That is also the main question of Isaiah 50:4-9a. Mark Gignilliat tells the following story about Teresa of Avila, the 16th century mystical writer:
“In a particularly difficult moment of her life she was forced to cross a river while sick with fever. She raised her voice of complaint heavenward, ‘Lord, amid so many ills this comes on top of all the rest!’ A voiced responded, ‘This is how I treat my friends.’ ‘Ah, my God!’ Teresa retorted, ‘That is why you have so few of them!'” Following Jesus is not a guarantee against suffering. To the contrary, to follow Jesus is not safe at all. It is part of the contract with God to take up our own cross when following the Suffering One. What does that look like for you during this year’s Holy Week?
March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
The meaning of Paul’s illustration in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 may seem self-evident in our own sport-obsessed culture. And yet, we still may lose the point Paul is trying to make if we think his emphasis is merely on winning and receiving the winning prize. We all like the last couple of minutes in a tight football or basketball game. Somebody said to me earlier this week he thinks they should just give NBA teams a hundred points each and let them play the last minute 🙂 No, Paul is more concerned about how we run the race than merely the outcome of the race. That is why he says “run in such a way…” (9:24) and “do not run like a man running aimlessly” (9:26). The aim isn’t victory so much as a particular way of running the race. The illustration for the life of faith here is not so much victory as such as it is about the effort and dedication required during the race. The purpose of yet another day added to your life and mine is not about the eventual destination, but about how we are dedicated to participating in the movement of God during this day. Where do you see God at work today and how can you commit yourself to joining Him in that movement?
March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
The confession of sin in Psalm 51 reminds me of the following Walter Brueggemann prayer on January 14, 1999:
“You are the God from whom no secret can be hid, and we are a people with many secrets, that we want to tell for the sake of our lives, that we dare not tell because they are deep and painful. But they are our secrets… and they count for much; they are our truth… rooted deep in our lives. You are the God of all truth, and now we bid you heed our truth, about which we will not bear false witness… The truth of grief unresolved, the truth of pain unacknowledged, the truth of fear too child-like, the truth of hate, as powerful as it is deep, the truth of being taken advantage of, and being used, and manipulated, and slandered. We trust the great truth of your wondrous love, but we will not sit still for it, UNTIL you hear us. Our truth – heard by you – will make us free. So be the God of all truth, even ours, we pray in the name of Jesus, who is your best kept secret of hurt. Amen.”
March 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
The strange tension of life and death. That is what Holy Week confronts us with. In John 12:20-33 Jesus relates death (his and ours) to glorification. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (12:23). Holy Week – that week of death – is Jesus’ moment of glory. But his glorification comes through an obedience that glorifies the name of the Father. An obedience that leads to dying for the sake of something new is always counter intuitive. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!” (12:27). And yet, that is the truth of the gospel. Life comes through death. In terms of Jesus’ parable, “I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (12:24). Which leads to the truth about our glorification. “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me… My Father will honor (glorify) the one who serves me” (12:25-26). This week is our moment of glory… to die in ourselves (what needs to die in you?) so that the glory of the Father can shine in and through us for the sake of new life in and around us.