Tag Archives: Jesus

today: becoming iconic spaces (dear peter rollins, you are rocking my world.)

Working on a blog for little Luci while waiting on a plane at Sea-Tac and discovering words that ought to be shared and celebrated…

(So ends the first section of writing in his book with love as the plumb line of Christian faith) “… Not an inauthentic love which only embraces those who embrace us, but the love that emanates from our beloved, the love that would embrace our enemeies, that gives until it hurts and then gives more, the love that gives with the right hand while hiding its gift from the left. To affirm the approach that I am advocating means that we must accept that to be a Christian is to be born of love, transformed by love and committed to transforming the world with love. This is not somehow done by working ourselves up and trying to find the right way of thinking and acting, but rather in letting go and opening up to the transformative power of God. In so doing, we will not merely sit around describing God to the world, but rather, we will become the iconic spaces in which God is made manifest in the world…”
-p71, How (Not) to Speak of God, Peter Rollins

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advent: peace

“All we are saying is give peace a chance.”
-John Lennon

Isaiah 9:2-7

The existence of Scriptures foretelling Jesus ought to provoke hope in our hearts. Here is God who so loved the world that He planned to give His one and only Son. He raised up a nation to facilitate His birth. He informed them of His plans in advance. To that nation, who struggled under the weight of oppression, so often brought on by consequences of their own sin, He promised joy: joy of harvest, joy of overcoming a malicious enemy, joy of liberation from oppression and the joy of a hopeful future, a world free of man’s wars where God fully reigns.

This Jesus, the coming King? He would come as a child, and He would utterly transform the world. His Kingdom, God promised, would be a different kind of Kingdom. Rather than flexing muscles of tyranny and power, He would come in humility. He would come with grace. He would bring peace that would ever push back darkness.

A God who brings such a King is zealous about loving people. He is zealous about restoring wholeness and order to the whole world.

How does Jesus bring an expectant joy into the most difficult circumstances you are facing today?

advent: day one (intro) and two (before the beginning)

how lovely this place to be with you, to be with you
oh the brightness of your face here with you, here with you
my only calm is you
my only thought is you

-David Crowder

I wrote some thoughts for church for Advent and will be sharing them here until Christmas… which means some days I’ll be posting more than one blog and that today I am posting yesterday’s and today’s… Yesterday’s blog was pre-empted by an unfortunate soup incident… a story for another day. Questions are by Bob Oliver.

Intro
Isaiah 9:6

We know that Christmas is coming.

Or do we? Do we know that Christmas is coming?

We’ve barely cleared the post-Thanksgiving dishes. For weeks we’ve stared at aisles lined with holly and peppermint canes at shopping centers galore. Our wallets have groaned as they yielded another pile of cash or surrender of plastic in exchange for piles of just-right or obligatory gifts collecting in the front hall closet (in a box labeled Good Will and covered with old clothes so the kids don’t see). They still need sorting, wrapping, labeling…

The word advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning, simply enough, coming. The season marks the period of waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus, starting four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Over the coming weeks, we’ll prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus in a two-fold manner. We’ll look back to the Hebrew story of waiting for Jesus to come redeem their story. “A child will be born,” the Scriptures foretold, and so they waited.

We’ll also look forward to the return of Christ and the promise that He will fully redeem our story, the human story, for eternity.

The trappings of Christmas ought not distract us from this great hope that is Jesus who came and is coming again.

How will you prepare your heart?

Before the Beginning
John 1:1, Genesis 1:1-2, I John 4:7

Before it all began, God existed in three persons. The complexity of the Trinity in terms of how three can be one might be simplified while remaining mysterious with this thought: God is relationship. To know God is to know relationship, because before the beginning there was God, and His essence is relational. The substance of that relationship is love.

To consider the story the Bible tells, one benefits to remember (especially as the fall begins to devastate the created order) that God in three persons existed in relationship. The Father spoke a world into existence that is held together by the Son who the Spirit empowered. The created beings (humanity) He entrusted with caring for the world may have fallen, but the Son’s destiny to hold the world together would lead Him to an Incarnate life. The perfection of His life would allow the fallen order of the world to be reversed, and with that reversal came the indwelling Spirit, the same Spirit who empowered the Son, for all who believe.

The Christmas story, then, began before the beginning of time with a relational, loving God who would ultimately go to great lengths to restore loving relationship as the context for life on earth.

Where has God brought reversal in your life as you live in loving relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit?

Where do you most need to be restored as a relational human being by God the Father, Son and Spirit?

today: good friday

“the cross neither jewlery nor icon nor charm
the cross held a lover who died in my arms
under the weight of the hammer i held
the space between heaven and everything spanned
and the lost art of living was found again
when the cross became loving and Christ became friend

(Enter the Worship Circle, Second Circle)

nails

Good Friday’s goodness comes in the recognition that we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians). Most of us know there are parts of us that are fallen and broken. Staring those parts in the face isn’t always easy. Letting those parts go so they don’t define us can be equally as challenging. Reality, though, shifted a couple of thousand years ago when Jesus went to the cross. In the words of Isaiah, his punishment became peace for humanity. Everything changed.

And so we find our way back to the lost art of living by looking to the cross. The part of me that loves theology wants to dissect the meaning of it all… salvation, justification, grace, sanctification, redemption, judgment… Today those crucial things matter. But the core of me so wants to love Jesus well. I think that today it is appropriate and enough to remember what he did. Remembering leads to thanks.

cross

The way Jesus lived seems almost eclipsed by how he died in a way. The way Jesus died was definitely eclipsed by how he rose from the grave. My life is forever transformed because of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. Friday is good, indeed, because that’s how vast and wide love is. And that kind of love creates new life out of death. Remembering leads to thanks.

life

today: monday, holy week

“Our best thoughts come from others.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

hug

I do not know if Mary understood that the crucifixion was going to happen… soon… when she washed Jesus’ feet in John 12. She believed Jesus was the Savior of the world. She said that in John 11. She believed him in her grief, as he stood beside her weeping over the death of her brother. Moments later he confirmed there was something more to this Jesus when he spoke literal life into a very dead man. In John 11, Jesus proclaims he is the resurrection and the life. Mary clung to that hope.

John 12, then, begins with a reunited family, Mary and her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha are having dinner with Jesus. Lazarus is eating. Martha is serving. And Mary washes Jesus’ feet, an extravagant kind of humility that fills the house with fragrance.

I love several things about this story. I love the humanity of Jesus standing at the tomb with his friends who have lost a brother. He’s going to raise Lazarus from the dead at any minute, but he grieves their loss, their agony, the separation of death. I love that days later, as things tense up around the life and story of Jesus, he finds comfort in their home. I love that his friends worship in different ways. Lazarus sits down to eat with his friend. Martha serves her king. Mary gives to the point of excess, pouring out what she has as a means of honoring the one who has so transformed her life.

And he will transform it further, in the coming days when things fell apart, I wonder did Mary cling to the hope she found in Jesus before he raised Lazarus to life. Do I? Am I willing to believe Jesus is who he says he is regardless of how things fall apart in the immediate?

Jesus’ faithfulness to a little family in Bethany reminds us that this God of ours is God who cries in a graveyard and eats at a table. The ancient stories humanize him. They really did sit there and hang out and love on a physically present man. And that physically present man was fully God in those moments when he sat there and hung out and loved them right back. Moments like those, I suspect, helped his resolve as he set his face towards Jerusalem, towards the cross. He had friends. He saved their lives.

I’m amazed. And hopeful, I do my best to cling to this: he calls me friend; he saves my life. Every day.

today: palm sunday

april089w

In some ways humanity has learned strangely little in the last two thousand years. I gladly showed up this morning to worship Jesus on Palm Sunday. And like the crowds who threw the branches at his feet, I am quick to prescribe my opinions to what the fulfillment of grace looks like. I fear I would have crucified him as well. It is a difficult thing to choose to hope in the fullness of redemption without dictating an expected outcome.

The word “Hosanna” means “God save us”. God save us from our lack of trust, from our expectations, from our sinful shortsightedness. May we trust that you are big enough to bring wholeness and redemption to the whole world. I get caught up in the outcomes I want in seeking God’s hand in my life.

May this Holy Week lead us down a path that is one step of trust at a time. For in so doing, perhaps we will find ourselves standing wide-eyed facing an empty tomb, realizing that what we are seeing is so much bigger than we hoped for or imagined. Perhaps we will find that the King who rode a donkey into the city overcomes death in humility. Perhaps we will find that King drawing us in to his story, a something more kind of life where our circumstances do not define us anymore. Instead, He does.

This is hope at it’s best. I want to walk towards it this week.

april069-copyw

today: here we go

“‘If I thought I could help you,’ Dumbledore said gently, ‘by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened.'”
p695 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

swingw

The best of books take you to a place where you can see the world in a fresh view. Your perspective grows as the story captures you and pulls you in. After I move away from this apartment, I suspect one of my most pronounced memories will be late nights with Harry Potter. I anticipate reading these books aloud to my children somewhere down the road… should I ever arrive at that point in the road (we’ll venture into that digression another night). For this is neither a blog about my future nor Harry Potter.

(And the faithful reader thinks, “Thank God. We’ve had quite enough.” And the writer thinks, “Harry Potter ended before anyone had quite enough.”)

This is a blog about the gospel of John, the book within the compilation of books that makes up the Bible that I have read and wrestled with most. How I love John’s writing, his intentionality, his methodology of introducing the life of Jesus. I love the hypnotic use of repetition and the rhythm he creates to keep the reader intrigued. John’s intelligence, emotionally, spiritually- humanly- stands out to me. He got something about the telling of the story of Jesus. He knew he needed to engage his audience on a real, raw level. So he tells the stories of other people’s stories. He tells us what happened. He tells it from lots of perspectives.

I am reading John, sometimes uninterested and sometimes mesmerized on this go-round. Something new that stands out is the use of the senses in the writing of the book. John mentions a person seeing and hearing, a person touching, a person tasting… He describes stories in this way. I love the way John provokes faith in someone unseen by telling the story of what he saw. John’s storytelling becomes a challenge to the reader: will your faith in someone unseen play out in the stories you see? We lack the luxury of a physically present Jesus.

The world aches and groans with the struggles of sickness and death. And we lack the luxury of a physically present Jesus. So John writes the words of the story of Jesus: water turns to wine; a paralyzed man walks; a child not in the presence of Jesus is healed by his words from miles away; 5,000 are fed from one lunchbox; a blind man sees; a dead man lives… lives literally, physically transform. Some believe. Others don’t. Jesus changes everything.

And then towards the end of the book, John writes some words of Jesus that invite the reader to ponder their place in the way things have changed. “Greater love has no man than this,” John writes, echoing the words of his Savior, “than he lay down his life for his friends.” And then Jesus lays down his life for his friends. And in so doing, he overcomes death. Then he tells his friends that they’ll do greater things than him.

see

John tells a grouping of stories to tell the life story of Jesus. All along he’s showing his readers a different way to see. He’s showing them how to see people honestly, for who they are. He’s showing them how to love them in the midst of their brokenness. He’s showing them how to heal them in their woundedness. He’s showing them how to lay down their lives for the sake of love. By the end of John’s gospel, you don’t necessarily realize you’ve just realized that perspective is much bigger and more creative than you ever hoped or imagined.

But it is so much bigger and more creative that the world couldn’t contain enough volumes of books about how full the story of redemption will be, how full it is.

We are left with great hope. And we are left with the great and beautiful responsibility of working out how we live in light of this great hope. I think it means waking up to the reality of the best and worst of humanity and committing to live fully present. Here. Now. And as we go, we keep revising the story to tell what has happened as we realized that our perspective continually needs a little stretching so vast is the love of Jesus. The more we stretch, the more he fills. And the risks may be large, but it is SO. VERY. GOOD.

Incomplete thoughts but what I got tonight…