Saturday, August 6, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
In many respects it is bad, for on this day we see humanity at its worst. God finally arrived on earth as a fully Incarnate man, and the path of his life lead not to victorious glory but a painful, humiliating death. How ironic that the Good of Jesus brought out the Worst in People. Yes, when we look at the cross we see ourselves at our worst – the offense of the Cross of Jesus is that it exposes human sin. Things really are this bad. Judas asked, “Is it I?” who would betray Jesus, and on Good Friday we ask ourselves, “Is it I?” who put him on the cross?
But the mystery and power of God’s redemption is that, “By his blood he reconciled us, and by his wounds we are healed” (BCP p. 370, para. Isaiah 53:5). On this bad and terrible day, unbeknownst to all those gathered on Golgotha, God was actually doing something Good. Something he had promised from ages past that would undo all the sorrowful, hurtful, wrong things of this world. God would forgive sins, wash away sorrow and guilt, and begin a New Creation. The offense of the cross is that it exposes human sin – the glory of the cross is that it also washes away human sin. God did all of this out of his great love for us at our worst (not our best!). All it cost was the life of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
Monday, March 7, 2011
In this chapter of his letter, Paul is defending his apostolic authority. There were those who objected to his teaching and the Gospel that he preached, and so to undercut him they attacked his position as an Apostle. Paul responds that he is not affraid of their attacks, because he knows that only God can judge him. Besides which, the mark of his apostolic office is that God is working through him and the Gospel with power, not just fancy talk. This is a subtle counter-attack, because he's stating that his opponents do not demonstrate the power of God and rely only on rhetoric and personal attack to establish their authority.
2 Kings 2:1-14) - talk about making an exit! The other event in his life was the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:1-40). Ahab, the evil King of Israel, and his wife Jezebel, had led Israel astray and caused them to worship Baal instead of God. So God sends Elijah to get everyone back on the right track, and Elijah proposes a contest to see who is the real God. Two altars will be set up, and the prophets of Baal will call out to their god, and Elijah will call out to his God, and the true god will be the one who demonstrates their power by setting the altar on fire. Simple. Very definitive in the results. In fact, why any religious debate since then has been settled in any other way is beyond me.
God demonstrates his power by setting the altar on fire. Everyone saw the power of God manifest in space and time, and they were faced with a decision. They could either try to ignore it or explain it away, or they could trust God and repent and return to Him. We Christians believe that God has in fact acted in a supernatural way in space and time. God's greatest demonstration of his power is in raising his Son Jesus from the dead. You have to deal with that power - either you ignore it or you trust it. Jesus even says to his detractors, hey, you might not like me or what I'm saying, but if nothing else believe me because you've seen the miracles (i.e. the power I've demonstrated).
Where in your life do you need to experience the power of God? Where do you need to know God's forgiveness? To be healed? And we do hope that the power of God can and will do something, for God whose power is at work in us is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.
1 Corinthians 4:14-20
This is the final sermon in our series on 1 Corinthians. The guiding principle we've used here is that there is always a gap between the ideal things and the actual things, and if we try to fill that gap on our own, we will shred ourselves and those around us. The only thing that can truly fill that gap is the grace of God. In this passage Paul indicates that God's grace, God's kingdom, is not simply a matter of words but of power.
I don't think Paul is merely saying here that "Talk is cheap", as if he were saying that propositional truth is useless and advocates for action only. I think this for two reasons. First, the 'words' he is talking about are those of his detractors, and he is essentially calling them out. If they are right and he is wrong, then they need to back it up with the true power of God and not play 'armchair apostle.' Secondly, we know that the Word of God is indeed powerful - God created the world by speaking it into existence; Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."
The power he is talking about is the visible power of God, manifesting in history. Take for example the Old Testametn prophet Elijah's showdown with the prophets of the pagan god Baal. The showdown was simple: the true god will be the one who sets the altar on fire. Baal guys are up first and they call out and do their mojo and nothing happens. Elijah then step up to the plate, orders some servants to put water on the altar so everyone knows there is no funny business going on, calls on the Name of the Lord...and shazaam! Fire! Lots of fire. The winner: Elijah. The kingdom of God demonstrates itself with power. This is what Paul is talking about.
The Gospel tells us that God works in history, in time with his power so that we might trust in him. Where most people fall flat is this way: they think that in order to experience God's power they have to first make themselves powerful. Jesus' power actually come to those who are weak and in need of him. God says that "My strength and power is perfected in your weakness." How often do we think that "I've got to clean myself up for God to love me." The Gospel tells us that the opposite is true - that the power of God is most present and at work in those who are in most need of him through weakness.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Take a look and then I'll give you my two cents worth below.
So what is this short film about? Essentially about the power of love, particularly when love, as opposed to hate, has the last word. The clip from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the end was given in his "A Time to Break the Silence" speech about the Vietnam War. The partuclar line of love being the 'last word' is a quote he makes of Arnold Toynbee. Here's the broader text of that speech:
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."
(Click here for the full text of this speech of Dr. King's, with the audio recording of it)
In this short film, the first 'word', that is the first set of scenes, is violence, fear, lonliness, and pain. The second set of scenes shows what happens when love has the last word. Violence is abrogated, lonliness is offset, fear and pain find reconciliation and restitution.
In the realm of Christian theology, there are Two Words, Law and Gospel. There is the first Word from God, that of Law, and the Second Word from God, that of Love (or Grace). The First Word of Law reveals what God declares to be right and wrong (it is wrong for a person to assault another, for example). It also reveals human behavior to be radically short of keeping that law. Specifially, the First Word exposes the violence, lonliness, fear, and pain in our world and lives for what they really are.
The Second Word, the Word of Love/Grace, speaks to the crushing weight of our plight and does not tell us what to 'do', but indicates to us what God has already 'done'. Grace shows us that God has taken upon himself the violence, fear, evil, and shame of our world. He has donel this of his own initiative, for his purposes, and as indicative of his wondrous nature, not , as L'Oreal claims, "Because I'm worth it!"
So this film, while clearly not explicitly Christian, it is underpinned by very strong Christian ideas, whether intentionally or unintentionally so. Discuss amongst ya-selves.