Endurance

JEREMIAH 23:23-29
PSALM 82
HEBREWS 12:1-14
LUKE 12:49-56

The life of discipleship, says the writer of Hebrews, is a long distance race. A race that must be run with patience, and always with the finish in mind.

What will it take to run this race with endurance and success?

The writer, continuing the athletic imagery, suggest three things in particular.

Incurably Foreign

GENESIS 15:1-6
PSALM 33
HEBREWS 11:1-16
LUKE 12:32-40

Meaningless

ECCLESIASTES 1:1-3, 12-2:11
PSALM 49:1-12
COLOSSIANS 3:5-17
LUKE 12:13-34

In the first verses of Ecclesiastes “The Preacher” makes his sobering thesis statement: the world is riddled through with vanity, futility, and frustration. Human beings, struggling to find meaning, instead meet meaninglessness at every turn. Even the very thing we were created for has become a pejorative four-letter word.

The best we can do is make the best of what comes.

Sound at all familiar? It should, because it’s been the nearly constant refrain almost from the beginning.

But what if beginning to move from meaningless to meaning is as simple as reframing things from an even older and mostly forgotten perspective?

I believe it is.

Slightly Distorted

GENESIS 18:1-14
PSALM 15
COLOSSIANS 1:21-29
LUKE 10:38-42

I own a pair of expensive prescription sunglasses that aren’t quite right. Can’t tell you exactly how they’re wrong, but the lenses ever so slightly distort my periphery and if I wear them long enough, give me headaches.

Conscience is the lens through which we perceive reality, and we can see in Scripture three ways an otherwise healthy conscience can be distorted, or bent: inward, outward, and if far enough in either direction, shattered.

This week’s Gospel reading—a story of Martha, Mary, Messiah, and manipulation—is a case study in how a conscience slightly distorted shows itself in the warp and woof of life.

Proclaiming and Promoting

DEUTERONOMY 30:9-14
PSALM 25:15-21
COLOSSIANS 1:1-14
LUKE 10:25-37

Redeemer’s vision is “to proclaim and promote the Gospel; giving ever more time, talent, and treasure to seeking the flourishing of our neighbors.”

In the first part of Luke 10—the sending the 72—we see the mandate and urgency of gospel proclamation. Words.

But in the second part we see something different: one of a whole range range of activities the Bible lists that promote the Gospel—bring it actively into the world—but may not use words at all.

Jesus sees these as integral.

Urgency

ISAIAH 66:10-16
PSALM 66:1-8
GALATIANS 6:1-18
LUKE 10:1-20

Partly because of the good news it brings, we’ve prettied up the story of Jesus’ birth almost to the point of unrecognizability. But when we look at Christmas from the viewpoint of heaven told by St. John in Revelation 12, we get an uglier look at the true nature of the battle Jesus was facing and fighting as he’s moving toward Jerusalem in Luke 10.

And it’s this reality that’s behind the urgency of Jesus’ sending of the 72 on mission.

They’re your age, so get along with them

1 KINGS 19:15-21
PSALM 16
GALATIANS 5:1,13-25
LUKE 9:51-62

What difference, if any, does the call itself make for the work you’re about to begin? The Galatians know they’ve been called by God, and given Elijah’s fame as the LORD’s prophet in Israel, surely Elisha knows who is truly throwing the cloak over his shoulder. And as Jesus is responding to those who would follow him, for the most part people seem to know who is teaching and working through this rabbi – hence their interest in following him. It is a more modern question to need to ask, how do I know if it’s God who is calling me? The question that engages and animates scripture has more to do with how and to what we are being called. God is calling you. What kind of ears do you have?

Pick It Up And Follow

ZECHARIAH 12:8-13:1
PSALM 63
GALATIANS 3:23-29
LUKE 9:18-24

Have you ever paid to use Google? Or Facebook? How about access the wifi at your favorite coffee shop? Our lives are full of services we use for which we pay nothing. On other hand you probably paid for the device upon which you are reading this email. Our lives are full of things we have paid for.

We are used to paying for goods, and we are used to services which ask nothing of us (except access to our personal data so they can sell that information to advertisers!).

The Gospel we Christians proclaim is the free gift of God’s reconciling welcome to all people.

The Gospel we Christians proclaim is the bearing of our crosses in the footsteps of Jesus.

Well, which is it?

Is it a free gift, or is it a costly journey?

Let’s find out together as we explore the Scriptures for this Sunday.

The Need To Explain

ISAIAH 6:1-7
PSALM 29
REVELATION 4
JOHN 16:5-15

The Athanasian Creed—one of  three creeds universally received by the Church—describes the nature of the Trinity as “incomprehensible” and its members “incomprehensibles”. These are apt, and pretty much simply accepted by the Church since its beginning.

Until modern times. We don’t deal with mystery well. We need to explain.

Which has led to some contemporary analogies you’ve probably heard: water, egg, three-leaf clover. But don’t use them. Ever.

This Sunday—Trinity Sunday—we’ll look a some important reasons why. These, at least, won’t be incomprehensible. I hope.

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?

ACTS 16:16-34
PSALM 48
REVELATION 22:10-21
JOHN 17:20-26

The quotation, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” is attributed to Phineas T. Barnum, the unforgettable 19th century American circus owner and showman. Barnum was s self-promoter of the first order and never, ever missed an opportunity to present however, whatever he was selling to the public.

Faced with some free publicity of his own in Acts 16, however, St. Paul would apparently disagree. And when he powerfully shuts it down in Jesus’ name, it gets him beaten and thrown into a dank Philippian jail.

And that’s where the story gets really powerful.

The Living Word (Bishop's Visit and Confirmations)

We welcomed Bishop Julian amongst us for a pastoral visit and to administer some Confirmations. He preached on Hebrews 4:12-13:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The Good Shepherd

Sheep are dumb. They have no defensive or survival skills. You’ve never seen wild sheep because left untended or lost, sheep don’t go feral, they go to sheep heaven.

It’s never been a compliment to be called a sheep.

And so, when Jesus claims in John 10 to be The Good Shepherd, he’s making some specific and profound statements about not only himself, but about those he calls sheep. They're neither warm nor fuzzy.

Same, But Different

Like an analog clock at noon and midnight, the “time” is the same, but a lot’s gone on  in the 12 hours between.

That feeling of same-but-different, of coming around the circle and ending up where we started, is what John intends us to have as his book comes to its conclusion.

‘My Lord,’ Thomas says, ‘and my God!’ He is the first person in this book to look at Jesus of Nazareth and address the word ‘God’ directly to him. Yet this is what John's been working around to from the beginning.

Too Small (Easter Sunday 2019)

The great mystery, and central reality of the Bible is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

Conquering death and the grave, he rose on the third day and as a result, the kingdom of the heavens is open to all believers.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead is much more than simply accenting to a belief. It means being confident that God is for you, that he has closed ranks with you, that he is transforming your life, and that he will save you for eternal joy. Thanks be to God!

But magnificent as that is, it’s too small. Because in an even vaster sense, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reframes not just individual lives; it reframes everything, bring life, hope and meaning to every part of human existence.

Excruciating Prayers

ISAIAH 52:13-53:12
PSALM 22:1-21
PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11
LUKE 22:39-23:56

Crucifixion was an execution so agonizing, a word had to be made up to describe its pain. “Excruciating" is the word, and means, literally, “from the cross”.

And in Luke’s account, it’s from the cross that Jesus prayed two utterly excruciating prayers.

The Foolish Father or the Lost Son or the Angry Brother

JOSHUA 4:19-5:12
PSALM 34
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17-21
LUKE 15:11-32

This story Jesus told is about a foolish father, a wandering son, and an angry brother. This strange and dysfunctional family, is held up to us as a picture of the Kingdom of God. Let us again experience this story as Jesus told it, and let us find ourselves here.

Three Little Words

EXODUS 3:1-15, 4:1-13
PSALM 103:1-12
1 CORINTHIANS 10:1-13
LUKE 13:1-9

The 2007 memoir, Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter is the gripping story of her early life and ten-year journey from foster care to adoption. A life of doubt, fear, and bewilderment that came down to three little words tenuously spoken in a courtroom at the age of 12.

She’s gone on to become a powerhouse, championing fundamental reforms in our nation’s foster care system. Literally freeing thousands of children from the bondage of a broken system.

And though it’s radically different in detail, the overall narrative of the book bears a striking resemblance to the story of a man who would become an Old Testament powerhouse.

Years of doubt, fear, and bewilderment that came down to three little words tenuously spoken in the desert.

The Matter of Our Story

DEUTERONOMY 26:1-11
PSALM 91:9-16
ROMANS 10:4-13
LUKE 4:1-13

In a book published posthumously, C. S. Lewis wrote, “The matter of our story should be a part of the habitual furniture of our minds.”

Our story, especially the chapters that have shaped us most profoundly, should be recalled and retold until they are as familiar and comfortable to us as our favorite chair…the one we sit in habitually. You know the one.

Amazingly, this week’s Old Testament lesson says the same thing.