Posted in Notes

Kingdom Change

ala. Matthew 3:1-6

Everyone can agree that some things have to change. What we don’t agree on is how or even what needs to change.

There is a tension in our world right now, a tinge that change is necessary. And this tension gets expressed in debates that become all out wars of words, persons resolved on either side that their idea of change is the best.

One example of many is the fact that everyone agrees that our young people should have the right to go to school without the fear of an active shooter. And yet there is wide disagreement as to how to change that reality — e.g. stricter background checks, assault rifle ban, increased security, etc.

In the days when John came to preach and baptize in the wilderness everyone was desperate for change. Such is reflected in the way that people from both the country and city sought him out. The majority were among the slave and working classes who suffered much under Roman oppression, with the complicity of the religious elite.

They were those crushed by tax burdens and the forced censi by which those taxes were assessed. Those forced to the margins according to both political and religious laws. Those so oppressed and harassed by the forces of the world that they were drawn by John’s message of a higher kingdom and the dawn of the age of God’s redemption.

John’s message was to repent because the kingdom of heaven had come near — to change because God’s sovereign rule of heaven was about to be established amid and against the tyranny of earth. And it is intentional that John links the coming of that kingdom with prophets like Isaiah because the Kingdom of God would be distinct from the kingdoms of “men” in its bent towards justice, peace, and love for all people.

In order to understand the Kingdom one has to understand the hope of the prophets: a nation / world where those on the margins were cared for, the stranger welcomed, and justice served for all in accordance with the will of God. Where the proud and powerful were held accountable for their dealings and leaders chided for their neglect of all those under their care. Where swords were beaten into ploughshares and everyone sat under their own vine. Where people loved neighbors as much as (or more than) they loved themselves. And where God was loved and served in all ways and by all means.

In sum, the change that we should hope to both see and participate in should be that, which is still according to God’s sovereign rule in line with such prophetic hope. And every conversation as to how change should happen should be tempered by the simple maxim offered by the prophet Micah: is it just, loving and kind, and in humble submission to God’s will and not our own?

Posted in Notes

Branches of the Vine

Ala. John 15:1-11.

Most people today seek after personal glory. They live their lives only to say “look at me … see what I’ve done?!” They make a name for themselves, at the expense of others — others who only seem to exist as those to be better than, smarter than, richer than.

Back in the first century, people weren’t much different. Except back then, they built statues of themselves. Not like those we build to memorialize great heroes or figures of the past. Nope. Emperors had statues built while they were living. Like Nero from the days of the early-Church, who had a giant statue made of himself — so big that it was called the “Colossus of Nero”.

Jesus didn’t teach us to seek personal glory but to glorify God. And the way he said to do that was by abiding in him, as a branch does a vine, and bearing fruit for him. The way we did that, he said, was not just to abide in him, but to abide in his love, and thus bear fruit of his love. Fruit that Paul would describe in terms not only of love, but of joy, peace and patience; kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness; and that which is self-controlled, rather than self promoting.

Today rather than be self-promoting we should be Christ-promoting. Rather than living a life that says “look at me … see what I’ve done?!”, we should live a life that says “look at Jesus and see what he’s done!” We are to see our lives as branches of the vine — i.e. extensions of Christ’s love and mercy.

Thus, we should be humble as he is, gracious as he is, kind as he is, selfless as he is. And though only a handful of people may notice, or only God himself, such is the greater reward. As great composers like Bach and Handel said of their masterwork, “Sola Deo Gloria!” Glory be to God, and God alone. So may it be with our lives as well.

Posted in Notes

Doing as Jesus Does

ala. John 14:12-15

Following Jesus doesn’t mean acting like a Christian should act. It means acting like Jesus.

There are many who will tell you how a Christian is supposed to behave and what they are to believe, but the Gospel shows us Jesus and sends us out to be his heart, hands and feet.

The Gospel doesn’t show us the politics of a nation, it teaches us to be citizens of the Kingdom.

It teaches us how to love, not hate. It teaches us whom to welcome, not exclude.

It is the Good News for all, not just an elite and privileged few.

More than words on a page, it is the Word Made Flesh.

It is the Way, Truth, and Life that ought to be — that of days to come not days gone by.

It is seeing it done on earth as it is in heaven. It is seeing it done as Jesus did.

Posted in Notes

Leading the Way

“Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” ~Mark 16:6‭-‬7 CEB

Leadership is something commonly questioned. We trust persons to lead but then come to distrust exactly where or to what purposes we are being led. Do they just serve their own purpose, those of influence and power, or do they serve the common good? Do they lead for show or do they lead to show others the way?

The leadership of Jesus’ disciples was under question on the weekend of his crucifixion. Peter had last been seen fleeing from the court yard after having denied that he was a follower of Jesus. None of the disciples were seen at Golgotha but for a handful of women. And it was only those faithful women who went to the tomb on Sunday morning. The history of the church was all but done before it was ever written.

The message that the young man in the tomb had for those women was more than “He is risen.” He also told them that Jesus had gone before them to Galilee. In Greek, the word is used of commanders and thus carries the sense of “leading the advance”. So the message of Easter wasn’t just that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but that he was going before us — that he was leading the advance of new life before us!

Therefore, the question of leadership today is whether or not persons lead for show or to show others the way by showing them the way to which Jesus has already lead the advance. In short, that way is the way in love of justice leading to peace for all. It is the way away from hate, from anger and fear to that of kindness, joy and hope. The way, the truth, and the life to which we should aspire and by which we are being led by Christ himself. May we be those who show others that way.