Thursday, August 30, 2012

Who's yer daddy?

And into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace be to this household!” And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. But if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10)


The word itself is powerful.  Peace.  Sitting outside as the world wakes up and the birds take up the song from the crickets and the sun comes peeking over the trees in the East (peace) it has a force like a distant church bell, like a velvet hammer kissing a sea of silver, stilling, calming, ripples fading, laying down to a mirror.  Rest.  Harmony.  Everything sweetly secure in its place.


Absence of war.  Freedom from violence.  From strife.  From calamity.  From harm.  From disturbance.  From shame.  From guilt.  From fear.  Tranquility.  Serenity.  These are not peace… these are the signs of peace.  The evidence of residence.  For Peace is not an emotion, a state of being, a feeling or goal.

Peace is a person.

22 And Gideon realized that he was the angel of Yahweh; and Gideon said, “Oh, my lord Yahweh! For now I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face.” 23 And Yahweh said to him, “Peace be with you. Do not fear; you will not die.” 24 And Gideon built there an altar to Yahweh, and he called it “Yahweh is peace.” (Judges 6)
Show us, O Yahweh, your loyal love,

and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak,

because he will speak peace
 to his people,
 even his faithful ones,

but let them not return to folly.
Surely his salvation is near for those who fear him,

that glory may abide in our land.
10 Loyal love and faithfulness will meet one another;

righteousness and peace will kiss.” (Ps 85)
For a child has been born for us;

    a son has been given to us.

And the dominion will be on his shoulder,

    and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9)

Yahweh is Peace!  Jesus is the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.  The bumper sticker is right, the only way to know peace is to be in relationship with God.  The only way to be in relationship with God is through His son!  Therefore, because we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5) 

Yes, we are no longer enemies of God!  Yes, we are no longer under condemnation and wrath for our rebellion!  Yes, we have what you might call a political peace with God.  A cessation of hostilities.  (Not that one could honestly say God has been hostile to us, since His blessings never ceased even while we were enemies!)  Yes, this alone is cause for rejoicing and celebration in the streets but it is so much more than this!  This is such an anemic understanding of Peace.

It fails to understand, there can be no peace without love!  Peace isn’t just the absence of ill will.  Apathy could be the absence of ill will.  Peace is the desire for your good!  It is the desire for good will!  11 For I know the plans that I am planning concerning you,’ declares Yahweh, ‘plans for prosperity and not for harm, to give to you a future and a hope. 12 Then when you call me, and you come and pray to me, then I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, then you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart. 14 And I will let myself be found by you,’ declares Yahweh…” (Jer 29)  13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,

    and on earth peace

    among people with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2)

All of God’s promises to us; all of Jesus’ promises to us; forgiveness; eternal life; a place where he is, in his house; to guide us; to give us the Holy Spirit; come down to this, 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you—not as the world gives, I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14)  Why aren’t we to be troubled?  Why aren’t we to be afraid?  Because all is going positively swimmingly for us?  Because nothing bad can or will happen to us?  Because we are rich, beautiful, young, healthy and successful in all we put our hands to? 

Well, maybe you are.  But for the rest of us, the answer to most of that is, “Nooooo, no, not so much.”  Then why?  How can we be at peace?  How can we be untroubled and unafraid in an increasingly unstable world?  In an environment that seems ever more hostile to us with each passing day?  How if recession becomes depression?  How if those we love have cancer?  How if the hurricane is pressing in on us?  How if war, famine, pestilence, death and anti-christ ride to and fro upon the earth?  How can we have Peace?

32 Behold, an hour is coming—and has come—that you will be scattered each one to his own home, and you will leave me alone. And I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction, but have courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16)

21 At that same time he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to young children. Yes, Father, for this was pleasing before you. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.” (Luke 10)

How?  Because we know who our Father is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jesus' classified ad

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he send out workers into his harvest.” (Luke 10)

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to know when you’ve arrived.  One of the drawbacks of being a finite being bound by time is not knowing the difference between the Mission and the Training.  We dwellers of the valley, on our first trip from birth to death, can only see the hill in front of us.  Jesus, walking with us, having had an angel’s eye view of the whole landscape or rather having designed and built the entire landscape, tries to tell us here what’s on the other side of the hill…

A mountain.

Listen, he is not saying this before choosing the twelve…he’s chosen the twelve.  He’s not saying this before sending out the twelve, he’s sent the twelve and they’ve returned already.  This precedes the sending of the seventy-two (were the twelve counted among them?).  If he wants these disciples to go out into the fields of the world and pray that God sends workers for the harvest, then this isn’t the harvest!  This is the training!

Realizing that we can go back to Luke 9 and see it for what it is: preparation, sorting, training.  Beginning with the sending of the twelve with nothing but the shirts on their backs and the sandals on their feet.  Coming back elated from what must have felt like the mission, the twelve empty-handed, hungry disciples are told to feed five thousand men, their wives, children, uncounted women and servants.  One of the only miracles recorded in all four gospels.  In John 6 we see how Jesus uses even this miracle to winnow down his disciples and to purify the motives of the remaining.  66 For this reason many of his disciples drew back and were not walking with him any longer.” 

But he’s not finished.  He bolsters three with the Transfiguration.  He decries their lack of faith with the demon possessed boy.  He tries to warn them this is not the mountain, by telling them about his trial and execution to come.  He rebukes Peter for thinking about this in worldly terms.  He rebukes them for denominationalism.  He rebukes them for seeking their own glory.  He rebukes them for racism.  Far from letting them become hands of vengeance against Samaritans who reject Jesus, he tells them by another Samaritan well, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. 36 The one who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, in order that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together. 37 For in this instance the saying is true, ‘It is one who sows and another who reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have worked, and you have entered into their work.” (John 4) 

In all these stories he is laying out the guidelines, the job description, the classified ad he is running for the job of “worker.” 
         Wanted: lamb-like child to send among wolves.  Must be wily as serpent, innocent as dove.  Must seek to serve all and be willing to love boss more than family, security, home and life.  May include some martyring.  Will train and supply all tools and meals*. 
         *Meals may include but are not limited to: “food is that I do the will of the one who sent me and complete his work.”

And we the applicants come and ask, “What shall we do that we can accomplish the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the one whom that one sent.” (John 6)  13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, for I am. 14 If then I—your Lord and Teacher—wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that just as I have done for you, you also do. 16 Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you understand these things, you are blessed if you do them.”  34 “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another—just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” (John 13) 

If you believe in the one God sent, rejoice, “rejoice that your names are inscribed in heaven.” (Luke 10)  You are called, you are chosen!  He will never lose you or reject you!  So, “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9)  And if you fail, if no one listens, if no one cares, if it feels like you’re wasting your time or worse, if you succeed, if all listen, if many come, if all is going well remember this:

This could just be the training hill.

Monday, August 27, 2012

i believe in flip-flops

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9)

A man once said to me and I apologize for paraphrasing because my memory is fallible and this is my best recollection of what he said, “I believe (my spine has started hurting whenever someone starts a sentence with those two words) that God sends many men.  To the Jews, he sent Moses.  To the Christians, Jesus.  To the Muslims Mohammed and so on.  And he will continue to send the man he needs at the time he needs.  That’s his way.”

My Nana Frannie used to beat her television with a flip-flop when the Phillies were stinking it up.  Something in me thinks this would have been the only appropriate response to the aforementioned man’s comments too.  If I had heard this philosophy touted on teevee…

But I didn’t.  I heard it in a church.  During a “Bible Study.” 

The Jews might have agreed with the man I met however.  You see, the first century Jews had the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets.  They could read and study how God chose a people, cleansed them, gave them the Law and then set them in a land.  They could then through Judges, the Kings and the Prophets watch a wheel form and a cycle begin.  It goes something like this…

·      Top of the wheel, people cleansed, righteous and following God’s law and maintaining the Temple worship.
·      Decline, sin and temptation creep in, usually in the form of mingling with other nations who had strange customs and gods.
·      Bottom, people are completely given over to other gods, sexual sin and usually human sacrifice.  Temple is completely forgotten or profaned.  God sends foreign power to conquer and/or slaughter Israel.
·      Slight upswing, people cry out… finally.  God sends messiah: a judge, king or prophet to lead and cleanse the people and lead them against their military enemies. 
·      Military and moral victory, idols smashed, sinners repent or are “cut-off” from the land (a euphemism for being nastily disposed of) and Israel is usually safe in its own land again.
·      Return to top of the wheel for a very brief time to do it all over again.

So here the Jews were, Judas Maccabeus’ revolt fresh in their collective memories; occupied by Rome, a foreign power; Herod’s temple, the most palatial temple ever, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  They must have thought a new prophet was due any day.  A new messiah was going to come and save them. 

Well, yes and no.  John came.  He did start cleansing the people but he said some strange things. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt 3) “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3)  23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1)  And the wheel hit a bump.  Not the prophet?  Not the messiah?

Hot on his heels comes Jesus.  Performing signs and wonders, displaying power and authority like no one else in their storied history.  Well, almost no one.  ““Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5)  Strangely, it is the Pharisees and scribes who come so close to figuring it out.  Who can forgive sins but GOD ALONE?  They just draw the wrong conclusion.  The power and authority Jesus displays has been seen before in Israel… every time God displayed His power and authority! 

Peter is the first to admit this out loud.  Days before the Transfiguration, he says to Jesus in front of witnesses; which remember, if he blasphemes, they should condemn and stone him for and calling any man, “God,” definitely classifies as blasphemy; 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16)  The Christ, the anointed one.  Not A messiah but THE Messiah!  The one all the prophets and prophecies point to.  Not another turn on the wheel but the point the wheel was trying to make and the destination to which all history arrived! 

Here at the Transfiguration we see this laid out.  Jesus is revealed!  His true glory blinds the disciples but not before they recognize (How?  By overhearing their talk?) Moses and Elijah with him.  The two greatest prophets in their history.  The two greatest messiahs.  And here, Peter, like the man in the Bible Study, places them on a plain.  Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.”  Three messiahs, three tents, right?  Wrong!  Maybe Moses and Elijah are the two olive trees before the lampstand spoken of by Zechariah…

But Jesus! Is the lamp!  Jesus is the light!  God has made us sons but Jesus is the one the voice in the glory cloud calls, “my Son, my Chosen One”!  Many have died but Jesus’ blood is the only innocent blood!  There have been many messiahs but Jesus only can be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Only Jesus’ death will defeat Death!  Many will ascend to heaven but Jesus only sits on the right hand of the Father Almighty where He is waiting for the last martyr to die in HIS name before He comes in power and judges the Earth.  There have been, are and will be many kings and rulers but Jesus only will rule afterward for all eternity.  There have been many who wished to be worshiped but Jesus only is worthy!  All who came before pointed to Him and all we who come afterward point back to Him.  We do not pray facing East, we pray facing Christ!  We do not decide for ourselves What we believe, we decide Who we are to believe.  I choose God!  I choose Christ!

I might have beaten the blasphemer in “Bible Study” with my flip-flop but Jesus restrained me.  The only one the voice in the cloud said to listen to said, “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal(…)And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”  So I guess my flip-flops got in the last word after all.  I just hope the man heeds them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Johnny Thunder

12 There is a way that seems right to a man,

    but its end is the way to death.” (Prov 14)

John boy.  I am told John bar-Zebedee is possibly the youngest of the disciples.  He is nearly always referred to in a relationship:  “Sons of Zebedee,” “the brother of James,” as a child would.  He’s not old enough to have a reputation of his own yet.  But he’s eager to make one.  Is this initially what draws him to the excitement of following fringe rabbis?  It’s possible he first followed John the Baptist with Andy.  Then when John directs them to the Lamb of God, he upgrades.  Is it this desire for reputation, desire for greatness that leads this small town fisherman’s kid to Jesus?  Teenagers don’t walk through life, if they move at all, they run.  Odd isn’t it, they with the most time before them move like they have none?  Lace up your running shoes.  Let’s follow Johnny through Luke 9. 

Jesus sends him out with the twelve.
He helps Jesus feeds the five thousand.
He hears Pete confess Jesus is the Christ.
He hears Jesus foretell his death.
He is one of three chosen to see the Transfiguration.
He sees Jesus heal the epileptic.
He and the disciples have their Muhammed Ali moment.
He tells Jesus about them trying to stop a successful, non-disciple demon punter.
Jimbo and he ask Jesus if they can call down fire on a Samaritan village.
Along the way, he sees and hears Jesus give interviews to other disciple applicants.

This possibly sixteen years old young man, I cannot call him a boy for his own people would not unless they were trying to insult him, is one of Jesus’ “inner circle.”  He’s the elite of the elite twelve.  Only Simon, James and John are singled out for many of Jesus’ miracles and praying moments.  Quite the honor considering his age and the stature of the men around him.  Did it go to his head?  Jesus refers to the sons of Zebedee as Boanerges, the Sons of Thunder, Bene reghesh, sons of rage, sons of tumult.  Cool nickname.  If Jesus were a biker, he’d have something like seventy-two bikes in trail, a bevy of biker babes, his twelve immortals and his captains, Rock and the Sons of Thunder.  Let’s ride! 

But Jesus wasn’t a biker.  He wasn’t a son of anarchy.  He was the Son of Man, the Son of God, a shepherd, gently leading this teenager to true greatness.  A teacher who sometimes cried out, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?”

So what was Johnny like?  This inner circle disciple captain.  This one of three men who Jesus allowed closer than any.  Brash?  Brazen?  He and his brother ask to sit on Jesus’ right and left when he comes into his kingdom.  Take that Rock!  Vengeful, power mad?  Calling down fire on a village that denies hospitality to them?  Yeah, I’d say so.  Jealous?  Denominational?  Trying to constantly one up Pete and the others.  Trying to stop a man with a successful ministry in Jesus’ name just “because he does not follow with us.”  Safe bet.  Deaf?  Obstinate?  Jesus tells him over and over what it takes to be greatest in the kingdom.  What kind of kingdom he’s setting up.  What it costs to follow him.  What “drinking his cup and being baptized with his baptism” will mean and he still doesn’t get it.  This is not some outsider atheist.  This is Jesus’ friend!  The “disciple whom Jesus loved”!  But for all his boldness, all his big talk, there’s a timidity, a shyness that might betray his tender age.  He does not try and walk on the water.  He falls uncharacteristically silent when Jesus is angry.  He is the first to the tomb but the second to enter.  He is the first to recognize Jesus from the boat after the resurrection but Pete jumps into the water alone.  Hypocritical, hyper-critical, power-hungry John. 

But Jesus…  43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.  But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it.” (Luke 9)  Then Jesus dies, just as he said he would.  John is possibly the only disciple to see it.  To stand at the foot of the cross.  To see his own dreams shattered, beaten, bloody and nailed, to watch them die, horribly, painfully, oozing out one drop at a time.  There would be no kingdom.  There would be no places of honor.  He wasn’t a captain leading a revolution now.  He was a fugitive in the mop up of an insurgency.  Days later, hiding behind locked doors, a wanted man.  No longer proud.  No longer boastful.  The thunder had faded, the tumult had passed and a new day had dawned. 

But Jesus… rose.  25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14)  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, people don’t get better, they get worse…. But Jesus!  Without grace our whims become desires and our desires, lusts.  Without grace there is no check on our selfishness.  Without grace there is no force in the universe countering entropy.  Grace is the seed.  Grace is the rain.  Grace is the sunlight.  Grace is the plow, sower, the reaper.  Without grace, dust you are and to dust you return.  But Jesus! 

Johnny does die at the cross!  John the Revelator is born!  Three gospels strive to tell us what happened in Jesus’ life.  John’s agonizes over Why!  Three gospels talk of the kingdom.  John’s hunger for the kingdom died at the cross, now he speaks of Life!  Light!  Love!  Three gospels speak of a man who was the Son of God.  John speaks of God who became a man!  The disciple who wanted a place on Jesus’ throne never again refers to himself at all.  Johnny who personified “live fast, die young,” outlives all the apostles and sees heaven personally before it’s over.  John who spoke like thunder and tumult, 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (Luke 9) turns into John who says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  Amen Johnny, amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Faith like mad

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9)

Do you know why Christianity is a lot more popular in third world nations and among oppressed and suffering people?  Neither do I.  I have a guess though.  It goes something like this.

If your life is horrific, if you are helpless, hopeless, bereaved and bereft, Jesus is beautifully attractive.  The promise of eternal life beyond this one to someone whose temporal life promises to be brutish, short and end nastily, enables them to endure to persevere.  To the homeless, the promise of rooms prepared for them warms them in cold nights.  To the hungry, the promise of a meal with their Savior and fruits that bloom every season enrich the dreams of their energy deprived bodies.  To the prisoners and the slaves, he promises freedom.  To the sick and broken, health.  To the lonely, a friend closer than a brother, a lover of their very soul.  To the guilty, the vile, the ashamed, the violated, Christ offers not retribution but redemption! And while it is hard to understand why the terrible things have to happen to you now, beyond even the promise that all the suffering will be worth it, Christ gives you a family, a people who, right here, right now, can bond in fellowship and shared belief, they can support each other and band together for strength, warmth and community!  No wonder they cling to Christ!  They’re already laying down their lives, they have no choice in that, Christ makes it an honor, a glory and a passage to something infinitely better!

Seeing this, it is no wonder Jesus is losing his popularity among Westerners.  It is one thing to for those with nothing to lose to believe, it is quite a bit different for those with everything to lose.  23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” (Mark 10)  Yeah, yeah, I know you don’t think of yourself as rich.  I won’t bore you with the statistics again but trust me, compared to the rest of the world, if you have a house to live in, a car to drive, a cellphone and three meals a day, you are.  If you don’t believe me, look up the price of rice, the standard food for most of the world, and how much of the world cannot afford it.  On second thought, don’t, it’ll make you cry.  But for those of us who work a job, receive a paycheck, drive home, nuke dinner and spend most of the rest of the night flipping channels and dreaming of the one or two weeks of vacation we’ll take this year, laying down our lives, giving up all we own sounds kinda scary and mean.  We don’t mind helping people.  Americans are the most generous givers in the world.  We share our excess with others all the time.  Jesus however doesn’t sound like he’s asking for our surplus.  He sounds like he’s asking for everything!

Now before you go and label me anti-wealth, lemme just say, I’m not.  Neither is God.  Abe, Isaac, Jake, all wealthy and richly rewarded by God.  David and Solomon had wealth out the wa-zoo.  God doesn’t have a beef against rich people…just rich people who think their money is theirs.  I’m told that the word most often translated in the Bible as “wicked,” refers to selfish greed.  God may never ask you to lay down your whole life, but He wants to know if He does ask you to, would you?  Everything we have is a gift, right down to the skin tent in which you currently reside.  Do we love the gift more than the giver?  It’s a real easy trap to get into but to get out of you have to chew off your own leg!

I don’t come to this point flippantly.  I don’t come here without scars.  I’m not preaching at you.  I’m pleading with you.  If God asked for everything…  If God asked for that one thing…  You know the thing.  If God asked for your comfort, your home, your savings, your children, would you give them?  Would you give them cheerfully?  If following God would cost you your livelihood, your spouse, your health, your freedom, could you?  Could your faith survive that strain?  Would His promises be enough? 

Faith is a gift of grace too.  Pray for more so that it would be.  Pray you never have to find out.  Or…

If you dare, if you dare ask to serve deeper, to know Him deeper, to really understand the joy of grace, the freedom no one can chain, the food no drought can touch, the home no fire can burn, the riches no thief can steal, the family, friend, lover no death can kill, from which no sin can separate you, then pray like mad.  Pray like a madman.  You’re gonna need it!  But He’s promised it will all be worth it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No Sleep Till...

10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” (Luke 9)

I get the impression Jesus was a “I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead” kinda guy.  When the time came to begin his ministry it was like he knew a clock was ticking and he had but three short years to do all he meant to do besides all of the unscheduled stuff he would want to do along the way.  He taught and healed until late into the evening often and we’re told he spent a lot of nights and early mornings praying.  He had a goal it would seem: he wanted to come to the end of his life with nothing left to give having given it all away.  To die flush, so to speak. 

It also appears this wasn’t just an ingrained habit with him.  It wasn’t just something he picked up from Joseph in the workshop.  A family trait.  Good breeding.  It was a credo.  A conscious belief in how it should be done which he tried to pass on to his followers.  Take this passage in Luke for instance. 

The disciples, the twelve, were sent out in two man teams to preach, heal and drive out demons from all the nearby towns.  They went on a mission trip.  Exciting!  Exhilarating!  Exhausting!  These are not professional missionaries and from what I’ve read and learned of professional missionaries, the most common killer among them is burnout.  The mission field is taxing!  The point of the spear feels very alone.  They were walking with fear and anxiety in every step and Jesus made sure they would by telling them to take nothing for the journey, in some versions, not even a staff!  They didn’t know where they’d eat.  If they would eat.  Where they would sleep.  If they’d be arrested.  Beaten.  Killed!  You know the feeling you get in your stomach right before you try and tell some stranger about Jesus?  Yeah, extend that over all day, every day for who knows how long and throw in a very real chance they will kill you.  We’re not told how long their mission was but when they came back, you can guess they wanted to regale, rejoice and REST! 

And Jesus is not indifferent.  He wants those things too.  Remember, he loves these knuckleheads.  30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.” (Mark 6)

They get into “the” boat.  This is Mark who I’m told got his story from Peter.  “The” boat is probably Pete’s boat.  This may be confirmed by their destination as told by Luke, Bethsaida.  Pete’s hometown (John 1).  So they get into a boat and Pete sets sail for home.  Where else would you want to go to rest?  When was the last time he had seen his family?  Home and hearth and Mama’s fresh baked bread.  MMMMMmmmmfff, I can almost smell it! 

Alas, it was not to be.  33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6)  Please, please mark, this is not planned!  Jesus didn’t see this coming!  He was sincerely trying to get some rest and alone time for his followers and himself.  He could smell that bread too!  He had a tummy!  But Jesus, when forced to choose between loving his closest companions by giving them rest and loving a crowd by giving them healing and the Word, chooses the latter.  Jesus goes with the greater need! 

Jesus.  Is always.  On.  Mission.

And if the Chief Shepherd is at work, then you can bet your bottom denarius the undershepherds are busy too.  Not just from incidental contact but willfully.  12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” (Luke 9)  The twelve, the dirty dozen, have just come off a mission trip, where they were specifically told to take no provision for the journey, they returned and had no time to eat because of the crowd, they got into a boat, tummies grumbling and plopped out here…to another crowd!  They got nothing!  Jesus, look.  We get the whole, rely on God thing!  Kay?  We saw how people took us in while on the little mission trip.  Kay?  We get it!  But look around!  People, people everywhere but not a crumb to eat!  Kay?  These people can’t feed themselves!  How are we supposed to feed them?

I don’t know if Jesus smiled wryly or was slightly disappointed, but I can picture him either way saying, “What say you?  Where do you think the food on your journeys came from?  Did it come from men or from your Father who sees you and knows what you need?”  Then as if to prove the point, Jesus blesses five loaves and two fish and feeds five thousand men, untold numbers of women and wives, countless children and possible slaves.

Jesus lives at a breakneck pace.  Jesus gives as if there will always be more.  Jesus loves with reckless abandon.  Because Jesus knows whom His Father is!  You cannot exhaust the inexhaustible!  God is infinite!  In-fin-ite!  Without end!  You are finite!  You need rest.  You need to eat.

But Jesus, which is getting to be my favorite phrase, says, 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12) 

Work now, give now, stay on mission!  We’ll sleep when we’re resurrected!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who is this guy?

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?”” (Luke 9)

Poor Herod.  He had a problem.  Y’see, he married his brother’s wife, while his brother was still alive.  I guess that didn’t jive with God’s archaic laws or something.  C’mon, God!  This is the first century!  B.C. is so last year.  Divorce is cool now. 

But it was not cool.  Not with a guy named John.  John was one of those Bible thumping fundamentalist types.  Kind of ran with the “in-your-face,” school of preaching.  A real throwback, black and white, no gray area kind of guy.  For a guy who ate nothing but honey and locusts, he wasn’t very sweet.  Must have been the locusts. 

So Herod locked him up.  Funny thing though.  That didn’t really solve Herod’s problem.  20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.” (Mark 6)  It would seem, like Seinfeld’s Kramer, Herod thinks of John, "He is a loathsome, offensive brute, and yet I can't look away"!  It makes you want to sit in on some of their conversations doesn’t it?

So, during an episode of first century Palestine’s So You Think You Can Dance, Herod gives the winner, his stepdaughter, anything she wants up to half his kingdom as a prize.  She, being the typical teenager of the times, asks for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Hey, ipads weren’t invented yet. He being a good dad, obviously gives the poor little thing what she wants.  No one likes to see a little girl cry and you have to maintain a system of positive reinforcement once you’ve started it.  Consistency is the heart of good parenting.

So now John’s dead and all Herod’s problems are over.  Right?  I mean, sure, he’s lost his debate rival but now he and the kingdom should get some peace.  Nobody likes a fundy, always stirring people up, proponents of high moral standards no one can maintain.  Sticks in the mud.  Ruining other people’s fun.  They just can’t play nice in civilized society, no tolerance, no compromise.  They don’t quite seem to realize people are just doing the best they can and you gotta let God work at His own speed.  We’ll all get there; some are just taking different paths.

Then this Jesus guy came along… And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two,”… “12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.  14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”  You get the feeling, if he had read it, Herod would have understood MacBeth.  Is it guilt?  Out, out damn spot!  Or is it just confusion?  How can there be two of these guys? 

Herod feared John because he knew, KNEW, him to be a righteous and holy man.  Righteous, holy men don’t threaten folk with much more than a stern talking-to.  Why would this scare Herod unless Herod also feared God?  He didn’t fear Him enough to honor Him, no, just enough to be scared of losing what He had if he irked God too greatly.  Herod seemed to believe in a distant God who allowed men their own way and possibly didn’t pay very much attention to men like Herod as long as He didn’t do anything TOO bad to really upset Him.  Like say, kill one of His prophets?  Keep in mind, this is a man whose father was eaten by worms.  He may have not have had a healthy sense of respect for God’s laws but he had possibly seen His wrath!

So here we are.  Amidst a people very content to speak of God and spirituality but only as long as He doesn’t interfere with their own plans.  A people who do not believe in a God of law.  A God of Justice, though they do believe in Mercy, which seems odd, since without Justice, from what or for what is one receiving mercy?  They believe in Love as long as Love puts no limitations on them.  They have taken marriage, the ultimate expression of love: covenantal, life-long, exclusive, sacrificial, fruitful; and exchanged it for romanticism and sex.  They remake God in their own image and God, for the most part seems willing to let them…

But Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t play nice.  Jesus isn’t content with the status quo.  He won’t let those who come to him remake him in their image.  18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”  He’s not just a messenger.  Not a herald.  Not an angry, wrathful god sent to punish the really, really naughty.  He’s not one of many paths.  Not fuzzy-feelgood teddy bear Jesus.  Not Rockstar healer Jesus sent to bring you peace and prosperity.  He is, “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14)

Are you in him?  Is He in you?  Then upon these points we must not quibble.  We cannot water down who he is.  The Truth is the Truth.  The world will not like this.  The world will feel convicted by Jesus.  Where a God can be vague and fuzzy, Jesus is clear, tangible, real and disturbing.  His words are recorded by reliable witnesses.  And they are not comforting words for those who wish to have their own way, their own truth and their own life.  There is no compromise.

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The trails gets sidetracked

Sorry about there being no new posts y'all.  i'm in Buffalo plying the only trade folk are willing to pay me for.  Trading sweat for bread.  Hope to be back on the Trails soon.

Truly thank you for stopping by,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Raison d'ĂȘtre

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” (Luke 9)

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt 10)

Work, war, service, art, ask a thousand people why they do what they do and you will most likely get a thousand different answers.  Boil them down and there at first appear to be three major reasons, three categories to work at something; to fight for something or someone; or to serve; or to fuel the creation process.

The first is the most basic, survival.  You simply will not live unless you do this thing.  Go hunt for food, grow these crops before winter, defeat this army, obey this tyrant or you will die.  Service is compulsory, joyless, a duty.

The second is to work for some reward.  A carrot is offered upon completion of the task.  It may be real or illusory but in the mind of the servant, the worker, the artist, the soldier, it is real enough to strive for.  The work may be toilsome, painful, life-changing or near impossible but if the reward is big enough, it will all be worth it.

The third category would be harder to define but I think we would call it, “Love.”  The artist creates simply for the joy it brings them.  The soldier fights, not for his own survival, not for payment but for his family, his country, his brother standing next to him.  The slave turns down freedom because he or she has adopted the family they serve as their own, they now serve because it is what they want.  The worker works for someone else’s good or betterment.  These instances have a nobility inherent.  These would seem to be humans at their best.

And we could leave it all there.  We could say, Christian, why do you work?  For what do you strive?  Just to live another day?  Is Jesus an insurance policy to you?  Is it reward you desire?  Wealth?  Health?  Happiness?  Perhaps just eternal life?  Christ is a means to an end?  Gotcher ticket to heaven so you’re content?  Or do you have your ticket so now you feel obligated to serve?  Is Jesus a stern king with a rod against your neck?  Or do you love?  Would you serve even if He freed you from service?  Do you obey because you love the Master?  We could leave it there and have a nice, neat little treatise on work.  We could, except I just noticed this stove goes to “eleven.”

Luke only records the sending of the twelve with a short list of what they will not be taking for the journey.  (Would have been a shorter list if it had been what they were taking, “Take only what you’re presently wearing.)  Our buddy Matt however takes the emphasis away from how much we must rely only on God’s provision to Jesus’ prophetic warnings, not just for the immediate twelve but for any who would dare call themselves His disciple.  He wraps it up with this frightening paragraph…

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Jesus does not believe in “Blind Faith.”  He lays it all out ahead of time.  He’s not pulling punches nor does he do a bait and switch.  As far as he’s concerned, God proved He was God in the Exodus.  He prophesied all along Jesus would come.  Jesus came, proved he was the Son of Man and the Son of God with healings, demon punting, dead raising, good news preaching.  And he would soon prove there was a heaven to go to and a resurrection by resurrecting and going to heaven.  He even gives Pete, Jack and Jim a preview of his glory at the Transfiguration.  Jesus has provided a burden of proof.  One which the world denies.  This is the arena of the conflict, where we’re dragged before governors and kings.  Where we’re turned over by our neighbors.  Where we’re hated and scorned and persecuted and even killed for our belief.  The nature of the conflict, the origin of the conflict, one might even say, the heart of the conflict is what we get when we render down our three purposes, our three reasons for work, service, war and art and find only one remaining...


Everything we do is for love.  The question isn’t, “Why do we work?”  The question is, “Whom do we love?”  The hunter desperate for game, loves himself, his own body, maybe his family’s, his honor comes from the reputation as a provider, a good hunter, so he hunts for food.  The soldier loves himself and does not want to die.  He loves life with his friends and does not want them to die.  The servant working for his freedom loves himself and wants the freedom to do what he wishes.  The artist loves the feeling they get from creating, the sense of accomplishment, the rush, the adulation of their peers.  The mother loves her baby, but she also loves being loved and feeling needed and necessary and useful.  One can even serve God for love of self, for the rewards promised, for the benefits.

Jesus knows this.  He also knows this is the origin of conflict.  The devil loved himself over God.  The devil taught Adam and Eve to love themselves instead of God.  The world still loves itself more than God.  Love is the root of all evil.  Love of self.  This is why persecutions will come.  This is why Jesus doesn’t stress earthly rewards.  He is inviting us to something higher, our true selves, our first love, the relationship we were made for!  Love IS the reward!  Put aside all lesser loves and pursue, work for, fight for, create for, serve the one who truly loves you, who gave up everything just to have you!  Jesus.