Where Expectation and the Incomprehensible Meet

Sharing God's Vision Poster 2
One Easter Sunday morning, a Sunday School teacher gave a kindergarten girl an Easter egg. The little girl opened her bright, pastel-colored egg to find a slip of paper. Being that she just started reading, the little girl struggled to read her newly found message. She read, “He is . . . a raisin?” It doesn’t make much sense for Jesus on the third day to have become a raisin. Becoming a raisin is illogical; however proclaiming that he is risen, is simply incomprehensible. The Easter proclamation that Christ is Risen stands in the tension between perception and reality, between form and content, between the way things are and The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Easter is where expectation meets the incomprehensible. The women came to the tomb expecting the stillness and quiet of death, but in reality the earth shook, the stone rolled, and the heavenly spoke—“He is not here. He has been raised!” The soldiers were expecting something to happen as well. They knew that Jesus said he would be raised on the third day, so they rolled a stone in place and left guards. I’ve heard Easter sermons that said the guards were there to keep the disciples from stealing the body and claiming that Jesus was raised. I think that Rome knew well that Jesus would be raised, and if they could just keep the door sealed no one would know and they could keep their earthly power. When we try to hinder God all we end up doing is guarding nothingness. The guards that Sunday morning were guarding an empty tomb. Listen to the words of the angel, “He has been raised.” That what sin is, it’s the guarding of nothingness. It’s pointless and never fruitful. Roll the stone away, leave death behind, and go live. Easter is where expectation meets the incomprehensible.
empty tombWhen expectation meets the incomprehensible it leaves us with fear and great joy. Resurrection has changed everything. So what does that mean? What does that mean for me—for us—for the church? Easter means to the individual that death is no longer the end of your story. How much of my life is based on the assumption that death is the end. When death is the end then I hang on to my wealth and I try to have the biggest house and the fastest car. When death is the end I can bury my secrets and faults and failures away so that when I die, they too will die. Death is not the end of the story, which means there is redemption. Death is not the end of the story, which means there is forgiveness. Death is not the end of the story, which means your value is not based upon what someone pays you. You are more than the stuff we fill our life with. Easter means that we don’t have to wait until we are dead to experience the Kingdom of God. Easter is where expectation meets the incomprehensible, which leaves us with fear and great joy. You see, I can live with reckless abandon, but what happens when my neighbor starts living with reckless abandon?

Sharing God's Vision Poster 1What does Easter mean for us? How do we share the Easter experience? I am happy to announce that The Well is one of three churches across the state to have been selected by The United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana for a study on strategic planning. We will be putting together a strategic planning team to pray, think, discuss, discern, study, and pray some more about where God is calling us and to what ministry God is preparing for us. We will be working with Dr. Debbie Davis who teaches strategic planning at LSU. The working title of the project is “Sharing God’s Vision 20/20.” What will the church look like in six years? Will we have a new center for children’s ministry that families will drive for miles to participate in? We sent a team to Honduras, but where else is God calling us? In six years maybe the church has changed the face of Ponchatoula and Hammond because of radical and compassionate mission. Maybe there will be no homeless in six years. Maybe every child six years from now will graduate high school. Maybe six years from now your grandchildren will be going on their first mission trip? Maybe in 20/20 you might say, “After spending time in the prayer path I’ve decided to go into ministry.” Maybe six years from now someone says, “I’d like to get married in the new sanctuary.” Jesus is alive. Christ is Risen! All things are possible! It might be difficult to see. Funny thing about Resurrection is that no one saw it happen. Easter is not so much about witnessing the Resurrection, but witnessing to the Resurrection. The mission and ministry and worship and fellowship is all pointing to what Resurrection looks like. It looks like life. It looks like all being welcome. It looks like all things being possible.

Easter is where expectation meets the incomprehensible, which leaves us with fear and great joy. Cha. The women ran from the tomb in fear and great joy. Jesus just walked out of the tomb, what does that mean? It changes everything, and even good change brings with it some fear and trepidation. Jesus knows us so well. We he saw the women he said to them, “Do not be afraid.” Easter is where expectation meets the incomprehensible, leaving us with fear and great joy. And when we meet the Risen Lord, he takes away our fear leaving us only with Joy. Easter is where expectation meets the incomprehensible, leaving us with fear and great joy, which is why the Risen Lord says, “Do not be afraid,” so that all which remains is great joy. Today may you be filled with great joy. Christ is Risen. Christ is Risen indeed. Amen.

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With Fear and Great Joy

holyweekIt is a holy week, but truth be told God has reconciled all things through Christ, meaning that every week has the potential to be set apart for meditation, prayer, fasting, and reflection. Don’t let Easter simply be a deadline upon which you can again eat chocolate, stop praying early in the morning, and discontinue giving extra to the church.

Easter is not the finish line; rather it is a place of origin. Lent has been a time to put to bed the things which separate us from God and from each other, a time to dismantle the wall we so desire to build around our hearts. Easter is the day the wall comes “a-tumblin’ down,” to reveal a level place of opportunity for the kingdom of God to come into fruition. Easter is the confirmation that all things are possible, including compassionate and adaptive change.

And that’s when Easter can be scary . . . The Gospel of Mark records that the women ran from the tomb with fear and great joy (Mark 16:8). There was joy that Jesus is alive, and yet there was fear because of the great question mark his resurrection placed on everything we thought we knew.

What do you think you know of the world? Have you discerned all the eye can see and all the ear can hear? Maybe you have forgotten the rule-bending power of God to supplant the human, and therefore limited, vision of reality.

Soon the tomb will be empty. Soon everything changes. Praise be to God

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Jesus’ Rock Song

Cloak in the road

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Jesus has entered into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey announcing his messiahship in the heart of where God’s people are gathered. The crowd is shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Depending on which Gospel you read, the crowd is either waving palms or spreading out their cloaks; either way it is a symbol of the crowd’s desire to make Jesus king. The Pharisees speak out in disgust, and Rome stands watchfully silent. The revolution is beginning! It sounds too good to be true . . . because it is.

Palm Sunday (or “Cloak in the Road” Sunday as the palms are never mentioned in the Gospel of Luke) is a story heavy with tragic and painfully self-reflecting irony. The crowd is shouting, “Blessed is the king,” and the Pharisees reply, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” Jesus answers, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” These shouting rocks, or as I like to call it, “Jesus’ first rock song,” is a prophetic slam toward the Pharisees, remembering Habakkuk 2:9-11, which reads,

“Alas for you who get evil gain for your houses, setting your nest on high to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many people; you have forfeited your life. The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.”

These singing rocks (I like to think of them as Jesus’ first rock song) on the last Sunday in Lent also remind us of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness on the first Sunday in Lent. The devil says, “I know you must be hungry. Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus replied, “These stones aren’t meant for my nourishment, they are meant to sing praises to God. Humanity does not live by bread alone.” Then the devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and said, “If you bow down and worship me, I will give all of this to you.” When Jesus was looking at all of the kingdoms of the world he heard the crowd cheering, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” After resisting a second temptation, the devil brings Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple saying, “Throw yourself down for God will raise you up on eagle’s wings and bare you on the breath of dawn.” Jesus replied, “It is not I who will be leaving the temple because, if we’re done here, I’m headed to the temple to drive out the money changers and the thieves who have turned my father’s house into nothing more than a department store.” So, the devil left for an opportune moment.
chocolate-bunnies_13956605661Have you ever woken up on Easter Sunday morning to that huge, chocolate bunny in your basket? You unwrap the paper and bite into the ears and discover that 95% of the bunny is actually air. Cloak in the Road Sunday is like that bunny in the sense that 95% of what the crowd is saying is nothing but air. They shout, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Have you ever wondered why the crowd was singing Jesus’ praises one day and then shouting “Crucify him” just days later? Jesus did not fit their definition of Messiah. Jesus did no deliver on the promises they thought he should have kept. Instead of allowing Jesus to be the definition of Messiah, they wanted Jesus to fit their definition. Jesus was supposed to be king and kick Rome out and establish the theocratic kingdom of old. Instead he got arrested and beaten and mocked. So the crowd turned, and if we are being honest, we do to. Sometimes we get angry with God when our prayers are left unanswered, even if our prayers are selfish. We question whether God is even there when our desires are unmet, even if those desires are misguided. Instead of saying, “Here I am Lord, send me.” We say, “Come to me, Lord, because I like where I am.”
Jesus before PilatePalm Sunday is a reminder of Jesus’ temptation, it is a mirror showing us the tragic reflection of human brokenness, and it is all the evidence that Pilate needs in order to sentence Jesus to death. Jesus stands before the crowd and Pilate cannot find anything wrong with him . . . Don’t for a moment think that Pilate is innocent. He’s a politician, and politicians are not so easily swayed by a crowd. Jesus is Pilate’s political puppet. The crowd brings Jesus to Pilate saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is Messiah, a King.” Pilate says to Jesus, “Are you a king?” Jesus says, “You say so.” Pilate answers, “I find nothing against him.” The charge that Jesus is perverting the nation is not enough for Pilate. The charge of insurrection against the government is not enough. Pilate is going for the throat. In the Gospel of John Pilate says over and over again that he finds no charge against Jesus, and the crowd is whipped into a frenzy shouting “Crucify him!” Pilate says, “Shall I crucify your king?” The crowd shouts, “We have no king but Caesar,” to which Pilate answers, “Thank you. That’s what I was looking for. I can’t wait to tell Caesar that on a high holy Jewish day I convinced the Jewish religious elite to denounce their faith and claim that Caesar is their king. Take Jesus away and crucify him. He has served my purpose.”
Who Cover artThe bridge of “Bargain,” by The Who says, “I sit looking round, I look at my face in the mirror. I know I’m worth nothing without you.” So far this sounds like devotion. “In life, one and one don’t make two, one and one make one.” Even better, but then it goes on to say, “I’m looking for that free ride to me, I’m looking for you.” And that’s what the crowd was really shouting on that day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem—“We are looking for the easy road to ourselves.” The good news is that Jesus knows this about us, and died for us anyway. Jesus knows and still chooses to love us. Yes, Jesus is our judge, but the good news is that Jesus is also the one who died for us while we were yet sinners, proving God’s love for us. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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When ‘Our Father’ becomes ‘My God’

suffering 1
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus’ words from the cross rattle our bones and shake our soul by turning our Godly assumptions inside out. Is it that God is abandoning his son, his only beloved son? Is the burden of the world’s sin so great that a holy God must avert divine eyes? Is our Lord and Messiah, the one who fed thousands, walked upon the water, and healed the sick, calmly reciting the 22nd Psalm reminding us that even in the midst of despair God is to be praised? Did Jesus offer these words because he knew that we, too, feel as if God has forsaken us when prayers are answered with silence and “the good life” is anything but? It is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of answers to Jesus’ disturbing question. Over the last two thousand years any theologian worth the title has offered meaning to Jesus’ desperate cry, so this morning I would like to offer a single thought, which is this: God completely empties himself so that he might assume those whom he desires to redeem. To put it another way—God becomes godforsaken so that the godforsaken will have life.
Jesus CrossFor Jesus to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is to reveal that God’s heart within the Trinity is breaking. God, himself, is experiencing death. This is the moment in which the “Our Father” becomes “My God.” Throughout the Gospels, when Jesus prays, he prays to his Father. Now, his prayer becomes “My God.” It is both personal and newly distant. His prayer now becomes “My God” because the divine essence within Jesus is dying with his humanity. Stanley Hauerwas puts it this way: “Christ [dies] on our behalf and in our place. Hear these words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and know that the Son of God has taken our place, become for us the abandonment our sin produces, so that we may live confident that the world has been redeemed by this cross.”
It is no accident that Jesus prays in the words of the 22nd Psalm. Praying the psalms offers our life form. The Psalms invite us to praise, to sing, to cry out in anger, and to lament. Although Christ dies in our stead, Jesus’ cry from the Psalms gathers those whom God loves together into one body, again as Hauerwas writes, “The life of Jesus has been the perfect prayer the Psalms are meant to form.”
Jesus Cross 2In this moment, the “Our Father” becomes “My God.” In this moment God is self-emptying and becoming godforsaken so that we who are far away will be drawn into communion with the divine. In this moment, our assumptions that faith offers “the good and prosperous life” are shattered. In this moment, Jesus cries through the Psalms, offering our life to be conformed to his, the one who “Emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross,” so that we might also be united in his Resurrection.
I pray that you remember, believe, and trust in God’s self-emptying love, so that you can go into the broken places of the world and proclaim a life of Resurrection which can be shared today and forever; a life with no fear because Christ has conquered death. God abandoned himself, so that we, and the whole of creation, would never be. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

Jesus WhoClick here to listen to the sermon: 


Michelle stopped me in the hallway following Sunday morning worship. Massaging her temples through a grimaced face said enough, though she whimpered a whisper— “Rev Rawle, I’ve been having migraines. The medicine isn’t helping. Nothing is working. Can you pray for me?” Now in seminary we were taught that “Take up your mat and walk” is a dangerous prayer to utter. It is risky, and unashamedly bold, but I thought, “What the Hell.” I held her face in my hands and I prayed, “May the Holy Spirit heal you of these debilitating migraines. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Almost immediately her face unfolded, as it were. One eye opened, and then the next. Her jaw, which had been clinched for longer than she could remember, slacked, and she said, “What did you do?” Her pain was gone. We both parted ways knowing that something very special had happened. Two weeks later I went to visit Mrs. Williams in the hospital. She had fallen and had hip surgery. After spending a few minutes with her I boldly and confidently prayed, “Mrs. Williams, I pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you so that you will get out of bed and walk down the church aisle once again to your pew.” Later that afternoon I received a phone call from the hospital that Mrs. Williams had passed away.

healingJesus’ healings in the Gospel story can be complicated. He hears that Lazarus is near death, but instead of running to Bethany, Jesus waits two days. A lame man is carried by four friends and Jesus says to him, “Your sins are forgiven,” to which the Pharisees reply, “Only God can forgive sin.” Defiantly, Jesus answers, “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Take up your mat and walk?’” So the man took up his mat and walked away. A woman touches his cloak and Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well,” and sometimes Jesus’ healings seem to have nothing to do with the faith of the sick. Conceivably there are some whom Jesus either couldn’t or wouldn’t or simply didn’t heal. Maybe it’s the case that healing is something more than the body can show.

1As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

falseWhat does healing accomplish? First, Jesus’ healing destroys false assumptions. They ask whose sin caused the man’s blindness, and Jesus replies, “No ones.” Sometimes illness carries an undeserved stigma, that illness is a consequence of divine discontent and disfavor, or that sleeping in the bed one has made is the best medicine. This doesn’t mean that God is uncaring or to each his own or telling kids “Don’t smoke” is a bad thing; however I am not convinced that guilt and shame ever bring healing.

6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ 9Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ 10But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 11He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ 12They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ The Pharisees Investigate the Healing 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ 16Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight.

Secondly, Jesus’ healing restores dignity and identity. Notice how the blind man’s identity is beginning to change. In verse 13 the man is “the man formerly been blind.” Now in verse 18 he is “the man who had received his sight.” Yes, Jesus healed his eyes, but he is also healing the eyes of those around the man. But here is an interesting thing. Throughout this story the man who regains his sight begins to grow in his understanding of Christ, while the Pharisees become increasingly blind. In a way this is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40, which reads that every valley will be lifted up and every mountain made low. Those who have been oppressed are being filled with a deep and abiding presence and understanding of Christ while the oppressors are becoming increasingly more shallow and blind.

19and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ 20His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ 25He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ 26They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 27He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ 28Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ 30The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ 34They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.

God with usThe third thing Jesus’ healing accomplishes is the absolving of fear. Keep in mind that anyone claiming Jesus is the messiah will be put out of the synagogue. Nevertheless this man stands up to the Pharisees and questions them about their faith—“Here is an astonishing thing.” The man’s eyes have been filled with truth, and when truth grabs a hold of you, fear has not place from which to hang. I’m jumping the gun here a bit, but when our story ends in life, and not death, there is nothing to fear.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 36He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ 37Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ 38He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. 39Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.

Lastly Jesus heals our faith, Jesus mends our trust in the promise of God. Healing is not making God out to be a vending machine, where God becomes our servant and we will worship only if we like the outcome. A relationship with Christ destroys our false assumptions, restores our dignity and identity, dissolves our fear, and fills us with abundant life. It is true that one day our bodies will fail. God’s promise was never to keep us from suffering or death, but dare I say that what God offers is more important. I’m not sure what the Who intended, but the ending of “Go to the Mirror,” speaks volumes to me about our relationship with Christ . . .

Listening to you, I get the music Gazing at you, I get the heat

Following you, I climb the mountain I get excitement at your feet

Right behind you, I see the millions On you, I see the glory

From you, I get the opinions From you, I get the story

May you be filled with the story of truth and abundant life.   Amen.

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Pastoral Prayer, Lent 5 A

taizeGracious God, you who created light so that we might see your grace, open our eyes to see how you are carefully and constantly weaving blessings throughout our life. Put upon our heart to respond to brokenness with healing.

Holy Father, Father of Christ who opened the eyes of the blind, made the lame to walk, and the dead to walk again, strengthen the spirit of Christ living within us, so that through humility, patience, grace, and love, we may find your abundant, kingdom-building life.

Sovereign Lord, God of all by the power of the Holy Spirit, you alone can bring into order our
 wills and affections: Grant your people grace to
 love what you command and desire what you promise; that,
 among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts
 may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found;
 through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with 
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, as we continue to pray saying:

Our Father, who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

 Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

 For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

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Leadership to Silos

costOne of my dear friends once said, “The cost of discipleship is great. The cost of not following is even greater.” Jesus must have had an amazing charisma. Scripture says he looked at the fishermen James and John and they dropped their nets and followed. Jesus passed by Matthew’s tax booth and Matthew got up and followed. Some argue that they knew who Jesus was and they were waiting for the privilege of walking with him. Others have said that being chosen by a Rabbi was a way out a menial life. Regardless, it sounds almost too easy.

The United Methodist Church is investing a great deal into pastoral leadership and finding clergy with an entrepreneurial spirit, but I wonder if the equation is missing something.  Yes, leadership is certainly important, make no mistake.  The church would benefit from clergy with a fearless vision and a reckless abandon for the world-changing Gospel, but the more I hear the word, “Leadership” tossed around the room, what I seem to be hearing is “Radical Clergy Independence.”  In other words, and take it for what you will, what’s missing in the leadership equation is the art of following; rather it is the recognition of my connectedness within a larger system.

To put it another way, I am the father of three beautiful daughters.  I want my daughters to be leaders in the world, to have an independent spirit, to express cognitive creativity, to change the establishment . . . except I want them to have all of these characteristics when they no longer live under their parent’s roof.  I want them to criticize the establishment, but not the establishment I have created.  I want them to be a part of a movement against institution, but the institution needs a tidy room and completed homework.  I AM THE LEADER . . . and that’s where I’m missing the mark.

There were others, you know. There were those who didn’t follow. Some had things they had to do (Luke 9:57-62). Others felt the mission was too much (Mark 10:22). Some were offended at the strangeness of Jesus’ message (John 6:66).

followWe are all following something. We seem hardwired to follow. We follow social norms like the car pool diagram, traffic laws, and lining up in a single-file line at the movie theater ticket window. We tend to follow a pattern of preference like cup or cone at the ice cream counter or whether your favorite color shirt is blue or green. Our actions are profoundly dictated by desire, whether your passion is a desire to do good, become wealthy, maintain influence, all of the above, or none.

Desire is the catalyst for satisfying a perceived emptiness, like eating to fill an empty belly or playing candy crush to fill time during commercial breaks or seeking companionship to meet loneliness or finding a good book for a hungry imagination.

paradoxBut therein lies a paradox of sorts. Following Christ is never complete or finished, yet it satisfies a hungering soul. Discipleship is a satiating emptiness, a satisfying selflessness, a self-emptying fullness. It is a self emptying which leaves you spent in the best way. True, it doesn’t make the most sense on paper, but it is why they dropped their nets and put the tax papers away. Discipleship must be experienced.

silosI wonder if what’s missing in the leadership equation is the art of following, the art of allowing the heart of the Trinity to direct our vision, not demographic statistics or the market or the next big sexy international mission destination.  The Trinity is a self-emptying fulness in which each person of the Trinity empties into the next.  Empty and full at the same time.  How might Father, Son, and Spirit keep us from teaching leadership to silos?

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Jesus Who? Won’t Get Fooled Again

Jesus Who

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Jesus Who–I’m Free

Jesus WhoThe Lenten season prepares us for  . . .

The acceptance of the freedom to be who God is calling us to be

The acceptance of the freedom from what the world is telling us to be

The acceptance of the freedom to be in ministry with “the other.”

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Lenten Catalyst

 

pop-quizOn Monday evening we had our first Confirmation session of 2014, and I am so very excited about what we will be learning, and how we will be growing in faith together.  Here are some of the questions we answered during our time together.  Let’s see how you do:

1. The first creation story (Genesis 1) teaches us that God is ____________.

2. The second creation story (Genesis 2) reveals that God is ____________.

3. Sin means ____________.

4. The three rules of Methodism are: _______________________________.

5. Redemption means: __________________________________________.

6. God offers us grace in three distinct ways, which are: ________________.

So, how did you answer these questions?  Do you need a refresher course?  No worries if you do.  The season of Lent is a time of preparation.  It is the blessed tedious work of washing and peeling produce, measuring and sifting flour, washing and drying the serving dishes, chopping and dicing, preheating and pounding . . . all so that the soul is ready to savor the Easter feast.

baptism 2It is true that what Christ accomplished through the cross and empty tomb is done for our behalf, but this Justifying Grace of God is not a commodity for consumption; rather it is the catalyst for a Kingdom in which the last are first, the poor are blessed, the lilies are considered, and the enemy is loved.  It is the spark igniting a counterintuitive community who shares their blessings and burdens, heart bursts and sorrows.  It is the epiphany that Christ loves you and the person you can’t stand . . . and if you’re not ready for the difficult truth of love, it’s ok . . . that’s why we have time to prepare.  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” (Psalm 51) as we together prepare our hearts for the Easter feast.

Oh, and I almost forgot the answers to our quiz.  Genesis 1 reveals God’s creative power to bring order from chaos.  Genesis 2 reminds us that God loves us enough to get the divine hands dirty.  Sin means to “miss the mark,” because firing arrows into the wrong direction is meaningless and people get hurt.  The three rules of Methodism are: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God (or Shalom as Carson put it).  Redemption means to “buy back,” as in “Christ took our sin and offers us grace in return.”  Grace is understood as Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying, or Grace is a “Peanut butter and Jelly Sandwich from God” as our Confirmation class remembered it.

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