Thursday, February 14, 2013
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.
And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
Do You See Even Me?
Don't we all have moments like this? When we feel the flush of embarrassment creep up our necks and realize, we have done it again. We have become caught up in ourselves and missed the main point. The rush of shame and disappointment floods over us and we look for a way out. Out of trouble, out of sight, out of the room. So many times I have lost myself in the minutia of life and totally missed the moment God had crafted for me. I have drawn the blinds to keep the glare of the sunset painted across the sky out of my tired eyes. I have pounded God's door for answers to my burning questions while steadfastly refusing to notice the basin and towel in the corner.
Jesus didn't scold his distracted disciples...this time. He simply reached out and touched them: quietly, calmly and earnestly. He knew all authority lay with him and he chose to serve. He even washed the feet of the traitor.
Jesus didn't tap his stick and demand their attention and compliance. He offered truth and love and knelt before them; not with a miracle but with water and understanding. When we offer love and advice how often do we grow weary in doing good because we do not receive the thanks and affirmation we all crave? That was the point of the disciples' argument wasn't it? They wanted to know that they were "in," that they were accepted, that they were special. After all they had left everything. And Jesus, knowing that God affirmed him, affirmed his love for them: without requirement.
In this season of reflection, ask yourself if you are seeking affirmation. When you come to the eucharistic table this weekend, pray that God will assure you of God's joyful and complete affirmation of you. Pray that those areas in your life where you feel yourself competing for God attention will be transformed into areas of deep and humble service. Pray that God would open your eyes to those around you who need to be affirmed without requirement.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Today I want you to hear this story from the perspective of someone buying a dove in the temple in Jerusalem for the first time.
Let’s call this person Josef.
Josef saved his earnings for years and years to come to Jerusalem to give a sacrifice to God at THE temple in Jerusalem. Yeah he had brought sacrifices to the local synagogue and he knew his Psalms, but Josef, he had never been to the Temple in Jerusalem
Josef came into Jerusalem the night before and was up early on that day to get in line for the perfect dove.
He would have brought his own animal, but his village just to the west of the Sea of Galilee was about 4 days walk to Jerusalem.
And being the good Jew that he was he knew he needed an unblemished sacrifice.
Have you ever tried to keep an animal unblemished during a 4-day journey. It is impossible.
Josef was completing a life’s dream. He had always wanted to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. His great-grandfather had talked about the temple, his brother had seen them temple when trading in Jerusalem and described it to the family.
But, Josef, Josef would be the first of his family to set foot in the temple and the first to hand his sacrifice to the priest of THE temple.
But do you know what happened this morning there was some crazy guy turning over tables and letting the animals free. He wouldn’t even let the folks with their own animals walk to the priest.
And then this guy, they said his name was Jesus, he told Josef, and everyone there that day, that the temple was to be a house of prayer for all people. Did he mean people other than Jews?
He called the priests and the merchants cutthroat brigands.
Josef was just trying to participate in the normal everyday work that happened in the Temple. He wanted to make his family proud and give sacrifice to his God.
But Jesus turned this normal system upside down. Named it as blasphemy and single handedly stopped an action that was stopped by no one.
Josef was crushed, he had worked so long for this moment, he wanted so badly to have the entire temple experience and this guy, Jesus, ruined it.
Eventually, Jesus leaves, but Josef has to get back to his village, he had spent all of his money, and he had nets to mend.
As Josef walks back to his little village he ponders what Jesus was talking about. Why had he stopped all that was going on in the Temple? Some folks had called him the Messiah, was he really the Messiah? What did he mean that the Temple could be a place of prayer for all people?
Jesus did not stop the Temple proceedings just to insult the leaders and demonstrate his authority. He put a pause in the actions of the Temple so that folks like Josef, folks simply following the rules that they had been taught from their parents-parents, would begin to question the work of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Was the Temple to be a place where sacrifices were to be offered in the name of a paying customer or was the Temple to become a place where all people, even non-Jews could pray.
The religion of the day had become an idol rather than a way of coming to know God. What I mean by idol is that the religious act itself had become more important than God. I wonder if the American Christian church knows anything about this? When we come to church are we here to experience the living God or are we here for the idol of United Methodism? Did the Pharisees and the Priests bring idols before God to proclaim freedom and to be blessed by God or did they worship the ritual itself? Was Josef looking to have an encounter with God or was he checking something off of his bucket list.
Like it or not when Josef stepped into the Temple that day he stepped into the dawning of a new era. Anyone in the Temple when Jesus came through the door was part of a world changing event. And when Jesus came in and turned the tables over and spoke as one with complete authority, he came with a purpose. And that purpose was to bring God’s kingdom here on earth. He came to challenge religious establishments to share God’s love rather than perpetuate their form of life. Jesus came to turn the Jewish world and the gentile world upside down. Neither Josef nor anyone else that morning expected that a Jew from Nazareth would proclaim the coming of God’s Kingdom at the Temple that day.
I might be getting ahead of myself, we are only at day 2 of one week that changes the trajectory of the entire world, I hope we can embrace just a little bit the enormity of this story, but this story, the last week of Jesus, completely breaks the mold of reality.
Someone like Josef, knew he was a sinner and knew without a doubt that he needed a sacrifice for God to make his relationship with God complete. And for thousands of years Jews had believed that God required sacrifice. It was written in their laws and in their scriptures. In fact Jesus was there during one of the greatest sacrifice weeks of the year.
And rather than playing as part of the system Jesus totally obliterates this system. He offers himself as a sacrifice to end all sacrifices. When we play religion like the Pharisees and Sadducees did, making people look like us or talk like us to come to God. When we turn away folks because they do not have enough money or know the right lingo then we turn our backs on the gift that Christ gave us. He gave us freedom. We don’t have to look out for our own way of religion; rather we can share free love with others. We don’t have to perpetuate the same old dead church; rather we can participate in a church that is alive and for all people.
As the Messiah, the one given by God to redeem the world, Jesus brings to the forefront of humanity a way of life that is more human than human. He demonstrates that to truly be human we are to put others ahead of ourselves. In order to be fully human we must embrace our brokenness and the brokenness of our neighbors and allow grace to permeate our being.
In our story today, Jesus takes a big piñata stick and breaks down the walls of organized religion. He takes a big megaphone and announces to the entire world that a new day is dawning; the kingdom of God is at hand.
Do we live like we believe this happened? Does this story make a bit of difference in our lives?
What does this say to us about our churches today?
During the silence we took before we read the scripture here are some of the things that happened.
In this info-graphic you see all the things that just happened in the tech-world during the last 60 seconds.
168 million emails sent
695,000 Facebook statuses updated
80,000 Facebook wall posts
In May, the most recent month for which data were collected, Americans spent 53.5 billion total minutes on Facebook — or roughly 101,720 years. As there were 140 million unique visitors to the site that month, the average user spent 382 minutes, or 6.4 hours, browsing Facebook in May.
695000 searches on Google
600+ new Youtube vidoes
320+new Twitter accounts
13000 Iphone Apps downloaded
370,000+minutes voice calls on Skype
Because of sin, because we long to have a restored relationship with God, we grasp for ‘things’ that might fill the longing we have for God. We search the Internet or workout or seek the affections of others; we make our church a sanctuary for us and not for everyone.
And although not all of these things are necessarily bad things in moderation, like the sacrifice in the Temple they will still leave us with deep longing.
When was the last time you sat in total silence? No cell phone, kids, computer, or TV.
When was the last time you interacted with someone from a different socio-economic group? And I don’t mean just handing them a box of food, giving them a gift card, or talking about how spoiled they are because they make some much money. When was the last time you sat down with someone very different than you and talked to them?
For you see Jesus obliterate the status quo for those folks too. In fact earlier in Mark Jesus explains that he came for the sick and downtrodden not for the folks who believed that they have it all together. Today it is the same way Jesus comes for us, the messed up idol worshipers who are in need of transformation. Jesus gives us a way to become truly human, wrapped up in the lives of others who are broken just like we are. And in our brokenness we experience the love of God for all humanity, that one person would give their life for another.
Today Jesus hits us with a very big thought because he does something that even his disciples would have seen as absolutely crazy. He disrupted the proceedings of they Temple and for that he will pay. Why would Jesus mess with the Temple? Why would he stir things up? Because he had something better to offer…Freedom; freedom to look away from our idols and toward each other, freedom to embrace our brokenness and our neighbor, freedom to be part of God’s coming kingdom on earth. What are the idols in your life, the things you are trying make into God? Is it your iphone, sometimes it is for me, or your job, golf, your wealth, or even your church?
Are we willing to let go of our idols and follow Jesus to Freedom? He is here to break down walls and set the captives free, will we get up and walk?
The folks in the Temple were minding their business. They were selling sacrifices to folks who needed forgiveness and helping to perpetuate the religious status quo. They did not think they were doing anything wrong. Are we any different?
 This terminology comes from Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone, (John Knox Press, 2004)
 This terminology comes from Peter Rollins speech at the Brehm Center, entitled, Salvation for Zombies and found here: http://peterrollins.net/?cat=278.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
An amazing litany by Mark Van Steenwyk
We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives.
But lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the earth.
We thank you, O God, for the justice proclaimed by your Son Jesus Christ.
But we remember that our world is mired in oppression and violence.
We thank you, O God, for the liberty that is ours by the Holy Spirit.
But we confess that we are easily enslaved by petty pursuits and consumer comforts.
We thank you, O God, for the peace that you promise in the midst of strife.
But we mourn over the ways in which we’ve failed to live as peacemakers.
Behold! a shopping mall on a hill, peddling baubles of bondage and trinkets that entangle.
Fallen, Fallen is Babylon the Great!
May we, like camelhair-clothed prophets, lead people out of captivity.
Come out of Babylon my people!
The American Dream is a poor substitute for the Reign of God.
Come out of Babylon my people!
Consumption and Credit are cruel masters.
Enter the wilderness in prayer and fasting!
Emerge into a world that no longer sees us as its own.
For we are a peculiar people. A nation of priests.
Behold, a mighty citadel built upon a hill of bones!
Bring every mountain low, raise up every valley.
A citadel that imprisons the poor and fetters the affluent.
Babylon’s sins are piled up to heaven. God remembers its crimes.
Her war machine offers salvation to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some may trust in chariots, but we will trust in the Lord.
The Reign of God is in our midst.
Your salvation is near those who revere you!
We long for a world where righteousness dwells.
Where your justice and peace kiss.
A people of Jubilee, a where your Spirit is poured out on all flesh!
Not a nation of Debt whose desires smother your Spirit.
Our consumption crushes those cast upon the altar of capitalism.
Consume us, O God.
Forgive us for our waywardness, O God!
We confess our complicity. Restore us, O God!
Make your dwelling among us, Emmanuel.
And guide our steps along the path of peace.