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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Seeing the Miracle

This week I have begun looking at John 9:1-41, the story of Jesus healing a blind man by making mud and putting it on his eyes. This story begins by a disciple asking who sinned, this man or his parents? Jesus tells the disciples that he was blind so that the power of God could be displayed. After his healing this man is interrogated by the temple leaders and eventually expelled from the temple.

Jesus never does a miracle or healing the same way twice and this time is one of the great examples of Jesus creativity.  He spits in the dirt, makes mud and then tells the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. When he washes in the pool he could see, a miracle, he was blind now he can see. There are interrogations and accusations from the temple establishment. They accused Jesus of breaking the sabbath, and they basically accused the man who was healed of being a liar.

Miracles are not inside our common every day box.  They are by definition a bending or breaking of the natural order of the rules that we would like the world to obey. We want things to be easily controlled and understood in our very limited ways. Miracles break our “natural” order, and they make us incredibly uncomfortable  because we cannot explain them.  We do not experience them often, but they do happen, even today.

So this man is healed by Jesus and the kicked out of the religious establishment because his experience did not fit neatly into the categories that the temple had created.  There were codes for decorum, rules on when things could be done and both Jesus and this man broke these social morays. These hard and fast social rules were destroyed because Jesus knew that these rules were made by humans not for them.

We often meet things that we do not understand with animosity, we do not like leaping head long into the unknown. Miracles are part of that unknown, and often it puts us in a position of uneasiness.  But God uses miracles. He uses the miracles to show us His power on the earth, and those of the receiving end of miracles are often transformed.  People who recipients of miracles often speak of the change that occurred in their lives because of their miraculous salvation, recovery, or transformation.

We question things we don’t understand, that is our natural response.  However, we do not need to discount those who are recipients of miracles because of their often passionate accounts of their experiences.  Passion often has the same effect as miracles, to make us look for a way to explain away what happened.

We have all received a miracle though, through Jesus sacrifice we can all be resurrected and born from above into a new life. How does living into God’s miracle help us see the miracles around us with more clarity? How can the realization that miracles happen help us to know that we are indeed God’s children and that He loves us more than we could ever imagine?

 

To Whom Are You Fully Known?

This week our sermon series focuses on the story of the Woman at the Well found in the Gospel of John. This is an incredible story in the Bible because it breaks nearly all of the social morays of the times. Jesus should not have talked to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman, and a woman who had been divorced six times. Even today being divorced six times would put you on the edges of polite society.

Jesus crosses barriers that no other prophet, preacher, or proselyte would cross.  Think of the person in the world whom you would not talk to for money, and that is the woman at the well. There is literally no person that a 1st century Jew would talk to less than the woman at the well. So that reminds me that to Jesus, this woman was fully known, all humans were fully known to Jesus.

Many of us live our lives in a way that prevents us from being fully known to our fellow human beings. Very few, if any of us, have people in our lives that we allow ourselves to be fully revealed to.  There is too much risk, too much vulnerability being shown to those people to whom we would reveal ourselves.

But there is an interesting fact that God knows us completely and loves us despite those places in our lives that we think are unlovable. The woman at the well was drawing water in the middle of the day, during the hottest, most miserable time of day to avoid the stares and whispers of her village. But, and this is a big but, Jesus loved her exactly where she was, unlovable-ness and sin included.

It is amazing to me that God, THE God who created the world would worry about knowing me fully.  Think about yourself for a second, we all have that place inside of us that we feel no one could ever redeem or love, right? I know I do. But God does not hold that against us, if we ask for forgiveness that sin is no longer in our history with God.

When I think about the phrase “to be fully known” it fills me with apprehension because that means I have to fess up to all the mess in my world. God already knows all of these places, He is all-knowing after all, but He is calling us to live lives that are known to others. It is the toughest thing in the world for us to be real, we live so much of our lives trying to avoid the deep and troublesome things in the world and our lives. But God is calling us to live lives that are available and real to others. How can you and I do that this week?

 

What is at the core of the human race?

This week’s post in Fearless: The Courage to Question talks about human nature. The topic is birth and the story of Jesus and Nicodemus and their conversation in John 3. So I am going to go all dime store philosophy on you this week. The title of the post is “What is at the core of the human race?”

Now philosophers, and I am greatly generalizing here, fall into basically two camps. Humans are either inherently good or inherently evil.  Now I am not really going to argue the pro’s and con’s of these two position, I am woefully unqualified for that. But I will tell you what I believe through the lens of my faith and my understanding of faith.

Now I believe that we were created in the image of God, and that means if we affirm an all good (God is Love) God then we are inherently good.  But as the saying goes “we are only human,” this meaning that our basic goodness is corrupted.  Now this corruption is not necessarily evil or malevolent, more commonly our corruption is apathy to the world around us.

I believe that we are all struggling, moving on towards perfection as John Wesley phrased it. Now we fail, and fail miserably a good portion of the time, especially myself.  But I think that we all truly want to be better people and better followers of Christ.  The things that wants us to believe that we are inherently evil and therefore should not spend our energies on benevolence is the great tempter.

Uh Oh! I said it, I said that I believe, truly believe that there is a devil who is working behind the scenes to convince us we can do no good.  If he can’t get us to believe that then he attempts to lull into a sense of complacency. The question is how do we work towards something greater? It is a daily struggle to truly do good in the world around us, and I am always working towards what that looks like for me.

So this week I have a challenge and that is to try to see where and how we can truly do good in the world around us. God has created in His good image, how do we show that we are His children and love the world around us.  It is hard and things will trip us up, but the striving toward something is what actually fosters transformation in ourselves.

 

Resisting Temptation

This week marks the beginning of our Lent series called “Fearless: The Courage to Question,” and the question before our lessons this week is “What is the best way to resist temptation?” This is an incredible question for me to ponder because it is not something I have sat and spent time thinking about. I see temptation all around, but I haven’t stepped back and thought about the best ways to avoid it.

Temptation is something that we all have to deal with, the thing that is unique about temptation is that each of us is tempted in unique ways. Some are tempted by food, some by the flesh, and still others by things unknown to you or I. Often when I think of temptation I also think of those who succumb to addiction, those who are battling drug or alcohol addiction.

There are things in our lives that are so seductive to our minds that we have to fight with every fiber of our being.  There are things unique to each of us that take our full and undivided attention to truly resist. How we deal with our temptations speaks a lot to who we truly are in the most basic sense. If we are all honest with ourselves we will see that we are all more alike than we often like to admit. There is a very fine line between healthy equilibrium and addiction, and how we recognize and/or deal with those distinctions the speak to our character.

Being in ministry I hear so many stories of people that begin with right motives only later to fall, usually in spectacular ways.  From Pastors to Youth Ministers I see stories of these incredible lapses of judgment and I often wonder how this happens. How can someone who dedicates their lives to Christ end up being in such un-Christlike circumstances. I think the most basic thing is this, we often begin with blurring a line once or twice until we have eventually decimated the boundaries we have set for ourselves.

Temptation for many is a failure of or an ignoring of boundaries. How can we define our boundaries so that we can resist temptation when it comes? How do we make sure that the main thing stays the main thing in our lives, and not succumb to the seductive other side of our lives?

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

United

So I recently met with another Youth Pastor friend for lunch to look at planning some cooperative events and thought about something that kind of stopped me in my tracks. Now I have been a Methodist for a long time, most of my formative experiences of faith came through the church or its ministries.

The name of our church is interesting because we have the word “United” in the title of our churches.  We are local and unique expressions of a national and international church, yet how do most United Methodists participate in ministry.  With very few exceptions we do not actively participate as a “United” church, we all fly the flag and seem to combine under one umbrella, but we often are as divided as churches on different ends of the spectrum.

I do not think that this is truly on purpose, but we do not make as concerted an effort at unification.  It is interesting to me to see the over arching de-unification of our society over politics, religion, and any number of other million issues.  Now each church (read local congregation) has significant differences from any other congregation, but how do we truly state our similarities. Our culture has become obsessed with dividing ourselves, just look at the hyper-partisan tone of politics and the political “dialogue” (of which I believe there is none.)

I was recently reading a book on vegetable gardening on my e-reader and there was a discussion about the “Victory Gardens” planted during World War II, and it struck as how unifying just something that small would be for a community. How much more do we have something to rally around in the church, in the cause of Christ than any political party or vegetable garden.

Now I realize that unification takes much more than empty words on some website, it takes the gritty, difficulty, and often trying times in cooperative ministry with others. I know that our ways of measuring health and growth in the church do not really cooperate with this vision and idea of ministry with our accounting focused on numbers both in money and attendance. But I would much rather measure my ministry not by strict numbers, but in the lives that truly become transformed by God’s presence in their lives.

How can we truly live united lives not just with our denomination, or with fellow Christians, but in learning to truly giving ourselves to our neighbors and partners in Christ’s work. How do we practice the truly “dying to oneself” that Paul talks about. How do we not just live or live well, but truly live sacrificially with our neighbors (read other humans.) It is time that our unification as followers in Christ can speak not just to each other, but to the world. As the old song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love…”