A New Exodus

What’s your favorite holiday? I still really enjoy Christmas, especially now that grandchildren are in the mix. We have traditions that we hold to every year, some that are sentimental, some that are just silly…some that are both, like Janelle and I and our annual light-hanging on my house. I don’t think I laugh all year as much as I do on that day. Have you ever had something go strange during a holiday celebration? Something that made the whole thing feel awkward?

For the people of Israel, the Passover Meal was and is the central celebration of the Jewish faith. It is a special meal, with special food and special prayers – all of it rich with meaning about the national heritage and covenant they enjoyed with God. In our text this Sunday we’ll be reading Matthew 26:17-30, where Jesus and his disciples share the Passover Celebration together. Jesus, however, veers from the normal traditions and reshapes the celebration to reveal something amazing about his mission!

The Passover meal was instituted during the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt where they had lived as slaves. It commemorated their deliverance from slavery, as well as their protection from judgement, as the angel of death passed over the houses where the blood of the Passover lamb was sprinkled. The exodus of Israel revealed the distinction between the systems of this world (Egypt) and God’s Kingdom. Israel enjoyed a unique relationship with God – a covenant – and those are the things the Passover celebrated.

Jesus chose Passover as the timing of his sacrificial death. What does that tell us about the nature of Jesus’ messianic mission? What is it recreating. What are the parallels, on a worldwide scale, between the first exodus and Jesus’ mission.

Why do you think Jesus cryptically states that one of their own will betray him? Why do you think he didn’t just point him out and condemn him on the spot?

If Christ’s body and his blood, given sacrificially on the cross, is the basis of our unique relationship with God (a new covenant, in Jesus’ words) – what will that relationship look like in light of its basis?

If I were clever, I would have timed this teaching for next week when we celebrate communion…but hopefully we’ll remember what we learn and absorb it, not just for a week from now, but for life.

See you Sunday!

 

Contrasts of the Cross

Image result for cross and shadowsHow many of us have had our lives go exactly as we planned them to go? I would venture to guess very few. I know that my dreams from just a young child were to be a cartoonist or comic book artist. God, of course, had other plans. It’s intriguing to me how often we struggle with the turns that life takes, wondering why God doesn’t change things. We can look at this broken world of wars and crimes and disease and wonder if God really has a plan at all. Then I look at the cross – and I’m reminded that God’s plans don’t always look the way I would assume they should. I remember how much beauty can actually emerge from the depth of suffering. How much hope can be found in the presence of sacrificial love.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Matthew 26:1-16 – entering the final stages of the gospel drama.

The story begins with Jesus giving one of his clearest predictions of his upcoming death so far. He even indicates when it will be taking place. What does that tell us about the nature of Christ’s death? Was it an accident? Was he pushed into a corner where he couldn’t escape? What does his foreknowledge reveal about his mission?

In contrast, look at the religious leaders conspiring to have him murdered. They considered themselves representatives of God; doing God’s work. Look at what morals, values and commands they were willing to throw aside in order to keep their place of political power. What contrast do you see between Jesus’ willingness to die and their schemes? How does our present day, Evangelical church measure up when compared to the cross?

The woman who brings the perfumed oil and pours it on Jesus (weird thing to do…but I’ll explain it a bit on Sunday) is commended by Him. He described it as anointing him for burial, tying this act to His upcoming sacrificial death. If we look at her example, what would we say the cross of Jesus can inspire in our lives? What do you think Jesus meant by indicating her actions would be remembered when the Good News is shared?

What question does Judas ask? How does that contrast with Jesus’ cross and the woman’s sacrificial devotion? If we’re not challenged by this, we’re not thinking it through. The cross exposes something here in Judas. What are our motives for following Jesus? If it cost us everything, would we still be faithful? How can the cross reshape our values and form us into better people?

Hope to see you Sunday! Surf-N-Grill is supposed to be happening – but the weather just doesn’t seem cooperative with our plans (with a nod to my opening paragraph). Let’s hope for some clearer skies!

Risky Mission

Image result for parable of the talentsWhelp – my latest Grandson is in town and he brought his parents, which got me delayed in posting about our teaching this Sunday.

This week we’ll be reading a very familiar parable – the parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25:14-30.

As you read this story, remember that parables aren’t meant to be exact representations of God’s kingdom in all the details. Jesus said it is “like” this sort of thing. The most important element of this story to discern is just what Jesus meant the talents to represent. A talent was a sum of money in Roman currency.  We get our English word “talent” from this parable, interestingly enough. Do you think Jesus is talking about money? Probably not, since money is the metaphor he’s employing. Do you think he’s talking about our skills though? What else do we know that God has entrusted to us, his subjects, to manage while our King isn’t presently seen?

The element of investing the talents is intriguing to me. It carries the implication of risk-taking. What would taking risks with what God has entrusted to us look like in our lives? What would it look like in our churches?

The third steward in this story seemed to speak respectfully to his master. But what do you think his actions actually revealed? Contrast the way the first two stewards interacted with the master and the third stewards assessment of what the master is like. What do you make of that contrast, if anything? Here’s a hint – how did the Pharisees understand God in contrast to Jesus’ revelation of God?

This should be an intriguing story to consider! Hope to see you tomorrow!

Prepared to Wait

Image result for crazy wedding themesDo you like weddings? What is the craziest wedding you’ve ever attended or seen? It seems like every culture has a different approach to weddings and the rituals associated with them. This Sunday, as we continue our study in Matthew, we’ll be reading about the unusual wedding rituals of ancient Palestine as we study chapter 25:1-13.

As you read the parable that Jesus tells, what do you believe the main point is?  How comfortable or uncomfortable are you with discussing the end times? If you knew for sure that Jesus was going to return within the next hour, what would you do differently?

It’s interesting to note that both sets of girls fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. The only time the differences began to show up between them was when the alarm was sounded. One group was prepared, one was not.

In what ways can we see to it that we are prepared for the reveal of Christ as King?

Looking forward to being back! See you on Sunday – and don’t forget Surf-N-Grill is on! Finally!

 

Living Like the World’s Ending (2)

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This Sunday we’ll be continuing our trek through Matthew 24, reading v15-35. Much of what Jesus predicts in this section deals with the upcoming siege of Jerusalem, a prediction that was fulfilled in 70 AD.

As we did last week, we’ll focus on the instructions we receive from Jesus concerning how we respond and live in light of the temporal nature of this world’s systems. As  you read through the passage, pay attention to the places where Jesus gives specific instructions to his disciples and consider how those instructions would apply to our lives in this present world.

I think this week instead of writing a lot of stuff here, I want to share a link to a short  history lesson about the events of 70 AD. It is really important for any student of the gospels and the New Testament to have a working knowledge of those events – and this video are very well done with some excellent visuals.  Hope you find the time to watch it!

Living Like the World’s Ending

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I’ve lived through a lot, and I mean a LOT of predictions that the world is going to end at a specific time. Growing up in an Evangelical home, I was weened on movies like “A Thief in the Night” and songs like “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. As our culture was feeling the effects of a revolutionary upheaval in it’s values and beliefs during the 60’s, many sincere Christians were looking to the Bible for answers as to what it all meant. For many in the Evangelical church, the answer was clear – the end of the age is upon us. This, of course, was nothing new to church history. For 2,000 years as cultures and values changed, as wars and natural catastrophes struck the earth, the church has always (and rightly so, in my view) looked longingly towards heaven and wondered if this is the time that this broken world will finally be redeemed by the King.

 Apocalyptic speculation is sensational stuff. I know during my youth I was always intrigued with scenarios presented about possible timelines and what specific current events could be revealing about when the end would come. It filled me with a lot of emotional sensations – most notably, fear. I wasn’t alone in that. In talking with many of my peers, both then and now, the fear of missing the rapture and facing the Great Tribulation was a driving force behind much of our adolescent spirituality. On more than one occasion as a young boy I found myself alone in the house and assumed the rapture had happened and I’d missed it.  Much of that fear had to do with a works view of salvation which I wasn’t disabused of until many years later – but still, I can safely say that fear was not a sustainable motive for me.

The danger in it all is an obsessive fascination with signs about the end. The problem with this sort of enthrallment with sensationalism is that it tends to spawn a lot of dubious revelations. Some people get very wealthy from that sort of thing. Harold Camping sold a lot of books in 1993, and again in 2010 and yet more in 2011 – and in each he was predicting the time of the rapture for the following year. It didn’t happen, just so you know. In all fairness though, book sales aside, I certainly can’t judge the sincerity of teachers who make claims about the end of the world. I would assume the motive is to stir up a fervor and passion for the appearing of our Lord – and I can’t see that as a bad thing. I can say, however, that it runs contrary to the way Jesus himself talked about these things.

We’ll be starting chapter 24 of Matthew’s gospel this Sunday reading the first 14 verses. Needless to say, this will not be a teaching which tells us when the world will end. What we’ll learn from Jesus is that there is a presupposition of the world’s ending. It’s how we live in the time we have that’s truly important.

v1-3 give us the overall heading of this section. Jesus predicts the end of something – what is it? The disciples ask him when this will happen, and what sign to look for to signal his coming. Do you find that odd? He’s right in front of them – why are they asking about his coming? They didn’t expect him to leave – what were they talking about? The word “coming” in the Greek is “parousia” – the arrival of a king. They are asking when he’ll be revealed as King and bring the present, broken world to it’s conclusion. They don’t realize it, but they are asking two different questions. What then, are the two subjects in view in this section?

Jesus describes things that sound like current events to us and could be alarming – except for what Jesus says in v6. What are these events, in his view?

Instead of giving his disciples a straight forward answer about when these things would happen – what does Jesus say to his disciples as instruction? (hint: v4, v6, v13)

Before things really end, what is happening according to v14? What is our mission then, in light of the end? How does knowing when the end may come have any bearing on what our mission is? Does it change? If not, what does that tell us? If so, how?

See you this Sunday!

Jesus Critiques the Leaders – or – Woe, Dude!

Image result for woah, dudeHey all – this Sunday we’ll be reading Mathew 23 – yes…the entire chapter. There are actually only a few themes in this chapter, it’s just that they are repeated a lot. It’s a challenging text to distill for modern, Western, sequentially oriented thinkers. We’ll give it our best go!

In this chapter, Jesus sort of goes all Gordon Ramsay on the Pharisees and Scribes! As you read the entire rebuke that Jesus gives to the religious leaders of his day – what is the overarching theme that you pick up on? What do you believe he reserves his scorn for?

It would be very easy to keep this text isolated to the temple leadership of Jesus’ day, but that would be a mistake. In what ways can you pick up on parallels between the religious culture of Jesus’ day, and our present day Evangelical culture? If you were able to communicate a warning to our church from this text, what would be the most important part of Jesus’ rebuke you’d apply?

Heavy stuff – but…Surf-N-Grill is this Sunday…so it evens out, I guess. See you then!