The Risk of Love

Back in 1993 Meatloaf crooned a song that declared in it’s title “I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)”. Of course, people largely missed the point trying to speculate on what “that” was. The humor is the self-contradictory nature of the words – I’d do anything, but then a qualifier is added which nullifies the prior statement.

Um…is this a Bible study Rob?

Yes, it is. I’m getting to my topic. There is a risk that must be taken if we are really going to know and certainly if we are going to express love…real love…sacrificial love…God’s love. A risk that really doesn’t allow for prior qualifications or exceptions beforehand.

We’ll see that as a case in point in the section we’ll read in Mark’s gospel as we continue that study. We’ll be reading ch 3:7-19.

In this section Jesus has suddenly become very popular. It’s understandable, considering all that he is able to do and provide for people. In the narrative, Jesus and his disciples seem to be in danger of being crushed. There hardly seems to be any concern for Jesus, only what can be gained from Jesus. Yet Jesus continues serving the people as they come to him.

What risk can we see evident in the crowd’s treatment of Jesus? Did it seem to deter Jesus from a mission like this?

Why do you think Jesus ordered a getaway boat? What can we learn about love’s application from this?

Later on Jesus tags 12 guys to be his close disciples who will represent him to the world. I like how only three of them get nicknames. I wonder how the other guys felt when they were waiting for their nickname and it never got spoken. “My name’s Andrew but you can call me D-ROO!” “Shut up Andrew, it doesn’t count if you make it up yourself! We’re NOT calling you that!”

That’s some of the stuff I think about.

But, the one name that vividly jumps off the page is Judas. The name associated with treachery from that time forward. Why did Jesus choose him? Why did he allow him such close access? Those are great questions I hope to ask him someday. They go along with questions about why God even had a forbidden tree in the Garden. Maybe it has to do with the nature of real love.

What risk do we see that love takes when we look at this list of disciples? Jesus doesn’t seem to back away from the risks. What can that teach us about how we are called to express this Jesus kind of love? In what ways do we find ourselves challenged by these risks? How can we find the courage to take these risks for the Kingdom of God?

Hope to see you Sunday!

 

Easter Sunday

This Sunday we’ll be having very special gatherings where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! Our first meeting will be held on the beach at 6 am at the Pineapple Willie’s restaurant beach access. Pineapple Willie’s has been very gracious to Eastgate over the years and we are excited about partnering with them for this event! Bring a chair or blanket, and think about dressing in layers since the starting temperature will be in the lower 60’s.

We will be handing out papers which have the order of service, lyrics to the songs and prayers. However, we are also providing a PDF version of this which you can view on your phone. Download it before you come at this link: Easter Sunrise with Eastgate

Later on, at 10 am, we’ll gather in the courtyard in front of the Eastgate building and have a time of celebration with worship songs, a Kidsgate performance and more! Afterwards we’ll have a potluck lunch and hang out as God’s kids, enjoying the day! Bring a lawn chair and some sunscreen…and bring a dish to share!  We have a PDF to download for that service as well – courtyard service 2019

Easter is the centerpiece of our faith! Let’s get stoked, HE’S ALIVE!

The Good News

Jim Gaffigan has a stand-up routine from years ago where he declares: “I’m a vegetarian…it’s just that I eat beef and pork and chicken…but not fish because that’s disgusting”. It’s humorous because it cuts across the very definition of vegetarianism. The character he presents clearly doesn’t understand what it means to be a vegetarian.

It strikes me sometimes that a lot of Christians are like that when it comes to the Gospel – the Good News. A lot of times if I ask the question: “What is the Gospel?”, I get a variation on the idea that Jesus died to save us from our sins so that we can go to heaven and not hell when we die. It’s not that I disagree with any of that – but I’m not sure that really captures the heart of what the Good News really is because the focus is placed on what happens after this life.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 1:14-20 as we continue going through that account of Jesus.

In v14, we abruptly find out that John the Baptist has been arrested and Jesus has started publicly announcing God’s Good News. We’ve noted before that the word euangelion,  εὐαγγέλια, was not unique to Christianity. It was a word used to announce good news from Caesar, or announce his birthday, or declare a victory in battle.

What does Jesus say that sets the Good News that He preaches apart from the good news of Caesar? Who is the center and focus of this Good News?

In v 15, Jesus explains what the Good News is and what our response should be. Notice the words he’s saying: The time has COME, The Kingdom of God is NEAR, REPENT and BELIEVE. Follow the links on those words and consider what they mean.

Using the definition of the Greek words, write what Jesus is saying in your own words.

Read Daniel 2, especially v 44  – What do you think the people of Galilee were hearing when they heard the Good News proclaimed by Jesus?

When Jesus calls his first disciples in v16-20, they respond immediately.

What does their response tell us about what hearing the Good News demands of us?

What would it look like in our own lives to follow this example of Peter, Andrew, James and John? How would you describe the priorities their response symbolizes?

There have been lingering questions about why these guys would have responded so quickly and decisively. I had a whole section in my teaching that I had to remove because it would have made it run too long…but I copied it and I’ll paste it here, in case you’re interested. It helps round out the oppressive economic picture of that time and place, which helps us see why these guys may have responded like they did. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. Anyway, here it is:

“Now, people have gotten cynical about this section, wondering about the abruptness of it – ‘what would make these guys respond so quickly to a rabbi like this?’ But, there ARE historical factors here… we need to understand the situation these guys were in.

We tend to think of these fishermen from the standpoint of a free-market, capitalist society, like WE live in. We imagine a nice little family business where they catch fish for themselves and sell the surplus to the local market. We view them as middle-class, blue collar Joes.

 But we’re wrong. There was no free-market capitalism in the world run by the Roman Empire. Rome ruled the known world – and sure, they brought roads and aqueducts and peace to the region…but they also brought the demands of the Roman elite from Caesar at the top to his agents and governors like Herod Antipas, the ruler over the Galilee region, and all the layers of bureaucracy in between. The sea of Galilee was no longer localized as a source dietary staples for the people who lived there – the sea of Galilee belonged to Caesar – nobody was going to fish there unless he approved it. Fishing leases were required, and taxes and tolls for ports were exorbitant.

Everyone was taking a cut of both the fish AND any potential profit to be made from them.

So local fishermen found themselves in an economic free-fall – they were at the bottom of this elaborate financial hierarchy. They had a trade that had been handed down through generations but now were tantamount to slave-labor …they had no hope of escape from this economic oppression.

Along comes a Rabbi who declares the time has come for God’s kingdom to break in on things. And they’re thinking…well, what would they be thinking, what might they have imagined?

‘This is IT, finally we’ll be free from our oppression and there will be justice.’

 They were right, but not the way the expected.”

 

Sonship and Struggles

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 1:9-13, which becomes a sort of cosmic “good news/bad news” scenario. It’s not really bad news, but it’s a strange juxtaposition of a glorious moment immediately followed by a time of hardship.

Life has a way of following that pattern though.

As you may recall, the theme of Mark’s gospel is the declaration that Jesus is the Messiah – the Divine King and His conquest. What a Divine King’s conquest looks like is something we may picture a certain way, which Mark works to dismantle. As soon as Jesus appears in our text, he does something very strange indeed. He is baptized by John.

Baptism was the ritual John was calling the people to submit to as a demonstration of their repentance and renewal in God.

Why do you think Jesus took his turn with all the other people there and underwent this ritual? What does it tell us about the nature of this Divine King?

After his baptism, the fabric of reality is torn open and a glimpse is given to God’s reality – and from that reality (heaven) the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus and God’s voice speaks calling Jesus His beloved Son. This is a passage that gives a tantalizing glance at the mystery of God’s Triune nature.

How do you see three distinct Divine personalities and actions in this passage?

Jesus, as Messiah, stands as representative of all the human race. He entered our condition in order to bring us into His condition. What is true of Jesus is true of those who believe in and follow Him.

What do you believe the Father declares about you?  Can you imagine God saying to you: “You are my Child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Let that run through your mind, and put your own name in that sentence. What is your reaction to that?

Right on the heels of that amazing experience, Jesus is pushed out into the desert to face the struggles of temptation. As I said, good news/bad news. Mark is very brief in his description, but we get enough of the picture of the devil and wild beasts that we know this was no comfortable spa retreat Jesus went to.

How do you think the previous experience at His baptism prepared Jesus for this part of his journey? What sort of “spiritual desert experiences” have you had in your life of following Christ? What, if anything, did you learn from them?

Mark – Introduction; This is the Good News

This Sunday we will begin a new study in the Gospel of Mark. I am someone who believes that, as the church, it’s important to revisit the life and teachings of Jesus, just to be sure we’re tracking properly. The Gospel of mark is the shortest of the synoptic gospels, and according to surveys, the least popular of all of them. I think that’s a shame. Mark rocks, in my opinion.

As we begin this study, we’ll be reading chapter 1:1-8. Right off the bat, in the very first verse, we are confronted with several ideas which need to be explored. The Good News, Messiah and Son of God. We’ll be looking at the historic and religious contexts of those words – but let me suggest that to really get a good primer on the concept of Messiah, you can watch The Bible Project’s video on that subject: The Bible Project

How would you explain what the Good News about Jesus the Messiah is?

The writer of Mark wastes no time in getting us into the action. V2-3 introduces us to the expectations of Israel to set the stage. He quotes from Isaiah and Malachi passages that were meant to comfort the Jewish people who had gone into Babylonian exile that the Lord would return to his temple one day. God gave them a sign to look for – a messenger would come and prepare the way for the Lord’s appearance.

Why do you think it was important to connect John the Baptist with the promised sign? How can this encourage us about trusting God’s promises?

In v4-6 John is described, and he is one odd dude. He definitely didn’t follow the advice of today’s experts on how to attract people to your movement.

What does John’s dress, diet and location speak of to you? Why do you think people were so attracted to John’s message? What can we learn from that about our own ministry and church?

When John speaks in v7-8, he has a singular topic in view. Jesus. John is almost over-the-top in trying to pronounce the distinction and superiority of the coming Messiah.

In what ways can we follow his example? As we seek to minister God’s love to people, how can we keep our focus on Jesus without becoming self-depreciating? What do you believe John was describing when he said Jesus would baptize withe the Holy Spirit?

I’m really stoked to get back to posting in Wonderwhat! I’m looking forward to this study – I hope you’ll come to love Mark as much as I do! See you Sunday!

 

The Story Goes On

So – this is our final Sunday studying the book of Romans. We’ve been at this for 9 months – with one month off due to a certain Michael. This Sunday we’ll be reading the whole of Romans 16 as Paul gives his final greetings, warning and blessing.

A lot of people skip through this long list of names Paul recites…around 26 in all. I love them though – they help to connect this work to real people; people like you and I who had to work through the “deliciously chewy theology” of this letter (as N.T. Wright puts it). Phoebe is introduced and is likely the person delivering the letter. Most likely, she would be the one reading the letter to the congregation and answering questions they may have or explaining bits along the way.

Priscilla and Aquilla are familiar names which you can read about in Acts 18.

Interestingly, 10 of the people named by Paul and described as co-laborers and equals in ministry are women. The most controversial of those is Junia. Google her name and read some of the articles. I’ll wait. …………………….. It’s pretty intense, isn’t it? There is a lot to think about when it comes to this ancient and mysterious woman of God. I know she’s changed my thinking a lot.

Several of the people greeted are in the households of people we know in Roman history. Narcissus was probably the same one from history who was close to Emperor Claudius. Aristobulus was a Jewish name associated with a Jewish king of Israel’s inter-testament history. It’s unlikely these two were believers – Paul greets the householdof these men – most probably household slaves.

What can we infer from Paul extolling the ministry and co-equality of women and slaves in the midst of ancient Rome? How does it inform our understanding of God’s social economy in the sphere of his kingdom?

In v16-20 Paul warns us about teachers who cause divisions by teaching things contrary to what they’ve already learned. What does he say to do concerning them? How would we apply that to our present world of teachers and churches?

Paul finishes off his letter with a blessing and a reminder (v26) that this is an age-old, ongoing story, this gospel we’ve embraced. Let’s determine to allow the Story to go on through us! Hope to see you Sunday!

The Gospel in Unity

The most tolerant dog in the world. Tolerance is a oft-used word in our present world. I’m not always convinced we are using the word correctly. Tolerance implies that there is an objection to something – but that objection is intentionally set aside for the sake of peace or unity.

Unfortunately, tolerance, as presented on a societal level, is more a demand for uniformity, leaving little room for intellectual dissent. People who hold deep convictions have felt pressured to compromise, and the terrible by-product is a mistaken notion that outright intolerance for people who hold different views or values is the only way to respond if one is to be faithful to one’s beliefs. That is most certainly a mistake. Tolerance is a Christian virtue – and acceptance of others in spite of differences is held up as the standard for appropriate representation of the gospel.

The church could learn a lot from that dog in the video.

This Sunday we’ll be looking at Romans 14:1-21 as we continue our study in that book. Paul will be talking directly to the divisions in the Roman church – divisions over convictions and doctrines that were very important to those who held to them.

As you read through this chapter – how would you characterize Paul’s emphasis? What does he seem to hold as a greater importance than the specific practices and beliefs that people had?

Paul stresses the idea of God’s acceptance of believers who hold their convictions before the Lord. What is the basis of God’s acceptance of us?

What are the issues that seem to cause division in the church today? How might we learn from what Paul says and apply them to our own community today?

I believe this is one of the most important chapters for us to really grasp as 21st Century American Evangelical Christians. I hope you can make it this Sunday!