Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, May 1, 2011

Peace, or “Shalom” in Hebrew was the traditional greeting in Jesus’ day.  Yet repeated in this text, it takes on a deeper meaning.  It’s a peace that reassures, picks up, rebuilds, resurrects.  It’s the echo and fulfillment of the teaching of Jesus : “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do no let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) We too long for peace today – in the pain and suffering of our individual lives, in the injustice of our world, in the continuing wars and the ongoing efforts of many to put their lives back together after tornadoes, earthquakes and nuclear disasters.  The peace that Jesus gives is not just a “hello” but a force that changes, liberates and shapes every aspect of life. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Sunday, April 24th  
Questions for Easter Sunday  | Mark 16:1-8

The story of the empty tomb is told by all of the gospel writers.  Much like 4 witnesses of an accident would relate different aspects, they all four tell the story a bit differently
(Matthew 28:9-20 | Luke 24:13-53 | John 20).  Mark ends his retelling of that day in a peculiar, even a bizarre, way. Where we expect them to overcome fear and go forth to share the good news, they instead are terrorized and they run away to hide.  Where they are commanded to speak they remain mute.  Asked to return to a community, they prefer an isolation that seems to have become familiar.  Jesus is not where they expected him.  He is not what they thought him to be.  Only now, after the end, at the time of a new beginning, do they realize that maybe they never actually understood the way in which they traveled with Jesus.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Saturday, April 23rd  
Questions for Holy Saturday  | SILENCE

God seems to be silent on this day of death and Sabbath rest.  The gospel writers are mute about what happened. As Protestants, we often seek God in the word – spoken and written – and yet often we encounter the Divine in silence.  Today try to sit in silence for 5 – 10 – even 20 minutes if you can.  Silence your thoughts, worries and mental-to-do-lists and listen for God’s presence.  How is it hard for you to be in silence?  How does the experience challenge you to move beyond the cacophony of daily life?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Friday, April 22nd
Questions for Good Friday | Mark 15:1-47

Crucifixion was the worst way to die in the world of the Roman Empire.  It was reserved as the death penalty for the very worst of criminals and traitors.  It’s ironic that Jesus dies in this painfully slow and public way.  He who spoke of love without walls, new paradigms of community, direct experience of God’s presence, is denied all of those things.  The inspiration for non-violence the world over, paradoxically dies the most violent of deaths imaginable.   Jesus assumes the worst of the human condition, in order to liberate us from our worst nightmares. How does his life and death turn the world upside down when there is so much suffering all around us?  Is it his blood that frees us as a sacrifice in our place?  Does he overcome evil but submitting to it freely?  Does his death unmask the powers that are at work in the world?  Is his example of costly love universe-changing? There are multiple theories about how his death atones for our brokenness.  Yet all agree that the cross affirms the lengths to which God goes to convince of us his love.  The radical solidarity with which he stands alongside the poor, abused and persecuted.  The way in which who God is runs completely counter to what we imagine.  The Apostle Paul claims that you can’t preach Christ, without preaching “Christ Crucified”. That paradox is why we dare to call this “Good Friday” when it seems to be anything but good.  How does this disturb you? How is it a scandalous message for our culture today?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Thursday, April 21st
Questions for Maundy Thursday | Mark 14:12-72

Today is known as “Holy Thursday” and also liturgically as “Maundy Thursday”.  The Maundy isn’t a misspelled Monday, but rather a derivative of the old French mandé and the Latin mandatum , both of which mean “commandment”.  In this last night together, Jesus gathers with his friends to celebrate the Passover: the high holiday in which the Jews remembered the story of the Israelites slavery in Egypt [Mitzrayim  in Hebrew] through a liturgical sharing of a meal.  It’s together around a table that they re-enact their deliverance of the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh.  In doing so they don’t just remember, but they appropriate the story for today’s context, reflecting upon the meaning of freedom in terms of the mitzrayims that enslaves, distract and blind us today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Wednesday, April 20th
The Wednesday of Holy Week | Mark 14:1-11

After the confrontations and clashes in the courts of the temple, Jesus retreats to be with his closest friends.  He removes himself from the public eye, quite possibly to give his friends perspective that they still lack.  The gospel writer tells us that the plot to kill Jesus is now in full swing.  The authorities realized that there is no way to shut Jesus down or up.  They have to remove the threat to their power and their way of life.  Only one option remains.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Tuesday, April 19th
The Tuesday of Holy Week | Mark 11:20-13:37

This busy, full day also begins with the nonproductive fig tree, now withered.  It’s a living metaphor for Jesus’ judgment of the big business that Temple establishment had become.  He returns to the temple courts and teaches, with an authority never seen before.  As Mark tells the story, the teachings of Jesus become more and more critical and challenging of the religious authorities.  The crowds go wild with excitement, witnessing his naming of the injustice perpetrated in the name of Yahweh.

But what is this injustice?  It is mistaken hopes, backwards worship, or a spiritual malaise?  The supposed authorities remain mute.  They seem to be content with how things have been, wanting to maintain tradition for facility, or for fear of being the weak link in the chain, or for spiritual far-sightedness.  Jesus is taking on spiritual compartmentalization: when we simplify God’s creative and redemptive presence in the world saying “this, here, is God; that, there, isn’t.”  We see the example in the saying about emperor and the need to recognize who is sovereign and what that means in our daily life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Monday, April 18th
The Monday of Holy Week
Mark 11:12-19 | Isaiah 56:7 | Jeremiah 7:1-15

The day after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is written around this peculiar encounter with a nonproductive fig tree.  Why does he curse this tree that bears no fruit?  It seems superfluous if we merely read verse 12-14.  Yet when connected to his encounter with the money changers in the Temple, we can see how the tree represents the Tempe, subverted, corrupted, dying changed from a place of God’s presence, to merely a place for business as usual.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blogging Towards Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011

“Who is this man?”  and “Who do you say that he is?” are the foundational questions that the story of Palm Sunday ask us.  We easily get distracted in our modern, scientific-based, empirically inspired culture.  We want to verify Jesus’ divinity, to prove that he rose from the dead, to demonstrate physically his resurrected existence among us in 2011?  Those questions are all valid.  Yet today’s texts seem focused more upon telling us why Jesus is a different king than what the people had expected.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Blogging Towards April 10, 2011

Does faith in Jesus really change anything in life?  Is it just a crutch to help us get through the difficulties that we face?  Is it merely a metaphor that we invoke for hope?  Is his bodily resurrection a game-changer; transforming the very essence and structure of the universe?  No matter our answer as we wrestle with those deep questions, the essence of Christian faith is a living-in-the-tension between the hope of resurrection and the finality of death which is all to palatable and familiar to us in our lives.  Our faith is based upon resurrection, the idea of life overcoming death, light overwhelming darkness, the power of love and grace surprising the power of force and violence.  But what does that mean for us in our daily lives?

Friday, April 01, 2011