The Hope in Resurrection

Giovanni_di_Paolo_-_The_Resurrection_of_Lazarus_-_Walters_37489ARead Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

This year’s Lenten journey for me has been one where I have been reminded over and over again we are physical-temporal beings. The reminder started for me at the Ash Wednesday service: the very physical act of receiving ashes and being reminded that from dust we first came and to dust we will return.

This was a direct reminder of how temporal our lives are.  My profession, my whole life, reminds me of the integration of the spiritual and physical, daily seeing people in pain, physically putting my hands on them and watching their whole demeanor change because the physical pain is less or gone. Then little things, like the fact that I’m wearing glasses for the first time in my life and all the gray hair that just keeps coming back no mater how much I cut it.

All distinct reminders that time waits for no one.

I’m continually reminded of my grandmother who is suffering under the devastating effects of the terrible disease of Alzhiemer’s. My pastor, Doug, said it best last Sunday when he said that Lent is a microcosm of our faith journey.

It wasn’t much before lent that we found out about a 4 year little boy named Ben, whose mother Aimee and I went to college with, had been diagnosed with a stage four Glyoblastoma – a very aggressive brain tumor. This tumor was in fact so aggressive that a mere 3 weeks after the Neurosurgeon removed half of the mass it doubled its original size. In the midst of this pain, anxiety, and astonishment that this little boy will not get to see his fifth birthday the family found out that they are expecting another child.

Whether it’s a story like this or one of the countless other stories that have heart wrenching implications, most of us would easily identify that something in our current situation isn’t right. And it’s easy to start asking the why question trying to discover an answer that would somehow alleviate the foul taste in our mouths towards the limits of our physical bodies.

The truth of the matter is there is a debt that all mortals pay. Death is going to come for each of us eventually. It’s a little easier to accept when a saint has lived a full and faithful life and passes at 99, but not so easy when you consider that little 4 year old boy begging for a miracle. Death and the trouble of this temporal life are not fun topics to address. But there is hope.

Let start with the  Old Testament text we have a rather odd story, but a very descriptive story about a mortal and some dry bones in the bottom of a valley. There is a lot of interesting things that are happening here. I find it interesting that Ezekiel is addressed as mortal while the conversation is fleshed out.He is reminded of the problem of his temporality as he sees something astonishingly hopeful.

There is a progression that flows through this passage the recognition of dry lifeless bones, then the bones begin to receive flesh, and these bodies begin to breath with new life.

So what is really going on here? The picture that is unfolding before us is a glimpse of the resurrection. This is eschatological in nature. This passage is about the physical resurrection that will take place at the time of the new creation when all of the cosmos will be redeemed. Pay close attention to verse 14.

14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

Where there was once death there is now life through the Spirit of the Lord.

Hold on to this verse as we jump forward to the New Testament text. Again we get to deal with matters of life and death, but in Roman’s we have an added feature that Ezekiel didn’t have, the privilege of knowing. In the Roman’s passage again we’re dealing with life and death. We’re dealing with the physical nature of our mortal, temporal body. But in the end, we are given a beautiful picture of hope through Chirst.

11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ* from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through* his Spirit that dwells in you.

Where there was once death, there is now life in Christ, and not just for some mysterious bones in a valley, but for all those who walk this life in His Spirit.

All three passages outline a relationship between death and life. Each deal directly with resurrection. In fact, each deals with the physical resurrection of flesh. In each of the passages we have something that was once dead that was physically brought back to life.

To understand the resurrection, particularly the resurrection of Lazarus, we should consider how Jewish and early Christian culture understood resurrection. This will help us to understand resurrection in our context. Then we talk about the hope that we have as Christians because of the resurrection.

In the ancient world, death was the end all be all. It was viewed as a one way street that could not be avoided or overcome. Once death arrived there was no way to break its power. In the largely pagan world of the Ancient Near East, there were largely two ways for understanding what happened after death, with a small percentage of the culture accepting a third option. In the first group, there were those who knew that death was the final act. When the last breath was taken, there was nothing left. That was it; you died and were gone – no hope.

The other side was looked more like the belief system of Plato and his philosophers. They asserted that the soul was essentially trapped in a prison of flesh and that death unlocked the prison and the disembodied soul would continue on – better than when it was trapped by the flesh. This idea brings some hope at least more than the previous option, but that hope was not for this world. Rather, it was hope of escape.

It gets interesting when we bring the word “resurrection” to the table in the ancient world. The word in it Greek, Latin, and other equivalents was never used to define a life after death, like some of the Greeks believed in.

Resurrection was used to denote a new bodily life after some-sort-of afterlife. This is important to remember when we look at Lazarus’s story. In the ancient Judeo-Christian world, resurrection was two-stage event. There would be death, something that would happen after death, which we have only the vaguest concept of, but then eventually there would be new bodily life.

With this in mind, let’s look at the gospel text. There are few interesting things that strike me as odd or maybe simply interesting. First, I have a few questions about the passage. Why did Jesus wait? He received news that his friend was dying. By this time everyone pretty much knew Jesus could heal the sick. Why did he wait those extra two days?

Next, why did Jesus have to explain the fact Lazarus had died twice? You would have thought the disciples would have caught on to the ways that Jesus spoke by now.

Next, I find it interesting that both Martha and Mary blame Jesus for their brother dying. “It was you, Jesus; you didn’t come. He died; therefore, it’s your fault that he died.” Since we’re on the subject of Martha, it is interesting that when Jesus mentioned the fact the Lazarus would rise again that Martha, being a good Jewish women, immediately assumed that his resurrection would be on the last day at the new creation, even though in the previous breath she had just made the statement to Jesus that, basically, in so many words, I know you can bring him back. This just goes to show how deeply ingrained the idea of a physical resurrection was in the life a typical 1st century Jewish person.

By now you’re all thinking how many more questions can he ask about these verses? The truth is, a lot. John is the only gospel to record the resurrection of Lazarus, which raises even more questions. This whole section of John is very intriguing to me but let’s get to the good stuff. Lazarus, after being dead and buried for 4 days is resurrected.

Jesus did it. He took a man where there was once death and now there’s life. Physical resurrection of the flesh. He stood up in the face and death and showed that he had power over the temporal world and that his abilities were far more powerful that death itself by returning life to the flesh and bones of Lazarus.Jesus waited to show us one of the deepest truths of His power: He brings life to deadness, and, as for this miracle, this was only a type of resurrection, one that led to more normative human life. But, there is a resurrection to come that will be fully restorative, one like no person, save Jesus has experienced.

So what does all this mean? What are the implications of a physical resurrection? Let me first be very clear. We are talking about the resurrection of the physical. Something that will eventually happen. I am by no means suggesting that this is something that happens at the moment of death and I’m not entertaining what is currently happening to those who have gone before us. That’s a different conversation for a different day.  What I would like to do is ask some basic questions surrounding resurrection in the Christian paradigm.

Who will be resurrected?

According to John and Paul everyone.

When will the resurrection happen?

At the new creation, when the new earth and the new heaven are joined to together, with God the Creator redeeming the entire cosmos.  The new world will be once again exactly what we need and want. Fit for our service with our new bodies, we will eagerly get to doing the work of the kingdom tending the new earth.

What will the new body be like? This is where I get excited. For the answer I have to look at Paul in 2 Corithians 4:17 where he notes that these bodies will carry the weight of glory. Beyond that we look to our Lord. After his resurrection something had changed. He looked different but the scars in his hand, feet, and side were still present.

The new body is no longer subject to sickness, injury, decay, or death. None of the destructive forces will have any power over the new body. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when we’re talking about the subject of the new body is to remember that our existence currently is physical and spiritual existence and so shall it be when we receive the our new bodies. We will not be disembodied souls floating around on clouds wearing flowing white robes playing harps. We will be experiencing what we are now, except more fully and without flaw.

Imagine, no more glasses or gray hair, no more pain, no more Alzheimer’s, no more little 4 year boys dying of aggressive brain tumors. This is the life that awaits us, a life not unlike the current life we presently live, but a different life where the entire cosmos is renewed, redone, redeemed. A return to the Garden. This is the life that awaits those who have the Spirit breathing life into our flesh and bones.

Where there was one death, there is now life.

As we began to move towards Holy Week and the conclusion of Lent let us reflect on the power of God the Father, the life giving breath of the Spirit, and the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for us through dying a very physical death in order to secure the new life and redemption of the entire cosmos.

How Might We Reach This Generation of Young People, Part Two?

I used to really enjoy the AMC original series, Mad Men, but, after a few seasons, I lost interest. I am not sure if the writer’s depiction of the 1960s is perfectly accurate, but one scene resonated with my own imagination of what that era might have been like, and how it differs from our world today.

I do not remember the season, episode, or even the context of the scene, but I do remember thinking how strange it seemed to me in my own context. In short, two men in their office building, during work hours mind you, break out into a pretty serious fistfight.  After the scuffle goes on for a while, making a lot of disruptive noise, the boss breaks into the main office room where these two were fighting, and, upon his arrival, they stop.

 In our own day, both of these men would be fired on the spot. The company would go into preservation mode as news spread through the community. It would be called an “isolated incident” that does not reflect the nature of the company. One or both of the men that fought might be arrested, and one or both might try to sue the other. It more than certainly would be made into a bigger deal than it started as.

 This is not what happens in the show. Instead, the boss asks whether or not they resolved their differences, and everyone gets back to work, the two men shaking hands and going on about their day like nothing happened. This scene reflected something of the truth of modernism and its juxtaposition with postmodernity.  We are certainly not who we were in yesteryear.

 Evangelism in this day and time was very much like the scene in Mad Men. In that day, people would see evangelical admonition from a yelling preacher as the lesson they had coming to them, just as they saw a fistfight as a way to work out differences. Sure, there are still persons that respond well to a little scuffle and there are persons that respond well to a bit of disciplinary preaching, but overall, it’s just not as effective as it used to be.

 Now, I would not jump out of one ditch just to fall headlong into the other, with messages like we get from persons like Joel Osteen. However, as I argued in my last post, we need to be able to prove our side, not through tough love, but through humility and understanding. Meek love is not tough love, but it is strong love. It takes courage to be who you are called to be without being insulted when others aren’t living as they are called. And we not only need to live this example in our private lives. Our nation is having a conversation, and the church has something to say.

 We must be submissive vessels of grace before we can be effective vessels for change or correction. In the public sphere, we often see Christians arguing for what they believe to be right. In the political arena, many Christians call for legislation that would either keep the status quo—hindering others from some transgression, real or perceived, that they are wanting to be free to engage in—or would engineer outward social righteousness—which would, in many cases, produce nothing more than white washed tombs.

 The debates rise in temperature quickly, and anger ensues rapidly when each side does not get its respective way. Like many objects exposed to extreme heat, those not insulated by grace harden, and rigidity sets in. Their causes becomes cold causes, causes fought out of spite and not love. At all cost, these people will have their way, or they will burn out trying. In this, many have lost all effectiveness.

 Have we forgotten that without grace, no change is possible? This is not simply to suggest that we remain humble, forever recognizing that God is sovereign and in control of the situation, but it is also a call to action, a call for us to remember that we have a duty to show grace as our Lord has shown us grace. We are in some sense and by some degree His means of grace in the world. We are His salt and light in a dark, tasteless, and decaying word.

If we want others to be transformed, not simply because we want to control the world and have an engineered, pseudo-peace, but because we actually care for the lost ones, then we will first need to demonstrate grace before we act to see change happen. Grace always goes before. If it does not, any change will not be lasting.

 Moreover, this does not simply happen in public, but also happens in the heart first and foremost. Check your heart the next time you see the representative “opponents” of whatever issue or issues it is you are concerned about. Take stock of your feelings as you hear these “others” lobbying for their side on the news channel or social media. What feelings fill your heart? What words come to mind? What is it that you wish for them? Are you filled with compassion or malice? Do you say of them that they are precious souls in need of help, or do you call them fools, or worse? Do you want them to know peace or would you rather see some sort of vendetta visited upon them?

 If your heart overflows with negativity, perhaps it is you whom you need to work on. If it is love that you feel, remember how to love them. We, the representatives of Christ in the midst of this present evil age, influence, not by power struggles, but by service. When was the last time you served those who you wish to see transformed?

How Might We Reach This Generation of Young People?

I was having a discussion this morning with a peer in ministry, and we were discussing the attitudes of young persons today. I know that I could still be considered a young person myself, but we were specifically talking about college-aged persons who are now somewhere between six to ten years younger than myself, give or take.

He just kept using the term “apathy.” He said, “It is as if they just do not care about anything anymore.” He mentioned that when we were in college, “doubt” seemed to be the big issue that ministry was trying to overcome, but, now, it is lack of belief in anything, a sort of nihilistic malaise. However, I do not think it is apathy that defines this new generation, nor is it doubt, as it might have been years ago. It is distrust.

We are living in an age that has created and sustained things like infowars.com, a website that is intended to question every news story delivered and proffer an alternative story. This generation is addicted to reddit.com, and, while reddit is many things for many people, it serves the young generation as a place to stir the pot, to discuss all the ills of society and promote unrest in the hearts of the community as they accept any conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. This is the generation that hates both parties of the political system. This is the generation that is leaving home and their faith background, not because they feel doubtful, but because they feel pain, and I am not saying all this is unwarranted, mind you.  This is what we have come to call the age of Postmodernism.

The tide has shifted, and modernity and all the tactics to influence modern thinkers no longer work on this generation. Give a modern thinker a dose of intellectual objectivity in a forceful debate style, and they might say, “Hey, you know what? I like you.” Yell your “objective” claims at a postmodern and they will walk away faster than you can say, “What’s your problem?”

This generation has seen a collapse of empire in many ways. America is not the shining star among the nations as it once was. The church of Christendom has been so domesticated that it is losing adherents daily, and on a global scale, with all the “United Nations” coming together, we still hate each other, and terrorism is a word heard daily. To these persons, truth claims are simply lies, power struggles for who gets to control the masses.

Distrust starts off so small. Let’s use the beloved platform of The Echo Life as an example: Christians promote life and health. We preach that the body is the temple of God and that it should be treated with respect. Moms and dads tell their children to respect themselves when they go off to college. Don’t put harmful “stuff” in your body. But, when they go to church, what do they see? A bunch of overfed temples. What are they to assume? They assume that the church does not take its claims seriously. So, if it is not about faith for the church, what is it about? Their assumption, “It’s all for control.” We are promoting our happy little world as we want it to be.

How do we show the postmodern college kid that Christianity is not just another ploy to control his or her life, that it is not about oppressing the way he or she thinks and lives, but about freedom? We have to live in submission to our own claims fist. We have to say, “Watch, I will practice what I preach before I ever ask you to join, and I will show you it is not fake.” We must demonstrate the freedom of walking in Christ offers from the real oppressions of life. We will talk more about this next week, but ask yourself, “Am I a good representative of the Kingdom for this young generation who needs our love and not just our arguments for what is right and what is wrong?”

Discipline As Repentance and Belief

I don’t have a long thought for today, but I do have a thought that I think is worth sharing. It comes from a YouTube video that I have watched time and time again by Brad Johnson, professor of biblical languages at my alma mater, Asbury Theological Seminary. If you would like to watch the video, you can do so here.

While the idea of “repent and believe” has such a more pointed meaning in terms of the presentation of the gospel, it can apply to any direction in life we might want to turn in faith. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, we must be willing, by faith through grace, to repent from our old ways and believe in God to move us in the direction of His Kingdom. Likewise, as Christians, when we have any goal in life, we must ask God for the grace to get us there, if we wish to get there in the right way.

Let’s say you want to take better care of the gift that is your body. You might have lived a life thus far that is unhealthy, and you wish for change. Now there are a myriad of ways that you can lose weight without repentance or belief.  There are pills that, while causing you to lose weight, really are not great for your health, and isn’t that they point of “getting into shape”? You can do a fad diet, again, more than likely starving your body for appearances instead of health. The list goes on.

But, you know what most people find out when they try the “easy” way. It does not stick. Why? …because the change was forced, and it did not come from within, from the head and heart. It did not change them as a whole person, and we cannot neglect that we are integrated beings. When we want to do something right, we have to want it with both our head and heart.

So, what is “repentance” and “belief”? As Professor Johnson points out, our English language can often times obscure the actual meaning behind the words. We often think of repentance as something we do volitionally (action), and belief as something we accent to cognitively (thought). However, the words actually are quite the opposite. Repentance is a total change of heart, which does change our actions, if we allow God’s grace to flow through belief, which is putting what God has put in our heart into action. Repentance is learning a new way, coming to the realization that our own way has been flawed and learning what God would have us do. Then it is setting our minds to live it out. That is where faith takes over, which is putting your trust in God as you act out of what you have learned.

Discipline, then, which is full of life change, can never be complete until we consider the whole person, head and heart. If you want to discipline yourself to be different, you must make the effort to learn what is different and make that learning process that comes through prayer, bible reading, conversation and the like, a part of how you think as a person, what we would often call our “belief system.” Likewise, if you ever want these newly formed “beliefs” about how to do “it” right, whatever that thing is, to impact your life, you have to have the faith to walk it out, to act on what God is teaching:

“…by works faith was made perfect?” –James 2:22

Vocal Paralysis

This post is different. I want you to know that up front. It’s different.

For starters I’m writing it at about 30,000 feet in the air somewhere between Charlotte and Baltimore. Secondly this is a conversation that is by necessity – and this is not an excuse for you to stop reading – political. And if we are actually going to talk about echoing heaven on earth, at some point we have to deal with the political implications of such a creed. Let me clear…that does not mean we vote straight ticket for either party. This does not mean we confuse the “moral majority” with the Gospel. Nor do we equate all all things social justice with Jesus. It’s means we stop using our faith as a crutch for our political leanings and instead allow the Gospel to infiltrate and transform our politics….rant over and I’ll step off the soap box.

I’m writing this in route, on my second trip to Washington, DC to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with various denominational leaders and Congress people. This is a trip I never imagined and a discussion I never thought myself engaging…especially from this perspective. I stand in favor of comprehensive reform that entails a clear pathway for those living in our country without documentation, the reunification of families, and the protection of worker’s rights.

I understand the issues are complex. But I also understand the system is broken and people are being broken in the process. Every time I see news coverage some talking head is making broad sweeping, grossly negligent generalizations about people. In this discussion people have been replaced by labels and stereotypes, statistics and generalizations. If memory serves me correctly, wasn’t Jesus in the business of making sure a person was not defined by societies labels, especially as those labels came from the mouths of religious leaders?

What is our role as a church or as individual believers in this conversation? I mean that and I hope you will respond and answer and pass this along. If the church stands in a line of people who were told to remember the times when they were the immigrants, then how should be respond? I once heard a congressional staffer say their representative had a strong faith….but he also loved the law so he wasn’t sure where that might take him. I’ve heard church people say we need to keep politics and religion separate to keep the peace. Conversations like that make me realize why Jesus overturned tables…

N.T Wright said one of the churches great privileges was to help culture articulate injustice when we see it. Because once we can articulate it…then we can pray about it….then we can mobilize around it…and God willing with enough courage one say we might act. Have we lost our vocal chords or have we just chosen to systematically stop using them when it gets uncomfortable or complex?

Grace – Not your crazy old Aunt

Have you ever paid attention to the spiritual elite that tried to stump Jesus time and time again? How many times did this group of highly educated people try to use carefully crafted questions, questions that they thought they knew the answers to, and how many times did Jesus diffuse the query and use it as a teaching about the Kingdom of God? These people were at the top of the spiritual world. They were on all the committees, the board. They were elders. They taught Sunday School, and whenever the “church” doors were open they were there involved with whatever program might have been going on at the time. For all intents and purposes these were the people that appeared to hold the community together.

It’s very easy to look at the spiritual elite, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, and judge them as blind and haughty. How could they not see the world changing being that was embodied fully in Jesus Christ? Afterall, this group of people was charged with keeping the law. No one would have understood the law and the prophesy of the coming Messiah better. Perhaps, they should have been the first to recognize the arrival of Jesus as the long awaited prophet, priest and king that would change everything.

So why didn’t they get it? Why did they work so hard to disprove Jesus? To challenge him? To make him look like a fraud? It is in my estimation, it seems that these people were too focused on being Jewish than they were about being Godly. They were too busy holding on to what they thought was right than to listen to what Jesus was teaching. The spiritual elite of Jesus day were critical, hostile, and often at times malicious. Focused on their own piety and their own interpretations, they had little time to entertain paradigm shifting events and teaching from the very Son of God.

I’ve been on my share committees, boards, teaching positions, and filled pulpits; how many times have I committed the same egregious actions that the spiritually elite of Jesus day committed? How many times should I have noticed and proclaimed a teaching that was right, but, instead, forsaking it for my own personal preferences? The next question is how many times does this happen in the Christian community at large? Are we too focused on being Christian that we forsake being Godly?

A long time ago when I was in my first position as a pastor I had mentor and friend give me a piece of wisdom that rings in my ears almost daily. He said, “If you’re going to error, error on the side of grace.” How true this piece of Godly wisdom has been year after year. There is a lot of personal thoughts and feeling that percolate through the Christian community, some good, some bad, but more times than not, well intentioned. Having the ability to error on the side of grace rather than holding to what we think is right is one step we can take towards being more Godly.

Then sings my soul???

What if the majority of American Christianity was heretical?  Should we address it?  Should we find every single opportunity to correct and refine and redefine our faith?  Or should we ignore it? 

Now perhaps that is too bold of a statement to make.  I may in fact be mistaken that the “majority” of American Christianity is heretical, but I am afraid that the numbers may be higher than we think…especially when we look at the more fundamental denominations in our faith.

So what is the heresy?  What is heresy?  Heresy is a belief or opinion contrary to Christian doctrine.  Almost of all of the major heresies in the church were determined in the first few hundred years of our existence as great ecumenical councils came together to wrestle with this new type of faith.  One such heresy that has been around from the times of the Gospels is Gnosticism. 

Gnosticism essentially said that people are actually souls trapped in these terrible bodies of flesh.  Our bodies are broken and sinful and diseases ridden and they exist in a world of filth, corruption and pollution.  The “real me” has nothing to do with my body…the “real me” is trapped inside this body longing to get out.  And to get out, all a person needs is the correct knowledge (or gnosis).  If we want to escape this terrible world and become ourselves without our broken bodies anymore, all we need is to see the light and know the right stuff. 

Have you ever heard a message like that in a church?  This world’s not our home…our bodies have nothing to offer…just pray this prayer; believe this way; have this knowledge…and know that one day you will be home (i.e. your soul will be in heaven…).  Have you ever really listened and thought about some of the old gospel songs we sing:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

     – from “This world is not my home” by Jim Reeves

Too many churches and pastors have unknowingly taken their theology lessons from Plato instead of our Gospels…especially the Gospel of John!  The word became flesh….flesh…body…This was written to combat the ideas of Gnosticism.  This was written to remind everyone of who we are as people.  This was written because if Gnosticism was allowed to run rampant what would happen?

Bodies don’t matter anymore…As Wendell Berry has said, “while the body goes about its business of destroying the earth, the soul is supposed to wait for Sunday…while the body exploits other bodies, the soul stands aloof, free from sin, crying… ‘I am not enjoying it.’”  Why should the body of Christ matter if we are just souls waiting on a transport?  Why should our bodies or creation matter if they’re just evil anyway?  What if it was this hatred for our bodies that paved the way to hate other bodies?  Why not then hate the bodies of slaves or women or animals or the earth?  Sound familiar?  Seen the news recently?

What if we were called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice not to appease and pave the way for our souls, but to offer all of ourselves to the transformative grace of God? 

When Discipline is Not An Option:

The Echo Life is about seeking wholeness through faith. As a blog especially written for Christians who are in the midst of daily struggle (and what Christian isn’t), we often focus on the process of sanctification, the process of working with God in the real removal of sin and brokenness in our lives. We take seriously the words of Paul to the church at Philippi when he states: Continue reading

Why have we stopped believing Jesus?

Last week I stood on a bit of a soap box and asked “Why Wouldn’t we?!?  And apparently that question struck a chord with a lot of people.  If you missed it, check it out for 2 reasons:  1 – it resonated with a lot of people & 2 – that story was only the beginning.  Walhalla Presbyterian is still not meeting in their space; people are still finding ways to reach out; and that story is still being lived out every day here in Walhalla.

The hard part for me is, how do I follow that up?  What else will resonate with people that they will share with their friends and wrestle with throughout the week?  My answer this morning…take the next step on the soap box.

If the question last week was why are we so surprised when churches actually act like churches towards one another?  My question this week is why have we stopped believing Jesus?  Let that sink in for a minute….

Why have we stopped believing Jesus? 

Now before you get all hot and bothered, do me a favor and go read John 14:11-14.  Remember this was Jesus’ last meal with his friends and he was leaving them some last words to live by.  Why is it that we love to talk about foot washings and service (which are obviously great) but never talk about this promise?  We seem surprised we churches come together to fulfill his final prayer from John 17.  And we seem to forget that he promised that we would do greater things that even he!

Why have we stopped believing the words of Jesus?

I think it is because we watch too much news coverage.  No offense to the media, but we have become convinced that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.  We are fascinated with economic collapse and the threat of global war and food shortages…and we’ve stopped believing in Jesus’ last words.  I am not saying there are not threatening aspects of our world. 

I am saying that we should stopped treating the Good News of the Gospel like a life raft on the sinking ship of earth.  We should stop celebrating some ethereal rapture where God will swoop down and saving us before the world collapses on itself.  We should start believing as if greater things were possible.

What if we actually believed greater things are yet to come and stopped just singing it?

We should start living as if greater things were possible, as if redemption and transformation actually matter and were actually possible.  Perhaps then we would see our churches as places of transformation instead of museums of a long lost era.  Perhaps then we would see our bodies as gifts to be cared for instead of trash to be discarded.  Perhaps then we would see the brokenness of the world as the greatest opportunity for the Gospel to actually matter. 

If you were inspired by the stories of last week’s post, then what can you do this week that is even greater?  What can we do to show the world we still believe the words of Jesus?

Why wouldn’t we?!?

fire

[Author’s note:  this post is less health focused and more reflective on the life of our churches]

This past weekend was a whirl wind.  The church across the street, Walhalla Presbyterian Church, suffered extensive damage from a fire Saturday.  The fire started a little before 10:00am and took 9 fire crews to get it under control.  In any town this is a big deal, in small town Walhalla, SC…it was huge.  Here is a link to a local news agency that covered the story.  To the people in the church I serve, it was like déjà vu all over again…except this time we were on the other side of the street.  In July 2009, members of St. Luke stood across the street in the Presbyterian Church’s parking lot, watching our sanctuary and education building burn.  Here is a link to that story. Continue reading