Saturday, April 3, 2010
Although Jesus Christ walked the cold dark steps to the place of the skull, the story did not end with a man suffering on a cross, and being laid in a tomb. That is the story that many of us know. Death, which brings despair, confusion, and leaves us longing for something…anything.
So we find many things to occupy our time until death. There is school, work, marriage, kids, birthdays, 401 Ks, retirement, shuffleboard, and grandkids. There is much pleasantness infused with much heartache, but you find that the heartaches can often be overcome, and you continue on. It’s all heading somewhere though; the time when we breathe our last breath…death. This is what “life” is to many of us.
Sometimes we struggle to live it well. Sometimes we content ourselves with fleeting desires. It all means something and it all means nothing at the exact same time.
However, the story of the cross does not end with the man being laid in the tomb. Really, in a weird way that is where the story begins. Nobody was expecting this though. Even Jesus’ closest friends missed all the tell-tell signs, but that means very little really, we all would have missed it because to us death is the end…there is nothing in this life after that.
On the third day a victory was completed by death being defeated. In the middle of human history, what seemed to be the end of the story became a brand new beginning.
Jesus Himself remained on this earth for 40 more days, where He then fled on a cloud to assume His role next to His Father. His story continued through His friends who He had to prove His renewed life to. Once they saw Him and understood, there was nothing that could keep them from telling everyone about Jesus and His victory over death.
Jesus’ story continues today through His people who continue to believe that death is no longer the end through Jesus.
Where that seems to merely give great hope at what would have been the end, the people who really grab a hold of resurrection find that it transforms life and how they live it. No longer are they among those who were born-to-die. Instead of thinking that death is something that happens at the end, they see it as something that had happened before. They gravitate to this reality that they were born dead.
Now, through Jesus, the people who carry on His story find that it is carried on through everything. Everything is in the place of being reborn, or redeemed, or resurrected. There is no place of death where life cannot infiltrate because Jesus rose on the third day.
This is why a cross of death can be celebrated as something that brings life. Jesus is alive.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
It seems as though that this portion of Luke’s gospel is written in such a manner to rise up our frustrations. We come to what has been called Passion Week, just after Jesus rides into the city triumphantly, and the text reads in such a way to build great anxiety, or drama.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the chief of the people are, per usual, in opposition to Jesus. However, they are seeking more vehemently than ever to destroy Him. The antagonists are announced clearly at the end of chapter 19.
Chapter 20 begins with the antagonists antagonizing. This is frustrating in and of itself, especially to those of us who love Jesus. Luke’s portrayal of the great anxiety of this section of Scripture is only gaining momentum. The first question posed to Jesus is, “by what authority doest thou these things, or who is he that gave thee this authority?”
It is at this point that we need to ask what they are asking this question about. The text points clearly to the fact that they are asking by whom, or what authority are you preaching the gospel?
Now then, it is here we must pause and clarify exactly what the “gospel”, or the “good news” is that Jesus is teaching? Jesus made this very clear: a) in Luke 4.43 Jesus is clear, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also”; b) in Matthew 3.2, “repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”; c) in Mark 1.14-15, “Jesus came preaching the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the gospel.
So it is that Jesus’ gospel, or good news was that of the Kingdom of God.
The opposition’s question becomes clearer to us then. We find that they are asking in a roundabout way if Jesus is the promised Messiah. Moreover, they are not asking to know so that they can believe. Rather, they are asking so that Jesus will indict Himself as one who claims to be the promised King. We understand that this is their hope in how Jesus responds, and/or does not respond.
Our anxiety grows as the story is read because we have the benefit of perspective. By that I assuredly mean that we see who Jesus is because we know the whole story, and most of us have trusted in Him as our Savior and King. When Jesus does not clearly proclaim Himself as King we squirm.
We feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 74:
10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? 11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom. 12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. 14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. 16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. 17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. 18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. 19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. 20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. 21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name. 22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. 23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.
Yes, we most assuredly feel the anxiety of Jesus not hushing their blasphemous mouths, or quieting their taunting jeers.
The text moves forward with more of these types of situations.
When the enemy cannot get a pronunciation from Jesus to be the Christ, or the Messiah, they send in spies to act as though they are rightly inquiring to be His disciples. They ask the age old question, “do we pay our taxes?” More importantly, they ask the pointed question, “do we pay our taxes to Caesar?” Of course we know that He would be in trouble if he said, “yes”, or “no”.
Again, the drama grows with the fact that they are trying Jesus in such a manner. As well, our anxiety is such that we want Jesus to say, “enough”, and read them the right-act. Jesus’ answer is brilliant, that is never in-question. We get some joy from His brilliance, but we are still thinking, “show them that you are King”.
This continues to go on through the Sadducees inquiry of marriage in the resurrection, after which Luke tells us that they stopped asking questions. Now what needs to be appropriately understood here is that there cessation of questioning does not equate to their cessation of seeking to destroy Jesus.
Along the lines of anxiety this text is crafting, we find a very brief moment of “calm” in which Jesus is given some time to offer unadulterated teaching to His disciples about pure desires, pure giving, and the cost of impurity: destruction. However, chapter 22 opens with the week drawing to a close and a disciple of Jesus, Judas, making a covenant with the enemies of Jesus.
If you thought for a moment that there was going to be a real relief, you were absolutely wrong. When Jesus could not be indicted for false teaching, we find the plan of His betrayal. If this were in a movie, I am guessing that there would be a montage flashing to scenes of Jesus teaching, while simultaneously there would be screen shots of Judas’ secret meeting with the opposition. If we were watching this on the Big Screen our stomachs would be tied in knots.
We know exactly how the story goes; however, I would encourage you to read on further for yourselves this week.
Tonight as we feel the anxiety of the story. As questions swirl in our mind about all the opportunities that Christ had to proclaim Himself as King. As we think of this in light of what we discussed this morning with the absolute temptation of Christ to fore-go the Cross. We can discuss several different realities:
-This anxiety/drama that the text portrays was brought about by well-intentioned people who believed God, but did so very divisively and with great fallacy.
-The drama of this narrative plays well with the drama of real life: Jesus is very clearly seen by those who have the right perspective of Him, and He is missed by those who, well-intentioned or not, have a paradigm about who Jesus is, and subsequently about who God is.
-Reminds us that Jesus had opportunities outside of the Cross, but was called to the Cross.
-Reveals to us, again or anew, that the power and truth of the Gospel is grasped by some, and rejected by others; however, we must remain constant in our proclamation, and living out of it.
-Renews the reality that Jesus knows the frustrations (physically and spiritually) of a people that reject Him, and He loves them, or remains sure to the promise, despite it all.
There are certainly other realities to glean from this portion of Luke's gospel account...
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Paul's discourse of the Spirit quickly led into Paul's rebuke of our Corinthian brothers and sisters being divided. It is a good text. As Matt pointed out, "Paul points out spiritual maturity too. Not with knowledge about God, but how well they discern God and His Spirit." Our dialogue of the text was not long, but it was fruitful for me. Especially considering that I have had a full day and it is still solid in my mind.
I am thankful for Matt's text this morning. We were able to experience the Word together, which is always good. Moreover, Matt redemptively used technology, which can often be very unredeeming.
I have a friend who works at a restaurant and he started receiving verses through texts. He actually thought it was my wife who was sending them to him (he wasn't sure because the number was not saved in his phone). One day a verse spoke greatly to him and he decided to call (who he thought would be my wife) to thank the person for the texts. He was embarassed and surprised when he found out it was a girl he worked with. I know this story because he has told it to me several times. It surely meant something to him.
There is no new concept that I am arriving at in this blog. People have used texting for some time to share truth. With blogging, facebook, twitter, and other social networking sites, sharing the good news through technological mediums is nothing new. Mostly, I just wanted to remark that I am thankful that Matt and I did not have to wait until 6pm when he got off work, or wake up at 5am to meet before he went to work to share in a reading of the Text (I would not replace those meetings with texts though, there is nothing like face to face communication).
On the other hand, I think about the fact that Matt texted me the passage (I am unsure if it was a mass text), and that positioned me in a place where I was more likely to read the passage and respond. It was a less vague way of putting information out; less vague than say like twitter or facebook. I say this because Matt talked to me, not the general public, but he addressed me initiating me to read a passage I would not have read to day, dialogue I would not have had today, and (I Hope) understanding I would not have gained today, when he read the passage and thought, "McCauley would enjoy this". Leading him to text me personally (as far as I know and believe because a convo we had yesterday concerning the themes from 1 cor 2-3).
I might have responded if I saw him say something on facebook or twitter for "everyone" to see (everyone in his friends list), but I doubt it. Usually, I begin to reply to people but then think myself out of it (for a number of reasons, all which are steeped in some form of pride). However, since I received the text, personally, I felt the need and desire to read and respond (for several reasons). All this is to say, I am glad to have woken up to the text my friend sent me.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Most recently, Isaiah 40-44 is revealing to me the reality of my heart. No matter what I preach, or teach, or am strongly convicted of, I find myself in a whirlwind of me. God nor others play the key role of my thought. I am enjoying the benefits of the gospel, but ignoring the responsibility.
Religion has been made many things. It is works over grace. It is empty and vain. I am finding that religion is when I make it all about me. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this", says James, "to visit the fatherless and widow in their afflictions, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." So if my religion is just to remain unspotted, I have gone half way, but the fullness of the gospel calls me to the fullness of religion. The call is to meet others in their afflictions as well.
I believe whole heartedly that James is speaking of actual fatherless, and actual widows. However, tonight I am seeing another layer to his teaching. When we consider that God is spoken of as father and groom, then James is also talking about the spiritually fatherless and the spiritually widowed. Those who cannot cry out "Abba, Father" are the ones who need the visitation of those of us who do. Those cannot call themselves "the bride of Christ" are the ones who need the visitation of those of us who do.
For those have never cried "Abba, Father" through Christ you can. For those who are widowed now because of the transgression that separates you from the bridegroom, through Christ you can become the bride. All that is required is a steadfast belief in the righteous works of Christ. In Him God fulfilled a covenant once given to a nation and now offered to the whole world. The covenant speaks of God reclaiming His position of Father and Groom. There is great benefit in that. The great responsibility is to carry on the renewed, restored relationship and testifying of it to those others who are fatherless and widows.
Lord, help me that I do not practice religion, but I hold fast to the pure religion and undefiled.
Monday, August 31, 2009
More than ever it is apparent that the propaganda of society is driven by fear. Our faith is driven by hope; hope given to us by God. As our culture lunges forward grasping because of fear, God provides hopeful assurance through promise.
Genesis tells the story of a promise. The promise is land, son, and blessing.
The promise is God’s resolve because there are problems.
These promises are passed down through the generations.
The stories of promises fulfilled are passed along as well.
God revealed Himself to man providing hope through promise.
God’s people shared this hope, these promises.
I would venture to say that there were other people delivering other stories while these stories were being given.
People realized that they would not be here forever.
People realized that there were times when it rained, and the rain helped the harvest.
People realized that there were times when there was no rain, and the drought killed the harvest.
People realized that people would lie to them in their business dealings.
People realized that good land did was not obtained without a cost (goods, services, fighting, lives).
People realized that life was uncertain (what I have today could be gone tomorrow; I could be gone tomorrow).
People realized that children propagated their life (if I die with no children I am dead).
People realized that no one was going to give to them. More so, if they weren’t careful they would be taken from (they had to watch their own, protect themselves, look out for number one.
From these revelations mankind’s stories reigned, these were stories of grasping. I have to grasp for land. I have to grasp for children. I have to grasp for getting.
God provided hope to people who were living in fear.
God gave a promise to people who were grasping.
Promise is God’s hopeful resolve in a culture of fearful grasping.
What story do you tell?
Do you live by hope?
Do you survive to thwart off your fears?
There are these mothers found in the story of Genesis, who almost were not mothers.
Their bodies had grown past the physical stage of conception.
These women were promised children. They could not conceive children. These children were gifts.
We have records of these mothers because their stories were shared from generation to generation.
They were claims that in a culture of grasping, God provides a promise.
The gospel writer Luke tells of a woman who is old. Explicitly, she is too old to conceive children. She has never had a child. She really wanted a child, but she has given up hope. One day her husband is greeted by a messenger, who announces he is from God.
I bet you know where I am going.
The messenger has a promise to deliver to this man, Zacharias.
He says, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”
Zacharias did not believe the messenger. Zacharias had lost hope. Zacharias forgot all about promise. Zacharias had resigned to grasping.
Nine months later…
Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to a son, John.
The story of hope continues with fulfilled promises.
It is really something when a lady who is too old to conceive has a baby.
Luke continues to tell us about another lady, well, she is more of an adolescent girl.
She is at the prime time for conception.
But she has never been with a man (in the Biblical sense).
She is visited by a messenger of God.
She is promised a child.
Oh great she thinks, “my fiance will be happy to know that when we get married, and we consummate our marriage, we will be able to have a child.”
The messenger corrects her, “No, Mary, not after you get married. Not after you have had intercourse. Before all of that, God is going to allow you to conceive.”
Mary’s reaction is uncanny. She does not have any questions. She does not have any doubts. She simply is in awe that this is going to happen to her.
Mary believes the messenger, and worships God because she knows all too well that He has promised and fulfilled and promised and fulfilled and promised and fulfilled. Mary believes those stories over the stories others are telling.
Stories driven by fear
Stories of grasping
Nine months later…
Mary gives birth to a son. Her son’s name is Jesus.
The other day some buddies of mine showed up to HUT Mobile Home Park with 3000lbs of food. They opened up the back doors and said, “take some, it’s free”.
The people at the mobile home park stood looking at each other in disbelief.
They sheepishly waited for the first brave soul to approach the truck and to get their food.
They were looking for the sign-up sheet.
They were holding off for the sales pitch.
They were waiting for the catch.
They remarked aloud, “is this really for free?”
These people were used to grasping.
Yesterday they were introduced to promise.
I have a friend for years she lived her life in fear, all the while grasping.
She was afraid that she would not be loved.
She was unsure of herself.
She devised a plan.
If she let go of her inhibitions and opened her body to guys, she would be loved.
She was grasping and grasping and grasping.
One day a guy did not want her body for himself.
The guy told her of a story about a man, who was born to a virgin because of a promise.
He told her the story of Jesus. This guy introduced this girl to hope, to promise.
So now I have a friend named Allisa and she lives to tell people of this hope she came to realize through the promise of Jesus.
I have more stories like this. They are great stories. They continue to give me hope. They continue to remind me of promise.
However, I know that there are more stories of people who are grasping.
They tell me, “Jesus could not have been born of a virgin” they are grasping to be right.
There are others who tell me things like, “I am really a good person”. They usually proceed to tell me, “why, just the other day I found a wallet in the parking lot of Sam’s. It was full of cash, and I found the owner and gave it back”, stories like these, these moral tales are pretty inspiring. These stories are not rooted in promise; these are stories of grasping, grasping to be accepted as right.
There have been others, who are not in disbelief grasping to be right, nor are they in mis-belief grasping to be accepted as right. I know of people who are in utter belief of God. They believe that Jesus is God. However, they tell me things like this, “God would not forgive me for the things that I have done”. They are beyond grasping. They are in resignation (we'll talk more about this week).
In Genesis we find stories of promises given, promises fulfilled. These stories continue and are shared and recounted and new stories are added. The greatest story of a promise given and fulfilled is through the story of Jesus.
Jesus provides a concept of hope in fearful days. In days when the taxes were high, and food was scarce. In days when jobs were unsecure; In days when the government was promising peace and security and “the answer”, but people were not realizing this audacious peace and security; people were not getting answers. Jesus’ hope was rooted in the God of promise; God who knew that we would be grasping until the day we died if there was no resolve; God whose promise provided a path to nourishment, propitiation, and blessing.
Jesus’ call was for people to simply realize they were grasping. Upon their realization of the fear they were consumed with, their acts of grasping, Jesus called them to believing. “Believe”, he said, “that God’s promises are sure.” “Believe”, he continued, “that you can move out of fear and into hope alone.” “Believe”, he concluded, “that God’s promises are realized through me.”
Again, what story do you tell?
Do you live by hope?
Do you survive to thwart off your fears?
Do you find yourself grasping?
There is a promise. Believe!
I delivered this message on Sunday August 30, 2009. The concepts of fear, hope, promise, and grasping were clearly outlined in talks given by Walter Brueggemann at the First Presbyterian Church of Knoxville. His talks put form to this message.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Primarily, I love hearing these stories because there is a power in the art of telling a good story. As well, I love hearing great stories told because I am a horrible story teller, and I am amazed to listen to such clear, thought provoking, impacting memories shared. The power and sheer awe I have for the art of story telling would only be surpassed by my profound love of music, by a slight margin.
There is little more that I could tell you as a plug for these podcasts. I would encourage you for entertainment, for knowledge, for inspiration to have This American Life and The Moth Podcast to find their way to your mp3 collection/device.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Yesterday, one of my buddies, who was part of the conversation we had a while back, sent out an email with a link to a gamer's review of Guitar Praise. I read the review, and then the comment section. In the comment section people voiced positive, negative, and apathetic opinions about the game, more so about the need of the game then about the game itself. I found it very interesting that there were basically the same types of feedback in an open forum of people who would never come in contact with one another that could be found among my buddies and I, who are tied together relationally. More so than our relational tie, we are all believers in, and followers of Jesus Christ.
We would expect to see varying opinions and perspectives in an open forum posted on the World Wide Web. We not only expect to see differing opinions, but we also welcome the clash of varied perspectives. We do not expect a unified voice in a place where people from anywhere and everywhere are given a voice. As much as we expect and welcome a variety of perspective in some places, we mostly do not expect and/or welcome differing opinions among believers or in church.
When I looked at the comments left on the forum, and compared them to the comments my buddies and I shared with each other I came to the question, "what is unity?" One of the most beautiful thoughts to me about Christ is that He unifies people. The first believers in Christ were marked by their unity, their oneness. Unity is a major desire of mine, and many others, for Christians today. As much as unity was a mark of early Christians, fragmentation is the mark of Christians today. Possibly fragmented because we have misunderstood that unity in Christ welcomes varied perspectives and opinions.
Forever I have romanticized unity as a magical place where people always see eye to eye, have all the same convictions and understanding, and no one ever argues. My romanticized notions have been challenged though. As I read the gamer review and the comments left, and as I thought about the differences expressed among strangers and those expressed among friends (friends who are "unified" in Christ) the reality of America set in. America is united by ideals laid out in a constitution. There is no singular color of skin, blood line/tribe, or religion that binds America together to be called the "United States of America". America is ethnically, socially, religiously, and in many other ways diverse! We are united by such ideals that we are alloted the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In much the same way, unity for Christians lies in our belief that Jesus Christ is Lord and in the mission He set us on to tell everyone the good news (gospel) that He is the way, truth, and life.
The romanticized idea that I had of unity was a dull gray scale, true unity is full color. As I am writing, I am looking out the window at an array of blues, greens, browns, oranges, yellows, and even different shades of white. All of the colors I am seeing are giving life to the view before my eyes. All of the colors have found themselves out side my window, in one picturesque scene. I can only imagine how bland this one frame before my eyes would be if everything were blue and faded into the backdrop of the sky, leaving only shadows to distinguish one tree from the other or the stone fence from the street. In all likelihood, I would not have a real depth perception if all of this scene was a blue that faded into the sky. The full colors of the view my eyes are seeing is like varied perspectives and different opinions that are found amongst Christians. They are not the picture but are what the picture consist of.
For years we as Christians have been separating ourselves. We have taken one big beautiful picture and divided it into small, dull, single color pictures. We have failed to see that the beauty of the unity Christ offers is the perspectives and opinions of the people He unites from all walks of life, every social status, and every ethnic or cultural backdrop that add color, depth, and dimension.