Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Trinity

A poem for Trinity Sunday…

(Click to read/listen.)

Advertisements

as the world gives…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

A large part of the world is built and continually dependent on the lack of peace.  Advertisers know that in order to sell a product or service, they often must first convince you of your deficiency without their offer.  News sources know they must convince you of inherent anxiety that you can not shed without hearing the story they’re about to share (after these messages).  Our economy and daily connection to what’s happening in the world threatens to be shaped by these forces on a regular basis.img_1760

Into that kind of existence, we receive the words from Jesus again:

“I’m giving you peace…and I know the world offers you peace also.  The world offers you peace if you buy their product.  The world offers you peace if you utilize their services.  The world offers you an equation by which if you do “A”, they’ll accomplish “B”, and the outcome will be “C” (A + B = C).  But even if you attain “C” in this world, it is a peace that continues to allow disturbance so that you will continue to purchase the product, utilize the service, and listen to their voice of influence.

In fact, I want you to take an entire day off every week.  You don’t have to, but I invite you to gladly because it will shape your soul.  One day out of every 7, step out of the routines and paces of this world to declare and remember your freedom from them.  My peace and freedom are not an equation.  They are not dependent on any conditions of this world.  They are a gift that is continually poured out by the Holy Spirit – your advocate sent by my Father to remind you of all these things.”

May we respond to His invitation to Sabbath this week in ways that free us to be people of peace during the other 6 days as well…

Growing in the Word

A sermon I was able to preach recently, connecting to 2 Timothy 3…

img_0929

(Click to Listen – Will open a new tab.)

Grace, Love & Bunny Hills

A few days ago I took a group of all ages from our church on a “Family Ski Day” a few hours drive from home. I love to ski, but living in Illinois has only offered me opportunities nearby, and probably only about once every other year. Still, I look forward to it every chance I get – and dream of someday going down an actual long ski run. I don’t enjoy the “Black Diamond” hills as much as a long, side-to-side, “Blue Square”.

This trip was different, however, as I brought our oldest daughter along. I secretly hoped she’d be a prodigy so we could enjoy a bit of skiing on the biggest slopes the valley of Andalusia, IL could offer. I took a quick video of her first attempt on a bunny hill so I could capture & share the memory.img_0397

Fast forward 6 hours later – she was still bubbling over with delight as she cruised down the bunny hill, using her ski poles to increase speed on the way down. She loved it. There was a small part of me that wanted to see her experience a larger hill – for her own sake – but also so that we could share that experience together. But her cup of excitement was filled and flowing with joy as her eyes communicated that she was thrilled to be skiing down the hill and riding the “magic carpet” back up, over and over again. She granted me permission, more than once, to go enjoy some more extreme skiing for a bit. I took her up on that offer a few times, and each time returned expecting her to tell me she was growing weary and wanted a larger, steeper hill. Instead, I could see her smile still beaming from a football field away. She was in the zone and loving every bit of it. I’d gently ask her if she wanted to try something a little different, and explore a larger hill. “No thanks, dad! I’m loving this.”

I smiled, loving her. As her father, I wanted so much more for her – and knew someday she may enjoy cruising the larger slopes. But also as her father, I loved watching her gain confidence and grow in excitement over her abilities here – where things were a bit easier to stay in control.

There are moments in scripture where I hear the same kind of love Jesus has for his disciples. He came as God in flesh, to reveal a way of loving and living never before seen in humanity. He gathered a small group of followers and began taking them down the bunny hills of revealing God’s Love. They were thrilled.

He began pointing to some of the larger slopes, and inviting them to adventure…and they took a few tumbles. Peter asks Jesus how this new approach to forgiveness works in Matthew 18:21, and you can imagine Jesus nudging him along on new ground. The disciples begin to rebuke people who were bringing children to him, and Jesus reminds them to keep their knees bent, and body relaxed (ski talk for a grace-full approach) in Luke 19:14.

There’s a bit more exasperation in his love during other moments. Times like the disciples freaking out about the storm in Mark 4:38, or Peter using his sword in Matthew 26:51-52. You can imagine Jesus patiently wanting so much more for his followers, even as he understood they were limited and still maturing in their faith.  The smile coming over his face, as he closed his eyes to imagine the ways God’s Love was yet to be revealed by His followers in the years and millennia to come. Then perhaps a bit of sadness in the corner of one eye, as he understood humanity would also continue to stumble on such large slopes.

There is a moment, in Luke 24:36, where Jesus comes back to the bunny hill to check on his followers. He waits a bit, hearing their conversation and smiling to hear their excitement as they share stories of his resurrection. This group of random men – fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, all brought together and united by the stirring of God’s Love. He knew they were being prepared for so much more…and they would invite others into the mission as well. He finally spoke up, “Peace be with you.”
They couldn’t imagine the places He’d just returned from and were stunned to see his scars. But as he began to talk to them in those final moments, they realized the grand picture of what he’d always been inviting them to join. They were no doubt overwhelmed by the love of this Savior who’d spent so much time on the bunny hills with them. They believed His promise that a power was coming that would enable them to Love & Live as He had.

May we be newly aware of such grace and love, and see how the Spirit might guide us to reveal His Love in ways we never imagined on the bunny hills…

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

Reminder: Check out the adventure of faith our family is launching out into!

On a Changed Mind…

In reading Bob Goff’s “Love Does” to our children recently, I was reminded of his words urging us not to be “Stalkers” of Jesus. He points out that we often spend so much time personally, and even in our gatherings studying about Jesus/Holy Spirit/God.  But how often are we focused on simply “being with” this Triune God?  As a pastor, as a father, and especially as one who recognizes the power of God’s Love – I want to consciously spend time, and invite others into times, of being increasingly aware of the fullness of God’s Love & presence.

Recently there was a book published that contains an amazing amount of scientists, researchers, and history of people all wanting to do something similar.  The main title is “How to Change Your Mind”, and a conversation with the author on NPR caught my attention.  As someone who’s studied biblical Greek, I remembered that Jesus often called people to “repent” using the word “metanoia” which literally means “having a changed mind”.  The unpopularity of this book in Christian circles might be caused by its subtitle, “What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence”.  The awkwardness of my preconceptions of psychedelics pushed-aside, I went ahead and read it anyways.

Wow.  The history of these substances and the opportunities for research beginning to resurface has a great deal to offer the brokenness of humanity.  Researchers are just in the past 8 years, finally and slowly/clinically, beginning to proceed cautiously again.  There are potentials in treating addictions, anxiety/depression, PTSD, and a great many of maladies in between.  Unfortunately, many of these substances were misused/abused in unsafe ways/levels back around the ’60s, and so most of us have a cloudy understanding of all these things.

But most interesting to me were the accounts of the early scientists/philosophers/divinity students who experienced these substances simply as a way to experience an “altered state of consciousness”.  Complete skeptics who viewed everything through a scientific lens came away skeptical of their own need to understand only that which is understandable.  Religious people came away feeling as if they’d “finally” had an experience of the divine.  There were so many great connections to those of us who are willing to see it, and I cannot process everything or share all the great quotes here.  But one thing in particular screams to be noticed:

What is striking about this whole line of clinical research is the premise that it is not the pharmacological effect of the drug itself but the kind of mental experience it occasions – involving the temporary dissolution of one’s ego – that may be the key to changing one’s mind.” Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind

It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to see the connection here.  Pick a verse! Look at Ephesians 4:22-24 if you need one.  Scripture talks about “dying to self” in order to come alive with the New Life of Jesus Christ over and over again.  Followers of Jesus since ancient times have wrestled with and expanded on what all of this involves.

What happens in story after story throughout Pollan’s book (the “good” trips at least) are individuals who carve out time and space purposefully for an “otherly” experience.  They are talked to by a “guide” who comforts them, and reassures them of their presence.  They close their eyes, turn on some music, and are guided verbally while the substance takes its effect.  Once you shed some of the hallucinatory aspects, what often leads to transformation/healing in the individual is coming away from such an experience aware that an “other” way of existing is out there.  An immediate realization of a unity that flows through all of creation, and the beauty of color, sound, etc.

One of the things that commends travel, art, nature, work, and certain drugs to us is the way these experiences, at their best, block every mental path forward and back, immersing us in the flow of a present that is literally wonderful – wonder being the by-product of precisely the kind of unencumbered first sight…”  Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind

This is not too far off from experiences we’ve heard of happening in worship.  This is not too removed from experiences of “guided prayer” even I have helped lead others into/out from.   It reminded me of another book I’d read recently, “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere“.  Merton has written extensively on prayer, on dying to the “false self”, and on meditation.  He was even around during many of these early “trials” in the 60’s, so I wondered his perspective of these things.  In a letter from December 1965, he writes:

“..my impression is that they are probably not all they are cracked up to be.  Theologically I suspect that the trouble with psychedelics is that we want to have interior experiences entirely on our own terms.  This introduces an element of constraint and makes the freedom of pure grace impossible.  Hence, religiously, I would say their value was pretty low.  However, regarded merely psychologically, I am sure they have considerable interest.” Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground of Love

I find myself agreeing with Merton.  The grace of God that arrives in our moments/lives of sacrifice and other-centered Love is not something we can carefully plan for/measure.  They should not be contained in a moment or require the assistance of substances.  Even the neuro-chemical responses of emotional worship experiences can be addictive in ways that make us desire more of those moments on terms we can manufacture.

Only when we are able to ‘let go’ of everything within us, all desire to see, to know, to taste, and to experience the presence of God, do we truly become able to experience that presence with the overwhelming conviction and reality that revolutionize our entire inner life.” James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere

It’s not as simple as saying “Drugs are bad, mmkay?”  But it is as simple as saying an authentic and sustainable experience of God that transforms and brings New Life is possible for anyone, anywhere, at any time.  We live within a creation that proclaims the awe-inducing beauty and goodness of God,.  We are surrounded by a fellow humanity that was created to bear the image of the Divine.  God is not so far away as we often imagine.  The divine invitation to repent, to “metanoia” (have a changed mind) is something we do not seek to control, but submit ourselves to by pausing.  We offer ourselves in unceasing and moments of prayer, and a life with patterns of Sabbath.

To put it another way, we “come away/apart” or “retreat” to a solitary place as Jesus did, but also in moments joined together in relationship with others.  We prayerfully and vulnerably confess our false selves and seek to live in ways that shed/deny that self for the sake of others.  In living with these patterns, embracing people and moments with the precious validity of what could be (rather than what we assume will be), we position ourselves to receive the grace of a God-given Now.

On a closing note, I do believe these substances are able to “force individuals” into an awareness of the Divine (though not always).  However, we don’t need a substance in order to reveal to us different ways of perceiving this world exist.  What Jesus invites us to recognize is the power of compassion to accomplish even more.  Compassion means literally “to suffer with”.  When I choose to enter into the sufferings of another (person, people group, etc.), my vantage point enters into their own.  When this happens, we experience a “metanoia” that empowered by the Holy Spirit can lead to freedom from the chains we’d previously been bound by.  From a Christian perspective – when I “die to self” to come alive as Christ, I enter into a Holy Spirit-sourced compassionate life for those whom Jesus Loves (everyone…yes, even/especially them).  Such a life is the arrival of New Creation, where former things (false self) have passed away and all things have become New.  Not once, and not in a moment, but as a way of Life.

But beware.  As anyone who’s traveled to a foreign country can affirm, a daily existence where everything is “New” can be incredibly exhausting both cognitively and physically.  We may find ourselves depending on the power of God and needing to return to His presence…often…

…the Good News is, He is here.

 

 

Elizabeth & Mary…

(An imagining of Luke 1:39-55)

MARY

Mary woke from another sleepless night, drenched in sweat.  The memories of her visit by an messenger of Yahweh still blinded her memory with a blazing light.  What did it all mean?  She was going to be withchild, and “He will be called great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”   The words all seemed to blur together as she pieced together those moments.  She remembers the feeling of sheer terror brought on by the Messenger, but also the feeling of wanting to stay in that moment forever.  There was pure Holiness, the likes of which she assumed were reserved only for the High Priest as he might enter the Holy of Holies.  She’d never imagined such an experience might be possible here…in her home where dust and dirt have stained the walls, and she pulls another wool blanket up to her face – smelling the animals in need of a bath nearby.

She wanted so badly to tell Joseph.  To try and make sense of it all.  But she was so afraid he would think she was crazy.  She’s seen how others have been treated.  People who lost their grip on reality.  She would be labeled “unclean”, and at worst case “possessed”, and cast out to live among those others who have made outrageous claims about experiences no one could, or would want to, ever verify.  Surely Joseph would laugh, and might even consider himself released from any commitment to marry her.  What would he really think?  Would he believe a messenger from God visited her, and told her she would give birth – as a virgin – to a child who would be called the “Son of God”??!  

The sun was just beginning to rise, and the sounds of a new day were drifting through the windows.   She was just so tired.  She wasn’t getting any sleep.  She needed to do something.  Nothing was going to make this easier, and she couldn’t keep it to herself.  Then she remembered – a caravan was leaving for Jerusalem that morning!  She had an old cousin there, a priests wife, one that the messenger of God had mentioned.  Elizabeth, Mary was pretty sure that was her name.  She remembered meeting her at least once before.   An older woman, she and her husband Zechariah were both so warm, and seemed to love gently with God’s own Love.  They had never had children before…there were all sorts of rumors as to why this might be.  But the messenger had told Mary that Elizabeth was now pregnant?  Maybe the messenger mentioned her for a reason.  She suddenly felt the urge to join this caravan in order to travel down and visit them!?

It was a 3 or 4 day journey, and they always needed extra young men and women to come along.  Young men could care for the animals, and young women could help with the food and meal times.  Her parents would surely allow her, as she was already getting close to marrying age.  She was right, and within a few hours – she was helping load the supplies and preparing for the journey.  She didn’t have time to tell Joseph, but her parents knew – they could relay the message.  She was going to check on a relative near Jerusalem, to offer sacrifices of thanks at the temple, and would be back within a week or two.  

The journey seemed to take forever.  The sun was hot, and the stench and noise of the animals being so close together made her long for quiet places.  She saw the young boys running alongside the animals, laughing and playing.  She loved watching their joy, but also loved wandering to the edge of the caravan – where she could hear her own thoughts, and see the beauty of the landscape.  She imagined what life as a mother might be like.  She imagined raising her son to embrace the quiet places as well, that way she would have someone nearby.  But then she shook her head, laughing at herself.  Of course, she had no idea what motherhood would be like – from what the Angel had said – this was no ordinary child.  Could this really be?  She was going to help bring the Messiah into the world – the one who would establish the Kingdom of God?  As she had these thoughts, the men of the caravan shouted and everyone left the road, pausing while a group of Roman soldiers and officials passed by.  Was God really going to bring freedom from the Empire…through her child???

After a few days journeying south together, they finally approached Jerusalem.  Her relatives lived just south west of the city, so as the caravan slowed – Mary found a group traveling on, and joined them to go a bit further.  As they approached Ein Kerem, she found herself heading toward the well.  She needed a drink, and it would be the perfect place to find someone who might know where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.  

 

ELIZABETH

Elizabeth sat in the silence of another slow morning.  Waiting to see what would happen with her day. Waiting.  That’s all life felt like anymore.  Always waiting to see what was going to happen, and so far – it didn’t seem like much.  As her hand rested on her belly, she smiled. At least now, she could see and feel evidence of the incredible promise they’d received by an Angel over 6 months ago.  She sighed, as she remembered those moments.  She’d been so worried when Zechariah first came home from what was a proud moment.  He’d been chosen by lot, to actually enter the sanctuary of the Lord to offer incense.  A priest usually was only able to do this once, so she knew her husband was soaking in each aspect of the moment slowly.  But when he came home that day, his eyes were filled with tears.  She couldn’t even ask what was wrong, before he rushed over to her, and drew her close as he sobbed.  She remembered her heart sinking in that moment. What had happened?  What had Zechariah done? What had gone wrong?  She smiled, as memories are always funnier after time passes.  Those moments of her husband trying to communicate with gestures.  He touched her mid-section, and a giant smile broke through his tears.  He pointed at her, and without words he tried so hard to communicate.  He stuffed a small pillow up his own tunic, and pretended to be withchild, and pointed at her.  He made grand gestures, and wrote the word “Messenger of God” on a small piece of parchment.  

 

It took a long time of back and forth that night, but she finally realized her husband’s voice had been quieted by God’s messenger, because Zechariah had failed to believe the message that was given.  Elizabeth was going to bear a son….a child….she was going to be a mother – something she’d given up on many years ago.  Not only a son, but a son filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way as Elijah, who would help prepare people for the Lord.  So much excitement, and she didn’t dare doubt – as she’d seen what such doubt had accomplished in her husband.   She smiled as she remembered the excitement, but then her eyes began to water as she remembered the pain of trying to tell others.  No one seemed to believe.  There was talk about Zechariah trying to stir up something to distract people from the temple.  They were glad Zechariah was finally able to offer incense, but didn’t want to hear anything about God promising an old woman a child.  She couldn’t understand.  All of these people who were supposed to be her friends.  Her loving community.  She decided it would be easier to stay inside. She was so hurt, that even when her pregnancy began to show, she continued to live silently – staying indoors and away from others.  She felt set free from any worry about what other people thought.  She could sense the life growing inside her, and knew she was valuable to Yahweh – offering all she could toward what He had in store.  Others would eventually celebrate, she knew this.  But for now, she wanted to sit quietly, intimately seeking the Lord  in whom she had found favor.  Zechariah would still go to the temple on most days.  They’d let him come around, but she sensed by his spirit each evening, it just wasn’t the same.  He couldn’t fully participate, and join the prayers and the psalms, as his voice was no longer with him.  The house was quiet, and filled with expectation.  But after a few months, it seemed just mostly quiet.  

So it was, 6 months into her pregnancy, that she sensed a stirring.  She was restless and so, it seemed, was the life inside her.  She heard the sound of travelers outside her window, and looked out to  watch the people for a bit.  That’s when she heard the sound of a young woman, “Cousin?  Elizabeth?”  The voice sounded to be coming closer, and her baby seemed to jump at the sound, so much that it startled her.  That sounded like…..she rounded the corner and sure enough she was filled with warmth and excitement – Mary was here!  

But there was more than warmth and excitement.  As time seemed to slow down, she was filled with understanding and felt like she could see through into the reality from which all things exist.  She was filled with the glory of God as she looked on her young cousin, and sensed a holiness growing within this girl that was the Son of God.  This was it.  This was the purpose her own son was growing to prepare the way for.  She didn’t know how all of this came to her, but at once she was overwhelmed with the Love of God.  She was swallowed up by the mystery of this moment, the Truth that seemed so filled with love – it became all too much for her to handle.  The Love of God – revealed in His action of becoming an infant.  All the holiness of God – touching humanity like never before….and all happening here, through her cousin Mary…she cried out, “

 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

 

She looked deep into Mary’s eyes, and saw herself.  She saw an expectant mother, who had no reason but faith – to believe what God had declared would happen.  She held Mary close in greeting, tears welling up in her eyes.  Here is someone who understands.  Here is someone who has believed, and God is doing something New as we offer Him ourselves.   She began to relax her grip on Mary, and her young cousin stepped back.

 

MARY

Mary took a deep breath, as she received the blessing that was just spoken over her.  How did Elizabeth know??  She wiped her own tears away, as she felt completely undone.  Here was a God who not only knew her deeply, but invited them both into depths of loving relationship she never knew possible.  There was no reason to pretend here, in His presence. There was no reason to wonder.  In this moment, she felt like she could finally process the truth that had been spoken over her by the Messenger.  The Holiness of God would be born through her as a child who would be King on the throne of David, to reign over the house of Jacob forever.  It didn’t make sense, but it didn’t need to. It was true.  The Son of God, the true King would come as an infant – and boy would that surprise the Emperor, and even the priests.  This was the kind of thing her people had whispered about for years, always praying and believing that one day – it might happen.  The loving kindness of God proclaimed by her ancestors, was doing something new – and changing everything.  As the truth of this sank deep into her bones, she realized this was not just going to transform her life…it really would transform everything…she wept as she began to sing a new song…

 

And Mary said, 

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 

As they embraced again, and spent the entire afternoon sharing all that was on their hearts, the home was once again filled with expectation.  As hours turned to days, Mary loved the time they spent together.  Here was someone who understood.  Here was someone who had already endured the responses of others. Here was someone who was willing to serve God – no matter what the cost, and no matter how it changed her life forever.  Days turned into weeks, and 3 months later – as Elizabeth was about to give birth, Mary knew it was time for her to head home.  Even though she’d sent word home with other travelers, she knew her parents would be concerned.  Joseph must be wondering by now too.  She still wasn’t sure how to tell him about this child, but she wouldn’t be able to hide it for much longer.  She was beginning to show, and these 3 months with Elizabeth had filled her with such hope and excitement for being right in the middle of what God was doing.  The faithfulness and love of God was being revealed through these moments – and she was overwhelmed with Joy, and humbled to be a part of it all.  She prayed as the caravan set out for Nazareth – “Lord…prepare Joseph for what is about to happen.  As you have spoken to my heart, speak also to his.  Not only his, but our whole community and all of your people.  Prepare hearts, and invite others to be aware of what you are doing.  You, Lord, deserve so much worship and adoration.”  Her heart began to race, as she was unsure where to direct her words and thoughts.  Should she turn toward Jerusalem, or should she whisper to the Holiness of God that was stirring within her?  She wrapped her arms gently around herself, keeping warm in the cool morning, and simply whispered… “Thank you, Lord.”

 

We join with Mary this morning in whispering, “Thank you, Lord.”

 

A Statement on Ministry…

The “official” graduation ceremony for my MDIV takes place this Saturday.  I’ve already walked (across our home church stage, to receive my diploma from my wife & children), but I figured this would be a good moment to pause.  Here are a few words I wrote many months ago, toward the end of my MDIV.  These are words I want to look back on and remind myself with, and so I “file them” publicly here – in case they may serve to encourage others.  These are not profoundly unthought of, will not shock the world, or inherently transform someone’s ministry.  But for me – they are important to remember:

PERSONAL MINISTRY STATEMENT
“My life in ministry aims to join the incarnational presence of Jesus by living out the good news of the gospel invitationally in every area of my life toward the New Creation of all things – both now and yet to come.”

Based on the coursework at Wesley Seminary, the reminders and wisdom gained, the time spent in scriptural study, and conversation with others – I can say some foundational things about ministry itself. I would use the word “pastoral” ministry, but this may imply that it is only true when serving as a professional “pastor”. Instead, I would simply use the term “Ministry” itself from the Christian perspective. This implies and includes those descriptions of a pastor but does not limit an understanding to someone who is paid to carry such a title professionally. Such ministry must always be incarnational, invitational, and eschatological.
INCARNATIONAL
In Jesus we see God becoming human to literally make this fleshly world the location of His presence in a way that had never occurred. This was not simply to give us a pattern to emulate, but by his resurrection and Holy Spirit becomes something we’re empowered to participate in. Any effort for ministry must be fed by first feasting at the table set for us by Jesus in prayer, Word, and worship. By receiving New Life in Christ, we are transformed into that New Creation that proclaims Jesus as fully Lord here and now. This means we are not simply incarnational to be among the people God loves, but we are missionally incarnational – infinitely compelled by the Love of God to proclaim, live out, and share the reality of God’s New Creation reality as is arriving “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Christian ministry here will be a response to all of this in the context of bringing healing restoration and redemption to relationships between humanity, God, and creation itself.
INVITATIONAL
In Jesus we see God extending such an invitation not only during a worshipful moment in the temple but as he walked along the road. We see Jesus extending the invitation to not only hear the objective truth, but to live in the new reality of all things transformed by Christ – set free from both sin, and the death it brings about. Christian ministry contains all of the amazing “Means of Grace” talked about by John Wesley, along with the “Method-ism” he espoused but is so much more than these things. It happens as Deuteronomy 6 proclaims, “When you sit at home, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.” Because of Jesus Christ, there is no person, no group, no location, no family, and no brokenness that is beyond the invitation of God to experience freedom and redemption in His Love. Christian ministry here is empowered by the Holy Spirit to extend that invitation in life and word.
ESCHATOLOGICAL
In Jesus, we see a life and ministry that joins the flow of God from something toward all things being made new. Even as important things happen, especially in the context of individuals and communities, it is always within the larger context of the Kingdom coming fully that these things are located. The word here is generally used for “last/final things”, but in this case, we really view the coming “completion of all things” as a New beginning that is forever located fully within the reign and rule of Christ. Christian ministry here recognizes with both hope and humility that everything we do, say, and any bit of our “being” is to be discovered and understood within those purposes and activities of God toward what will be. That is not to say our eyes are completely turned toward the “final days”, or even to a contemporary understanding, as we believe God has been speaking and revealing His final purposes actively as His Love has been transforming all things since creation itself.
CONCLUSION
There are libraries filled with books about how these things find themselves happening and “fleshed out” in the midst of individuals, families, and communities shaped by the loving presence of Jesus Christ. It involves worship services, small groups, proclamation, Bible studies, accountability, prayer, fasting, baptism, teaching, and more. Depending on the particular situation, season, and lives involved, it may take different shapes. But at the core, Christian ministry is always about joining the work and life of the Triune God who has invited us to do so in ways that transform us for the sake of all creation. We do this in fear and trembling, with excitement and joy, and mostly with a whole lot of grace – offered first on our behalf, so that we might begin to respond as He calls.

img_8738

%d bloggers like this: