Who Said This…?

Who and what theological tradition said this:

“the Word of God precedes the Bible and surpasses it. That is why the center of our faith isn’t just a book, but a salvation history and above all a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.”

Entrusted With the Kingdom

I have shared with many of you that it is quite funny how whenever I meet another Brit here in the States we have an almost instant affinity together. We have a bond. We are Brits in America – we have a similar accent – we share similar experiences of our country – we have eaten toad in the hole, fish and chips, steak and Kidney Pie with gravy and Yorkshire Pudding followed by Treacle Pudding and Custard.

We have a bond BECAUSE we are citizens of the United Kingdom, or Great Britain.

Now, if I was back in England, this person may not even be on my radar of friendship. I may not even have liked them if I had met them on streets of London.

But because of the circumstances of living in another country where we are a minority – we instantly come together under the identity of our Citizenship and talk all things British.

The same thing happens with church. Church is a place we gather & meet people we would not necessarily naturally be drawn to outside of the church. In the first century, the Church had a hugely diverse membership, which in the culture would have caused incredible problems. Slaves and masters, rich and poor, the powerful and the weak all gathered as equals under the cross of Christ. Nowhere else in the world could they gather as equal brothers and sisters and therefore nowhere else could they have known one another.

It is no exaggeration to say that the peoples very lives were tied up in the body of the Church in the first century.

And while the cultural gaps between the rich and poor, the powerful and weak the master (employer) and slave (employee) is different, the same principle is at work.

We come together because of a desire to worship the Lord God and to grow in maturity and to be a part of the fellowship and community of Christians. We talk and spend time together but then the rest of the week our paths may never cross.

One theologian has said that in church, what hurts the most is our lack of human relationships. Many worship services in which we participate every Sunday remain devoid of genuine human contact. We scarcely know each other with any genuine mutuality. We do not even consider it very valuable to create community with each other.

Of course, when we gather together in church we say Hi, how are you, great to see you, but so often these relationships cease when we leave the meeting.

A question we might ask ourselves is can there be a preaching church in which one receives something, without a community in which one gives something?

In this account from Luke there are some words which are really quite remarkable – in v29 he says: You are those who have stood by me in my trials and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom.

The Revised English Bible translates this verse as “You have stood firmly by me in my times of trial: and I now entrust to you the kingdom which my father entrusted to me”.

I think that is a better translation.

As Jesus prepared to leave earth and return to heaven, he entrusts to his closest disciples the work he has started. He entrusts to them the kingdom.

The following verses show that ultimately this carries into eternity– the 12 will rule on thrones – but this entrustment, also includes the here and now.

Now, what did it mean to be entrusted with the kingdom of Heaven? Well, of course part of it would be the declaration of who Jesus was and the call to people to follow him, but it also included looking after those IN the kingdom of heaven – looking after the believers.

One of the hardest lessons for us to learn as believers is that we are not just individuals but part of a body. We are not just a collection of people who gather with a common focus on a Sunday but we are a united, joined, force which has at its center the work of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom – we are citizens of heaven – ambassadors for Christ – a community.

But community is not, and should not be about occasional, interspersed interaction.

We must not forget that Jesus Christ lived in community – he lived intimately together with his disciples. His disciples squabbled, argued with each other, annoyed each other and even tried to get places of authority behind each others backs. This was no peaceful commune. Yet Jesus gave himself to the community of those around him; living, walking; teaching; solving conflicts between the disciples, and sharing an intimate meal with them on the eve of his death.

We have also been entrusted by God with his kingdom here in Mount Vernon – and how we live and act in this community of the body of Christ, both outwardly to others, and inwardly to each other, is vitally important.

Our epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 11 shows this vividly. Paul tells us something quite sobering – if one eats the bread and wine of the Eucharist unworthily then they are guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Then V29 says this For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. The question is to what does the word ‘body’ refer? The context suggests it is the body of believers. Paul has, in v20-22 chastised the Corinthians for how they are treating other members of the body. The likelihood is that as they gathered for a communion service, bringing their own supplies of bread and wine for the service as was the custom, the more wealthy began to eat and drink before everyone else had arrived, which meant the poorer people, those who were slaves who had to finish all their work before being able to come to this communion service, arrived to find there was no food, either to eat for a meal nor to have for communion. One theologian says on this verse: Those who eat and drink in flagrant disregard of the physical needs of others in their fellowship risk incurring punishment from God.

In other words, we take communion unworthily when we have ignored or trampled on the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Is our view of community, of this body, simply a weekly, limited interaction for an hour or so?

Or do we feel that we are part of a body – a community that looks out for each other, where no one is alone with their problems; where no one has to conceal their disabilities; where neither the old nor the young are isolated; where we bear with one another even when it is unpleasant and there is no agreement.

Jesus lived in and ministered in community and then he ENTRUSTED THE KINGDOM to this community.

Let us just pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that when we come forward to take communion, we do so not as individuals who happen to belong to Christ the Saviour, but as a body, a community, who has been entrusted with the Kingdom here in this place and that each of us has a role in it.

The Episcopal Church Is Like The Lying Prophets in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 26 has the prophet declaring God’s word to the religious leaders and people. They did not like the word of the God because it offended and contradicted what they had been preaching. v7-9 says:

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered about Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

This is exactly what is happening in the Episcopal Church today. Those, whether clergy, bishop laity, who promote doctrines which are not scriptural (yes, gay ordination and gay marriage) are just like those in Jeremiah’s day who screamed at  Jeremiah “You shall die”. No, the liberal church is not threatening the conservatives with death – but they are just as angry.

One blogger writes: In the actual world of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion there are all sorts of signs pointing to communities of incarnation and resurrection, but in blogland the sour voices of the realignment crowd and the thickheaded call for a return to the “faith once delivered to the saints”makes for dull and deadly conversation.

Really? Those who stand for the truth of God’s word are thickheaded?

Or The Rev. Dr. Luis León, Rector of St John’s in DC. Effectively he tells everyone that unless they agree with gay marriage, pro choice etc you are a bigot.

The Rev. Dr. Luis León is just like the priests which screamed at Jeremiah “You shall die”.

The interesting thing is that the liberal church would have hated Jeremiah. And to hate a prophet of God was to hate God.

 

Criticism

One day a man met Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher, on the street, took off his hat and bowed, and said, “The Rev. Mr. Spurgeon—a great idiot!”

Spurgeon took off his hat and replied, “Thank you for the compliment. I am glad to hear that I am a great anything!”

Have you ever had a day, or even a season when people have criticized you?

Criticism can be hard to take. It can stir a huge range of emotions in us; it can make us defensive, angry, fearful and even bitter.

Of course, while we would prefer never to be criticized the likelihood is that we probably will be.

As Elbert Hubbard, author of A Message To Garcia said: to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing!

And of course, we know that Jesus was criticized. A lot!

Just take Mark chapter 2 for example. Jesus is criticized four times in this chapter alone. Every story that Mark tells in this chapter has the Pharisees criticizing Jesus’ or Jesus’ disciples actions.

  • Why does this fellow talk like that – v7?
  • Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? – v16
  • How is it  that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting but yours not? V18
  • Why are [your disciples] doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? V24

For most of us, criticism can strike at the very heart of who we are. It can paralyze us; it can immobilize us – it can stop us from doing what we should be doing. We end up scared of being criticized so we do not do anything.

To get criticized does not mean what you are doing is necessarily wrong.  Jesus is criticized four times in this passage – and he had not done, nor does he ever do anything wrong! To do something well, right and true does not mean we will avoid criticism!!

Criticism is always difficult to accept, but if we receive it with humility and a desire to improve our character it can be very helpful. As Proverbs says Only a fool does not profit when he is rebuked for his mistakes.

Several years ago I read a helpful article on this subject. It stated that when we are criticized we ought to ask ourselves whether the criticism contains any truth even when it is not given with the right motivation and in the right spirit.

The article offered these four, helpful suggestions as to what to do when someone criticizes us:

(1) Commit the matter instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or counter-criticism on your part and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you any needed lessons in the criticism

(2) Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has criticized us does not know the worst about us.

(3) If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may have injured.

(4) Be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need God’s grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.

When we are criticized, even when the delivery of that criticism is mean spirited and unfair, let us accept what is true and act upon it; reject what is not true and then commit to the Lord.

Even our Lord was criticized. How we deal with criticism is a sign of our maturity and growth in the Lord.

 

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson

Overload is not having time to finish the book you’re reading on stress. Margin is having time to read

41GY2EPKAtL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX225_SY300_CR,0,0,225,300_SH20_OU01_it twice. Overload is fatigue. Margin is energy. Overload is red link. Margin is black ink. Overload is hurry. margin is calm. Overload is anxiety. Margin is security. Overload is the disease of our time. Margin is the cure.

So reads the back cover of Richard Swenson’s book.

Swenson, an MD, knows what life can be like when lived without margin. He saw patients daily who were stressed, depressed and exhausted – not just physically but mentally, financially and emotionally. And this is becoming a norm for 21st century living. Why?  For Swenson the absence of margin is linked to the march of progress. There are five axiom’s which for Swenson reveals why margin has disappeared for many.

  1. Progress works by differentiating our environment, thus always giving us more and more of everything faster and faster.
  2. The spontaneous flow of progress is toward increasing stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity and overload.
  3. All humans have physical, mental, emotional and financial limits that are relatively fixed
  4. The profusion of progress is on a collision course with human limits. Once the threshold of these limits is exceeded, overload displaces margin
  5. On the unsaturated side of their limits, humans can be open and expansive. On the saturated side of these limits, however, the rules of life totally change.

Swenson is not anti-progress – quite the opposite in fact. Nor, for the most part, does he see stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity and overload as enemies. But when stress becomes distress, change becomes fear, complexity becomes unsolvable, speed becomes out of control and overload becomes crushed then margin has gone and life is now maxed out. And that is when we are danger.

We all need space to breathe, freedom to think and time to heal and develop deep relationships. But for so many people life is maxed out and so there is no space. Life goes from one event to the next without time to stop for significant space. He writes:

Progress’s biggest failure has been its inability to nurture and protect right relationships. if progress had helped here, I would have no quarrel with it. [P]rogress builds by using the tools of economics, education and technology. But what are the tools of the relational life? Are they not the social (my relationship with others), the emotional (my relationship to myself), and the spiritual (my relationship to God)? None of the tools of progress has helped build the relational foundation our society requires.

Swenson’s book is an appeal for re-direction, to stop and take stock. When our physical bodies reach their limit they hurt or even break and we realize very quickly that there is a problem. However, when we reach our limit emotionally, or mentally we tend not to realize it until we breakdown, by which time damage is often done.

Swenson’s book gives wonderful tools and suggestions for regaining margin back into life. There is a cost to regaining margin – a cost which Swenson himself happily paid and is now living a life which has margin.