Empty and Wide Open

Death and resurrection aren’t just events, they are a process. Jesus didn’t die so that you could live, he died so that you could die. To your sin, to death, to temptation, to worldly passions and desires. Jesus lives so that you can live.

Jesus went into the grave so that you would stop fearing the grave to live a life of hope. He rose so that you can rise. He died under sin so you could die to sin. He died under the curse to free you from the curse.

This is a process called sanctification. You are embroiled in something. Covetousness, lies, debauchery, drunkenness. You murder in your hearts. Back bite, gossip, slander and lust. You justify your sin and condemn others while your spiritual life is choked with self-reliance, envy and shame. Don’t fear that death. Put it to death. Continue reading

The table of Love proclaims the Gospel

A Series on Love, part 11

Jesus’ table here obviously proclaims the gospel. This is the body broken and the blood shed to make us sons and daughters of the living God. Our tables must likewise proclaim the gospel. But how? Our table fellowship has to reflect the reality of the Gospel and how it shapes all of our relationships, conversations, attitudes and actions. Jesus welcomed every tribe and tongue. He took away the dividing wall between Greek and Jew. In Christ all Christians are one body and the call to join is for everyone. Our tables therefor must reflect this unity and peace.

Our tables must be a place where everyone from dad to mom to the youngest walker are waiting for an opportunity to jump up and help with spills, getting more milk and passing the platters. No patriarchal lies are allowed where father sits at the head of the table while his dependents fetch everything.  The speech of the table must be edifying, building up the hearers and not full of backbiting or gossip. The Atmosphere must not be sullen, downcast or bleak. Christ’s table is a weekly feast of repentance, song, prayer, edification and rejoicing. Our tables must operate within the paradigm of this reality. At our tables the least shall be greatest. The last first. The master must be a servant.   Continue reading

Born To Trouble

Do you ever feel persecuted by your circumstances? Like trouble finds you, when all you are trying to do is be good and do good?  Marriage trouble, money trouble, tax trouble, mortgage trouble, family trouble. Trouble with your car or the fridge or a neighbor? Have you have wondered why?

It’s what I imagine David asked himself at the beginning of  2nd Samuel 10. I’m sure it’s what Joab, the commander of Israel’s forces, asked himself once he was trapped by two armies far greater in number then his own. And I’m sure its what Eve asked herself the day she was walking in the garden and heard a strange serpentine voice. Continue reading

The Table of Love shapes Society

A Series on Love, part 10

Jesus sits at the head of a table that serves life. The symbol of Jesus’ table is the bread and wine of His sacrifice. Jesus defines a different set of table manners for His table and it’s not the selfish and self-interested culture of worldly society. Jesus openly calls and welcomes people society rejects. He provides access to himself, He’s not exclusive. His table manners are the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The nature of Jesus’ table is found at the conclusion of the Prodigal son story in Luke 15:23-24; “And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Jesus’ table is one of calling, repentance, redemption and rejoicing over the Grace of God. Jesus defined His society by His table fellowship. He shaped the manner of that society by His table manners.

Table fellowship shapes society and defines community. Loners cease to be alone when they come to the table. Outcasts become friends when they are invited to the table. Sitting down at a table declares peace between its occupants. Continue reading

The Table of Love is About More Than Food

Series on Love, Part 9

In Luke 4:4 Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God. But if so, why does Jesus go on to spend so much time at meals and talking about food?

We require something more fundamental to survive than just meat and drink. Man has deeper spiritual needs. Jesus uses food metaphorically. Jesus uses our need for food, symbolically. We are used to food metaphors like Jesus as the manna from heaven. But another Example is John 6:27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”

Food is a great metaphor because it represents a very instinctual need that every human has in common. Substitutionary atonement can be difficult for some people to grasp. But everyone understands “You’re hungry and I have food that will satisfy you forever and I give it to you gladly.”

Table fellowship is a way to get people involved in your day to day life. It’s a way to get involved in other people’s day to day life. But it’s not about the food, even though the food is a real tangible blessing. Ultimately it’s about building relationships.

Jesus chose the table and meals as the basis for His teaching ministry because it’s more intimate and people focused. Hospitality involves welcoming, creating time and space, listening, paying attention, and providing.

Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force us to be people oriented instead of task oriented. We have more important, more fundamental needs than food can satisfy but it was largely through poetical statements about food and through table fellowship that Jesus addressed the needs and developed opportunities to come along side people to teach and serve them. Continue reading

Love Came Eating and Drinking

Series on Love, part 8

Text: Luke 7:34The Son of Man has come eating and drinking”

Who do you eat most of your meals with? What topics are usually discussed around your table? Who does most of the serving? If you notice, the center piece of the sanctuary here is a table. Whose table? What’s served? What is discussed around this table?

Today we are going to consider what tables and meals have to do with how to love others like God loves us. Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people: In Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi. In Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal. In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the five thousand. In Luke 10 Jesus eats in the home of Martha and Mary. In Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law at a meal. In Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends. In Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus. In Luke 22 we have the account of the Last Supper.In Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem. Continue reading

Jesus Overcame Un-lovliness to Love

Series on Love, Part 7

This point is pretty straightforward. Jesus did not avoid spiritually or physically unlovely people. He didn’t avoid the rude, crude or crippled. Jesus’ mission was to save people who did not love him. People who were fallen in sin. Who moaned under the yoke and tyranny of corruption.

Jesus loved people who were outsiders, that society rejected and ignored. He stooped and in stooping lifted people up with Grace, service and love. Think of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. She was coming to the well alone. Most women came out to get water together, which was the custom, to help each other. This woman comes by herself, she’s an outcast. Does Jesus avoid her? Does he berate her for being an outcast? Does he begin the conversation by confronting her sin? No, He addresses her need. He doesn’t focus right in on her sin, he sees His sister in want. He sees past her unattractiveness and immorality to see the image of God in her that’s marred and under bondage and ministers to her there.

Other examples abound. Children, women of ill repute, paralytics, people on the fringe; cast out, forgotten, overlooked. Jesus overcomes their brokenness, ugliness and loves them. Frees them. Lifts them up with Grace. You were fallen. You were ugly. You had nothing to offer God. There was and is no way to reciprocate the love he’s given you and yet He loved you anyway. This is love. Not loving people who can repay you. Not loving people who are easy to love. Christ-like love is seen most purely when it’s extended toward people who cannot reciprocate in any way is most like Jesus’ love.

The arrogant, the self-righteous, the boastful, broken, un-bathed. The sick, the old, senile invalids, drug addicts, the drunks, the liars. Unlovely people often lack propriety, kindness, patience, you know, the fruits of the spirit. They are rude, self-important, crass and proud. Or they’re locked in sin and need freedom. That’s usually a pretty ugly situation that’s hard to be around. Jesus didn’t accept the corruption but saw past it to the marred image beneath that needed love, respect and dignity. He overcame the sin to get the sinner. He overcame the un-lovliness to love.

best friend of man

best friend of man (Photo credit: ygurvitz)

Jesus doesn’t avoid the unlovely He seeks them out. Treating people with love is not about accepting people’s sin it’s about overcoming the sin of people who need our love. Would you moms avoid the trashy looking lady at the park who is yelling at her kid? Would you feel it’s your responsibility to instruct her in proper parenting or would you ignore her completely? Could you overcome your prejudices and her ugliness to love her. To extend to her friendship and kindness?

Furthermore, a common reaction to people trapped in sin is to stay away from them until they get free of it. But if no light ever comes into a dark situation how is the dark going to recede? I didn’t see the ugliness of my own sin until light came into my dark corner bearing the love of the Father. And the one who bore that love prayed for me. She respected the least respectable person who ever lived. She gave dignity where there was none. She saw past the marred fallen-ness to the image of God beneath and loved that image.

Think of your own story. It was compassion that taught you compassion. It was hope that others expressed for you that gave you hope. Remember the person or persons who came like the sun into a dark cave and overcame your ugliness with love.

Now look at the ugliness around you. The angry atheist, the crass redneck, the arrogant businessman, the prideful outdoorsman, the graceless green tree-hugger, the drug addict, the homeless guy who probably could work and see past all the sin and un-lovliness to the image of God beneath. Look at the ugliness and how little there is to love. Go and find the image of God beneath and love it.

To love people with few or no good qualities is putting yourself into a very vulnerable state. It can be very difficult and dangerous to love an angry drunk, drug addict, the self-righteous, the dark and moody. It’s sapping. It requires dying. It’s opening yourself up to be sinned against and hurt. And that often holds us back. Uncertainty, distrust, fear.

C.S. Lewis wrote in the The Four Loves “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

This is what happens to a lot of Christians. The seed of God’s word goes down and sprouts up but the cares and worries of the world choke it. Fears smother the love inside of them and they bear no fruit. We must turn outward in faith and hope. Believe in the sustaining power of God’s love for you and let it extend through you to the unlovely. Be vulnerable and open.

Loving is risky business, but it’s the serious business of the kingdom. Jesus kneeled in the garden afraid. He knew what it would cost Him to love the unlovely. But He bowed His head and looked for protection and provision from God, the Father. Jesus overcame His personal fears to love like His Father loved Him. We too must overcome un-lovliness and its risks. We have to overcome our fears to love like we have been loved.

The Danger of Dogma

A Series on Love, Part 6

There are several definitions for what a social norm is. What I mean by Social norms, are the practices that express a community’s ethics or values. A social norm is a principle put into practice. Social norms are things like tipping. It’s not a law, but it’s socially unacceptable to not tip. It’s ungracious. Even if the service is bad it’s still not ok to withhold a tip. Tipping expresses a collective value.

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social norms, in themselves are not a problem. Jesus didn’t rise up against the social norms of 1st century Judaism because they were wicked in themselves. The problem is, communities elevate their practices to the level of principles and judge harshly any other group that does not follow the same practice. They make practices, principles.

Liturgy is a good example. True Christians worship looks like this and anything else is heresy. Christian communities love their practices; their traditions, and easily love them more than God or people. We create artificial barriers between us and other groups by elevating our social norms above people. This is what Jesus challenged. In Jesus’ day the purity laws, which were right and good in themselves, prevented the Jews from loving people who needed it. Instead it was a source of arrogance.    Continue reading

Jesus Doesn’t Meet Needs, He Exceeds Them

The woman taken in adultery

The woman taken in adultery

A Series on Love, Part 5

What overcomes you and prevents you from loving other people like you are supposed to? How could you be more like Jesus in expressing love? Consider John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Jesus overcame His enemies with Love. God so loved the world He gave and His giving overwhelmed the need of fallen man. It united all believers from every tribe into one Body. Our sin was not too much for Him. Jesus overcame evil with love. He cast out the darkness with His perfect light. This is our story. This is our hope. This is the reality in which we repent, marry, raise children, go to the bank, commune in worship, gather in each other’s homes and greet our neighbors over the fence. This is what we are to imitate. Jesus commands us to love like He has loved.

1st Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love overcomes. We are going to consider a few specific examples, over the next couple of posts, of Jesus’ love overcoming.

People brought Jesus their needs and Jesus responded by giving them what they needed and then some. Think of the paralytic who Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The guy just wanted to walk, but Jesus also forgave his sin. He gave the paralytic a better life and eternal life. More poignantly, Jesus saw people in need that hadn’t come to Him and He gave them what they needed and then some. Continue reading