We often think of what Jesus has done (death and resurrection) or what Jesus will do (glorious return), but very little of what he is doing now (intercession). In Christ’s ascension we see how much we need and have a priest, and this gives us new boldness for things we are facing today.
What does God want from you (or for you)? Over time, it can be easy to reduce God’s claim on our life to the “spiritual” dimension… believing God expects us to live morally and do a couple spiritual disciplines. That’s not a bad vision; but it leaves a lot of our lives untouched. Paul presents something bigger: in Christ, we are invited into a grace-shaped life that recasts our relationships with ourselves, with others, and even with our time.
We live in an era of rapidly eroding trust in the institutions of our society and the church is no exception. Attempts to recover what Jesus left us without the baggage of distrusted church institutions are difficult. There are many things Jesus could have left us that he chose not to; instead: Jesus left us the church. Why? And what does this inheritance mean for each of us with concerns about the church in the world today?
The passion story, in John’s gospel is a re-telling of Creation (Gen. 1-2) thru the lens of Jesus’ resurrection. Since that first Easter, God has been “finishing the work he’s been doing,” (Gen. 2:2), bringing “light” and “life” to all who believe. In this message, I want to re-fire our imagination using creation and resurrection to re-tell the history of the world and the story to which we belong.
There is a divine economy that changes the value of everything we cherish and everything we despise. In this economy, there is power in surrender, glory in suffering, freedom in obedience, and life in the shadow of death. Ever since the resurrection, the end is where we start from. Our worst moment is the beginning of our best.
In Mark’s gospel, Easter is unfinished. Jesus is risen in the negative space. Power is subtle, hope is deferred, certainty is mixed with confusion, and joy is mixed with fear. Easter is a treasure, but we carry it in jars of clay. Mark’s account of Easter is for the weary, the skeptical, the frustrated and the faint of heart.
What is the meaning of Easter? How do we live into that meaning every moment of our lives? Rather than think of Easter as one story, told differently, think of it as four stories told thru the lens of the “night before.” What happens on Easter is best understood thru the lens of what happened on the night before.
Much like John the Baptist’s disciples, we live in a culture that encourages us to vie for status and public renown—to broadcast our accomplishments widely and make known the great things we’ve done. Consequently, our perceived value and worth is often tied directly to the titles we’ve been given and the accolades we’ve received. But this mindset breeds a spirit of competition and self-centeredness; and we, like John’s disciples, can lose sight of our primary purpose and calling to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
In all of life, we have varying levels of commitment (closeness, or passion). We can be 1) Interested 2) Involved 3) Committed or 4) Surrendered. We see these levels of commitment in our work, sports, hobbies, ideas, with other people, and in our relationship with Jesus. This message will invite College Church to consider what level we are at in our relationship with Christ. It will encourage us to participate in full devotion, surrender, and total dedication to Jesus and how to help others in this journey. We want to move beyond the basic stages of interest and involvement and into the transformational levels of commitment and surrender.
Obedience is the first and last lesson in discipleship: If we love God, we will obey him. But if we obey God, does that mean we love him? In fact, there are 3 reasons to obey God and not all of them are equal. To obey God for love is the highest form of obedience. What are the others? And how do we know which one motivates us?
Most of us have heard, and some of us believe that God loves us like a child. But do we love God? Really? How would we know? More than that, how we he know? We may tell him, perhaps every Sunday, but relationships are complex. Most require more than words. They require action. So what might we do to prove that we love God? What actions might he interpret as evidence of our love? Fortunately, we are not on our own here. The Bible offers a handful of things we can do to “prove” that we love him. Jesus’ conversation with Peter is one of them: “Do you love me? . . . (then) feed my sheep.” But who are these “sheep?” And what is involved in feeding them? This message will focus on the call to take responsibility for someone else’s spiritual growth.