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Original Sin

So, what was the Sin? We are often told - exclusively it seems - that that first sin that ushered in the Fall and that necessitated the coming of the Christ was the eating of the fruit - indeed apparently, just touching it. But is this true? You see, the story presents us with two people, living with God in the Garden - in bliss apparently. The name of the fruit they cannot have is the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent says if they eat it, they will become like God and God says that they will die on the day they eat it. But they haven't eaten it yet. They don't know "good and evil." So we have a conundrum - how could they have sinned if they didn't know morally right from wrong - how could they have known that it was "evil" to eat it? They couldn't, so why is it that they are punished for having eaten it? They weren't. The consequences inherent in an action are not punishments meted out to you. They simply are. So what were those consequen…
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Their Eyes Were Opened

The resurrection of Jesus confused just about everybody. The women who came first to the tomb were perplexed, the apostles and the rest of the disciples thought their story was made up, and these two are pondering just what could have happened in Jerusalem over the past three days. They're on their way home and Jesus meets up with them and teaches them just what they should have understood from Scripture about him and about the last three days. It gets late in the day and they invite Jesus to eat with them, which he does. When he (why he's taking charge here, we aren't told) breaks the bread, their eyes are opened and they recognize him. Now, "breaking bread" is understood in a number of faith communities to be an allusion to the Lord's Supper, communion, or the Eucharist and this is a shadow of that. When Jesus ate the Passover with the disciples, he explained the imagery - what the elements had represented from the beginning of that feast and what they we…

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is perhaps most popularly known as the day that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper and washed the feet of his disciples. Sometimes we remember that it is also the night of his betrayal and arrest in the garden.Less often do we associate the day with what occurs between those last two. After the meal, Jesus takes his disciples to the garden where at least three of his closest friends nap on and off. Jesus though prays. We don't have a record of all that he prayed waiting for his arrest.We do know that even as he has emptied himself to set the example of feet washing, here he does two things - he says two things. The first is that he would not have to drink this cup - of crucifixion, of mocking, of torture. Having emptied himself, he would rather not empty himself further in this way.And yet the second thing he says is instructive for us and tells us why Paul can tell us that Jesus is the Second Adam. This second is that while he would rather not go through with …

Advent 2 2018 Peace

Christ’s coming, Paul tells us was to reconcile the world to God; to bring two estranged parties back together. God had created people to live with Him in the Garden of Eden. This was to be a life of communion, of pastoral bliss with humans and the rest of creation living in harmony, with the earth providing sustenance for all, apparently with little painstaking work. An Idyllic garden it was to be, with the creatures being blessed to live their lives in shalom. But you know the story – the humans rebel, not appreciating what they had and poking God in the eye with a sharp stick. Yes, God had said, “eat of everything…except.” Well, they had eaten and the problem was now manifest. Knowing the difference between right and wrong – good and evil – they were now responsible for themselves before God. And they knew it. That’s why they were hiding from God when He came looking for them. Once we’ve sinned; once we’ve gone against God, there is nothing we can do to “not have done that.” We can’t…

Advent 1 2018 Hope

Advent is a period of waiting, a period of assurance, and a period of expectation. During Advent, we remember and join Israel’s desire and promise that God would come and redeem her, restore her to Himself as His people. For us, we recall and imagine the faithful coming of God to fulfill that promise and we remember His promise to the disciples to return yet again and gather us to Him. The four Sundays of Advent each have their own theme. This year we will use the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love for these reflections.
We know the story of Job and his quandary. He believes himself to be righteous and yet his world has literally been destroyed, except for his wife. Her advice to him is “curse God and die.” Job is miserable, sitting in ashes and covered with boils on top of everything and everyone he has lost. Seeing her husband suffer, her solution is to just go all the way and give God a reason to kill you – curse Him and get it over with. Job, his wife and Job’s friends believe th…

Kingdom Power

Mark’s travel narrative, or the central section of his Gospel, stretches from chapter 8 through chapter 10. In this section, Jesus is traveling, after the Transfiguration to Jerusalem to be killed. During this trip, we get some of the most interesting and frustrating passages – for Jesus no doubt, and us as we almost groan at the lack of perception of the disciples. We can’t dump too much on them though, because we have the whole story and they didn’t - they’re just trying to make this up as they go – and they seemingly trip over their own feet almost with every step. For Mark, these guys must have seemed clueless but he wouldn’t have called them that.
This section is a tour de force of the central part of Jesus’s teaching – that the kingdom of God isn’t run along the same lines as the world is. And so here we have a series of vignettes telling us that the power of God isn’t in the flash-bang, in your face raw power that Israel was expecting and that neither the disciples or we fully g…

Don't Focus On Your Sins - God Doesn't

Oftentimes we are told that the way to come to God is to be sorry for your sins and to ask God to forgive you of them. Whether we are discussing the Sinner’s Prayer, an altar call, or “praying through,” this idea that focuses on our sin is ubiquitous in Christendom and a common refrain on religious radio and television shows. This theme is often supported with the story of the Prodigal Son who we are told, came to his senses, felt bad, and decided to ask to be a servant. These ideas will preach and they have for centuries. 
They’re wrong. 

The invitation from God isn’t “feel bad and ask for forgiveness.” Rather the invitation of God is to return to him; to come home. In this sense the Prodigal Son story is correct – come to your senses and come back where you belong. But what about our sins? 
Well, God says He will not pay attention to them. Why and when does God not pay attention to our sins? The answer is simple – when we come home. It is the coming home that matters. This return invol…

Ministering Angels

"Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" Hebrews 1.14.

Wow! Did you read that? Angels serve for your sake. Sent from the throne of God and Jesus, angels serve your interests. Let's try and wrap our heads around the implication of these things. The Creator God made the world for you to live in - as his own image and in his presence. Even though we messed that up, that same Creator God sent his Son into the world to reveal to us the Father; the Father's character and love for humankind. He did that for you. Then, after the ascension of the Son, the Father sent the Spirit - his own Spirit into our very beings to nudge, to witness, to correct us on our journey of transformation into the most perfect image of God - the likeness of Jesus. But even more fascinating still, the angels are sent from the throne of God for you.

The entire enterprise is focused - from God's perspective - on you. The …