Bound Together for Ministry

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

Advertisements

The Jesus Way

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): (A little more verses than I normally use, but important for the point that strikes me today.)

Mark 11:27 Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem again. As Jesus was walking around the temple, the chief priests, legal experts, and elders came to him. 28 They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

29 Jesus said to them, “I have a question for you. Give me an answer, then I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. 30  Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”

31 They argued among themselves, “If we say, ‘It’s of heavenly origin,’ he’ll say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But we can’t say, ‘It’s of earthly origin.’” They said this because they were afraid of the crowd, because they all thought John was a prophet. 33 They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.”

12:1 Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 2 When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. 5 He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. 6 Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. 7 But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 “So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10  Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 11 The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?”

12 They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

O (Observation): Normally, when we read scripture, the chapter numbers take on more meaning than they should. Notice that the transition from chapter 11 to 12 is not a change of setting or audience. The leaders of the church are trying to trap Jesus into an answer regarding his authority: if he says this is on God’s authority, perhaps Jesus will expose himself to criticism or if he does this ministry on his own authority, they can dismiss him.

Point is, they don’t see Jesus as being in line with God’s mission for the world.

But Jesus’ way is not to directly respond to the questions of those in authority. Instead, he turns the tables and asks the church leaders a question about authority. He makes them think. He exposes their desires. They just want to stay in power. So they are concerned with their own worldly authority gained by their position…not by the influence that God has on people through faith.

The parable Jesus shares seems to place Jesus in a long line of messengers, of which he is the Son, and John is one of the many prophets whom God has sent to God’s people. The prophets of old came before John. Jesus’ authority comes as one who is sent from God. God has been sending messengers to God’s people for a loooong, long time. And God’s worldly leaders have missed the messages time and time again.

Jesus never got defensive. Jesus didn’t attack his enemy. He simply bounced questions back and made people think…rather than just follow a doctrine or theology. Jesus asked people to discern their role in God’s mission in the world.

This is Jesus’ Way.

A (Application): How often do you find yourself following a theology…”just because”?

Probably quite a bit.

We all do it. We all fight off the landowner’s messengers and offspring coming back to collect and see how things are going. We fight off those with prophetic voices, because we don’t want to have our theology challenged. We’ve worked hard to get where we are. We are settled on lots of issues that have come to our attention. We don’t need to dust things up.

But as each day passes, we are called to reassess who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do. How? Through prayer, meditation, studying Scripture. By bouncing ideas off of close friends and loved ones. By going out into the world to walk with your neighbors of all differing identities. In this way, you will receive the Spirit’s guidance.

The authority will be God’s.

This is Jesus’ Way.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us and help us to bear fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

Even Joy, in Disbelief

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Mark 8:14 Jesus’ disciples had forgotten to bring any bread, so they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 He gave them strict orders: “Watch out and be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees as well as the yeast of Herod.”

16 The disciples discussed this among themselves, “He said this because we have no bread.”

17 Jesus knew what they were discussing and said, “Why are you talking about the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? 18  Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear? Don’t you remember? 19  When I broke five loaves of bread for those five thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?”

They answered, “Twelve.”

20 “And when I broke seven loaves of bread for those four thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 Jesus said to them, “And you still don’t understand?”

O (Observation): The disciples just witnessed Jesus feeding 5,000 and 4,000. Now they are headed off to other ministries…but when they got on the boat they only had 1 loaf of bread.

<Puts on sarcastic face on and drones on in sarcastic tone:>

Whatever would they do!

<shakes head>

Not only do the disciples not put 2 and 2 together…they are now like the Pharisees…not understanding that God is doing a work through Jesus. That God is bringing heaven to earth. Each are blinded in their own way.

A (Application): How many times have we witnessed or experienced God’s presence? And yet, when times get tough…we still doubt.

Does that mean we are terrible Christians? Absolutely not! We are like the Pharisees and we are like the disciples, both groups failing to completely understand what God is up to.

Perhaps part of our unbelieving is that we just can’t comprehend how magnificent our God is. Sometimes, when we are beaten down by this world, we think God has forgotten about us. Or worse, when the Church beats people down, we fail at carrying the grace-filled mysteries of our great God.

Let us repent so that our lack of faith may be acknowledged. Let us repent, so that God may fill our broken and contrite hearts. That we might somehow experience joy in the midst of our unbelief.

And then, let us take action to respond to care for those who are pushed to the margins and be grace and hope for them…even in our imperfect nature.

P (Prayer): Lord, make me whole. Amen.

How Absurd!

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Mark 6:33 Many people saw [Jesus and the disciples] leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

37 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

38 He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten.

O (Observation): The crowd recognizes that Jesus has some significant power and teaching for them. They wish to receive his wisdom and his healing.

As 5,000 had gathered, they hadn’t made dinner plans. Jesus’ disciples wish for them to be sent away to get their own dinner. Jesus makes sure they eat : )

Jesus asks the disciples to gather what they have, he blesses it, and all 5,000 are fed!

I love how Jesus takes what the disciples ALREADY HAVE and blesses THAT. With that blessed bread and fish, all are fed. The disciples never had to look further than what they already had…and Jesus uses PRECISELY that possession to bless the crowd.

A (Application): How are you already equipped for ministry? What is it about you that God has blessed and used for the good of others? Your money? Your pen? Your voice?

Think back to Moses and Aaron. They were not asked to take a huge test or scavenge for weapons or anything. They were simply to speak on God’s behalf. Even the staff Moses had…God used.

How far do we have to go to think about what God can use in me? In you?

Are we afraid? Do we doubt? Perhaps. That would make us normal. If we believe…that makes us weird…that’s absurd. Which may be the idea all along.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you bless what has already been given to us. Amen.

Being Led

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Mark 6:6b Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.

7 He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. 9 He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. 10 He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. 11  If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. 13 They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.

O (Observation): Jesus is now sending out the disciples for their first journey. He tells them to go, trusting that God will support them on their mission. Don’t bring a ton of extra stuff with you. Just go, and God will give you what you need. Some will welcome you and your message of Good News. Others will outright reject you and the Good News. So be it.

This was not Jesus’ first step with his disciples. He built a relationship first. He challenges them only after equipping them (and helping them to know that God will continually be equipping them over time).

A (Application): I’m always hesitant to just throw people out into a new thing. My kids. My friends. My congregational members.

I’m scared for them. I let fear creep in. Or maybe I want it done “my way.”

Yet I have an example in Jesus and a trust in God that surpasses my worries. I hope I can still live this out.

Where do I actually land on all of this? Here is what I do: I give folks information about how something is done; then, I give them something to imitate; finally, I send them out to innovate their own way.

Information -> Imitation -> Innovation

Quite often we jump from Information to setting folks free to Innovation. Yet we all need something / someone to follow, first! YouTube videos are good information, but that’s not exactly imitation. The missing element from videos is the Guide who helps you in your imitation.

As I’ve witnessed and experienced when I receive information, the one leading me has given me a chance to imitate, AND RECEIVE CORRECTION. That correction cannot be found in a video, but in a relationship. The relationship is key to imitating so that you can eventually innovate.

Trusting God is important for us as followers of Christ. And having someone to guide us in our mission in the world is as important. We need affirmation and correction along the way.

I hope you find that someone. I hope God can be sensed close to you. I hope you are equipped for mission and that you know grace along the way.

P (Prayer):

Scaffolding of our Faith

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Exodus 25:10 Have them make an acacia-wood chest. It should be forty-five inches long, twenty-seven inches wide, and twenty-seven inches high. 11 Cover it with pure gold, inside and out, and make a gold molding all around it. 12 Cast four gold rings for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Make acacia-wood poles and cover them with gold. 14 Then put the poles into the rings on the chest’s sides and use them to carry the chest. 15 The poles should stay in the chest’s rings. They shouldn’t be taken out of them. 16 Put the covenant document that I will give you into the chest.

O (Observation): As God’s people are learning to make their way through the wilderness and to the Promise Land, they are given explicit instructions on how to build this ark – this location for God’s presence in their midst.

These instructions for the ark are extremely precise. Why such a big deal?

Well, God’s people are literally wandering in the desert / wilderness. They have spent generations as servants in a foreign country. Even though they kept their stories and traditions alive while enslaved, they were not prepared to worship God in a corporate way. Building this ark was a way to prepare for what God was going to give them: the 10 Commandments.

This guidance was important, because God’s people needed some direction and stability. They have been wandering and needed explicit instructions to follow, in order that they might be given a clear sense of purpose.

Build this. To these specifications. “Trust me,” says God.

A (Application): Yesterday, I preached a sermon about how we build “scaffolding” around the things we do as a church: customs, traditions, theology, etc. I mentioned that the scaffolding, while helpful at times, can be restrictive. We can start to focus more on the scaffolding and less on the gift of grace around which this scaffolding resides.

Yet, in times of great unrest, guidance and scaffolding are EXACTLY what we need. This scaffolding helped God’s people in their days following their emancipation from Egyptian rule.

After the death of a loved one, you need your family and work and structure around you to allow you some healthy paths forward, that you might be able to grieve without falling apart.

When adding a member of the family – through birth or adoption – you start living into new norms, and any structure you have around your time of growing together can be very reassuring and a relief.

The direction and scaffolding around you or your faith life can be helpful, indeed. I simply ask that you discern whether that structure is bringing new life or inhibiting new life.

P (Prayer): Lord, give us guidance and wisdom to know when to follow the script and when to improvise. Amen.

God Leads the Way

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God didn’t lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, even though that was the shorter route. God thought, “If the people have to fight and face war, they will run back to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the Reed Sea desert. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt ready for battle. 19 Moses took with him Joseph’s bones just as Joseph had made Israel’s sons promise when he said to them, “When God takes care of you, you must carry my bones out of here with you.” 20 They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 The Lord went in front of them during the day in a column of cloud to guide them and at night in a column of lightning to give them light. This way they could travel during the day and at night. 22 The column of cloud during the day and the column of lightning at night never left its place in front of the people.

O (Observation): A reminder by Joseph – “When God takes care of you” – has multiple applications here. First, God has rescued God’s people from slavery in Egypt. Second, as they are set free, so too are they protected with a pillar of cloud by day and lightning by night (though I’ve always read “fire” at night… interesting to ponder).

Joseph knew of God’s promise of old. Moses knows God’s promise for the future.

A (Application): So, what is your pillar of cloud by day and pillar of lighting by night? Have you sensed God’s comfort in any way? God’s protection?

What do these things look like for you?

For me, the protection comes in the form of a caring family, trusted colleagues, and the plethora of continuing education options available to me. I am protected…and that also includes ways that I cannot yet see.

P (Prayer): Lord, we seek your protection. Help us to see it all around us. Amen.