Law AND Gospel

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S (Scripture): Mark 10:17 As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”

18 Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19  You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.”

20 “Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23 Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25  It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

O (Observation): So the man coming before God claims that he has no problem keeping the Law. Turns out…his problem is with living out the Law. Sounds strange.

The Law was about giving God’s people boundary-markers, which in turn supports life for everyone. Over time, the Law became more and more about what someone could get away with and remain in good standing with God.

This rich man may very well have been keeping to the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law was completely missed. I blame the teachers of the Law.

The result of the teaching at the time: you could be rich, have no worries about the poor, and keep to the letter of the Law…all while avoiding one’s personal cross and corporate cross.

Who cares for the poor, then? We don’t have a commandment about that.

A (Application): So each of the 10 Commandments is a Law, but when explored through the lens of Law & Gospel, we see a bit more clearly how each commandment brings life!

For example: “You shall have no other gods.” Seems like a problem if we look at money or fame to bring us hope in this life. That is true. We will never get enough of those things. But what do we have? The ONE true God who brings life! Can’t get any better than that!

Or how about the commandment: “You shall not steal”? Martin Luther says this in his teaching regarding this commandment in “The Small Catechism”:

We are to fear and love God so that, we neither steal or take our neighbor’s property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.

So not only are we to “not steal” from someone, we are to do all we can to help improve and protect our neighbor’s property and financial status.

Law AND Gospel.

What to avoid AND how to engage.

Who is teaching the Law to you these days? Who is teaching the Gospel?

Seems to me that a bit of both is the way to go. Guess that’s what makes me a Lutheran Christian.

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us on track and give us grace to keep moving. Thanks!

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Just GO already! : )

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S (Scripture): Acts 1:2b Before [Jesus] was taken up, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. 4 While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: 5 John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”

7 Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. 11 They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”

O (Observation): He is really gone! Like, really gone this time…

He died and came back. That was a big relief. But being gone for 3 days now seems like a trial run in light of the fact that Jesus’ ascension means they didn’t know the time Jesus would come back.

The disciples didn’t have a time, but they had a direction: forward. Not just up (the manner in which Jesus would return), but they were now to do in Jesus’ absence what Jesus did in their presence: be witnesses to God’s glory to all the world…starting in their hometown.

A (Application): Ever felt like you were pushed out “there” a little bit before you really felt ready? As a new teacher entering the classroom for the first time? Stepping onto the track or the field for the first time? Stepping into the pulpit?

Are we ever really ready? We know that Jesus equipped the disciples…but did they feel comfortable? Maybe comfort is not the point. Did they feel ready? To go? Into all the earth?

Regardless of whether they were ready or not, Jesus’ time to ascend to God had come. But the disciples would not be alone. They would soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit! They would have God’s Spirit with them in their witnessing.

Go. Be a bold, brave witness to grace and mercy and forgiveness.

P (Prayer): Lord, Be with us on our journey of sharing you live with the world. Amen.

What is in the Center?

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S (Scripture): Numbers 2:1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 2 The Israelites will camp each under the banner with the symbol of their household. They will camp around the meeting tent some distance from it…

17 The meeting tent and the Levites’ camp will march in the center of the camps. They will march in the same order as they camp: each in position under his banner.

O (Observation): As the entirety of Numbers 2 makes clear, the tent of meeting (the “mobile” holy space for the Hebrew people) was in the center of the camp of God’s people, where the Levites (the tribe designated as priests) lived. The Levites took care of serving the Hebrew people by handling all sacrifices.

What struck me today was the image: armies to the north, south, east, AND west. And in the middle? God’s precious presence. With servants. Protected.

A (Application): What do we guard? What do we need to guard? Who are the priests? Who can serve as priests?

These questions – and more – beg for us to define (or re-define) who or what is in the center of our faith? How do we protect that precious presence in us?

God had the people protecting the holy space, which was served by people set apart.

When we worship or teach, what is in the center? Who gets to decide that? What does that look like in your context (Family, Work, Church)?

P (Prayer): Lord, when it seems right to the Holy Spirit and to us…help us to act. Amen.

Which is More Scary?

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S (Scripture): Mark 9:30 From there Jesus and his followers went through Galilee, but he didn’t want anyone to know it. 31 This was because he was teaching his disciples, “The Human One will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed he will rise up.” 32 But they didn’t understand this kind of talk, and they were afraid to ask him.

O (Observation): They we’re afraid to ask. Sounds familiar.

But they were close, right? Why couldn’t they ask Jesus? Maybe because he mentioned something about being killed. Yeah. That’s probably it.

Were they afraid that he was gonna be wrong?

Maybe they were afraid he was gonna be right…

A (Application): Sometimes, I don’t know what God is saying. That can be scary.

But sometimes, I’m pretty sure I know exactly what God wants me to do.

Sometimes…I don’t know which scenario is scarier.

P (Prayer): Lord, I know that whatever I do will be tainted with sin…so please, guide me, and give me grace to do as You would have me do. Amen.

Welp…there Goes That Idea!

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S (Scripture): Mark 8:27 Jesus and his disciples went into the villages near Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

28 They told him, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others one of the prophets.”

29 He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 30 Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”


O (Observation):

Peter…

Whoa! Hold up! Pump the brakes! What did you say, Jesus?!?!

You aren’t gonna die! Over my dead body…

Satan? You call me Satan? I’m just looking out for you! You are the Anointed One! The Christ! This can’t happen! I won’t let it happen!


Jesus…

This is how it’s gotta be.

Go. Suffer. Be Killed. Be Raised.

This is my Father’s mission for me.

Get on board or get behind me.


A (Application): At the softball field last night I witnessed some angry parents. They get so angry at each other. They almost fought.

Sometimes we make it all about us. My pride. My hope. My vision. My kid. My ego. And we just can’t let it go. We can’t give up. To give up is weakness, no? To stand strong is good, right?

Our world parades with winners and success stories. The humble and those who tend to make a positive impact (teachers, safety workers, church leaders) tend to be overlooked or dismissed. I don’t feel this way, but so often we take for granted the work of those who wish to make a positive difference in the world.

Yet the world is drawn mostly to “winners” and star athletes and pop icons. Is that the goal? Popularity? Success? Is life all about me?

Or is something greater waiting for us when we deny ourselves and follow Jesus?


P (Prayer): Lord, help me be a part of God’s mission in the world. Amen.

Even Joy, in Disbelief

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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.

Jubilee! (Old Testament style)

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S (Scripture): Leviticus 25:8 Count off seven weeks of years—that is, seven times seven—so that the seven weeks of years totals forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet blown on the tenth day of the seventh month. Have the trumpet blown throughout your land on the Day of Reconciliation. 10 You will make the fiftieth year holy, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a Jubilee year for you: each of you must return to your family property and to your extended family. 11 The fiftieth year will be a Jubilee year for you. Do not plant, do not harvest the secondary growth, and do not gather from the freely growing vines 12 because it is a Jubilee: it will be holy to you. You can eat only the produce directly out of the field. 13 Each of you must return to your family property in this year of Jubilee.

O (Observation): God’s people are still receiving instruction on what it means to be God’s people. What does it look like to live and work together. Surely, over time, folks working together would need to lean on one another for certain communal work, and some would be sick or in really challenging circumstances and would need to be in debt to another for at least a time.

The establishment of a Jubilee year was God’s way of bringing folks back (every “7 weeks of 7 years”) to the original setup God has established for God’s people.

God’s people would be re-established according to what God gave them, not according to their actions or successes or failures. That is grace!

A (Application): We are still working our way out of my student loan debt. Have a sizable chunk to go. We had a mountain of credit card debt, too, but thanks to a consumer credit company (a good one) who coached us through the difficult choices we had to make to get out of credit card debt. It worked! We made fairly steady income, but we had to really focus on our spending.

I hate being in debt. I can’t stand it. I know that sometimes we feel there is no other way…but to get back into debt for a car or eating out, etc. That is a challenge for me now.

We have come to accept debt as a way of life. Sometimes we choose debt. Sometimes – due to health care needs or challenges around us – we are brought into this by no means of our own.

How do we have compassion and work with those in challenging circumstances? Do we say “Sorry! You gotta handle this.” And when we say that, the sick person goes without treatment, the poor go without food, the imprisoned go without visits.

Is the Jubilee concept a thing? Can it be? Perhaps in your own life, you have sought forgiveness…help…assistance. Have you become indebted to someone? How does that feel? Have you named the difficulties and started moving towards reconciliation? Has grace been experienced in that interaction?

Well, with corporate America the almighty dollar rules. Very little forgiveness of debt. Almost no assistance to avoid debt to begin with.

What would a great Jubilee look like? What would a Jubilee look like just in your own circles? What would a Jubilee look like where you are the one giving the grace? What would it look like if you received the grace?

P (Prayer): Lord, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And.