The Jesus Way

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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.


True Gospel Authotity

From Richard Rohr’s daily meditation for Friday, June 16, 2017.  (His full meditation can be found here.)

True Gospel authority, the authority to heal and renew, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from those who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. Twelve-Step programs have come to the same conclusion in our time.
Both Francis and Clare had this kind of inner authority that is still part of their essential message for the world. They let go of all fear of suffering, all need for power, prestige, and possessions, and the need for their small self to be important. They came to know something essential—who they really were in God and thus who they really were. Their house was then built on “bedrock,” as Jesus says (Matthew 7:24).

Who Sould Boast?

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S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 10:15 [Paul writes:] We do not boast beyond limits, that is, in the labors of others; but our hope is that, as your faith increases, our sphere of action among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in someone else’s sphere of action. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

O (Observation):  Paul is looking (as always) to move the sphere of influence further and further outward for the sake of mission.  He is not afraid to boast, up to a point, because he is not really boasting in himself…but boasting in the Lord.   

Does Paul want to be known?  Yes.  But only insofar has this helps him to share the Gospel abroad.   

A (Application):  A follower of Christ wants to share the influence of the Gospel.  If reputation helps this, then boast in that reputation!  And when you do boast…boast not in yourself, but boast in the Lord!  After all, the Lord chooses how and when to lift you up.  

For what purpose?  For the purpose of sharing the love and mercy of God in further spheres of influence.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, lift us up not for our glory, but for yours!  Amen.  

The Next 4 Years

S (Scripture): John 13:20 [Jesus says to his disciples] “I tell you the solemn truth, whoever accepts the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

O (Observation):  This poetic line from Jesus comes in the middle of a very disturbing moment in time.  Jesus is gathered with his disciples and foretells that one in their midst will betray Jesus.  But just before he brings up this accusation, he says the line I quoted above.

The disciples are those sent by Jesus.  All who accept that “being sent,” therefore, accept Jesus.   And as they accept Jesus (who is sending them out) they are also – at the same time – accepting God (who is sending Jesus out).  

This is the hope of the disciples.   They go out on more than just their own authority. They go out knowing they are backed by Jesus…and therefore, God.  

A (Application):  Who do we accept?   What authority do we have knowing that God, and therefore Jesus, are the ones sending us out?   I would hope that this connection to God gives us hope and courage.  

As we continue to realize a new situation in the United States, in which Donald Trump will soon be president, we have to figure out our own callings and our connection to God.  

As disciples in the world, we are to work within the government in which we live.   We are to pray for our leaders and the people whom their decisions affect.  

And while we work within a system of governance, we must also remain vigilant that justice and peace are that which we strive towards.  If those issues are not given their due, then we have a rite and responsibility to hold accountable and challenge those in authority.  

And, in all cases, we should let folks who are scared know that we stand with them in times of fear and doubt.    

I have hope that we will move forward together and that God will raise up leaders and prophets, should there be such a need over these next 4 years.   

P (Prayer):  Prayer of the day for ELCA, 26th Sunday after Pentecost, 11/13/2016:  “O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.”  Amen.  

At Your Service


S (Scripture): Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called the disciples and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. 26 It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

O (Observation):  The mother of two of Jesus’ disciples (James and John) just asked for her two sons to sit directly at Jesus’ side in his kingdom.   This would be a position of power.  The other disciples are frustrated at the request, but Jesus puts this argument to rest with the words he shared above.   

Jesus reminds the disciples that their role is not to control, but to serve.   

A (Application):  Serving has a very humble nature to it.  To be humble is to NOT count yourself as more worthy than another.   

And yet, one can sense authority in the midst of being a servant.    The authority we are given comes from God.  That allows us to take action to follow our callings.   But following these callings can be done in a humble manner.  

As a parent, I am to show my children boundaries, but I’m also not to lord myself over them.  That doesn’t mean I let them do whatever they want, but I can serve them in a fashion that shows that I love them and prepare them to live in the world.  

None of us is called to be “above” another, even as we follow our callings and use the authority given to each of us.  

What sense of authority have you sensed?   Who has lorded themselves over you?  How did that affect you?   How has that shaped your sense of authority?

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to discern the authority you give us and to balance that with the posture of a servant.  Amen. 

What did you say?

  S (Scripture): Matthew 7:28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law.

O (Observation): Jesus has a way with words.  Like…what he says is AUHTORITATIVE.  What does that mean?  

Jesus is at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.  At the end of a teaching, a good rabbi would cite all of his sources from which he got his interpretation.   In this case, Jesus does not refer to any prior teachings. Instead, his words stand on their own. 

Jesus’ interpretation of Scripture and tradition and all of the things of life supersedes what came before him, including teachings from scribes, priests, and others.  

That is NOT to say that we simply “throw out” what was written or said prior to Jesus.  This means that we look at the Scriptures and traditions through the lens of Jesus’ saying and actions.  Jesus reveals meaning and understanding scriptures and life situations, and he does so with authority.  

A (Application):  “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”   This line is spoken by the swordsman Inigo Montoya in the 1987 romantic comedy The Princess Bride.   This quote is his retort to the villain’s constant use of the word “inconceivable.”

We have our preconceived ideas about faith, life, Scripture, religion, and on and on.  We are typically shaped by our parents/family, friends, colleagues, social media, and more.   The people of Jesus’ day were also influenced by religions and social pressures and more.  

In today’s text, Jesus shows his authoritative teachings and starts to re-shape long-held interpretations and traditions of the Church (the people of the Jewish faith).  

Jesus does his own “Inigo Montoya” thing in this Sermon (Matthew 5-7) by reclaiming ideas about how to love God and love neighbor, and what it means to express faith.  He points out customs and traditions and says, “I do not think you interpret that the way it is meant.”  And he lays out his understanding and sets the tone for living out one’s faith. 

Re-read Matthew 5-7.   See if this devotion holds water.   If so, think about your own life and what Jesus needs to re-interpret for you and for your faith life.  What do you sense?   What have you discovered in this process?

P (Prayer):  Lord, you entice us with a teaching and a love that goes beyond our understanding and re-shapes us in ways we never saw coming.  For this, and for your grace, we give you thanks. Amen. 

Seal of Approval


S (Scripture): Daniel 1:17 Now as for these four young men [Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] God endowed them with knowledge and skill in all sorts of literature and wisdom – and Daniel had insight into all kinds of visions and dreams…20 In every matter of wisdom and insight the king asked them about, he found them to be ten times better than any of the magicians and astrologers that were in his entire empire.

O (Observation):  In the midst of their Babylonian exile, God was still busy caring for His people.   God instills gifts in Daniel and his 3 compatriots.    They are given authority by God to more fully represent God…even in the midst of their exile.   

What will they do with that Authority?   Guess we’ll just have to keep reading to find out. 

A (Application):  What is it that gets us ready to do God’s will?   Strength?  Training?  Wisdom?   How about this:  God’s Authority!   This authority is God’s seal of approval.  Authority is about tapping into gifts and callings that God has placed in you…and that is what gives you wisdom and strength in the world. 

With this authority from God…now we are ready to use these gifts and callings for Kingdom work: loving and serving our neighbor, representing Christ in the world, following God’s call to serve in the Church, etc.  

Daniel and crew receive authority in the verses above.   They were more wise than the others.  God raised them up and would do wonders through them and their witness.  They would represent God on earth, even if imperfectly.  

What authority has God given to you?  Interpretation of Scripture?  Excellent pastoral care and sympathy for others?  Gathering people together for a cause or social gathering?  Teaching?  Think about how God has authorized you for Kingdom work today. 

P (Prayer): Lord, I am ready to serve. You have called me and given me authority.  Now grant me humility to use this authority your glory, and not my own.  Amen.