Theology of the Cross (Part 2)

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S (Scripture): Psalm 10

17 

Lord, you listen to the desires of those who suffer.

    You steady their hearts;

you listen closely to them,

18 

    to establish justice

        for the orphan and the oppressed,

    so that people of the land

        will never again be terrified.

O (Observation): God’s presence in the midst of suffering is never in doubt. God hears the cries of those who suffer…of those who have no one else to listen.

God’s concern will be to bring justice…at least, that is the hope of those who follow God.

Jesus would one day find himself suffering, too. With no powerful people on earth to defend him. He would rely fully on God, and no one else. And God would see him through. And the Spirit would burst forth!

A (Application): Our hope rests not in commanding God to come to our aid or by outsmarting or out-resourcing our enemies. Rather, we will lean solely upon God’s version of justice.

For if we seek justice on our terms, and we get it wrong…then what? We can still act, but we do so humbly and with prayer. We submit to God getting things right. We submit to listening to God’s voice. We submit to taking action based on what God speaks to us. We submit to the Spirit’s guidance.

May our response be God’s will and not our own.

P (Prayer): Lord, hear us. You will. Amen.

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Theology of the Cross

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S (Scripture): Psalm 10

11 

The wicked think to themselves:

    God has forgotten.

    God has hidden his face.

    God never sees anything!

O (Observation): The psalmist abhors the wicked, but sees through their naïveté. God knows the deeds of the good and of the wicked.

A (Application): Simply put, when the wicked enact evil, I lean on these kinds of verses to remind me that God is up to meting out justice in this world on behalf of all those struck down by the oppressors of this world.

This is known as a theology of the cross. God is always on the side of the oppressed and downtrodden. God is on the cross. And the victory is somehow still God’s.

P (Prayer): God, save us. You will. Amen.

Relying On God

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S (Scripture): Two lessons from today’s Moravian Daily Texts!!!


Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.

He was intimate with her, the Lord let her become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi, “May the Lord be blessed, who today hasn’t left you without a redeemer. May his name be proclaimed in Israel. 15 He will restore your life and sustain you in your old age. Your daughter-in-law who loves you has given birth to him. She’s better for you than seven sons.” 16 Naomi took the child and held him to her breast, and she became his guardian. 17 The neighborhood women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They called his name Obed.[c] He became Jesse’s father and David’s grandfather.

18 These are the generations of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, 22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.


Luke 23:32 They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus…39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

O (Observation): What could these two lessons possibly have in common? Not much, you say? Challenge accepted!

In Ruth’s story, Ruth’s faithful witness of hospitality for her mother-in-law (Naomi) is a wonderful sign of grace. Ruth’s husband (Mahlon / Naomi’s son) dies, and Ruth has the right to leave Naomi after Mahlon’s death. But she carries on, caring for Naomi as best she can.

Ruth is left with nothing: no inheritance, no family (by blood), no real hope for employment…nothing…and yet, God’s grace works in her to allow her to be Jesse’s grandmother…David’s great-grandmother…and, in time, an ancestor of the Son of Man.

As Jesus goes to the cross, he is lifted beside two criminals – one who is belligerent and mocks Jesus, the other a new “believer.” These two men – emptied of EVERYTHING this world has to offer…and God’s grace is extended to the one who seeks mercy and God’s favor.

God provides.

A (Application): Life can be pretty topsy-turvy at times. Mine is: sicknesses, home renovations, busy schedule for kids, lots of work responsibilities, and more. Oh yeah, keep up with the joys of home ownership : )

Things add up…and we can feel pretty empty inside. We wanna be as good as Ruth. Faithful to another. But maybe it’s not so much about Ruth’s faithfulness, but is about God’s faithfulness and mercy.

Same with the cross. Two folks who didn’t deserve grace: both get it – one receives it.

Some days I’m as faithful as Ruth. Some days, I’m as rotten as the criminal mocking Jesus. Some days, I’m just willing to accept God’s grace and know God’s Kingdom more fully.

Hope abounds. In the midst of the dreary times…in the scary times, God is present in the family, friends, and professionals that aid us in our days.

P (Prayer): God, you work wonders. Work a few more today, would ya? Thanks! Amen.

The Great Cover-up

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S (Scripture): Matthew 28:After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. 2 Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. 3 Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. 4 The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said…”

…11 Now as the women were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 They met with the elders and decided to give a large sum of money to the soldiers. 13 They told them, “Say that Jesus’ disciples came at night and stole his body while you were sleeping. 14 And if the governor hears about this, we will take care of it with him so you will have nothing to worry about.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were told. And this report has spread throughout all Judea to this very day.

O (Observation): Ah, the great cover up. Make Jesus’ disappearance about anything other than a Resurrection.

If Jesus could actually be raised from the dead, what would that say about the power that the church authorities actually have over Jesus? What would the resurrection mean for the church leaders? For their message? For their power over the people? For their relationship with the government, which “allowed their little religion” as long as it didn’t make any waves?

Jesus was so inconsiderate in being raised. He took none of these questions into account.

No. No, He didn’t.

A (Application): What does the resurrection say to the world? What kind of an insurrectionist move is this?

People wear crosses as jewelry. Why? Isn’t it a symbol of death and destruction? Of oppression of the voice and actions of the One who condemned the haughty and raised the lowly?

Yes…it is all of this. And yet, to wear the cross as a piece of jewelry and to hang the cross in our places of worship stands as the ultimate contradiction of what the cross was actually used for: controlling the message of Jesus Christ.

Were we to hide all of the crosses as a way of hiding the shame of Jesus’ suffering and death, it would still hold power over us. But it doesn’t! Displaying the cross, wearing it as jewelry, and putting it on t-shirts and artwork is our way of saying:

“Look! The world / We have tried to control the voice and actions of Jesus! Look at the cross! Our selfish actions led to Jesus being put on the cross, and yet, not even the cross can hold God’s love back. Not even this ridiculous and embarrassing type of death could overcome God’s mercy and grace for humanity! So, yes…look at the cross. Death and shame and humiliation hold no power over us!”

Jesus was resurrected to show that our faults can not restrict God’s love.

Every time I look at the cross – as jewelry or artwork, or sing about it in a song – I think about how I’m responsible for Jesus’ death, and yet, how I’m forgiven.

This, in turn, causes me to look at others the way Jesus looks at me. Jesus has forgiven me. I will forgive others. (I won’t be perfect with that, but I will try.)

P (Prayer): Lord, help us share of how you have overcome shame and despair, through trust in God. Amen.

What is the Way of the Cross?

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S (Scripture): Matthew 16: 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. 22 Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” 23 But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? 27 For the Human One is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done. 28 I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One coming in his kingdom.”

O (Observation): Following Jesus most certainly means difficulty and challenge. Peter will have none of that. Poor Peter…bless his little heart. He’s just trying to hold on to the thing that everyone wants to hold on to: God’s Son, in the flesh!

Peter wanted so much for Jesus to NOT suffer…or be killed…and yet, that is precisely the path for Jesus.

Only the way of suffering and death could lead to resurrection and new life!

Jesus is trying also to lift his disciples out of the dualistic view of the world: from “life OR death” to “death leading into new life.” Both go hand in hand, in God’s care. Death does not hold back what God can and will do in spite of death. New life is God’s way, even in the midst of tragedy.

A (Application): We have got so many things we want to hold on to in our world. Our money, our status, our stuff…our guns?

Sigh….

This “death leading into new life” stuff (which I firmly believe) is hard to face when thinking about school shootings and the abuse of guns in our country.

So, I won’t pull us down that road, other than to say this: I hope voices arise from the din of silence that envelopes a community when tragedy strikes; there is new life. I hope civil conversations occur everywhere regarding appropriate use of guns; there is new life. I hope potential terrorists are loved and cared for, so they don’t turn to drastic measures of death and gun abuse; there is new life.

Where will new life occur? In you? In someone who has experienced tragedy? In policy changes? In love shared with neighbor?

Seek God’s direction today…and don’t be surprised if that path leads to you letting go of something…so that something new can spring forth.

P (Prayer): Lord, you take up our suffering and our shame and turn us towards bringing new life and hope into your world. Be with all the families of the students who died in Parkland, FL, last week as they lay their sons and daughters to rest. Amen.

Adopted…not Our Doing


S (Scripture): Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.

O (Observation): To be brought into the fold as a child of God, one is adopted.  Whether a descendant of Abraham or not, one is only adopted, and never privileged to claim the name for one’s self.  

As adopted children of God (through the work of the Spirit), one also becomes an heir of God…not just for the gift of eternal life, but that our whole reason for being is transformed from self-seeking behavior, to life-giving behavior for self and others.   

A (Application):  How hard is it to understand that being a child of God is not something we earn on our own?   We give ourselves credit for believing…but that is HARDLY the case to sustain a relationship with God.  

In a wildly irrational act, Jesus chose to suffer for our sake.  Jesus showed that suffering humiliation and death was way more important than allowing the world to engage in the life of “redemptive violence” (thanks, Rob Bell, for that phrase)..that we each have to get our own way, or the last punch!

Instead of my view of Christianity, or your view of Christianity, there is simply Christ crucified.  And as the Spirit joins us to Christ, we no longer have to fear our failures or shortcomings.  Instead, we focus on our callings to live out God’s love in the world. 

We are adopted into God’s family.  Thanks be to God!

P (Prayer):  Lord, we thank you for bringing us into the fold.  Amen. 

Mockery & the Way of the Cross (or Faith and Politics)

S (Scripture): Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm, not a man; people insult me and despise me.

7 All who see me taunt me;
they mock me and shake their heads.

8 They say,
“Commit yourself to the Lord!
Let the Lord rescue him!
Let the Lord deliver him, for he delights in him.”

O (Observation):  The psalmist feels abandoned by the Lord.   The psalmist is faithful, but is being challenged by the current situation.   

Others are mocking him for his apparent faith.  Their call to trust in the Lord is a mocking, not a testimony of their faith.  My commentarys says thus (regarding v.8), 

“This statement does not necessarily reflect the enemies’ actual belief, but it does reflect the psalmist’s confession. The psalmist’s enemies sarcastically appeal to God to help him, because he claims to be an object of divine favor. However, they probably doubted the reality of his claim.

A (Application):  A lot of my friends are having a hard time in the realm of politics these days.  And thus, their very faith is affected.  It all ties together – faith and politics.  We cannot separate them.  And yet, our faith should not dictate our politics, nor should our politics dictate our faith.  

Faith and politics occupy different spheres that will always overlap.   We will give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will always give to the Lord what is the Lord’s.  (That’s Jesus’ saying, not mine…if you’re keeping track at home : )

We can live in a world in which we are challenged by the politics of the day, but that doesn’t mean we must sit by idly if we see injustice.  We act, within the realm of the law…and when the law causes injustice, we speak out against it…act out against it.  And maybe, just maybe, we make a statement by breaking that law in order to bring about justice.  

I don’t advocate for stealing or rioting or such, only that we bring justice and fairness to all who roam this earth…that forgiveness and hope and generosity lead the way, so that we might break systems that already broken, in order for them to be re-built for liberty and justice for all.  

Whatever happens, we trust in the Lord.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we will be mocked.  We will be misunderstood, but it is not for us to explain the way of the cross.  Only God can help someone understand the way of the cross.  It looks foolish to the world, but we take up our cross daily, knowing that, in Jesus, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.  

Rise up.  Speak out.  Stand with your neighbor in need.  

P (Prayer): Lord, give me strength.  Amen.