Matthew 7

“He taught not as the scribes but as one who had authority…”

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We don’t want to be too hard on the scribes of Jesus time. They stood in a long tradition of rabbinic teaching, building on the insights and reflections of the great rabbis who thought long and deeply about the the law, the prophets and the writings. The scribes gathered together the collective memory and reflection of Israel, transcending individual, personal experience and enabling the people of God to carry with them a vast body of teaching and reflection on the meaning of God and His people. Their work was a constant reminder that God’s people build on the past even as they must come to terms with their own time and place.

At the same time when the New Testament tells us that Jesus spoke as one who had authority, we must ask; Is he simply a mindless radical throwing out everything before him? Or does he in some sense transcend human wisdom and knowledge? For the kind of authority Jesus claimed originated either from a revolutionary “dumb dumb” or from God. Those are the alternatives.

It is the unwavering testimony of the New Testament that Jesus words and actions were those of the Living God. We see this expressed in the Resurrection, where Jesus puts death behind Him. He has the authority to make unconditioned promises, promises unconditioned by time, limitations or the ultimate qualifier of promise, death. Our promises die with us. The promises of Jesus transcend death. Therefore, His word has eternal, unconditioned authority. Nothing is able to overcome His will for you. 

When Jesus told His disciples that all authority had been given to Him, in heaven and earth, it was statement about the final destiny of all things. This is not the statement of a personal Jesus, reduced to the level of our appetites and agendas.  It is the word of God’s eternal promise that the human condition and your place within it are in the hands of this crucified and risen man, this man of hope and grace, and no other. 

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Job 13:15

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

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Hope is hard for narcissists like us. Oh, I don’t mean the kind of hope that expects God will safely tuck us away in His pocket while others suffer misfortune. The less said about that phony hope the better. I mean the hope that entrusts all to God when everything is falling apart and prospects are dim – on a good day.

Any sober reading of the Bible will see that the polished God on the pedestal who delivers the goods here and now, is largely a fiction. The God we meet in the bible is a deliverer all right, but His methods often, quite often, bring those who trust Him right to the brink of catastrophe and sometimes beyond. This accounts for some of the problems we have when we encounter this God in the Bible.This God brings down and raises up. He kills and makes alive.This God forgives the unrighteous and blasts the religious with withering words of judgment. This God sent His own Son and lead him all the way to suffering and death. There is a grittiness to this God, a refusal to be in any kind of denial about the mess He confronts in this world.

The book of Job is among the greatest literary accomplishments in human history. For it looks at God and the suffering of the faithful with the clarity and harshness of a Klieg light. Job cuts right to the chase. “I’ll hope in Him even if He kills me.” These are the words of a faith so raw and so real, one can only marvel and remember Jesus words when he said, “When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” 

The true sign of Christian hope is not in the winning (as we variously define it) but in the losing, in the tears, sack cloth and ashes when we are caught in the crucible of God’s judgment and mercy. Faith in God is just that, faith in God. It is to entrust one’s life to God no matter what, without expectations. Job’s last and only hope after all, as his world crumbled around him, was the God who permitted it all to happen.

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“May the peace of god that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Matthew 20

The blog resumes today after a bout with a cold and a week in Wisconsin visiting my folks. Thanks to everyone who sent their good wishes and prayers. 

      Pastor Mark Anderson

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“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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What’s in a name? Just about everything, actually. Over a lifetime your name accumulates a reputation. Your name becomes invested with the totality of your experience, for good or for ill. When the name Adolph Hitler is mentioned, for example, it carries the freight of cruelty and evil. No one names their kid Adolph anymore. 

Imagine yourself a fly on the wall in a room full of all the people who have ever known you. What would they say when your name came up? What would your name represent to those who were close enough to really know you?

The naming of God is at the very heart of the Christian faith. When the message came from God to Joseph and Mary, they were instructed to name Him, Jesus (Joshua), which means “Yahweh is salvation”, for he would deliver people from their sin. In time, Christians came to use four words to name the one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For this is how the Scriptures named the revealed God.

This is the name, therefore, into which we are baptized. We are baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit, because to trust Jesus is to think about God in this way.

This means that for Christians the name of God is centered in Jesus Christ. That is to say, the meaning of God’s name is clarified and given expression in Jesus. To call God ‘Father’, therefore, is to recast the word in the light of Jesus. In the Biblical world, the word ‘father’ carried with it the freight of mastery and lordship. To call God the ‘Son’ cast that word in a new light. Now, mastery and lordship were characterized not by the raw assertion of a power role but by vulnerability and love. To call God the ‘Holy Spirit’ is say that this mastery, this lordship that is based upon vulnerability and love of the Son is available to us.

Jesus described the mastery, the lordship of the Gentiles as lording it over people. And is this not, in fact, the world’s definition of mastery, of power? Then He went on to say that this definition of lordship is not what God intends. The lordship of God is now defined by the Son, the crucified one, who gives Himself in vulnerability and love.

Baptism wraps your name in the death shroud of the Son, in the death of Christ, in order that you might take the daily plunge out of death into life, living by grace through faith in the name of the One who has put death behind Him. In the water of baptism your name was drowned, you were drowned in order that the name by which you would now live, by which you would be known, is the name into which you were baptized – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  His name is above every name, including yours and mine, because the Son has invested the name of God with the vulnerable currency of grace, the greatest, richest power in the universe. In Word and sacrament, the Holy Spirit brings this grace to you, adopts you into this name directly, personally, so that everything the name of Jesus graciously signifies, represents and does belong to you, are for you. 

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“May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Short Break

Pastor Mark has not been feeling well and has taken a break from writing his daily devotionals.

On top of that he has gone back to the Midwest to see his father, who is also not in good health.

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Thanks for your understanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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