Archive for the 'Thought' Category

Holy Week Thoughts: Thursday’s Last Supper

Mark 14:12-26

Have you ever had the experience of getting lost on a trip? A few years ago, I was coming back from family visit in a different city, and I wasn’t yet familiar with the highway layout. What should have been a simple switch from one highway to another ended up being traveling in a convoluted journey through three different cities. I’m grateful that my family slept through it all! I find it helpful to remember that in the midst of change, God knows what He’s doing.

In Mark 14:12-16, Jesus gives His disciples instructions about the Supper. Notice that He’s prepared for the Passover (the text says the room was “furnished and ready”). The disciples are just preparing the food: Jesus has taken care of the details. He still does; we don’t need to worry, because God works in the background!

As the meal begins, verses 17-21 tell us that Jesus knows what’s coming. Christ shifts the focus from retelling the story of the Exodus to a more personal matter of betrayal. Each disciple asks: “Is it me?” because they can’t understand how anyone would betray Him. Jesus knows our weaknesses; we don’t need to be afraid to be honest with Him.

The scene we see in verses 22-26 portrays Jesus giving the disciples a new ritual in the midst of an old one. Passover is full of very specific rituals of meaning to the Jew, but notice that very little of the Seder ritual is mentioned.

The bread is the “Afikomen”, the broken matzo bread used in the Seder, but Jesus says a NEW thing: “This is My Body.” Jesus gives a new meaning and explanation of why the matzo is broken. Likewise, what Christ does with the cup is similar. There are four cups in the Seder meal; the cup that Jesus reinterprets is called “the cup of Redemption”. Passover tradition teaches that God will redeem Israel, and Jesus shows how when He says, “this is My Blood of the covenant.”

The disciples thought they’d be navigating familiar territory during the Seder. But Jesus changes the map somewhat, taking us all in new directions on this journey of faith: God speaks to us with the old and the new.

Lord, as we join with Christ on this Lenten journey, we may have expectations that You will do what You have always done in our lives. This may well be the case: but it’s not necessary that You lead us without change. We hear the words of Scripture: “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19). Lead and guide us as You do Your will in Your way. Amen.

Holy Week Thoughts: Wednesday’s Devotion & Treachery

Mark 14:1-11

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and pastor during the Nazi regime, wrote a book. In German, it’s title was simply “Following”. It described the cost of following Jesus through a consideration of the Sermon on the Mount. He wrote this as the Nazis were on the rise, and pointed out the cost of devotion. You see, devotion doesn’t guarantee godliness. The Nazi’s were devoted to power, while Bonhoeffer was calling for devotion to God.

The depiction of leaders devoted to protecting their power is seen in Mark 14. Look at the first two verses. We see that the religious leaders are looking for some way to entrap Jesus. But it can’t be just an immediate snatch-and-grab: it has to be a trap that doesn’t put them in danger of the crowd.

Others are devoted to something else: conserving the cash flow. As the scene switches in the text from the inner sanctum of the chief priests to the dinner table of a humble home in Bethany, we see an act of extravagance, and a strong reaction against it. Verses 3 through 5 tell of a woman using an expensive perfume on Christ, to anoint Him. Instead of everyone being blessed to witness such an act of devotion, we see the phrase “Some of those present were saying indignantly…” We see from the gospel of John, chapter 12, that Judas by name is the frustrated one. It even explains why he was upset: greed.

But look at Jesus’ rebuke in verses 6-9: He says that the woman’s action was a beautiful thing, because it was extravagant on Christ’s behalf. Devotion to the poor is admirable; but devotion to God is more so. Jesus is preparing for death; and the disciples didn’t want to hear it. They had their own ideas about how the Kingdom of God was going to play out, but Jesus was devoted to following the Father.

Lord, we see the different kinds of devotion played out here: to power, to financial gain, and to the Kingdom. We reflect on our own devotion: are we willing to follow the Father into self-sacrifice? What are we devoted to? What receives our extravagance? Lord, let it be You. Amen.

Holy Week Thoughts: Tuesday’s Questions

Mark 12:28-34

As we look at Jesus’ journey during Holy Week, we see that He gets asked a LOT of questions on Tuesday. Some of the questions are spoken out loud: “On whose authority do you do these things?” (Mark 11:28); “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (12:14) Some questions are unspoken, but implied by the situations themselves: “How did Jesus affect the tree?” (11:20-26); “Who gave more: rich people, or the widow?” (12:41-43).

Out of all the questions Jesus was asked on that Tuesday, the one that jumps off the page to me is found in Mark 12:28-34: “Which is the most important commandment?” This is a litmus test, a way to check Judaic orthodoxy. And there IS a standard answer, found in the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Jesus knows this answer, and gives it right away.

But He doesn’t stop there. He moves from the answer that everyone knows (“Love God”) to a more obscure part of the Law. Love your neighbor is found in Leviticus 19, along with laws covering how much grain you can harvest, when you should pay day laborers, and the refusal to seek advice from wizards! In the midst of this collection of laws covering all kinds of situations comes this powerful concept that Jesus draws us to consider: love your neighbor as yourself.

A friend of mine who is a United Methodist mission pastor in the middle of the country summarized Jesus’ response in this short statement: “Love God – Love people”. That is an easily remembered phrase that can really shape how we interact with others this Lenten season.

Lord, to “love God – love people” just about covers everything we are to do as people of the Kingdom. Put people in our path to love; and remind us that as we serve them, we’re serving You in our midst as well. Amen.

Holy Week Thoughts: Monday’s Cleansing

Mark 11:12-19

Every week over 8,000 Americans die of heart attacks. Far more of these deaths occur on Monday than any other day. When you know that the coming week is going to be stressful, facing Monday can be tough. It certainly was for Jesus. As we consider Jesus’ last week before the cross, notice the Kingdom values He demonstrated on that Monday so long ago.

In verses 12-14 of Mark 11, we see that Jesus curses the fig tree. The lack of fruit leads to Jesus’ disappointment. The first Kingdom value we want to remember is that bearing fruit in our own lives is expected. As we keep reading in verses 15-17, we see Jesus clearing the Temple. Specifically, He’s clearing the Court of the Gentiles, the outermost portion of the Temple Yard, about 18 acres in all.

Christ is upset at the religious leader’s choice of displacing the Gentiles with animals. That outer courtyard was designed to let non-Jewish people see the wonderful worship of Yahweh. This leads to Jesus’ anger, and our second Kingdom value: replacing ministry with profit is wrong.

As Jesus’ righteous indignation is shown, a less-than-righteous response of anger is also seen in verses 18-19: the chief priests want to kill Jesus! Confronting the power structure leads to Jesus’ arrest; the leaders aren’t going to stand for the change in the status quo. This shows us that the events in Jesus’ final week are incorporated into God’s plan for humanity’s rescue. In other words, nothing thwarts the Lord’s ability to bring about God’s plan.

Using the Law to justify lawlessness is hypocrisy. That brings to mind a Kingdom value as well: we are called to be consistent people in God’s grace. It invites us to consider this question as we join with Jesus during His Lenten journey: Are there any misplaced motives in our lives that need to be driven out?

Lord, we’ve all faced tough Mondays. Remind us by Jesus’ example that our week is so much more than just what we face, but HOW we face it. Plant Your Kingdom deep in our hearts this day, and every day.

Amen.

Pondering Peacemaking

Peace_MG_0261

What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

Of course, I know Jesus’ words on the subject: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

But HOW?

With all the rancor seen in the world today, with so many people at odds with others, how can I be a peacemaker?

Perhaps it starts with me.

Instead of looking to foster peace between others in conflict, I should first address the conflict within me.

Why am *I* upset? What is it that moves me, shakes me, disturbs me?

Why am I NOT at peace with so many events happening around the world, in my community, and in my own life?

Could it be that I’ve lost sight of my Father?

Could it be that I’ve forgotten who I am, and Who has me?

I *am* a child of I AM.

THAT is my identity. That will always be true, whether I remember it consistently or not. I have been adopted into God’s family.

When I focus on the conflict I see, I absorb that conflict. I didn’t think I was that empathic, but — surprise, surprise — apparently, I get upset when I see those who are upset.

When I focus on the Father who sees all sides of the conflict that I witness, I am able to be at peace.

I remember Whose I am.

I AM.

We Are Unleashed!

We Are Unleashed! Sermon Audio Here

Acts 1:8

Last weekend was the 64th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.

2018 NACCC Annual Meeting Highlights:

Council Reports

  • Approved recommendation of 3 new churches
  • Consolidated two offices into one
  • Approved 2018-19 budget
  • Our churches donated $116,000 to churches who faced disaster needs around the world
  • Started regional convocations around the country – Midwest and Northeast
  • Developing a lay ministry training program – distance learning with mentors and cohort
  • Adopted new mission statement: “To nurture fellowship among Congregational Christian Churches and support ministries of the local church in its community and to the world, all in the name of Christ” AND vision statement for the NACCC: “Vital and healthy Congregational churches, sharing the love of Jesus the Christ”

Bible Lectures by Terry Lindvall: M.Div from Fuller; doctorate thesis on CS Lewis. Ordained in Congregational Church in 1973. President of Regent University. Fellow at William and Mary. Author.

Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth”

• Witness is a noun and verb
• What is a good witness – from a lawyer

  • Remember what was seen
  • Each witness has their own style and sight
  • Power of witness is in the details – what happens when we see and hear
  • Witness answers truthfully and without guile or agenda

• Three areas of witness in Scripture

  • Torah and Law as first witness
    o Jews set up stones along the way as a witness for their return.
    => Ex: Finding Dory – shells lead back to home. All of us are ‘like living stones’
  • Creation Itself as second witness
    o The heavens declare the glory of God – Psalm 96 –
  • Witness of the saints
    o People in Scripture were passionate livers of God’s grace. We are surrounded by this hall of witnesses – they are eccentric, sort of crazy, and strange.

Three Take-aways:

  1. we recognize we are witnesses of God’s love. Deuteronomy 6.
  2. we recognize God’s glory in creation and bear witness
  3. we learn to witness the odd and flawed characters of God’s people.
  • How do you witness of Jesus?
  • How do we bring forth Christ?

A Pastor’s Response To Politics

This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter after last year’s election. I thought it might be worth capturing here.

Dear church family,

As I read through Facebook on the morning after the election, I realized I should say something. I don’t **need** to say something; there are others more eloquent than I am who have said many encouraging and hopeful things. I’m just one man.

However, I am just one man who has a responsibility to stand up for what is right. As a follower of Jesus, I am bound to follow His example. As a student of Scripture, I take seriously the promises found in the prophets that justice will roll on like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24, for those of you who like to fact-check.)

I pledge that I will stand up for the poor, the oppressed, and those who are getting the short end of the stick in today’s society. Do I support sin? May it never be! But I *will* let my guts be moved with compassion for those who receive judgment from those not qualified to judge. “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious…” because boy, oh, boy, do we need God’s graciousness right about now. (Amos 5:15 for the reference)

As a pastor, I will preach and teach and admonish and encourage our congregation (and everyone who has ears to hear) that we must be full of grace and truth, that we must put on love and put off hate (Colossians 3). We MUST be willing to move beyond business-as-usual, and demonstrate over and over and OVER AGAIN that we belong to God’s Kingdom, and we’re committed to building His spiritual work right here. We are the both the workers AND the building materials for God’s house of worship (1 Peter 2).

We must stand with the poor, be counted with the unfairly treated, loose the chains of injustice, and do all this in all humility and gentleness of spirit, for it is God’s work we are to be about (Isaiah 58:6-10).

To finally borrow once again from Amos: Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. (5:14) Let us seek what is good together, friends.

KFJ, Pastor Ed

 Vote Jesus


Pastor Ed Backell

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