Daily Devotional Blog by Pastor Mark Anderson, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, California

Daily Devotional Blog by Pastor Mark Anderson, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, California

"The Cross Alone Is Our Theology"

Romans 10:8

"The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and on your heart..."

 

 

May 27, 2013

 

 

Matthew's gospel is arranged in five major sections. The data that Matthew uses from the life of Jesus is packed into these five sections. Each of the five sections has an A part and a B part. The A parts contains material setting forth things Jesus did while the B parts contain long discourses.  This is Matthew's way of  'enfleshing' the Word that is Jesus. Mark, Luke and John do not use this arrangement. The shape, order and sequence of the material in each of the four gospels reflect the fact that reports of  the works and words of Jesus have come to us through the church differently, in varying contexts, meeting unique circumstances. 

 

God has chosen to make Himself known in and through the messiness of history, of real events, becoming part of the story. The God of the Bible is no spiritualized ghost. How else could God come so near, be so close to us? For that, after all, is the great narrative of our faith. God is with us. This kind of retail, material sort of stuff puts off some people, even some Christian people. It's not spiritual enough.

 

But God does not send us on an ethereal quest into the spiritual unknown in order to know Him. The Word of God is never disembodied. The Word of God was incarnate in the grace and grit of the man Jesus. That same Word comes, is embedded in paper and ink, gospel speech, church tradition, information, data, splashy baptismal water, the spongy bread and so-so wine of the Lord's Supper. The Christian narrative is about the down-to-earth God keeping it real - for us.

 

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

 

 

2 Corinthians 6

"We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

 

May 26, 2013

 

We live in a world that is uncertain and unstable and this critical situation can become defining of everything. But neither the challenging world or our broken lives are the last reality. We do not have to spend ourselves in endless efforts to remain in control. Jesus tried hard to impress this on His hearers. He still does. 

 

When Jesus reduced all the commandments to the simple and concrete love of God and the neighbor, He pointed us to a Kingdom within the darkened world, the light of which addresses universally the true hopes and aspirations of all people. The Kingdom of God, therefore, most passionately proclaimed through the Cross of Jesus, appeals to us to live in the freedom which creates the capacity to live within the sobriety of God's kingdom - the kingdom for others - a kingdom at odds with the world, superior to it and destined to prevail.

 

If you find the Christian life perplexing, unsatisfying or even boring, the solution may not be as difficult to come by as you think. For, the Christian life is not about self protectionism, lived primarily inwardly. The Christian life is lived outwardly (for the sake of others). This is the great freedom of the Christian: that we may live without any self-consciousness, trusting in God's grace alone, expecting nothing, yet having everything.

 

 

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

 

 

John 16:33

 

May 23, 2013

 

How do we deal with pain? Sometimes we try the "silver-lining" approach. We try to convince ourselves and our friends that things are not really as bad as they seem (not unlike the comforters of Job who told him things could always be worse).

 

Or, we may minimize suffering, anesthetize pain, explain away sin, decorate death until it is all but unrecognizable.

 

Another approach is to meet pain stoically. We bite our lips, grit our teeth, steel ourselves and forge ahead. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." There must be no tears, no sign of weakness.

 

But we see nor hear nothing of this on the Cross. Jesus is in pain but He doesn't pretend. There is a sober honesty in Him. There is no pretending that things are not as bad they seem. The God we see in the crucified Jesus is not a God who summons us to "suck it up" or “cheer up”. Nor is this a God who demands we keep a "stiff upper lip".

 

Life at times can be hot and dry and parched, stretched to the point where it seems unbearable. What we receive at the foot of the Cross are not easy answers, quick solutions or soft speeches. What we do receive is a God who shares our pain and suffering and sin. This means, for me, that I have a God I can trust because He has been where I must go. He writes no prescriptions, offers no panaceas, invites no denial, but simply goes the way I must go, the way of mortality, sin, suffering, pain and death. He takes it all upon Himself.

 

In the dying form of Jesus we encounter the man who shares our need and the God meets our need.

 

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

 

 

 

Matthew 20:28

 

 

"...the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

May 22, 2013

 

A retired pastor once remarked to me, "Early in my ministry I used to complain that people constantly interrupted my work, until I discovered that the interruptions WERE my work."

 

Our time seems to have its share of fearful, defensive, preoccupied people anxiously clinging to their property and well-worn routines and inclined to view the immediate world around them with suspicion and distrust. Even the closest relationships may be treated as unwelcome interruptions.

 

What a contrast we see in the life of Jesus. His days were characterized by attentiveness to those who often interrupted Him. While the religious folk guarded their morality, the wealthy their shekels, and the average people courted indifference, Jesus gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, forgiveness to real sinners and all with a graciousness that expected nothing in return.

 

When we live as servants of others it is not so blessings will come back to us. Among the great benefits of servanthood is the discovery that we can get along with so little.

 

In a world full of strangers pursuing the mute gods of affluence and the uninterrupted projects of the self, the Christian and the Christian community are called to practice hospitality and welcome. This need for community and relationship is probably why many of us were drawn to churches in the first place. It's a good place to start but there is more. Sooner or later the mature Christian will begin to realize that "How can this church meet my needs?" is not the real question. As one who belongs to Jesus Christ I am called to ask, "How can I serve the needs of others?"

 

By calling His disciples to a life of servant hood Jesus was saying to all who bear his name that the unsuccessful, unlovely and unlovable who so often represent life's interruptions are really life's opportunities. When this awareness comes we move from 'Me first' to 'You first'. And we do so because this is God's way with us. So, St. Matthew tells us that the God's life among us was the servant life, even unto death on the Cross.

 

To live these few, short years on earth in the Spirit of Jesus Christ is to reject the ethic of power, pride and indifference and to participate in the life of Him  who came "...not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many."

 

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

 

 

 

Isaiah 43:19

 

 

 

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

 

May 21, 2013

 

Years ago, while serving as a pastor in Northern Minneota, I was asked by our district president to assist a local congregation with a study on mission planning. They were between pastors and it was time to look at their mission. During a break in our sessions, a gentleman on the church council of that congregation confided in me over a cup of coffee. He said, "Pastor, I don't really know why we are bothering with this. I like our church just the way it is."

 

I understood his reluctance to change. After many years of membership in that small-town church with one pastor, the idea of embarking into new areas of mission was an uncomfortable prospect.

 

Similar comments can be heard in many congregations. Looking, really looking at a congregation's life and mission can be sobering and challenging. Comfort zones can be hard to leave and things put in place in previous years by the church may need to be undone or modified to serve the current mission needs of the church. Complacency can lead to obstructionism as church members attempt to hang on to a past that is no longer relevant to the present mission requirements of the congregation.

 

We are in the season of Pentecost, that time of the Church year when we deliberately focus on the life of the church in the light of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost reminds us that the work of the Church is God's work, after all. The mission is God's mission and we have no right to make of it our private enterprise, serving our needs only. When we resist change, however sincere our intentions, we must account for the possibility that we are resisting the work of the Holy Spirit, Whose work among us is not to keep us comfortable but faithful.

 

Pentecost is God's call to us through His Living Word that we may dare to welcome the new breezes which are blowing, not as threatening portents of an approaching storm but as that new and renewing breath of life which the Holy Spirit most surely brings - that God's work may be done.

 

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

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