Showing posts from March, 2015

Palm Sunday

Mark 11,14, 15 Today’s service opens with the welcome of a king among us. It is a parade. You might remember these kinds of scenes on TV, or maybe you have been a part of them. The queen is visiting and there are people lining both sides of the road. They are smiling and yelling and waving flags and holding up banners. But, this is a little bit different. The people are expecting not just any royalty, they are expecting the Messiah- The long awaited king that would bring about a golden age for Israel. He is a king that is backed by God Himself. For an oppressed people under the boot of the occupying Roman forces and guided by corrupt leadership, this is beyond exciting. This is salvation. The people are so excited they take off their cloaks and spread them along the ground as a sign of loyalty and dedication (2 Kings 9:13). They also waved palm branches and placed them on the ground to welcome him into the city with the equivalent of a red carpet (1 Mac 13:51; 2 Mac 10:7).  They shout,…

King David, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Psalm 51

Psalm 51
If you feel the weight of crushing sin, the kind that turns your whole life upside down, the prayer that Christians have turned to throughout the centuries has been Psalm 51. In the lines just before the Psalm begins the Bible connects this Psalm to David when he is confronted by the Prophet Nathan. David is like a mirror. He reflects us. He shows us a very human life. And like us sometimes David falls flat on his face. The story between David and Bathsheba is a powerful story about how sin works.

David’s armies have gone off to fight. But, David stays behind. From the roof of his palace David sees a beautiful woman bathing. He asks about her and finds out that she is a married woman. She is the wife of Uriah, who is one of David’s soldiers. He sent for her and he slept with her.

David doesn’t seem to feel like a sinner at this point. No one ever really feels like a sinner when they are sinning. That’s the sneaky thing about sin. When we are sinning we feel powerful. When D…

Look, Trust, and Live

John 3:14-21
There is a pattern in of behavior we see in human life. We have a tendency to grow complacent and take the blessings of our lives for granted. We can tend to focus on the negative, or what we lack, rather than be thankful for what we have. I don’t know if you notice this in yourself at all. I know I see it in myself.

We see this human pattern in the life of the Hebrew people in the wilderness as well. In our Gospel reading Jesus references the book of Numbers chapter 21. In that passage they are in the middle of a grump. Despite the miraculous way God has rescued them from slavery in Egypt their familiarity with God and God's provision has caused them to take it all for granted. They complain that they were better off as slaves in Egypt. They complain that they will starve and God provides them with manna (Ex 16). They complain that they are thirsty and Moses strikes a rock and God provides water (Ex 17). They complain that they want meat and God gives th…

What do we do with our sin?

John 2:13-22 If someone was to imply that we are a sinner we are likely to take offence.  We tend not to think about ourselves in terms of sin. Or, we will set the bar very low. We will say things like “well, I’m not Hitler” and “I’ve never killed anyone”. So we set the bar so low that nearly anyone can step over it. But it’s work asking, “who gets to set the bar”?
We could take a traditional stance and look at the Ten Commandments. As I go through them keep your own tally privately to yourself.
1)Have you ever made something in your life more important than God? Have you used something like an idol? Have you put something in place of God?
2)Have you ever used religious language to justify something that really wasn’t the way of God? Have you ever used God's name in vain? Have you ever made God’s name meaningless?  
3)Have you ever broken the Sabbath? Or, to put it another way, have you ever gone a week without taking a day to stop and remember that the world won’t stop turning with…

Questions for studying and praying through a psalm

These are questions used as a part of a study I'm leading- "The Spirituality of the Psalms"  The Spirituality of the Psalms

Read the psalm over a number of times until you feel you have a good grasp of its “flow”.

Look at the psalm grammatically to see what the sentences say.

Who is speaking? What is/are the subject(s)? What actions are in the Psalm? Are there metaphors and images are used? What tenses are used (past, present, future)? Are there repeated words or phrases? Write a sentence to capture the heart of the psalm.

Imagine the circumstances the author is writing about. The title may give a clue.

Does the psalm teach you something about God? Does it teach you something about human beings?

What type of psalm is this: prophecy, teaching, consolation, prayer, thanksgiving? If the Psalter is the Bible in miniature what part is expressed- Law, prophecy, wisdom, or history?

Moving from the intention of the human author to the Divine Author, and looking at the broad history of …

Meaningless Suffering- Psalm 22

Psalm 22
The psalmist cries out, Ps 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?     Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;     and by night, but find no rest.
This is a particular kind of human suffering. We are actually quite willing to suffer if there is purpose behind it. Or, at least we are willing to push through it without crying to God in such agony. Childbirth might be such a pain. I’ve heard it described as a purposeful pain (assuming everything is okay with the baby). A purposeful pain doesn’t necessarily leave one feeling forsaken by God. Suffering to protect someone you love is similar. You might be able to endure incredible hardship.  As long as the person you are protecting is safe, you do not feel forsaken- There is a purpose to your suffering. Feeling forsaken is a particular kind of pain that feels senseless- it has no meaning- it has no point. It is uncomfortable to sit with those who are su…