Recently I was honored to be the officiant at the wedding ceremony of a family member. Preparing for the ceremony led me to revisit the eternal question about the meaning of love. Here’s the reflection I gave during the ceremony.
Well-meaning Christians at times speak of “law and grace” as opposite ways of salvation, as if the the Old Testament and the New Testament were opposed to one another. This viewpoint results from thinking of the law of Moses as legalism rather than God’s gracious instruction for Israel. Anyone who thinks that the New Testament is at odds with the Old Testament, that Jesus’ message contradicted Moses’ message, has to deal with Matthew 5:17-48. We learn here how Jesus understood the Old Testament and his relationship to it. This teaches us how we ought to read the Old Testament today.
Who doesn’t love a birthday party? It’s fun to celebrate another year of a friend’s or family member’s life, especially when there’s cake and ice cream involved. Make mine chocolate cake with white icing and vanilla ice cream please. This is all good fun, but understanding and participating in the birthday of the Church is infinitely more important. Sadly, many evangelical Christians miss the significance of Pentecost, and the annual celebration this week that’s familiar to Anglicans and Roman Catholics. This post aims to change that! We need to to remember Pentecost, celebrate it, and get in step with the Spirit whose coming inaugurated the church’s participation in the mission of God. We need the Spirit like a turbine needs the wind.
In this post I preview Tim Gombis’s recent book Power in Weakness and link to a conversation I had with Tim about the book. It’s appropriate that we focus on this book during the Easter Season, when we commemorate the events that first transformed Paul’s vision for ministry. Paul encountered the risen and exalted Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. There he began to understand cruciformity. Easter is never over. It’s the beginning, not the end.
In this post we focus again on the Gospel of John, where power figures largely into the story of Jesus before Pilate. The Jewish leaders were not empowered by Rome to carry out capital punishment on their own, so Pilate the governor enters the story. Frustrated by Jesus silence, powerful Pilate threatened him with crucifixion (John 19:10). That’s when Jesus spoke truth to power. When Jesus spoke truth to power, Pilate spoke power to truth. But Jesus true truth trumped Pilate’s false power. There are many ancient remains in the Mediterranean world that testify to Rome’s powerful past. There are living churches all over the planet that testify to Jesus’ past, present and future power. That’s the truth.
As we approach the week of Jesus’ betrayal, suffering and death, it’s fitting that we consider the betrayer Judas Iscariot. Much of the New Testament teaches us by principle and by example how to follow Jesus. We enjoy feel-good stories of obedience and blessing, but we need warnings from bad examples as much as encouragement from good ones.
Apart from the crucifixion itself, the story of Judas’ betrayal is probably the saddest past of the Passion Week narrative. If you wonder about the relevance of this story for your Passion Week experience this year, remember how each of the disciples responded when Jesus told them that one of them would betray him. Instead of immediately guessing the betrayer was Judas, each of the disciples wondered whether he was the betrayer of whom Jesus was speaking. Just as Jesus’ prediction of Judas’ betrayal led the first disciples to introspection, so the story of Judas should lead us to examine our hearts this year. Apart from grace we are no better now than he was then.