“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” – Luke 2:46-47
Many of us go through a life of discipleship. It could be sitting at the feet of Grandma and learning how to knot. Or sitting on the floor of the garage watching Dad breakdown an engine of the family station wagon. Discipleship being a learning time. A time to grow in our understanding of who we are and where we are going, while also coming to a greater understanding of the world around us.
“Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” – Matthew 3:15
As we make our way through the season of Epiphany, the time in which Jesus is manifested to us as who he is for us, we leave the Magi behind and move thirty years into the future at the bank of the Jordan River. There we find John the Baptist doing his work of baptism and preaching, calling for the people to turn from their own perceived righteousness and fall upon the mercy of God. It is there, with the waters of baptism, that John is preparing to make known this Jesus who will come “to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist declares that he came baptizing with water so [Jesus] might be revealed.” (John 1:31) There in the water John is applying the work of the kingdom, repentance and forgiveness of sins, to all who are washed in that river until the One comes who is the embodiment of forgiveness.
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2
January 6th, in the church calendar, is the Festival of the Epiphany of Our Lord. It is when much of the world celebrates the coming of the Magi to the house in Bethlehem to pay homage to the Baby born to die, and commemorates the end of Christmas. Epiphany means the “ta-da” of God. All the spotlights, all the signs pointing to God with hopes that you will see and believe. It makes up a whole season in which we read of the different times in which Christ was made manifest as God-con-carne for your sake. The story of Matthew 2:1-12 is the story of the Nations coming to Christ. Recognizing, in this Baby, something more than just a gurgling infant in golden diapers. Notice the magi call him “The King of the Jews”, and yet these magi are not Jews, but gentiles. Magi is the word used to name them. Literally – magicians, sorcerers, astrologers. They were the court advisors to the princes of Babylon. The ones the king sought for guidance on what has, is, or will happen. These Magi possibly would have had a taste of this Jewish heritage, this Messiah talk, “King of the Jews”, through the overwhelming influence of Judaism on Babylon itself. From Babylon and Persia we get the Rabbinic tradition and huge commentaries on the various texts of Jewish Scripture. Babylon, along with the vast empire of Persia (which is modern-day Iran, Syria and elsewhere), helped keep Judaism alive throughout the Middle East. Strange that we rely on those who conquered the People of God to keep the faith and traditions alive. Strange to think that those who would lead God’s people into exile now seek the very King who is to provide salvation to all people.
Pastor's Article for Park Rapids Enterprise, November 17, 2018
Now some of you may have read last weeks article and been left thinking, “O great! Another liberal. He only wants God to be about loving everyone. Jesus going around loving and not judging. That’s not my Jesus.” Well, go to Mark 2. Read the story of the paralyzed man.
A man, paralyzed all his life, is brought by friends to a house where Jesus is teaching. It is so full they can’t get in and so they go up to the roof, rip off the shingles and tar paper. They take out the Skil saws and cut some of the plywood away and lower their friend down to Jesus.
Pastor's Article for the Park Rapids Enterprise, November 10, 2018
What do you remember from last week’s article? Genesis 3? Eve? Snake? Tree? Good and evil? Eye disease? Our sin being the very thought that we know what is best and that we can make the decisions on good and evil. The disease of open eyes that cause us to compare ourselves to fellow sinners and think ourselves more worthy than they of redemption.
There was one other thing. Near the end of my article. “The one who knew no sin, was made sin for our sakes, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Do you see those words? Read them out loud.
Pastor's Article for the Park Rapids Enterprise, November 3, 2019
I have to tell you, we have a problem. It’s a problem we don’t like to talk about because our problem causes us not to talk about it. But it isn’t what you think. It’s an eye malady. An eye disease. Something that makes us think that things are fine, or they can be fine, or will be fine, when we can’t even see for ourselves without some help.
Genesis 3. Eve is in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of Scriptural history, going about her business. The snake comes to her in his craftiness and says, “Did God really say you can’t eat of any of the trees in the Garden?”
(Newspaper Article in Park Rapids Enterprise Faith Section - February 25, 2017)
Thanks be to God! For in union with Christ we are always led by God as prisoners in Christ's victory procession. God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost. For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills; but for those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life. – II Corinthians 2:14-16
For Paul, to think of the church as the spoils of war was not too difficult. Being those captured by a love that is not reminiscent of some Friday night passion forgotten in the morning, but a lifelong devotion to the beloved, we are those won in battle, paraded before the Father as a gift of what was won.
(Article in the Faith section of the Park Rapids Enterprise, Park Rapids, MN - February 18, 2017)
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:38-40
Jesus has no problem with signs. He is a miracle worker after all. He loves to do things that are absolutely extraordinary in order to speak to people of who He is and what He came to do. However, when we come to Christ and ask for a sign, what we expect or what we want tends to be obscured by what it is He wishes to bring to us.
(An article for the Faith section of the Park Rapids Enterprise - February 11, 2017)
“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” – Luke 11:17-23
We are kingdom people. We like to build up our castles, shine our armor, pick our boundaries, and savage one another. We do it well both out of desire for progress and out of fear of loss. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Jesus is a kingdom person too. He has His own agenda. He is actually an active force working to enter into our worlds, the worlds we use to hide and fight, to bind up the strong and to plunder the castle.
(Article published in the Faith section of the Park Rapids Enterprise, February 4, 2017)
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after Me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me. For the one who would save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a person, if they gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Or what shall someone give in return for their life?" - Matthew 16:24-26
To follow Christ is not a doing but a dying. Life in Christ is not about giving us our best life now, or opening up for us a path strewn with roses. Life in Christ is actually death, because we are actually dead - the walking dead of the world, scraping our way through life, with only one option, to trust in the One who says that He has come to bring us life. We trust in Him only in the way He has come to us - in a death; a death on a cross that crushes all other things, all other possibilities, of what we might see as best for us under the weight of salvation.