Friday, October 31, 2008
There are hardly words to express my joy in finding this beautiful bottle of bold, biting, flavorful salsa in our cupboard yesterday.
I added salsa to our shopping list, expecting to get the overpriced, undersized weak imitation of salsa, made in (I'm not kidding you) Belgium. I've got nothing against Belgians, and I've got to support targeting an unfulfilled marketing niche. This stuff is better than nothing (which is what we sometimes get in Korea), but Belgians just don't know what salsa is supposed to taste like!
I was totally floored to open our cupboard door last night and find some "Pain Is Good - Batch #114 Jamaican Pineapple Salsa"!!! The people at Original Juan Specialty Foods in Kansas City, Kansas, USA, have absolutely figured out the art of scrumptious, well-rounded salsas (and other knock your top off sauces). This flavor is labeled "Wussy Mild," which makes it fitting for Sarah and Emma as well.
However, I look forward to making a trip back to E-Mart to garner some of the Batch #37 Habanero Garlic Salsa. It's so hot, you can only eat a few chips full in one sitting. That's what I'm talking about!
Three cheers for Korean stores carrying more imports!!!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Now Free Rice has upgraded. They have expanded beyond their original vocabulary game to include quizzes on a wide variety of subjects: famous paintings, chemistry, English vocabulary, English grammar, geography, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Math.
I played the geography game today. It's fun, and I'm learning a lot about our world. Check it out.
So far (since their beginning in October of 2007), Free Rice has raised 48.5 billion grains of rice. That's enough to feed 2.5 million people two square meals a day.
Way to go Free Rice! Thanks for being creative with how to help those who most need our help.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
October 26, 2008
Read Matthew 23:1-12.
In today's text, Matthew returns to some of his favorite themes: living what you say you believe, humility, equality, and service. Today, instead of going deeply into the Jewish world again, we're going to tell stories of how this text gets lived out in our world.
You get to tell the first stories. In that last verse, Jesus said:
Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (NLT).
If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored. (CEV)
When has this happened to you? When have you been proud, but then humbled?
Get into groups of two or three and answer tell some stories. Answer these questions together.
Let's read the text again, this time from a modern paraphrase called The Message.
1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer.
4-7"Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table
at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'
8-10"Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
11-12"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.
Richard Paul Evans tells our second story in a little book called
The Tower. It's about a young man who lived long ago in China. Here's how the story starts:
There was once a young man who desired to be great. But he did not know how to become great. So he went to the oldest man in the small village where he lived, for all trusted the old man and considered him wise.
'What is it to be great?'” the young man asked.
'To be great is to be looked up to,' said the old man.
The young man considered his words. Then, he went home and built himself a platform to stand on. He took his platform to the center of the village and stood on it. 'Now everyone must look up to me.'
But not everyone did. That afternoon a very tall man walked by.
'I must build a taller platform,' he said. He sawed off a bamboo pole and added longer legs to his platform. Now he could see the top of the villagers' heads. 'Now I am greater than they,' he said, looking down on all the people. 'They all must look up to me.'”
'Not I,' said a small voice.
He glanced around. A little girl stared down at him from the window of a pagoda.1
As the story goes on, the young man gathered wood from all around town, and he built his platform into a tower that stood higher than any of the other buildings. He was higher than anyone else in his village, but he was also alone. There was no one to talk to. There was no one to laugh with. Eating every meal alone made him feel very lonely. But he told himself that loneliness is a small price to pay for greatness, and anyway, “Why would he want to associate with those so much lower than himself?"
He cheered himself up by saying, “Now I am so high that everyone must look up to me.”
He was surprised to hear a small voice say, “We don't,” and he saw the birds flying over his head.
The young man was devastated, “How can I ever be someone everyone looks up to?”
Then, the little bird said told him of a woman that even the birds look up to. The bird leads the young man down from his tower to meet a poor old woman who was bent over with age. She stood there, half bent over, feeding the birds all winter long. The bird explained that without this woman many of the birds would die during the cold winter, when there was not much food, so they all looked up to her as a great woman.
The young man and the woman began to talk, and the woman gave him some wise advise. "Being seen and being great are not the same thing.... To be great is not to be seen by, but to truly see, others." She went on to explain that a great person is not someone who is higher than other people. Instead, a great person is someone who helps to lift others higher.
The young man thought long and hard about this. As he walked the streets and the snow fell, he began to see that many of the people were cold in the dead of winter. They didn't have enough wood for their fires. The young man got an ax and went to his tower. He began chopping and tearing down his tower of greatness. He made stacks and stacks of fire wood, and he walked door to door around the town giving firewood to anyone who needed it.
Much to his surprise, everyone in the town begins to look up to him. He becomes known as a great man with a generous heart.
(Towers of pride make great firewood!)
Our third story is really a collection of stories about how God has used this text to work in my life. Humility is hard for us religious leaders, and we often mess it up. God has used this text to speak to me in a variety of different ways that might be helpful for us to talk about today.
First, look at verse 4, “Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals.” This is a perpetual problem for us pastors. We clearly hear God's call to live a better life, and we try to communicate that to our people. However, far too often, we end up adding rules and burdens to people's already full lives instead of helping them experience God's freeing grace. If you've heard me preach or talked to me for very long, you know that care for the poor is one of my deep passions. But I can get going so strongly on care for the poor that I can help us all forget the grace of God for us here and now. Many times my sermons sounded like, “Work harder. Give more. Pray more. Serve more.”
One of the questions I'm asking myself lately is how can we help people have a living encounter with the Jesus who said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Second, my Dad was a great salesman. He could sell anyone almost anything. One of his supervisors joked that when Dad's clients said “No,” then Dad just turned his hearing aids down and kept going.
My Dad was convinced that wearing the right clothes was essential for business. He was a firm believer in the Dress for Success philosophy. My Dad passed on to me his knowledge of exactly what kind of clothes powerful and trustworthy leaders are supposed to wear. I knew exactly how long a shirt sleeve is supposed to be (to the base of your thumbs when your arms are straight), how long a suit coat is supposed to be (It should sit just so in your cupped hands), how to know if a coat fits right all the way around (The rear “vent” should lay flat even when buttoned), and what kind of ties are appropriate (stripes, dots, and simple patterns – no flowers or pictures, and definitely nothing shiny!).
When I first came to this church, about four years ago, I kept my Dad's philosophy of dressing for success. I knew that Koreans usually dress up, and I wanted people to respect me, so every Sunday, and almost every day that I taught classes, I wore a suit and tie. I know that may be hard for some of you to believe now, but I really went all out.
However, after a while, it all began to feel hollow for me, and I began to think of verse 5: “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.” The prayer boxes and tassels were actually good things that the Jews were supposed to wear to help them remember God and his saving work in Israel's history. However, some people wanted to show off their religious commitment, so the prayer boxes got bigger and the tassels got longer.
For me, the suits and ties began to feel the same way. It all began to feel like something for show. What is the point of wearing a suit in the middle of the summer? It's not to keep you warm! It's just to show that you are a powerful person. The point is exactly to separate you from the “common” people. And what is the point of a tie? It has no function. You can't use it as a napkin or do anything good with it. It's just for show. It just says, “I'm important. Look at me.”
For me, following Jesus' way of simple humility, meant ditching the suits and ties. I'll still wear a suit for a wedding or a funeral, but that's about it. The rest of the time, I just want to be a simple guy like everyone else. I'm not saying everyone needs to do this, but this is one way I'm trying to follow Jesus.
Here's another one. When I first came here, I always introduced myself as Pastor Josh. I signed my emails as Pastor Josh. It was like “Pastor” became my first name. I thought that using the title of “Pastor” was important because I was so young. I though it would help people respect me and see me as a pastor. (I don't think it did. I think it just made me look stuck up.)
After a while, God began to talk to me about this, too. I began to think about Jesus' words in verses 8 and 10: “Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. … And don't let anyone call you 'Teacher,' for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.” I stopped signing my emails as Pastor Josh. Recently, I've stopped putting “pastor” by my name on the sermons.
If you feel more comfortable calling me, “Pastor Josh,” I don't think that's such a big deal. It does help differentiate me from “the other Josh.” But I don't think you should give me special treatment. I'm just another member of this church trying to do my part to help us be faithful to God's calling. My prayers aren't any stronger because I'm a pastor. My thoughts or opinions aren't necessarily right because I'm a pastor. I hope you'll treat me just like any other person trying to follow Jesus here.
The last way that God has used this passage to work in my life is the most personal. It's kind of ironic, or perhaps God's timing, that we are talking about this text today. Last week, our Advisory Council affirmed the Planning Team's recommendation that our church hire me as a full-time pastor near the beginning of 2009. I'm really excited about this, but this is not the first time that our Advisory Council has been through this process.
In 2006, I strongly pushed the Advisory Council to make the same decision. It wasn't a bad decision. It was just too early and handled in all the wrong ways. Unfortunately, I didn't have a good attitude about it. I came into the meeting with specific demands about income and housing. As the leader of the meeting, I was impatient and not a good listener. I didn't allow enough time for discussion and thinking and praying, and I pushed for a quick decision. In America, we would say, I “railroaded” the decision through. I thought I was doing the best thing for the church, but as I look back, I was more concerned about getting my way.
Well, like Jesus says, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” When my leadership mistakes began to add up, some of the church leaders put on the brakes. I had to “eat some humble pie” and relearn how to be a faithful leader. We spent about 3 months just sorting through conflict and cultural misunderstandings. We tossed aside the decision to make me full-time, and we spent the rest of the year just learning how to work better together.
Then, about a year ago, we called together a team of people to rework our vision and to suggest some long term plans for our church. At one point this summer, we gathered together some additional leaders of the church to discuss the issue of pastoring. We considered the alternatives of full-time pastoring and a combination of several part-time pastors. Everyone at the meeting agreed that the best thing for our church would be to have a full-time pastor as soon as we could afford it.
This summer, after my Dad died, I began to reevaluate some things. When I got back to Korea, I called a meeting of those same leaders. I reminded them that everyone agreed we should have a full-time pastor as soon as we could afford it, and I explained that I'm ready to be a full-time pastor here no matter what the pay is – even if it's only the 300,000 won a month stipend I'm getting now. The Planning Team is now recommending that the church hire me as a full-time pastor for a salary of 2,000,000 won a month. “If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored” (CEV).
OK, you get to tell the last story. But first we're going to read our Epistle Lesson from James 3:13-18.
Now, get back into your groups and answer this question:
Imagine your life with more true humility. What would it look like?
1Richard Paul Evans, The Tower: A Story of Humility, (Simon and Schuster, 2001). The portion in italics is a direct quote. However, the remaining portions are personal elaborations based on summaries in online book reviews.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Here is a summary of the Planning Team's recommendations.
KNU International English Church
2008 Planning Team Recommendations
Mission: To be a loving community that changes our world
Renewed by God’s Love – being renewed by God’s love to love God, ourselves, and others.
Multicultural Community – embracing our diversity as God brings us together through Christ.
Global Change through Local Action – nurturing our local community to care for others here and abroad.
Priority Recommendation: Full-time Pastor
The Planning Team and the Advisory Council recommend that our church make Josh Broward a full-time pastor by February or March of 2009.
The 2008-2009 Advisory Council will work out the details regarding visa, budget adjustments, office needs, etc.
The contract will be for two years. The salary for the first year will be 24,000,000 won, plus anticipated taxes of 1,598,400 won. After one year, we will reconsider Josh's salary.
Josh will try to continue teaching one class at KNU and maintain his office on campus.
The Advisory Council is not recommending any immediate changes in other pastoral positions or external giving. (However, these may be needed later.)
Basic Strategies and Goals:
Renewed by God’s Love – being renewed by God’s love to love God, ourselves, and others.
Encourage Personal Health (exercise and group accountability)
Family Health (activities, babysitting support, counseling)
Christian Formation (worship planning, mentoring, groups, sermon series, workshops, prayer)
Leadership Development (“Leadership Circle” for people who are called to Christian leadership.)
Multicultural Community – embracing our diversity as God brings us together through Christ.
Welcome Team (greeting, preparation of building, hospitality to new comers, lunch groups, snacks and coffee)
Events and Celebrations Team (holidays, special events, regular social gatherings, retreats, connections with Korean Nazarene Churches)
Friendship Partners Team (Form friendship partnerships for singles, students, and foreigners.)
Support Team (Help non-native English speakers engage in our church and help foreigners adjust to life in Cheonan)
Information and Publicity Team (Increase internal and external communication and maintain records)
Global Change through Local Action – nurturing our local community to care for others here and abroad.
Local compassion (Compassionate Hearts Ministries will help our church practice compassion toward needy people in Cheonan.)
Long-term International Partnership (During 2009 our Missions Team will select one international community in a developing nation for a long-term partnership which will be the focus of all our international missions activities and giving for the next 2-5 years.)
There will be a church-wide vote (for all members) at the Annual Meeting on November 2 to affirm the recommendations of the Planning Team and to hire Josh as a full-time pastor.
Monday, October 20, 2008
KNU International English Church
October 19, 2008
Read Matthew 22:1-14.
When I asked Sarah to marry me, I had no idea how much work weddings are. We spent months picking out clothes, cakes, flowers, decorations, snacks, locations, invitations, pastors, everything. We addressed invitations until our hands felt like they would fall off. But when you compare our wedding with the wedding that this king was throwing for his son, our wedding seems like instant ramyun.
In Jesus’ culture, a wedding feast lasted for days, and the wedding feast for a king’s son might last for weeks. Thousands of people would be invited. The expense and preparation time would be huge!
And this was not just any wedding and not just any feast. This was the wedding of the king's son, the probably heir to the throne. Celebrating this wedding was an act of loyalty to the king. Participating in the joyful party was a way for the nation to affirm their ongoing commitment to the king and to his son, the heir. Throwing a lavish, abundant party was the King's way to prove to the people that he could care well for them.
Imagine the palace of this king as he makes preparations for the feast. In the barnyard are dozens of cows eating rich grains and salts. They have been on a special all-you-can-eat diet for months, getting them nice and fat for this big occasion. Gardeners are pushing cart after cart of carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, apples, and more – all to be eaten during the feast. There are mountains of onions, with little ajuma’s and halmoni’s peeling them one by one and wiping the tears from their eyes. The grain mill has been rolling non-stop to get enough flour for all of the baking. There is a forest of chopped and dried wood just to fuel the fires needed for roasting, baking, and boiling. The blacksmiths are sharpening all the knives and shoeing all the royal horses. The decorators are having special stages built. The florists are buzzing around planning flowers and comparing color schemes. Carts of oil are coming from hundreds of miles away toward the palace just to fuel the lamps which will burn all night for many nights. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been mobilized from all around the city and country just to prepare the supplies for this monumental feast. This is the kind of feast that nobody deserves. It is too good for even the best of us. It is grace upon grace to be invited.
When everything is almost ready, the king sends the final notice to the guests that it is time to come. “But they refused to come.” They refused to come? How could they refuse to come? No one refuses the king. No one passes up an opportunity to go to a feast like this.
The king sends out his servants again with this message: “Maybe you misunderstood. The feast is ready. All of the months of preparation are coming to a close. We have already butchered the animals. Now is the time. The meat won’t last forever. We can’t wait much longer. Please come now.”
But the guests still don't come. Some say they are too busy with other good things – a farm, a business. No one would argue that these are bad things, but are they more important that loyalty to the king? Some attack the messengers. They are not loyal to the king, and they don't want anyone to ask them to be. This seems a bit harsh – killing someone for delivering an invitation, but remember, this was not just an invitation to a wedding. This was an invitation to affirm their loyal commitment to the king. They were rebels, so they acted in rebellion.
The king understands their message. They have rejected him as king. Rebellion can't be tolerated. He sends his soldiers to burn their city to the ground.
But the king's party cannot be stopped. His wedding feast is ready, and it must be filled. He sends his servants out to the street corners and highways. If this kingdom were in Cheonan, the king would have sent his servants to Yaoori and Cheonan Station, to the KTX and the Cheonan Interchange. They gather together anyone they can find: good and bad, thick and thin, short and tall, Jews and Gentiles. Every last person is invited to the banquet feast of the king's son, and the hall is filled with guests.
So what did this mean for Jesus and for the people of his time? As usual in Jesus' stories, the king is God, and Jesus is the king's son. The wedding feast was a common Biblical image for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Isaiah imagined salvation like this: “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven's Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat” (25:6).
God had been preparing the nation of Israel for this “feast” for centuries. He sent them Moses to explain the Kingdom way of life to them. He sent them the prophets to remind them that the Messiah would come to bring in this Kingdom way of life. Like the king in this story, God had been making preparations for a long time for this event. Paul says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son” to redeem us (Galatians 4:4-5). In the fullness of time, when all of God’s preparations were complete, he sent Jesus the Messiah to fulfill his Kingdom in the world.
The feast was on the table. The long awaited time had come. The promises from centuries of prophets were reaching fulfillment right then at that time.
But what happened when the feast arrived? What happened when Jesus, the Messiah, walked into Jerusalem? Some ignored the feast and continued on with their own busy lives. Others seized him and killed him.
What was the result? The first and deepest consequence was that the missed the feast that Jesus was offering them. Jesus was giving them priority invitations the feast of a lifetime, no more than a lifetime, the feast of all time. And they walked away. They passed it up. They ripped up the invitation and slapped the messenger because they wanted their own ways and their own things. They were way too busy and important to be interrupted by God and new ways of doing life.
Second, about 30-40 years after Jesus was killed, the Jews staged a major revolt against the Roman Empire. They kicked the Romans out, but the Romans came back bigger and stronger and completely destroyed Jerusalem. Many Christians in the New Testament times believed that this is what Jesus was talking about. Was it? Is that how God works? I honestly don't know, but I'm pretty sure that if the people of Jerusalem had decided to love their enemies (the Romans) like Jesus said – instead of slitting their throats in rebellion – then the Romans would have left Jerusalem alone.
But remember that God started this big party. He had been making the preparations since Abraham: “I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. … All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). The time of blessing the earth through Israel had come, and God's party could not be stopped. After Jesus was raised from the dead, his last words to his disciples were: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (28:18-20).
This is where we come into the story. We are the people who are being gathered into the wedding hall, both good and bad. We don’t deserve to be there. We aren’t important people. God simply shows his grace to us by giving us the invitation of a lifetime. God's party must go on, and so he sends out his invitation to everyone everywhere in the world: “Come to the feast of the King. Come and learn the Kingdom ways. Come and feast on the goodness of God! Come and be transformed!”
We could easily be too busy with life to accept the invitation to Feast of Life. I love how William Barclay, and old Bible scholar says this: “[We] can be so busy making a living that [we fail] to make a life; [we] can be so busy with the administration and the organization of life that [we forget] life itself.”1 Work and school and hakwons and laundry are all good things, but we can get so busy with those that we miss the life of God which is always available to us. Don't miss the feast that is set on your own table! Don't miss the feast that is waiting for you every minute of the day!
We might also reject the invitation to the party because we don't like the guest list. We might look at the church and say, “Look at all those hypocrites. They don't really believe that stuff. Look at how they live!” Well, I hate to break this too you, but that's kind of the plan. The king sent his servants out to invite everyone: good and bad, honest and dishonest, healthy and unhealthy. Jesus the Kingdom of God is like a fishing net that catches all kinds of fish, good and bad. Later, at the end, the fish will be sorted out, but for right now, everyone's just all together (See Matthew 13: 47-50).
And that's kind of a good thing. The point of the gospel is that God can change bad fish into good fish. Who we are is not fixed forever. We can change. Because of God's grace and Jesus' power in our lives, we can become new people, and hanging around the feast is a good way to help that transformation get started.
That leads us to the last part of this story. The king's feast is going well. The party is rolling. The food is delicious. The music is great. Everyone's having a good time. But there's this one guy who comes in without the right clothes. This would be an insult to the king and to everyone at the party. The King questions him and then kicks him out into the bitter darkness or into hell.
Hell seems like an awfully strong response for someone who just didn’t put on a suit and tie. But we have to remember that this story is full of symbolism. We can get some help explaining this symbolism from Revelation 19. Thousands of voices sing out, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give [God] glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Then John adds, “Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8).
So this guy didn't just forget his tie. He wasn't living right. He didn't put on a lifestyle to match the King's wedding. It's kind of like this guy is a wedding crasher. He doesn't care anything about the wedding or the couple getting married.
So that made me think of the movie Wedding Crashers. There are two good looking guys who are “wedding crashers.” They go to weddings uninvited and pretend to be part of the family and friends. They are players, and they figure that women will fall for them more easily when they are caught up in the romance and passion of a wedding.
Watch the movie's trailer. (We only watched the first minute, and we edited that some.)
Let me warn you. This is not a good movie to watch, but it does help illustrate our text. These guys are misusing the wedding ceremony. It's supposed to be a celebration of lifelong commitment and love, but they are just there to get some free wine and easy sex. The wedding crasher guys always had great suits or tuxedos or whatever. But their attitudes and actions were terrible. They were just using the wedding for their own selfish ends.
The guy in Jesus' story was like this. He was just crashing the wedding with a bad attitude. He's just there for the free stuff: good food, good fun, and maybe a good woman.
Here's the catch. We can be wedding crashers too. We come to church. We hang around the Kingdom Party. Maye we even bring our wedding gifts in nice little envelopes. Maybe we wear all the nice clothes on the outside.
But we have to face the possibility that we don't have the kind of clothes that Jesus expects. Maybe we don't have the right attitude about all of this, or the right perspective on life. Maybe we're just in this whole church thing for the food, friends, and feelings. Maybe we're just here for the “fire insurance.” You know - “I don't to go to hell, so I guess I'll go to church.” It's really easy for us to come to the party without wearing the right clothes.
Like Paul said in Colossians 3, we need to “strip off [our] old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds, and put on [our] new nature, and be renewed as we learn to know our Creator and become like him” (3:9-10). “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. ... Above all, clothe yourselves with love …” (3:12-14).
In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about putting on the whole armor of God, and he makes these cool little names: the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, etc. Today I want to suggest some other clothing items that we might not usually think about. However, these are simple spiritual disciplines that we can practice to put on wedding clothes, to live in the Kingdom way, helping God's Kingdom to come among us. So here they are, the wedding clothes of the gospel:
Put on the Pantyhose of Thanksgiving.
My friends Nicki and Aaron were talking with each other, and Nicki said, “Man just see how long you can go without complaining. Count how many minutes or hours or days you can go with complaining about anything.” Wow! Some days, we wouldn't last 10 minutes for most of the day.
Brennan Manning says that a true Christian can be identified by how thankful she is. We have been invited to the Wedding Feast of the Son of God. We live with the Kingdom of God all around us. Life is a feast! Don't be the guest who walks around the party complaining about everything. Be thankful. Thank God for the sun, the air, the flowers, your food, your friends, your family, your work.
Put on the High Heels of Slowing.
Seriously. (High heels will slow you down; well maybe not if you're Korean, but they would definitely slow me down.) We wear busyness like a badge of honor: “Oh, I'm sooooo busy. I just don't know what I'm going to do.” You can't party if you're too busy. Don't be like the guests who skipped the king's party because they were too busy. Slow down! Make time for your family and friends. Practice saying, “No.” Practice saying, “No,” to good things. You can't do all of the good things, so you've got to say no to some so that you can have time for God's feast.
Put on the Hankie of Mercy.
Remember this party is a mixed bag. Don't be too hard on each other. Make allowance for each other's faults. Forgive people. Accept people who don't fit our rules. Maybe God accepts them, or maybe they're going to change. Either way, you're not the bouncer or body guard of the party. God will sort out who belongs and who doesn't. In the meantime, our job is to help people feel welcome.
Put on the Apron of Hospitality.
Have you ever been to one of those huge parties where everyone kind of becomes a host? I think that's kind of what God has in mind with this Kingdom Wedding thing. We stop sitting around waiting for the waiters to come and take our order, and we get up and start helping the party happen. We show new people the way to the bathroom. We help out the drinks and snacks.
These may sound like strange disciplines. They are definitely strange clothes to wear all together! But these are all wedding items that we should all have as a regular part of our life. These may not come easily, but they are desperately important – just like brushing our teeth or taking a shower or exercising.
Without these, we can become Wedding Crashers at God's party, turning life and church into something that we use for our own selfish ends. Don't be a wedding crasher. Accept God's invitation to the party of a lifetime, and let that invitation change the way you live making you more thankful, more merciful, more hospitable, and a little slower moving. You and everyone you know will be glad you put on those clothes.
1William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, revised (Philidelphia: Westminster, 1975), 268.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Last night, I came home late after my night class, and Emma was already in bed. Either she hadn't fallen asleep yet, or my coming home woke her up. I got some food and went into the bedroom where Sarah was watching a TV show on the computer. I started getting undressed and emptying my pockets. Pretty soon, we saw the bedroom door squeak open just a crack. We knew that there was a three foot tall door-opener on the other side.
Sarah told her to go back to bed. A few minutes later, I was out in the kitchen again, and I could see her door doing the same secret crack. I went into her room and sat on her bed with her.
She said, "Daddy can we have a talk? I just really want to talk right now." First of all, that was incredibly cute. I think that was the first time I've heard her say she wanted to have "a talk" with me.
I said sure.
Then, she launched into a long explanation of why she isn't sleeping: "I'm not sleepy because first of all I just can't go to sleep, and second, I tried closing my eyes and sleeping, but I couldn't sleep, and third, Mommy's watching TV, and you're moving around out there, and you're change (coins) are really loud (when I dropped my coins into the bucket), and I don't feel tired, and the lights are on in the kitchen, and eleventh, I just don't feel sleepy. So those are the eleven reasons I'm not sleeping." I have no idea where she got the number eleven from!
She continued: "So I was thinking, maybe we could make my night time list tonight."
She has really gotten into lists lately. She has a list of things to do in the morning: wake up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, go potty, get dressed, brush hair, go to school - or something like that. If she gets something out of order, she get's really frustrated: "Oh no! I can't obey my list today!" Sarah said one day this week she was hopping around the kitchen because she had to go to the bathroom, but she hadn't eaten breakfast yet. She couldn't bear to break the order of her list. (Sarah made her go to the bathroom!) Emma needs to make a new night-time list because she tore up the old one because it was out of order.
So anyway, back to the bedtime talk, we negotiated a deal that she could make her new night-time list, and then go to bed. After a little bit of drama (which was partly my fault), she finally settled down and went to bed.
Sarah and I have decided that Emma is one part Elizabeth (Sarah's sister, who loves order and art) and one part April (my sister who is full of passion and chutzpa). That makes for one lively girl!
Friday, October 10, 2008
October 12, 2008
Video: from the movie Jesus of Nazareth. (Start at 8:30 of part 22, then go down to the response section to continue with part 23, and watch at least until 2:54.)
Intro: Jesus’ triumphal entry and clearing of the temple. Quick journey (maybe a sprint) through Matthew 21 (3 prophetic dramas and 3 stories with sharp points – 1 story will wait until next week). Fasten your seatbelts! We’ve got a lot of text to cover.
Drama 1: Triumphal Entry (21:1-11)
Background story: Solomon’s coronation (crowning as king)
David was the first great king of
God chose his son, Solomon, to be the next king. David confirmed this.
One of David’s other sons - named Adonijah - developed a plot to become the new king instead of Solomon. He began parading through the streets on chariots with a great show of force and with many leaders began claiming to be king.
Read: 1 Kings 1:28-41.
Note the connections between these two stories:
- There was a false claim to the David’s throne.
- Jesus will say later that the religious leaders are making a false claim of authority or ownership.
- Solomon was the true king (the son of David)
- The people around Jesus shout: “Praise God for the Son of David!”]
- Solomon rode on a donkey for his coronation ceremony.
- Jesus rides on a donkey, for his “coming out ceremony” as the Messiah or King of
- Both crowds shouted with praise and celebration
- In both stories, the people trying to steal the power are surprised by all the commotion from the true leader.
- Solomon was the king of peace
- Jesus’ ride on the donkey demonstrated peace and gentleness
- Solomon built the1st Jewish temple
- Jesus brought in a whole new way of thinking of the temple.
Jesus was making a prophetic act, declaring himself the Messiah King.
Drama 2: Clearing the
Background story: The temple history
The temple was to be a permanent “house” for God’s presence in
God’s dream for the temple: Isaiah 56:1-8.
- a gateway of grace and healing for all people, Israelites, marginalized, and gentiles.
Fast-forward to Jesus’ time:
Herod, appointed ruler of Judea by Romans, built a huge beautiful temple in
Herod was a ruthless, violent, oppressive ruler. By teaming up with Herod (or his sons), the priests were taking sides against their own people.
Pictures and diagrams of the temple
Center: Holy of holies
Court of Priests
Court of Israelites (men only – no women or eunuchs)
Court of Women
Court of Gentiles
- ancient stone: Any gentiles entering the actual temple will be killed
- Market place (money exchange for temple currency and animal sales for sacrifice)
- Abuse of power – bad rates and high prices
- Hard to pray when you’ve just been cheated by the temple.
- Hard to pray when surrounded by chaos, poop, and injustice.
They had hijacked God’s temple!
Jesus does a small act of prophetic judgment in classic prophetic style.
- Showing God’s anger at the abuses in and of the temple.
- Showing God’s intention for the temple:
- Center of justice, healing, and grace.
- House of prayer for all people.
Drama 3: Cursing the Fig Tree (21:18-20)
- Not just a cool magic trick showing Jesus’ powers
- A living drama, a prophetic miracle
Israelis the fig tree (Trees and vines were very common images for .) Israel
- Fruit = righteousness, good living (also a very common image)
’s religious leaders don’t have the fruit of righteousness. The temple leaders have failed. God is judging them and starting something new. Israel
Transition: Question of Authority (21:23-27)
- Religious authorities (priests and elders): “Where do you get the authority to do this?”
- Implication: “We are the ones in charge. We didn’t give you any authority. You don’t have the right to mess around in our house.”
- Jesus: “I get my authority from the same place as John the Baptist. If you had believed him, you would believe me. God sent us both.”
Story 1: Two Sons (21:28-32)
- I love how Jesus makes them answer.
- Jesus: “You religious leaders are like the first son. You’re all talk and no action. John the Baptist showed you the way of the Kingdom. Tax collectors and prostitutes (people who openly rejected God) have now repented and put their trust in God again. They are walking in the Kingdom but you are still on the outside because you won’t admit you’re wrong and change what you really care about.”
Story 2: The Leased Vineyard (21:33-46)
- A vineyard is one of the most popular images of God’s people.
- You religious leaders don’t own this temple or God’s people. God is the owner.
- You are bad tenants, bad caretakers.
- You are milking God’s people and abusing God’s messengers and cheating God.
- You are using religion to steal what is really God’s.
- Again Jesus makes the religious leaders answer.
- Leaders: “He will put those horrible people to a horrible death and give the farm to good caretakers.”
- Jesus: “That’s right, and you are in big trouble now because you are rejecting the Owner’s Son, me.”
(one more story for next week)
Summary of Matthew 21
Religious leaders have failed in two ways.
- They believed they were the owners of the religious institutions.
- They acted as if the temple was there to serve them. (They inverted the religion in upon themselves, like wearing glasses backwards.)
- God is the owner. Leaders are only stewards or caretakers.
- The point of the temple was to create a gateway of healing and grace for the world.
Jesus came as the Owner’s Son to make things right.
The right response is repentance and trust in God’s grace.
What about us?
First, we need to ask: “What is “the temple” for us”
- Jesus’ body was the
, the living house of God’s presence in the world (John 2:19-22) Templeof God
- Paul: God’s people corporately and individually are God’s temple because God’s Holy Spirit lives in us. As the church, we are the body of Christ, the living embodiment of Jesus’ presence in our world (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Ephesians 2:19-22).
- Peter: You are living stones God is crafting into a temple, a site of mercy and praise and healing and welcome to the world. In this temple, you serve with Jesus as royal priests offering your lives as sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:4-10).
God is calling us to be this kind of temple. God is calling us to be this kind of people. Life is holy, and we are holy. The holy God lives in us. We are the living stones of his holy temple. We live and move in him. He lives and moves in us. Amazingly, God has chosen us to be his body, his house, in our world. Religion, spirituality, Christianity is about living out the presence of God in our world.
Easy for us to judge these Jewish leaders. (We preachers are especially good at that! “They hijacked God’s temple!”)
Easy for us to fall into the same trap. Our religion can go down the same road. We can hijack God’s temple, too. We can hijack God’s religion and make it serve our own interests pretty easily.
Living the Truth
Religious practice is focused on us
Focus is outward – helping people experience God’s grace and healing
Believing and acting like we are the owners of our bodies, our lives, our church
God is the owner of the temple (our life, our bodies, our church).
Church becomes a roadblock for outsiders
Church becomes a gateway to God’s grace and healing for outsiders
Making religion focus on security and protection of our self-interests
Allowing religion to speak a voice of challenge and justice to us and to our leaders
“Triumphal Entry” every Sunday, but polite inattention the rest of the week
Full-life temple theology
Constant experience and expression of grace
Today we have “come to church.” But this room is not “the church.” This worship service is not “the church.”
We are “the church.” We are the living presence of God in the world. Our bodies together and alone are the body of Christ in the world.
If you want to be a Christian, go to church every day. Have a worship service every minute of the day. You are a living vessel of the Living God. Live out the functions of the temple in your daily life. Be a gateway for the world to experience God’s grace and healing. Live a constant experience and expression of God’s grace. That is what religion is all about. That is what the temple is all about. That is what Christianity is all about. That is what we are all about. Live and share God’s unlimited grace all day every day.