Lent & Ash Wednesday: A Collision of Life & Death


paul-ash-wednesday-2014This is the reflection I wrote for my Church’s Lent Prayerbook this year. Its about Ash Wednesday, but its Lenten themes remind us of the spirit of this season, as we move into Holy Week next week.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, the time in which we turn the volume up on the dark whispers and hauntings in our souls that we spend the rest of the year trying to drown out. It is the season where we feel the gravity of our weakness and finitude. And Ash Wednesday particularly focuses on where we are most weak and most finite: our mortality.

Hundreds of millions (perhaps billions?) of people will gather today to take on what I feel is one of the most packed symbols of the historic Christian faith: the placement of ashes in the shape of a cross on their forehead. We are called in the ashes to begin this process of mourning our seeming slavery to Sin and Death. In the Ash Wednesday service, we hear the words, “remember from dust you came, and to dust you will return.” Ashes are a symbol of suffering, lament, tragedy, repentance, and mourning.
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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #5 [3/24-30/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I’m still trying to figure out the best pace at which to post these, so be patient with me. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Genesis

History, Theology, & Wrestling with God | Genesis 32.24-32

When morning came, it was Leah | Genesis 33.10

How Christians can read Old Testament horror  | Genesis 34.25-31

Exodus

God’s Sovereignty, Moses’ Will | Exodus 3.4

Our infinitely compassionate (and delegating) God | Exodus 3.7-8

The Proof that God’s Right? When He Is.  | Exodus 3.11-12

Who God is When We’ve Forgotten Who He is | Exodus 3.13-15

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #4 [3/17-23/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I’m still trying to figure out the best pace at which to post these, so be patient with me. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Genesis

Responding to the Covenant | Genesis 17:10

God & Sarah: one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible | Genesis 21.1

The Echoes of History &  Abraham| Genesis 24.22-23

And the story moves from Abraham to Isaac… | selections from Genesis 26

God’s Camp is Our Camp | Genesis 32:1

Wrestling with God: History & Theology | Genesis 32.24-32

Responding to the Covenant | Genesis 35.9-13

Exodus

Moses the Levite? | Exodus 2:12

Moses the Shepherd | Exodus 3.1

A quick note on why everything you think about angels might be wrong | Exodus 3.2

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #3 [3/8-16/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I generally post between 1 to 3 of these per day, which can be difficult to keep up with. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Pastors, Purification, & Their People | Nehemiah 12:30

There is an order to pastoring. We’d do well to heed it.

Covenantal Confusion (on my part) | Genesis 6:18

Noah Covenant “versus” Abraham Covenant. Go!

The Saving Call of Christ: you’re already saved | Matthew 9.13

Be who you are.

The God of Chance & Randomness | Genesis 13.14-18

God gave his people some glorious sloppy seconds.

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Resurrection: Matthean Apologetics | Matthew 27.62-66


The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Matthew 27.62-66

Apologetics by the gospel writer at work, haha. We know in subsequent debates that this was a major argument by the Jews, so this is a very important record that Matthew is putting down. He has to prove as best as he can that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, and that his body was secure.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The beauty of God’s heart for us | Matthew 8.1-3


When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
–Matthew 8.1-3

Is this not our constant prayer? And is this not God’s constant answer to us?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Saving Call of Christ: you’re already saved | Matthew 9.13


Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” —Matthew 9.13

 Notice here the emphasis. Evangelicals tend to stress how Jesus came to “save” (which he did, for sure). But Jesus here doesn’t day he came to “save” sinners. But rather to “call” them. I wonder if this speaks to the thought that salvation is everyone’s, and “evangelism” is more the process of calling people to be the saved people they are rather than to “get” or somehow “acquire” salvation. It’s a call to be something, not a call to get something.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #2 [3/3-7/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I generally post between 1 to 3 of these per day, which can be difficult to keep up with. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Haha. Such a great narrative turn. | Genesis 6.5-8

Haha.

Weirdest. Love story. Ever. | Genesis 29.10-12

The OT has some great stories to tell great truths. It’s love stories, however…

You marry a family | Genesis 29.13-14

In which the father of the bride says Adam’s marital vows to the future son-in-law.

Politics & Tithe | Ezra 8.35-36

Some interesting church/state arrangements here

The Economics of the Soul | Nehemiah 13:19-21

How capitalism can kill our souls.

Pastoring the Sabbath | Nehemiah 13:22

Here’s one pastoral task we often miss.

Esther is no Sunday School role-model | Esther 2.8-9

Turn on some slow jams and read this. Also be sure to catch the comments.

Esther & Political Advocacy by God’s People| Esther 4.3,8 [DOUBLE-HEADER]

This is why I started this series. Read this, and then read the comments. My mind was blown. Hopefully yours will be as well.

The Holy Spirit exorcizes, no matter who you are | Matthew 12:24-28

It seems the Holy Spirit shows no favoritism.

Love your neighbor…even other denominations | Matthew 22:34-40

Bet you never caught the context of this key verse….

Paul’s ministry thesis & maybe Theophilus’ identity? | Acts 28.23-31

We get a little deep into some reader-response literary criticism and biblical studies.

Preaching the Gospel to Christians | Romans 1:14-16

The Gospel. Is. Everything.

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See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Economics of the Soul | Nehemiah 13:19-21


When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, to prevent any burden from being brought in on the sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath.
Nehemiah 13:19-21

Interesting economic implications. There was a real understanding of human nature that understood the power of economics on the human self. If you let the market or commercialism have any real presence among the people of God,  it destroys them, and invites God’s wrath upon them.  The market destroys souls. We cannot “un-economize”  our selves.  Hence Paul’s disruption of the Ephesians market when people are converted. This is essentially what the Pope wrote about recently. We can use the market to serve human flourishing, or we can serve it at the expense of that flourishing. Nehemiah knows the tendency of the human heart to serve economics rather than have it serve us,  so he keeps the merchants away from God’s people on the Sabbath,  when they should be re-syncing themselves with the Living God.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Pastoring the Sabbath | Nehemiah 13:22


And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
Nehemiah 13:22

It’s is part of the soul-care of the church leaders to safeguard the Sabbath rest of God’s people.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Love your neighbor…even other denominations | Matthew 22:34-40


When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:34:40

I find it fascinating that this opens with the fact that the Pharisees were only respecting Jesus and calling him Teacher because he had smacked down their fellow Jews who happened to be in a different “denomination”. How often do we do this? How often do we latch on to a teacher not because God meets us in their  proclamation, but because they reaffirm our beliefs and/or put down those we disagree with? Fellow family members in the people of God, no less! How dare we?

This is why I find it brilliant that Jesus stresses the vertical in the greatest commandment, but he also throws in the necessity of loving our neighbors as well. Don’t miss this. He essentially adds a human-relational dimension to the Shema, one of the most beloved of Jewish texts! And so he incorporates how we treat others as just as essential as how we love God. When we don’t love those around us-especially the fellow people of God that we disagree with-we break the most important of commandments and fall short in loving our God.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Holy Spirit exorcizes, no matter who you are | Matthew 12:24-28


But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

Matthew 12.24-28

Even those that are not the people of God exorcise by the Holy Spirit. Don’t be so quick to discount the healing just because you disagree with the person or even if they’re not Christian! God is the Gospel of healing. However shalom happens, it is the Spirit that brings it.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Lent begins tomorrow. (Will you just give it a try?)


Jesus & The Cross

I grew up in a church tradition that did not take seriously the Christian Church Calendar. Even as I went to college and moved into communities that took some level of tradition more seriously (which was usually limited to quoting Puritans and Reformers in sermons), the Church Calendar wasn’t that big of a deal. It was seen as something sort-of cool that could be incorporated into the already established life of the Church; a buffet from which leaders could pick and choose some aspects that might be helpful in organizing some sermon series or songs. But it certainly wasn’t seen as something that a church should actually incorporate itself into, or build it’s own rhythm around.

I’ve had the privilege of having this paradigm rocked the past several years at my church, and have fallen in love with the Church calendar. It influences much of the rhythm and timbre of my everyday life–both ecclesial and otherwise. I find such life in living within a stream of thought that was not simply created within the past generation by baptizing modern Western American cultural ideas.

I love finding myself as embedded within the cloud of witnesses that have gone before me as possible–even those I may disagree with passionately and fundamentally. Because, at the end of the day, they are my family, and families have traditions. Sure, you can be “that guy” that does his own thing and doesn’t participate in the family rhythms, but where’s the life in that?

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #1 [2/24-28/14]


Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I generally post between 1 to 3 of these per day, which can be difficult to keep up with. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Death & Life; Names & Vows | Genesis 3.20-21

Adam names Eve only after the Fall. Why?

Noah, Prophecy, & the Comfort of the Earth | Genesis 5.28-29

Noah’s name is interestingly prophetic…

Abraham’s son Ishmael was part of Covenant! | Genesis 17.23-27

This blew my mind. I’m still trying to work through the implications.

Abraham almost loses his son & he worships?! | Genesis 22.13-14

This is why Abraham was the Father of our faith. I couldn’t do it.

Insecurity Leads to Fasting? | Ezra 8:21-23

On sin and spiritual discipline.

Male Headship & Societal Injustice | Esther 1:17-22

A longer one (also part of our Women in the Church series). Some lessons for our Complementarian friends from the book of Esther.

Universal Intimacy: The Beautiful Transition | Matthew 11:25-39

This is what Christian Universalism looks like.

What Draws Out Jesus’ Compassion? | Matthew 15.32

It might not be what you think.

Women at the Cross | Matthew 27:55-54

The Gospels really make an effort to highlight the women. Why?

Who Sent Whom? | Acts 13.2-4

Beautiful words about God’s work through us.

The Good News changes, the Good News gifts | Acts 20.32

The proclamation has got a lot to it.

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See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.