Tag Archives: passion

The Journey

Next week is central to my identity. My life changes as I enter it. It is the annual pilgrimage of Christians worldwide.

Holy week is more than a seminar on how to improve my life skills.

A popular way to read scripture, preach sermons or write devotionals is to seek life application. The goal is to find specific practices or concepts on how to improve my life. For example, how I might be a better parent or a better spouse, how I can worry less or trust God more. There is a place for life application, but I don’t see the final days of Jesus’ life as serving that primary function.

I want to use a metaphor to explain this. Our lives can be compared to a home where we live. We have our spaces, our furniture, and our routines that shape daily lives. “Life applications” help us do minor rearrangements and some remodeling to our home, but we still manage how the day-to-day routine flows in our home.

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But Holy Week actually forces me out of my home. I am on a pilgrimage to ancient Jerusalem in my imagination. I am part of the crowd that shouts “hosanna” as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. I join with the disciples in eating with Jesus the upper room. With the crowd outside of Pilate’s court, I shout,  “Crucify him.” Finally I hurry to the tomb with the women, full of wonder.

I gather with the people of Resurrection Lutheran to worship, pray, sing and sit in silence. I will seek no specific application or wisdom other than to be with Jesus.

Through this journey my daily story is rewritten, reworked. Like the hobbit Frodo Baggins, I am on a journey far from my comfortable Shire. And when I return to my home, I have been changed by the journey.

Are you ready to enter the story of Christ’s passion this year?

Lord Jesus, let me truly walk with you this week.

Go In Peace?

Every week at the end of worship, I walk to the back of the worship area and after the last song I say, “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” The congregation responds, “Thanks be to God.” I have said those words over a thousand times in a variety of settings. I believe in the power of those words, that the congregation is sent into God’s world to be God’s ambassadors of light, hope and love. I proclaim the words with enthusiasm and hope.

Last week I was at our Synod Assembly, where representatives of the 115 congregations of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the ELCA gathered to do the business of the church and to reflect together on what it means to Live Lutheran. We started with worship and at the end I heard the words again, “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” Of course, we were going “nowhere,” but remaining at our table and chairs for the Assembly. The oddity of the phrase triggered deeper reflection on the words, especially the idea of going in peace.

Peace in the Biblical sense is wholeness or fullness. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means that you have everything you need to be whole in your relationship with God, neighbor and self. To “go in peace,” means the worship has filled your cup of blessing and you leave worship whole and empowered to serve.

However in our culture, peace often simply means the absence of struggle or conflict. We are often use peace for a sense of calm and almost passivity. A peaceful lake is calm and tranquil. There are times in our lives when each of us needs a place of tranquil peace.  But such peaceful waters have the danger of becoming stagnant and dead if no outflow occurs.

I wonder if the word “peace” communicates what God truly wants from us? Could it be that instead of going in “peace,” God would want us at times to go with PASSION, the fullness of God pushing us out the door to serve with passion, energy and conviction? The energy and life of a cascading river might be a better picture of what God call us to be in the world.

God’s peace is not passivity but passion.

Go with passion. Serve the Lord.

Lord Jesus, energize my soul with your power and grace to serve you and your world.

The END Came and Went

Yesterday I wrote on the END OF THE WORLD as expressed in Mark 13. In the chapter Jesus taught his disciples regarding the signs of a new world being birthed. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:30).

Like most apocalyptic literature, Mark 13 is written in highly descriptive language that evokes strong emotions, but is often difficult to interpret precisely. The chapter is more like a beautiful mosaic of pictures than a precise timeline of events. Parts of the chapter seem to refer to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Roman legions in 70 AD (v 2, 4-11, 14-23). Other sections may refer to the persecutions the church faced in its early years. Readers can be challenged to see how it applies to our current life.

Praying at Gethsemane by Artist He Qi

Yet the reader is given a key verse in v. 35. “Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

The four hours of the watch (evening, midnight, cockcrow and dawn) are significant because they become the outline of Mark’s next two chapters: the story of Jesus’ betrayal, prayer,  arrest and trial.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:17).

Jesus said to Peter, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30).

At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept (Mark 14:72).

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate (Mark 15:1).

The disciples were unable to stay awake in the garden when Jesus prayed (Mark 14:41). They all scattered. Still Jesus remained faithful.  His words from Mark 13 came true. Jesus’ passion became the birth pangs of a new creation. The world as we knew it ended with Jesus’ crucifixion and a new world dawned with his resurrection.

Paul captures this new age in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The end of the world is not simple some future event for which we wait. The “end” started with Jesus’ death and the “new” has begun with his resurrection. We live in a new age with Jesus!

Lord Jesus, let my life end and begin again with you.

Jonathan Grows Up

I certainly am a proud papa as I prepare to celebrate my son’s wedding on Friday.  Carolyn and I thought we had the perfect name for our first-born, Jonathan, since he was “a gift of God” and his name, Jonathan, would distinguish him from his father, John.   And for years he was always Jonathan.   At church he learned to roam the hallways at a young age and delighted in being in the church nursery.

Jonathan with leg cast

However, one Sunday morning, a nursery attendant pulled me out of worship because my two-year-old son would not stand up on his left leg.  He had been jumping over things and somehow broke his leg.  I took him to the hospital where he received a leg cast.  At first he would not leave my lap.  But within a week he re-learned to walk and then run.  The next Sunday he was back at church, scooting through the narthex traffic in search of a cookie.   He has always been on the move, seeking new adventures, challenges and relationships.  Later at confirmation camp, he broke his collar bone, playing football.  Within a few hours, he figured out he could still throw the football and he became the designated quarterback with a no-tackle rule.  As he grew, his friends started calling him Jon instead of Jonathan.  It was quicker; you had to be fast to get his attention.

Jon runs for Minnehaha Academy

I also rejoice that he has chosen to run and live with passion.   He always been a competitor, working hard to achieve his goals, whether it was being the best cross-country runner or academic scholar.  That passion has led him to start his own company with some friends: MNY group.  His passion pushed him to seek the best spouse: Maggie Thomas.  She already brings incredible joy and laughter to Jon and our family.  I am praying that they find a good pace together.

And most importantly Jon continues to run with Jesus Christ as his Lord.  Though many will be calling him Jon this week-end and I will be confused, he will continue to my Jonathan, “a gift of God.”

Weather or Not to Live

Mount Rainier on a clear day

This morning waking up to warm sunshine and blue skies gave my heart a real lift.  I know that  the weather should not determine my mood, especially when one lives in Minnesota year round!   Still God created me as a physical creature that relishes sunshine and abhors long stretches of frigid, grey days.   I am not a robot who has not feelings, but a being that has passion, joy, love, pain and sorrow.

Jesus was one who embraced all of life.  He changed gallons of water into wine at a wedding feast (John 2:6-10).  He enjoyed eating at lavish meals (Luke 5:29-34).  He provided food for the hungry and healing for the sick.  Jesus was not a spiritual ascetic who rejected the simple good pleasures God give to us.  He spent some time in the wilderness, but  even more time with people in the villages and towns of Galilee, Samaria and Judea.  He came from heaven to live among us. 

Jesus gathered friends around him and enjoyed their company.  He wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:34).  He rejoiced when his disciples return from their short mission trip (Luke 10:21).  Jesus grew tired on his journey to Galilee (John 4:6). He became angry at the money changers in the Temple (Mark 11:15).   Jesus did not pull away from life, but showed us how to enter it completely.

Growing up in western Washington state, I remember many weeks of grey cold rain.  Though mountains surrounded us to the east and west, we did not regularly see them.   When finally the clouds lifted and Mount Rainier was visible, everyone felt a lift in emotions, a lightness of heart.  Our context had changed, and so did we.  

The vibrant life of faith in Jesus will always be lived in context, in relationship to the culture, community, family and even the weather.   We are physical creatures as well as spiritual.  Let us be passionate in our embracing the vibrant life.  

How have you experienced the Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ lately?

Holy Spirit Business

Holy Spirit comes to work

I am preparing for my first annual congregational meeting at Resurrection Lutheran which will be this Sunday.  Annual meetings among pastors often have the reputation either of being boring, business-as-usual constitutional necessities or of being highly emotional and conflicted debates on peripheral or personality issues.   As a pastor, I don’t want either extreme to happen, but I do pray that the Holy Spirit comes to work: to coax, push, pull and move the congregation towards God’s future.  Discussion regarding a congregation’s priorities can be passionate and yet loving, for we share a common mission to trust, live and serve God.

The book of Acts has a lengthy account of a large church meeting in Jerusalem.  Paul and Barnabas brought a major concern to the whole church for discussion and debate.   Their concern was whether new Gentile members to the church had to fully convert to Judaism before they could embrace Jesus.  Since most of the early members of the church were Jewish and since Jesus was a Jew, many believed that Jewish laws should be upheld.  Paul felt otherwise and a strong debate developed among the leadership of the church.  What rules and regulations, if any, were needed?  After a lengthy debate, the leadership wrote a letter to the many new Gentile believers,  “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from fornication” (Acts 15:28-29).  What stands out is that they trusted the Holy Spirit to be part of the discussion.  This was a matter of faith, since the Holy Spirit did not fly into the meeting like a dove and deliver a telegram from heaven.  It was in the discussion itself that God’s Spirit worked.

I think every pastor hopes and prays that the Holy Spirit would be the key partner in any congregational meeting. The Holy Spirit is neither boring, nor highly emotional, but is trustworthy.   The Spirit calls us to trust God in all things.   That seems good to me!

How has the Spirit worked in guiding you and your life with other Christians?

Recommended Blog

Seth Godin's blog

I am looking for good blogs to read.  If you have one that you have appreciated, please pass it along.  The one blog I do follow is by Seth Godin.  Here is a sample of his blog:

What are you working on?

If someone asks you that, are you excited to tell them the answer?

I hope so. If not, you’re wasting away.

No matter what your job is, no matter where you work, there’s a way to create a project (on your own, on weekends if necessary), where the excitement is palpable, where something that might make a difference is right around the corner.

Hurry, go do that.

Seth is one reason I started this blog for Resurrection.   You can subscribe to his blog at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/