Scripture Readings for January 22

Psalm 139Amos 3:1-8I Corinthians 1:10-17Matthew 4:12-23

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 4:17

Several years ago a dear friend of mine reacted negatively to a “repentance service” at which we were both in attendance. His aggravation was sparked by two things: 1) the fact that no specific sins were identified for which we were repenting;  and, 2) and our participation in worship that day obligated (coerced) to offer repentance in order to participate in worship.

I understood his objections even though I didn’t agree with him. But,  I had difficulty articulating my disagreement. As I look back at that moment I am grateful. My friend’s reaction created within me a need to think clearly about repentance. What exactly is it? Why is it important? Can a group of people corporately repent for the sins of  individuals? Is there a point in repenting if one cannot identify a specific sin one has committed? Much more, is that even possible?

Repentance is at the core of Jesus’ teaching. Matthew 4:17 says, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” These words mark the beginning of his public ministry. He did not just say them once. The Gospels make clear that Jesus began preaching like this. That is, these ideas were central to his overall message of the Kingdom of God.

This leads me to believe that repentance is something Christians should participate in regularly on both the corporate and the individual level. In addition, repentance should be considered not mere acts of contrition or remorse but it should be a way of living. That is, our lives should be marked by a mode of repentance that allows us to be re-oriented to God and one another daily.

What do you think? How do you understand repentance. There will be more to come.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 18:19

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Continuing the Conversation … March 8

Continuing the conversation is an opportunity for us to continue our learning experience from the previous weekend.

Our most recent text came from John 12:20-33, an account where Jesus once again predicts his death and, at the same time, paints part of the picture of the Christian life.

Jesus, after pointing to the fact that he was going to die, expressed that he was “troubled”
but in spite of his “troubles” was going to face his destiny for the glory of God. Your input in this section was especially valuable. Some of you expressed that this attitude of Jesus provided you with a sense of comfort and confidence. Others made the point that Jesus’ commitment to the overall purpose of God, in spite of his human trepidation, signaled that he was the Messiah.

This is followed up in vv. 30-34 with Jesus affirming that he is indeed the Messiah. He knows what is happening to him. He is not a passive victim but holy, wise and capable of escaping the coming trouble. Instead of seeking an escape Jesus claims that he must be “lifted up” which is an obvious, to his 1st Century listeners that he will be crucified.

Through this interchange Jesus reminds us once again that there are problems in this world, problems that are both personal/individual and cosmic/corporate, that only the cross will solve. Coupled with the resurrection the cross serves to proclaim Jesus Lordship over all, including our individual hearts.

Our passage reminds us of the difficult, even dark, aspects of Jesus journey to the cross. What part of Jesus journey to the cross is important for you to reflect upon during this season of Lent?

Continuing the Conversation … 2.16.08

This is our attempt to “continue the conversation” begun Saturday night during our regular worship gathering.

As we proceed through this second full week of Lent I am struck by the order of Gospel images2.jpg passages we have experienced so far. In week 1 we were in Mark’s Gospel vv. 9-11 where Jesus’ baptism is described and the message from God the Father is heard: “You are my beloved Son; I take delight in You!”

We then proceed to Mark 8:34-38 where Jesus speaks to his disciples, and to us, of the cross, self-denial, and what it means to follow him.

In week 1 we are reminded that God’s message of love and delightin his Son, Jesus, which trickles down to all of us who are “in Christ”. In week 2 we are reminded that this necessarily includes the cross.

Do you see where Jesus’s journey is taking Him? Do we dare follow?

Every passage we read from the Gospels deserves more time than we are able to give it and this one is certainly no exception. But, we are on a pilgrimage and that means that we will be looking at another passage from Jesus life next week. For this week, think about, and respond to if you will, the following questions:

1. How does reflecting upon Jesus’ cross and his call for you to deny yourself and take up your cross impact your fast and your experience of Lent?

2. When does self-denial become self-abusive? Think specifically about your own life. Is this a passage of Scripture that was “used against you” in the past? What is the proper balance?

Some of you are already writing some thoughts about this. Check out FRT’s thoughts here.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. – Psalm 84:5-7

Words for the Week – Feb 16

These words are here to help guide you through this second week of Lent.

Psalm  16

Old Testament    Genesis 22:1-14

Gospel   Mark 8:31-38

New Testament    Romans 8:31-139

“May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to You,
LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” 

Psalm 19:14