Reformed and Always Reforming

Five hundred years ago, the Protestant Reformation sought to change the church, to bring the focus back upon God. The Reformation had no intention of breaking free from the church in Rome but instead saw that the message of grace and mercy had been replaced with penance and indulgences. Due to these circumstances, Martin Luther spoke up and sought to bring the church back to God’s intended purpose, to spread the Gospel message to the world. 

God used an imperfect person to bring change to the church. Those that seek to change the world must understand that they are imperfect and not worthy of praise, but rather deflect all of that praise to the Almighty God. The church, however, often looks to its leaders and seeks their elevation rather than focusing on the message. Thus, on this Reformation Sunday, we need to focus on God’s desire to constantly re-form us into His image and carry out the mission of the Gospel in our community and the world.

Saul is an example of an imperfect person, carrying out the mission of God. After Ananias had been with Saul, with sight restored, Saul was released to do the work of God in the world. Sharing the Gospel, proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior, and doing ministry work in Damascus caused Saul to develop some enemies. The people that were content with the status quo, those that said this is the way we have always done things, and those that were uncomfortable with Saul’s new message fought to destroy Saul and protect the status quo. This story invites us to look at Acts and see how Saul first interacts with the church.

Acts 9:23-31

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

The examples of Luther, Saul, and countless others remind the church that we need people in our midst willing to challenge the status quo and fight for reforms within the body. Often these reforms start within our own lives. What sin is still unresolved? The reformer’s perspective begins by recognizing the need to be transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit, and with that renewal comes a desire to change the world. This desire recognizes that God holds the ultimate authority over us and not any organization or group found on Earth. 

When we grant the ultimate authority over our lives to God, we relinquish all other pretenses through which we speak and instead ask the Holy Spirit to speak through us and for us. The Holy Spirit will always speak the truth and demand the same of each of God’s disciples. This orientation puts the reformer in a situation where they must immediately and wholly confront anything that runs contrary to the Message of the Cross and God’s love for the world.

God established the church to carry out the Almighty’s mission on Earth, to bring all of the created order back to God. The reformer’s voice calls the church to heed the call and get our hearts right with God. The reformer’s problems result from tribalism and looking at the world through only one particular lens.

Martin Luther never sought to break away from the Catholic Church but saw something that did not align with scripture and discussed it. This challenge made Rome nervous and resulted in his excommunication. When speaking to the Jews about Jesus, Saul challenged the notion that the Christ had yet to come, but instead of it resulting in a discussion, the Jews plotted to kill him. Challenges and reforms don’t often come easy, and they usually result in a great deal of animosity from the leaders and status quo.

However, our allegiance must lie with God and not with political or even religious leaders. This temptation plagues the church in America. Quickly the church aligns itself with charismatic leaders and politicians, and regardless of substance, many quickly fall prey to the trap. Instead of speaking the truth of God boldly to power, they usurp God’s mission in the path toward human ambition, which is why we need reformers in our midst.

The reformer can come from anyone led by the Holy Spirit, even those that once were enemies of the church. Saul was an enemy, and through the transformation of God, Saul became an evangelist and spoke the truth at his peril. We cannot fear this type of person in our midst, but instead, we must be willing to stand in Barnabas’ shoes in this passage as he vouched for Saul and provided testimony to Saul’s transformation. This testimony paved the way for the reformation of the church from just for Jews toward reaching out toward the Gentiles as well. 

The church must keep its eyes open and its ears listening, as the Holy Spirit can speak through anyone at any time. This way, the church will be open to the necessary reforms. Thus the church operates as a reformed and always reforming congregation.

Saint Patrick as a Model for Modern Evangelism

Many of us have long thought of St. Patrick’s Day as a day to wear green and eat corned beef and cabbage. However, we should examine what our friend Patrick did and how we can use it as a beautiful example of how we can bring God’s grace to a world that is often devoid of hope. Today, the supposed anniversary of his death should serve to remind Christians everywhere that our God is powerful and can use us no matter where we come from or what stratus of life from which we come. 

Although recognized as Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick was not Irish but came to Ireland as a slave when he was only a teen. He was captive for about six years and worked primarily as a shepherd. During his captivity, Patrick, buoyed by his faith in Christ, found comfort in the promises that God would never leave him or forsake him in his circumstances. During captivity, God also gave Patrick a sense of call, similar to the sense of call God puts on our hearts.

After returning to Britain, escaping his captors, God called Patrick into ordination as a Priest. After becoming a Priest, he petitioned to go back to Ireland to bring God’s Gospel message to Ireland’s Celtic people. Instead of casting aside the people’s traditions and denouncing their pagan roots, Patrick sought to share the Gospel as it is working in their lives already. Through his actions, and practices he translated the Gospel into a language that they would understand. In much the same way, Paul was able to explain the Gospel to those at the Areopagus.

Today, we must follow the Saints’ example and share the Gospel with people, not in judgment, but with grace, just as Christ came to us with a Spirit of Love. We must seek to understand the culture. Learn the language, speak with humility, and bring hope, justice, peace, and love. Speak truth to power, but you must first speak the culture’s language to be heard and understood. Saint Patrick understood and embodied this and integrated notably Irish items into the worship of God. 

It is not the job of evangelism to wash over and eradicate culture. Instead, through our understanding of culture, we translate the Gospel into the language of culture. Instead of appropriating and colonizing, we see where God is already at work and join into God’s Kingdom work right where we live and play.

Look At God’s Hands and Worship

No matter what we find ourselves afflicted by, God reminds us that we must respond with worship. Even during war, persecution, plagues, and separation, God reminds us that we are not forgotten and belong to the Almighty and called us to worship him with all of our heart. Worship is engrained into our very core, and that circumstance tries to cover up that calling upon our hearts by distracting us with any number of problems in our lives. 

The danger we face is the same danger that faced the people of Israel and Judah. When we focus upon the affliction, we tend toward thinking that God has abandoned us or is absent from us, but that is contrary to the truth. God has written our names upon His hands. Jesus reminded the apostles to look upon him and the sacrifice Jesus made. God calls the people to look upon God’s hands and remember that the work of salvation is complete; therefore, we must look at God’s hands and worship, casting aside any afflictions, as they are not worthy of our focus.

Isaiah 49:13-18 (NIV)

13Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

14But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”

15“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

16See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

17Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.18Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the Lord, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.

In God Alone: Everything Else Is An Imitation

None of us belong, and all of us belong. We all have done wrong, treated each other improperly, and allowed sinful thoughts to affect our actions and lives. However, we have all been called to the foot of the cross, welcomed by the Almighty, to salvation. Our previous shortcomings, our current sins, nor our future problems do not withhold the grace found at the cross. Before we proceed with anything involving the church, we must affirm that our faith and salvation comes from no other place than the Almighty God, which did not consider sending Christ Jesus to Earth an act beneath the Creator. Therefore, because Christ pulls us out of sin, we cannot think that any of us is too perfect or too far gone for God’s salvation.

The church can never become a gatekeeper for salvation but must embody the sacrificial love that God has for followers of Christ. We must let go of our notions about who belongs and who doesn’t belong because we must all recognize that we are all lawbreakers and deserve death, but because of God’s mercy, we are saved by grace. The church gathers rule breakers and fugitives. For God calls us all to put down all of our idols and names and come before the cross, laying EVERYTHING down before Christ. Any idea that we carry any other identity other than a child of the Almighty God is foolish and idolatrous.

Isaiah 45:20-25 (NIV)

20“Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save.

21Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord ? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.

22“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

23By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.

24They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’ ” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.

25But all the descendants of Israel will find deliverance in the Lord and will make their boast in him.

No, It Isn’t.

I have been approached by more than a few asking about the vaccine and the mark of the beast. I want to just say, “No, it isn’t.” Part of me thinks it is a fear tactic, and another ploy by many Christians to undermine the medical community. However, we must address these matters with sincerity and a desire to understand and adequately discern the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. We must guard against the mindless chatter and indulging of things meant to divide us from one another. God knows his children, and we should put on the clothing that shows the fruits of the Spirit.

Some may think that I am granting too much credence to the conspiracy theories, and I may be doing just that, but I feel compelled to give at least my thoughts on the matter.

In the second chapter of 2 Timothy, it states:

14Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and correctly handles the word of truth. 16Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”  

How do you feel about vaccines in general? This vaccine is no different than any other vaccine in many respects. 

We should be careful when making some broad proclamations about this situation. Many conspiracy theorists will exacerbate our fears and point to the imagery contained within John’s Revelation. The Revelation of John is apocalyptic literature. We need to look at the reason for this type of literature and what we can understand about what God is instructing us through this scripture. John called pointed out the mark of the beast as something that people did to proclaim allegiance to the world in opposition to our devotion to Christ.

The mark of the beast has been claimed about many things throughout the history of the world. In the last several decades, it has been attributed to identification (driver’s licenses and such), credit cards, cell phones, or anything broadly used in society. In each of these interpretations, they interpreted the mark of the beast as something that you need to interact with commerce in society, and without it, you cannot engage in trade. However, none of these things are asking us to pledge our allegiance to human institutions; they are used to keep order in society. None of them ask you to renounce your devotion to Christ to receive them; therefore, they do not pass the mark of the beast test.

Similarly, many things have been said about this vaccine, many of which are untrue. Two of the vaccines that have been approved are mRNA vaccines; therefore, people have stated that they change your DNA, which is patently false, and a 101 level of biology would help understand how messenger RNA works. They give the instructions to the body, which help promote an immune response without ever having the SARS-Cov-2 virus in our bodies. The development of such a vaccine is quite a marvel about how God creates humans to understand and figure this out and help destroy the virus’s effects on our society, which is a reason to give thanks to God and not for fear. 

Another aspect of the anti-vaccine is the worry of a tracking microchip. While they do have microchips as small as 3 nanometers, it would simply be impractical to place a chip in anything like this. Further, since many of the vaccines are being transported in vials that contain multiple doses, it would require the ability to ensure that there was a chip in each dose. This is an absurd assertion, especially since many people carry a device with a camera and a microphone that tracks our location and internet history. There is absolutely no reason for any need for a tracking microchip.

The vaccine has undergone extensive testing that has was verified through peer review and the FDA. These are of course human institutions and are thus fallible, so ultimately it would require you to prayerfully consider if you trust those institutions.

With all of the reasons above, I have zero qualms about taking the vaccine, and will proudly recommend that any person that is healthy and not allergic to the vaccine ingredients to get the vaccine, as no one is asking you to renounce your faith to take it. Further, my faith instructs me God has created and guided the people that have developed this vaccine. Lastly, God has called us to care for others, and my willingness to take the vaccine protects the people I come across from contracting this disease that has killed many people throughout the world, and that God calls us to love one another and that the best way we can love one another at this time is to protect each other from a deadly illness.

In short, the vaccine is not the mark of the beast, and if you can take it I would recommend it, and I will take it as soon as I can.

The Kingdom of God Is At Hand: Are You Ready To Be A Part of It?

A Reflection on Acts 1:6-14

When is life going to be normal again? God why don’t you just make this all go away? These are a couple of the questions that must swirl through our heads at a time like this. We don’t embrace terms like “new normal” and we are simply fatigued with our circumstance. However, God is not a static God, He is not like a bridge or a building, but rather God is active, God is moving, God is a dynamic force on the world, and the Church is called to be powerful, dynamic, and moving into the world.

Kingdoms of the world are generally static, and are defined by the buildings and structures that they have built. Egypt had it’s iconic pyramids, Rome had the Colosseum, China had its wall, throughout the world there are palaces and castles dedicated to the kingdoms throughout history. The followers of Christ sit in contrast to that, they focus upon a cross, an empty cross, a cross that reminds the church that God’s kingdom is on the move.

There is a temptation of the church to mimic the worldly kingdoms by building extravagant churches and edifices intended to honor Christ, as we can see throughout the world extraordinary cathedrals and churches. These churches and buildings, while dedicated to the service of God, are static, and only good if they promote the church to get up and go out and spread God’s message and kingdom.

The disciples of Christ still thought like much of the world that the kingdom was a static place, and that Israel would get its land back from Rome, and it prompted this interaction with Jesus just prior to His ascension, in Acts chapter 1.

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” 

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. 

Commission

Jesus opens up correcting the assumptions of the disciples, for they were thinking about a transformation that looked like the conquering kingdoms of the past. They still hoped that Jesus was going to lead an army into Jerusalem and take over, and yet Jesus patiently reminds them that their thinking is incorrect, and that they needed to rely upon the Father as He is the ultimate authority and provider of all things. They wanted to know the ending, but Jesus reminds them that the next step is the most important step, and that God is calling them to yield their thoughts and vision away from the physical and political, and toward the Spirit.

When we focus on the Spirit, our understanding shifts away from the world as geography, to the Kingdom of God as a spiritual kingdom that extends beyond geographical boundaries. Jesus tells the disciples that their power, and our power comes not from government, or money, or property, but it comes directly from the Holy Spirit. God’s Kingdom is spread by witness, not by soldiers, through a gospel of peace, not a declaration of war, and by the work of the Spirit, not by force, political intrigue, or violence. At the same time, when we reject the politics of the kingdom, we must avoid super-spiritualizing it, because God’s rule operates on Earth and not only in heaven.

Just as Jesus told the disciples that the ministry did not have boundaries like the kingdoms of the Earth, so too we must appreciate that our ministry must be focused outside our church buildings and out into the communities that we are called to serve. This requires us to release our attachments to the Earth and allow God to take everything and use us to our full capacity.  

Vision

In order to operate at this capacity, we must allow our vision to synchronize with God’s plan for the world. We must take time to be in awe of all the things that God has done for us, but there also comes a time when we must fulfill and act upon the commission God has given to us. While we come up with ideas, and plans, if they do not have an understanding of the fullness of God’s mission in the world they are lacking and without vision. 

The disciples needed a reminder from the people dressed in white, that Jesus is coming back, don’t be fixated upon when and where, but trust God and carry out His plan, and that we only need to be better at carrying out what God has planned for us. The vision God has planned for us is unique, and we must be adaptable to the circumstances that we find ourselves.

Unique times put us in unique circumstances that require the church to adapt. This adaptation requires us to be flexible in our vision, and try new things. Most of us have had to learn how to attend church via YouTube, Facebook, or Zoom, something that most of us had not even thought about before it became a necessity. However, the successes in this new way of church have shown us the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the negative, and continue to spread the message of hope, peace, and love in spite of physical distancing. This should encourage us to be able to move forward trusting that God’s vision for the church will succeed, no matter the circumstances. 

Prayer

To begin trusting this vision, we need to start in the same place as the disciples after Christ’s ascension, in prayer. Prayer is where we seek God’s vision, where we ask for the Holy Spirit to come and lead us, and we quiet our voice and vision and yield to what God desires for us. As we move forward may God’s blessings be upon us, His vision guide us, and the Holy Spirit power our mission in the world to spread God’s Kingdom beyond our walls, and all boundaries.

Unspoilable Faith

A Reflection on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Unprecedented times have led to changes in our lifestyle. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we were not ready for the changes that have happened in our lives over the last month. So much of the world we had thought was secure, so many of the institutions in which we placed our faith have let us down, and we are left grasping the air.

Peter found himself thinking the same way after Christ was taken away. All that he thought was secure was nailed to the cross, and his sworn allegiance to Jesus was shaken because when pushed, Peter denied. With this lapse in faith and judgement Peter found himself in a situation where he needed a Savior, he needed a fresh faith.

We don’t need to give up on our faith because the fabric of life seems to be breaking apart at the seams. Through bitterness about our circumstance, we may be willing to give everything up and walk away from obedience to Christ. However, we have a lot to learn about ourselves, and about how Christ meets us in this temporary time. This same Christ met Peter after the resurrection, and even when Peter had denied Christ, God’s grace removed the disgrace, and reinstated Peter as the rock of foundation for the Church. It was in this grace-filled circumstance that Peter writes the following:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV

No failure of faith keeps us away from the salvation that Christ offers to us through His death and resurrection. No matter the things that we end up putting in front of God, we are not beyond redemption. No matter how hard we try to make things work for ourselves, we are reminded that none of the things we do for ourselves lead us toward salvation, not our job, our bank account, or even our government. Christ is our only Hope, He saves us from our own stubbornness, and our sin.

Salvation is God’s work and not our work, this is the Hope that comforts us in this current situation. The hope is not something that we do to cause an effect, like wearing a mask or washing our hands to keep from getting sick, but rather a knowledge that God has already done the work that leads to salvation. Our actions give us a better chance, but God’s actions are assured to be efficacious.

It was this Hope that led the Israelites out of Egypt, and into the promised land. God promised Israel a land that was flowing with milk and honey, which was their inheritance. Peter reminds us that our inheritance is the Hope in Christ Jesus, and our faith in God cannot be removed, does not expire, and will not spoil.

When we start walking in this faith is where we are able to begin our life with Christ. When we are obedient to God, we can more easily be identified as Christ’s disciples. Even in our struggles: like missing our friends, our jobs, sports, and our church, God provides us with the Holy Spirit to walk near us and lift us up when we need support. We need to lean into this support, as it is the same God that raised Jesus from the dead, can certainly support us in our limited darkness.

Our circumstances are temporary, these times will come to an end, and we need to allow our faith to instruct us at this time. Peter reminds us that at times of darkness and despair help refine our faith, like fire refines gold, and to God our faith is far more valuable than the most pure gold. When we lean into this faith, all things are put into their proper perspective, and joy is produced deep within our soul.

This joy is not a result of achievement, but a gift from the Almighty God, as it disconnects us from our dependence on good circumstances. We can have joy in our grief, we can grieve the pain so many are experiencing, we can grieve those that are dying, we can grieve in the midst of pain; but in grief God reminds us about that which is true – God loves us and saves us from death. In this, we have Hope that doesn’t fail, Faith that doesn’t spoil, because God loves us and grants us a beautiful and wonderful joy.

The Lord’s Supper

Rain

Jesus along with the disciples were celebrating and practicing their custom, the meal that acknowledges the saving power of God, Passover. The meal that celebrates and acknowledges that God released the Hebrew people from bondage at the hands of the Egyptians. So too, we approach the table that Jesus establishes for us in remembrance that we have been released from bondage; the bondage of sin.

The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus celebrating this meal with His disciples.

Matthew 26:17-25 (ESV)

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” 

Jesus turns this meal that had been a celebration about release into an acknowledgement of the current circumstance. Jesus was going to be betrayed, and it was coming from His close group of friends. Being friends with and having a relationship with Jesus does not preclude you from betraying and turning on Him. We sit and pray to the Lord, we ask for God’s blessing over our meal, we talk, we laugh, we enjoy one another. However, sometimes bad things happen, we are pressured to do something contrary to our faith, something akin to selling out our Lord and Savior. At times when the pressure mounts, we must lean further into the relationship with Christ, rather than flee from it; remembering that we must conform to Christ’s agenda, not try to conform Christ into our own agenda.

After speaking with the disciples and warning them of trouble to come, Jesus then stands up and expresses what He is about to do. The act that Christ is about to carry out is in continuity with history, it is an act of salvation. There is no better time to point this out than during a celebration about how God saved the people of Israel from enslavement in Egypt, because the people are no longer enslaved to their sin.

With the following words Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper:

Matthew 26:26-29 (ESV)

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The feast and celebration of the Passover is an opportunity for Israel to look back at how God had been present with them in their escape from Egypt, while simultaneously being comforted and assured that God is with them through the troubles that exist currently, and looking to the future with hope because God will continue to walk alongside them.

So too, as we approach The Lord’s Table, we recognize that God has been with us throughout our lives, bringing us salvation by dying for our sins, breaking us free from the bondage and death present in this separation from God. Also, God is with us currently, walking with us through all trials and temptations. He invites us to lean into our relationship with Him, and to give all our highs and lows to Christ, because through the power of God we can make it through our circumstances. When we take the bread and cup, we also do so in a community that is a foretaste of eternity in the Kingdom.

Even now, as we are separate, I invite you to join together in partaking in this foretaste of the glory awaiting us.

Anointing and Betraying Jesus

Matthew 26:1-16 (ESV)

26 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” 

6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” 

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The Conspiracy

The powers of the world have conspired to remove the power of Jesus, and they plan to carry out their plan as secretly as possible. The world does not want to incite action, but knock us down when we are not looking. By removing Jesus in secrecy, there is an attempt to remove the head for hope that the body would die off.

Little to the powers of the world know that on the other side of their conspiracy is a Divine Plan to restore that leads to resurrection, and these world leaders did not anticipate God’s action. Their fear was in what the crowds were going to do, so they avoided stirring the crowds, however their fear should firmly be directed at God, and God alone.

We ultimately know that Jesus doesn’t strike out against this conspiracy, but rather allows it to be used in Christ’s ultimate purpose to die for our sins, so too the Church should not be dismayed at those that seek to harm and destroy the church, but rather we look toward the disease, those that seek to hurt, and destroy the church the way that Jesus approached his death, without fear, and with the knowledge and understanding that the Holy Spirit is with us to comfort us, and that we are strengthened by the power of God.

Jesus knew His purpose, and is calling to us to fulfill His purpose for us even now in the face of darkness. Think about how you have been feeling during this pandemic. Anger, fear, frustration, boredom, anxiety, sorrow, sadness are legitimate expressions, and we need to bring these to God.

Pouring It Out For God

A woman, not even given a name in this passage, gave Jesus a great gift. A gift that most of Christ’s followers could not even comprehend. Many of them could only think about how the woman was doing something foolish with an expensive ointment by pouring it all upon Christ. It caused an upheaval among the followers of Christ. 

Instead of looking to Christ for a response, they acted out of their own worldview. They chastised and sought to point out the foolishness of the woman. They thought of all the things that could have been done with the money that could have been made through the sale of the ointment. They saw the woman as a commodity, and did not stop to see her humanity. That is what Jesus saw.

Jesus saw a woman giving a gift of great expense. Pouring out the ointment as a service to God. She may not have understood just what she was doing, and the disciples were certainly clueless about what was happening, but Jesus was aware and obedient. Jesus saw this woman’s humanity, and the gift she was willing to give. She was obedient to God’s purpose, and Jesus commends her for her actions.

Jesus calls us to obedience even if it does not make sense to us. Rebellion comes in all types of activities, some of us point out where others are falling short, and others of us just act in open rebellion against God. While we may not see our rebellion as outright betrayal of Christ, or in Judas’ case, selling Him out, any time we act contrary to the Will of God we are His enemies.

We should think about how we give to God, and how we fulfill God’s call in our lives. God requires us to acknowledge the humanity in each other as CHRIST acknowledges the humanity in each one of us. Additionally, God calls us to unite with Him in joining in bringing God’s Kingdom into the world, against the powers of the world. In this way we are either joining the world in destroying Christ, or joining Christ in waging a battle against the powers of the world!