Baptized Dust

for out of it you were taken; you are dust,    and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:19)

We begin Lent with the solemn reminder of the words of our Creator, “you are from dust and you are going to dust.”  This reminder is not to make us feel worthless, but to remind us how transient life is and how fragile is our existence.  That is why we have Lent, so that we may take seriously our relationship with God, the ways we have failed in living into God’s image, and the wonders of the Resurrection as it relates to creatures like us.
          This brings us into an attitude of soberness as we consider our existence.  A sober look at ourselves and the ways that we have allowed sin to mess up our lives and relationships.  A sober look at the things we hold as valuable and place them in their proper perspective.  And a sober look at the purpose of our lives and fulfilling its meaning.

          Lest we think that Lent is all a “downer” time, let us remember the fact that we are only dust reminds us of the profound love of God for us.  My favorite Psalm says:

      For he knows how we were made;
        he remembers that we are dust.
        Psalm 103:14

Besides the mark of dust and ashes that we wear for Lent, we also bear another mark.  We have been marked by baptism.  The Apostle reminds us, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27.) Through the work of Christ, we are not just dust blowing in the wind, we are baptized dust, loved by our Heavenly Father and kept on his mind.  We are transformed dust robed with the Son of God that loved us and gave himself for us.

          During this Lent remember that you are baptized dust, so go and act like it.

Pastor Greg

Jesus Faces Rejection Too

     In the second half of Mark’s Gospel, we are introduced to a new situation.  Jesus faces rejection.  The first half he was questioned, but now his message is rejected and people turn their backs on Jesus.  The rich man receives the answer to his deepest question, but walks away.  The scribe answers correctly and is not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).  Yet they did not dare go any further. 

      I try to put myself in the position of the rich man and scribe.  What would make me reject Jesus and the promise of eternal life?  I guess there are several reasons. One could be that I would want to keep my options open.  You never can tell when something better will come along.  Another reason maybe I think there is plenty of time and I do not have to commit now.  Yet the story line of Mark is taking Jesus to Jerusalem and he never returns to these men.

     I am sure there are other reasons we could list why would a person in general or these men in particular reject Jesus.  But it comes down to my own personal experience.  Do I reject Jesus?  When he asks me to give something or do something, do I just turn and walk away?  When he challenges my opinions about the Bible or my way of living, do I shut my mouth and hope that there is not another mention of the problem?  And, taking it further, how do I respond when I am rejected for following Jesus?

     Rejection of the gracious gift of eternal life in Christ happens.  Our call is to be faithful in sharing the good news of Jesus’ love.  Rarely can we argue someone into the Kingdom of God.  It is not just us having to give the correct answer.  It is a spiritual problem.  The Spirit of God is the one that must call the person to Christ.  When rejections come, they first are rejecting the Spirit before they reject us.  That is why we must be faithful in well doing.

Pastor Greg

Coming with Power

And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  Who is it who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 5:4-5
            The power of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mark 9:1) has sadly been misinterpreted by so many.  Our sensibilities today try to avoid militaristic images in our faith or terms that invoke a use of forceful coercion.  This has hampered us as we apply justice, righteousness, and compassion in the affairs of human society. 
          There is a struggle between the world and our faith.  There is a way of living that leads to victory.  Our faith provides that victory.  But how does it do that?
            In this Sunday’s text (Mark 8:27-9:8), the apostles finally acknowledge who Jesus is, he’s the Messiah.  And immediately he calls the crowds to himself and tells them that if they want to follow him, they must take up their cross.  The cross was the most shameful way in the Roman world.  This means the way of no pride, no self-interest, and only yielding to your situation.
          One commentator on Mark says the message is “Our leader was crucified, come and join us?”  The faith that overcomes follows Jesus as he was fully submitted to the will of God, he died and unjust death, but God demonstrated that Jesus was accepted when he raised him from the dead, declaring that he is the Son of God (cf. Rom 1:4).  As we are fully submitted to the will of God, the righteousness of God that comes through the faith of Jesus, we are confident that we too will be declared to be God’s own in the resurrection.  That is our faith that God will justify the one who has the faith of Jesus dwelling in them.           We overcome not by political power, but by humbly following the way of the cross, the way of the faith of Jesus.

Pastor Greg

Kingdom Time and Our Problems

How long, O Lord? -Psalm 13:1

     The Psalmist in Psalm 13, repeatedly cries out, “How long…?”  Our patience and God’s time rarely coincide.  When it comes to personal tragedy, time is always at a premium.

     In Mark’s Gospel time is noted for us in times of tragedy or trial.  This keeps with the urgency of the gospel message, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. (1:15)” Then we are thrown into a flurry of activity when time seems so urgent.  A great example of that is in this week’s text, Mark 5:21-43.  We see two situations.  A very prominent leader in the religious community who has a daughter dying at home, and a woman who has an affliction now for 12 years.
     We can hear the urgency in the pleading of Jarius for Jesus to come and lay his hands on his precious daughter before it is too late.  We hear the frustration of the woman that for 12 years has suffered, and it has cost her everything.  We can see Jarius walking ahead of Jesus, trying to move the crowds to get Jesus there faster.  We can hear the conversation of the woman with herself as she jostles and tries to get closer to Jesus.
     I am sure both of them are praying, “how long, O Lord?”  Then when Jesus stops precious moments are slipping away for Jarius, couldn’t the woman had waited 15 more minutes.  This gives us the perspective of what I call, Kingdom Time.  The urgency of the Kingdom message was not just for Jarius when his little daughter is slipping toward death, it also includes the woman’s wait for 12 years to be delivered from her affliction.
     What brought these two times together?  Jesus was there.  He was delaying his arrival, nor was he in a hurry to move on.  He was there to bring Kingdom nearness to the lives of these two people.  One had the attitude of this must happen “Now!”  The other had the attitude of “now” I can touch him!  If we discern the nature of our “now” or “how long”, we can be ready to allow the presence of Jesus and his power to come in and touch our personally tragedy.

Pastor Greg