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Archives for 129 – Textual Theme: The Gospels

Did your mom, perhaps your dad, sing to you as a child? You know, the songs while being rocked to sleep at night or while you were going down the road in the LTD station wagon? They are songs that never cease playing in our hearts and our minds.

Luke tells us that Mary sang songs much like her biblical namesake the Prophet of God (it is a horrific tragedy of the English Bible that many disciples do not know Mary the mother of Jesus is named after one the three deliverers of Israel, Miriam). I am certain that Mary did not sing this song merely once. Nor is this the only song Mary sang to not only Jesus but all her sons and daughters. Mary’s song is representative of what Jesus and his sisters and brothers heard from the lips of Miriam.

Mary was born, and bred, as a faith filled Jew. She was nourished on the vibrant heartbeat of the Hebrew Bible. She poured her hopes, and dreams, into the names of her children because the song was already in her heart. As any student of the Bible knows, names were not randomly picked out of a baby name book. Names were chosen to express something. I know my own daughters names were prayed over before chosen. Rachael is God’s lamb full of joy and love, while her sister Talya is the Lord’s rain/dew that blesses and nourishes the earth with grace. These names were chosen on purpose. Have you noticed what Miriam (named for a prophet) and Joseph (named for the savior of world and father of two tribes in Genesis) named their kids. Notice this “pattern” in Mark 6.3:

– Jesus = Joshua the salvation of the Lord

– James = another tragedy of the English Bible, is Jacob who is quite literally “Israel” himself (God changed his name and the word “Jacob” frequently is a stand in for “Israel” in the Hebrew Bible) and is the patriarch of the Twelve Tribes

– Joseph = named for dad and shares in the meaning

– Judas = named after Judas the Maccabee, the hammer of God, who delivered Israel from the Seleucid Empire

– Simon = was the brother of Judas the Maccabee who continued to lead the Maccabean Revolt

Notice anything about these names of Jesus’s brothers as the Gospels record them? They say something about Mary and Joseph. Their hope for Israel has not vanished in the slightest.

That hope is expressed in her song. Scholars have noted that “Miriam’s” song is Hebraic, it is so “Old Testament,” it is just so Israelite. And it is. Mary taught her sons and daughters to dream of the salvation of Israel. Or as New Testament scholar Richard Horseley called her songs, “revolutionary songs of salvation.”

This song by Mary set the agenda for Jesus’s life and ministry in the Gospel of Luke and the pattern of the church in the book of Acts. There is a Miriam at the creation of the old Israel, and there is a Miriam at the beginning of the reNEWed Israel … the prophet who gave birth to the Lord’s Salvation.

What did that song sound like. What song flowed through Jesus’s mind as he mingled with the lepers, the prostitutes, the poor, the traitors (tax collectors) … Jesus has the Hebrew Bible in his soul via his Mother.

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior … he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant Israel in remembrance
of his mercy according the promise he made to our ancestors  …

The most obvious Hebraic root here is Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2.1-10, but the thought is ubiquitous in the Hebrew Bible. But Miriam/Mary identifies herself among the lowly, the down and out powerless people of this age.  This taps into the fundamental identity of Israel as being the lowliest of nations. So lowly was Israel that the state sponsored terrorism against their baby boys. Thus Deuteronomy and Ezekiel stress that God “loved” Israel because no one else would (Dt 7.7-8; Ezk 16.1-7, in Ezekiel, Israel is an unwanted and exposed infant girl, not boy, whom the Lord saves). Jesus never forgot the songs of his mother and was always proudly among the unwanted of the world.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty

It is impossible not to hear the Psalms pulsating through Mary’s song. And perhaps this is why that holy books was so treasured by her son. Texts like Psalms 18.27; 89.10 and a dozen more come to mind. 

For you deliver a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down
.” (Ps 18.27)

you scattered you enemies with
your mighty arm.
” (89.10)

But what is it that God has done? What is it that Mary poured into Jesus, James, and Jude’s heart (the last two have epistles in the NT)? In other words what did salvation look like?

First, salvation meant the powerful are brought low and the low are lifted high (v.52). A great reversal is what salvation brings. This perspective permeates Jesus’s teaching in the Gospel of Luke. There was a Rich Man who saw Lazarus, the lowliest of the lowly. We know what happened. Mary was pouring Jubilee theology into Jesus in her songs.

Second, salvation meant the hungry are filled and the rich are sent away empty (v.53). This is also Jubilee. This is also Exodus. This is also reversal. This is not pie in the sky escapism as in Gnosticism. Salvation is not from God’s creation rather salvation is experience within God’s creation. Salvation meets the hurting and out of wack world exactly where it needs, in the flesh and blood of reality. So Jesus tells all kinds of stories of a Jubilee banquet (Lk 14.15-24) in which the poor, the lame, the blind are brought to feast at the table they would routinely be excluded from. Salvation impacts and revolutionizes the world in which we live. 

Third, salvation is an act of mercy and faithfulness to the promise to the ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Israel (v.54-55). Why did Mary name her sons Jesus/Joshua, Jacob and Joseph? These sons all represent the HOPE of the Promise “to his servant, Israel.”

To put this in terms we normally use, Mary’s says that salvation comes because of the Old Testament, salvation comes on Old Testament terms and not contrary to it or in spite of it. Jesus did not forget this. Lazarus is “carried away to be with Abraham” (Lk 16.22). And Abraham tells the rich man if he wants to know salvation then he needs to listen to Moses and the prophets (16.29-31).

Miriam’s song reverberates throughout Jesus’s ministry and the life of the church as Luke tells the story. Mary’s song became treasure buried in the heart of Jesus, James and Jude and defined the content of their mission and ministry (James is clearly an advocate of the lowly in his short letter).

It is not a stretch to say that Jesus’s ministry would not be what it was had it not been for his Mother singing the songs of Israel to him. Today, the church needs to hear her song afresh. Mary’s song reminds us that the Gospel is not a message of what happens merely after we die. The Gospel is a message that says death itself will no longer rule the world God created, even for the least of these.

Mary’s song reminds us that the mission of God was the mission of Jesus and ought to be the mission of the church. We bring good news to the lowly, a message that changes the world. And finally Mary’s song reminds us that it is simply impossible to have either Jesus or the “New Testament Church” without being “Israel” and part of the family of Abraham, Isaac and … Israel (Jacob).

Mary’s Christmas song is one we need to remember all year long. 

The gospels, at their best, haunt me.

What I mean, is that they have this way sometimes of lingering after I’ve read them. They echo around in the back of my head. They seem to point to something just outside of my field of vision, as though I could see it clearly if I just turned my head quick enough. The gospels nag me.

One haunting text that has nagged me for some time is in Luke 19:41-44, lodged right between Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and his temple-cleansing action.

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:41–44 NRSV)

The text invites the reader to join in Jesus’s distress, evoking emotion as Jesus weeps over the old city of David. His “If only” cry speaks to our own experiences of “what might had been”. Adding a bit of historical context sharpens the blow, as we see what Jerusalem will soon suffer at the hands of Rome, and indeed how the city had already suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Seleucids. “If only you could see!” Jesus cries, and I can almost hear it.

Further though, the text invites us to only to lament the ancient disaster, but see its root—the failure of Jerusalem to recognize “the things that make for peace.” This is the bit that haunts me.

I think, given the rest of Luke’s gospel, that “the things that make for peace” probably mean things like God’s willingness to subvert power and honor the humble and lowly (Luke 1:51-53). I think it probably includes things like turning the other cheek and loving our enemies (Luke 6:27-29), or a willingness to repent or to extend forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4). I think it probably is a way of summing up the whole of Jesus’s way of life that ran counter to those who would be power brokers for the future of Israel.

What haunts me about this story is my own blindness to “the things that make for peace”. I can recognize the abstract ethics of peace, but am at a loss for how to bring a moment of it about in the real world. I’m not the only one either, of course. The air is full of violent rhetoric and shows of power, and the anxieties that beg for them are present in the church as well as in the neighborhoods in which we live. I’m at a loss to know how to deal with the spirits of fear, power, and conflict. This is how the gospel of Jesus is nagging at me today.

Of course, in the text, the “thing” that makes for peace ends up being a person; Jesus himself in all his simple glory. Often, I feel like those who met him on the road to Emmaus, whose eyes were opened for an instant, so they could just recognize him for a moment—before he vanished from their sight! I see a glimpse of the Lord, but the image vanishes before I know how to follow. In the end, I pray that the spirit will increase my capacity to recognize him, and teach me how to follow his trail. In that hope, I will immerse myself in his story until I can recognize his call to peace above the din of war. I will immerse myself in his story until I can see him touching the lepers or dining with Zacchaeus. I will immerse myself in his story until his gentle word of grace to the broken sinner drowns out the boasts of the Pharisees at the table. I will immerse myself in his story until I can see his cross in the hands of those grasping for power. I want to be able to see him, everywhere he is at work. I want us all to be able to recognize the peacemaking one.

If nothing else, maybe someday we’ll hear his quiet weeping over us. Perhaps a day will soon come when our eyes will be open and we will see his tears over our addiction to power and fear, and the spirit will move us to join in his lament.

Maybe that will be the start of something new.

Do you remember being a kid and using your imagination? Maybe you were climbing a tree but you were pretending you were climbing up a dinosaur’s leg or when your mind’s eye turned that back patio into a pirate ship.

In those moments, failure wasn’t seen as the end of the game. Failure was just one more opportunity to improvise because the adventure had to proceed. If you threw that rope and it didn’t catch but instead fell in the lava to disappear….you had to get to the island without the luxury of a rope. Maybe you found some anti-lava shoes on the corner or used something else for a rope or threw something down across the gap and balanced beamed across but somehow you got there…

When we become adults, failure isn’t looked on as an opportunity to improvise anymore. We get locked into paradigms where you succeed or fail and get stuck without being able to see outside the situation or conventional means of moving ahead to find the innovation to get “unstuck”. Maybe this is because we no longer have the sense that we are in an adventure of sorts and that it is all going somewhere and maybe we ought to have a smile on our faces when things get a bit messed up and mixed up.

Part of our reason for this is as adults we lose our sense of adventure and imagination which kills our ability to improvise and convert tragedy to triumph. We don’t have to go back to being kids…this is not about pretending to be someone you aren’t. Instead, we can realize we are on a grand adventure that often calls for our burned up ropes to help us look for lava proof shoes to get to the other side. Innovation and improvisation put a comma behind failure or maybe a semi-colon instead of a period.

Let us never lose our spirit of adventure. Let us never see failure as a stopping point, rather as a means and motivation for innovation. Let us always treat us each other love and grace. Last, let’s have some fun along the way!

What affect would this have on our churches and ministries to see things this way?

black frameBook, chapter, and verse was a phrase that I often heard our ministers and Bible class teachers say from the pulpit and in our Bible classes. We needed to have a verse for everything, because, we would often say if God commands it then that settles it. The men and women who helped form the foundation of my spiritual life spoke with assurance about the authority found in God’s words.

In 2004, I enrolled in a hermeneutics class taught by Henry Virkler, who just happened to write the text-book we were using in class. Dr. Virkler used a lot of the same words and seemed to have the same ideas about how to read and understand the Bible that my preachers and Bible School teachers presented when I was younger. He explained that hermeneutics is how we interpret the Bible and that we use different interpretations when we are looking at different literary forms. For instance, we don’t treat a parable in the same way that we treat an apocalyptic writing like we would find in the book of Daniel. Once again, I was struck by the logic and reasoning behind his words.

Even if you are not familiar with the process of hermeneutics, it is a process that you use every time you read the Bible. You use hermeneutical principals when you make decisions about how to apply what you have read. We know we are to read the Bible with an understanding of who wrote a specific scripture and to whom they were writing. We treat Jesus’ words in the gospels differently than we treat the book of Revelation or John’s praise for those who went out and did not accept gifts from the Gentiles in 3 John 7. While we try to be as honest as possible, one of our dirty little secrets is that we still pick and choose what scriptures are commandments and which ones we like to explain away.

Let me unwrap that a bit. In Matthew 11, John the Baptist is in prison and the text says that John sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus really was the Messiah or if there was someone greater who would come later. While John was expecting Jesus to fulfill those passages from Isaiah 11 and 61 where the prophet declares that God would pour out His vengeance, Jesus pointed John back to Isaiah 35 where the prophet declared Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

The next scene in chapter 11 we see Jesus talking to the crowd about John. He says the people were not happy with John who lived a life of self-denial and they were not happy with Jesus because He ate and drank. John the Baptist was not the only one to struggle with Jesus. Like John, the crowd anticipated a Messiah who would come on the scene and use His might to make the world right again. As the chapter closes, Jesus explains to the crowd that it is not just the mighty or the wise who are welcome in the Kingdom, rather the invitation is greater than that. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” While we read this text and agree that Jesus is calling people who are tired and seeking rest, it is that little word “all” that gives us pause.

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful privilege of eating a meal with some friends. At that meal, we were joined by some friends of friends and that’s how I had the opportunity to meet Caleb Kaltenbach who wrote the book Messy Grace. Over lunch, he shared the story of how as a young boy he joined his mom and her partner at a gay pride rally. It was at that rally when he encountered a group of Christians who spit and threw urine on him. Apparently these christians didn’t think that homosexual couples were included in that little word “all”.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was attending a congregation where a man tried to place membership. The problem is that he was a convicted child molester who had spent time in prison. The church refused his membership because they did not believe that child molesters were included in that little word “all”.

We could tell story after story about people who were not comfortable around prostitutes, drug addicts, divorced couples, people of different races, women who aborted children, or whatever designation we want to use to limit that word all. These are the very same people who would tell you that every word in scripture holds the same weight, but their lives tell something very different.

I fully understand the need to be vigilant, I would never suggest a child molester be the deacon over the children’s program. I understand that there are people who sin differently than I do; they sin in a way that holds no attraction to me at all or makes my skin crawl. I understand we all have a desire to be with like minded people who share our racial, social, and economic situations. But more than anything else we are called to follow our Savior who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). When Jesus called “all” that includes the ones who sin like you and the ones who sin differently than you do.

In Matthew 11, John wasn’t sure that God was going about being the Messiah in the right way. The crowd that gathered assumed that John wasn’t the right one to announce the Messiah and they assumed that this couldn’t really be the Christ. They had grown up with the Torah, they were sure of what the prophets had said, and Jesus didn’t look like what they expected. Almost 2,000 years later we still aren’t sure that God knows what He is doing. We read that Jesus said “all” are invited to come, but does all really mean all?

Not only are homosexuals, gender confused, those who aborted children, embezzlers, alcoholics, molesters, addicts, racists, gamblers, bigots, misogynist, atheists, rule keepers, and rule breakers loved deeply by their creator, they are included in the invitation open for all. This is not a new idea that Jesus mentions in Matthew 11; this seems to be God’s pattern even in the Old Testament. God has always welcomed people with a checkered past to find a place among His people and to eat from His table. The writers of Scripture included the stories of Rahab a lying harlot, Moses a man with an anger problem, Judah who got his daughter in law pregnant, Esther who spent one night of passion with King Xerxes, and a cold-blooded murderer named Saul were all people who many of us would have a difficult time including in that word all. But God not only welcomed them, He used them to bring about His will. That’s what God was doing in the Old Testament, that’s what He was doing in the New Testament, and that’s still why He calls “all” to come to Him today.

What we need to decide is are we willing to take God at His word? If we are willing to believe that God means what He says then we will welcome “all” into our lives, around our table, and into our community of believers?

Bobby V & Walter B

Bobby V & Walter B

Paul said the ‘Old Testament’ is “from God and good for doctrinal instruction” and for “equipping the person of God” to every good work.

It is not an accident that Martin Luther referred to the Psalms as a miniature Bible. The Psalms represent the “essentials,” if you will, of what had to be constantly put forward to an oral based culture. So we see God’s people taught the way of thanksgiving, wisdom, commitment, repentance, joy, obedience, true worship, and the reign of God. In fact the Psalms nourish faithfulness in every dimension so that Israel might be on display before the world.

The Holy Spirit, thru the Psalms and its worship, invite us into an “alternative” reality in which we long for, prayed for, believe and seek to be a world that is radically different than that encountered on a daily basis “out there.” We can hear, (in our mind’s eye) as we tag along with that great cloud of witnesses, the Levite proclaim in a loud voice “Welcome to the REAL world!” In the midst of a world that proclaims myriads of idolatries, we gather and proclaim allegiance to the One True Creator God, his mighty deeds, and his righteous claim upon all that he has created.

Thus God’s People whether we call them Israel or the church are anchored consciously in an identity of grace. The corporate worship of God’s people sustains and reinforces this self-understanding. Biblical worship constantly reminds us WHO WE ARE.

We are created.
We did not make ourselves.
We are called.
We are elected.
We are redeemed.
We have a mission.

Worship does not only tell us we are God’s people. Worship consistently reminds us of HOW and WHY we are God’s because it tells the Story of what GOD did for us and to us. Biblical worship, Psalms declares, annihilates self-sufficiency and replaces it with God-sufficiency.

The Book of Psalms, the miniature Bible, also constantly reminds God’s people that we have a calling, we have a mission. We have a purpose for being.  We, by grace, are God’s kingdom in the fallen world. But we are more. Israel, the church, exists FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD. Genesis 12.1-4 is floating in the background shaping and framing the Psalter and the worship of God’s people.

Thus Psalms shapes us as “missional people.” Creighton Marlow went so far as to say the Psalms are the “music of missions.” Certainly, Psalms does not let Israel get greedy with God’s grace. This week I have read the entire Psalter looking for references to the “nations,” or synonyms, and there are at least 175 references to the people of the world, the nations, etc. A great example comes in Psalm 67, which alludes to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6 but used throughout biblical worship,

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us –
SO THAT your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among ALL NATIONS.
May ALL PEOPLES praise you, God;
may ALL PEOPLES praise you
” (67.1-2)

The blessing upon the people of God is for the sake of the world.

Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion.
Declare his deeds AMONG THE PEOPLES
” (9.11)

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, ALL THE EARTH.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory AMONG THE NATIONS
” (96.1-3)

The Psalter is loaded with this stuff. The worship inculcated in Bible tells us not only how, and why, we got “here” but what we are supposed to “do.” We are to show the world what it looks like when people take seriously God. It is as if Israel is the answer to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer.  WE are the place where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. We are the New Creation FROM the future breaking into old fallen creation like leaven in a lump. We are the Salt of God poured out upon his world and the nations. We are the lamp he has lit in the darkness.

So biblical worship, as seen in the Spiritual Psalms, constantly reminds us of who we are (creatures of the Almighty King), what we are (we are redeemed by the One who loves us), and what we are to be and do (God’s future on display, God’s instrument of flooding the world with grace and shalom).

The Psalms show us that a biblical theology of worship and its implementation results in a missional people of God.

If you are looking for free Small group and Bible class curriculum on the Gospels, look no further,

I love the Gospel of Mark. Not only is the Gospel action packed but it is the Gospel that does its best to keep you from fully understanding Jesus until the time is just right. We call this the Messianic secret, which are those odd moments were Jesus tells both people and demons to be silent about his identity…to not share with others the news about Jesus (Mark 1:43-44 for instance)

This makes Mark the perfect Gospel for studying with non-Christians as it keeps the question of who Jesus truly is up in the air as the pile of evidence begins to grow via his teaching and miracles. Slowly but surely, the identity of Jesus begins to emerge from the details. His authority is demonstrated and slowly points to his identity as the Son of God and Messiah.

On one hand, Mark reads like Jesus is on break-neck pace through Galilee and Judea…going here and there and doing things in rapid succession. On the other hand, Mark paces the narrative, to allow these details that point to Jesus’ identity, slow enough to let them sink in and not rush the process of discovery. It takes Mark 8 chapters before Jesus allows his true identity to be disclosed by Peter. Now, Mark tells us in 1:1 that Jesus is the Messiah but he allows there to be 8 chapters leading up to a clear confession and admission of Jesus’ true identity. Mark spends the last 8 chapters taking that conclusion and illustrating it more fully.

This is the inductive method at its best and it is a fantastic Gospel for teaching people who don’t know Jesus about Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. It took the disciples several years to really understand Jesus, his identity and his message. Yet, we expect non-Christians to get it within a week or three or else we feel we have failed somehow. These things take time. They take prayer. They take patience to allow people to wrap their minds around the identity of Jesus without the benefit of all the teaching most of us have experienced in our lifetimes and yet still struggle, at times, with our relationship with Jesus.

A few years ago, I took this idea and wrote a 4 week evangelistic and inductive study that allows Mark to let us in on the identity of Jesus. If you would like to download this for yourself or to use to study with others you can download it here – Jesus 101.

Jesus said something in Matthew 18 that is normally reserved for conversations about conflict resolution or, more specifically, dealing with sin. I contend that what Jesus said is not just a prescription for conflict resolution and reconciliation but is also the antidote for one sin in particular – gossip.

Here is what Jesus said,


This is the power of the small circle. The goal here is to keep the circle of those who are in the know as small as possible, not as large as possible. Gossip attempts to broaden the circle of information (usually false information but not always) to as many people as possible. It is a boundary violation that carelessly puts other people unnecessarily at risk. The damage cannot usually be fully undone because you have no idea how wide the circle goes and how to manage or reign it back in should one find out they were mistaken.

The small circle is limiting the flow of information to only those who truly need to know. The first step Jesus explains keeps the circle on a two person level. You know and they know. That is, at that moment, all who need to know. If resolution and reconciliation are turned down, the circle gets larger but still in a managed way and only to people who you can trust to not allow the circle to be increased by them blabbing about it to others. The “one or two others” should be spiritually mature, dependable and responsible people who know how to keep things private.

The circle is always kept as small as possible. This is hard to do because our human nature likes to be in the know and likes to let other people know we are in the know. This is a fleshly desire that must be resisted at all costs. We cannot couch the disclosure of someone else’s problem or sin in the guise of a prayer request, a secret, or anything else. This is difficult to do but it is essential to keep the collateral damage as small as possible. It is not just doctors who are charged with “do no harm” Christians should abide by that as well.

Last, we have an opportunity to train people on this. When someone comes to us who has been let in the circle who shouldn’t have been we stop the communication in its tracks. Someone comes up to you and begins to tell you something about someone, your first reaction should be, “Stop. Have you told them about this?” If not, they need to go and do so and not tell anyone else along the way. If they have they still don’t need to tell you about it. Do you know how many problems this would prevent in congregational/communal life in the church? Do you know how much damage would be avoided if we went directly to people and kept the circle as small as possible? We don’t all have a right to know everything. That is harder and harder to believe in a world where technology tries to offer us everything but it is true. You are not entitled to know everything. You will be better off for that!

Last, these things take prayer. You will notice the heading the NASB gives on this and includes “Prayer” even though that word doesn’t directly appear in their translation. It does in the HCSB in verse 19, “Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.” These things take prayer and prayer makes us slow down and exhibit patience toward our brothers and sisters.

freely-10076-preview-973x649Jesus started his ministry with the end in mind. The first thing we see Jesus do is find his replacements. He did this because he knew that his time on earth was limited and that he had to pass his ministry on to those who would follow in his footsteps. We often think of ministry succession being thought of at the end of a ministry. Jesus planned for it all along. He was constantly taking his crop of recruits to new places, teaching them new things and, at times, sending them to do and say what they saw and heard him do and say.

We will all be followed by someone, whether we are a minister, elder or even a member in the congregation. Someone will fill our slot. So let us start with the end in mind and equip along the way. When you do that you will notice that ministry multiplies as you get more hands on deck from the beginning rather than at the end. You will also find transition to be easier when it is needed because everyone already knows what to do.

We can make sure class happens. We can make sure we have a song leader for Sunday. We even need to make sure someone is on tap to teach the children’s classes…but don’t ever let the urgent take priority over the most important things you can and should do. Let us involve more people in the ministry process. There will be more ownership of the ministry as well as more people ready to run with things in the event transition needs to take place. This changes our ministry paradigm from how much ministry I can do to how we can serve together.

In Jesus’ day, a son grew up learning the trade of his father. Joseph was a carpenter and you can be sure that Jesus learned those skills as he grew up and possibly even into adulthood. Jesus started his public ministry around the age of 30. In those days Rabbis usually had a second vocation because Rabbis didn’t make a full time living doing what Rabbis do. If you recall, Paul was a tentmaker even during his time as a minister of the Gospel.

Jesus had a third vocation and this one is a bit more subtle and is only mentioned one but is a profound point that John makes in his gospel. Before I go any further, I want to point to something N.T. Wright said at the Pepperdine lectures that connected a few of these dots for me. Some of the dots I had connected before but one thing Wright said made everything come together from the disjointed pieces of past study.

He said that Jesus said “It is finished” on a Friday (John 19:3). He rested in the tomb on Saturday. Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. Jesus death, burial and resurrection paralleled the creation account but continued that story into a new day…a new week…a new creation.

I went back to John 19-20 and things started to click like they hadn’t clicked before. I had already noticed the Eden and Adam connection…that we learn in John 19 that the tomb was a garden tomb and that in John 20 Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener (the same vocation Adam had in Eden). What I hadn’t noticed was that Mary went to the tomb of the first day of the week while it was still dark. This is a perfect parallel with Genesis 1 where on the first day darkness was over the face of the deep.

We could go on to 2 Corinthians 5 and Galatians and 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 2:6, and Romans 4 and make more and more connections between the creation story, Eden, Adam and Jesus but that is too much to get into at this point in time. All I want to say is that Jesus carried on the vocation of Adam in a new creation way. A new day has dawned. New creation is breaking in. The curse of the serpent is growing toward complete fulfillment. Sin and death have been defeated. We, as Christians, live in this new creation as new creation beings!

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