Never cautious about using excessive hyperbole to make a point, even for Jesus this saying seems over the top. How could someone who speaks so strongly against divorce, criticizes religious leaders for setting aside the commandment to honor one’s father and mother, and who tells parents that if they cause their children to stumble they might better prefer being drowned in a lake with a millstone around their neck than the punishment Jesus is likely to mete out, tell people that hating their family was a precondition for discipleship? Read the rest of this post »
Well, it finally happened. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the legendary center of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, got his statue. About a year and half ago Abdul-Jabbar complained when a statue of star shooting guard Jerry West was placed outside the Staples Center:
“I don’t understand (it). It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted. I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight. I feel slighted.”
In a subsequent statement passed along by his business manager, Abdul-Jabbar said: “I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgement of my contribution to Laker success. I guess being the lynchpin for five world championships is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Laker history.”
In today’s Old Testament reading, King Nebuchadnezzar erects a 90 foot statue that he wants everyone to bow down to and worship. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Kingdom of God, Love
Today I simply want to remind myself and others about the mystery – the mystery of the kingdom of God. In today’s Old Testament reading King Nebuchadnezzar commends Daniel’s God as well as Daniel himself: “For you were able to reveal this mystery!” Daniel was able to tell Nebuchadnezzar not only the interpretation of the king’s dream, but the dream itself. The dream was about present and future kingdoms, and about a final kingdom that would “bring about the demise of all these kingdoms” and “stand forever.” Several hundred years later Jesus announced the imminent arrival of this final kingdom – the kingdom of God. This was Jesus’s “gospel.” This is the good news that he preached and lived. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Freedom, Healing
In today’s gospel reading (John 5:1-15), Jesus heals a man who’s been disabled for thirty-eight years. He starts by asking the invalid what at first glance is a question with an obvious answer: “Do you want to become well?” After hearing the man explain why past attempts at healing have been unsuccessful, Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and begin walking.
Since carrying one’s mat on the Sabbath is against the rules, the Jewish leaders stop him. The former invalid immediately denies responsibility, pointing to Jesus, who has by this time faded into the crowd. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Poverty, Weakness, Wealth
I’ve been reading a great book by John Ortberg entitled Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. It’s about the influence of Christ and his teachings on human culture and history. I’m glad to be reading this book during Advent. Learning about all the ways Jesus’ first advent (i.e. coming) has changed the world helps me really look forward to his second advent.
Most of us, without knowing it, experience the profound and pervasive effects of Jesus and his teachings on education, medicine, government, human rights and economics. Ironically, we who are experiencing most of the benefits are also becoming less and less likely to give Jesus his due. Ortberg writes: “Historian Philip Jenkins noted that the most striking church change in our day is that a hundred years ago, 80 percent of all followers of Jesus lived in Europe and the United States. Today about 70 percent of all followers of Jesus live in the southern hemisphere, South America, Africa, and the East. Jenkins writes, ‘Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted while it atrophies among the rich and secure.’” Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Church, Community, Gospel, Hospitality, Love
Yesterday’s gospel reading talked about a man who planted a vineyard and rented it to some farmers. Of course, when you rent from a landlord, you expect to pay, well, rent. But these tenants decided to withhold their rent. Instead, they pummeled the rent-collectors, which would have sounded pretty foolish to those who first heard the story. What were those tenants thinking? Then again, what was the landowner thinking when he sent his son to collect the rent? Why not just call the cops, or lead a small army of friends and servants to collect the rent and evict the tenants? Why risk the life of your own son?
Some of Jesus’ parables communicate a moral. This one communicates the gospel. Like many of Jesus’ parables, instead of stating the facts, it understates the facts. It leaves the reader to make the comparisons with the real story and to fill in the blanks. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Gossip, Tongue
This morning I found myself reflecting back on a blog post I read recently by Lois Tverberg. What jogged my memory was an unease I felt this morning about some things I had said to someone about someone else, giving more information than the other person probably needed to know. Then I came across this morning’s lectionary reading: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight reign on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Ouch. Tverberg’s blog post is actually an excerpt from her book Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, which I’ve also been reading lately. I think the whole post is worth a read, so here goes:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:22).
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to leave a room knowing that no one will say anything unkind about you? Or to not need to worry that a co-worker’s coolness is because she got wind of your comments about her over lunch last week?
We can preserve a friend’s marriage with our wise counsel. Or we can shred the self-worth of a child with criticism, or incinerate a friendship with gossip. We all fail daily at being consistently Christ-like in what comes out of our lips.
Is there any way to improve what comes out of our mouths? Read the rest of this post »