31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
Mark 8:31-38 CEB
Rev. Melissa Fain
It is possible to look at Jesus’ words, “Get behind me, Satan,” as separable. Jesus could have used this one sentence to tell Peter something huge. First, the “behind me” in Greek actually sounds like another phrase Jesus once told the Disciples, “Follow me.” He could have been telling Peter to remember where it all started. It started with dropping everything and choosing to follow Jesus. In the same breath, “Get, Satan” sounds like yet another biblical moment. It is similar to a wilderness time for Jesus, when the accuser tempted him. Peter was giving Jesus a tempting alternative, don’t die and don’t deal with the pain. Whether Peter meant to play the part or not, he was fitting into the Satan role perfectly.
The scandal is so subtle here. It is easy to focus on Peter’s gung-ho attitude. He was Jesus’ number one fan. Sometimes his zeal would get the better of him and the future foundation of the Christian faith would become a stumbling block. Those of us passionate about ministry know what it is like to let our zeal get the better of us. That’s a learning lesson. The scandal is Christ. Jesus Christ, while fully divine, was fully human. We sometimes forget the human side of the equation. He had to tell Peter to back off in the same way he told Satan. It appears he was tempted by Peter’s enticing words.
We need to remember, if Christ can be enticed by the wrong things, we most definitely can. We should watch out for the easy way out. Easy doesn't necessarily mean right.
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Oh compassionate God,
I am often drawn to the easy and beautiful paths. Easy and beautiful does not always equal right. Help me find the right paths, even when those paths might be more difficult.
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Melissa is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She has a BA in Music from Kennesaw State University and a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She is currently the senior minister at Fig Tree Christian. Melissa is the mother of two wonderful children, and wife to a great and supportive husband. In her spare time she loves arts and crafts which includes making costumes from scratch, and knotted bracelets.
12 God said, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I am drawing up between me and you and every living thing with you, on behalf of every future generation. 13 I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember the covenant between me and you and every living being among all the creatures. Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures. 16 The bow will be in the clouds, and upon seeing it I will remember the enduring covenant between God and every living being of all the earth’s creatures.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I have set up between me and all creatures on earth.”
Genesis 9:8-17 CEB
Jared Byas in “Genesis for Normal People” notes that the “bow” God set in the cloud as a rainbow after the Genesis flood was actually an archery bow - God’s archery bow. With this understanding, as God hung up His weapon, He did so with the curve downwards, so if an arrow was placed upon it, it would shoot upwards towards Heaven. God gives Himself a reminder of why He will never again flood the Earth - because He turned His weaponry away from us, and scandalously towards Himself.
The story of Noah’s ark is a picture, referenced in 1 Peter 3:18-22 as corresponding as a figure with the work of Jesus on the cross for our redemption. And the language here - that God is going to set this bow in the clouds between Himself and the Earth, to remind Himself of His covenant of mercy with mankind, is a foreshadowing of Jesus who was also placed between God and the Earth, who of Himself said in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Further explained by the next verse which says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”) Jesus also said in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus in His crucifixion became the bridge placed between Heaven and Earth, just like the rainbow - and in so doing, the door was swung open for those who believe in Him to have eternal life. Again, what a scandal, that God would do such a thing. How does it even begin to make sense? Yet in what the Bible calls “the foolishness of the cross”, the gospel message of Jesus’s crucifixion for us shines with a vibrancy of many colors, of all the colors of the rainbow. And in this, the image of the bow itself speaks of what Paul later calls, “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10) or more literally from the Greek, the multi-COLORED wisdom of God - which in the message of the gospel will shine forever in all its beauty for both man and God to behold.
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Lord, open the eyes of our hearts to see the multi-colored wisdom of your gospel ever more. Thank you for your covenant through your precious Son Jesus Christ and your scandalous wisdom of placing Him between Heaven and Earth on a cross for us. Amen
Heather authors the blog, "All Things Are Yours" about her explorations in various corners of Christendom. Her motto is "Truth in Tension with Itself" and she considers herself a Charis-mergent believer. She's also a certified biology teacher, and enjoys writing about the Bible and theistic evolution. She is single and looking; please send applications for suitorship attached to a labrador retriever puppy to her address, available upon request.
9 About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” 12 At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”
Mark 1:9-15 CEB
Bec Cranford-Smith, M.Div.
Christ came up from the waters. His first words heard echoed in his ear. “You are my son, the beloved.” Right after that experience, the Spirit pushed him into a desolate place to be tempted. He left every temptation to rethink his identity behind, successfully emerged from the time and spread the Good news. In 2011, I left Springfield, Missouri to reach out to my neighbors who were marginalized in Atlanta, after wrestling with God about coming back to Georgia. I had forgiven my culture, context, and heritage and most of all, my Dad. Then when I got to Georgia the inquisition started. It was rumored I was "accepting of sin" and a Christian Universalist. I got blacklisted in one denomination, and told I could no longer minister. I did not know how much my identity was tied up in that denomination. Stuff got real sucky. I wasn’t successful. I was starving. Waiting tables sometimes bringing home $7 a night, feeling abandoned by my church home and former denomination, I sank into a deep depression. I decided to believe the negative self-speak. I crawled into the bathtub with a razor blade. My house had been a refuge for lots of gay folks and freaks. And we always cared for the stranger. I had friends, but I felt exiled as a progressive mystic. Something happened in the bathtub. I remembered I was the beloved. I got up, went into Atlanta and recalled that I was there to love-not start a mega church or be famous or be a denomination’s poster child.
I was tempted to rethink my identity. We are children of God; We are the beloved. This is our identity. We may be tempted to be powerful, to manipulate, or to measure up to Hollywood’s ideas of success. We will hear a constant barrage of temptations to do more, prove we are somehow gifted, climb the ladder of our success, or build our own kingdom. We don’t have to give into those things. Our sole identity in Christ is the Beloved.
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Creator- Help me to recall that I am Yours. Your child. Your beloved. This is who I am. Not what others think, or even what my own inner critic says. Help me daily to recall, I am the beloved. Amen.
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Bec is the volunteer coordinator for Gateway Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to end homelessness in Metro-Atlanta through therapeutic programs and community collaboration. She is the minister of the Church of the Misfits, a safe place for spiritual tourists to rest a while. She considers herself an advocate of the Marginalized in Atlanta, lover of whores and drunkards, and a Bapticostal Misfit.
1 Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love! Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!”
Psalm 51:1-17 CEB
Rev. Evan Dolive
Why does the Church take time out of its busy schedule to stop, slow down, pray and reflect? What is it about the human condition that we have to make sure we are constantly happy? The slightest amount of sadness, mourning, remorse in our day to day lives are generally not "accepted." This however is a lie that our society and possibly the church has been propagating.
I'll admit that Lent is not the most anticipated times of the Christian calendar but it is one where we have the opportunity to hear the story of Christ's journey toward the scandalous cross once again. We join him on the road, we struggle when he struggles, we find ourselves almost as outsiders looking in to a movie that we cannot stop watching.
But today our journey begins with a reminder that humanity even the best of us are still fallible, sinful creatures.
I love the Psalms for the way that almost every human emotion is found within their sacred words. Love, joy, anger, repentance, forgiveness, acceptance and grief. All are the culmination of the human experience. Why are we conditioned to limit ourselves to just one?
As we reads the 51st Psalm, we are compelled to hear the struggle and strain in the voice of the author. There is a sense of urgency, a pleading taking place; we can hear the quiver of the Psalmist's voice, visualize him/her holding back tears; this is no ordinary prayer, no ordinary call to God.
There is something more that is plaguing the soul, the spirit, the mind of the author. God is seen as a God of justice and mercy, but only to those who follow in the ways of the Lord and keep the commandments.... right?
Could the God of all Creation care about little ol' me? We are about to find out.
As followers of Christ we have chosen this day to begin a journey that begins in sorrow, a journey that will test our faith, a journey that will remind us of our unworthiness of God's grace, mercy and reconciliation and ultimately a journey that will end with the overwhelming grace that is afforded to everyone.
So come along we have a journey to take.
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God of Lent and of the journey, make your presence know to us this Lenten season that we are renewed by your Spirit as we travel a long and dusty road. May your abiding presence compel us to stay the course and focus our eyes on the scandalous cross in Jerusalem. In Christ's Holy and Loving name, Amen.
Evan is Staff Chaplain Christus at Saint Elizabeth Hospital. He is the father of 3 and Husband. He is an author, with a book being published this year through Pilgrim’s Press. He is also a blogger at EvanDolive.com. Evan is a connoisseur of coffee and loves pretty much anything root beer flavored.
1 Now the Lord was going to take Elijah up to heaven in a windstorm, and Elijah and Elisha were leaving Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, because the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 The group of prophets from Bethel came out to Elisha. These prophets said to Elisha, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
Elisha said, “Yes, I know. Don’t talk about it!”
4 Elijah said, “Elisha, stay here, because the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
5 The group of prophets from Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
He said, “Yes, I know. Don’t talk about it!”
6 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, because the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you live, I won’t leave you.” So both of them went on together. 7 Fifty members from the group of prophets also went along, but they stood at a distance. Both Elijah and Elisha stood beside the Jordan River. 8 Elijah then took his coat, rolled it up, and hit the water. Then the water was divided in two! Both of them crossed over on dry ground.9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I’m taken away from you?”
Elisha said, “Let me have twice your spirit.”
10 Elijah said, “You’ve made a difficult request. If you can see me when I’m taken from you, then it will be yours. If you don’t see me, it won’t happen.”
11 They were walking along, talking, when suddenly a fiery chariot and fiery horses appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm.
12 Elisha was watching, and he cried out, “Oh, my father, my father! Israel’s chariots and its riders!” When he could no longer see him, Elisha took hold of his clothes and ripped them in two.
2 Kings 2:1-12 CEB
Wanna make me angry in five seconds or less? Show me a billboard, ad, or blog where the minister is front and center smiling with their pearly whites. I wanna yell in my car, or at the computer (depending on where I see it) "Get out of the way, so I can see God!" Then I wonder, what would be left if they were to move out of the way? Did they build a solid foundation on Christ, or a mansion better suited in Babel? One wrong move and it all comes tumbling down in a sea or narcissism and self-promotion.
Both Elijah and Elisha bring out my inner seething. Don't get me wrong, it all ends well, but I'm reminded of those billboards while I read the scripture. God's Word is supposed to last longer than the pretty face smiling on the television asking for your money. God's Word is deeper than the superficial fake tan selling "Jesus" to us. God's word is richer than the tweetable messages meant to gain followers instead of Christians.
What we have in scripture is how it is really supposed to go. The message, the purpose, was bigger than Elijah. Perhaps Elisha would have kept his teacher and master around longer, but the bigger picture wasn't tied to a single man. In fact, there was a time in the Israelite story three Prophets had the same message, at the same time!
I read about the mantle dropping from Elijah to Elisha and I scream! Don't you get it! God picks a leader and the leader eventually moves on. Another takes the mantle. Elijah trained Elisha. Jesus trained the Disciples. Paul trained leaders in the cities he visited. Why do we get so caught up in these people who have great stage presence. We throw our adoration and love at them. Then we are baffled when they act less than divine. In fact, we've raised these people up so much, they tend to fall a little more than we would even forgive. They go from celebrity to bully, adulterer, philanderer, thief... They don't live up to their title "Person of God," and we are surprised. Why are we surprised? We put everything on the person, instead of God. If only we realized it was never about the person, and was always supposed to be about God.
Do I sound a little heated? I've seen enough internet bubbles pop to see what they all have in common. Instead of getting carried away in a chariot of fire, I've seen these pop-Christian icons going down in a flaming inferno, taking ministries with them. I want to blame the pretty face, but I'm left with the followers. It was their choice to start following a face instead of God; not trusting the message was bigger than the person speaking it.
So what is the point? What can you do with this? Just allow yourself to be a little skeptical of those who claim to have the "mantle", but don't want to give it up. The real "mantle" is given by God, and can be given to someone else when God chooses. Remember, above all else, the message is what is important; not the messenger.
Every once in a while, it's nice to slow down and explain. There are many newbies here. I realized I don't have a check all post explaining what this area is all about. What are meditations? What is this lectionary thing I keep talking about? I will answer all these questions. Today we are going to delve into the anatomy of Fig Tree's meditations:
What are Meditations?
One of the key pieces of evangelism is knowing the community you are trying to reach. The internet community doesn't want to sit down at a computer for an hour and watch a worship service. The internet community doesn't even want to watch a minister deliver a sermon. So many want to learn, but the attention span of an user is so short, often times the written word is a better format for quick digestion.
The meditations are Fig Tree's version of sermons. It's in a written format because the written format is what people are most attracted to. People read faster than they watch. Also, sermons have a cadance. With a written mediation the facade is dropped, and only the message remains.
What Should be in a Meditation?
What is Lectionary and the Christian Calendar?
The Christian Calendar: The Christian Calendar is repeating ritual that happens yearly. Different times of year is visually understood with a color.
Lectionary: Lectionary uses the Christian Calendar and repeats on a three year cycle. The years begin the first Sunday in Advent. Each synoptic gospel has it's own year.
Year A: Matthew
Year B: Mark
Year C: Luke
Lectionary is made up of four scriptural readings each week: A Hebrew Bible, a Psalm, a Gospel, and an Epistle reading. The lectionary is meant to cover the major stories and lessons in the bible within a three year period. A minister, preaching a scripture a Sunday, could technically cover all the lectionary scripture in 12 years.
I used the revised common lectionary, which can be easily found on Vanderbilt's website, and there is even a subreddit devoted to it.
You have heard it said, your body is a temple. I say, your body is a machine. Just like a car we require fuel. Just like a machine we have tasks and objectives our body can accomplish. Like a computer we have a hard drive that holds and keeps all our important data. We also have RAM, memory meant to be used for the moment but not always kept. (For example, try to remember what you were doing last Tuesday at 1:15pm. Not that easy? That's because it is RAM.) Like a machine we are liable to break down every now and again.
We are a very well built machine. If we take care of ourselves we can live 80, 90, maybe 100 years. Can you say the same for your Ford or Chevy? Or can you say that for your PC or Apple computer? Of course, that is if we take care of ourselves. As humans we have to realize we have limitations. We cannot be all things to all people. We have to realize, before we get there, when we are at the point of lifting something too heavy for us, or at the edge of burn-out. We cannot just be focused on our mission, sometimes we need to take time and be holy.
When Jesus was in Capernaum he went Andrew and Simon's house. After healing Simon's mother-in-law the flood gates opened and people from all around brought the sick and possessed to Jesus.
It is in this scene we get a very strong idea of Jesus' work ethic:
First, Jesus is not hindered by a 9-5 mentality. The sun has set. The previous day has ended but he decides to heal. People are coming to the door and he doesn't turn them away. God's work does not happen on a schedule. While we come here every Sunday at 11am, life continues 24/7. There are those in need at two in the afternoon as well as three in the morning. We should realize we can be called into action at any time too. When we feel that urge deep in our gut to do something we are not in the place to say, “It is not the right time.” We are mistaken if we think God is working from our schedules. We are disciples and we are on God's clock.
Second, Jesus was not all things to all people. I know that is hard to believe. We assume Jesus had the ability to teach a lesson, heal a leper, and cook breakfast all at the same time. Maybe he did have the ability, but there are no scriptures pointing to him over extending himself in that way. He lived a human life, and as a human, had limits. Like I said earlier, we are a machine. If we over extend our abilities we can burn-out. As important as the work is, God does not want us to break. We are of no use if we are broken. So, when Jesus heals at Simon and Andrew's house he heals many, but not all. I see it as Jesus was able to place limits on his ability. It wasn't whether he could heal everyone who showed up; it was about doing God's work in a way he could return to it later.
Finally, he took time for himself to reflect and pray. He didn't tell anyone where he was going because it was none of their business. Part of mission is healing, reflection and praying. So many get caught up on the go and do, and go and give, they forget the go and heal. Our body and mind cannot handle constantly doing work. It doesn't matter if the work is the project at the office or the call of God. Everyone needs rest. It is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. It is also nothing we should reason away.
I wish Simon Peter had paid more attention to what Jesus was doing and not just what he was saying. Simon was the rock. He was the enthusiastic one. He was the guy who wanted to answer first when Jesus had a question. I bet he worked so hard for Jesus. He wanted to get things going. He wanted to do the work. In Mark 1 he can't even wait for Jesus to finish praying. He goes out searching for him even though he has no idea where he went. See, as smart as this guy was, often times, he just doesn't understand. Throughout the scripture Jesus sets the example of not just doing but waiting.
Life is like the ebb and flow of the tide. Maybe our tide is like the gentle lapping of the waters against the shore, or maybe our tide is the high waves before an approaching hurricane. Either way, there are moments of rest built into our life. There are moments of waiting. Maybe we are waiting for the gentle welcome of something new, or maybe we are waiting for a bold crash in our lives: either way, we have those moments to prepare, heal, and pray.
I don't buy many DVDs. The few I do buy speak to me about the human spirit. One of the DVDs I own is Schindler's List. Oscar Schindler worked so hard to save as many lives as possible during World War II. He used his whole life savings to purchase Jews. He wanted to keep them from the concentration camps. Near the end of the movie Schindler begins to look at the possessions he has left. He comments that his coat could have saved one. His car could have saved three. At the end, he didn't feel he did enough. The truth is, we can never do enough. We can't fight the whole war by ourselves. We can't do everything. We need to realize even the people who risk their life to do what is right, like Oscar Schindler, can't do everything. Even Jesus, didn't do everything.
Our job, while on this earth, is to do the best we can do. Our best might require late hours; it might require sacrifice. It should never requires burnout.