Paul writes to the church in Corinth:
You seem to think Apollos and I are pawns to be played on the chessboard of your church battles. You seem to think that Apollos and I will carry your flag into war – that we are little more than figureheads who will represent your cause against brothers and sisters in Christ.
You have your petty squabbles with one another. You are divided from one another on theological grounds. You are divided from one another on cultural grounds. You are divided from one another on ethical grounds. And you have so obviously tried to conscript Apollos and me into your divisions, as if that’s all we’re good for.
But if this is who you think we are, then you are so badly mistaken. If you think we can just be conscripted into your battles in this way, then you need to hear another word. It’s about time that I give you a reminder of who we are. Continue reading
President Barak Obama got into trouble a couple of years ago for something he said in a campaign speech. Obama was visiting Roanoke Virginia during the long 2012 campaign season and he was speaking off the cuff about how community and government support is important to the success of businesses. Speaking off the cuff, here’s what he said:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me—because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t—look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own… If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Almost immediately, of course, Obama’s words were ripped out of their context and used as a weapon against him. Almost immediately his political opponents accused him discounting the hard work of business owners and entrepreneurs in building their businesses, by saying “You didn’t build that.” And almost overnight his words became what’s today called an internet meme. People took Obama’s words and applied them to all kinds of different situations – playing with his words and making fun of the whole idea. Continue reading
A sermon preached today, Good Friday. In this sermon I largely follow the account of Jesus’ work and Jesus’ self-understanding as this is set out by N.T. Wright in his book Jesus and the Victory of God.
Approach the cross that is set before you on a hillside. Lift up your hands and feel the roughness of the wood against your fingers and your palms. This is not the lovely, sanded and varnished cross of a Christian sanctuary – this cross is coarse, weighty with grief. Run your fingers over the dark purple stains that mark the heavy knotted planks. See there on the ground the nails that pierced flesh – pick them up and feel their weight in your hand – the cold iron as cold as death itself, as cold as the grave that now holds him.
What is it you feel as you trace your hands over wood and feel the weight of nails?
You feel the reality and pain of exile. Exile. The people of Israel lived in exile in Babylon for generations – they were sent from their homes, sent from their land, split from their families. They were far from the land, the temple, the city, that made them who they were as the children of God. Of course their exile in Babylon was an event of the past in Jesus day, for they had returned to the Promised Land. Yet they live in exile still. The exile continues. Now they live under the imperial power of Rome in their own land – they live in their own land yet they are not free to embrace their identity and control their future. The exile is over but they are still waiting for an end to exile. They are waiting for one who will lead them out of exile, out of bondage and oppression.
What is it that you feel as you trace your hands over rough wood and feel the weight of nails? You feel the pain of exile. For Jesus enters fully into the exile of Israel. He enters fully also into your exile and my exile. For exile is the lot of the human. Exile is God’s judgment on human sin. We turned or back on God and God’s way, and exile is the price we pay.