three easter conversions – which is yours?

There is a lot of running going on in John chapter 20 – a lot of running in the gospel’s narration of the events of that Easter morning. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb early on the first day of the week, when the glow of morning has barely appeared on the horizon. All she sees is that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance – that’s enough for her, apparently. We read: “So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.” Mary Magdalene runs to the disciples upon finding the stone rolled away because something here matters to her – something animates her. In her case it is bad news that matters to her – bad news that animates her. She is convinced that someone has stolen, taken the body of Jesus.

When Peter and the other disciple (we suspect it is John) – when they hear the news from Mary, it is their turn to run. In the case of these two disciples, are they running because they have heard bad news (the body has been taken) or because they are hopeful (he’s not in the tomb – perhaps a live)? Whatever the reason, they break out in a run. And the urgency is so great that they aren’t actually running together – each of them is trying to get there as fast as he can. John is the faster runner, and so Peter falls behind. John arrives at the tomb first, breathless. Peter arrives second, and steps in to discover the tomb is indeed empty. The grave clothes that had been carefully wrapped around Jesus body just a few days earlier, are folded there.

With my kids (mostly with the younger two – the older one is getting too old for that) – very often a running race breaks out simply when we arrive home. It isn’t a race to see anything. It’s not that we’re running away from bad news. It’s not that we’re running toward good news. It is simply a race to see who is first. It’s a race to touch the front door. Continue reading

nothing else matters: being found in Christ

Have you ever gotten frustrated or angry? And in your frustration and anger, perhaps used strong language? Going a little further, have you ever expressed this anger or used strong language in a letter to someone? Today of course, we have to be careful when putting our anger in writing. An email sent in haste, a tweet that is posted too quickly – it can get you into trouble.

This morning we come to an intense parts of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In these few verses Paul uses language that is strong, he makes an argument that is provocative – he wears his emotions on his sleeve. In these verses it becomes clear just how much Paul cares about the life and faith of the Philippian Christians – and how engaged he is with questions of faith and identity.

To understand why the level of intensity goes up in Paul’s letter, we have to remember that wherever Paul has gone in his ministry – wherever he has gathered women and men in Christian community – he has been dogged by other preachers and teachers. Already in this series we’ve talked a bit about this. In his Roman imprisonment there were other evangelists taking their rivalry with Paul too far. They were undermining him and undermining his gospel on account of his suffering and imprisonment.

But in our passage for today we are talking about something different – something quite specific. In these few verses Paul is responding to other preachers who are referred to now as Judaizers. It is these specific teachers that have dogged Paul at every turn. It is these Judaizers that have constantly undermined Paul’s teaching in the congregations he has planted. Continue reading