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Women Following Jesus

Luke 8:1-3

What is God Doing? Acts looks back to Pentecost - a remarkable beginning. Not careful planning and strategy. Not insight by Apostles. Yes, they were prepared by Jesus. But they were carried along by God’s intervention. God waited till Pentecost for the meaning of the feasts. Passover: deliverance. Pentecost: Covenant, Community, Giving of Torah - God breaking in.

Pentecost – Spirit, Proclamation, Community

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Acts 2:1-47

What is God Doing? Acts looks back to Pentecost - a remarkable beginning. Not careful planning and strategy. Not insight by Apostles. Yes, they were prepared by Jesus. But they were carried along by God’s intervention. God waited till Pentecost for the meaning of the feasts. Passover: deliverance. Pentecost: Covenant, Community, Giving of Torah - God breaking in. God intervenes in power and symbol in the language of Israel’s story: ‘Wind’ of creation, ‘Fire’ of Sinai. Human voices. Understanding. Babel is reversed. A light to the nations.

Christ’s Spiritually Gifted Body

1 Corinthians 12:1-31

The Spirit of the Living God Speaks – vv 1-3 The Believers in Corinth loved the work of the Holy Spirit among them and asked Paul about people and things empowered by the Spirit (pneumatikos) – not just “spiritual gifts.” Paul contrasts their experience as Gentiles (before sharing God’s promises to Abraham). They knew only voiceless idols – you could make them say anything. But the Living Spirit has a distinct will and voice. If someone is “in God’s Spirit” (like “in Christ,” “in the Lord”) they’ll never say “Jesus is Anathema.” “In Holy Spirit” is where you know “Jesus is Lord.” One Spirit Gives Life to Diverse Individuality – vv 4-11 There is One God – Spirit, Lord, God. All are working as the Spirit works. Varied gifts of grace (charisma), service/ministry (diakonia), effective works (energema) are united at source. God gives every believer a part in showing the Spirit and his work into community and world. Paul seems intentionally unsystematic. God loves and creates diversity. No two believers are the same. Our personal identity, talents, passions combine with the Spirit’s purposes.

Spiritual Life in Everyday Bodies

Galatians 5:22-26

Everyday Bodies – “Flesh” and “Spirit”

Jesus taught his disciples about the Spirit/Paraklete/Helper sent from God – both himself and the Father. Paul teaches about the Spirit in many ways, helping people who had no frame of reference to participate in the Spirit’s work in their lives. Often religious people have set Spiritual life over against bodily, this-world life, as disembodied, heavenly life. God created our bodies. He loves the physical. Spiritual life now and ultimately is life in body: now bodies and resurrection bodies. When Paul speaks of flesh, he means our ways of making our present selves the center of everything, our little gods, defining our idols of wealth, power, success, beauty, etc., defined by our limited passions and desires. Spiritual life is everyday bodily life with God at center: a whole person of body, mind, spirit, everything, as a whole creature of God. It’s life in relationship with others. It’s life that undermines idols: no limited thing or status or person or circumstance determines the worth of my life. It’s life that sees God and God’s self-giving love at the center of all. Images for Thinking about Spiritual Life

Jesus and the Wind of the Spirit

John 3:1-16

The Searcher Struggling to Understand John gives us a glimpse of a likely long, but amazing conversation. Jesus has just confronted the temple authorities and now one of them, impressed, comes to Jesus: a Pharisee, a teacher, member of Sanhedrin, open to Jesus’ teaching, affirming God’s presence. Jesus takes him seriously. He has seen signs, but they point to revealing a new reality in Jesus. He unveils the new level of God engaging humans, doing what the temple had symbolized. Birth “from above” (another) can also mean “again.” It’s misunderstood by Nicodemus. Birth from Above and the Breath of God

Borrowed Touchstones Part 1 & 2

In part 1, Larry proposes an informal embrace of liturgical seasons and feasts, this session explores practices focused on the incarnation: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

In part 2, Larry explores the deep meaning and beauty to be found in keeping an annual cadence centered on major themes and events in the life of Christ. In this session we explore opportunities linked to the cross, the empty grave, and the Holy Spirit through Lent, Holy Week, and Pentecost.

The Spirit’s Way of Transformation

2 Corinthians 3:1-18

Our Faces Unveiled to God’s Spirit and to Each Other

Last week we saw the whole life of God working by the Spirit in our lives to transform both the way we live now and as the creative power of new creation in the resurrection. Following Jesus, Paul reflects a lot on how he had seen the Spirit working in the lives of believers, even when they are manifesting difficult problems. His experience with the Spirit’s work has given him great confidence and boldness with all kinds of people. In 2 Cor 3:16-18 is a vision of that transforming process set in a meditation on scripture. But look at the image. A community of people, all engaged with God’s Spirit, who gives them freedom and boldness before God and with each other. Their faces (their whole person, identity, image) open to God and each other. They’re focused on seeing the reality, the glory of the Lord Jesus, who is the face / image of God and the true human. As they see it they are transformed into that image, ever increasing in the way they experience that reality/glory. But what’s in front of them is the mirror of Jesus in each other as the Spirit works in those lives to shape, challenge and embolden them toward the life given in Jesus.

God’s Spirit and the Power of Resurrection

Romans 8:9-17

Resurrection and Pentecost

Jesus forced weeks of waiting between his resurrection and the first public proclamation of the Good News. He did not allow his disciples to begin immediately. He was not beginning a political, social, or religious movement, though any human group has those aspects.

This was to be a new reality of God’s participation in the life of humans. It began in Jesus’ incarnation, consummated in his resurrection that joins physical life with the life of God in a new way. Now it was empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to bring ordinary humans into a transforming, growing experience of God’s life and love now, drawing them into the very life of Jesus by the power of his Spirit, embodying Jesus’ life of service, love of enemies, forgiveness, healing, trust in God, deep peace ... preparing for their own resurrection.

Sealed Tombs

Matthew 27:50-66; 28:11-15

A Deep Mystery without Suspense

Matthew takes us into the mystery of Jesus’ cry – the human cry as one abandoned. God takes it into God’s self as Jesus bears human sin and alienation. He knows the absence of God.

We watch in astonishment as no one understands. The disciples don’t anticipate his death and certainly not resurrection, even when Jesus was explicit. The bystanders don’t understand. But Mt doesn’t leave us in suspense. He describes amazing signs pointing to resurrection.

He’s describing something that cannot happen in the ordinary course of events. He is not trying to explain it or document it as an ordinary event, but to give us means to grasp the meaning of this in-breaking of God’s life and future, God’s kingdom, into human life, into our life.

The Cadence of Remembering

Exodus 12:1-17

God establishes a cycle of festivals with the nation of Israel as annual touchstones to remind them of foundational moments in His relationship with them. These moments serve to establish and nurture His children's identity in Him and His love. Similarly, there are foundational moments in the New Testament and in the working out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that form and nurture our identity as Christians. As Jesus is born, lives, ministers, preaches, teaches, and ultimately gives his life within a Hebrew context, the working out of the roles of culture and Gospel as the great news is shared with other nations results in a freedom of observance and expression. Returning annually to salient points in Jesus' ministry, most notably in His incarnation and death/resurrection, establishes a cadence of remembering that works deeper into our hearts and spirits our identity as children of the King. 

The Dark Light of the Cross

Matthew 27:41-54

Into the Darkness
Everything in Mt come together to this point. The scripture anticipation, the teaching, ministry, healing, temple confrontation. It come to this moment, this event. Mt puts it before us with brevity and mystery, challenging us to look deeply. Here is the heart of God. 
Jesus has moved from celebrated prophet, king to one abandoned by all, disciples, leaders, crowds. We watch it happen: betrayal, denial, mocking. But we know who Jesus is. We’ve seen his birth, baptism, transfiguration, authority, power. He’s the very embodiment of God.

“He Saved Others, He Cannot Save Himself”

Matthew 27:32-44

The Skull of Death – The Missing Horror Matthew leads us to the crucifixion of Jesus itself.
We watch as they take him to Golgotha – “Skull” – symbol of death’s finality and hopelessness. We observe Simon of Cyrene, evidently later a disciple. We see the wine and gall. The clothes divided, the casting lots. But where is the crucifixion itself? One word in a subordinate phrase. No nails or thudding hammers, no bloody, weak body, agonizing pain, deep groans, labored breathing. What would I have written? Think of The Passion of the Christ (2004). Mt counts on his readers to know the horror, degradation, and prolonged torture of the cross. See N. T. Wright (*below). Mt leaves out so much and includes such strange little things: Simon, the wine and gall, the clothes, the lots, the watching, the head wagging, the multiple mocking insults. Mt expects a lot of us. So much that he says depends for its power on us knowing the scriptures. He highlights little details in the often-told story that point us to scriptures (esp. Ps 22 & 69). Mt is not writing for history, or even to move us emotionally. He juxtaposes scripture and mockery to force a quandary. What do you see? What’s happening? What would you say?

"What Shall I Do with Jesus?"

Matthew 27:11-31

A Silent Jesus – King, Messiah, Fool?
Mt. lead us through the swirl of events of Passover. The chief priests “handed Jesus over” to Pilate (Roman Prefect for 4 yrs, hated by the Jews, but worked with Caiaphas). This Passover has already seen one insurrection led by a man named Barabbas, charged with killing (a Roman), sure to be crucified with others (Mk 15:7). Now here’s another threat. Really? Caiaphas asked Jesus if he was “Messiah (Anointed king), Son of God,” in Scripture language. Pilate asks the same question in Roman words: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus gives the same reply, but then silence. It’s the core question. What does God’s King look like; do?