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Jesus’ Call to the Way: Turning the Cheek - Turning the World

Matthew 5:38-42

The Call and The Way
We begin a series looking toward our congregational retreat: “Called to the Way – Living the Wisdom of Jesus.” Jesus was not an expected wisdom teacher giving proverbial advice with a bit different twist. He called followers to learn to see a new reality and to walk that path. For every one of his early disciples, it was a radical challenge to begin a journey of challenges over years. Jesus leading to events beyond imagining. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Matthew, Simon– Jesus is profoundly personal. God is personal, creating diverse, specific people, loving all. Jesus calls to “follow behind me,” warns/promises transformation. They leave everything and follow. They leave behind an old self, to find their own lives/souls.

Parable of the Repentant Enemy: Jonah

Jonah 1-4

Yahweh as Israel’s God and God of the Nations
The book of Jonah is a remarkable story. Probably written about 400 bc in the period when many have returned from exile under Persian domination. After Ezra and Nehemiah. A time of great uncertainty – Job, Ecclesiastes. The story looks back more than 350 yrs earlier, before Amos & Hosea, 775 bc in time of Jeroboam II. Jonah was referred to as a prophet of expansion (2 Kg. 14:23-29). Assyria was the evil, terrorist empire. Nineveh became capital about 75 yrs after Jonah but then was seen as center of the destruction of Israel (Nahum 3:1-7).

Prophecy in Future Ruins: Amos and Hosea

Amos 5:18-24, Hosea 14:1-9

Prophecy in Future Ruins
The early written prophets take us mid 8th cent (750) bc. Time of Homer & Rome’s founding. David was as long ago as the American Revolution is to us. Kingdom divided: Israel, north; Judah, south, since Solomon nearly 2 cent. In the north a strong king, Jeroboam II (784-47 bc). The empire of Assyria was in inner turmoil and Jeroboam expanded territory, brought trade, prosperity. Israel’s worship centers at Bethel and elsewhere were prospering. Both Yahweh and Baal Hadad and other gods were worshiped. The very definition of good religion. Religion was always a bargain/contract with the gods. Offer sacrifice and pay vows so that the gods will bless you with fertility, prosperity, victory. That was the language of most religion, Canaan, Greece, Assyria, even Israel.

The Powers that Be

Romans 13:1-8

Patriotism, Authority, Rebellion It’s 4th of July weekend.
Memorial of the beginning of the rebellion, 241 yrs ago, 1776. The colonies rejected “the Powers that be” (Rm 13:1 KJV) and began a war for independence. US history is long & complicated, with great advances and profound problems that we still wrestle with. It’s one of many nations, empires, colonies, people groups across history. Christians live within all nations, under all authorities, in tension with all. We all experience patriotism, connection to the land of our birth or ancestors or ethnic group or home.

A Community Without Barriers

Galatians 3:21-29

All People made One as the Outcome of God’s Story

God has given us scriptures that are remarkable and challenging to understand. He engages our minds to understand and discern. We receive the whole OT. The Gospels tell Jesus’ story in four different ways. The letters are real letters written on a particular day to a distinct situation, set of problems. No systematic theological treatises or law books. There is built-in flexibility, diversity, and interpretation.

In Gal 3 Paul looks broadly over the whole story in the context of deep disputes about the OT law and the Gentiles. God’s ancient promises come to fruition in Jesus’ faithfulness as Messiah and our faith/trust in him. He is one person who is both Israel and every human, but also God so that every person can become part of him.

All the deep, ancient barriers are broken down. Humans are given a new reality by God, united not by virtue but by what God has done in Jesus. Jesus actively breaks down religious, ethnic, class, socioeconomic, gender, relational barriers, back to creation. All of these barriers were set both in custom and in Roman law, city laws, and Mosaic law.

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.