Monday, March 26, 2012

Jesus to the World

    As we begin the month of April, end the season of Lent, celebrate Easter, and begin the season of resurrection, I hope that we will take the time to remember.  During Lent we were often asked to remember.  We were asked to remember our sin, to remember Jesus trial, conviction, brutal beatings, crucifixion and ultimate humiliation and death on the cross.  But this is different.  As we celebrate spring and begin the season of resurrection, our focus changes.  Now, instead of recalling the darkness, we change our focus to the light.  All these things are good news.  We remember that Jesus said he would be “lifted up” just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the desert.  We remember that Jesus’ death on the cross was the act that saved us, it was his sacrifice, his acceptance of a punishment that rightly belonged to us.  But as amazing has his sacrifice was (and is), the story would be horribly tragic if it had ended there and that is why our focus now shifts.  

    Now, we shift our attention to the end of the story, or more correctly, to the beginning of the new story.  As we celebrate the coming of spring we remember that the trees that once looked dead burst forth in new growth.  We remember that the spring flowers that died last summer rise again from the earth and display their beauty to the world.  In the same way, we remember that Easter is a story of a new beginning.  Jesus took our punishment for sin when he died on the cross, but in three days what was once dead burst from the earth, rose again, and returned to life.  It was through the resurrection that we know that God approved of Christ’s sacrifice.  It was through the resurrection that we know that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and it is through the resurrection that we know that a new age has begun.  At the moment of resurrection we discover the end of the Passion story and the end of the Gospels but we also find the beginning of God’s new covenant with his people.  It is at the moment of resurrection that we begin to anticipate the future work of the body of Christ and the creation of the church as we know it.

    Lent and Easter, the Passion and the Resurrection, are two sides of one whole.  During Lent we remember what Christ has done for us.  At Easter we celebrate his victory over death and our invitation to eternal life but there is more to it than that.  Easter is the end of the Gospel story and near the end of Jesus’ time on earth but it is just the beginning of our story, the story of the church and our mission.  Easter begins a turning point of history when Christ prepares his followers to take up his cross, to assume his mission on earth as their mission and to truly become the hands and feet of Jesus.  The celebration of Easter is not only a call to remember and not only a call to follow Jesus Christ, but it is a call to be Jesus to the world.
On Easter Sunday we will shout, “He is risen!” but as we do so we will hear the risen Christ calling to us to take up his cross and to carry on with the work that he began.

Will we answer his call?

Will we be Jesus to the world around us?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Women in Ministry

Most likely, anyone reading this knows that the United Methodist Church (and many others) not only allows women to teach in church but also to be ordained as pastors and bishops.  I have had many wonderful conversations about this subject with friends and colleagues from other denominations over the years but I have also been asked questions by folks from our own denomination and even from my own congregation.  Today I found this neat 7 minute video by Dr. Ben Witherington III, who is a leading New Testament scholar and United Methodist.  In this video from Asbury Seminary, Dr. Witherington sorts through much of the reasoning and theology without forcing you to resort to an hour-long lecture or to read a lot of books or attend a theology class.  There is enough information here to satisfy most casual questions but also enough meat to keep you looking things up for a while if you are so inclined.


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