July 4th, 2013
Permit me to begin again; we weren’t properly “introduced.”
Last week I began something I hope will be as much a benefit to you as I think it will be to me. I’m calling it “Pastoral Backstory” because it means to bring attention to life in between Sundays–in the unrehearsed, unprepared, unexpected moments, which is what mostly accounts for the story of our lives. So I’d like to stitch our weeks together–really our lives together–by making brief comment on several things as we near each Sunday.
Two items you’ll find here are how the previous week’s sermon might have yielded new or additional insights or applications, and then what to expect in the forthcoming sermon. But our life together is more than sermons. So I hope also to make mention of items of note to our whole community, as well as how we might pray.
In time, I’d like to invite some of you to share your insights, your stories, your wrestling and doubts, your experiences of seeking to live by faith (both triumphs and travails).
Near the (merciful) end of the sermon last Sunday we tried to drill down on what it means to live as one indebted to God. Jesus’ implicit premise to His command that we “render to God the things that are God’s” is that we are those with God’s likeness upon us, and therefore have been accorded an esteem–a dignity–having absolutely nothing to do with any aptitude or achievement. So the application from such a recognition is, at the very least, two-fold: gratitude to God and devotion to others.
But what does that look like practically?
On advice of more than a few at General Assembly, I’m reading Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God: Restoring your soul by restoring the Sabbath. His prose is as rich as his insights are salutary. Buchanan outlines that two-fold application concretely:
The taproot of generosity is spiritual. The apostle Paul, when he explains to the Corinthians about the astounding generosity of the Macedonians, remarks, ‘They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us’ (2 Corinthians 8:5). True generosity always moves in that sequence: first God, then others…. And it always starts with giving, not something, but ourselves. Give yourself first to God. Stop, now, and give yourself–your breath, your health or sickness, your thoughts, your intents, all of who you are–to him. And your time, that too. Acknowledge that every moment you receive is God’s sheer gift. Resolve never to turn it into possession. What you receive as gift you must be willing to impart as gift. Invite God to direct your paths, to lead you in the way everlasting; be open to holy interruption, divine appointment, Spirit ambush (and ask God to know the difference). Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” Proverbs says, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Surrender to his purpose with gladness. Vow not to resist or resent it.
Give yourself first to God.
Now the hard thing: give yourself to others. Enter this day with a deep resolve to actually spend time, even at times seemingly to squander it, for the sake of purposes beyond your own–indeed that occasionally subvert your own (remember the good Samaritan?). That person you think is a such a bore but who always wants to talk with you: Why not really listen to him? Why not give him, not just your time, but yourself–your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness?
In God’s economy, to redeem time, you might just have to waste some.
Our text this week is set in yet another instance of insincere questioning, this time from the constituency known as the Sadducees. We’re in Mark 12:18-27.
The resurrection life begins now is Jesus’ overarching theme. As surely as we’re to be transformed in our being at the resurrection, so that transformation is meant to commence now–and on such crucial issues as life, love, and, of course, death.
“Start with the ending” is His message to us. Let’s see how and why this Sunday.
(And as no mere aside, if there ever were a marriage amendment it’s the one Jesus outlines in this text)
among the things for which I’d ask you to pray:
- for those in our church suffering affliction of whatever sort: that God would work powerfully on their behalf, working healing and restoration in the struggle as well as supplying peace in the hope of what is unshakeable
- for great wisdom for your Session as we begin a season of preparing men in our community for leadership as either elders or deacons
- for the venue search committee as it continues to investigate new locations for our community to accommodate our growth and need for additional space
- and in view of the coming sermon, pray for our community to discover what real hope in resurrection looks like; it likely means more than our present experience reveals
peace to you all this day