Pastoral Backstory–07.11.13





(What is this and why?)

July 11th, 2013


What difference does it make in the present moment to believe that a resurrection awaits those who trust in Jesus?  That was the question we tried to find some concrete answers for in last Sunday’s sermon.

Imagining what it would be like to live again is as difficult as it is to figure how that truth, believed by faith, works its way back into our present moment.  Fortunately it’s not left to us to find our own applications of that scarcely fathomable prospect.  Many have walked before us, and some still walk among us who’ve given more than a little thought to living in view of Resurrection.  They have not been content with letting it remain an abstraction, only to be considered and clung to as we near the brink of eternity. (Though aren’t we always near the brink so far as we know?)

How does resurrection life begin to blossom in the soil of our lived experience?

We of course mentioned Sunday how its truth can’t help but, and surely must, invade our encounters with death.  Among the innumerable works of the 17th century pastor, Richard Baxter, his Thoughts on Dying ask us to consider not only the good that comes with death for those in Christ, but also the good of what remains of this life before death exhausts its power over us.  And one book my wife and heartily commend is John Flavel’s Facing Grief.  He was no stranger to sorrow, having lost three wives, the first dying in childbirth with the child dying, too.  As with all books that attend to sorrows, it has to be read at a proper time.  It’s Flavel who introduced me to the notions of “moderate” and “immoderate” grief, the latter a somewhat self-indulgent distortion of the former that refuses comfort if only to cling to what is lost.

But faith in resurrection can’t apply only to out confrontation with death; it has as much to say to our fight for joy when death seems still at a remove.  Ann Voskamp, a voice you should keep close to, wrote recently of a friend whose faith in the face of terminal illness served to awaken Ann herself to new reason for joy–joy for this life, resting in the hope of resurrection as the prelude to the next.  The abundant life Jesus promised is not all wine and roses.  But it is a life “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:7,8). That is the contented and indomitable life both attractive to and desired by all of us, the life infused with hope in resurrection.

Finally, the majesty of the resurrection is meant to work itself into the mundanity of daily existence.  And since the thought of resurrection can never be dissociated from the One whose own death secured it, taking hold of its truth depends in large part in conceiving of His glory.  Rod Dreher pointed us this week to how washing the dishes can be an act of taking hold of the glory of Christ.  (Resurrection faith with a little help from Palmolive.  Who knew?)  While Tish Harrison Warren asks (HT: Mockingbird) whether ’tis nobler to make radical sacrifices in newsworthy ways or love well those neighbors closest to us, the ones our familiarity with leads us to take most for granted.  Resurrection life is alive and well when it recognizes the “bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that that is enough”


Matthew Lee Anderson has always brought incisive questions to bear on his faith. We all inevitably do; life naturally provokes them.  But Anderson has written a different kind of book about the questions that surface as we seek to live by faith.  It’s entitled The End of our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith.

Questions, he argues, are as important as answers in how they create a space for new understanding.  But Anderson’s book (at least the first few chapters I’ve read this week) would have us always question our questions (a sample from the book): where do they come from? what agenda(s) might underlie them? what answers would be sufficient to stanch the flow of questions?

As every thought has to be brought captive, so must our questions.

For the last few Sunday’s we’ve seen Jesus respond to questions rife with insincerity.

But our text this Sunday involves a question that may be as important as the answer Jesus provides.  And it’s a question that, while couched in categories fitted to the time, is as universal to human experience as it is deeply felt.

We’re in Mark 12:28-34, when a scribe asks Jesus, “which commandment is the greatest?”

One question I’ve had to ask myself during my study of this passage: why have I, for most of my life, been more compelled to become someone–to achieve a rank, reputation, or status–than to become one who’s known most for their love?

The answer to my question (could it be yours, too?) might be found in Jesus’ answer to the unexpectedly respectful scribe.


And would you pray this week for

  • Dave and Gloria Farah–for Dave who fell recently but is recovering well, and for Gloria concerning some blood pressure issues
  • Don Johnson is his struggle–his cross-bearing–with ALS.  And for Helen as she cares for her best friend
  • Rachel Kull as she slowly returns to her routine following some heart issues


  • for our venue search committee as it continues investigating alternative meeting sites
  • for the men considering serving our community as elders and deacons
  • for such a fresh sense of His love that we would be compelled to reflect the same


peace to you all,



Author: Glenn Machlan

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1 Comment

  1. Your loving concern and prayers are such an encouragement – thank you!

    We’re thankful to be feeling better and look forward to seeing you Sunday.

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