Listen in as I preach on Mark 1:21-28, Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel according to St. Mark.  Here we learn about Jesus’ power and authority in his teaching and exorcising demons, how this power flows from being rooted in his role as the Son of God, and why Mark’s Gospel is the Braveheart Gospel.

I’ve been doing some writing on the liturgical calendar to help orient the All Saints Dallas community to the rhythms of rootedness in God’s story over time.  You can read the short yet informative entries here.  Let me know what you think.

 

On the last day of Christmas the schedule of readings had me in John 14:6-14, where Jesus is explaining to his disciples the reality of his approaching death. Thomas expresses his discomfort because he doesn’t know where Jesus is going, nor does he know the way. Jesus responds: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (6).

Jesus then qualifies the works he has been doing as God’s Son and clarifies the unity of the Godhead, that he is in the Father and the Father is in him.

Next he makes a statement vastly important to the mission of the church: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (12). Jesus promises that his followers, those who believe in him, will do his works, and greater works still. This is glorious and good news for followers of Jesus today because he has left us a task, a mission in which to participate. In addition, and this is the point that encouraged me so deeply on the last day of Christmas, those who believe in Jesus

do these “greater works” because Jesus is going to the Father. Here Jesus is speaking of his ascension where he is lifted up to the Father’s right hand, the control room of the universe as it were (see Acts 1:9-11). And, it is precisely because Jesus ascends that his body can do greater works than those he performed while on earth. For, while Jesus was on earth, he was limited by space, only present to those where he walked. But now that he has gone to the Father, his real absence is also his real presence to his people by the agency and power of his Holy Spirit.

So, on the last day of the Feast of the Incarnation, we are reminded that God in Christ takes our flesh on himself not only to live and die for us, but to be raised again and reign at the Father’s right hand in glory in order to empower his people to live lives of mission, doing “greater works than these.”

These truths have emboldened us to pray with faith and specificity entrusting ourselves to the Lord of the Harvest. In this new year, I encourage you to do the same.

 

This morning we celebrated St. Andrew the Apostle.  Almost everyone remembers Andrew as Peter’s brother, but today at our mid-week communion service we took a bit deeper look at his life and who God might be calling us to be in response to our brother Andrew.

First, Matthew’s account of Jesus’ calling Simon and Andrew makes it clear that Andrew was obedient. “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matt 4:18-20).  Immediately they left their nets.  Imagine Andrew and Peter dropping their nets, their very livelihood and identity to follow this rabbi.  This faithful response is a clear sign of obedience to Jesus.

Second, John’s account of Andrew and Peter meeting Jesus is a bit different.  Here we see that Andrew is not only obedient, but he is a missionary.  Andrew is one of John the Baptist’s disciples, and it is in Andrew’s hearing that John proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36).  It says later, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40-42).  That Andrew knew Jesus was the messiah of God demonstrates his attentiveness to the Scriptures and to his own rabbi John the Baptist.  What is more, Andrew goes to his brother in jubilation – “We have found the Messiah.”  And, Andrew brought Peter to Jesus.  Andrew was the first of the disciples to be a missionary.  This missionary action didn’t necessitate going to a different culture or location.  Andrew simply responded to God and acted in his own surroundings.  His simple act of bringing Peter to Jesus would change the history of the world as the Holy Spirit later poured out in glory would empower and guide the young Church in the continuing expansion of the kingdom of God.

Andrew demonstrates a similar sensitivity to his surroundings where he brings the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus in order to feed the multitude.  Again, Andrew responds to God in simple faith.  In fact, it seems that Andrew is able to see things that others don’t see. Remarkably, Andrew’s ability to envision God’s work is close to the biblical definition of faith.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).  As the eleventh chapter of Hebrews rolls on, words related to seeing and vision keep showing up.  Andrew’s obedience as a disciple and his missionary heart were rooted in faith, in his God-given ability to see what was not yet, and come into line with God’s gracious move.

God’s call on our lives is similar.  He is moving in our midst lovingly, constantly, even without our approval or petition.  Like the word of God that emanates from creation day after day, night after night, pouring forth speech, so too God’s impetus of love is pouring forth.  Our task is simply to drop our nets and join in.  I believe we see this in St Andrew’s life, and it is a posture worth emulating.

So, today we remember our brother Andrew who most of us know as Peter’s brother.  But, much greater than this, we know him for his obedience, his missionary action, his eyes of faith, and above all, we know him as a man who brought others to Jesus.  If all we are known for in this life is being the person who brought others to Jesus, like St Andrew, then we should be overjoyed with the fruit of our lives having offered ourselves willingly, obediently, in faithfulness to God.

Some thoughts on the woman who was healed by Jesus and spent the remainder of her life serving him.

The Love of Christ Compels Us

Mary Magdalene, having been healed from her demon-possession by Jesus, having been made a completely new creation, was compelled by the love of Christ.

    • She gave her life, just like the disciples, to Christ.  She gave her life to attend to his needs throughout his ministry

the love of Christ compelled her

    • When Peter and John had left Jesus’ empty tomb, not knowing that the “scriptures had to be fulfilled,” not knowing exactly what was happening, Mary remained and mourned her dear friend and savior.

the love of Christ compelled her

    • When who she thought was the gardener spoke her name, “Mary,” she immediately realized with whom she was speaking – Jesus.

the love of Christ compelled her

    • She was the first to be commissioned, in a sense, to preach the gospel:  “Go, tell my brothers, that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

the love of Christ compelled her

    • He also told her, do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended.  In the liturgical time of the church, we are in the season after Pentecost, in that post-resurrection season, in the season between his ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and his second Advent when he will come again in glory

In Mary Magdalene we see . . .

    • The attentive abiding of a Christ-loved soul.  A soul that was completely “present” to her God.  Surely this is why she was the first to see Jesus – she was simply there.

Are we making ourselves fully present to God in daily life?

    • One who has learned that because Christ has died for all, she no longer needed to live for herself, but for him who died and was raised on her behalf.

How is Christ’s love compelling us?  To what degree and to what end will we allow his love to move us to compassion, service, mission?

“Distracted from distraction by distraction / Filled with fancies and empty of meaning / Tumid apathy with no concentration . . .”

Distracted – are you easily distracted?  If you know me, you know I can’t even tell a story without being distracted.  This is normal right?  Do you get a sense that distraction is a big part of our lives whether we know it or not, and whether we want it to be or not?  And, what’s wrong with being distracted?  Well, in the above lines from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets we get a sense of the sickness of which “distracted” is merely the symptom.

Our world today is filled with distractions – maybe this very blog post is a distraction to you.  If we allow these distractions to overrun us, we can eventually wind up “filled with fancies and empty of meaning,” filled with swollen “apathy with no concentration.”  Can you think of a more despairing state of being?  Empty of meaning yet swollen with apathy?  In my own life, the ultimate problem with these distractions, whether it be the evening news, a song I can’t get out of my head, or my own stubborn pride, is they keep me from being fully present to God.

Fully present to God?  Isn’t God always with us?  Absolutely.  But are we always with him?  Are we attentive to the still, small voice?  Are we fully present to God?

I’m curious.  What are some ways we can make ourselves more fully present to God?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yesterday we remembered the birth of St John the Baptizer with a worship service. The message was brief and a great reminder that John knew his place in God’s plan, knew that God was in control, and was content in not being the messiah.
This video also details some of St John the Baptizer’s story.