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Monday, March 31, 2008

Ordinary People

One of the things I like about the holy Gospels is that the evangelists tell us about ordinary people. We tend to put the first disciples and the Twelve Apostles on golden pedestals: how spiritual and holy they were compared to me, so far removed from Jesus.

In John 20 we see yet again the ordinariness of the disciples and the apostles. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to finish burying Jesus, not to rejoice in His resurrection. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen, unless he got the same visit the other apostles had: they saw Him and could touch Him. Jesus meets us on our level. If Thomas needs to see and touch, then Jesus will give Him that opportunity. If Mary needs to give Jesus a big hug (perhaps to reassure herself that He has a real, physical body and not a ghost or just to express her love and friendship at the good news she just received), then Jesus will give her that opportunity.

Jesus wanted His disciples and apostles to believe He had risen from the tomb, thus He appeared to them, conversed with them, ate with them, etc. The witness of the first disciples and the Twelve Apostles formed the groundwork for all the others who heard their proclamation and believed (even though they hadn't actually seen the risen Jesus).

Each generation in the Church has passed on to the succeeding generation the faith: Christ was crucified, Christ is risen, for you and your eternal salvation. This faith is about justification: we are freely forgiven because of Christ alone. We have so many opportunities to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ via conversations with people, email, blogs, radio, TV, and other forms of media. What a blessed opportunity the Holy Spirit has given our generation.

Like Mary and Thomas, we have the joyous privilege to go and tell others what we know and believe: Jesus died and rose again to obtain the forgiveness of all the world's sin; and that means that He died and rose for each one personally. What a wonderful Savior, and what a marvelous gospel!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah!

The Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel preached in an Easter sermon from 1981: ,,There is now nothing in all the world that you can be more sure of than Jesus crucified for you, risen for you" (Nagel 120). This statement is Good Friday and Easter Sunday in a nutshell.

The Church doesn't need liberation theology, social gospel theology, name it and claim it theology, rolling on the floor laughing theology, slain in the spirit theology, your best life now theology, and any other pop, quasi-entertainment driven theology that seems so prevalent on the American airwaves. The Church and the world needs the Christ crucified and risen for you theology.

Why? Because we have a problem with sin. Our 21st century society doesn't like that dirty word ,,sin". Sin makes us feel uncomfortable, shameful, and guilty. The plethora of 12 step theologies that overwhelm the culture often don't take sin seriously, and in fact would prefer to push sin into a small, dark corner to be forgotten about.

Jesus suffering on the cross won't let us forget about our sinfulness. Christ crucified won't let us push sin into a forgotten corner. Good Friday places the spotlight squarely on sin. There it is! You see, this is the punishment for sin. This is where sin ultimately leads you: suffering and death. That God-man hanging on the cross is bearing our sin in His own body. He is suffering for us in order to redeem us. Jesus became sin and a curse who bore the full wrath of His heavenly Father.

Christ crucified is true liberation, liberation from sin, death, and the devil. The empty tomb shows how helpless sin, death, and the devil now are. The resurrected Christ shows that He is the perfect sacrifice that has paid for all sin, once and for all. The resurrected Christ shows that death will be undone. The resurrected Christ shows that the devil is now defeated.

Christ crucified and risen for us is the only gospel the Church and the world needs. Christians live under the theology of the cross, namely, that in this life we can expect to suffer because we have faith in Jesus. Our life will not be a bed of roses, but more often a couch of thorns. To be sure, God blesses us, but He also allows us to endure trials and tribulations in order to strenghten our faith in Christ.

When Christ returns we will then live under the theology of glory. Christ will arrive in His full majesty. Our bodies will be raised up and reunited with our souls. The ravages of sin and death will no longer afflict us. Worldly suffering will no longer burden us. All discrimination will end. All poverty will end. All wars and violence will end. But this won't occur until the last day, that great and glorious day when we will experience Easter Sunday in all its heavenly glory.

Nagel, Norman. Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis. Frederick W. Baue, Ed. Copyright © 2004 Concordia Publishing House.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Important are We?

A few nights ago, I watched The History Channel's "Life after Humans" program. It had wonderful HD computer animation. The basic premise was what would our civilization look like if everyone suddenly vanished. Obviously, what we have built would be left to decay and fall apart. The program indicated that within 1000 years, almost all forms of human civilization would be lost to foliage. A few monuments, like Mt. Rushmore and the Great Pyramids might withstand the ravages of nature.

I found myself thinking about the scene from Logan's Run when Logan and Jessica make it out of the dome and arrive at Washington, D.C. All the humans are gone, save one lone old man. The place is overrun with cats, and most of the monuments and builidings are decaying and overgrown with greenery.

As the program unfolded, I thought, "Who really cares?" I mean, if everyone was gone from the earth, who cares how what we have left behind will endure? Without human beings, the earth is just a big greenhouse and zoo. But without human beings, there is no civilization, no advances, no art, and no science. It highlighted to me Genesis 1 and 2, where God creates man and woman to be the crown of creation and to be stewards of the earth for Him. Without human beings, the earth would merely sustain, but nothing would be produced. Human beings do the producing and the stewardship that makes the earth and all creatures more than the sum of their parts. God has invested a lot in the earth, and we see how much He loves us by sending His Son to die and rise for our justification and salvation. Too often, we get the blame game for harming nature, but we also have to realize that we do a lot in terms of stewardship that helps nature.