Seeking positions – Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

There may be a proper motive and a right way to seek desired positions within the church, but it isn’t easy.  Whatever it is, James and John still had to learn how to do it and so did their mother.

To refuse a position of responsibility, should it be offered to us, is to risk sounding like Moses.  He argued with God at the burning bush over his calling to lead Israel out of Egypt.  At the same time, to seek the position is risk looking like Zebedee’s family in the passage above.

God calls people to take positions of responsibility.  We don’t call ourselves.  The most balanced attitude toward this service/greatness tension might have been both expressed and lived out by Archbishop William Temple, who said, “I have never sought and never refused a position of greater responsibility,”*

The key might be in the love of the service itself, rather than the position.  Paul put it like this in 1 Timothy 3:1, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”  The task, not the office, is the motivator.  Jesus uses terms like “servant,” “slave,” “to serve,” and “to give his life,” to describe his own mission.  Ours may look similar to his.

If we focus on service, we won’t get derailed by seeking positions.  It may be that a higher position of some sort will come our way.  If it doesn’t, we still get to serve right where we already are.

*Quoted in Green, M. (2001). The message of Matthew: the kingdom of heaven (p. 191). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

The Concept of “Race” Is a Lie – shared from Scientific American

26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

diversityPaul was speaking in Athens to the philosophers on Mars Hill.  What he evidently knew back then was not particularly controversial to his Greek audience at the time.  For some reason this no longer seems obvious today, but turns out Paul was right.  This is one of the points we tried to emphasize in the recent series Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christ.

Check out this post appearing today from Peter G. Prontzos of Scientific American.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-concept-of-race-is-a-lie/

Devotional thought for Good Friday

In Romans 5:7-9 Paul reminds us,

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Today we remember the greatest example of love the world has ever known.  This is the day we remember that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  True, Paul writes this at a time when many who would read it were alive at the time of Christ’s death.  He could say “while we were still sinners” and look back on the crucifixion and the space of time before he believed in its value.  We look at it somewhat differently.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/notre-dame-cathedral-on-fire-crucifix-altar-cross-paris/

Notre Dame altar cross, early Tuesday, April 16, 2019, by Philippe Wojazer, Reuters

From our standpoint Christ died before we were ever born.  He died before we ever sinned.  He also died long before we saw our need for a Savior.  How wonderful that by the time we saw our need, the Savior was risen.  The price for our sin had already been paid.  All that was lacking was our making use of Christ’s payment and asking it to be applied to us.

The love he shows to us is every bit as great as if we had known Christ personally while he walked the earth.  He was the lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world.  We are the sinners, who have corrupted the world by our sin.

As children of the very wealthy are in danger of not appreciating the true cost or worth of their riches, we run the risk of not appreciating the price that Christ paid.  We were born into a world whose sin was already dealt with at the cross.  We have been forgiven based on a work done long ago, a completed suffering.  We need to take some time to consider the cross.  Grace can be freely extended to us only because our Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself to a death that we deserved.

Thank you, thank you Jesus.

Amen.

Worthy of worship – Matt 2:1-2, 11

When the “wise men” or magi came from the east, they came to worship the king of the Jews.  To all but Christians this may seem odd since the Jews never worshiped their kings.  They were not a people whose religion allowed for the worship of humans, angels, anyone or anything else but the one true God.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (ESV throughout)

This non-worship of others besides God continued into the Christian era.  Take this example of Peter when he meets the Roman centurion Cornelius in Acts 10:24-26.

24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

Paul and Barnabas react similarly to Peter in a similar situation.

11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”

In Revelation John gets reprimanded not once, but twice by an angel for giving him excessive honor.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:9-10)

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Rev 22:8-9)

Back to the magi.  In Matt 2:11, they follow through on their mission.

And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Only God is worthy of our worship.  Jesus is worthy of our worship.  Jesus is God.

A Shared Citizenship: Reconciling of Jew and Gentile – Ephesians 2:11-22

Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christdiversity
Part 12 of 14

For about 2000 years, God’s people were separated ethnically, culturally and religiously from the nations of the world.  Then God began creating a new humanity, building them into the church.

.A Shared Citizenship Eph 2.11-22.pdf                   

A Shared Citizenship Eph 2.11-22.mp3

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildrose115/27623264486

A Shared Responsibility: The Use of Spiritual Gifts – 1 Cor 12-13

Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christdiversity
Part 11 of 14

The Holy Spirit provides the church with diverse gifts and abilities. Each gift and each person is important to the whole.

.A Shared Responsibility 1 Cor 12-13.pdf                   

A Shared Responsibility 1 Cor 12-13.mp3

 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildrose115/27623264486

Stand Firm – Ephesians 6:10-24

ephesus-grand-theatre - from Ephesus BreezeStand Firm
Ephesians 6:10-24

In the ongoing battle with spiritual darkness that rages against us, no treaties can be made.  One side will always win and the other lose.  Fight to win.

 

Ephesians 6.10-24.pdf       Ephesians 6.10-24.mp3