Archives for January 2018
Text: Mark 1:21-28
At times like this I wish I had Nancy’s voice – but I don’t, so I’ll spare you. Hear these words and provide the tune in your head if you know it:
“There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.
There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.”
Smile if you grew up with that hymn as I did. Its theology may not make you smile but it is a part of the heritage of many Baptists and others who grew up in evangelical churches. The text was written by Lewis E. Jones who also wrote the text to 217 other hymns. He was a classmate of evangelist Billy Sunday and worked for the YMCA for 36 years. He died in 1936.
If you’re wondering what this old hymn has to do with our lectionary text for today, there is a connection. The gospel of Mark opens with multiple demonstrations of Jesus’ power. First, he is baptized by John who has been proclaiming to everyone who would listen that someone greater than he is coming. At the baptism, the heavens open, a dove descends and a voice is heard to name Jesus as “my beloved son.” Next in the temptation story that unfolds in the wilderness, Jesus demonstrates his authority by not being drawn into deals with the devil. Then he walks along the Sea of Galilee asking people to follow him. According to Mark, they drop everything and do just that. Finally, in our text for today, Jesus enters the synagogue at Capernaum and astonishes the crowd with the authority of his teaching. Then he performs an exorcism where demons obey his command to leave a man’s body. [Read more…]
Text: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
When was the last time you changed your mind about something? And what was the impetus? I’m not asking about the last time you changed your mind about what you would have for dinner. Or the color you would paint your living room. No, I’m asking about a real shift in your thinking—a significant change of mind. I’m asking about the kind of change of mind that reorients your life and how you see the world and yourself and others. I can think of three such mind-changing moments in my life.
The first of these moments happened my first semester of seminary. The impetus was a note scrawled in red on the paper I had written for Bob Poerschke. The note read: “Who is this zapping God your serve? I would like to introduce you to my loving and grace-filled God.” Over the course of that semester I would begin a process of changing my mind about who God is and how God interacts with us.
The second time I changed my mind about something significant was when my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Before his diagnoses, my father and I would often spar about religion and the bible and politics. His literal interpretation of scripture left us little room to have, in my opinion, a meaningful conversation about our faith and beliefs. When he learned he had a brain tumor his first response was that if it was his time to go God would take him but if it wasn’t God would spare his life. It was in that moment, almost as if I had one of those blinding light experiences, when I realized that my father needed his faith, not mine, to sustain him in a very uncertain time. That experience changed my mind about what it means to have a conversation about faith with someone who believes differently than me. [Read more…]