Category Archive: Latest from the MethoBlogoSphere

Apr 18 2014

ponderings: Noah (2014)

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At the sound of his name, Noah has become quite a controversial figure these days. The film has been declared “unbiblical” by many, while deeply theological by others. (For example, there is this YouTube video that someone thought I needed to see after posting a comparison chart and some discussion questions.) What follows is a […]

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Apr 18 2014

Wrestled With Angels: It Is Finished

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Good Friday 2014 Sermon preached at Liberty Hill United Methodist Church

good fridayIt is finished. I said those words proudly as a junior in my high school craftsman class. I spent a semester in wood-working building a rocking horse. It was with pride at the end of the class to stand back and declare, “It is finished.” It did not fall apart. It did not wobble. It actually rocked. And it was finished.

An artist who completes a painting can declare, “It is finished.” A carpenter who builds a house can assert as the new owners move in, “It is finished.” A writer who pens the last sentence of her debut novel says confidently, “It is finished.” A teacher who turns out the lights of her classroom the final time after a long school year affirms, “It is finished.”  “It is finished” are powerful words that speak of accomplishment and fulfillment.

They can also be words that speak of defeat. A spouse who walks out of a relationship declares, “It is finished!” A business owner who flips over the closed sign for the last time says, “It is finished.” A report that the cancer is inoperable sounds like “it is finished.”  “It is finished” speaks to finality. It is complete. Nothing else is left to be done. It is finished.

On this Friday night that we call good, we have heard, “It is finished” as the final words of Jesus on the cross. However we decide to take those words, defeat is not an option. When Jesus was asked by his mother to perform a miracle at a wedding he said, “My hour has not yet come” (2:4). When asked by his brothers to make his miracle-working presence more visible Jesus reminds them, “My time has not yet come” (7:6). Speaking boldly in the temple about his relationship with his heavenly Father no one was able to touch him because “his hour had not yet come” (8:20). The gospel writer wants us to understand that Jesus was fully in control of his life. The cross is not a defeat. His whole life leads up to the moment of him being lifted up and being able to declare in the affirmative, “It is finished.” We are told that when just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness as a sign of salvation for the people, Jesus will be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life (3:14). Jesus says it is only when he is “lifted up” that we will begin to understand who he is and who sent him (8:28). After he rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus pronounces, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (12:23). He continues, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (12:32). When Jesus states boldly, “It is finished,” he is not crying defeat but words of affirmation for a life lived on purpose.

Dr. Tom Long says, “People die pretty much how they lived. If someone has been enraged throughout life, we can expect rage at the end. A person who tries to bargain with life, family, physicians, and God on death’s door has probably tried to cut a few deals before” (Accompany Them with Singing: the Christian Funeral). We die much like we have lived.

Jesus took his own story seriously. He turned the other cheek. He loved his enemies. He took up his cross. On that cross we see through the window on the very heart and character of a loving God. It is finished. Peter sobs. Redemption found. It is finished. The women wail. Love fulfilled. It is finished. The crowd stands in silence. Heaven and earth clash. It is finished. The veil in the temple is torn. All are accepted. It is finished. Earth quakes. Heaven weeps. It is finished. The power of sin is destroyed. Satan has lost. It is finished.

Jesus finished so that we can begin. Our guilt he nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). He took upon himself our shame (Gal. 3:13). His death opens up the way for us to God (I Peter 3:18). His death on the cross shattered the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). It is finished, done, completed, accomplished, and fulfilled, so that; we can live fully, abundantly, and eternally.

What shame is keeping you from living fully? What guilt is keeping you from living abundantly? What fear is keeping you from living accomplished? You don’t have to live with it. He nailed it to the cross. It is finished so that we can begin.

(As we closed out the service, I invited the congregation to come down and put a nail into the cross. The nail represented for them their fear, guilt, shame, or sin that is keeping them from living fully. It served as a reminder that Jesus declared it finished so that we can go on living.)


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Apr 18 2014

Virtues of Scripture: The Easter Vigil

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Meet Dr. Jim Papandrea

Dr. Papandrea is an assistant professor of Church History at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary He is also an accomplished musician and brings Church History to life as a storyteller in the classroom.  He received his BA from the University of Minnesota, his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, earned a certificate in Classiscal studies at the American Academy in Rome, and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.  I now welcome Dr. Jim Papandrea to my blog!

Think back to some of the parables Jesus told – parables about waiting, and watching. In the parable of the ten bridesmaids, for example (Matthew, chapter 25), the wise bridesmaids were the ones who kept their lamps burning through the night, and were ready for the return of the groom. The foolish bridesmaids were the ones who fell asleep, and let their lamps go out. In parables like this one, Jesus is teaching about his own return, the so-called second coming, and encouraging all of his followers to live in readiness, and in anticipation of the time when the Groom would return to claim his bride, the Church.

This concept of watching and waiting is embodied liturgically in the vigil service. Based on the Jewish tradition that a new day begins at sundown, the first worship services for a Sunday can actually be held Saturday night. There’s something special about an evening service – coming to the close of the day, with the sky darkening to twilight – it can heighten the sense of mystery in worship. And the liturgy that is arguably the most sacred and mystical is the Easter Vigil. This is an ancient tradition in which the first celebration of Easter begins late the night before, on Holy Saturday.

But the Easter Vigil doesn’t start out with celebration. It actually begins in darkness, with a small light, that expands to many candles, including the lighting of a new paschal (Easter) candle, and finally to the brightness of Easter. An Easter Vigil can last three or four hours, beginning in the late evening on Holy Saturday, and ending around midnight. It’s long, in part because there are many Scripture readings, telling the whole story of salvation history, from creation to redemption. By the time the vigil ends, the assembly has moved from the mourning of Jesus in the tomb to the joy of resurrection (Psalm 30:11).

The Easter Vigil also includes baptisms. In the ancient rite, that still continues in some traditions, adults who wish to be baptized and join the church community have been going through a catechism class, in preparation for their initiation into the Christian life. They have been waiting, waiting until Easter, when they are “born again” in the waters of baptism. And with them, the whole congregation renews their baptismal/confirmation commitment to Christ and his Church. So the Easter Vigil is an opportunity for the Church, the bride of Christ, to renew her wedding vows to her Groom. It’s an opportunity for every believer to experience a fresh start, to turn over a new leaf (an image that goes nicely with spring!). In the ancient Church, the concept of conversion was not thought of as a one-time decision, it was seen as an ongoing process, and the yearly tradition of the Easter Vigil was everyone’s chance to be converted again, through the renewal of their baptismal vows and through the recitation of the Church’s historic creeds.

The Easter Vigil symbolizes the time of waiting. On one level, it’s the time between Friday and Sunday – when Jesus was crucified and was in the tomb, and his disciples waited for the resurrection. On another level, it’s the time between his first advent and his second coming – when we wait for his promised return. It symbolizes – and it allows us to experience - that very moment when the Church goes from mourning into joy, from darkness into light.

Whether you celebrate Easter by attending an Easter Vigil, or the traditional Sunrise Service, or the big main service with all the trumpets, don’t let this Easter go by without making a conscious effort to rededicate yourself to Christ and his Church. As you wait for him, he is waiting for you, and he wants to give you a fresh start – no matter what the past year has been like for you.

Jim Papandrea
Associate Professor of Church History, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Photo by Scott Carnes in France

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Apr 18 2014

LifeBrook: Finding Your Inner Gideon (Part One)

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Mick Turner

The Old Testament is filled with stories that both teach divine principles while, at the same time, providing us with encouragement and inspiration. Time and time again as I read through the Old Testament scriptures slowly and with reflection, I come across a passage that gives me pause to pray and often heralds a new insight or epiphany of sorts.

One such passage is found in the sixth chapter of Judges. Here we find Gideon, not a picture of bravery or valor by any stretch. In this passage we meet Gideon as he is at the bottom of a winepress laboring on the threshing floor in an attempt to hide grain from the advancing Midianites. All of a sudden, an angel of the Lord appears and says to Gideon:

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. (Judges 6:12)

Whenever I read this passage, I am reminded of the classic Three Stooges routine where Curly, Larry, and Moe are at some gathering and are standing around when a guy comes up to them and says, “Gentlemen, Gentlemen…” The Stooges look around as if to say, “Who came in?” Certainly he wasn’t talking to them.

I would imagine Gideon felt something like this when the angel shows up as he is busy trying to hide the grain, not to mention himself. “Mighty warrior….Are you talkin’ to me?”

You see, there was nothing in Gideon’s past nor in his own self-image that indicated to anyone, including Gideon, he was in any way, shape, form, or fashion a mighty warrior. Yet God knew what was inside Gideon’s heart, even if Gideon didn’t. The reason God knew this was simple. God put that warrior’s spirit inside Gideon before he was ever born. And now, with Israel’s defeat clear and immanent, it was time for that spirit of the warrior to manifest.

It is the same for you and me. God has placed a potential inside each and every one of us before we ever came to life on earth. That inner spirit may not have manifested itself yet, but be certain of one thing, friend: it is there. God gives each man and woman a purpose, a mission, and a calling in life and he equips us with everything we need to accomplish that mission. Just as Gideon’s life had revealed nothing that would indicate that he could defeat the Midianites, it may be that your life has yet to manifest any indication of your greatness. But rest assured, the greatness in you because God placed it there. Erwin Raphael McManus, pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles, describes this aspect of our identity as children of God:

Of all the things that may change about you when you connect to God, here is one that should fill you with confidence – if you have lived your life running away, this is not who you are any longer. Where once we ran from problems, failures, hardship, danger, and challenges, we are now among those who thrive in the midst of them. You need to know who you are and to which tribe you belong. Others may run in fear, but you are not of those who shrink back. You recognize that the greatness within you can only emerge if you are willing to face your greatest challenges…Maybe you didn’t know that about yourself. Maybe your life history doesn’t reflect this. Maybe all your experience tells you that you are inherently a coward, a failure, and a quitter. But God says, “No, You’ve misunderstood yourself. You’ve misjudged yourself. You’ve underestimated yourself.” If you are in a relationship with the God who created you, no matter who you’ve been or what you’ve done or how many times you’ve messed up or failed or quit, you are no longer that person, no longer a part of the tribe that shrinks back.

To be continued. . . . .

(c) L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

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Apr 18 2014

Allan R. Bevere: Were You There…

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...When They Crucified my Lord?

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Apr 18 2014

John Meunier: Paul on Easter

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Some words from Paul on the significance of the resurrection.

Romans 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart fro the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David and was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:3-5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 6:8-10

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Romans 8:34

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that , who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Romans 10:9

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:20-21

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Ephesians 2:4-6

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep.


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