Jesus is the entryway to the life of faith!
2008-04-11 by Fred Rose

I want to say something about Jesus being the entryway to the life of faith. I have read several sermons and comments here that seem to move away from the idea that Jesus, our faith in Jesus, our coming to know him enough to trust him...this Jesus is the gate for the life of faith. Out of concern for being exclusive, out of conern for saying something original and fresh, we can miss the point entirely that Jesus is our entry point for the life God has for all of us. I am grateful for the faith in Jesus Christ God has given the church. Without that faith, years ago I would still be affirming only, "God is love and all that matters is that we love." Not a bad creed, but incomplete in my opinion. Years ago, I had a wise friend who was a Christian. He showed me John 1:11f, "He came to what was his own and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." He explained how Jesus was this gate, how Jesus was the door to a new life of trusting God and serving humanity through the church.

John 10:10 became a great promise for me about life. It is a promise that has always countered the so-called American Dream...whatever that is. It is a promise about the life Jesus is providing all who receive him and believe in his name. My friend could have simply affirmed my belief. Instead, he ecnouraged me to discover Jesus as the gate to life, life more abundant.

Isn't abundant life, the life God gives us in the community of faith. An imperfect community, yes. Nevertheless, the church is a community of forgiveness. On its best days, it is and it strives to be a community of grace and reconciliation. This striving with God's help enables us to mature as a community of hospitality and ministry. Jesus is the gate for this vision, this understanding. Affirming Jesus as Lord and Savior is more than a cliche, isn't it? It is a seminal experience of life that enables us to grow to maturity as we are being saved. We are God's children who are being rescued from our sin, ourselves, our world so we may love one another, love ourselves, love God and love our neighbor in ways that reflect the life Jesus lived. Jesus is the entryway to this life. If we did not have this Jesus, if we did not have this conviction about him, we remain outside God's dream for us. To have faith in Jesus is to be connected to these words, to this gospel and to the life described here. If we never encourage people to trust this Jesus, to receive him and believe in his name, we are simply preaching words aimed at impressing people with how well we think and speak. If we can encourage people to trust Jesus as the gate, then we help build a church where all things are possible with God. I don't know that anyone has said this. At the risk of seeming less than exciting and new, I want to say this here.





Slow to Believe
2008-04-11 by CJ Teets

I am slow to believe it, but Rick Brand has a sermon in Sermon Feedback Cafe on all four lectionary texts. Will his congregation suffer from textual overload? Go to Homepage and Share It!...and give him some feedback on his sermon. David von Schlichten will probably be sharing his sermon with us soon (as he often does). Thanks to both of you!



Jesus and Buddha
2008-04-09 by Tom Steagald

I wish I could remember exactly a very poignant text in Buechner's Now and Then. He writes of his own affinity for Buddhism and of  his teaching a course in same at Exeter, and the day the class came to a moment where they compared Gautama with Jesus... regarding the former he says something like this: Buddha sits under the Bo tree, his eyes closed, his lips slightly parted in the slightest of grins. His expression is of one who has passed beyond the world's ability to hurt him. 'He who has fifty loves has fifty woes,' he has said, 'he who has ten loves has ten woes, he who has no loves has no woes.'

And then Buechner describes Jesus, in the Garden and on the cross, his eyes wide open with the suffering and anguish of loving the entire world even to death. 

For Christians love means suffering, in one form or other, to one degree or another (and that is only one of the reasons why prosperity theology is so wrong-headed and idolatrous). It could well be that suffering for love of another, or for love many others, marks not only our furthest distance from some belief tradtions but also our our deepest point of contact with the suffering love of Christ.





Spiritually Salubrious Suffering
2008-04-09 by David von Schlichten

Fred,

I don't think you're off base at all. We can definitely think and preach about healthy suffering. In fact, I may go that direction for this Sunday. I'm going to bring the idea up to my Bible study this morning and see what happens.

Listening for the Spirit, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





A Healthy Kind of Suffering!?
2008-04-08 by Fred Rose

1 Peter 2: 19f

I am moved by the energy that appears in this 1 Peter message to "slaves." The healing power of Jesus not only gets some ink; these words in 1 Peter have some power we should not ignor so quickly. It is in the restatement of the idea: v. 22, he commited no sin, no deceit was found in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9); v. 23, he did not return abuse; he did not threaten; he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly; v. 24, he...bore our sins in his body on the cross. Certainly, there is some kind of theology of suffering here for the messiah. The messiah suffers in a way we do not. However, verse 21 says we (slaves?) have been called to this. Christ leaves us (slaves?) an example "so that you should follow in his steps."

Before we dismiss these ideas about suffering for slaves, I have a question or two. Isn't there a message here for people who are "bound" by jobs or family to suffer out of love for someone(s)? I suppose many think suffering is passe. Therapeutically, we take care of ourselves, right? But anyone who suffers needs a network of friends akin to Acts 2 to survive. Don't we all need real friends who help us bring to speech our struggles and difficulties? What about the wife who stays with her alcoholic husband? What about the woman working two jobs for the teenagers she raises by herself? What about the parents who stay together for the children? What about the children caring for parents who are in nursing care facilities? We all know people who "suffer" like this.

Can this call to take Jesus as an example offer some kind of encouragement? Maybe this stuff is not particularly "preachable." It feels heavy. Problems abound with this material. We can take suffering so to heart, we become martyrs and we wear our martyrdom as a badge of courage. Is it possible to think of a healthy kind of suffering? Is it possible to see this passage as a way to encourage our church to be like the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep? I don't know. Am I off-base here?





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