Yes, Love Your Enemies

Yes, Love Your Enemies

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It is an important day in the Christian calendar. We studied it, this week, in our Bible Study, but for everyone we’ll give you a brief introduction into what this day is about.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe what took place on either Mount Tabor (near the Jezreel Valley) or Mount Hermon (in the Golan Heights). The event is where Jesus’ appearance was magnified before Peter, James, and John and they were able to see the fullness of his divinity. It comes after Peter confessed Jesus as the long-expected Christ, Savior, near Caesarea Philippi and serves as a pivot point in the gospels. From this point forward, Jesus is solely focused on the cross and resurrection that will take place in Jerusalem.

Before they leave the mountaintop, though, there is a voice that comes from a cloud. It is the voice of the Father. In a scene like what took place at Jesus’ baptism, but this time for all to hear, the Father identifies Jesus as God’s son. The voice also says, “listen to him.”

To listen is a command of obedience. To listen is to do more than just be quiet and hear what someone is saying. To listen means to hear what is being shared and apply it into your life. To listen to Jesus means to not just hear what he says, but to put into practice his very teaching.

We might understand that, but there is no place where we have more trouble listening to Jesus than what Christ teaches in Matthew 5:43-48. Once again on the shores of Galilee, Jesus speaks to the disciples and gathered crowd. He calls those who would follow him to do something that is, both then and now, challenging. He calls those who would follow him – seek to walk with the Lord – to love their enemies. Continue reading “Yes, Love Your Enemies”

Why So Angry?

Why So Angry?

Have you been paying attention? There has been a common theme, these last few weeks, of raising the stakes and expectations upon what it means to be a follower of Christ. It began as we joined the disciples and crowds who gathered along the shores of Galilee to hear these teaching statements when they were first delivered. We gather, today, to reflect upon what it means to live for Christ.

Throughout this study of Matthew 5, we’ve talked about some difficult and challenging passages and how they apply to our lives. If you remember, we said Jesus gathered this group together to express what the kingdom of God was all about. This was after people were curious about Jesus after he began preaching and healing throughout Capernaum and Galilee. As the crowds gathered around him, Jesus wasn’t interested in creating a popular movement that gave people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t there to please the people.

He came to raise the expectations by expressing what it means to follow God and live out our faith. Jesus does not desire disciples who merely just show up or claim a faith in God but never put it into practice. He is interested in disciples – followers of Christ – who seek to become less of their own self and more like Christ every day. Continue reading “Why So Angry?”

Importance of Communion at Christmas

Importance of Communion at Christmas

One of my favorite communion moments came last year.

I was blessing the elements in a barn as the sky was slowly turning towards its dusky hues. There was a large gathering of people, larger than some had expected, and we were sitting on bales of hay and folding chairs, bundled in our warmest jackets. We had sung songs, lit candles, and celebrated how Jesus came to bring hope into the world.

It was Christmas Eve, and it was beautiful and holy.

Throughout my ministry, nothing has given me more joy as a pastor than to lead the congregation in the celebration of communion on Christmas Eve. It is a holy and sacred meal that connects us to the full ministry and life of Christ, and how we are to be transformed by his life at work in us. Is it appropriate, however, for Christmas Eve worship?

That is a conversation that is a relevant question for many in the church pews A lot of this deals with both the practical side of communion, as well as the lack of theological understanding of why communion is important in discipleship. While we read passages where regular celebration of communion is important to faith (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), we are still comfortable with an infrequent and, at times, haphazard celebration of this sacrament due to historical practices.

In the past, I’ve written on the importance of communion and how we should take it more frequently than we do. While I won’t repeat a lot of those arguments here, what this essay will focus on is the importance of communion on Christmas Eve. Continue reading “Importance of Communion at Christmas”

The Nativity: Angels

The Nativity: Angels

December is a season full of busyness. There is a lot going on, both at the church and in our lives, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. It can be a stressful season even though we are seeking to announce a time of joy and hope. Maybe you’re like me and, as a result, you look for ways to bring a little laughter and fun into the month.

For the last few years, bringing in an element of laughter and fun during December has meant debating people on what constitutes a true Christmas movie. You may not know this, but people are really attached to their ideas of what counts as a Christmas movie and are willing to debate you nonstop on the topic. I’ve taken joy in putting up mock debates, especially on social media, about how I do not believe “Elf” is that funny or that “Die Hard” cannot count as a Christmas film. That last one really gets people going. Just because something takes place around Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. I’m sorry, John McClane.

I love these discussions, because I always laugh at where the conversation goes and the lengths people will undertake in order to convince me that Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.

If you’re wondering, it is not Christmas in my family until I have seen Clark Griswald have a major meltdown after receiving a 12-month subscription to the “jelly of the month” club. Nor is it Christmas until I’ve watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” True story: I’m the only person in our family who loves the movie. I cannot help its story of George Bailey as the down-on-his-luck family man who believes there is nothing for him in the world. That is until he encounters a unique individual by the name of Clarence. Continue reading “The Nativity: Angels”