Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The Gospel of Mark can be divided into 2 main parts. Chapters 1-8:27 focus on answering the question, "Who is this Jesus? and covers most of the ministry years. From 8:27 to the end, Mark focuses on "what is the mission of Jesus?" and from chapter 11 on you are in Holy Week.

These two segments frame how I read each section.
Mark 1:1-11 Preparation
God sends a messenger to prepare the way of the Lord. John the Baptist appears on the scene proclaiming a baptism of repentance. Repentance.....I have heard it taught that repentance is not just feeling sorry for sins but turning from your sins. I have heard people say one must repent to be saved.
But what is repentance in Mark 1?
This is preached to Israel, the chosen people, the people of the Covenant. They knew the story of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah. The prophets had come to them. They are the ones being called to baptism and a new start. They are the ones being called to prepare through repentance.
Maybe because God is about to do something that has not happened before. The miraculous interventions of God in Israel's history were many times military victories, deliverance from their enemies. The people were looking for one who would free them from Roman occupation. But this time God was rescuing all who have been exiled from Eden. And this rescue was not from tyrants like Caesar, or empires like Rome. This rescue was from sin and death. God was about to invade human space through Jesus Christ. This is something new. And its time. Time to prepare. Time to change course. Time to join the Kingdom of God.

Friday, January 13, 2012

An open letter to Newt Gingrich

Dear Mr. Gingrich,
In Iowa you said you wanted to run a positive campaign and you did. You also challenged your fellow candidates to run positive campaigns, you could not control them but you challenged them. And when that didn't work and you won 4th place, you said unilateral disarmament only works when all parties participate and promised political Armageddon in South Carolina.
You are also courting the Evangelical vote, pointing to your faith and how you are a true conservative. But I have an issue. It is not just enough to be on the "right" side of the two political topics for the stereotypical evangelical for all us Christians. For me your change in position on a positive campaign says a lot. And as a fellow believer, I feel I need to point a couple things out.

1. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This teaching of Christ, actually none of Christ's teachings have fine print stating "void in the following circumstances." Christ's teachings do not apply only when people are reciprocating your good will, your love or your positive stand. It is not promised that if we do unto others as we would want them to do unto us they will change to be like us. If you want to run a campaign against opponents who talk only issues, that is how you should live no matter what--not because it will make your opponents act that way but because it will put on display the Kingdom of God to be compared to the way the broken world works.

2. You are completely right that you probably could not win the election if you stayed positive while everyone else went negative. Now the issue is not whether being positive or negative is Christian. The issue is your letting your yes be yes, and your no be no--keeping your promise in all circumstances. When we live out our standards as Christians, we are not promised the world will applaud, elect us or shower us with power and praise. In fact, Jesus said the world hated him so we are to expect the world will hate us. No, living by the teachings of Christ will not win American elections. But I am not sure that is the goal of Christianity. Our goal is to contrast the brokenness of this world by living out the healing of the Kingdom. We are to love God and love neighbor more than power and influence.

I believe you had an opportunity--an opportunity to show the American public that integrity is its own reward. You could have shown us that the Kingdom of God--living out the standards we believe we were called to is greater than the presidency. You could have reflected the Kingdom. While this broken world and other politicians will sell their standards when their power is threatened, the Kingdom of God will not sell its values when the going gets rough.

I understand that if you can't be elected as the President you will miss out on the powerful influence of that office. One can imagine the potential. But I do not find in Scripture where we are to sacrifice all to gain power and influence. We are to sacrifice all to spread God's love. And so even in the little things, we are to live out the Kingdom--keep our promises and standards. Live by the Golden Rule.

I am not saying this makes you unelectable in my book. I am not against you. I just think the Kingdom is greater than our kingdom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
And so Mark begins---not with a genealogy or the birth narrative---but just jumping right in with John the Baptist and Jesus' baptism.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.....there is a dynamic aspect to this statement.  Mark is simply the beginning of the good news......there is more to come. Am I being invited to join in the good news.....to continue the story of Jesus Christ?

Good news, crying, proclaiming, message---are all used in some manner throughout the first chapter. Jesus himself says in verse 38 he has to go on to the neighboring villages to proclaim the message there. What is this good news? Jesus doesn't start talking about his death and resurrection until after chapter 8. Is the Good News more than the death and resurrection of Jesus? Does it include the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ? And Mark doesn't have the long passages of Jesus' teachings that Matthew and Luke include. What is this good news? It seems we need to find the message in the person of Jesus and what he is doing in the Gospel of Mark.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Gospel according to

I have heard Christians and others say, "we need to take back America." I find that odd since we do not have any evidence that non Americans voted in the last presidential election. But I digress. I personally think we might do better if we took back the Gospel--back from what we have created it to be. Somewhere along the line it seems we have created the Gospel in the image of our culture. We need to rediscover the Gospel.
And so, I am going to begin to look at the Gospel. First through the eyes of Mark--shortest of the Gospels and also, the lectionary is focusing on Mark this year.

At first glance, in a quick read through, Mark portrays a Jesus who has drunk one too many energy drinks. The various translations seem to use the terms "suddenly" and "immediately" over and over again. Jesus is always on the move. There is no catching your breath.  Some argue the roughness of this Gospel may indicate this being the first Gospel written, despite tradition saying Matthew was the first written.

But I wonder if it doesn't give us a glimpse into how the disciples felt. The Gospel of John may give us the glimpse into the close relationship between Jesus and the disciples. But I can't help but think Mark captures what it was like to follow Jesus. Listening to Jesus teach with authority, I would want to sit back and ponder his words or maybe discuss it amongst my friends. But the disciples don't seem to have that luxury. Jesus is off and casting out an unclean spirit. I would like to stop and take that in, process what I have just witnessed. But there's no time, Jesus is healing someone. I get the picture from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where Aslan is in the witch's castle freeing all the Narnians from their stone prisons. Lucy and Susan cannot keep up as Aslan is bring these creatures back to life. The disciples cannot keep up with Jesus as he spreads the Good News--God is rescuing Creation, bringing us back to life.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Please don't call me an evangelical

Please don't.
Oh, I still believe. I believe God has come into our brokenness, walked among us in the person of Jesus Christ, and through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we are offered new life. God heals our brokenness and invites us to join the work of salvation in this world. I believe I am called to share that Good News with all of Creation. And so you might want to call me evangelical--which comes from the Greek word which means Good News. 
But don't call me Evangelical. The other day as the news organizations reported the results of the Iowa Caucus, they used the term Evangelical in the same manner they use the terms Democrat or Republican. One person even went as far as to create the term Teavangelical--the marriage of the Tea Party and Evangelicalism. Evangelical has become a political party.
Now the term Evangelical has been hard to define in the past century. There are those who would tie Fundamentalism to Evangelical. But one could be Evangelical without being a fundamentalist. Being evangelical at one time simply meant that you believed in sharing the Good News (probably an over simplistic view of the term) but denominations and theologies have attempted to lay claim to the term. They all wish to be known as the ones who care for the lost and bring the Good News.
But now the term has been hijacked by politics. Somehow Evangelical means being against abortion and homosexuality, being for small government, and voting conservatively. But no where in Scripture do I see the Good News being described as those things. I don't see Evangelical being described as large government, and regulations on businesses either.
It seems we have traded the Good News that God has come to dwell with humanity again, bringing healing and love, peace and hope to our brokenness for the American Dream. We have chosen to bring the Kingdom through political parties, when it came in a Savior who gave up his own rights and loved us with his life. Instead of following in the Savior's footsteps, having the same mind as Christ did and being like Christ, we have followed politics, the American Dream, and a list of things to believe and stand for and attempted to vote the Kingdom into existence. 
America's dreams and news, as good as they are, are not good enough. And so if being an Evangelical means bringing the good news of America, I must ask you to not call me evangelical. The Good News of Christ is so much bigger and better. And it doesn't come through a political party or through violence. It doesn't come through a list of rights or the constitution. The Good News comes when we the people of God allow the Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ. The Good News is God has come, walked among us, and made a way for us to be whole again. That is the news I choose to proclaim!