Archives: 7 Easter

92% Foolishness and 8% Wisdom

Okay, folks, we’ve got some tough scriptures this week, so we’re going to have to go deep into a symbolic interpretation to find some application for our spiritual lives.

At least, that’s the way I feel. You may count Acts 1 and John 17 among your favorite scriptures in the Bible, in which case, please share with me what you take away from them.

Because for me, Jesus in John 17 is borderline incomprehensible, and I, much to my shame, feel myself glaze over about halfway through this passage.

And verses 6-14 of Acts 1 just strike me as this blend of the awkward and the supernatural, and I’m just really not sure what I’m supposed to take away from it.

But never let it be said that we shy from mining our scriptures to their depths, so let’s dig in.

Honestly, maybe it’s a blessing that we’re confused by this scene in Acts of Jesus ascending to heaven, because I think that actually really puts us right in the shoes of the disciples.

Think about how they must be feeling at this moment.

Jesus, in an earth shatteringly unexpected turn of events, arose from the dead forty days ago.

Six weeks is in no way long enough to adjust to reality breaking apart like that, and they’re probably still stumbling around in a daze.

Maybe they’ve just really started to accept that Jesus is back, that their beloved friend who died a torturous death is alive and with them again.

The guilt and pain and panic that consumed them on Good Friday have finally started to ebb away.

They’re tentatively starting to rely on having him with them again, alive and breathing, his heart beating and his eyes shining with gentle love.

Now, seemingly out of the blue, they see him lifted on a cloud to heaven.

Why is he leaving them? He just returned! How could he do this to them?

How could he do this to us? Continue reading

Singing from Prison for the Earthquake of God

Today we are going to talk about one of the most important characteristics of the gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, above all other things, is liberation.

We see this dynamic all over our story from Acts.

We read that Paul and Silas, as they minister in Philippi, attract a hanger-on.

She is an enslaved woman, and she is said to have a spirit of divination.

We don’t really know what that means or how we would think of that in modern terms, but the author makes clear what the practical result was: “She brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling.”

This woman was being doubly exploited.

First, she was held in slavery, and second, she was used to make money by manipulating what was either a genuine spiritual gift of her own, or the gullibility and spiritual hunger of anyone her owners could attract.

She had no freedom or self-determination, and she was being used as a circus side-show act.

But she could sense the true spiritual power of Paul and Silas, and she pursued it.

“She would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days,” we read, and then Luke tells us that Paul was “very much annoyed.”

Why was he annoyed?

Well, I think anyone following you around shouting out the same sentence for days at a time might get a bit annoying after a while.

It’s also possible that Paul was irritated that someone was stealing his dramatic thunder in the public square.  Never one to shy from the limelight, Paul loved being a showstopper for Christ, and this woman was rather upstaging him.

But I wonder if there’s another explanation for his annoyance. Continue reading

Gambling and Math: Methodology of the Holy Spirit

Well, folks, we’ve got some real crazy going on in our lesson from Acts today.

Ascension Day was on Thursday, and Jesus has left.

Now what are we supposed to do?

And Pentecost is some days off both for us and the original disciples. The Holy Spirit, called the Comforter, has not arrived yet and we find ourselves rather at a loss as to what to do next.

Luckily, Peter has an idea.

Peter always has an idea, and he always wants to share it. Whether it is building booths on the mountainside for Jesus, Elijah and Moses or jumping out of a boat in a storm to walk on water to test if Jesus is a ghost, Peter is nothing if not a man of action.

So Peter says that the next step for us to take is to find a replacement for Judas.

Jesus wanted twelve apostles, and so, by God, we’re going to have twelve apostles.

Who has been with us since day one? Who has been here since we first saw John the Baptist baptizing in the River Jordan?

Everyone looks around the room and two names come up: Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.

I see two very different men when I picture these two in my head. Continue reading

Cast All Your Anxiety on the Fire Marshal

It is a rare and disorienting event indeed to experience scripture and the government communicating the same thing to me.

Believe it or not, that’s what happened this week.

The Shelbyville Fire Department stopped by to make their annual inspection of St. Luke’s, and 1 Peter 4 and 5 came up in our lectionary.

“An inspection of your facility revealed the violations below,” the fire marshal’s report says. “An approved fire safety and evacuation plan shall be prepared and maintained. Fire protection systems required by this code shall be installed, repaired, operated, tested and maintained. Failure to comply with this notice may result in penalties provided for by law for such violations.”

“Discipline yourselves, keep alert,” says 1 Peter. “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you.”

I guess 1 Peter and the fire department want the same thing from us: not to be surprised by the fiery ordeal, be it literal or spiritual.

And so that got me thinking.. Continue reading