Kingdom, Lent, and Blessing

The Kingdom that begins with Lent also begins with blessing.  There is the call to turn—repent!—which is Lent.  There then comes a pronouncement: “Blessed!”  Consider how stunning this is. When Jesus begins to teach about the Kingdom of God, the first word is “Blessed!”  This is not what we expected, not from God almighty in the season of Lent.  We think it’s the time for sober and brutal assessment; time for acknowledging our failures; time to confess we are moral losers, spiritual losers, and relational losers.  Gather it all up and summarize our human condition as failed. Our natural default, sometimes even after long association with Jesus and his friends, leads us to expect that a perquisite of entering and …

The Kingdom that Begins with Lent

What kind of a kingdom begins with Lent?  Well, a good and godly one.  In fact, the gospel story begins with Jesus announcing the presence of God’s kingdom, and then proposing our proper response in “Lenten terms.”  “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced.  “The kingdom of God is near!  Repent of your sins and believe the Good News “(Mark 1:15, NLT). At least at the beginning, all who enter or participate in the kingdom Jesus announces will do so in Lenten terms. Most of my church friends will agree that this makes sense.  All have sinned … .  So, yes, repent of your sins if you want anything to do with the kingdom of the …

OLYMPIC IMAGININGS

This evening I plan to join a billion others in watching the opening ceremonies of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games.   I am confident that my billion plus friends and I will be treated to stunning sights, sounds, and sentiments. Together we will be like a crowd no one could number easily or ever, joining those who were physically encircling the center of the arena.  We will join people from most every nation, tribe, people and language (if not literally at least representatively and vicariously).  Participants donning colorful and culturally symbolic clothing, gloriously reflecting the diversity within the human family, in celebration of common commitment and achievement.  Common though incredibly extraordinary as well.  Where else and when else are …

ON HAITI AND AFRICA

As last week wound down, and then over the weekend, we all heard reports of disparaging remarks about the nation of Haiti and certain unnamed African countries.  These reports have sparked many different kinds of responses from people of different faiths and no faith, different political leanings, and different tones. The Free Methodist Church commits to viewing the world and its peoples through eyes and hearts shaped by the person and mission of Jesus, and seeks to interact in the world along paths forged by Jesus in his own ministry.  Therefore, generalized characterizations of people and nations, by their very nature, cannot help but misrepresent and disrespect the people of those nations.  As a matter of fact, it is because …

I DON’T SEE JESUS!

“But I don’t see Jesus!” That is what little Ari, our granddaughter, said at bed time when we asked her whether she wanted to pray.  She hesitated or declined to say the prayers because she couldn’t “see” Jesus.  She had spent Christmas Day with us, along with siblings and parents, and then had stayed over that night.  After a long day of playing, eating, laughing, receiving gifts, playing some more, watching special Christmas programs on TV, it was time for bed.  But she didn’t want to pray to a Jesus she couldn’t see. A part of me wanted to shift into analytic, apologetic mode and respond to the question of how to interact with the Divine who is invisible.   Another …