Walking With Henri Nouwen To Easter “Spiritual Direction: “Movement From Absurdity to Obedience” (Part I of II) 

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A number of themed compilations of Henri Nouwen’s work have been published. One of these, In My Own Words, was compiled by Nouwen’s long-time friend, Robert Durback. (Durback wrote a forward to one edition of Beyond The Mirror, a book we looked at just a couple of weeks ago.) In the section of the book we’re quoting, below, Durback relies heavily on Nouwen’s work Spiritual Direction. Both these books are available from Amazon, and very likely on the shelves of your local used bookstore, too.

IMG_0715 - Version 2Today’s devotional is the first part of a two part series. While Nouwen talks of “an absurd life” today, on Friday–Good Friday–we’ll read about its alternative, an “obedient life.” Good Friday reminds us of many things; Jesus’ own obedience to his calling and mission in the world is just one of these. Ironically, of course, Jesus’ death as a necessary and obedient thing has always struck people as itself “absurd.” But more about that in a few days…

Here, for now:

The spiritual life is a life in which we struggle to move from absurd living to obedient living. The word absurd includes the word surdus which means “deaf.” Absurd living is a way of life in which we remain deaf to the voice which speaks to us in our silence. The many activities in which we are involved, the many concerns which keep us preoccupied and the many sounds which surround us, make it very hard for us to hear the small voice through which God makes God’s presence known (see 1 Kgs 19;12). It seems that the world in which we live conspires against our hearing that voice and tries to make us absolutely deaf. It is therefore is not surprising that we often wonder, in the midst of our very occupied and preoccupied lives, if anything is truly happening. Our lives might be filled with many events–so many events even that we often wonder how we can get it all done–but at the same time we might feel very unfulfilled, and wonder if anything is happening which is worth living for. Being filled yet unfulfilled, being busy yet bored, being involved yet lonely, these are symptoms of the absurd life, the life in which we are no longer hearing the voice of the One who created us and who keeps calling us to a new life in God. This absurd life is extremely painful, because it makes us feel as if we are living in exile, cut off from the vital source of our existence. (In My Own Words, p.89)

There’s little I could add to Nouwen’s “own words,” here. What is your response to this? I find myself led to prayer, asking, as I mull this over, “Lord…how deaf am I to you? And why?” And do I want to know the answers to these questions…?

A God, A Rulebook, or Trustworthy Testimony

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Bible open to John 5 (c)Robert C Trube

Bible open to John 5 (c)Robert C Trube

What am I talking about? The Bible, the Christian scriptures.

Some people treat the Bible as if it was the fourth member of the Godhead. Sometimes, it seems we are more zealous to defend a notion of what the Bible is than we are for God’s glory, God’s reputation in the world.

I think many view the Bible as a book of rules. Do these things and you will go to heaven. Don’t do these things and God will get you. Let the people into our community who keep the rules. Exclude the ones who don’t. Study hard so you know the rules. If you are creative, figure out ways to extend the rules to every situation, even ones never envisioned by the rules. Exclude those who don’t agree with your creative interpretations. Congratulate yourself on your diligence in study and rule-keeping. You are one of God’s star pupils.

Of course, that is only good if you are good at study and rule-keeping and many of us are honest enough to admit that we are not. So, should we just pack it in since we are in a mess with God anyway? I think that is how a number of people feel.

This Sunday, our church looked at John 5:19-46 together. Verses 39 and 40 suggest a very different reason for the scriptures:

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,  yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Jesus is proposing that the Bible is neither God nor a rule book but rather testimony about himself that can be trusted. The central idea of the Bible is to help people find life through trusting and following Jesus. The Pharisees, who were great at battling for the Bible and devising ingenious rule-keeping strategies were missing the point. In fact they were so caught up in these things that they were refusing something better, real life, being connected to the God who made them through his Son who had come to them.

But, you say, there really are a lot of rules in the Bible. It sure looks like a rule book in places. What’s that all about? There are two ways to answer this. One is that the rules really reflect what God is like and what we need to be like to live with Him. They tell us we need God to do something both to wipe the slate clean from all the ways we break the rules, and to deal with our propensity to do the opposite of what God wants for us. That something is Jesus and the life he gives means both forgiveness for what we’ve done and the power to increasingly live differently.

The second answer is that the instructions and commands we find, especially those given by Jesus and in the New Testament are not rules but tell us how we might most faithfully and joyfully enter into the life Jesus has for us. They teach us how to love God and each other and to experience wholeness in our own selves.

Bob Trube2There’s a good deal more that can be said about all this so if you have questions, leave them in the comments and let’s talk!

The real deal that I want to come back to is that the most important thing to look for when reading the Bible is how it points us toward Jesus. Earlier in the passage we see this is the Jesus who claims equality with the Father and to have been entrusted with the Father’s authority both to give life and to judge (verses 19-27). If that’s true, then there is no one more important to know!

So, if you are spiritually seeking, then it seems one of the most important questions you can ask as you read the Bible is, how does this testify to Jesus and what is this telling me about him? In some sense, all of the Bible does this, but I would suggest for newbie Bible readers that the gospels do this most clearly.

And for those who are Christ-followers, how are we viewing the Bible? Have we gotten caught up in some form of Bible wars? Are we congratulating ourselves on how well we keep the rules, or how much we know about the Bible? Or are we not paying much attention at all to what it says, depending on sermons to do that for us? What John says is that this book tells us who Jesus is and how we can find abundant life as we get to know and follow him better and better.

Going Deeper Question: How do you think about the Bible, and how are you interacting with it?

______ and Believe

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Bob Trube2Are you curious about the missing word in this title? It is a word we often associate with “turn or burn” street preachers. It’s not a word we tend to use in “polite company” (whatever that is!). It is the word, along with “believe” that distinguished the tax collectors and the prostitutes from the religious elite that our pastor talked about in a message on the parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21:28-32. It is the word “repent.

The tax collectors and prostitutes are likened by Jesus to a son who refuses to work in his father’s vineyard but then changes his mind and goes to work. The religious elite are compared to a son who says he will go and work in the vineyard but never shows up. I can personally imagine the religious elite railing on Jesus saying, “Look at all we do. We lead worship, we teach the people, we work hard in maintaining the building whereas all these people did was change their minds and believed in you after living really seedy lives. And you have the nerve to compare us to disobedient sons!”

I can sympathize with these guys because I don’t often think about how hard it is to admit that I’m on the wrong path and change my mind and embrace a different way of life, or even a different way of thinking. That’s what both John the Baptist and Jesus were saying to both the “sinners” and the “religious elite.” That’s what it means to repent. It means doing a 180 degree turn in my thinking and actions. This was brought home to me recently when I read a post on “Books that changed my mind.” I had to honestly admit that I couldn’t think of a book that “changed” my mind, although I can think of books that have influenced my thinking and that I’ve deeply appreciated. For that matter, how many of us have changed our minds about our politics, or even what our favorite pizza is?

I can imagine these religious elite folks hearing John the Baptist or even Jesus and going through the motions of repenting and believing and calling up the appropriate religious emotions. After all, “repent and believe” was a part of the religious lingo they’ve learned from Moses and the prophets. But they refused to hear and believe the invitation in “repent and believe” that urged them to give up their elaborate religious system to welcome their King and come to his parties (actually, they did sometimes but mostly to find fault).

If change is so hard, I wonder then why the tax collectors and prostitutes were so willing to change and to believe the invitation to enter the kingdom? I can’t help but wonder if part of this is that they know their lives aren’t OK and perhaps long ago had given up hope that they’d be included in any plan of God other than their destruction–and then along comes this astounding figure of Jesus (and John before him) who said that being part of God’s kingdom was for them if they’d stop doing life their way and trust in Jesus’s way of doing life.

One of the things we say about those who get older is that they become “set in their ways.” Guilty as charged! There are patterns of life, of speaking, of thinking, and yes, patterns of self-seeking, and sin that are part of how I do life. Yet the truth of the matter is that I have the temerity to serve in a Christian ministry, even in a leadership role in that ministry! I desperately need the word of “repent and believe” or I can easily start thinking that my religious performance, my years of service, my degrees and recognitions, or even the size of my library (!) are what make me special. I can be that religious elite!

Repentance and belief do not mean the radical transformation of all these patterns overnight or even by the end of a life. Rich helpfully observed that the tax collectors and prostitutes who repented may not have been able to leave their work, particularly the prostitutes who might be enslaved to a pimp. The tax collectors had obligations to Rome. A change of mind may not always mean a change of situation and it may be that the first changes Jesus wants to work in us may have nothing to do with the things we think need changing! It may mean that I become more gracious toward the failings of others having faced the failings in my own life!

Am I tolerating or excusing sin by saying this? I could be, but repentance is to embrace the obedience that trustingly follows Jesus and mourns my sin. And belief is daring to trust in an acceptance into God’s kingdom that rests not on religious performance or “sin management’. How repentance changes things is that I stop pretending to be better than I am and admit that I am probably worse off than I think, and yet for all that radically loved and accepted by God because of Jesus.

I guess if I had to choose a way to be “set” in as I get older, it is the way of repentance and belief! How about you?

 

When Shrewd is Good

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To be called “shrewd” is often a back-handed compliment. Images of used car dealers in plaid jackets or oily snake oil salesmen run through my mind. One definition I came across said “given to wily and artful ways or dealing.” One often gets the idea that shrewdness involves something a bit shady, but clever.

Bob Trube2This past Sunday, Rich preached on the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-15. He finds out that he’s going to lose his job because he wasted the master’s possessions. So, to have some place to go after he gets fired, he calls the master’s debtors in and reduces their debts from 20 to 50 percent. When the master finds out, he commends him as a shrewd operator. Jesus in turn says worldly guys like this are shrewder than the people of light when it comes to using money (verse 8).

So is Jesus saying its OK to cut corners to make a little extra? No, the point is that this guy in his own way used money to make friends. Rich talked about the idea that for Christians, are we as good at faithfully using money for the blessing of others as the shrewd manager was in using money to make friends. The truth is we can only use money to serve God or be mastered by money where it becomes our god (verse 13).

So often, we avoid talking about money in church because such talk is either a prelude to a guilt trip or to an appeal to put more in the offering plate. In the midst of all that, it seems we miss the incredible opportunity for joy in the use of whatever money we have.

Rich talked about the creative people who figure out not only how to pay their bills but delight in finding ways to use their money to care for others. What is interesting to me is that these are the happiest people I know. They don’t always have a pile of money. But they love having an extra person at the table, or surprising someone with a gift they really need. They always seem to have enough to give. This is when shrewd is good.

I’ve known some people who have real gifts, or just plain opportunity to make a pile of money. They are entrepreneurs. One of the coolest things I’ve seen are some people I’ve known like this who get really excited by figuring out ways to use this money, or even multiply this money through the investment of others in advancing the kingdom of Jesus. This is when shrewd is good.

One friend has created a business with the help of investors that employs ex-prisoners in janitorial jobs in office buildings, giving them skills, a work record, and, if they are receptive, the gospel. Others have invested in micro-lending that enables people to expand businesses, and is a key to helping women escape the threats of violence and trafficking. Another believing friend uses investment skills and Christian principles to help wealthy clients develop family “mission statements” about the use of their wealth and plans for how wealth will be intelligently passed along from one generation to the next without spoiling the children rotten. This is when shrewd is good.

Rich asked us several questions at the end including the challenge to ask someone else to tell us, “how concerned with money do you think I am?” One that I might add is “how do you think about money?” Are you thinking about how much of it you have and how you can get more, or are you thinking about ways that you can use what you have so that someone else can experience the goodness of God’s kingdom? I’m not sure we can get away from thinking about money in this life. It seems to me that the real question is whether we are thinking of money as on trust to us from God and looking for ways to use it for the good of people and the glory of God. This is when shrewd is good.

 

Cutting Room Floor: Food & How To Eat It

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Editor’s Note: Sorry for the couple of week hiatus. Got a pretty nasty cold at the beginning of October and it’s been a bit hectic getting things back on track. We’ll have a new post from Bob Trube tomorrow, and for today we have a Cutting Room Floor entry from last week’s sermon. ~BRT

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Based on Matthew 15:1-20

IMG_0715 - Version 2Many of these rules applied to food and how to eat it. This makes sense, of course. What we eat or don’t eat, and why and how send incredibly strong messages to those around us about what we believe about the world.

If you don’t eat like someone, you end up being perceived differently from them. And if you don’t eat what they eat, and can’t prepare the table the way they prepare the table, then you can’t eat with them at all. Separateness is maintained.

Over and over in the New Testament, the Pharisees come after Jesus for breaking those separateness boundaries, for going into unclean situations. What they don’t realize, of course, is that Jesus has reversed the flow of clean and unclean things. Wherever he goes things unclean are made clean; he’s not sullied.

Does all this make sense? There’s a world out there, and it’s going to make it so that you can’t do God’s work, you’ll be “unclean” in a religious sense. And only time and ceremony can get you back to clean; but Jesus, who has the Holy Spirit, carries cleanliness with him.

~Post written by Rich Hagopian

What were all those people in my newsfeed talking about?

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Here’s a sign you have a lot of Christian friends on social media: If you saw “He is risen” popping up in your newsfeed every couple of minutes, and had to fight back the urge to comment “He is risen indeed!”

But Easter is about more than just #heisrisen, though it’s not a bad message to be hearing over and over again.

Ben TrubeI think some Christians are more comfortable with the whole Christ died for our sins bit, then the whole he rose again three days later. This manifests in all sorts of ways, even in the crosses we see at the front of our church. Some have Jesus nailed to the cross so we always remember his sacrifice for us, and others have an empty cross emphasizing his triumph over death.

I can understand wanting to think more about Christ dying for us. This is something we can actually relate to. We die for causes, for loved ones, to protect those who are weaker than us. This is a part of Christ’s humanity to which we can relate. We get the idea of sacrifice.

But coming back from the dead is a pure God thing. Sure he was someone you could touch, and who got a hankering for fish when he was with the disciples, but if the TV and movies has taught us anything, it’s to be a little suspicious of those who come back. You never know what they might have brought with them.

In this case Jesus brought redemption, triumph over death, signaling our eventual triumph over death, yadda yadda yadda zombie Jesus.

Or we could go all modern science-y and say that three hours was kind of a short amount of time for someone who is crucified to die and he might have just been passed out for three days before he woke up, and oh yes, had the super human strength to roll away the boulder in front of his tomb. Well you did say he was fully God AND fully man, right?

Or I think some of us take the easy way out, shout “He is risen”, loudly reply “he is risen indeed” like someone replying I-O to an uttered O-H. Sure Jesus rose from the dead, he’s the good guy. Wouldn’t be a good story if he really was dead at the end.

Jesus rising from the dead is another uncomfortable fact of Jesus. Yes he did die and suffer for our sins. He took punishment that should have been ours. And then he came out okay on the other side. And we all know that the same wouldn’t have been true for us. We actually need this guy. And a lot of us don’t like to be reminded of that fact. Jesus can die for us, but he also lived for us.

Is living.

He is risen!

Cutting Room Floor: Luke 9:18-27

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Jesus in Context:

And Calling Jesus “God’s Messiah” instead of “Jesus Christ” reminds us that Jesus, you know: He was Jewish. He had a context.

IMG_0715 - Version 2God worked through fallen humanity to create a people for himself, Israel. Even though Israel broke relationship with him, he kept a remnant for himself out of them, out of that remnant, Jesus came: the ideal faithful Israelite, and because of that, the ideal person, who redefines what it means to be a person. Those of us who trust him, we’re given the spirit to live up to God’s best blueprint for personhood, Jesus, and we become like him, and take on all his mission and purpose and suffering in the world, so that the rest of the world can find their way out of the quicksand that we all get trapped in.

And we Christians, who trust this Messiah, become, of course, the branches God holds out to those who are sinking.

On Shame:

Shame is complex thing. It’s both an experience and a feeling. We are shamed–made to be “lesser than,” made small. We feel ashamed–regretful, embarrassed, dehumanized for all sorts of reasons. I grew up deeply ashamed of my family’s poverty and our drama and chaos; I discovered far too early in life that we were poor, and that I was less than those who weren’t. And like everyone, I learned to be ashamed of myself because others first shamed me. We learn shame, we’re taught it, and stamped with it: it isn’t inherit in us. But it is common to humanity, and for far too many of us, it has defined who we are, our shame has directed our steps for too long, it has chained us and whipped us.

For someone to be ashamed of us is for them to say that our very presence takes away from them. Our existence makes their existence less joyful, less wonderful, less pleasing. Shame is personal, and if someone is ashamed of us, they are someone we care about–because shame requires familiarity–you can’t be ashamed of someone you don’t know. You can be dismissive, frustrated, but not ashamed. The context for shame is intimacy. To be ashamed of someone is to communicate that you are more important than them, and that they are diminishing your importance, your value, and your goodness. It’s to wish they didn’t exist, because if only they didn’t exist, all would be well with your life.

And this line of this passage has been difficult for me. Shame is a tool of the devil; shame is evil’s creative work, undoing the good God makes of everything He touches.

The opposite of shame, I think, is something like advocacy. To say that no matter what you do, say, or become, I will use my power to pull you alongside with me. I will stand with you, and hold you against me, because you are mine and I am yours. This reminds me of Jesus. This is safe, and powerful, this is neverforsaking love, right? To know that God is not ashamed of us is basic to any ability we have to live freely and fully alive in the Lord. But we have this line, today’s sentence; what do we do with it?

~Post written by Rich Hagopian

When saying you love Jesus isn’t enough

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This week, one of our fellow bloggers, Bob Trube, spoke to our congregation this past Sunday on John 8:31-49.  He brought out a phrase that I have heard numerous times.  “I love Jesus, but it’s the church that I hate.”  Powerful words are they not?  Have you heard that before?  Maybe you have even stated it yourself a time or two.

mattI know it is a phrase that I have said more than once.  Sometimes our view of Jesus and the church can be so radically different.  Jesus is to be loving.  Some in the church can hate.  Jesus is to welcome all.  Sometimes the church denies people access into their “click” because they have different opinions, thoughts, political views or even look different.  Jesus is to be accepting of us just the way we are.  The church tells us we have to be like them or go to hell.

Here is the issue I have with what I have just stated, although some of these statements may be true, they are not true of every church.  I also think that although Jesus is loving, welcoming and accepting of us coming to Him just as we are, it does not mean He will not want us to change.

Mark 1:15 says,  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  (NIV).  These are the words of Jesus.  Notice that He says repent first.  Repent is to turn around.  To do a 180.  To change.  To be different than you once were…then believe.  We often flip these in their order.  When we do so we often never get to the repent part because we think that the belief is enough.  Yet Jesus calls those who believe in Him to a lifestyle change.

In today’s passage as Jesus confronts the believers that He is talking to, they are angry when he tells them that they are not acting upon what they know is right.  He tells them they are still slaves to their sin (v. 34-38).  He tells them that they need to change their ways.  This is the part of Christianity that EVERYONE has a problem with.  If we could all just live the exact same lifestyle as before we came to Christ, then all would be good right?  Yet, Jesus (and the church) demands more of us.  Saying you love Jesus is just one of the first steps in the process.

So are we changing?  Are we being transformed by Christ?  Are we as the church living to the example that Christ called us to?  We are all sinners in need of His grace.  We all need His forgiveness.  We are all no better than another.  Jesus does love us all, desires to welcome us all into His kingdom and is accepting of us just as we are when we come to Him.  I hope you will consider these things if you are a part of the church or not.  But make sure there is more to it.  Jesus does desire us to change and grow.  If we don’t then what is the point?

A Reflection on “The ‘J’ Word” 

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I found myself captivated this past Sunday as Bob walked us through John 8, and Jesus’ exchange with the “believers” he was talking with there. It was an exposé, of sorts, on just what Jesus can expose when we engage with him.

IMG_0715 - Version 2What I found particularly interesting was the way the conversation escalated so quickly. Jesus kept trying to clarify for those he spoke with what it was he meant, and their increasingly defensive responses really revealed so much about their view of the world and their views of themselves.

Beyond this, of course, I was challenged to consider, as I imagined myself in this sort of dialogue with God, how I view the world and what I believe about myself. As Bob articulated the way Jesus reveals to any of us who engage with him–through prayer, scripture, the counsel of Spirit-filled believers–our own “false-selves” and “self-deception” (in particular), I felt convicted.

It’s always easy for me to deceive myself. Not actively, per se, but rather by assuming that how I am now is just how I was last time I checked in with my soul. And things were okay then, right? So I must be fun now.

This is not best practices, especially after a long, cold winter.

Jesus’ “problem,” as Bob put it on Sunday, seems to be (and forgive me, Bob, if I’m summarizing what you’d rather leave detailed!) that he doesn’t leave us to dwell in our problems. When we authentically and openly–or, geeze, even antagonistically–engage him, he doesn’t let us do what I so often do to people, which is not correct their misunderstandings, not point out the ways that they’re incorrect, and, functionally, let them be right where they are.

But right where we are, in matters of how we view the world, God, and ourselves, isn’t always the best place to be. I’m going to take some time to check in this week: Have I been acting out of any “false-selves?” Have I been deceiving myself about some less-than-Christian way I’ve been living or thinking lately? I may use the famous “Prayer of Examen” that a some of us are familiar with from Jesuit/Ignatian spirituality. (Check out http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/).

Some of us are really, overly, (almost sinfully? at least unhealthily) introspective. Others of us really just never deeply examine ourselves. How much/little we do this probably affects our response to what Bob drew out of John 8 for Smoky Row. Despite this, all of us who hope to become more like Jesus need to let God expose all about us that needs changed by the Spirit’s power.

Thinking about being exposed makes me think of a time when I was younger. I was 12 or so, a brother I have was, oh, 6 or 7. A group of kids from the neighborhood had all been playing that morning, and my brother had ended up particularly dirty. My mom wouldn’t let him in the house until he hosed off–something we were doing in the driveway to our hands, shoes, etc. So, he decided to strip down in the living room and then run out into the driveway completely naked. I remember his glee as he took a jumping jack pounce, arms outstretched, and showed the world, well, himself, as he said, “Hose me off, Richard!” He was quickly called inside, and we all laughed. I don’t remember much after that. I’m sure that I sprayed him down, though.

The Point? If we feel safe, if we’re having fun, if there’s something, oh, unself-conscious about us, we can be totally okay with being exposed, because it’s simply not a threat. So. I’m going to keep this in mind as I pray with God this week. It’ll be important, I think, to remember that I’m safe, that God loves me, that whatever in my life needs corrected, needs revisited, needs rejected–the context of all of that is God’s love for me, and Jesus great competency and affection to see such changes through. I don’t have the glee my brother had, I guess, but as God sees my particulars…umm, particular needs…I hope that I’ll be just as willing to get cleaned up a little, and be unashamed about it.

~Post written by Rich Hagopian

The Uncomfortable Fact of Jesus

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This week’s topic is drawn from the Lectionary, the common scripture readings read by churches all over the world. Specifically we’ll cover John 8:31-49 in a sermon preached by none other than my dad.

Ben TrubeDad talked about a common sentiment expressed by people who have left the church (and frankly some of those who are still in it), “I like Jesus, but I don’t like this whole religion thing.” But what do we think about when we think of Jesus. We think of him as being a good teacher, maybe performing some miracles, laying down some wisdom. A good guy, even he non-religious of us in the crowd can generally agree on that point.

But this passage does something else. We’ve all heard the phrase “the truth shall set you free”. Well in this particular passage Jesus is talking about people who believe in him, people who become his disciples. But the people in the room didn’t take to kindly to this. They said they weren’t slaves (because being set free implies some kind of slavery). After a little back and forth involving questioning Jesus’ parentage, throwing around some racial slurs, and threatening to stone him, Jesus slips away, this last bit after he identified himself as “I AM”.

No, he’s not Popeye. He’s God, like in the way that God used to talk about himself to moses. And the guys in the room knew this.

Claiming you’re God leaves only a few possibilities. You are either:

  • An unbelievable heretic (Jewish view of the time)
  • Clinically insane (more of a modern view)
  • God

So Jesus is doing several things here. He’s calling himself God, which kinda implies more than he was just a good teacher. And he’s implying we’re slaves to something.

In the word’s of the church lady:

Or rather that since Abraham is not their father (because if he was the Jews would be acting a lot more welcoming to Jesus) and their father certainly isn’t God, since they’re trying to destroy Jesus, that really only leaves one possibility. We are slaves to sin, and not just the big obvious sexy kinds.

Sin can be anything in our life that becomes more important than discipleship of Jesus. This can be our job, our politics, our spouse, anything, not just the known vices.

Jesus is making us face the fact we’re not perfect, that we screw up a lot and fall short of promise. Even though we know this about ourselves, we don’t like to face it. We’re all pretty good people, what’s the big deal.

The think is we’re not. We lust after people. We get jealous. Someone annoys us in traffic and we picture that our cruise control buttons actually fire cruise missiles out of our headlines, destroying every car in front of us. (Hmm… Been watching too many Bond movies lately).

I ignore the sin in my life by keeping busy. I have a lot of projects going, two blogs, a novel, work and just recently doing OS upgrades at home and at the Church. I’m really good at filling my time. If it’s not with working it’s with playing, watching TV, computer games. When I get to the end of the day and I’m tired I think, well maybe I deserve a little sinning. I’ve had such a productive day, I deserve a treat. That’s totally how it works right? Or I’ve had a really crappy day, maybe some sinning will cheer me up.

I don’t actually say sinning, I say eating too much or playing a video game until both my legs go numb or… that thing 98% of men do.

Now I’m not saying God doesn’t want us to have fun. One of the more interesting parts of The Screwtape Letters is the passage where he devil talks about how he can twist pleasures into sins. The devil can’t create any real pleasures, but he can nudge people into pursuing them into excess or becoming obsessed with them. We become slaves to sin when it’s all we think about, when it’s how we get through the day, when it’s something we can rely on to always make us feel better that isn’t God.

And Jesus is making us think about these things in this passage and we’d rather not. Even as I’m writing this I’m thinking I’m coming off like an adhedonic prude.

But the truth is we can get better, with God’s help, especially when we admit that we can’t fix everything on our own. That can be a hard thing for a man, and engineer, and just about anybody to say, but it’s a necessary part of the Christian life. We can enjoy the pleasures of life without becoming slaves to them. And we can receive Jesus like he’s what we’ve been waiting for since Abraham, and not someone we need to discredit.