It matters that you matter

“Now on the same day, two of them were going up to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:13 NRSV)

It’s always gratifying to be thanked for something you have done. I always treasure the small notes, or cards from others thanking me for something I have done, said , or written.  That’s not why I do it, of course, but it’s nice all the same.

I’m always surprised how far  our influence goes these days.  Due to the internet and increasing technology, our world is shrinking. We have the potential to reach out to people all over the world.  So not often, but every now and then, I’ll get an email, or a note foregfrom someone I don’t even know thanking me for something.

But for all of that, I am not a big deal in Helsinki Finland.  I’ve been there once, 31 years ago. But that’s it, No notes, no emails or cards from anyone in Helsinki. Not even anything that says thank you for visiting our lovely city.  In fact, it would be no stretch of the imagination to say that there is no one in Helsinki who even knows I am alive and will go to bed tonight perfectly Ok with that.

In fact, as I think about it, the good folk in Helsinki are no different than most of the rest of the world.  Billions of people in the world who have absolutely no idea who I am , or that I exist.  All of which, if you think about it too long can make you feel pretty  insignificant.

Even those of us with strong introvert tendencies want to be noticed by someone. By the way introverts love being around people as much as extroverts. We just know when to say when. “OK I’ve been around you, I’m good. No go away and sped them with the extrovert weirdos”.  All of us want to know that we matter, that someone cares about us. This is what causes David, in the 8th Psalm to look at the stars and marvel at his own smallness in the universe. Ever have one of these moments, or many of them, where you wonder if you matter to anyone? I hope that in celebrating Easter you discovered just how much you matter, even when you feel insignificant.

If so, I encourage you to read the account of the Resurrection we find in Luke.  Read the whole chapter. One of the things that strikes me when I read this chapter is how long it takes Jesus to get around to appearing to the main players.  We find out he has risen from the grave in vs. 5. But he doesn’t appear to the twelve disciples until vs. 36!

You would think the first thing Jesus would do is appear, if not to the 11 disciples, at least appear to John and James.  or “The disciple Jesus loved”. What about Peter? They have unfinished business.   Rather Jesus makes His resurrection debut to two unnamed disciples. I don’t believe it was two of the 11 remaining disciples (Judas Iscariot having committed suicide by this point.). These two men, on the way to Emmaus seem to be  “on the fringe” disicples. Followers of Jesus, surely, but not a part of the inner circle.

So why them? Why do the women get the announcement and these two rather than the big 11? Why announce the resurrection first to people who seem insignificant?  Maybe that’s the point. To Jesus there are no insignificant people. Evey one matters and everyone deserves to hear the Good News. This is a God who sends angels to shepherds with birth announcements, and sends more angels to tell the world death has lost its sting.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t just pop up and say “I’m alive” and disappear. He’ll do that at other points, but not with these two men. Jesus walks with them, talks with them, warms their hearts and eats with them. Jesus loves these men as  much as he does those who were with Him all three years of His public ministry.   You see, in this Kingdom, death isn’t the end, the grace has no power and the people who feel as if they don’t matter, matter the most.

You and I matter to Jesus. he rose from the dead for us. So that we could have new life. The new life offered by Jesus isn’t just for the Christian “celebrity” the movers and shakers of the world.  It’s for you and me.  It matters that we matter to God. And that is Good News.

In CHrist,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

 

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What Triumph Looks Like

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)

I love presidential election years.  I really do.  I’m well aware that even at this early date, most of the country is showing signs of deep election and debate fatigue.  But I have to admit, for all  of the debates, polls, articles etc., I enjoy it.

It’s not that I’m a political junkie by any means.  I like to be informed about what happens in our country and I find it important to look at the trends we see in people’s thoughts so we can best address their lives with the reality of the Gospel.  But you have to admit, the entire process says a lot about who we are.

Apparently we are angry. I’ve not quite determined what we are angry about, but we are. And it appears that we are going to vote for the people who are as angry as we are, about the same things and is going to fix whatever it is we are angry about.

Angry about illegal immigration? We have a candidate for that.  Angry about immigration reform? We have someone just as angry. Angry at terrorists? Everyone wants to show they are angrier than any other candidate. Angry about job loss? The 1% having more that anyone else? Angry at poverty? Climate issues?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, or who I’m voting for, for that matter.  Mostly  because I can’t for the life of me conceive of  a reason why you would care who I vote for, or how that would influence you at all.  But I am curious as to why everyone’s so angry.

I don’t think all of the candidates are that angry. Some are, to be sure. Others, I get the sense they are angry because it has touched a nerve with the people and they want to ride that wave. Others have been working hard to let you know you are angry about something, something which you may not have been all that upset about when you got up this morning.

And so they express anger. Anger and vitriol against the other party. Anger at one another. Anger at current or previous administrations. Angry at the rich angry, at the poor, the illegal, the terrorists. And all of them seem to infer if we would simply elect them they will unleash their anger and destroy whatever it is that angers them, or us,  or whomever.

I find that at odds  with what we in the Christian faith experienced yesterday and will continue to experience and celebrate the rest of this week. Jesus has come into Jerusalem. HIs triumphant entry. Let’s think about that for a moment. Why is it His triumphant entry? because everyone has finally recognized Him? Because Jesus is getting His fair share? After three years of itinerant impoverished ministry it’s about time  people praise Him? No.  Because Jesus has come to overthrow the powers that be, including the Romans? No, although that’s what everyone expects.

No, this is the Triumphant Entry because Jesus has come to die on the cross. It’s finally here. Foretold for millennia, it comes to this. Jesus, the Son of God, he who is fully human and fully divine will be beaten, whipped, hung on a cross, stabbed and once he is dead, unceremoniously dumped into a grave borrowed from someone else.

It doesn’t look like a triumph in our world. Our world says triumph is about winning. Getting more delegates. Beating down the other person. It’s about being angry and getting your way.

The cross reminds us that God has a different definition of what triumph is. Triumph is not about displaced anger, but unconditional, unmerited love. Triumph is not about getting ones’ way at any cost, but about obedience to God. Triumph is not about getting more, it’s about how much of ourselves we can give away. Triumph is sacrificial.

What the world saw as a waste, unfulfilled promise, became the greatest moment of triumph ever. On the cross, every sin we have ever committed was set upon Jesus shoulders. We have been forgiven because of His willingness to pay the price for us. In  HIs death the price was paid, iN his wounds we find the healing of our own scars. Let us not forget the greatest triumph of all, on Easter morning where the power of sin and death were broken by the resurrection of Jesus.

I hope you do vote this year. That’s important. Just don’t lose sight of Jesus’ call to find triumph in His kingdom by taking up our cross and being willing to follow Him.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

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The Hope

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”
(1 Peter 4:7-11 NIV)

 

Let’s get it out in the open.  I don’t like change. There I said it.  Well, that’s not completely true.  I’m Ok with the change I initiate.  I’m just not comfortable with change that is forced upon me.  And truth be told I experience a little bit of angst when I initiate the change.  All of which is ironic, considering the fact God called me into an itinerant ministry, which by its very nature is about change and movement.

But I’ve always been the person who at Thanksgiving has a specific idea of what constitutes Thanksgiving dinner.  And it’s what has always constituted Thanksgiving dinner; Turkey mashed potatos, stuffing etc. Innovators of new Thanksgiving foods need not apply. Note to the person who thought a kale vegetarian lasagna would make a nice change at Thanksgiving: no one like you.  Someone actually made the dish below for someone’s Thanksgiving. I don’t even know what it is:  (Change is bad!)

Although I’m not a zealot. This would be OK

I’m the person to whom it would never occur to change the furniture around in their home. Once it’s there it’s there. No need to tap into your inner fung shui and start moving my stuff around. Just go sit on the back porch with the person with the kale lasagna until you’re willing to repent of your ways.

And I know I’m not alone on this.  The truth is, most of us are stressed out by change. Most lists of stressful situations have one thing in common. Change, whether that is a move, a new home, a marriage, birth of a child or a loss, change is the common denominator. And it’s easy to see why. Chnage has an element of loss to it  as we give up the known and are thrust into the  unknown.  Even those who thrive on change will admit it can be stressful.

Of course, there is only one problem. As much as we long for permanence we simply can’t stop change.  Change is all around us. We age. We move from work to retirement. Our children grow up, move, get married and start families on their own.

I was hit with a wave of change this past week. A conference  I have been attending for almost thirty years decided they will no longer meet. One of my favorite restaurants closed for good. One of the people I’ve looked up to in ministry all these years announced their retirement. It was one of those weeks where it seemed like everything was changing, nothing was the same. Ever had a week like that?

Where does the longing for permanence come from? We live in a world where nothing is permanent. Everything changes. So where did a longing for something that doesn’t seem to exist come from? For that matter, since everything in the world changes where did we ever come up with the concept of permanence in the first place?

In his classic book, “Mere Christianity”, C. S.  Lewis writes we all have a sense of fairness, yet never see fairness lived out.  He reasons that if we don’t see fairness or right  and wrong in the world, it must reasonably come from somewhere else, A God who treaseres what is right and fair.  I think it must be the same with our longing for something permanent. In a world that is all about change, our longing for permanence must come from beyond us.

It’s the longing we all have for eternity with Jesus. It’s a longing for heaven. We don’t know all that God has in store for us in eternity.  Mostly because its so far beyond us that even the saints who have glimpsed it fail to describe it with any justice. But the one thing we do know is that it is an eternity with Jesus , the one who reigns forever and ever.  We know it will be truly home for us. Every tear wiped away, every wound healed. Every memory of every sin erased.

Peter tells us in this scripture that how we live matters. It matters not because we are earning our way into heaven, but because we are training for the type of person we are to be for all eternity.


So if you are in a time of great change and stress, don’t worry. It will pass, it will not always be like this. For in Jesus, we have a home where He is to be praised forever.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><