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Posts Tagged ‘declaring self for God’


Matthew 21: Clarification

Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Fig Tree

A re-post from February 28, 2012. On this Palm Sunday, we look for clarification and transformation. 

The parables and narrative in this chapter give us a perspective of Jesus’ life and works alongside those of Israel.  We see him enter Jerusalem – the Old Jerusalem which is to be replaced by the New – we see him cleanse the temple – the Old Temple which is to be replaced by the New – we see his authority questioned – as it is at the Second Coming – and we read parables and stories of vineyards, workers and fig trees that depict the unfaithful nation of Israel – the Old Israel which is now . . . us.

The content of this chapter is a microcosm of Jesus’ life: parables and action, identification as King, identification as sacrificial victim.  The juxtaposition of the various elements in this chapter further emphasize for us that we have a clear choice before us: to live by the principles declared and here clarified by Christ or to choose our own way, to be faithful to the principles demonstrated by Christ or to live a life if infidelity.  We are always free to choose.

In this chapter of Jesus’ life he seeks to clarify for us how we might live.  We may be a lazy and unproductive fig tree, cursed by its creator.  We may be a bountiful vineyard yielding fruit for the harvest.  We may be envious neighbors who murder the owner’s son in the hopes of taking that which is not ours.  We may be unscrupulous in our daily shepherding of resources.  We may demonstrate peaceful resistance to all that colludes and deceives.  We many choose to make a profit from the sacred acts of others.  We may join Christ in rebuking those who sell what God gives as gift.  We may be the learned who plot against truth because it takes away our power to manipulate.  We may be life.  We may be conduit of goodness.  We may rage or conspire against the kingdom.  We may join in the work of building kingdom.

The choice is clear; and Jesus makes this choice even clearer in the event that we have doubted his authenticity.  If we ask for clarification we have only to turn to this chapter to see what is before us.  Do we hide and conspire or do we reveal and build?

We see Jesus declare and clarify himself today in these stories and in these actions.  What do our stories and gestures declare and clarify about us?


Image from: http://remnantbride.com/blog/?p=508 

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Sunday, May 6, 2012 – Acts 26:24-32 – Madness

Flemish Tapestry: Saint Paul Before Porcius Festus, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice

While Paul was speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad”.  But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason”.

For a number of days we have been examining the life of Paul and how he responds to God’s call.  In many ways he appears mad or crazy for Christ Jesus in that he puts aside all fear for himself in order that he do as God asks.  Paul trusts the guidance of the Spirit and for this reason he has turned himself over to the plan God has in mind for him and for all humanity.  Paul trusts God’s motives, God’s perceptions, and God’s wisdom, and in this way Paul leaves nothing to chance.  He places his fire-forged faith, his outrageous hope and his generous love in the one place that will always increase and never diminish him . . . Paul places all he has and is in God.   For this, many call him mad . . . even though Paul speaks words of truth and reason. 

Those who witness God’s goodness at work among them are amazed by what they see; yet they fear they do not have this same strength or courage.  Rather than join Paul they scoff at him, and call him mad. They do not understand that Paul has opened himself to God’s in-dwelling and has left behind his reliance on money, power and fame.  It is impossible for Paul to return to his old ways and so Festus and the world call Paul mad.  So will we be called once we step into the world of discipleship. 

We have looked before at this portion of Acts but today we focus on the last lines of this chapter to think about Paul’s decision to petition an audience in Rome.  What we learn here is that it is impossible to be a stealth Christian.  Paul knows he must go to the center of the empire to speak aloud God’s truth and reason so that all may hear his testimony. 

When we respond to God’s truth and reason we will meet derision.  When we become the light with Christ we must expect opposition . . . and we must not shrink from speaking out to Caesar.  When we live in the light we must expect to go to Rome.

We have thought about this often: the high price of apostleship, the heavy burden of discipleship, the cauldron of life we step into when we agree to bring Christ to others.  We see Paul move forward, asking to be counted rather than dismissed.  We watch as he brings Christianity to the world . . . and to us. 

Paul does not shy away from notoriety as a follower of Christ.  How do we follow his example in the work lunch room, at family gatherings, in intimate conversations with friends?  Do we ask to go to Rome so that we might speak before Caesar?  Do we readily step into the light to own our madness?

On this fifth Sunday of Easter, let us consider our madness which is not the tragic madness of Shakespeare, nor the clinical madness diagnosed and recognized by the medical world.  Let us ponder madness that leads to eternal joy and so allows itself to be seen.  Let us meditate on this madness that is the sensation of resurrection, of rapture, of sublime love.  Let us wonder if we might share in the kind of madness that asks to go to Rome to stand before Caesar and declare itself.

Ruins of Rome

And let us pray . . .

The cost of our madness has already been paid: the high price has been set forward by Christ – he has purchased us, his pearl of great price.

The weight of our madness has already been lifted: the yoke has been taken up by Christ – he has redeemed us, his sheep.

The intensity of our madness has already been counterpointed: the profound strength has been provided by Christ – he has entered hell and risen to restore us, his beloved.

First written on April 6, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To see detail of the Flemish tapestry above click on the image or go to: http://www.dia.org/object-info/89a92d3c-260b-4ceb-b37b-baa8a1b5e7e3.aspx

For another reflection on madness for Christ read the Agrippa Hears Paul post on the blog: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/05/04/agrippa-hears-paul/

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