Monday, February 29, 2016
The season of Lent is here. It is a time of preparation for Easter. It is a time when the alleluias are not sung. It is a time to walk through Jesus's 3-year ministry in 40 days. The closer the days come to the end of the season of Lent, the greater the passions arise toward Christ. As the number of Jesus's followers increase, the numbers of the Jews who want to destroy Jesus increase.
Suffering and death are not things people want to talk about. The more I think about the season of Lent, the more I struggle to relate to it. In my western world, I do not see religious people setting up a plot to murder people they don't like. There are some extremists out in the world, but the average American leader isn't out to murder heretics nor do they ask their governor to do so. We just ignore them or shoo them away. If I had a persistent heretic in my church, I would not contact the governor to have him put to death. Rather, if necessary, I would let the police resolve the issue.
But the act of speaking, it can make a huge impact on people. Jesus began his ministry by speaking. He called his disciples to follow him. He proclaimed to individuals that their sins are forgiven, and he pronounces people healed from their sickness.
Jesus also told parables to let the people know who God is and to strengthen his relationship with his people. In Luke 13 we have the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree. At the end of the parable Jesus said, “Then if the fig tree should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” In Luke 15 we have the parable of the prodigal son. When the prodigal son turns from his sinful ways and returns to his father the father says, “Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” In Luke 20 we have the parable of the Wicked Tenants. The owner of the vineyard continued to send servants to minister to the tenants, but the tenants kept killing their servant. The owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” But they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. In this last parable, Jesus was prophesying his death. He was telling of how the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus even though Jesus was the promised savior, the one who was to be the answer to their prayers.
The Jews had bribed one of Jesus's disciples to betray Jesus, and Jesus knew it even though he was not present when the arrangement was made. Luke 23 is the institution of the Lord's Supper, the night of the Jewish Passover. Jesus had lifted the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.”
Luke 23 tells of Jesus's crucifixion. After the Jews had delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilot, Pilot said, “I have found in Jesus no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. Jesus was brought to a place called The Skull. There he was crucified with two criminals. One on his right and another on his left.
But Luke continues with an ending of Good News. Luke 24 tells of Jesus's resurrection. The women arrived at the tomb of Jesus, and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And the women remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven disciples and to all the rest.
In Luke 24 Jesus speaks to the disciples himself after the resurrection and says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
It is a shame Jesus had to die on the cross. But it is also a joy to know we worship a God who has conquered death and that we too will not be defeated by death.
Back at the Seminary, I have finished another academic quarter. In each class I learned somethings that I have never thought about before. I was left with some ideas to wrestle with. In the theology of missions class, I learned that some church workers see the administration of the sacraments for the forgiveness of sins as the focus for being missional whereas others see the proclamation of God's Good News outside of the walls of the church as the focus for being missional. In that class, I also learned that the educated religious folk are the ones more likely to establish a false teaching of God rather than an average parishioner. In my Systems II class, we identified that to be a believer in Jesus is a believer when they acknowledge and trust in who Jesus is and what he has done for us. I also learned that not every Gospel account of Jesus tells of Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins but focuses on other characteristics of Jesus. For example, sometimes Jesus is portrayed as the one who has overcome death for us. In my Acts and the Pauline Epistles class, I have learned Paul generally ties in the ethics of the people in with the hope of Jesus’s return. Another thought from the class is that thinking doesn't bring us to God, but God brings us to him. Our thinking, rather, tends to distort the Gospel. In the class Pastor as Counselor, I learned how to set up a space that favors professional and effective counseling. I also learned that a good counselor allows the counselee to talk and share their ideas for long periods of time in order to acquire a good understanding of the heart of the issue at hand.
As there is only about 50 days left until Call Day and about 75 days until that last day of school, I have one more academic quarter ahead of me. Instead of four classes, I’m taking five this quarter. The class Pastor as Educator will prepare me for teaching youth. I will be exploring the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah and the Prophets. In Systematics III, I will be exploring the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. I will also be looking at other World Religions and understand what makes them tick. And lastly, I will be taking a class called Formative Influences. There I will be examining how Christianity has been shaped over the last few centuries.
As for my funding for my education, I have just about reached my tuition goal. I plan on having 86% of my $37,000 goal gifted towards this school year. I am thankful that, of my five years of private education, this year has been my best year for fundraising. For that, I am thankful to God and all those who have funded me. I look forward to seeing how God will use me to minister to others as his servant.
School Year 2015-2016
May God bless my upcoming academic quarter and may God bless those who are making my school year possible.
The photos depicting Jesus are from The Jesus Film (1979), a motion picture based on the Gospel of Luke.