“We’re Still Learning.” A Devotion on Mark 10:42-45

“So Jesus called the disciples and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42-45

The disciples had expected great things from Jesus when he ushered in God’s glorious new reign on earth. But their lofty expectations were dashed when he ended up hanging dead on a Roman cross.

It was only after the resurrection that they begin to understand what he had been trying to tell them and teach them all along. They remembered the things he said, such as “those who want to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

And they remembered the things he did: how he washed their feet, how he healed the sick, how he cleansed the lepers, how he embraced the outcasts, how he fed the hungry.

Above all he taught them a completely new understanding of authority, and a new kind of power, the authority of a servant and a power made perfect in weakness.

They were not to lead as the Gentile rulers did, as tyrants and bullies who lorded their power over their subjects. No, they were to exercise their authority through servant leadership, with authority that is humble and aims to serve others. Jesus was teaching them that you can’t love down.

He was teaching them, and the generations that would follow, how to be the church. We’re still learning.

Prayer: Holy One, teach us to serve as Jesus served, to love as Jesus loved.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for May 5 , 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.  Painting of Jesus teaching by Rembrandt.)

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“SHARE!” A Devotion on Acts 2:44-45

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”—Acts 2:44-45

My son and daughter were born 20 months apart and so played together as children. Before I was a parent I imagined that the solution to sibling competition over toys was to give them each the same one. So, for example, if you gave one of them a colorful ball, you would also give the other one an identical ball. As reasonable as this sounds it didn’t work. Apparently there is something highly acquisitive hardwired into the human condition. It turns out that both children wanted both balls. I’m tempted to reference a certain Christian doctrine here, but I’ll hold back. Continue reading

“He knew where he was going!” A Devotion for Palm Sunday

“They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” —Mark 10:32-34 Continue reading

“Scorched by Holy Fire!” A Devotion on Jeremiah 20:8b-9

“For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
—Jeremiah 20: 8b-9 Continue reading

“Winners or Losers? Reflections on Vocation” A Sermon on Genesis 32:22-31

What are we to make of this strange story in which Jacob wrestles all night and gets a new name? I think it tells us something important about who our God is and about the identity of God’s people. And I want to reflect on what this story tells us about our own identity and vocation as Christians.

The first thing to notice is that whenever somebody in the Bible is given a new name it is best to pay attention. A new name signifies a turn, a change, a new chapter in the person’s life, and a new calling. A new name means a New Being.

So, for example, Abram becomes Abraham as God calls him to keep the covenant of promise. Saul becomes Paul on the road to Damascus and is changed from being a zealous persecutor of the church into the Apostle to the Gentiles. Fisherman Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus will build his church. Continue reading

“Searching for Holy Ground”

“Then God said to Moses, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’” —Exodus 3:5

You can’t find holy ground with your GPS. You won’t even find it at famous holy places, though you might. Ordinary places become holy ground only because we meet God there. Continue reading

“A Continual Course Correction” A Devotion for Lent

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.02.37 PM“A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.” —Matthew 21:28,29

Repentance has long been an important theme for Lent, but many are put off by the idea since it seems to demand one big life-changing event. A friend of mine had a big poster on his wall that said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” In small print at the bottom it said, “If you have already repented, please disregard this notice.”

But I contend that we should never disregard that notice since repenting is something we must do again and again and again throughout our lives. Continue reading