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Yesterday we talked about how we spend the majority of our lives working in some way — whether paid or unpaid — and that our work should glorify God. But we all know that our work is not the totality of our lives and it makes sense to evaluate our work within a broader context.
Oh, how difficult it is to realize we’ve been wrong about something! For so many of us, it’s quite painful to let go of a long-held understanding of one thing in order to make room for a more expansive perspective or (and this is the worst) an opposing viewpoint on one thing or another.
The basic meaning of Jesus’s statement is clear. He was entrusting care of his mother to one of his most intimate friends and followers. He was making sure that she would be loved and cared for after Jesus’s death. Jesus knew he could trust his beloved follower with such an important responsibility.
What cruel irony! Jesus finally received the words he deserved: “Hail, King of the Jews!” For once he wore a crown upon his head. Yet it was not the golden crown of sovereignty or the olive crown of victory, but the thorny crown of suffering.
For many Christians around the world, the season of Lent begins with the service of Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is really a worship service of lament. Jesus’s words in John 16 include this theme of lament as well. In verse 32, Jesus is telling his friends and partners in ministry that they will abandon him. Ash Wednesday reminds us that the Easter story is preceded by abandonment. The whole season of Lent is a reminder that Jesus experienced and understands abandonment and betrayal.
“Tell me about Epiphany,” I asked my friends.
I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that celebrated Epiphany, so my knowledge about the day and its traditions is very limited. A quick search on the Internet told me that, in the Western church, Epiphany marks the visitation of the Magi to the baby Jesus. Eastern Christian traditions, remember Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist during Epiphany.
When we hear about Jesus’s “words of eternal life,” we tend to think that these are words that get us to Heaven. There is some truth in this interpretation, though it misses much of what is meant by “eternal life.”
If I were to ask you what the common bond was between pastors, politicians, and physicians, what would your answer be? The connection is that all of these professions deal intimately with human beings. Pastors deal with humans in the midst of personal tragedy; politicians and advocates with those who have been unjustly impacted by the societal and constitutional system; and, finally, physicians see people in the middle of bouts with physical ailments. Why do I bring this up? Because dealing with humanity takes a huge toll on us emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually. In fact, if we are not careful we will often experience burnout and cease to be as effective as we can be.
In today’s text from John, Jesus makes the outrageous claim that whoever doesn’t believe him is a slave to sin. How do we as leaders continue to hold onto these essential beliefs like sin without alienating the very people we are trying to reach, people who think of sin as an antiquated or even oppressive idea? In a pluralistic world that increasingly considers Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy a form of “extremism,” keeping right beliefs connected to right actions is a formidable challenge.
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